2016/03/21 (M) Webster to Cape Canaveral
I was up sometime before 8 AM after a less than completely restful night’s sleep. Yesterday was our last full day at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) in Webster, Florida and today was departure day. I am always a bit anxious when the time comes to move the bus after sitting for a while, and even though we have only been here for two weeks it has been a lovely, comfortable place to base camp. Although we only had about 100 miles to travel today, I was more anxious than usual because of a combination of factors.
At the top of the list was the tag axle brake issue. While I was hopeful that Joe had taken care of it, at least for now, we would not know for sure until we moved the bus. Another big factor was that Linda has been very ill for the last few days and was still not well this morning. That meant I would have to do more of the work of preparing the bus for travel. I didn’t mind, of course, I just did not want to overlook something that was normally part of her portion of the departure routine. The third, forth, and fifth factors were: 3) using our new SunPass transponder for the first time; 4) taking the bus on the Florida Turnpike and Toll Road system for the first time, and; 5) traveling a route that came into the Orlando area from the northwest and swung around the southern edge before heading straight east towards the Atlantic ocean. The sixth and last factor was our destination, which was not a motorcoach resort with wide, straight roads and big sites, but rather a county park with narrow, twisty roads, closer sites, and lots of trees. Charming, but not necessarily “big rig” friendly. I knew, because I had visited Pat and Vickie Lintner here two years ago.
We had a reservation at Jetty Park Campground on Cape Canaveral where our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, have been since mid-February. We had reservations starting today and running through the 28th, with departure on the 29th unless we decide to extend our stay and there was a site available. Check-in time was 2 PM and our mapping app indicated 104 miles and a little over two hours for our preferred route. Based on that we wanted to pull out of FGMCR sometime between 11 AM and noon. That gave us most of the morning to prepare the bus for travel, and that was comfortable even with Linda being ill and not able to do as much as usual.
I did not have coffee this morning—I never do on travel days—and we just had a couple of pieces of toast early for breakfast. In spite of not feeling well Linda got most of the inside of the bus ready to travel and even swept the floor. I packed up our computers and iPads and then prepared the outside stuff.
The biggest, most time consuming job, and my least favorite, is checking and adjusting tire pressures. I had plugged in the TireTrakker TPMS repeater last night and I turned on the receiver/monitor this morning after letting it recharge overnight. It eventually acquired temperatures and pressures from all 13 tires. The temperatures were all in the 60’s so I knew the pressure readings were current rather than left over from our previous trip. The sensors are not accurate enough, however (in my opinion), so I checked all of the tires with my tire gauge except the mini-spare in the car. The passenger side steer tire on the bus needed an extra 2 PSI, but all four tires on the car were low and needed to be increased. So did the car spare, but I was not about to empty out the back of the car to get to it. I should have taken care of this sometime during the last two weeks as the pressure was low enough to keep triggering an alarm on the monitor, and was not at the correct pressure for use should we need it.
By 10:30 AM we were ready to go except for disconnecting the shorepower and hooking up the car. I was going to reposition the coach so we could hookup the car at the site and then exit to the left but a landscaping crew showed up, parked along the other side of the road to our left, and unhooked their trailer. I was not going to ask them to move, and I doubt that they would have even if I did. It was easier to just exit to the right anyway and hook up the car at the staging area by the clubhouse where we unhooked when we came in, so that’s what we decided to do.
At 11:20 AM I disconnected the shorepower and stowed the cord. Chassis batteries ON; engine accessory air supply ON; inverter operating; main engine start; no problem. I let the suspension and brakes air up on low idle as Joe had suggested and then pulled up the tag axle. Linda moved the car to the empty pad across the street to the right and watched as I pulled out. Once I cleared the turn I put the tag axle back down and Linda followed me counterclockwise around the front “pond” to the staging area where I shut off the engine and she pulled the car up behind the bus. Many (most) RV parks have “no engine idle” rules. There isn’t one posted here, and the staging area is far enough from the clubhouse and the closest sites that our engine would not have bothered anyone, but since we would be hooking up the car directly behind the engine we did not want to listen to it while working.
No less than three people stopped to chat with us while we were hooking up the car for towing. That actually violates good RVing manners (unwritten rules) but they were just curious, being friendly, and/or wishing us safe travels. The problem is that you are engaged in a critical process and anything that distracts you can result in overlooking something with potentially serious, even disastrous, consequences. We are experienced enough at this point, however, to double check everything before we drive away, especially if we have been interrupted. This time we backed the car up until the tow bar arms locked in place and then secured the air line and electrical cables so they would not pull loose. Linda remained outside to do the light check while I started the bus engine and operated the controls. Everything checked out and once Linda was back on board we were ready to go. She had entered our destination into the GPS unit before we pulled out of our site.
As I pulled around to the exit gate the gatehouse attendants saw or heard us and opened it. We got big smiles, waves, and “safe travels” from them as we left. It was 11:50 AM.
The GPS routed us the same way we had determined using our iPad mapping apps. We turned left out of the resort onto CR-478 headed east. The road curved around to the north about four miles later and ran up to the town of Center Hill where we picked up CR-48 eastbound. A half mile later the road turned northeast and a couple miles up the road the GPS told us to turn onto CR-704 (FL-?). I had just started the turn when I saw the weight restriction sign; nothing over 28,000 pounds GVWR permitted! What the?!!!
I stopped soon enough that I was able to turn back onto CR-48 without having to back up, after traffic cleared, so we caught a break there but were both a bit unnerved by the failure of our Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS to route us correctly. It then occurred to me that the very small update I Installed last night might have reset the vehicle configuration as I vaguely recalled this happening once before. Why R-M would design their GPS unit so it loses configuration data as a result of an update is beyond me, but there are several things about this unit that defy common sense.
Linda used her cell phone to try to figure out where we were now headed and determined that we could still get to where we needed to be. She then opened the preferences screen on the GPS unit and found the configuration screens. Sure enough, it thought we only weighed 20,000 pounds (we are closer to 42,000) and were only 12’6″ tall (we are probably 13’1″). I really fault R-M for this as it creates a potentially dangerous situation. Anytime the settings are changed, certainly if they are reset as part of an update, the unit should display a message to that effect and not allow the unit to be used until it is acknowledged. Better yet, I don’t understand why the configuration should be changed as part of the update process.
At some point we turned left onto US-33, which seemed wrong, but Linda verified it was correct. We ended going south on US-27 all the way back to Clermont and then getting on the Florida Turnpike (FL-91) headed south towards Miami. We made it through the first Toll Plaza with an “OK to Proceed” sign, so we knew that the new transponder was working, which was a big relief. The lane guidance feature of the GPS unit worked well and we did not have any difficulty negotiating the interchanges. Linda kept an eye on the tire sensors throughout the trip. All of the tires indicated temperatures in the 60’s except the driver side tag, which was 90 to 102. It was definitely elevated, but not enough to be an immediate problem. This was not unexpected as I knew that the new pads were dragging more than on the passenger side. Interestingly, the pressure in that tire had not risen disproportionately higher than any of the other tires, indicating to me that it was probably the valve stem that was warmer due to its direct contact with the wheel, rather than the rubber of the tire, which was getting plenty of cool air blowing around it.
We arrived at Jetty Park at 2:15 PM, only 10 minutes later than our original ETA before we had to detour around the weight-restricted road. Our name was not on the list (sigh) at the entrance gate but we were given the gate code and directed to the campground. I found a place to pull up and shut off the engine while I went in to register us, as Linda had effectively lost her voice. We were not on the list (double sigh) there either (same list, I suspect) but they found us in the computer. I had confirmation e-mails, if needed, but had not brought them in with me. We unhooked the car and parked it at the office. We drove the bus around through the narrow, curvy gravel roads but I was able to make all the turns, even with cars parked near the edges, so the road system here is laid out better than it appears.
Jetty Park is a county-owned and operated public park and beach with a campground that has been turned over to the Cape Canaveral Port Authority to manage. It is in a premium location in Cape Canaveral, Florida just north of Cocoa Beach and just south of the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It is on the south side of the shipping channel that connects Port Canaveral to the Atlantic Ocean. Cargo ships use this port/channel, but the main attractions are the Disney and other cruise ships and the U.S. Navy Trident submarines. In addition to all of its other charms, it is one of the best places from which to watch rocket launches, and there is one scheduled for tomorrow night! I think this is the first time we have stayed in a county park with the motorcoach. It is more like a state park than the private RV parks and resorts where we usually stay. It’s probably closest in appearance and feeling to a nice KOA.
Pat and Vickie saw us drive by and walked down to watch while Linda helped me back into site #343, a full hookup, 50 Amp site with nice trees around it. I could not back far enough into the site to get the front tires onto the concrete pad due to low branches at the rear of the site. As a result we were slightly low in front. That would not normally be a problem but the Level Low system would not adjust the front end. I have a spare air leveling solenoid and might have to work on this while we are here. Ugh. I took a picture on my phone and e-mailed it to our son and daughter.
I did not plug in the shorepower cord as I wanted to let the house batteries discharge to 24 VDC (50% SOC). Linda and Vickie searched online for medical clinics. Linda selected one about three miles away in Cocoa Beach and I drove her there. It took about two hours from the time we arrived until she had her prescriptions. We went to the CVS Pharmacy across the street to have them filled. They would not be ready for 2 to 2.5 hours so we went back to the campground so Linda could rest as comfortably as possible.
Back at our rig I got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to the park’s public Wi-Fi system and got our iPads and my computer online. I did not set up Linda’s computer as it will likely be a few days before she is in the humor to use it. I checked e-mail and the throughput appeared to be usable, if somewhat slow. I suspect it will be better between midnight and 8 AM, but that is not when I tend to be up. If we have updates, however, or I need to upload or download are files to/from BCM, I might adjust my schedule. The RV life requires agility.
I left at 6:30 PM and drove back to Cocoa Beach to pick up Linda’s prescription medications. I stopped at a Publix supermarket first and bought various groceries before going to the CVS Pharmacy. On the way back I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a coffee for me and finally got back to our coach at 7:45 PM. Linda helped get the groceries inside and then took her first dose of meds.
I turned the front TV antenna towards Orlando and rescanned for channels. The TV found at least 60, including CBS and two different PBS affiliates. I pointed the rear antenna in the same direction and rescanned the rear/bedroom TV but the scan would not compete successfully. I tried it a couple of times with the same result each time. Arrrgh. When in doubt, do a power-off power-on reset, right? I unplugged the power from the antenna controller and the TV set, waited long enough for any power capacitors to bleed down, and plugged them back in. I pointed the antenna again and then scanned for channels. Eureka, this time they were all there! I should have tried that while we were at FGMCR. Doh!
We watched our usual Monday night TV shows on CBS plus a few minutes of news and weather and then went to bed. Given how Linda felt and was still coughing I figured neither of us was going to get a good night’s sleep, but we were both tired and there wasn’t anything else to do except try. An overnight low of about 50 degrees F was expected so I had closed the roof vents and left the windows open just a crack. We were still operating off the house batteries and inverter so I did not turn on the usual night lights.
2016/03/22 (T) Jetty Park Atlas
Linda had a really bad night last night, maybe the worst yet since she took ill, with persistent extended episodes of painful coughing. She was obviously uncomfortable, and no doubt also frustrated, as she was finally able to start taking medication last night at 8 PM. She was already wrung out and very tired, and I was a bit spent myself after the day we had yesterday, but neither of us got a good night’s sleep. Today will need to be an easy day, of necessity, and we will need to rest so we can be up and alert late this evening for the rocket launch. An Atlas V (5) launch is scheduled from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:05 PM this evening. It is a resupply mission for the International Space Station.
I got out of bed at 7:15 AM and fed the cats. I was not well-rested, and would like to have gotten back under the nice warm covers, but I was also uncomfortable and had spent as much time supine as I cared to for one night. The outside air temperature overnight got down to 51 degrees F but we closed the roof vents, and only left the windows open a crack, before going to bed last night so the inside temperature only dropped to 65. I did not plug in the shorepower cord when we got here yesterday so I could not use the electric heater pad on the bed, but we had plenty of covers (and cats) to keep us warm and I did not need the extra heat. I put on my sweats this morning, and was very comfortable.
Linda got up around 7:45 AM to take her medications. She needed to heat a cup of water to make a salt water gargle mixture but the house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC. That is roughly a 50% SOC (State Of Charge). Lead acid batteries, including AGMs, can be discharged a bit more than that but it shortens the number of times they can be cycled so I do not like to let them go much below that level. I took a few minutes to plug in the shorepower cord and soon enough we had 240/120 VAC power to the coach. After Linda prepared her gargle mixture I rearranged the kitchen counter and then made coffee and got our vitamins and juice ready.
Linda tried to play a few games on her iPad while I worked on the drafts of my blog posts for the last two days and started the one for today. Pat and Vickie were out walking and stopped by to see how Linda was doing. I walked over to the office at 11 to register/pay for the next 7 nights of camping and walked past site #352 on the way. It was still occupied, but the current occupants were clearly in the final stages of vacating the site. I walked past the site again on my way back from the office and the current occupants were just pulling out. When I got back to our coach I let Linda know it was time to move.
We walked over to the new site to scope out where to put the car and how to approach getting the coach backed in and then walked back to our current site. Linda closed the front windows and secured a few loose items, but mostly left everything sitting right where it was as we were only going for a short, easy ride. I turned off the Aqua-Hot electric heating element and then took care of the outside stuff. I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the cord, and stowed it away, once again wishing that I had a cord reel. I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply, and started the engine. While the engine idled and the chassis aired up Linda drove the car to the new site, parked it, and awaited my arrival.
Moving the coach from site #343 to site #352 was a simple matter of driving counterclockwise almost all the way around Red Knot Circle, the easternmost loop of the campground, and pulling into Siskin Drive headed east. The location of trees and a light pole made for a tricky spot to get into. The guy in the site to our east (driver’s side) offered to move his truck but I determined that it was not really in the way.
I lifted the tag axle to shorten the turning radius of the bus while maneuvering through the campground. The drive was easy but it took a little bit of back and forth for Linda to get me backed in and centered on the concrete pad. The trees at the back of the site were trimmed up high enough that I could back the coach in far enough to just get the steer tires onto the pad. That was important as the pad was level enough that I did not need to adjust the leveling of the coach, which was a good thing because yesterday the front end portion of the Level Low system would not work. I got out of the coach a couple of times to check the location of the tires and tree limbs and was pleased to see that the tag axle tires were actually off the ground.
I shut the engine down and we went through a modified arrival routine. As usual, I shut off the chassis batteries, closed the air supply valve for the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and put power to the coach. The Magnum 4024 inverter/charger worked fine yesterday and it worked fine again today. I do not know what caused the fault on the drive up from Arcadia to Webster, but resetting the unit seems to have restored it to proper operation.
Linda got out the door mat, patio mat, our two bag chairs, and our plastic side table. She also got the tire covers out of the car and put them on the bus. I got out the windshield covers and the Little Giant step/extension ladder and set it up. I retrieved the rivets to hold the lower windshield wipers off the glass and then Linda handed me the windshield wiper covers. I wanted to put these on first to protect the windshield cover from getting snagged on the metal edges of the arms and wiper blade inserts.
This was the first time we have put the new windshield covers on since we got them two weeks ago so we had to figure out the easiest way to do it, or at least a way that worked. We positioned the large one-piece windshield cover behind the lower wipers and above their drive shafts. That supported the fabric while I pulled it up under the upper wipers and attached the upper center snap and the lower driver side corner snap. I repositioned the ladder to the driver side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, and attached the driver side upper corner snap. I moved the ladder to the passenger side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, attached the upper corner snap, and then the lower corner snap. I had to stretch to reach the upper snaps, so next time I will make the step ladder a little taller.
There are three covers for the passenger side: one for the door, one for the window above the door, and one for the window behind the door. These are all small enough that there was no particular difficulty attaching them. The trick was to start at the top and attach as many snaps as possible before climbing down and repositioning the ladder. For the one large driver side cover I started with the upper center snap, then attached the upper rear snap. I moved the ladder forward and attached the upper front snap and then did the three bottom snaps. When we were done with that we were finally free to relax. Vickie and Linda discussed walking the park and Linda suggested starting between 3 and 3:30 PM. I gathered she was finally feeling a little better, or was just sick and tired of being sick and tired.
At 2 PM Linda asked me get her some more tissues and sore throat spray. I headed for the CVS pharmacy but ended up at the Publix supermarket, which is closer by a mile or so. Besides liking Publix, that meant less traffic to deal with. Somewhat like the Florida Keys, but not as extreme, we are on a long, skinny island with one main road running along its spine. Unlike the Keys, there are more side roads and an occasional causeway that goes over to Merritt Island and on to the mainland. I found what I needed at Publix and was back at the park in due course.
At 3:30 PM we went for a stroll around the campground and park with Vickie as tour guide. After our stroll Linda was hungry and heated up some Amy’s Tomato Bisque Soup (vegan). I was really tired and laid down in bed to take a nap that lasted over two hours. When I got up I had the rest of the soup and a large green salad. We then watched out usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs but did not get to see the last 15 minutes of Limitless as Vickie texted to jet me know they were on their way over to fetch us and walk to the shipping channel to watch the rocket launch.
The Atlas V resupply mission for the International Space Station lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station right on schedule at 11:05 PM. The launch pad was much farther away from our position than the one used for the military satellite launch two years ago, but was illuminated by multiple light sources producing beams and shadows projecting up and highlighted by the clouds. For all the launches Pat and Vickie have seen from this park, this was the first time they recalled seeing these lights.
Even though the Atlas V was a much larger rocket than one I saw two years ago, it was not as loud or as visually impressive as the other one. There were scattered clouds at liftoff, which made for interesting viewing, but the rocket was fairly quickly above them and then disappeared from sight. I tried to take a few photos, but I did not bother bringing the tripod or spend any time ahead of time figuring out appropriate camera settings. I did, however, spend a few minutes playing with manual adjustment of the ISO setting.
A man sitting next to me was monitoring mission control on a radio so we knew what was going on before, during, and after the launch. Only minutes after liftoff the rocket had burned enough fuel to reduce its weight by 75%, was 120 miles above the surface of the earth, was 338 miles downrange, and was traveling just under 10,000 miles per hour! It’s time to orbit was projected to be 21 minutes and I believe the orbital velocity would be approximately 18,000 MPH. (The actual orbital velocity would obviously be a very exact number.)
When it was all over we carried our chairs back to our rig and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s coach so she could drop her’s off. Pat went in for the evening but the three of us went for a leisurely midnight stroll around the entire campground. In spite of the event that had just occurred the campground was quiet. There is some general purpose street lighting here, but not too much. It’s a nice campground and I could see why Pat and Vickie like to come here.
Back at our coach Linda decided to sleep in the living room. More specifically, she decided to sleep in the two captain’s chairs by locking them in position facing one another, reclining the backs, and putting the hassock between them. She thought she might sleep better in a partially upright position. I finished a few e-mails and retired to the bedroom where I was joined by the cats. I was too tired to write but too awake to go right to sleep so I turned on the TV. After flipping through the channels I settled on an old movie, The Battle of Britain. By 2 AM it was still on, owing to too much time for commercials and not enough time for the movie, so I turned it off and went to sleep.
2016/03/23 (W) On The Road To Recovery
Linda slept seven hours last night with very little coughing, at least that I heard. She slept in the living room (her choice) and left the bedroom to me. I had a long early evening nap and did not fall asleep until 2 AM. Even then I did not sleep that well and got up at 8 AM. Linda was still asleep but woke up not long after. She wanted coffee so rather than grind up beans and deal with the whole do-it-yourself process we walked up to the campground office with our two Tervis mugs/caps and filled them there. Free coffee all day, every day, is a nice campground amenity and not one we have found anywhere else.
Pat and Vickie decided to go to Epcot Center at Disney World today for the annual flower and garden show. Vickie texted me to see how Linda was doing and if we wanted to go. Linda was definitely not well enough yet to go anywhere or do anything, so we stayed behind and had an easy day at our home on wheels, starting with toast and jam for our breakfast. Linda read a little and checked our banking. I talked to my sister about our dad for a bit, but spent most of the morning completing draft blog posts for the last three days. We both got showers, which brought our fresh water level down to ~1/6th tank (20 gallons).
I copied the photos I’ve taken during the last week, including the rocket launch last night, to my computer. I selected one of the rocket launch for this week’s post card, processed it, and e-mailed it to Linda’s iPad. While she created a post card for grand-daughter Madeline, I connected the fresh water hose and water softener, tested the harness of the water supply, (7 to 10 gpg), filled the fresh water tank (100 gallons), and connected the waste water drain hose.
With my outside chores done I selected two photos from my article on replacing the bearings in a Webasto diesel burner and e-mailed the image numbers to Gary and Jorge at BCM. They will be used on the “Coming in June” page of the May issue, one for my articles and one for Lloyd DeGerald’s multi-step maintenance list.
I heated a can of Amy’s Golden Lentil “Indian Dal” soup and washed some black grapes for our lunch. There was a cool breeze outside but a bit of heat gain in the coach so we sat outside, doodled on our iPads, and dozed in our folding bag chairs. A little before 5 PM Linda decided she wanted to go for a walk on the beach. The wind was strong out of the east with 3 to 4 foot waves breaking just off shore, but the late afternoon sun was warm enough to make for a pleasant stroll south towards Cocoa Beach. As the sun dropped lower in the sky and was filtered by thin clouds it turned slightly chilly so we turned around and headed back to Jetty Park. We continued our walk through the picnic and playground area and walked along the channel to the boat ramps and then to the campground office. We got a couple of cups of coffee and sat down to watch the news but the TV was tuned to FOX News, so we left and walked back to our site, noting that Pat and Vickie’s car was back at their site.
We discussed what to do for dinner and decided on cooking the vegan Italian sausage and using it to top a salad. I texted Vickie to ask how the garden and flower show was, and let her know that Linda was feeling slightly better. We gave the cats their monthly dose of Cheristin flea medication, which they were due for yesterday.
Vickie came over at 7:15 PM with her iPad and we looked at all of the pictures she took at the Epcot Center Flower and Garden show. It was clearly a spectacular exhibition and since we could not attend we were glad to see it through Vickie’s photographs. By the time Vickie returned to her coach it was almost 9 PM so Linda suggested that we just have granola for dinner. That sounded quick and easy to me, besides which I love her granola, so I did not need any convincing.
On Wednesday evenings we like to watch nature, science, and technology programs on PBS. We have two PBS stations potentially available to us here at Jetty Park Campground but neither of them have 100% reliable signals. I experimented with a range of antenna directions and selected the one that seemed to offer the most reliable signal for the 24.n channels. NOVA was on the recreation of Noah’s Ark and Secrets of the Dead was on the discovery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Ninevah, 250 miles north of Babylon and built by King Sennacherib.
Linda once again set up the captain’s chairs as a bed so she could sleep sitting up. I could not tune in channel 24 in the bedroom so I finished watching the show in the living room. At 11 PM I tuned off the lights in the front of the coach and left Linda to sleep while I retired to the bedroom to write, play a few games, and watch a little more TV before going to sleep.