Category Archives: Culture & Entertainment

20230309-12 – Georgetown, Cayman Islands & a sea day

THURSDAY 09 March – Georgetown, Cayman Islands

This post consists of some narrative and 12 photos with captions.  ]

Our approach to Georgetown, Cayman Islands at first light.  (This image is 1920×862 pixels.  Clicking on the image might allow it to be viewed at full resolution on a device with sufficient resolution.)

Center frame; the tender dock and Port of Entry station at the heart of Georgetown, Cayman Islands as sunrise approaches.

 

Our penultimate port of call was Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The port lacks a deep-water marina, so cruise ships “anchor out” and the guests “tender in.”  There are quite a few things to do on the island, and there were numerous shore excursions from which to choose.  This was not our first visit to Georgetown, however, and we were content to just go ashore and stroll around for a bit.  As port towns go it’s not very interesting.  Most of the things to see and do are elsewhere on the island(s).

 

Cloud figures; a horse plays with a hippopotamus on its back.

One of the tenders (shuttle boats) tied up alongside the NCL Joy.  Cruise ships are BIG; tender boats are small.

The NCL Joy is joined by the Carnival Glory cruise ship in the harbor.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands:  Nancy, Linda, and Paul.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands; Bruce, Nancy, and Paul.

 

The Cayman Islands in general, and Georgetown in particular, is known for its (offshore) banking industry.  We were here as part of our 2nd Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise in 2013, so we knew the town itself is relatively small, without too much high-rise architecture, and is very walkable, but without very much to see and do.  It seemed unchanged to us since our last visit.  The two most novel things about our time here were:  1) an actual police officer directing traffic, and;  2) the number of cruise ships in the harbor; four at one time (as best I recall).  The Joy departed at 5 PM for the final leg of our journey.

 

The Cayman Islands Parliament building and part of the plaza that it faces.  A lot of the buildings in Georgetown are white or light colored, so Paul is wearing his favorite tie-die shirt to add a splash of color.

When in Georgetown there isn’t any doubt as to its history and affiliation with England.  Even they way they post “NO PARKING” signs is very polite.

The Celebrity APEX cruise ship (left) has joined the NCL Joy (right) and Carnival Glory (center) in the Georgetown anchorage.  There’s a 4th cruise ship anchored here as well, but not visible in this photo.

 

In larger ports that can handle multiple cruise ships simultaneously, it’s a bit mind-boggling how many people they can disgorge into a waiting community.  Equally amazing, are the number of businesses (and people) that are in place at each port to service, and indeed depend on, these large number of visitors.  Cruise ships have their purpose, however, and we had thoroughly enjoyed our time on the NCL Joy and the places it stopped.  Perhaps someday we will return to some of these locations on our own, as well as others that our cruise skipped, and stay long enough to get a better sense of what they are really like.  But if not, at least we have experienced them, however briefly, and been keenly aware that we were in places that were very different from where we have spent most of our lives.

 

The NCL Joy puts its port side bow thruster to work to spin the ship 180 degrees around its mid-point.  Not shown (not visible from our port-side suite baloney) is that the starboard side stern thruster is also being used.

The Celebrity APEX has already completed it’s 180 degree turn and is headed out to sea as our ship completes its turn to do the same.

 

FRIDAY 10 March – At Sea

We sailed all evening on the 9th, all day on the 10th, and into the early morning of the 11th.  We had our last dinner meal aboard in the Haven restaurant on the 10th.  After dinner, we gave gratuities to the key crew who had made our trip extra special, namely:  Isidro (our Butler), Harold (our Stateroom Attendant), Patrick (the head Haven concierge), and Melody (the Assistant Concierge in charge of the Haven restaurant).  These gratuities were in addition to the ones that all guests pre-pay and are (presumably) divided up (in some equitable way) between the entire crew (except for the butlers and the Haven concierges, as we understood it).  These four people, however, had made our time onboard memorable in the best possible way.

Over the course of the day, I developed an irritated throat that got worse with time and eventually moved to my sinuses.  Not the way I wanted to end the cruise, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it except for symptomatic treatments, until we got ashore in Miami, Florida and back to Paul and Nancy’s place at MOSN in Polk City, Florida.

20230307-08 – Cartagena, Columbia & a sea day

TUESDAY 07 March – Cartagena, Columbia

This post has some narrative along with 22 photos with captions.  ]

After finishing our daytime transit of the Panama Canal on March 6th, we were at sea for the rest of the evening and overnight into March 7th, arriving at the cruise ship dock in the harbor at Cartagena, Columbia around 10 AM.

Our first full view of the harbor area of Cartagena, Columbia in the early morning haze.  We are already past the entrance in the breakwater into the outer harbor but have some ways to go before enter the inner harbor and get to the port/dock.

Linda takes in the upscale water-front area of Cartagena as the NCL Joy prepares to enter the inner  harbor.

The Holland America Zandam at the cruise ship dock.  We are pulling on the other side of the dock.  The Zandam is a big ship, but is dwarfed by the Joy.

Cartagena is a major shipping port.  This container facility is just one of many that we passed on the way into the dock.

 

The Zandam, a Holland America cruise ship, was already there when we arrived.  Cartagena is Columbia’s main Caribbean port.  It is mostly commercial, but the Columbian Navy has a base here, and there are marinas for pleasure craft and sightseeing boats.  We were amazed, however, at the number of containers stacked up in the shipyard and the number of gantry cranes that were in use moving them around.  Outside of the commercial and cruise ship docks, however, the city around the harbor is very modern and (we were told) has become a safe, inviting place for tourists.

 

This photo provides another view of the container shipyard adjacent to the cruise dock/port area, very close to a lot of commercial and residential buildings.  We counted at least 21 of the blue gantry cranes in this shipyard, and it seemed at times that most of them were busy moving containers around.  There was also a constant flow of tractors coming in to drop off or pick up containers.  (Photo by Linda.)

On our bus ride to the Old City, we saw lots of juxtapositions of old and new.  The old stone work in the foreground is 16th century.  The high-rise buildings in the background are late 20th to earl 21st century.

This photo was typical of the Cartagena streets that our excursion bus took to get to the Old City.  While the look and feel of the place was different from what have experienced for most of our lives, it was also fascinating.

 

Like Antiqua, Guatemala the Spanish presence in Cartagena dates back to the very beginning of the 16th century.  The Walled Old Town by the sea is still intact, and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The four of us booked a shore excursion that involved a bus ride from the dock to the Old City, a walking tour of the Old City, and then a 1-hour boat ride around the harbor.  As part of the harbor cruise, we got a close-up look at the Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy base, which includes two small submarines and a 3-masted sailing vessel named Gloria (presumably for training cadets).  While on our cruise, we watched the Holland America Zandam back out from the dock, turn around and head for the ocean.

 

The entrance to the Old (walled) City.  This photo only provides a glimpse into the tourist crowd that awaited us inside the walls.

Many of the streets in the Old City were like the one pictured here, running straight for short distances before turning in a different direction.

Linda and Nancy enjoying a funny moment.  (They do this a lot.)  Paul is focused on something else.

The inside of the Cathedral in the Old City with its massive, carved altar.

A closer view of the altar with someone praying in the foreground.

There was a lot of variety in the architecture of the buildings in the Old City so it’s not really possible to say what was “typical.”  This style, however, was in the mix.

Cartagena was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas, and it was administered from this building, now a museum dedicated to this part of Columbia’s history.

The Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy is based Cartagena, and moored in plain sight.

The Holland America Zandam backing out of its berth at the cruise terminal.  The NCL Joy is behind it, and difference in size is obvious.

A selfie on the little harbor cruise ship.  It appears that we were satisfied with the experience.  (Photo by Linda.)

It appears that Nancy and Paul also enjoyed the harbor cruise.  (Photo by Linda.)

A pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops that make up the entrance the cruise terminal.

Another pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops terminal entrance area.

The same pair of Macaws as the previous photo.  Such beautiful birds.

 

Following our harbor cruise, we were bused back to the cruise terminal, which we entered by walking through a small outdoor zoo and then past some gift shops.  Although farther north than Panama City, the climate, even at this time of year, was more tropical – warm and humid – and the birds reflected that.  We were always aware that we were getting a superficial “tourist eye’s view” of Cartagena, but nonetheless enjoyed our brief time in Cartagena, Columbia and felt like this was another port-of-call where an overnight stop might have allowed a closer, more relaxed acquaintance with the place and its people and culture.

The Norwegian Joy left Cartagena at 6 PM and headed for our next port, sailing all evening, all the following day, and overnight into March 9th.

 

WEDNESDAY 08 March – At Sea

We spent the entire day sailing NNW in the western Caribbean Sea, out of sight of land.  The weather was pleasant with blue skies and water and white, puffy clouds.  The only photo I’ve included shows the monitor in our suite.  Our present location is approximately half way to our destination of Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The right end of the upper information banner shows that we have sailed 3,767.1 NM (nautical miles) from our starting point at the Port of Los Angeles.  We sailed overnight before finally sighting land around sunrise.

 

The monitor in our suite showing our current location, heading, and speed, along with other information, including our total distance sailed since departing the dock at the Port of Los Angeles.

 

While we enjoy seeing land from the ship, and getting off the ship at ports to explore, we also enjoyed our days at sea.  Far from being boring, sea days provided a chance to relax and explore/enjoy the many amenities the ship had to offer.  While cruise ships can take you to amazing places there is no doubt that the ships themselves (and especially the staff) are part of the experience.

20230306 PCC 9of12 – Transiting the Panama Canal

MONDAY 06 March – 51 miles between oceans on a ship

[  NOTE:  Most of this post consists of 36 photos with captions.  This is being posted more than 3 months after the fact – some of the details might be inaccurate and some of the photos might be out of sequence.  ]

Going through (transiting) the Panama Canal was the main reason for going on this cruise, and the experience did not disappoint.  The American Society of Civil Engineers considers it one of the seven wonders of the modern world.  (We have no seen all of the wonders of the world, ancient or modern, so we will take their word for it.)

 

The NCL Joy moving into the queue for entrance to the southern end of the Panama Canal.

The ocean in the vicinity of Panama City and the entrance to the Panama Canal was crowded with ships waiting to make the transit.  Ships can book a date/time to start the transit, but it is much more expensive than just waiting in line.  Ships with non-perishable cargo and less critical delivery timelines choose to wait their turn and get the lower price.  The fee for the NCL Joy to transit the Canal was approximately $750,000 USD.  The pricing structure for the Canal is very complicated.  (Photo by Linda)

The NCL Joy left the dock at 5 AM to be in position for the 8 AM scheduled start of our transit.  It was dawn by the time we were moving towards the entrance of the Canal and were opposite our starting point.  Part of the Panama City skyline forms the background of this photo, taken by Linda.

Starting into the marked channel that leads to the Panama Canal.  Our ship was docked in the harbor on the other side of the small hills to starboard (right).

The Norwegian Joy left the dock in Panama City at 5 AM and we were up to see it off.  We spent the entire transit in our front-facing 18th deck stateroom; usually on the balcony.  We even took our meals in our room, one of the few times we took advantage of this perquisite.

The Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas) ahead.  Channel markers to the left and right of the ship are visible.  The hill on the right had the radio towers/antennas used to communicate with the ships using the Panama Canal.

Approaching the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas).  This bridge is considered the (unofficial?) southern terminus of the Panama Canal.  Note the crowd of guests gathered on the foredeck of our ship.  This area is normally only open to crew, whose quarters are located foreship near this level.

The Bridge of the Americas to port (left) of the ship just after our balcony passed under it.  We are now (officially?) in the Panama Canal, but still some way from the first set of locks.

Large commercial/cargo docks to starboard (right).

More commercial/cargo docks to port (left).

 

Ships transiting the Canal are queued up in the ocean and then proceed along a well-marked channel when cleared in.  The Bridge of the Americas is considered the southern terminus of the Canal and the Puente Atlántico (Atlantic Bridge) at Colon is considered the northern terminus.  Passing under either of these bridges is a cause for celebration on cruise ships.  And so, it was for us too; we finally opened our bottle of “welcome on board” champagne and toasted the moment.

The original 2-flight Miraflores Locks are to starboard (right).  The newer (2016) 3-flight Panamax class Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks are to port (left).  We used the newer locks as the NCL Joy is too large for the original ones.  Both sets of locks are still referred to as the Miraflores Locks.

The NCL Joy lined up to enter the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks.  The tug boat is positioned to block the Joy from going in yet, and to render maneuvering assistance if/when needed.  (Photo by Linda)

The double lock gates are sliding open so our ship can move from the first to the second/middle basin.  The NCL Joy is just over 1,000 feet long; too big for the older/original locks at either end of the Canal, but much smaller than the maximum 1,400-foot length the new locks can accommodate.  A third phase of lock building is in the planning stages with locks that will accommodate even bigger ships.  (Photo by Linda)

As our ship entered the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks, we could see other ships to starboard (right) using the original Miraflores Locks.

The structure center-right in the photo is the sliding lock gate that will close behind the ship once it is fully in the lock basin.  The green surface on top is a road that allows Canal staff to get from one side to the other (when the gate is closed, obviously).  All of the new locks use these massive sliding gates.  The original locks using swinging gates.

The “Cocoli control tower” for the Miraflores West Locks.  We had one more basin after the one we are currently in.  Each of the basins is an “elevator) that works like a bathtub.  When filled with water any boat(s) in the basin are raised in elevation.  When the water is drained, they are lowered.  When the water level is the same on both sides of a gate, it can be opened or closed, allowing ships to enter or leave the basin.

Exiting the last basin of the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks northbound.  Miraflores Lake can be seen ahead to starboard (right).  Because of the geology of this part of the Canal Zone, the original southern lock system consists of two flights in the Miraflores Locks and then a single flight in the Pedro Miguel Lock.  The body of water in-between is named Lake Miraflores.  The new West (Cocoli) Locks achieve the change in elevation in a 3-flight (staircase) lock system.  The two channels reunite just north of the Pedro Miguel Lock.

 

There is a lot of information available online and in books about the Panama Canal.  It’s a long, complicated story, and not a happy one in most regards.  I was glad I had taken the time to read about this before being here (Panama Fever, by Matthew Parker).  The engineering is amazing, and the location is beautiful, but it has a context and only became a reality at enormous cost in money, lives, and political relations with the countries of Central and South America.

 

The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and Control Room just left of center in the photo.

A smaller ship exiting the Miraflores Locks.

 

Regardless of which way you go through the Canal, the trip begins and ends with locks, three at each end, with Gatun Lake in-between.  The average sea level of the Pacific Ocean end of the Canal is only 20 cm higher than the average sea level on the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) end.  Because this difference is so small, the original “vision” for the Canal was a sea level transit with perhaps one lock.  However, the tidal range on the Pacific Ocean end is 20 feet whereas on the Atlantic Ocean end it is 3 feet.  Thus, locks were going to be needed at each end just to account for this difference.  The fact that the Canal also had to cross the Continental Divide, ultimately meant that ships would have to change elevation by even more than the difference in sea levels, and the locks would have to accommodate this difference in elevation.

Gatun Lake is the largest man-made lake in the world, and was formed by damming the Rio Chagres.  The Rio Chagres was a raging river that would rise 20 feet during floods.  It had to be “tamed” (controlled) if the Panama Canal was ever to become a reality.  There are three locks at each end to accomplish the 85 ft change in elevation from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake.  New locks were built at each end, alongside the original ones, to accommodate larger ships and were opened in 2016.  Just north of the southern locks (Miraflores /  Lake Miraflores / Pedro Miguel are the old ones and Miraflores West (Cocoli) are the new ones.  I think Lake Gatun “officially” begins at the northern end of the Miraflores Locks complex.

Heading north from the Miraflores Locks area we came to the Culebra Cut.  Generally considered the most difficult part of building the Canal, it is a massively excavated passage through the Continental Divide.  The Canal was taken up 85 feet and through this area as it offered the best chance of actually getting through the divide.

The official length of the Panama Canal is 51 miles, which doesn’t seem like much, but it took the NCL Joy about 9 hours to make the trip, including the locks at each end.  As we sailed under the Atlantic Bridge we (officially) entered the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean) and continued on to our next port, sailing all night to get there by sunrise.

Following are the bulk of the photos from the transit:

 

The Centennial Bridge at the Culebra Cut.  (Photo by Linda)

Paul, Linda, and Nancy with champagne glasses ready to toast our passage through the Culebra Cut.  (Linda is holding my glass while I take this photo.)  The “cut” was dug through the Continental Divide, and was the most difficult part of the Canal to create.

The sides of the “cut” are terraced to prevent erosion, which was a huge problem during the excavation of this passage through the Continental Divide.  (Photo by Linda)

Panama is a beautiful place with lush flora.

Panama is also a place with a long and troubled history.  This compound to starboard (right) is where Manuel Noriega was held before being extradited to the USA for trial.  (Photo by Linda)

At this point, we are through the Culebra Cut and passing the town of Gatun on the right.  This town within the Canal Zone is the base of operations for much of the Canal maintenance.  Note the massive barge crane at the center-right edge of the photo.  This crane, named Titan (nicknamed Herman the German), is able to lift the older swinging lock gates for repair and maintenance.  A part of the history of the construction and operation of that Canal, Titan was built by Nazi for servicing U-Boats (submarines) during WW II.  At maximum height, the top of the boom is 374 feet above the water.  Like everything else connected with the Canal, it is massive.  (Photo by Linda)

We are passing a southbound cargo ship (tanker?) on Lake Gatun.  (Passing was always portside-to-portside.)  Most of the Panama Canal consists of Lake Gatun.  The lake was formed by a dam on the Rio Chagres near the northern end, and is still the largest man-made lake in the world.

Another view of Lake Gatun.  Channel markers are visible to port (left).  It was a generally lovely day for the transit with a mix of blue skies and clouds.  It was warm, but not uncomfortable on the deck (which always had a breeze from the movement of the ship) and we could go back into the stateroom if/when needed.

The clouds have filled in somewhat as we approach the northern end of the Canal and the end of the transit.

Approaching the new (2016 Panamax class) Gatun East Locks at the northern end of the Panama Canal.  The cargo ship that entered the Canal ahead of us this morning is in the locks.   The original Gatun Locks are off to the port (left) side out of the frame.

A small crowd of guests remains at the bow platform of the NCL Joy as we approached the Gatun East Locks and prepared to be lowered down to the level of the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).  (Photo by Linda)

We are now close enough to the Gatun East Locks that a tug boat has taken up position on the port side of the bow to help guide the NCL Joy into the first basin.  (In a Q&A with the Captain of the NCL Joy, he was quite blunt about not needing the assistance of tug boats when maneuvering the Joy at docks, or elsewhere, and found their presence more bothersome than helpful.  I think he felt the same way about harbor pilots.)

As we entered the first basin of the Gatun East Locks, the ponds used as part of the system for emptying and filling the lock basins were visible on the port (left) side of the ship.  These ponds conserve some of the massive amount of water needed to operate the locks, where all of the water to fill the locks flows by gravity.

The water level in the first (Lake Gatun) basin has been lowered and the water lever in the second basin raised so that both basins are at the same water level, allowing the sliding gate to be opened so the NCL Joy can move to the second basin.

As the last lock gate opens, the NCL Joy has finally completed its journey from the Pacific Ocean, up and over (through) the continental divide, and back down to the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).  It was quite a trip and we certainly had “the best seats in the house.”  (Photo by Linda)

As the NCL Joy exits the last basin at the current level of the Caribbean Sea, Paul points out the Puente Atlántico (Atlantic Bridge) and the Caribbean Sea beyond.

Passing under the Puerto Atlantic (Atlantic Bridge) and into the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).

 

It was around 5 PM local time as we passed under the Atlantic Bridge, marking our transit time at 9 hours.  From here, the ship headed north (N) and then northeast (NE) for a short way  before turning East East North (EEN) on a fairly direct course for Cartagena, Columbia where we were scheduled to enter the harbor around sunrise.

 

As we pass through the breakwater that protects the harbor at Canal terminus at Colon, Panama we sailed into the Caribbean Sea and points east.

 

20230305 PCC 8 of12 – Panama City, Panama; Gateway to South America

[ This post contains 12 photos with captions. ]

SUNDAY 05 March – Panama City, Balboa, and the Panama Canal Zone

 

A photo from last night of the other cruise ship next to the NCL Joy just after leaving the dock.  It will head around to the right (west) and position itself in the queue to enter the Panama Canal tomorrow morning.  (Photo by Linda.)

The other cruise ship heading towards the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal just before 8 AM for the beginning of its scheduled transit of the Canal.  The ship left the dock next to us last evening to queue up in Panama Bay for its transit this morning.  A lot of ships move through the Canal every 24 hours, and it’s imperative that ships with reservations arrive at the first lock (at either end) exactly on time.

Panama City was the only port where we stayed overnight; in this case for two nights, before transiting the Panama Canal.  This meant that passengers had a chance to go ashore last night and take in the life of the city after sunset.  It also meant that passengers (and some crew) had a full day today to explore the area, either on a shore excursion or on their own without fear of not getting back to the ship on time.

 

The road leading out of the port/dock area and onto the causeway to the mainland.  (Photo by Linda.)

Paul and Nancy arranged a private tour of Panama City while we signed up for one of the shorter ship-arranged shore excursions.  Our excursion was aboard a motorcoach with an excellent tour guide and focused mostly on the southeastern end of the Canal Zone in Balboa, now a NW suburb of Panama City.  (The Panama Canal runs from Panama City northwest to Colón at the other end.)  We had read about the history and operation of the Canal in the book Panama Fever (by Matthew Parker) before arriving here, and the history/technology of the Canal was what interested us most about the area.  The following, however, is excerpted from the Wikipedia entry “Panama Canal Zone”:

 

 

 

The Panama Canal Zone … was an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the Isthmus of Panama, that existed from 1903 to 1979. It was located within the territory of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending five miles (8 km) on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón.  Its capital was Balboa.

The Panama Canal Zone was created on November 18, 1903 from the territory of Panama; established with the signing of the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which allowed for the construction of the Panama Canal within the territory by the United States. The zone existed until October 1, 1979, when it was incorporated back into Panama.

In 1904, the Isthmian Canal Convention was proclaimed. In it, the Republic of Panama granted to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation, and control of a zone of land and land underwater for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of the canal. From 1903 to 1979, the territory was controlled by the United States, which had purchased the land from its private and public owners, built the canal and financed its construction. The Canal Zone was abolished in 1979, as a term of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties two years earlier; the canal itself was later under joint U.S.–Panamanian control until it was fully turned over to Panama in 1999.

 

(Photo by Linda.)  The Biomuseo (Bio-Museum) building.  From the Wikipedia entry “Biomuseo”:  “The Biomuseo is a museum focused on the natural history of Panama, whose isthmus was formed very recently in geologic time, with major impact on the ecology of the Western Hemisphere.  Located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama, it was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This is Gehry’s first design for Latin America. The design was conceived in 1999 and the museum opened on 2 October 2014.  The Biomuseo highlights Panama’s natural and cultural history, emphasizing the role of humans in the XXI century. Its galleries tell the story of how the rise of the isthmus of Panama changed the world.” …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although no longer under direct US control or military protection, the “Canal Zone” still exists as a highly secured area.  This is one of many entrance gates.  The lettering on the arch reads “CANAL DE PANAMA”.  (Photo by Linda.)

While the long-term goal is to have the Canal operated and maintained by Panamanians, it remains the case today that many of the people operating the canal are US citizens who are also training Panamanians to take over those roles.

 

Much of our shore-excursion focused on the infrastructure that was built to house the administration, construction, and health care facilities as well as the housing needed by the canal employees, and U.S. military bases and personnel.  These facilities remain in use today, some still attached to canal operations while others are being converted into private or other public uses such as housing, schools, and health care facilities.

One of the many housing areas in Balboa original built to house the thousands of U.S. workers who oversaw the building and operation of the Canal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main administration building of the Panama Canal Company, still in use for its original purpose today by the Panama Canal Authority, part of the Government of Panama.  The operation of the Canal is a large, technically complex endeavor, and generates a significant portion of the revenues that flow into the Government of Panama.  (Photo by Linda.)

A view of the Miraflores Locks from the Visitor Center observation building, looking back towards the Pacific Ocean.  Between the road and the lock basin are the train tracks for the “mules” that control the movement of the ships through these locks.  The Miraflores locks are the original ones but are still in use for all but the newest/largest ships, which do not fit the length, width, or draft limitations.  The new locks, which accommodate much larger ships, are out of sight to right in this photo.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the control buildings for the Miraflores Locks.  The gates are closed, separating the basin on the left at a low-water level, from the basin on the right at a high-water level.  Water flows in and out of these basins by gravity.  The gates are only swung open when the water level on both sides is exactly the same.  This is conceptually the same technology that was used hundreds of years ago in Great Britain to create the canal system there; although the scale is much larger here.  The newer locks (opened in 2016) do not use swinging gates.  They use sliding doors (like pocket doors) instead.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were there!  (Photo by Linda.  Not photoshopped, promise.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. Embassy.  The Torrijos–Carter Treaties treaty that returned sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama as well as primary responsibility for its defense, nevertheless also preserved that right of the USA to intervene militarily if the Canal and its neutral operation (open to ships of all nations) should be threatened at any time in the future.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of Panama City from the balcony of our stateroom.  The Joy remained at the dock until early the next morning, when it departed to queue up for the transit.

 

20230304 PCC 7of 12 – At sea & Panama City, Panama (Day 1)

[ This post has 25 photos with captions. ]

 

SATURDAY 04 March – Enroute to, and arrival at, Panama City, Panama

Again, our original itinerary had us stopping in Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica but the revised itinerary skipped this stop and went directly to Panama City, Panama.  We would have liked to stop in Costa Rica, but recalled that shortly before NCL changed the itinerary in early October 2022, the US State Department had issued a travel advisory against visiting the country.  We don’t know if this was the reason for the change, but it seemed to be more than coincidental.  Something similar might have been true for Nicaragua, but we did not recall any advisories regarding travel there.  It was possible that the other changes in the itinerary might have been a domino effect from the loss of the Costa Rica stop, but we were never informed of the reasons for the changes.  And  it’s worth noting that these kinds of changes are always part of the booking contract; the cruise lines do not guarantee their itineraries.

 

We were at sea for most of the day, however, and made good use of the time.  This was the only day that the NCL Joy was doing “behind the scenes” tours of the ship.  We knew ahead of time that this experience would be very limited, and signed up for the tour (they treat it as a “shore excursion”) as soon as possible after we got on the ship in the Port of Los Angeles.  It turned out that they only offered the tour on this day while we were at sea, and only offered two groups, both of which were limited in the number of participants.  Here are some images of parts of the ship where I was allowed to take photos or there was something interesting to see.

A view of the main kitchen under the Manhattan dining room at the aft of the ship.

The Linda/Nan culinary team enjoying their tour of the NCL Joy main kitchen facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the laundry facility.  The machines to the right are used to press certain clothing items, such as officers’ uniforms.

Another view of the pressing portion of the laundry facility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the washing machines in the laundry facility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This machine irons napkins.  The napkins shown here (with the blue banding) are unique to the buffet dining area.  The laundry facility handles approximately 6,000 of these napkins every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This machine irons and folds bedding.  The operator hangs the sheet and then the arms spread apart and feed it into the rollers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folder sheets coming off of the machine in the previous photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our behind-the-scenes tour of the NCL Joy included a visit to the bridge.  Shown here is the helm/navigation station in the center (side-to-side).  The bridge covers the entire width of the ship at the forward end of Deck 14, and extend beyond the sides of the ship on both the port and starboard sides.  All of the bridge officers have their living quarters immediately aft of the bridge.  We also got to visit the engine control room (but not the engine room, for safety reasons).  I found all aspects of the ships operation to be fascinating, but the control room and bridge caught my interest in particular.

A view towards the port side wing station of the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The port side wing station looking aft.  The ship can be driven from this location, which is used when docking using the port side of the ship.  The pilot has a clear view of the port side of the ship, for and aft, as well as down through a glass portion of the floor.

There are a lot of controls at the port side wing station, and yet it had a beautiful, clean layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view looking aft from the port side wing station of the bridge.

 

We were never south of the equator on this cruise, so that experience is still somewhere in our future.  While I did not make note of our most southern latitude, it had to occur somewhere between the southern tip of Isla Jicaron (7.2 deg N) and the southern edge of the peninsula southwest of Panama City that forms the western edge of the Gulf of Panama (also 7.2 deg N).

 

Prior to this, our furthest south latitude was around 16 deg N when we visited Roatán, Honduras on our second Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise on the MSC Poetia in March 2013.

 

 

An example of the map that was constantly available as part of the ship/route information on the monitors in our stateroom.  The NCL Joy’s location is the yellow arrow with the red circle, center bottom of the screen, heading north into Panama Bay.  Panama City is the orange area ahead of (N) and slightly to the left (NNW) of the ship.  The Pacific Ocean terminus of the Panama Canal is at Panama City (Balboa) and runs NW to it’s Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) terminus at Colon.  Gatun Lake is a major portion of the Canal.

This larger view of the area shows the location of our ship relative to both North and South America.  The ship’s track is shown from (just before) Acapulco, Mexico to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, and then to Panama City, Panama.  Our next port of call after transiting the Panama Canal will be Cartagena, Columbia, so it’s clear that our farthest south latitude was achieved as we rounded the peninsula to the southwest of Panama City.

I included this photo to give a better sense of our location relative to the equatorial portion of South America as well as the relative closeness of Africa.

Linda contemplates our arrival in Panama City.  The coast of Panama is faintly visible on the horizon.

Panama City sits on the northeast side of the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.  It is the capital of Panama, and has a modern, impressive skyline facing the ocean.  It is sometimes compared to the Miami (USA) shoreline, and has become a jewel of, and gateway to, South America.  And yes, it is considered to be in South America, the official dividing line between North and South America being the Panama Canal (which runs from SE to NW when going from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea).

As we came into Panama Bay and approached Panama City, we saw more and more ships “anchored out”.  The number was impressive.  We eventually learned to many (most?) of them were waiting to transit the Panama Canal.  Ships transiting the Canal are able to make a reservation or can anchor in the harbors on either end and wait for an opening.  The wait can be as much as three (3) weeks, but is less expensive than a reserved entry time.

Coming into the cruise ship dock and terminal area.  This area is at the end of a long, man-made causeway, so Panama City proper is not really accessible by foot and requires some form of transportation to get into town.  A major improvement project was underway while we were there, but was not an issue.  A smaller cruise ship was already at the dock.  The ship in the distance has just exited the Panama Canal.

Panama City had lots to offer, however, and was the only port where we stayed overnight; in this case for two nights.  We are not “night life” people, and did not leave the ship this evening, but other passengers went ashore to explore and take in the life of the city after sunset.

 

 

 

The next day, Paul and Nancy arranged a private tour of Panama City while we signed up for a ship-arranged shore excursion, which I cover in the next post.  In the meantime, here are a few more photos from today:

A view of the Panama City skyline as Paul and I observe the docking process from our stateroom balcony.  (Photo by Linda.)

We were scheduled to arrive at the dock in Panama City around dinner time, so we opted to have dinner in our stateroom, allowing us to conveniently watch the whole process.  Panama City is visible through the doorwalls and the location map is showing on the monitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A better view of our meal.  Salud!  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A composite image of 10 photos of the Panama City harbor skyline and the causeway that leads out to the cruise ship terminal and dock.  The water on the other side of the causeway leads (to the right) to the beginning of the Panama Canal.

The Centennial Bridge, visible in this photo, is usually taken as the official Pacific Ocean terminus of the Panama Canal.  (Photo by Linda.)

The Panama City skyline at night, as the other cruise ship leaves the dock to position itself in the Bay for its scheduled transit of the Panama Canal.

 

202303(02-03) PCC 6of12 – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala & a sea day

[ There are 23 photos in this post.  Most of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

THURSDAY 02 March – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving at the dock in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala under the cover of darkness.  It was a tricky entrance, but the captain handled it like he was parking a small car in an empty parking lot.

One of the active volcanos we passed on the motorcoach ride from Puerto Quetzal to Antigua, Guatemala.  (Photo by Linda)

Antigua, Guatemala.  Our motorcoach was parked on this street, over the rise in the road, along with many others.  In the background, Volcán de Aqua towers over the city and was visible from most places.

We arrived at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala around 7 AM.  Guatemala has a relatively short Pacific coast, and Puerto Quetzal is the only port of any size.  It is primarily an industrial port, but more than willing to welcome and accommodate cruise ships.

 

There was nothing of interest for tourists in the immediate port area, but that was OK.  We had signed up for a shore excursion to Antigua Guatemala, a 2-hour bus ride from sea level to 1545 m (5069 ft).  A relatively small old city nestled high up in the mountains, it is surrounded by volcanoes, some of which are still active.  To the south, Volcán de Aqua, dominates the skyline at 3,766 m (12,356 ft).  One of the volcanoes was “smoking” as we drove past.

 

 

A small slice of the Mayan history portion of the Jade Museum in Antigua, Guatemala.  Those of us walking the city on our own gathered here first to use the restrooms and learn a bit about history of the area and city.

Antigua was Guatemala’s colonial capital from ~ 1543 to 1773 when it was severely damaged by an earthquake and the Capital was moved to present day Guatemala City.  Many of the buildings were restored, however, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its Spanish Colonial architecture.

 

We did not do a guided tour, but merely wandered around the city soaking in the sites.  We also learned that there are still many people in Guatemala with Mayan ancestry, and 31 dialects of the Mayan language are still spoken here.  This corroborated what we had learned some years ago on our visit to the Mayan ruins at Tulum in the Yucatan peninsula.  We were definitely in a place that was different from any place we had ever been before, and we enjoyed our walk through history.

 

A street seller of hats crosses the central plaza in front of the main government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main government building on the north side of the central plaza.

Proof that we were here.  The two of us in front of the government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This cathedral fronts the central plaza on the east side.

The central isle leading to the altar of the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance arch to the main cathedral complex.

On north side of the entrance arch looking back to the south.  Note how Volcán de Aqua to the south towers over the city of Antigua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front façade of the cathedral.  I believe the building to the left is the monastery.

As we walked the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, we often saw openings like this that appeared to lead into very inviting courtyards.  Some of them were hotels, some were retail spaces, and some appeared to be private residences.  The street-facing parts of most buildings had a very old and minimally maintained appearance, but we suspected that once away from public view, the interiors were much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to get a picture of this, as it was not something I’ve ever seen in the USA.  This van has Argentina plates and the wording under the window, “De Argentina Hasta Alaska” makes it clear what journey the owners are on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view down a less crowded street somewhat away from the center of the city.  Many buildings here were rebuilt/restored after he devastating earthquake of 1773, but not all of them.  There were several abandoned/decaying churches, like this on (on the right) throughout the city, but many others were still in use.

A view down another street, again away from the center of the city.  The closer we were to the center of the city the more the streets were choked with vehicles.  Most of the streets and avenues, however, where “Una Via” (one way), which they needed to be as there was usually only enough space for one vehicle to get through.

The remains of this church were not far from where our motorcoach was parked.  I believe it was one of the buildings damaged in the 1773 earthquake, and never rebuilt.

I am interested in motorcoaches, of course, but the main reason for this photo was to capture the shear number of these conveyances that had descended on Antigua the day we were there.  On the other side of the plaza there are ~10 motorcoaches on each side of the dead-end street.  (They all backed in.)  The street on our side of the plaza had a similar number of motorcoaches in the same arrangement.  40 motorcoaches times an average of 50 passengers each is ~2,000 people.  It sounds like a lot, but there were many, many more people than that on the streets of Antigua while we were there.

Because some of the shore excursions were of very long duration (over 8 hours) the NCL Joy did not leave Puerto Quetzal until after sunset.  Although tugboats were at the ready, the captain backed the ship out, reversing how he had brought it in early this morning in the dark.  Some very impressive maneuvering, indeed. (The Joy is over 1,000 feet long and (~130) feet wide.)

Since our stateroom faced forward (towards the bow) we were treated to a spectacular view of the commercial shipyard lit up and working.  The number of containers being handled here would only be exceeded by what we later saw in Cartagena, Columbia.  But that will have to wait for a few more days.

 

FRIDAY 03 March– At Sea

After leaving Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we continued cruising along the Pacific Ocean coasts of Nicaragua and then Costa Rica.  Land is just barely visible in the haze towards the left side of the photo, but I do not know how far south we were by this point.

Our original itinerary had us in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua today but the revised itinerary turned it into another day at sea.  We were disappointed that Nicaragua was removed from the itinerary, but glad to have had the chance to visit Antigua, Guatemala.  Plus, our sea days were quite comfortable aboard the Joy.  It was during this leg of the trip that we saw occasional large pods of dolphins, flying fish, and a large number of sea turtles, singly or in small groups, float past the ship.  These were highlight experiences for us, but difficult to capture in photos.  We spent many hours of rapt attention focused on the water ahead of the ship, looking for the telltale signs of ocean life.

Dolphins off the port bow coming towards the ship!  Make that, a LOT of dolphins.

The ship had stumbled upon a superpod of dolphins and we had a front row seat to the show.  Some quick research revealed that dolphins usually live in family groups of 10 to 12 individuals, but sometimes these units gather in superpods.  Our best guess was that there were at least a couple of hundred individuals in this group.  We assumed they were hunting and had found a large school of fish, but we had no idea what kind.

2023(0228-0301) PCC 5of12 – Acapulco, Mexico & at sea

[ There are 8 photos in this post.  Much of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

TUESDAY 28 February – Acapulco, Mexico

We arrived in the harbor at Acapulco, Mexico in the pre-dawn hours and proceeded to moor at the cruise ship dock under the first vestiges of the rising sun.  This is a composite image of 10 photos showing a 180-degree view from our stateroom balcony.  The image is actually 1920×418, so might be viewable at that resolution if clicked and displayed on an appropriate device.

The NCL Joy slowly nudges up to the dock at the cruise ship terminal.  The building with the open doors facing the water was eventually filled with motorcoaches waiting to take cruise ship guests on numerous shore excursions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view from the inside end of our front balcony.  You might be able to see through the glass at the right down into the Haven front lounge on deck 17 below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of Acapulco looking forward from our stateroom balcony.

We arrived in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico and docked at the cruise ship area.  We had not arranged a shore excursion here, opting instead to disembark and wander around on our own.  As a general rule, we would never wander very far on our own as the ship will not wait for us if we are late getting back.  With ship-organized shore excursions, however, you are guaranteed that the ship will not leave without you (as long as you don’t separate yourself from the excursion guide/group).

We disembarked from the Joy and strolled along the sidewalk between the main road and the shore towards the up-scale end of town across the harbor.

Looking back towards the NCL Joy from the promenade along the shore leading away from the cruise ship terminal.  You don’t really understand the size of these large cruise ships until they next to something that provides a sense of scale.

Acapulco was noticeably larger than Cabo San Lucas but we confined our walking to the area NE of the dock.  Once the hangout of Hollywood elites (a long time ago), the “party” had since shifted to Cabo.  There is still a lot of money and nice housing here, but we did not see those areas up close, and what we did see did not entice us to return.  We got the impression that Puerto Vallarta would have been more interesting, and were disappointed that it had been removed as a port-of-call from the itinerary.

A view of the Acapulco harbor as the NCL Joy heads back out to sea.  (This is a composite of 10 photos and might be viewable at 1920×294 if clicked on an appropriate device.)  We arrived this morning in the dark but departed around 5 PM.

 

WEDNESDAY 01 March – At Sea

One of the TV channels on the ship provided continuous information about the ship’s position, heading, and speed, as well as weather information.  We often had this on when we were in the stateroom, with the sound muted.  Even though the Joy was consistently doing 20 to 22 knots, the distance down Mexico’s Pacific Ocean coast is considerable.  One of the things we did not anticipate was that we rarely had clear skies at night.  I never discovered the actual reason for this, but my presumption was the warmer and somewhat more humid air the farther south we traveled.

Our last look back at Acapulco, Mexico  from the port side of our stateroom balcony as the NCL Joy leaves the harbor and heads out into the Pacific Ocean.

202302(26-27) PCC 4of12 – Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

[ There are 12 photos in this post.  Much of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

SUNDAY 26 February – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

A pleasant morning on the balcony heading towards Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  In this view looking towards the center of the ship, the bulkhead at the far end of the balcony is the port side wall of the open space above the center of the Haven front lounge on deck 17.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur (BCS) state, Mexico around 11 AM.  Cabo does not have a cruise ship dock, so we anchored out and took tenders to the NCL dock in the commercial/tourist marina area.

 

This was not the first time we had set foot in Mexico, having spent the 2014-15 snowbird season in Quartzsite, Arizona, and visiting Los Algodones in northern Baja California (on the California USA border).  It was also not the furthest south we had been, at ~N22.87o.

 

In the morning hours heading into the Cabo area, we finally saw whales!  Humpback whales, specifically.  Always an amazing sight, we never tire of seeing these magnificent mammals of the sea.

 

As part of our second Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise on the MCS Poetia in March 2013, we visited Playa del Carmen (N20.63o) and Tulum (N20.215o) in Yucatan state, Mexico (Yucatan peninsula), and Roatán, Honduras (N16.264o).  When I retired in 2012, we also got near the southern tip of the island of Hawaii (the big island) (we got to ~N19.058o).  (The farthest west we have been, to date, was the island of Oahu, Hawaii, ~ W158o)

More of our stateroom balcony looking to the port side of the ship.  It curves around and continues down the port side past the master bedroom/bathroom suite.  The first portion is accessible as part of this main/front deck.  A small portion farther aft is only accessible from the master suite.

With land now clearly in sight, Linda contemplates our journey to the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula and Cabo San Lucas.

Four photos were used to create this composite image of the main cruise terminal tender dock area in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  The harbor was deep enough for the NCL Joy, but there are no cruise ship docks.  Small boats (tenders) are used to transport guests and crew to/from shore.  This was our first port-of-call after leaving the Port of Los Angeles, and we were glad to see that crew members were allowed shore call, depending on their ship duties at the time we were there.

Another view of the main marina area, a bit further on around to the right from the previous composite image.  There were some big private yachts here, in addition to lots of more normal sized, but still very nice, pleasure boats.  There were also a lot of condo / timeshare developments here, and the port area was lined with shops and restaurants (of course).  Cabo has a reputation as a party town and can be noisy around the harbor until late into the night (according to some Youtube channels I follow).  We left around dinner time, so were not bothered by any of that.

Our ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Joy.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  As this is the port side, our stateroom is visible at the very front (bow/left) on the first enclosed deck down from the top.

These rocks are WSW of the port/marina portion of Cabo San Lucas.  El Arco (The Arch rock) is visible.  Our sightseeing boat got a bit closer, but the area was crowded with lots of smaller personal boats.

I noticed that many of the motorcoaches being used to bus cruise ship quests to their various venues had this unusual mechanism on their steer tires.  It appeared to be a tire inflation device designed to allow the wheel/tire to turn, but I have no idea if that was actually the case.

We had booked a shore excursion and made our way to the rendezvous point.  The excursion started with a boat trip around the harbor that included a view of El Arco (The Arch rock).  Back at the dock, our group was then escorted to a waiting motorcoach.

 

We visited a glass factory with a glass blowing demonstration.  The factory makes various objects, both functional and decorative, out of recycled glass and has been in operation for quite a long time.  From the glass factory, we visited a viewpoint on a headland across the harbor from the main port area, and had some light refreshments.  Our tour guide, bus driver, and the people operating the boat were all very gracious and spoke English well enough that we could understand them without difficulty.

The glass-blowing demonstration in progress.  We are sitting in the back/top row of a set of wooden bleachers.  The small parking lot was crowded with motorcoaches when we arrived, and was still crowded when we left.  There was another cruise ship in the harbor at the same time as us, and this is a popular shore excursion destination.

While the glass factory was interesting, and the viewpoint was nice, our general impression of Cabo was that we did not need to return anytime soon.

 

It has a reputation as a party town, with restaurants, bars, and timeshares crowded into and around the port/marina area.  The harbor is often crowed with boats and loud music can be heard late into the night.  At least that’s the impression I have gotten from Youtube videos.  All of this was congruent with our first-hand experience of the place.  Our stateroom in the Joy really did provide a “haven” from all of that.  The ship departed at 7 PM and continued south, so whatever partying might have occurred after dark, we were none-the-wiser.

 

MONDAY 27 February – At Sea

The final product of the glass-blowing demonstration; a turtle with a sombrero and bottle of tequila.

In early October, 2022 NCL changed the original itinerary for this cruise.  We were supposed to be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico today, but spent the entire day at sea instead and overnight into the 28th.  This part of the cruise took us across the mouth of the Sea of Cortez and then along the Pacific Ocean coast of the mainland of Mexico.

 

The roof leading from the workshop/demonstration area to the showroom / retail market area.  The roof is a famous feature of this facility, and one of the reasons tourists visit this business.

Besides dining, on “at sea” days we took in the shows in the main theater and checked out The Social, a small venue with comedians and other entertainment.

 

We had almost all of our meals with Paul and Nancy, but on many of our “at sea” days, they had dinner in one of the specialty restaurants.  We did not make use of the specialty dining during the cruise and dined at the Haven restaurant or in the Garden Café (buffet style) on these occasions.  We found the buffet quite acceptable, and enjoyed the variety of things that were available, including vegan options.

A view of the harbor at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico looking southwest towards the main port/marina area from restaurant / event venue on a headland on the northeast side of the bay.

 

202302(24-25) PCC 3of12 – The Norwegian Joy:  Embarkation, Departure, and the Ship

[ There are 25 photos in this post.  Some of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

FRIDAY 24 February – Embarkation and Departure

The rainy weather moved into the Long Beach area overnight but our Uber was able to pick us up under the canopy in front of the Staybridge Hotel near the Long Beach airport and drop us off at the Port of Los Angeles (also in Long Beach) under similar cover.  We had an embarkation window of 11:30 to noon, and arrived just ahead of that time.  We had received text messages yesterday changing our terminal, and had the Uber driver take us to the new location.  Upon arrival at the terminal, we were a bit perplexed, as our ship was nowhere in sight.  The terminal was also not what Nancy and Paul expected, based on previous experience with NCL, and not what we had been told to expect with respect to the Haven (ship within a ship) “experience” on the Joy.

Everything seemed “makeshift” and that, indeed, turned out to be the case.  The Joy was at a different dock, but the high winds of the last few days had damaged the tents that had been set up to serve as the welcoming and processing center, so those operations had to be moved last minute to our present terminal.  A separate waiting area had been created for guests in the Haven, but it wasn’t a comfortable lounge and we waited for quite a while before being escorted on a long walk to an area with several dozen motorcoaches were waiting to shuttle us to the ship.  It turned out that NCL had been scrambling since yesterday to hire as many of these motorcoaches as they could find in the area.

At dinner in the Haven Restaurant (photo by Paul or Nancy).

Once our bus was full, we were then driven to where the ship was actually docked, and went through the actual embarkation process, which was not especially well organized.

We had been told we would have separate, priority access to the ship and be taken directly the Haven in time to have a relaxing lunch, but that didn’t happen, as the process of getting from the terminal onto the ship was quite lengthy, the Port of Los Angeles staff did not appear to know what they were doing, and some of the PoLA security people were actually a bit rude.

Linda, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

We eventually made it to our room, however, as did all of our luggage.  Our bottle of champagne was there waiting for us, even though the ice had melted by now, but we were not in a festive enough mode to enjoy anyway, and decided to save it for some other occasion.  While not the embarkation we expected, in the end, we were all in our stateroom in the Haven with all of our luggage, and were able to relax before going to dinner.

Bruce, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

The ship was scheduled to depart at 4 PM and actually pulled out closer to 5 PM under heavy mist.  Once out of the port, the Pacific Ocean had big swell, but the Joy handled it well.

The ship can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, but there we not that many on board this particular cruise.  We had dinner in the Haven restaurant, a place we would visit frequently during the cruise and be one of the highlights of the ship for us.

Back in our suite, which was certainly the main highlight of the ship for us, we unpacked our luggage and set up our bedroom and on-suite bathroom.  We also met our butler, Isidro, and our stateroom attendant, Harold.  It was immediately obvious that we would be treated to a very high level of service on this cruise.  As something we were not accustomed to, it that took us a few days to become comfortable with this.  We eventually did, but we never took it for granted.

The following photos are a fairly complete tour of our stateroom:

The common area (living/dining) portion of our stateroom and one of the three doorwalls to our forward port side balcony as seen from the entry hallway.

Our stateroom entry hallway.  On the right (in this photo) from the entry door are a toilet room, a closet, and the door to our bedroom.

Our stateroom common area.  The “fireplace” did not produce heat, but did make a pleasant, low intensity light.

Our stateroom common area viewed from the bar.  The sofa was comfortable, and could convert into a bed, although we did not need to use it in that configuration.

The master bedroom, with the entrance to the master bathroom suite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (vanity and toilet alcove).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (tube, shower, and dressing mirror).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the door from the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the desk and closet/storage area.  The on-suite bathroom is in the space behind the TV, entered from the hallway on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the murphy bed and entry door in our bedroom.  The bed is folded into the wall, making a sofa available.  We had our stateroom attendant (Harold) fold the bed out and leave it that way for the duration of the cruise.

A partial view of our on-suite bathroom (shower stall and part of the toilet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California, as seen from the common area of our stateroom looking out across our forward port side balcony.  It was cold, windy, and rainy, with limited visibility, but we were finally on our way.

 

SATURDAY 25 February – At Sea

Our first morning in our stateroom enjoying Nespresso in our NCL provided robes.  Good friends in a good place.

We were at sea all night on the 24th, all day on the 25th, and overnight into the 26th headed south along the California coast and then along the Pacific coast of Baja California and Baja California Sur (south), Mexico.

The sea eventually settled down a bit, but the coast was often shrouded in haze and/or clouds.  We were also far enough off shore that we couldn’t see land most of the time anyway.  (My presumption was that we were probably in international waters so the ship could operate the onboard casino.)  We took this time to familiarize ourselves with the ship, starting with the Haven.

The Pacific Ocean and the west coast of Baja California, Mexico, as seen from the balcony of our forward /  port side stateroom.  This was some of the best/clearest weather we had on our cruise down the coast.

The Haven is NCLs “ship within a ship” concept.  On the Joy, it occupies the front portion of Decks 17, 18, and 19, the front part of 19 being an open roof deck area.

The upper / aft deck of the NCL Joy had a 9-hole miniature golf course.  We played a round (and came back another day with Paul and Nancy for another one).

Deck 17 has a lounge with large windows across the entire front of the ship with a small buffet area that was stocked for a light breakfast or afternoon snack.  Just aft of the lounge were staterooms (all with outside balconies).  In the center was a small swimming pool, hot tub, and lounge chairs.  The area above this was open all the way to a retractable glass ceiling above Deck 19.  (We never saw the roof retracted.)  The aft portion of Deck 17 was a small lounge, small bar, and the concierge desk.  Behind the bar and concierge disk were the service elevators, which the concierge staff used to get us to the theater and to/from the embarkation deck.

The upper / aft portion of the ship also features a 2-level race track with electric formula style cars.  This is the pit area.  Cars are allowed to race head-to-head.  We did not try this activity, but it was interesting to watch people racing.

The forward portion of Deck 18 consisted of the two “Owner’s Suites” (2-bedroom staterooms), one on the port side (that was ours) and one on the starboard side.  In-between the two owner’s suites are the high ceiling of the front-center portion of the main lounge, with a library aft of it.

The remaining length of the port side, and about half of the starboard side, were staterooms, again all of them with outside balconies.  The aft portion of Deck 18 was the Haven restaurant (starboard side) and kitchen (center portion).

Every stateroom in the Haven had butler service, and one of the perks of staying here is that you can have your meals (from the Haven restaurant) in your room.  One of favorite perks of being in the Haven was that our butler brought coffee and breakfast baked goods every morning around 6:30 AM.

By sunrise, we had traveled far enough south to get to beautiful, clear weather and calmer seas.  Since we would be at sea all day, we took the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the ship.  We were also able to see the Baja California, Mexico coast at times.

A portion of the outdoor lounging, walking, entertainment, and water activities area of the ship as seen from the aft potion looking forward.

This is a composite image of part of the Pacific Ocean coastline of the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.  Land is visible just at the horizon, along with some clouds, but probably too small to see in this photo.  The photo file is larger, and this image can be clicked to see it at a larger size on a device with a larger screen.

The outdoor lounging, walking, entertainment, and water activities area of the ship looking aft from the walkway above the large outdoor video screen.

Above the Haven (at the front of the ship) is the Star Wars laser tag area.  It has two entrances, fore and aft, for two competing teams to enter and battle it out.  Linda and I had just entered the aft portal as the venue was not in use.  We did not do this activity, and never saw or heard anyone else using it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This display shows the layout of the entire Star Wars laser tag venue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda and Nancy at the wine tasting.

Shipboard activities also opened up.  Linda, Nancy and I (Bruce) booked a wine tasting while Paul booked a Single Malt Scotch tasting.  The wine tasting was run by the wine director (head sommelier?) for the ship and featured red wines.  It was unusual, but very well done, in that we tasted the wines in the reverse order from what is normally done, working from the sweetest to the driest, and pairing food items with each wine that were both appropriate and inappropriate.  This approach allowed us to actually experience and start to understand why each type of wine is usually paired with certain foods.

Blog Post for 20221226-20230105 — The Happiest Place on Earth, and more

[ There are no photos for this post. ]

A while back our friends, and travel companions, Nancy and Paul, had invited us to join them over the holidays at one of the Disney Resorts.  Our 10-year-old grand-daughter, “Mads,” joined us for this adventure, but only found out she was returning to Walt Disney World a couple of weeks before we left.  While I plan to do a more in-depth post (or series of posts)about this adventure, here is a very short synopsis of our trip.  I have several posts to upload related to work that too place on the barn project starting in January, but wanted to at least have a short post about our holiday travels in the correct chronological position.

We left for the long drive to Florida on Monday, December 26, picking up our middle grand-daughter on the way.  We stopped for the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee and arrived at our destination in Orlando the evening of the 27th.

On the 28th the three of us visited The Magic Kingdom.

On the 29th, all eight of us spent they day doing a private escorted VIP experience at Universal Studios, Orlando.  This was our first time there, and we were both surprised and impressed with the place.  The Harry Potter area was probably the highlight, but the whole place was amazing.  No doubt being on a private VIP experience enhanced our perception of the place.  Our host, Robbie, kept track of how many rides we went on, and the calculated that we had saved 33 hours of waiting in line.  Wow.

On the 30th and 31st we visited the theme parks on our own while Paul and Nancy spent time with their family members.

On January 1st, all eight of us spent the day on a private, escorted VIP experience of the four Disney World Theme Parks, starting with the Star Wars area at Hollywood Studies.  It was a first-time experience for Mads, and she was suitably impressed.  Indeed, compared to her visits when she was 6 and 7 years old, she had found the courage to try rollercoasters and fell in love the experience.  In the end, it was mostly her, me an Evan (in his 20’s) who did the rollercoasters.

On the 2nd, the three of us spent a bit more time in the theme parks during the day but returned to the resort for dinner.  Around 6 PM we headed to The Magic Kingdom and staked out a viewing spot for the evening show, which is done by projecting amazing animated images onto the castle, using it has a screen.

We started the return drive home on Tuesday, January 3 (2023).  We spent that evening in Macon, Georgia, and the next evening in Covington, Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.  We arrived home the afternoon of the 5th, after first returning our grand-daughter to her parental units and younger sister.

The barn project was not on our minds (much) during this time away, as we were visiting “the happiest place on earth” with our 10-year grand-daughter while hanging out with our friends and Eastern/Atlantic travel companions, and their family.  No progress was made on the barn project during this time, nor was any expected.  We knew before we left that the roll-up doors had been delayed until the end of the month.

20220929 – The Women’s Rights National Historic Park (NPS), Seneca Falls, New York

THURSDAY 28 September

(There are 11 photos in this post, all related to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, New York.  They are distributed throughout the text, with captions.  I have used the mnemonic ‘WRNHP’ in place of the full name of the park.  All of the photos were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)

The National Park Service sign at the entrance to the WRNHP Visitors Center in downtown Seneca Falls, New York.

Our plan for today was to visit The Women’s Rights National Historical Park (WRNHP) in Seneca Falls, New York, and then visit a few wineries on the west side of Seneca Lake.  The morning was cool and cloudy, and Seneca Falls is near the north end of Cayuga Lake just a bit east of the north end of  Seneca Lake, so we figured we would start there and do the wineries in the afternoon, when the sun was supposed to make an appearance.  We ended up spending most of the day at the WRNHP.  The only winery we made it to was Belhurst Castle & Winery on the west side of Seneca Lake, just south of Geneva, New York., but we did not taste or by anything.

Linda on one of the benches outside the WRNHP Visitor Center.

We left around 11 AM and had a leisurely drive through the countryside, taking Canandaigaua Farmington Line Road east to County-28 north to Shortsville Road / County-13 and heading east.  We passed through Shortsville and Clifton Springs and then joined NY-96 east.  Just after joining NY-96, we stopped at the Byrne Dairy & Deli to fuel the truck, and then continued on through Phelps before getting to Waterloo, where we turned east on US-20 towards Seneca Falls.

 

All of these towns have a history, of course, and New York has a lot of these towns.  Clifton Springs, for instance, was once one of the many ‘health retreats’ that dotted the state.  Passing through downtown was like driving through a canyon whose walls were made of impressive hotels, now mostly re-purposed, but still very much in use and in decent condition.

The first (street level) floor of the WRNHP consisted of an information station, gift shop, theater and this installation of (approximately) life-sized bronze statues called The First Wave.  Some of the figures are likenesses of the key people who organized and/or were known to have attended the first Women’s Rights convention.  Other figures represent the general public, many of whom also attended the convention or were, symbolically and literally, ultimately affected by what started at this gathering.

In the 1840’s, the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy spanned across northern and western New York, including Seneca Falls.  Theirs’ was a matriarchal society in which women enjoyed all of the rights that were denied to American women at the time.  It is not recorded whether any members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy attended the 1st Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, but the organizers of the convention were acquainted with their culture and echoed those rights in their own resolutions (demands).

 

 

The WRNHP (National Park Service) consisted of four distinct properties in the Seneca Falls / Waterloo area.  The main site consisted of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and Chapel, with the Visitor Center building in-between, located on Fall St. (US-20) at Mynderse St., in the heart of the quaint downtown district along the north side of the Seneca River (Cayuga-Seneca Canal).  (The falls for which Seneca Falls disappeared underwater as a result of the canal construction from 1905 to 1918).  We found free street parking close to the Visitor Center.  The other three sites were the Elizabeth Cady (& Henry) Stanton Home, on the other side of the canal, and the Thomas (& Mary Ann) M’Clintock House and Richard (& Jane) Hunt House, both in Waterloo.

 

 

Linda at the entrance to the Wesleyan Chapel.  The WRNHP Visitor Center sits between the Church and the Chapel, which sits at the southwest corner of Fall St. and Mynderse St.  Only a portion of the two side walls and much of the roof structure is original and the Church is boarded up as it needs serious restoration.  The first Women’s Rights convention actually stated outside the Chapel at that street corner as the Chapel door was locked and no one had a key.  A young boy was enlisted to climb in through a window and unlock the doors from the inside.

 

The WRNHP was authorized in 1980 to preserve the key historical sites associated with one of the most significant events in American History, the beginning of the organized movement for women’s suffrage, which ultimately became the movement for universal suffrage.  The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19-20, 1848, with some 300 people in attendance over the two days.  Notable attendees included Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sign greets visitors as they enter the Wesleyan Chapel.

But the story begins well before that, of course, and is the reason that the Hunt and M’Clintock properties are part of the NHP.  On July 9, 1848 Jane Hunt hosted a social gathering at her home in Waterloo, just down the road from Seneca Falls,  in honor of a visit from Lucretia Mott, who had traveled to the area from Philadelphia to visit her sister in Rochester, New Yok.  In 1833 Mott, along with Mary Ann M’Clintock and nearly 30 other female abolitionists, organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.  By 1848, Mott was a nationally known figure, but she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had already crossed paths at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England; a significant event for both of them.  Thus, the abolitionist and suffrage threads that run though American history were intertwined early on, and the Visitor Center tells the story of the struggle for women’s rights in this larger context of the struggle for human rights for all people.

The inside of the Wesleyan Chapel.  The balconies along the sides were removed long, long ago, but the pockets for the supporting timbers were still visible in the original sections of the side walls.  In place of the balconies, the NPS hung murals depicting convention attendees.  The mural across the back wall depicts five of the key figures in the organization and operation of the convention.  The pews would have been more closely spaced and wider.  (The cost to fully restore the building to the way it existed in 1848 would be prohibitive.)

 

The central staircase in the house where Elizabeth Cady Stanton resided with her family and carried on much of the work that followed the first Women’s Rights Convention.  The house was modified over the years after the Stanton family lived there.  It has not been restored or “furnished” for display, and there are no plans to do so, so the interior was not particularly interesting, photographically.  But how it looked was not important; what happened here was.

 

Over the course of two days, over 300 people attended and participated in the convention, so this building was packed with people.  The Declaration of Sentiments, patterned after the Declaration of Independence, was read, amended, and adopted.  Eleven resolutions were then introduced, discussed, and voted on.  All of them were adopted, with only one having less than 100% support.

Besides the Wesleyan Chapel (and Church), the NHP includes three residential properties.  The Elizabeth Cady Stanton House is also in Seneca Falls, while the homes of  Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt are in nearby Waterloo.  (Neither of these houses were open to the public during our visit.)  It was through M’Clintock that Lucretia Mott came to be involved in the convention.  At a social gathering (tea) at the Hunt home on July 9, 1848 that the idea of a convention was discussed and the decision made to organize it.  The dates, July 19 and 20, 1848 were selected because the Wesleyan Chapel was available, and so was Lucretia Mott.

A view of the exterior of the Elizbeth Cady Stanton house with the NPS sign indicating is part of a National Historical Park.  The house sits on four acres on the other side of the canal from downtown Seneca Falls.

 

The whole story of the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S. has been documented and written about extensively, and the WRNHP Visitor Center gift shop had an excellent selection of books on the subject.  I will simply end with these facts, followed by a few more photographs:  The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919 and finally ratified by enough States on August 18, 1920.  Michigan was the second State to ratify the amendment.

 

 

 

Most of the artifacts and information displays were located on the 2nd floor of the WRNHP Visitor Center.  It was all very well done, as expected, but light levels were low and there was no way to get an overview photo.  Instead, I selected this on, showing a connection to Ypsilanti, Michigan to the events that subsequently unfolded as a result of the convention, and the decades of hard work that followed.

 

Some of the artifacts in the WRNHP Visitor Center were works of art and craft related to theme of the NHP, which goes beyond the convention and the struggle to secure the vote for women.  That struggle was ultimately about universal suffrage, and was wrapped up in the abolition of slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20220928 – A visit to the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York and lunch at the Red Fern nearby

WEDNESDAY 28 September

(All photos taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)

I was in bed before midnight last night, unusual for me, so I was up this morning just after 7 AM.  Linda did not go to bed until 11 PM and got up around 7:30.  We had our usual two cups of coffee, but Linda made pancakes for breakfast, with a side of fresh bananas, blueberries, and strawberries.  A special treat, and a nice way to start the day.

The weather forecast for today was for cool, overcast conditions, with small possibility of rain, but was much nicer for the following three days.  We thought we would visit some of the wineries on Canandaigua Lake as we are camped just north of it, so we spent some time researching the six establishments on the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail.

The conservatory as seen from the dining room.  The console for the pipe organ is at the far end and some of the pipes are installed in the 1st and 2nd floor walls beyond that.  Most of the house was dimly lit, but the conservatory was full of light even on this overcast day.  Like many wealthy individuals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, George Eastman liked to hunt and had two hunting lodges.  George Eastman House / Museum, Rochester, New York.

One of them was not open today, one was basically a wine store in Canandaigua, one had what appeared to be fruit juice infused wines that could be used to make spritzers, and one was a “boutique” winery that required reservations, and all of them appeared to be tasting rooms, not the actual wineries.  So that was:  no go, no, no way, and not interested.  Most of them indicated what grapes were used to make each wine but some didn’t, an absolute non-starter for us, and most of them were based on grapes that fairly commonly used in the products we can buy at good wine stores at home.

It didn’t seem worth the time and fuel to drive down just for the other two wineries, so we scraped the wine trail idea for today and decided instead to visit the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, just a 30-minute drive northwest of our campground.  I took up photography as a serious hobby when I was 16, so I’ve been trying to be a photographer for some 54 years now and the Eastman Museum seemed like a good place to spend an otherwise dreary day.  We left the KOA around 11:30 AM and were at the museum by noon.

Part of the stair case between the 1st and 2nd floors of the George Eastman House.  This is the view from the landing.  The stairs to the 3rd floor are visible, but were closed to public access.

The Eastman Museum is located on the grounds of George Eastman’s Rochester, New York 10-acre estate on East Avenue.  East Avenue was obviously the place where the wealthy of late 19th-century Rochester built their magnificent homes and mansions.  A trip to that area just to look at the architecture would have been worth the time, but we were they to visit the museum.

The museum complex included his magnificent home and gardens which are open to tour with paid admission.  Indeed, the museum (galleries, archives, offices, and labs), theater, gift shop, café, and lobby are joined to the house to form a single building.  The collection, small pieces of which are periodically rotated into the publicly accessible galleries, contains over 400,000 photographs and 28,000 motion pictures, including the original negatives for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.  The museum also has an extensive collection of photographic technology going back to the earliest days of photography in the 19th century.  It’s an excellent museum, and we spent about 2-1/2 hours going through the house and all of the galleries.

The East Garden at the George Eastman House as seen from his mother Maria’s bedroom window.  Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York.

When we arrived at the Canandaigua-Rochester KOA yesterday, Linda research vegan dining options and discovered that Veg News had rated Rochester, New York “the best small city in America for vegans.”  That did not automatically translate into lots of vegan dining options, but she did locate the Red Fern, just 0.4 miles from the museum, so we went there for lunch.

The Red Fern was a small place in a half-basement (the upper half of the dinning room was above grade level), in a nice neighborhood, with a nice selection of items on the menu.  Linda had the ABLT (Avocado Bacon Lettuce Tomato) sandwich with a salad on the side, and I had the Buffalo Blue Cheese Focaccia sandwich, also with a salad on the side.  My sandwich was huge, so I only ate half of it and got a to-go box for the other half.  Linda had a chocolate brownie for dessert, and I had a crumb-top apple cider jam bar thingy.  The brownie was huge, so she only ate half of it and got a to-go box for the rest.  Everything was very tasty and reasonably priced (in our opinion).

The ‘modern’ 4-manual organ console.  This console replaced the original 30-manual console after the organ was enlarged.  It was, and probably still is, the largest pipe organ installed in a residence in the U.S.  George Eastman House / Museum, Rochester, New York.

From the Red Fern we set our navigation system for the Wegman’s supermarket in Canandaigua.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, including long slow rolls through the town of Victor and then Canandaigua itself.

This was our first ever visit to a Wegman’s and all I can say is “Wow!”  The store was very large and the variety of items they stocked, including some we had never seen before, was almost overwhelming.  Their whole-foo, plant-based (vegan) offerings were as good or better than we had ever seen anywhere else.  They also had a restaurant (drinks and live music on the weekends), a sub sandwich shop, and extensive deli section that included a “burger bar”, an “Asian bar”, and a “Sushi bar.”  You could even order Food to Go and drop by to pick up your prepared meal.  We didn’t actually need anything, but we found a vegan parmesan cheese, and picked up a container of Just Egg, some vegan butter, and a pack of paper bowls.  We will probably go back on Saturday and restock the refrigerator and panty before heading to Hershey, Pennsylvania on Sunday.

This opening is in the ceiling of the 2nd floor just above where the staircase from the first floor reaches the 2nd floor.  George Eastman House at the Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York.

What we did not find was the specific Dr. Elsey’s cat liter than Linda likes.  There was a Petco across the street, so we went there and, voila!, there was the specific liter that we had not seen since leaving home in mid-June.  Our shopping done, we returned to camp.

Back at camp there was another airstream travel trailer in our row, in addition to the one three rows back.  Another one came later, making four in our section of the RV park, including ours.  There was another one in the far west section when we arrived yesterday.  We didn’t notice if it was still here, so there might be five of them here.  That would be a surprisingly high percentage of the total occupancy at the moment.

For dinner, I finished my sandwich from lunch while Linda had a cheese sandwich and finished her brownie from lunch.  After dinner, she read while I worked on the blog posts and photos for yesterday and today.  At 8:30 PM, we streamed the next episode of The Great British Baking Show.  Linda headed off to bed at here usual 10 o’clock hour.  I stayed up long enough to finish and publish the blog posts for yesterday and today and made it to bed just after midnight.

The West Garden at the George Eastman House as seen from the  parking lot entrance at the Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York.

20220927 – A travel day; Verona, NY (TVaTSRvPk) to Canandaigua-Rochester KOA Holiday, Farmington, NY

TUESDAY 27 September

Linda was up this morning around 7:15 and I got up at 7:45.  Since it was a travel day, we each had a cup of half-caff coffee as soon as we got up, and a slice of toast with Mango-Peach jam for breakfast.  Check-out time was 11 AM, and the check-in time at our next location, the Canandaigua-Rochester KOA Holiday in Farmington, New York, was 1 PM.  We had less than 100 miles to travel, and all but ~5 miles would be on the New York State Thruway (I-90) at 65 mph.  Linda called the KOA to see if we could arrive early.  There was someone in the site, but they were required to be gone by 11 AM, so no problem arriving after that.  We targeted a 10:30 AM departure in order to be there by 12:15 – 12:30, and started breaking camp around 9 AM.

I often do not have too many photos (if any) for travel days, and we rarely venture out after we arrive and set up camp, other than a quick grocery and/or fuel run.  That affords me the time (luxury) of being able to wax philosophical, to contemplate and reflect on the more general experience of being extended-time RVers.  Thus, I seem to have the most to say on the days where we have had the least to do.

This was our second of two, two-night stays in a row.  We had a very nice stay at The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park in Verona/Oneida, New York.  It was an attractive, and well-maintained park, and we were able to do our laundry in their nice laundry room.  There wasn’t much for us to do here, however, as we had no intention of visiting the casino, the resort restaurant, or the live music venue.  Still, we could have sat here another day, especially if the rain let up and the sun re-appeared.  But also, because a two-night stay is actually more work than a one-night layover.

We go through the same process, and the same amount of work, for a two-night stay as for one of much longer duration.  For a one-night stay, we can often leave the truck and trailer hitched together and just plug in the shorepower cord.  We always travel with enough water in the fresh water tank that we can easily run off of that for a night or more (depending on how full the fresh water tank is, of course).  We also do not need to dump waste water before we pull out the next day.  That’s not a complaint, just the reasons we prefer to stay three or more nights wherever we stop.  It helps if there are also interesting/accessible things to see and do in the area.

The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park was on a municipal water supply, so I did not hook-up our freshwater pressure regulator, filter, and water softener when we arrived.  I also did not hook up the sewer hose because it was raining, and it wasn’t necessary that it be done right then.  But the tanks needed to be dumped before we pulled out, and that was my second departure task.  (My first one was to pack up my laptop computer and move our technology to the truck.)  We had prepared the trailer/truck for departure enough times by now that we had a good handle on how much time it would take; 1-1/2 hours allowed for a deliberate, but leisurely pace.

It took me quite a few small adjustments to line up the truck/stinger with the trailer/hitch, but I got it done.  The problem was the way the site curved out, restricting how far I could pull straight forward in front of the trailer.  I do better when I can start from farther away.  Even so, we were ready to go by 10:30, but decided to walk over to the office building and use the restrooms, as much to stretch our legs as anything else.  We pulled out of our site at 10:45 AM.

The drive on I-90 was smooth and uneventful, just the way we like it.  We took exit 43 at Manchester and dropped down onto NY-96, headed west to County 28 / Macedon Road, and then south to Canandaigua Farmington Town Line Road, which only ran west from there.  It was just over a mile to the KOA.  I was disappointed in our fuel economy, 10.5 mpg average, but we did travel at 65 mph for most of the trip, and the transmission shifted down frequently as we climbed grades.

Our rig, slightly left of center frame, as seen from the other side of the pond at the Canandaigua Rochester KOA in Farmington, New York.

We pulled into the KOA at 12:30 PM.  As usual, Linda got us registered while I sync’d my phone app to the LevelMatePro+ in the trailer.  We were assigned site 18, a 50A/FHU pull-through with a patio (W3W=”hottest.sesame.dishing“).  (This was the second time we had site #18 on our trip.)  It was clear how to get to it and pull in, but a man from the campground insisted on leading us there and directing us in.  Neither service was necessary, but the escort to the site was appreciated, and he was helpful in getting me on the gravel with the truck somewhat aligned with the trailer.  He was surprised, however, that our trailer door was towards the rear and positioned us in the site where he thought we would want to be, with the door/stairs opening onto the patio.  He was wrong, but that was OK.  Sometimes the best/only thing you can do is say “thank you.”  I indicated that I needed to reposition the rig slightly, both to level, side-to-side, and position it so the truck would fit in front of it.  He returned to the office to help the next arrival.

As it turned out, I was able to back the trailer up to a position where it was level, side-to-side without having to use any of our leveling components.  And it was only 3.75” low in the front, so that was easily adjusted after we secured the trailer tires and unhitched.  As a bonus, this location put our shore connections exactly opposite the utility hook-ups.  Winner, winner, tofu dinner.  I plugged in the shorepower while Linda moved Juniper-the-Cat to the trailer.  This is always a necessary first step, as I have to lift the rear seat in the truck to get to the tools we use to for the hitching/unhitching process.

There was rain in the forecast for later in the afternoon, but for now, it was sunny with a breeze, so I went ahead and hooked up the water and sewer hose.  We had seen fire hydrants along the road, so Linda had asked in the office if the park was on a municipal water supply.  It was, so once again I did not hook up the fresh water pressure regulator, filter, and water softener.  I powered up our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi and moved it around the rig to find the best signal.  It ended up on the nightstand in the bedroom this time, with the Netgear flat panel antenna attached looking north towards Farmington, and the Thruway.  All told, it took us about an hour to “make camp.”

For lunch, Linda reheated the leftover risotto from Sunday night’s dinner, and served it with a banana and a slice of Italian bread.  Yum.  We went for a stroll around the campground after lunch, and watched as additional RVs rolled in every now and then.  The park was far from full, but also far from empty.

The center of the rear section of the park was clearly seasonal sites, with a variety of RVs that had obviously not been moved in a long time.  Most of them had wood patio decks, and the usual paraphernalia that clearly identifies a seasonal (permanent) RV/site.  But we understand that seasonal/permanent RVs provide an important and reliable income stream for an RV park, while requiring minimal park employee labor.  Also, seasonal sites almost always have metered electric, so the RV park does not have to be concerned with how much power they use.  They do, however, have to read the meter (usually once a month) and collect payment from the customer.

Our walk took us by the office, where we chatted with the woman on duty (presumed to be the owner).  She gave us a variety of pamphlets and brochures on things to see and do in the area, especially wineries, as we expressed an interest in those.

Back at our rig, we both set up our computers.  I checked e-mail and then started working on today’s blog post while Linda checked her e-mail and then worked on entering and reconciling our financial transactions.

For dinner, Linda made black beans & rice in the Instant Pot.  (She also used this for the risotto on Sunday.)  I always find beans & rice a tad bland, but Linda had anticipated that and put the Chipotle Tabasco sauce on the table.  She put a little on hers too, and agreed that it “kicked it up a notch” (‘props’ to Emeril Lagasse).  After dinner we relaxed for a bit with our iPads until our Tuesday evening FBI programs on CBS started at 8 PM.  Linda was off to bed as soon as the shows ended at 11 PM, and I was in bed before midnight.

We are not in “vacation” mode, because we don’t take vacations, but we have migrated into a kind of “tourist” mode, and a “returning-to-life-at-home” mode as we have approached the end of our summer/fall 2022 grand tour.  (I think this started with the Pirate Cove Adventure Mini-Golf in Bar Harbor, Maine.)  Indeed, one of our main foci in the Finger Lakes region of New York will be visiting wineries/meaderies.  This region is known for its Riesling wines, and related wines like Gewürztraminer, so we will certainly be on the lookout for those, but probably won’t buy very many bottles of either as they are common wines easily found at good wine shops.  We will be looking for wines that are a bit different from our everyday choices, but still to our taste and within the price range we are willing to pay for fermented fruit juice.  This will include “fruit” (non-grape) wines, meads, and grape wines like Cabernet Franc and Rivaner.  (Black Tower Rivaner is supposedly available at the State Liquor Store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so I hope to buy some there if we don’t find another Rivaner wine before then.)

20220816 – Bellevue Beach CG to Pippy Park CG, NL

TUESDAY 16 August

A popup camper boondocking on the isthmus as seen from the freshwater lake side in the early morning light and mist.

Well, today turned out differently than originally planned but we are, if nothing else, willing to be flexible with our plans when we need to be.  We were supposed to be at the Bellevue Beach Campground for two nights.  In checking the weather last night, and again first thing this morning, it looked like if we stayed another night, we would be breaking camp, hooking up, driving, unhooking, and making camp in the rain tomorrow morning.  But if we left today, we could do all of those things without the rain.  The weather at Bellevue Beach had also turned cloudy overnight and we actually awoke to fog on the lake and hills, so the idea of driving 5 hours round trip to visit Bonavista and Elliston (Puffins!) seemed even less appealing than it did before.  Getting to our next campground a day early also meant we would have an extra, full day to explore the St. John’s area, where there were lots of things to see and do, even in the rain if necessary.

The Isthmus in the early morning light and mist.

A decision had to be made, but we don’t like to make decisions on an empty stomach, so we had our usual morning coffee and then avocado toast for breakfast.  This decision also required information, namely, could we get into the Pippy Park Campground a day early AND snag the same site we already had booked for the following five nights?  I called the campground and the answer was … yes!  Earliest check-in time was 1 PM, and the Park was only about 1-1/4 hours’ drive time, but we did not have to be there right at 1 PM, so no rush.  We went for a walk around the RV portion of the campground and then along the beach on the ocean side of the isthmus.

A green ground cover plant with hints of red and orange.  A sign that fall is just around the corner here in Bellevue Beach, Newfoundland?

We saw a bird yesterday (a black headed gull of some kind) on the beach that did not try to move when I approached it so I presumed it was injured or ill.  I photographed it but did not include the photo in yesterday’s blog.  The tide was in compared to our walk yesterday, but the bird was still there, just above the water line.  It was dead, lying on its back (it was upright when we saw it yesterday) and something had started to eat the underside.  I couldn’t tell the order of events, but the end had come for this creature.  I felt bad for it, and hoped it hadn’t suffered too much or for too long, but nature is harsh that way.

A fireweed plant against a bright green fir backdrop.  A common sight while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground RV loop.

By the time we finished our walk it was almost 11:30 AM.  Without rushing, we started preparing for our departure.  The process went smoothly (we really like our arrival and departure lists).  We were ready to go by 12:30 PM, but it was closer to 12:45 pm by the time we pulled through the gate and out onto Hwy 201 (Main St.).  On the way out, we let the campground know that we were leaving early to avoid weather and that our site was available.  We did not ask for a refund.

The entire trip, except for short distances at each end, was on the Trans-Canada Highway.  The T-CH in this part of Newfoundland is a really good road and we rolled along at 100 km/hr without interruption and only an occasional slowdown to 70 km/hr at intersections with other secondary highways or developed areas.  As we got closer to St. John’s it became a limited access, 4-lane divided highway, but we also picked up more traffic.

We also saw a lot of this grass plant while walking the Bellevue Beach Campground and isthmus.  It happily joins the fireweed behind in this open patch of the woods.

In spite of the fact that we were headed south and east towards the North Atlantic Ocean, the terrain continued to be quite hilly, with many long grades.  Again, this part of Newfoundland reminded us of the terrain up towards L’Anse-aux-Meadows at the tip of the western peninsula; rocky hills with shorter flora and lots of “ponds.”  (Some of what they call “ponds” here would definitely be called “lakes” back home.)

As we approached St. John’s, we got an alarm beep on our Tireminder TPTMS for the trailer tires with an indication of “leaking.”  That’s not something we ever want to see, but we have the system for a reason.  (A similar system is built-in to the F-150.)  I kept a close eye on the pressures and did not see a leak taking place.  I also checked the temperatures and they seemed normal for the ambient temperature, cloud cover, and road conditions.  The ambient temperature had dropped from the mid-70s to the mid-60’s, which would cause a minor reduction in pressure.  We had also been traversing relatively high elevation terrain and were starting to work our way down in altitude.  Again, this would cause a minor drop in pressure.  The pressure in all four of the tires, as well as the spare, had dropped a little, but not in an unexpected way, and the drops were consistent across all the tires.  The readings were stable, so I suspect it was a false alarm, perhaps triggered by the cold inflation pressures being slightly lower than when we started the trip back in mid-June and set the alarm thresholds.  The pressures are still more than sufficient for proper tire function.

We arrived at the Pippy Park entrance gate / registration booth just before 2 PM.  Linda had us registered and moving to our site (#149) in short order (W3W=”line.toddler.march”), a pull-through, 3-way/50A with Wi-Fi.  At -52.730… W longitude, this is the farthest east we have every driven or camped.  Indeed, St. John’s is the easternmost city in North America, but not the easternmost point of land.

The site had an uphill slope as we pulled in, but I could see that there was a section that looked to be flat and level.  I was able to position the trailer fairly easily so that it was level, side-to-side, less than one inch high, front-to-back, and with the truck aligned so we could put the tongue jack down and easily disconnect the truck from the 3P hitch.  We think this was the first site we have had on this trip that was level, side-to-side, and also the closest to level, front-to-back.  We like it when that happens.

Even without having to level, it took us until 3:30 PM to make camp and finally sit down to a late lunch of southwestern vegetable soup and crackers with crunchy peanut butter.  This was because of some additional tasks that we do not normally do.

One of those was to drain the fresh water tank and refill it (to 50% capacity) along with a very dilute bleach mixture (Camco freshening agent).  Pippy Park is a municipal campground set in a much larger municipal park, and the water here is municipal, so fully treated.  Just what we needed to refresh our on-board water supply.  I like to keep the fresh water tank at 50% capacity (about 20 gallons) to keep some weight low over the trailer axles, but also in case we find ourselves stopped somewhere unexpectedly without hookups.

The tap already had a pressure regulator, so I did not use ours and just moved the hose over to the shore water connection.  I also did not use the filter or softener.  That simplified our usual setup quite a bit, and will shorten our departure routine by 15 – 20 minutes.  The water pressure was the best we have seen on this trip.   I went ahead and connected the drain hose for the waste water tanks while it wasn’t raining.  Last, but not least, I got the VIAIR air-compressor kit out of its storage tub in the bed of the truck in anticipation of checking the trailer & truck tires manually and adjusting them.  I didn’t do that today, as the tires need to be at ambient temperature, but I will before we leave here.

Pippy Park Campground is very nice, which is to say, it’s very much to our taste.  It’s a good-sized place, but only a small part of a much larger urban park.  Most of the sites are on loops through thick woods, and are back-in with water/septic/electric(15/30A), but they also have space for tents .  Each site is surrounded by forest on three sides and affords a lot of privacy.  Our site was in the section of the campground that has full-service pull-through sites with 50A electrical and Wi-Fi.  The sites are out in the open, but well-spaced and the entire section is surrounded by trees.  It’s been described as “like a state park with a really nice RV park.”  We agreed with that description and were happy with our site.

After having had no usable Internet access at Bellevue Beach, even from our smartphones, we were anxious to see how good the Park Wi-Fi was.  We connected our various devices to the system, which is password protected, and it was amazing!!!  Response times and data rates appeared to be on a par with what we get from our xFinity broadband service at home and we were able to update numerous apps on our tablets and smartphones very quickly.  I started my computer, logged in to our WordPress website, and assembled/published the blog post for yesterday in about 15 minutes.

We have put 5,264 miles on the F-150 since we pulled out of our driveway on June 15th, a combination of towing and touring, and the odometer currently reads 31,544 miles.  The service interval for the oil is 10,000 miles, but we’ve been towing in mountains and I would like to get the oil changed while we are in St. John’s.  I searched for Ford dealers in town and Cabot Ford Lincoln came up.  It was also relatively close to our campground, so that was a bonus.  I tried to call them, but just got shuffled around through an automated menu system.  All I wanted to know was if I had to make an appointment, or did they have “quick lane” service for oil changes?  I left a message with the automated receptionist, but did not get a return phone call.  In fact, a listing also came up for a Quick Lane business located at the exact same address, so I wanted to know if that was part of the dealership.  I clicked the website link and got the master website for this franchise.  I gave it my City and Province and it said there were no Quick Lane locations here.  Arrrgh.  I will probably drive to the Ford dealership tomorrow morning and see if I can sort something out in person.

Since St. John’s is an actual city (as opposed to a town or village), Linda checked Happy Cow to see if there were any vegan restaurants here.  Veggie/vegan places often pop up, but pure vegan restaurants are rare.  And when we find one, it’s usually near a college or university, and a bit of funky place.  In this case, one vegan restaurant popped up; Peaceful Loft.  And it was downtown, not near the local university.  The last time we ate at a sit-down restaurant was last month at Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Café in the Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia, and that was actually counter service.

We were both feeling much better, and well enough to go out for dinner, so we headed out around 6 PM with the restaurant address in the F-150 navigation system.  The fastest/shortest route took us past Memorial University and then through an extensive neighborhood of beautiful homes, some of them very large, before yielding to a more urban setting of colorful row house arrayed on streets that ran every which way and intersected in unusual ways.  These are known as the “jelly bean” houses because of the way they are painted.  Those houses, in turn, gave way to a business district, which is where we found the Peaceful Loft among other Chinese restaurants.  The whole trip took 20 minutes and the closer we got to the restaurant the more it reminded us of San Francisco, California.  St. John’s is built on and around large hills, some of which have steep slopes, and roads tend to go directly from here to there.  It was all very cool, and quite a departure from our experiences in Newfoundland thus far.

The Peaceful Loft had a nice vibe.  It was run by an older couple, husband and wife, who were originally from Macau.  He handled the front of the house (customers and phone orders) and she did the cooking.  He was very gracious and kept apologizing for how long things were taking.  He tried to talk us out of the vegan Abalone, telling us it was “too expensive and tastes like seafood.”  We assured him that it was not a problem; we wanted to try new things, and actually appreciated and enjoyed not being rushed through our meal.

L-2-R, our two main dishes, Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice, and our sauces.

The menu was extensive, but before we were allowed to order, we were served hot tea, soup, and three sauces.  All of the sauces were home-made daily, and we sampled them while waiting.  If the tea or sauces got low, they were promptly refilled.  We ordered spring rolls for an appetizer, and two main dishes: Stir-fried Singapore Rice Noodles, and vegan Abalone with Vegetables and Rice.  Oh, my goodness, the food was amazing.  There were only seven other diners while we were there, and we were able to interact with the proprietor quite a bit, which made the meal all the more memorable.  He boxed up the leftovers for us, and we will get another entire meal out of them.  He included two oranges for later.  We told him we would probably be back on Saturday, and he suggested we get there before 5 PM as they get busy after that and wait times increase.  Fair enough.

The F-150 navigation system took us back to Pippy Park pretty much the reverse of how it got us downtown.  We knew there were TV stations in St. John’s, so Linda turned on the TV and scanned for channels.  It found two: the CBC and Canada’s Superstation.  We watched a few minutes of Jeopardy and turned it off.  As much as we watch TV, and stream programs at home, we haven’t really missed it while traveling.

An update photo of the barn project (photo by Keith).

During the evening I received a text message from Keith (the lawn care guy) with a photo of the barn.  The roof is on, the gable overhangs are framed out, and the concrete floor is poured.  Notice the interior wall that is going up on the right-hand side towards the rear.  This is the front wall of the workshop.  There will be a storeroom on top of the workshop.  The envelope around these two rooms will be fully insulated.

 

 

20220726 – The Gaelic College, St. Ann’s, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

TUESDAY 26 July

I was up before 6 AM for no particular reason other than being ready to get out of bed and start my day.  I fed Juniper-the-cat, made a cup of coffee, finished the blog entry for yesterday, and posted it.  Breakfast was toasted cinnamon raisin bread, which set offthe smoke detector.  That was a first for this trip.

Our main focus for today was a visit to The Gaelic College (Colaisde na Gàidhlig) in nearby St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia (Cape Brenton Island).

From the College’s website ( https://gaeliccollege.edu/ ):

“Colaisde na Gàidhlig is first and foremost an educational non-profit institution, offering year-round programming in the culture, music, language, crafts, customs, and traditions of the immigrants from the Highlands of Scotland. The only institution of its kind in North America, students of all ages and skill levels visit the College every year to study under some of the finest instructors in Nova Scotia Gaelic culture.”

The main building of The Gaelic College, presumably administrative. We entered here through the gift shop.

The Gaelic College is small, with about six main buildings and an outdoor amphitheater.  We entered through the gift shop and paid the 10$/person fee to attend a cultural experience.  The program was held in the Great Hall of the Clans, which also housed the museum displays.  We were early, so we perused the museum and learned things about which we were previously unaware.

 

 

The Great Hall of the Clans (An Talla Mór).

We learned that Gaelic is a language group with two branches, each of which have three branches.  From Wikipedia (Scottish Gaelic): “Scottish Gaelic, also know as Scots Gaelic and Gaelic, is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic branch of the Indo-European language family) native to the Gaels of Scotland.  As a Goedelic language, Scottish Gaelic, as well as both Irish and Manx, developed out of Old Irish.  It became a distinct spoken language sometime in the 13th century in the Middle Irish period.”  The other branch consists of Briton, Cornish, and Welsh.

The Scottish Gaelic alphabet consists of 18 characters, with completely different phonics from English.  Of particular interest to me was the fact that the language, music, and dance are intimately connected and the songs have a specific feature in which there is a one-to-one relationship between notes and syllables.

MacKenzie Hall (Talla Mich Coinnich) .

Our cultural experience was in two parts of ~90 minutes each, with a one-hour break for a lunch and cèilidh (KAY-lee).  First was a presentation on kilts by a master kilt maker.  Next was a fiddle player who was joined by a dancer and then followed by someone who taught us a few words and an easy song which we sang while going through the motions milling a woven fabric.

 

The amphitheater and a view of the countryside.

We would have like to attend the cèilidh in the McKenzie Hall multi-purpose building, which in this case was a performance by college staff and students, but it was combined with the luncheon for 15$/person.  The price wasn’t a problem, but there was nothing on offer in terms of food that we could eat, and we don’t like paying for meals we can’t actually consume.  We continued to peruse the museum and walked the grounds.  The location of the amphitheater allowed us a view of the surrounding countryside.

A bagpiper in traditional attire plays in front of the main building by the road.

After lunch we got an explanation and demonstration of weaving.  This was followed by a presentation on storytelling that included stories in Scottish Gaelic with English translations.  All of the presenters throughout the day were very good and it was clear they were passionate about, and deeply committed to, preserving and sharing their cultural heritage.  On the way out of the gift shop to our truck, a young man in appropriate attire was standing out by the road with his bagpipe.  We had seen him sitting inside when we arrived but didn’t know why he was there.  Now we did.  All told it took about 5.5 hours of our day, but it was time well-spent as we enjoyed it very much, and the price was right.

The daytime high temperature only reached 80 degrees F so we opened up the trailer and turned off the heat-pump.  We restocked the refrigerator with cans and bottles of water and then moved many of the dry-goods containers from the pull-out pantry to the storage compartments under the sofa.  We walked the campground and dropped off a bag of trash before stopping to chat with the neighbors who are also from the States.  I took a nap and got a shower while Linda fixed dinner.  Our evening meal was vegan chicken tenders and improvised macaroni and cheese (also vegan).  The later was more like pasta and cheese as Linda wanted use up the remaining cascatelli pasta.

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

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

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

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/25 (F) Orlando ENT Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/26 (S) Let’s Talk Dirty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/18-20 (F-N) Detailing Brakes FGMCR Finale

2016/03/18 (F) R. V. Detailing

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, and made coffee.  Linda got up at 7:45 and got dressed even though she was obviously not feeling well and probably did not get a good night’s sleep.  I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and then got dressed.  We were expecting Nick’s R.V. Detailing sometime between 8 and 9 AM so we wanted to be up, dressed, and done with breakfast before they arrived.  Nick called at 8:20 to let me know he was running late and expected to be here around 10 AM.

We woke to overcast skies but by 8:45 the clouds had thinned considerably and we had direct sunlight on the driver side of our motorcoach.  A couple of days ago the forecast was for a 100% chance of rain today, not good for washing and waxing an RV outdoors, but that changed to 0% with overcast skies, which was perfect for the task at hand.  Either way, the high temperature was forecast to be 87, which is probably warmer than ideal for Nick, but it will be what it will be.

The delay in Nick’s arrival gave me time to finish my coffee and doodle on my iPad for a while before getting to work.  Linda went back to bed while I finished getting the outside of the bus ready for detailing.  I was able to unsnap all of the new windshield covers using the Zip Dee Awning rod except for one snap and the entry step stool got me up high enough for that.  I needed the 3-step stool, however, to get the covers off of the upper windshield wipers.  Linda came out in time to help me roll up the windshield covers, put them in their mesh storage bag, and store them in the front bay.  I moved the two Coleman bag chairs and the folding plastic side table to the pad area behind the coach house.  We went back inside to await Nick’s arrival and worked at our computers.  Linda eventually went back to bed.

Our Verizon billing cycle ends at midnight tomorrow night and as of 8:30 this morning we had 1.7 GB of data remaining out of 12.  We have done well managing our limited data plan this winter by taking advantage of free Wi-Fi connections to the Internet at Williston Crossings RV Resort (WCRVR), Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR), and now Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

The Internet connection at WCRVR was outstanding; fast and usable from our coach.  The Wi-Fi at BTCRVR and FGMCR was only available at the clubhouse buildings, but at least we had that.  The speed at BTCRVR was slow but usable while the speed at FGMCR has been pretty very good.  (Our Verizon cellular data speed at Florida Grande has also been the best we’ve seen this winter.)  We added 2 GB to our data plan in mid-January for three billing cycles by downloading and activating Verizon’s Go90 app.  We have not used the app, and don’t intend to, but the extra 2 GB of data certainly has helped and will get us through the remainder of this winter season.

We don’t stream videos so for us the main data management trick has been to defer as many updates as possible for our phones, iPads, and computers until we are connected to the Internet via a park Wi-Fi system.  We were forced into this tactic when needed to upgrade our computers to Windows 10 while we were at BTCRVR in January.  While that has meant taking our devices to a clubhouse, we have often combined this with doing the laundry.  Both BTCRVR and FGMCR also have libraries (FGMCR’s was especially nice) which provided comfortable/quiet places to sit and read or use another device while one updated.

Nick’s Detailing cleaning up our coach at FGMCR in Webster, FL.

Nick and his helper showed up around 10 AM as promised and got to work detailing our bus.  The trailer that Nick tows behind his F-250 has a pressure pump, a water heater, a pair of tanks for de-ionizing water, and a large plastic tank for holding the de-ionized water.  It also has large reels for long hoses and the various spray wands and other tools needed for their work.  They even carry a large rotary brush for cleaning concrete, which is one of their other services.

Linda spent most of the day in bed.  She rarely gets sick but this is the second time this winter, and both times it has hit her hard.  I took a few pictures of the Nick’s equipment, and of the two of them working, and then retreated inside the bus to work at my computer.  Other than an occasional e-mail my focus was on editing and uploading blog posts.  I uploaded the ones for December 1 through 6 to our website and edited the ones for the 7th through the 14th.

UPS delivered my Prevost parts order around 2 PM so I took time out to check it.  I had four packages with tags whose Prevost part numbers matched the packing slip which matched what I ordered.  I did not, however, open the individual boxes.  I also took a few minutes to upload the February and March 2016 issues of BCM to our Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Steven Gullette.  Steve was out team leader on the July 2016 Habitat For Humanity build in Sheridan, Wyoming and my 2-part article was about that experience.  I got a text from Joe letting me know that he was headed our way and found a place to stay.  He was going to check in and get a shower and would see us first thing in the morning.  I texted back to confirm and let him know that the parts had arrived from Prevost.  Linda got up around 4:15 PM and had me send a text message to Mara letting her know that we would not be able to make it to the water skiing show tomorrow in Winter Haven.

Nick and Jesse finished up at 5 PM.  They had also pressure washed the car for an extra $10 so the total was $310.  That was 12 man hours of work plus equipment and product and seemed fair to me.  (I knew the price in advance.)  They used Turtle Wax Platinum automotive wax, and it looked good.  They applied it with a buffer and rubbed it out by hand.  I’ve cleaned and waxed our coach by hand, so I know how much work it is.

I was putting the water softener, pre-filter, and bag chairs away when René and Ruth stopped in their golf cart.  They are long-term renters here.  This is their 4th season at Florida Grande MCR and they rented a site for an entire year but do not plan to be here all of that time.  They noticed that we had a vendor here last week (Bill and Brenda Phelan) making our windshield covers and wanted to know where we got the tire covers.  I chatted with René for quite a while before we walked back to the golf cart and included Ruth in the conversation.  They have rented a site for a month at one of the luxury motorcoach resorts in Petoskey and wanted to know more about the State of Michigan.  I agree to e-mail some information to them later this evening.

Linda was still under the weather and wasn’t hungry but I convinced her that it might be good for her, physically and mentally, to go for a walk around the resort.  She agreed and we took a slow stroll around the front/main loop.  Back at the rig I had a bowl of granola for dinner and got a call from Pat (& Vickie) Lintner to check on the progress of our brake repair.  They also wanted to know if we would be interested in going to Epcot for a flower show sometime while we are at Jetty Park.  They would drive as they already have a season parking pass.  They also have season passes to the Disney World complex but we would have to buy day passes for $100 each.  We said we would consider it when Linda was feeling better, but I doubt that we will shell out $200 just to spend seven hours looking at flowers no matter how spectacular they are.

We have had some expenses this winter that we had not planned on, but we were glad to be able to get tire and windshield covers from Bill and Brenda Phelan while in south-central Florida and consider them a necessary investment.  They are well made and they work, and Bill and Brenda are fellow converted bus people running a small business that we wanted to support.  We were also glad to be able to get our motorcoach washed on January 1st in Arcadia and then get it washed and waxed today at FGMCR.  We have a lot invested in our home on wheels and taking care of the paint is just one of many necessary maintenance expenses.

The problem with the driver side tag axle brake, however, was something we just did not see coming.  As of this evening it is not yet resolved and thus the final cost is still unknown and unpredictable.  It’s hard to consider spending $200 to look at flowers right now but our view of that may change if/when the brake problem is resolved and the final cost is known.  What this brake failure has raised, however, is the necessity of also rebuilding the passenger side tag axle disc brake caliper and both of the steer axle disc brake calipers.  The cost just for parts is approximately $500 per hub plus $280 per axle for brake pads, if needed.  In round numbers that is $2,500 for the four disc brakes not including labor.  I expect Joe will be working on this for 4 to 8 hours tomorrow just to keep us on the road, so that’s more cost.

I don’t begrudge Joe his pay, he earns it and deserves it, and parts cost what they cost; it’s all part of owning a bus.  What I don’t like is having this happen on the road where ready solutions might not be at hand or we might be forced into a solution that is more costly than it should be.  But most of all I don’t like how it unexpectedly interrupts our winter and planned activities.  Perhaps that indicates that I do not have the necessary “roll with the punches” mindset for the converted bus lifestyle, although I think I have handled it reasonably well in the 6-1/2 years we have owned this bus.  Linda pointed out that our two prior winters were relatively trouble free but the fact is that we had issues with the bus both seasons.  At this point I do not have as much confidence in it as I want and need to have in order to fully enjoy it, but I will keep working towards that goal.

Linda went to bed at 10 PM and I continued to work on this draft blog post.  I found a PBS fundraiser concert on WUSF channel 16.1 featuring The Smothers Brothers, the Kingston Trio, and many other folk groups and musicians of the late 50’s and 60’s.  When it ended at 11 PM I switched to channel 16.4, which is the Create sub-channel, and watched an episode of GlobeTrekker before going off to what would probably be a less than completely restful sleep.

2016/03/19 (S) Braking News

I was up shortly after 7 AM, anticipating Joe’s arrival at 8 AM, and made coffee.  He texted at 7:30 that he would not be here until closer to 9.  That gave me time to enjoy my coffee and put the finishing touches on yesterday’s rather lengthy blog post.  When I tried to upload the Word file to our Dropbox I discovered that my iPad was not connected to any of our Wi-Fi networks.  It asked me for the password for each one I tried, even after restarting it twice, and when I finally entered them it would still not connect.  My computer was still online via its usual Wi-Fi connection, so I knew that our network was functioning.  I will probably have to shut everything down and restart it, but I wasn’t about to get into that this morning.

Linda got up at 8:30 still looking and feeling like death warmed over.  I poured her some coffee and then went out a few minutes later to remove the hub cap and lug nut covers.  I noticed that the sky to the north, northwest, and west was a solid mass of very dark clouds so Linda pulled up The Weather Channel radar on her iPad.  We knew that the probability of rain at our location today was forecast at 100% with the possibility of thunderstorms, but we were not happy about what we saw in the radar image.  There was a large band of rain stretching from north of us southwest into the Gulf of Mexico well south of our latitude.  The band included larger clusters with cores of strong rain indicated.  Linda put the summary in motion and the entire band was drifting due east with movement along the front from SW to NE.  There was no doubt that we would get rained on this morning, it was just a matter of when it would start, how intense it would be, and how long it would last.

At 8:50 I drive up to the trash dumpster and then drove to the clubhouse.  There was a car parked by the gatehouse so I walked over there.  The gate attendants were there so I gave them my name and site number as well as Joe’s name and explained why he was coming to visit us.  Joe arrived at 9:10 AM and a few minutes later drove right past our site.  I quickly phoned him and told him to turn around.  He did not have his “camper” (bumper-tow trailer) with him so he pulled onto the pad and drove to the very back to get his tools as close as possible to the rear of the bus where he would be working.  He had his dog, Gracie, with him.  Gracie is at least part Pit Bull Terrier with perhaps some boxer.  She has a dark brown, slightly brindled, coat and is a pretty dog.  More importantly, she is very sweet, very well-behaved, and very mindful of Joe, who has trained her well and gently.  As Joe got ready to work I grabbed my camera.

Joe got right to work on the driver side (LS) tag axle wheel and did not need any power tools.  He loosened the lug nuts using a 12x torque multiplier and a standard torque wrench.  The torque multiplier is a special tool designed just for this purpose.  It has an arm that fits over an adjacent lug nut to keep the tool from turning, thus forcing the torque to be applied to the target lug nut in the socket.  We also have one of these tools along with a 3′ long torque wrench, both of which I bought from Butch last year.

Once Joe had the lug nuts broken loose he had me start the bus engine and raise the tag axle.  As happened to the other day it did not lift the tires clear of the pad.  He had me switch the suspension to Level Low mode and raise the rear end so he could position his chassis stands under it.  He then had me lower the rear of the bus until it was resting on the stands.  Finally, he had me raise the tag axle and this time the tires lifted clear of the pad.

Joe checked to see if he could turn the tire.  He could, although he indicated that it had a lot more drag than it should.  I told him that had not been able to turn it at all yesterday.  He loosened and then removed all of the lug nuts and then removed the wheel/tire and rolled it behind the bus out of the way.  It’s a big thing; 42″ in diameter, 12″ wide, and 100 pounds.  Working on buses is not for sissies and weaklings, although as an owner the two most important and powerful tools needed are a cell phone and credit card.

Mobile mechanic Joe Cannarozzi removes the DS tag tire/wheel to get access to the brake.

With the tire/wheel out of the way Joe removed the dynamic wheel balancer and was finally able to access the disc brake assembly.  The assembly includes the caliper, the automatic slack adjuster, and the pneumatic brake actuator.  The entire assembly is mounted to a bracket (torque plate, or “spider”) that is part of the fixed portion of the axle via two large steel mounting pins that allow the caliper to move (slide) when actuated.  When facing the axle hub from the outside end the mounting points are at approximately 9 o’clock and 4 o’clock with the caliper and brake pads to the lower left towards the front of the vehicle.  (On the passenger side the caliper is to the lower right, again towards the front of the vehicle.)  The only other connection to the disc brake assembly is the air line that attaches to the brake canister.  The tag axle brakes are deactivated when the tag axle is raised so there was no air pressure in the line and Joe disconnected it.

The mounting pins are locked in by what Joe calls “wedges” which are metal pins with a partial circular notch machined out at roughly the midpoint.  The mounting pins have a slightly reduced diameter at their midpoint.  The notch in the locking pin engages the reduced diameter and locks the mounting pin in place.  The locking pin, in turn, is pulled up snug by a castle nut which is then secured by a cotter pin so that nothing can vibrate loose.  With the locking pins removed Joe was able to tap the mounting pins out and wiggle the assembly to get it loose from the rotor and then lower it to the ground.  Easier said than done; the disc brake assembly is very heavy, awkwardly shaped, and not balanced.

The first thing we both noticed was how the brake pads were worn.  The front and back faces of each pad were not parallel and the change in thickness was mirrored.  That is to say, the thinner end of one pad was opposed by the thicker edge of the other pad.  This suggested to us that the entire disc brake assembly was not square to the rotor and that over time the pads had become worn to match this misalignment.  That, in turn, suggested that the wear pattern on the pads could be forcing the caliper out of alignment on the slide pins and that this might finally have gotten to the point that that caliper got bound up on the slide pins and could not retract.

The fixed mounting holes have pressed in bushings so Joe inspected those and said they looked and felt OK.  We also inspected the mounting/slide pins and said they appeared to be alright.  I fetched all of the parts that I ordered from Prevost and opened the box with the new slide pins.  Joe compared the fit of the new pins and the old pins in the existing sleeve bearings and said that he could not detect any difference.  He had about a dozen replacement sleeves and checked the old and new pins in one of the new sleeves.  Again, he could not detect any difference.  The sleeve bearings are pressed in and pressed out.  Joe did not have the specialized tools needed to do this but also thought it was unnecessary work.

When Joe went to remove the larger inside brake pad he had a very difficult time getting it out.  Part of the pad holder is supposed to slide between two machined faces causing it to move straight in and out, but it was wedged tight.  Joe thought this was another possible reason why the brakes were dragging.  Once he got it out and removed the other (outer/fixed) pad he tried using a hand file to ease the fit.  I suggested that we try one of the new brake pads instead and he agreed.

The DS tag axle air disc brake caliper.

Before installing the new brake pads Joe used a wire brush to thoroughly clean the parts of the caliper that involved moving pieces and got a considerable amount of rust, brake dust, and general fine debris to come loose.  He also backed off the automatic slack adjuster and was of the opinion that the main actuator mechanism was moving freely and probably not what had cause the brakes to bind.  At that point Joe thought that disassembling the caliper and trying to rebuild it on site was a bad idea and I was inclined agreed.  The kit has a lot of parts and doing this outside in the rain did not seem like a good idea.  The new inner pad was a better fit than the old one so he installed it along with the new outer pad.  He then reconnected the air line to the brake canister.

Now came the moment of truth; could the disc brake assembly be reinstalled (at all), and if so, without causing excessive drag on the rotor discs.  As I mentioned before, the assembly is bulky and heavy, but the answer to the first part was ‘yes.’  The answer to the second part was ‘sort of’, but ‘sort of’ is a much better answer than ‘no.’  Joe was a able to turn the hub by hand but it was harder to turn than he wanted.  He decided to have me start the engine and slowly pump the brakes.  Each time I released them I paused while he turned the hub 1/8 to 1/4 turn.  What he was trying to do was get the new brake pads to seat and get the caliper to move straight in and out.  After several times around he was satisfied with the way the wheel felt as he turned it.  It still had a bit more drag than he wanted but he thought it would be OK.  Short of driving to a shop like American Frame & Axle in Tampa or Prevost in Jacksonville, this was the best we were going to do as a roadside repair.

A light drizzle had started around 10 AM at which point I put my camera away, got out my raincoat, and got out an umbrella which I held over Joe as best I could while he worked.  By the time Joe had the brake assembly reinstalled it was raining harder; not a downpour or thunderstorm, but a steady rain, and I had already put all of the new parts away in the front bay.  Joe reinstalled the dynamic wheel balancer and then got the tire/wheel back onto the mounting studs.  He put all of the lug nuts back on finger tight and then used the torque wrench to snug them up and pull the wheel flat against the hub.  He then had me lower the tag axle, which did not require me to start the engine, and tightened the lug nuts to 650 pound-feet using the 12x torque multiplier with the torque wrench set to 65 lb.-ft.  Why 65?  There is some loss in the gearing of the torque multiplier and Joe has found that treating it as a 10x device seems to be perfect.

Joe gave me a dollar amount for the service call and Linda wrote him a check.  I feel that he has always been fair with us and provided technically competent service with good value, so I have never argued with him about what he charged me or tried to negotiate a slightly better “deal.”  That kind of negotiating, over what amounts to pennies in the larger view, just indicates to someone that I don’t value their work or that I think they are trying to take advantage of me or even cheat me.  In the end all that does is create ill will, which is ultimately not in my best interest.  When Joe, or anyone else, works on our bus I want them to be glad to do the work and happy that we are their customer; there’s too much riding on it to have it any other way.

Joe got all of bus tools packed up and then we chatted for a while before he took off.  His timetable from this point on is a little loose but he thinks he is going to be in Williamston, Michigan, sometime in early April.  That’s only 30 miles from our house, so we discussed the possibility of him coming to our place at that time to at least service the other three disc brakes.  That would require us to get home, of course, but with the mild winter up north that might be possible.  We do not have any plans beyond our scheduled departure from Jetty Park on March 29th.

After Joe left I explained to Linda what he found, what he did, and why he thought the brake was fixed and would probably work properly now.  I then sent a short text message to Butch Williams, Chuck Spera, Pat Lintner, and Ed Roelle updating them on the status of the situation.  These are four of my five “go-to” bus guys, the fifth being Bill Gerrie from Ontario.

Pat called me right away.  He and Vickie we’re glad to hear that the problem was probably resolved and we would be arriving at Jetty Park on Monday as scheduled.  Linda had looked at the website for the home and garden show at Epcot Center and had me indicate to Pat that we would like to go assuming she is sufficiently recovered from her illness and we can find a nice weather day.

Not long after I got off the phone with Pat I got a call from Chuck.  Chuck’s interest in our brake situation is based on more than just the concern of one friend for another.  He and Barbara have an H3-40 VIP Liberty Conversion that is only one year newer than ours.  That means he likely has the same exact brake components as we do and is potentially facing the same failure/repair/maintenance issues as us.

While I was on the phone with Chuck Linda checked the Livingston County Road Commission website and found that the Spring Seasonal Size and Weight Restrictions had been lifted from all of the roads.  That meant we were clear to return home at any time.  We have had a good winter in Florida, and are looking forward to our week at Jetty Park, but we are not feeling the need to linger here to avoid freezing temperature back home.  Indeed, the last week here has been hot and if that continues we will definitely be ready to leave.

After the phone calls I made vegan cold cut sandwiches for lunch and got out our vitamins.  After lunch Linda went back to bed and I started working on the draft of this blog post.  Linda got back up around 3 PM.  By 5 PM I had finally captured the details of today’s events.  Linda spent part of the afternoon researching and purchasing Easter holiday gifts online for our children and grand-daughters.  She was out of tissues, so I drove to the Dollar Store in Webster to buy more.  When I got back I sat at the desk and edited another week’s worth of blog posts from mid-late December 2015.

As I was wrapping up my work to have dinner Adobe CC notified me that two updates were available.  That meant Lightroom and Photoshop, and we have them installed on both of our computers.  Our Verizon billing cycle was due to reset at midnight tonight and as of dinnertime we had used 10.927 GB out of 12.0.  This a bit of a game with us, and we like to use as much data as we can without exceeding our plan.

Around 6:30 PM Linda started fixing dinner in spite of still feeling pretty lousy.  She improvised an Udon noodle dish with broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms and a citrus soy sauce which really gave it a spark.  She is taking OTC medications for her “cold” so she had water to drink while I had a glass of Arbor Mist Mango Moscato.  It’s growing on me.

I felt the need to get up and move around a bit after dinner while Linda felt the need to rest.  I took both of our iPads and my smartphone and walked up to the library in the FGMCR clubhouse to use the resort Wi-Fi to update them.  I had 10 app updates on my phone (estimated at 150 MB) and three on my iPad (200+ MB) while Linda had four on her iPad (200+ MB).  Rather than compete with myself I updated my phone first and then Linda’s iPad while I worked on this blog post on my iPad.  I then updated my iPad.  Even though we had 1/12 of our monthly data plan remaining at 7 PM these updates would have used over half of that.

When I was done updating our devices I walked back to our rig.  PBS out of Tampa / St. Petersburg was fundraising (again), this time featuring folk/rock/pop musical performances from yesteryear, so we left that on for background entertainment.  I uploaded one blog post from December 7, 2015 but was not in the humor to do more this evening.  I was monitoring our data usage closely and decided to update Adobe Lightroom on my computer.  It was 300 MB so I decided to defer the other three Adobe updates until tomorrow when I can take our computers to the resort library and do them there.

By this point Linda had long since gone to bed so I upgraded her laptop to ESET Smart Security 9 (SS9) which then required activation.  That was not the case on my computer and I had to go through a process of converting a username and password to a license activation key and then using that to activate the product.  While the upgrade was downloading and installing I installed the My Verizon Mobile app on my iPad.  I had to look up our account credentials but it would not let me log in.  It was getting close to midnight when our billing cycle would end and was telling me to “try again later.”  With that done I started following the procedure on ESET’s support website for updating drivers that Windows 10 is unable, or unwilling, to handle.

The ESET SS9 program was reporting that 16 or 17 driver updates were needed but I had to write them down on a sheet of paper.  These are manual, one-at-a-time, updates made by using the Device Manager to select a device, select “update driver,” and then select “search the computer and Internet for a more up-to-date version.”  If it finds one it installs it, which might then require a restart of the computer; a tedious and time consuming process for even one update.  I did 4 or 5 of these updates successfully but was too tired to do them all.  As it approached midnight we had used 11.6 of our 12.0 GB data plan and at the stroke of midnight the usage reset to zero (0).  Having successfully managed our meager 12 GB data plan (per monthly billing cycle) for the second month, squeezing out as much data as possible without incurring overage charges, I went to bed.

2016/03/20 (N) FGMCR Finale

Linda got up at 6 AM to take more medication and then went back to sleep on the sofa.  I was unaware of that at the time and found out when I got up at 7:45 AM.  I sat in one of the captain’s chairs with Juniper on my lap finishing yesterday’s blog post draft and then started today’s.  I finally got up at 9 and made coffee.

I worked most of the morning and early afternoon uploading blog posts from December 2015 to our website, taking time out for a few chores, and managed to upload the posts through December 20th.  I got a loaf of bread out of the freezer around 10 AM to let it thaw.  I made toast at noon for an easy meal.  With lots of nice puffy white clouds around, and a forecasted high temp of 79 degrees F, I put out the awnings on the driver (southeast-facing) side of the coach, turned off the residential air-conditioners, opened the windows and roof vents, and turned on the ceiling exhaust fans.  I grabbed my Tilley hat and walked the trash down to the dumpster.  I love my Tilley hat.

At 1:30 PM I powered down my computer and took it to the library at the resort clubhouse along with my iPad.  The music jam was taking place in the main room at 2 PM so I closed the connecting door.  That made the volume just about right and I enjoyed the background entertainment while I updated and blogged.  The musical genre was “country and gospel” (of course).  Not my kind of music, but the musicianship was high enough to be pleasant and the participants were obviously enjoying themselves.

When I first powered up my computer the disk drive light sputtered for a long time and the screen remained blank as though it was having trouble starting.  I powered it off, let it sit a minute, and then powered it back on.  This time the HDD light came on and stayed on, flickering slightly, which is what it normally does on startup.  It took a long time for the startup screen to appear, but it eventually did.  This behavior is, unfortunately, not unusual following updates, but the failure to start up could indicate a developing problem with the HDD.  I installed a number of updates last night, but had restarted the computer several times without difficulty.  Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) notified me that there was an update available for Photoshop CC (2015) but I already knew that; it was my main reason for going to the library to use the resort Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.

With Photoshop updated I turned my attention to updating device drivers.  As I described yesterday, this is a manual, one-at-time, process.  I got five drivers updated without needing to reboot the computer but the 6th one required a restart.  This time the start screen came up fairly quickly and I was able to connect to the resort Wi-Fi and log in without difficulty.  I then continued updating drivers.  There were two drivers for printers that we do not own, and a driver for the Intel WatchDog Timer (Intel WDT).  Try as I might, I could not locate the Intel WDT within the device manager and thus could not update it.

It’s possible the WDT is not enabled in the BIOS of my computer; from what I saw on the web not all manufacturers utilize it.  I restarted the computer to make sure things were fully installed and configured, and just to make sure it would (start up).  When the HDD light finally went out I checked for Windows 10 updates.  It reported that my device was up-to-date but ESET SS9 was still indicating an update to a driver I updated last night.  I updated it again and then restarted the machine once again.  I let it start up fully and then powered it down and went back to our coach.  I will go back later and update Linda’s computer.  I will also try to update our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS navigation system, and perhaps our Garmin 465T GPS navigation system as well.  There’s a Wi-Fi Room at the west end of the clubhouse and I think I will try working there.

Back at our coach the bed was clear so I got out the computer cases.  I also needed the USB tether cables for the two GPS navigation systems.  I thought the cables were stored inside the sofa so we had to remove all of the cushions to get access to them.  As long as they were off, we rotated them.  The cables were not there so I looked in several other places before finally looking under the bed and finding one there.  Fortunately it fit both GPS units.  I packed up both of our computers, including the power supplies, my iPad, and put the two GPS units in my computer case.  I piled everything in the front seat of the car and drove back to the clubhouse, but this time I went to the Wi-Fi room.

The Wi-Fi room has four small desk tables set against the walls and a slightly larger round table in the center of the room.  Each desk table has a comfortable office type chair on casters and an outlet strip to supply AC power to portable devices.  I was the only person there and picked the desk table in the darkest corner to set up my equipment.  I got both computers plugged in to AC power and started them up.  There was a wireless access point visible in the room, so I connected to it instead of the SSID I normally use at the other end of the building.  I figured the stronger signal would provide a more reliable, and perhaps faster, connection.  I then connected the Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS navigation unit to my computer with an appropriate USB cable and turned it on.  Once it connected with my laptop the Rand-McNally Dock software opened automatically and informed me that there was an OS/firmware update available for the device and also a map update.

I did the device update first and it took about 10 seconds.  I then started the map update.  At one point it told me the download would take 13 hours to complete, and that was after it had been downloading for an hour.  The R-M map update process is almost 4 GB of data and often does not complete successful.  When that happens everything is lost and you have to start over.  Basically, you can’t do the update on a limited/metered data plan, which is why I was sitting in the FGMCR Wi-Fi room trying to do it using the resort’s Internet connection.

With the map download under way I opened ESET SS9 on Linda’s computer to see what updates it thought were available.  I tried yet again to install the update for the Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 Redistributable, and once again it did if not seem to work correctly.  Windows 10 Update said it was available, said it downloaded it, and flashed the screen about six times that it was installing, before finally indicating that everything was up-to-date.  I tried to repeat what the ESET technician did on my machine by locating and repairing the update, but unlike my computer it did not appear in the list.  It really looks like I will have to get online with ESET again and gave them work some more of their remote magic.

Next I decided to update some of the indicated drivers on Linda’s computer.  I opened ESET SS9 again, went to available OS updates screen, and wrote them down.  I was able to update four of the 11 but could not find the other devices in Device Manager.  On my computer there was only one driver of any importance that I could not locate, but Samsung and ASUS obviously do not do things the same way.  What was surprising is that ESET SS9 is identifying updates for device drivers that do not appear to exist.  I restarted Linda’s machine to make are sure everything was OK and it appeared to be.

Two other people showed up (a couple) and were web-surfing and streaming some videos on separate devices.  All of which was fine; they had as much right to do that as I had to do what I was doing, perhaps more if they are owners, but I doubt that any of us were getting great data speed.  I started the update for Adobe Lightroom CC (2105) on Linda’s computer anyway, knowing that it was approximately 300 MB and would likely take a while.  Linda has lost her voice so I texted her the status of my work and suggested that she get out a folding chair and sit outside for a while in the lovely fresh spring air and sunshine.

Another couple came in to Skype with someone but decided to set up their tablet in the Billiards Room so as not to disturb the rest of us (or keep their conversation private, or both).  A short time later the first couple left and my map download, coincidentally, speeded up quite a bit.  I initiated the update of Adobe Photoshop CC (2015) on Linda’s computer and the map download on my machine, not coincidentally, slowed way down.

I had a brief chat with Butch Williams between 8 and 9 PM EDT.  He and Fonda were also preparing to move on tomorrow from their RV Park in Huahauca, Arizona. Their next waypoint was Deming, New Mexico but he did not know if they would make it in one day.  I was finally finished with my computer and GPS unit updates by 9 PM (except for our Garmin 465T) and returned to the coach.  Linda had held dinner, which I appreciated.  We did not have to be up at the crack of dawn so we stayed up a while and watched TV before turning in for the night

 

2016/03/15-17 (T-F) Clermont Orlando Brakes Linner

2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

We had coffee, grapefruit, and cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast and orange juice to wash down our vitamins.  We had not made any specific plans for today but Linda still had her list of six places to visit in Clermont.  We decided we would head that way after taking care of several important chores with the bus.

The first chore was checking the water level in the fresh water tank.  We still had 1/4 tank so I deferred filling it until tomorrow.  The next chore was checking the driver side tag axle/brake.  In order to do this I had to start the bus engine, air up the suspension, and lift the tag axles.  With the tag tires off the concrete pad (and the tire covers removed) I was able to freely spin the passenger side wheel but the driver side wheel would not budge.  I removed the other four tire covers, put the tag axles back down, and moved the coach back and forth about 12 inches a couple of times before returning it to its starting position.  I then lifted the tag axles and rechecked the wheel spin.  My hope, of course, was that the driver side tag would break free but it didn’t.  That strongly suggested that the disc brake was locked up although I won’t know for sure until the wheel is removed and the brake can be inspected.  I put the tag axles back down and shut the engine off.  After turning off the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply I put the tire covers back on.  I then texted Joe, our mobile mechanic, to let him know what I found and ask him to call me as soon as it was convenient.  Joe has been in the Florida Keys for the last month and was planning to move to Ft. Lauderdale today and then move in our direction towards the end of this week, so we were lucky to have him in the area.

The third and last chore was to check the drain lines for the bedroom air-conditioner.  I unscrewed the discharge register and removed it, giving me access to the front of the evaporator.  The evaporator has an integral drain pan and Royale Coach installed a second one under the unit.  The drain line for the integral pan comes straight out the center of the bottom, makes a quick 90 degree bend to the rear, and a couple inches beyond the rear of the extra pan makes another 90 degree bend down.  At that point the drain line from the extra pan, which runs out the center rear of the pan, T’s into the down drain, which runs straight down through the cabinet into the driver side of the engine compartment.  Just after entering the engine compartment the line turns 90 degrees to the rear until it is close to the rear hatch and then turns down 90 degrees and runs down close to the rear bumper where it ends.  If the line is not clogged, condensate from the evaporator drips into the integral pan, flies through the drain lines, and eventually drips onto the ground near the driver side rear corner of the bus.

We grabbed the Kenwood HT ham radios and went outside to open the rear engine hatch so we could inspect the drain line and Linda could observe it.  I went back in and poured a little water into the extra pan and noticed that there was some loose debris in the pan.  Linda radioed that water was trickling out so I cleaned out the pan and then poured in a larger quantity of water.  It came out onto the ground, so I knew the drain line was open at least from the T down.  I poured water into the integral pan and Linda reported that it also came out on the ground.  Well, alrighty then.  I replaced a piece of foam that seals the bottom of the opening and reinstalled the register.  I then closed the rear hatch.

The reason for all of this was that we have been running the rear A-C but not seeing any condensate on the ground.  I checked the temperature of the evaporator yesterday and it was 10 to 15 degrees below the ambient air temperature so I know the evaporator had to be producing condensate and I was curious about where it was going.  Of particular concern was any water overflowing the pans and dripping inside the cabinet as the main AC electrical panel is just below the evaporator and there are AC power relays, DC control switches, and lots of wiring just below that.

With all that taken care of we loaded the camera gear into the car and headed out of the resort and back west on CR-478 towards Webster where we picked up FL-471 south to FL-50 and headed east to Clermont.  At US-27 we went north one exit to Citrus Tower Blvd. where the Florida Citrus Tower is located.  The Tower was opened in 1956 as a monument (and tourist attraction) to the Florida Citrus industry, which was centered in this area at the time.  The citrus groves were decimated by three hard freezes in the 1980’s and the industry in this area never recovered.  We rode the elevator to the observation platform which is over 200 feet AGL, and just over 500 feet ASL.  It was quite a view even if it wasn’t of citrus groves.  The area has, in fact, “recovered” as there are at least 1,442 lakes within view of this tower and the area has become a Mecca for development with Orlando just 15 miles due east and Disney World  about 23 miles southeast.

We stopped at Publix across the street for lunch snacks/beverages.  Returning to FL-50, we continued east to Orlando to check out the route for Monday.  Traffic congestion has us rethinking how we should get to Jetty Park on Cape Canaveral.  We stopped at Bed-Bath-&-Beyond, but they do not carry the InstantPot.  We picked up FL-408 (Toll Road) back to FL-50 and headed west through Clermont.  On the way back to Webster we stopped at the Publix in Groveland.  We then continued west on FL-50 to CR-471.  I filled the fuel tank at the Shell station, which advertised $1.859 for Regular but had the pump set to $1.999.  Arrrgh.

I called Chuck while Linda fixed dinner and we discussed the tag axle brake problem.  I then called Butch but did not get an answer.  Dinner was salad and open-faced pan-seared BBQ tofu slices with caramelized onions.  We had fresh strawberries later for dessert.  We eat well regardless of bus problems.

We tried to watch NCIS, NCISNOLA, and Limitless but TV reception was spotty all night.  Butch called me back and we chatted about the brakes and battery charging.  I needed to be up early to call Prevost and then text Joe the names and phone numbers of RV parks in Webster and Bushnell where he might be able to stay.  As the name says, Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort does not accept pull-behinds.  For that matter, it does not accept anything other than “Class A” motorhomes.  Many of the units here are Prevost conversions, but certainly not all.

Linda checked the weather forecast for overnight and saw that there would be a period of about five hours with 100% humidity so we left the A-C units on all night.  We don’t care for the noise but we like high relative humidity even less, especially when it comes to sleeping.

HC View of Minneola Lake from the Florida Citrus Tower looking west.

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

I did not sleep well last night knowing that I had to be up early to research the parts I needed to order and then call Prevost’s U. S. Parts office in Elgin, Illinois to place the order.  I got up at 5:30 AM and opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer software and found the diagrams and parts lists for the tag axles on our bus.  I also researched RV parks for Joe.  I found two in Webster, less than three miles away, and two in Bushnell, about nine miles away.

I ate one of the apricot bear claws and then called Prevost U. S. Parts and got connected to Gary.  He spent an hour and 15 minutes working with me trying to figure out what tag axle we actually had.  He also informed me that the disc brake calipers were no longer available; Prevost did not have any in stock and could not get any more as Meritor had discontinued production.  That was not what I expected when I got up this morning and set the stage and tone for the rest of the day.  I ended up ordering a “Left Side” major rebuild kit, a slide pin kit, and a set of brake pads, but not with complete confidence that they were the correct parts or that we would be able to use them.

I was on the phone when Linda got up so she made our morning coffee.  A little while later she blended frozen strawberries, bananas, oatmeal, flax seeds, vanilla almond milk creamer,  and a couple of other things into very thick smoothies and put them in the refrigerator.

In the course of the day I spent time online researching possible alternate sources and made phone calls to ABC Bus Co. in Oakland, Florida and American Frame and Axle in Tampa.  It was not a positive experience and by late morning decided to shift my attention and effort to other tasks.

First up was filling the fresh water tank.  The level appeared to be about 1/8th (15 gallons) and I decided to drain the tank before refilling it.  The last time I drained the tank was in November just before we left for the winter.  I have usually waited to refill the tank until it was down below the 1/3rd level, and usually down between 1/6th and 1/8th, but that means (hypothetically) that some of the water from the original fill up in November remained in the tank.  Being a hot, sunny day, and being parked on a concrete pad, I figured it was a good time/place to dump the tank.

I refilled the fresh water tank to the top with 120 gallons of softened water and checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener at the end.  As best I could read the test strip it was somewhere between 1.5 and 3.0 gpg.  That meant it was probably time to recharge the softener.  I entered the data into my spreadsheet and it confirmed that I have removed about 8,500 grains on the current charge.  The tank claims to be a 10,000 grain device.

Speaking of water softening, Mark Schumaker (from A-1 water Conditioning), was at the Webster Flea Market on Monday.  We bought our current portable water softener from him in Gillette, Wyoming in the summer of 2013.  I have always found this unit difficult/awkward to recharge, but he now has a newer system that involves a special valve assembly for the softening tank and uses a separate brine tank.  That is exactly what I am looking for, so I may have to give Mark a second chance.

My next task was doing the laundry.  As long as I had to go to the laundry room we decided to use the showers at the clubhouse.  I put in a call to Chuck but caught him on the golf course and we agreed to talk later.  I started two loads while Linda showered and then she kept an eye on the machines while I showered.  When I returned to the laundry room Linda was using the resort Wi-Fi to Facetime on her iPad with our daughter.  I added the towels to a third load of laundry and joined the conversation.  When we were done talking Linda walked back to our rig while I stayed to finish drying the laundry.  I called Pat Lintner to discuss the best route to get to Jetty Park.  He and Vickie suggested FL-91 to FL-528.  Both are tollroads, but it’s the easy/breezy route.  Joe called me in response to my earlier text messages.  He was wondering if the rebuild kit required any special tools and asked me to check on it.

When I got back to our coach I called Prevost Parts again and was connected to Eduardo.  He took my number, did some digging around, sent me a couple of e-mails, and then called me back.  Yes, it appeared that I might need a couple of specialized tools, and no, Prevost did not have them in stock anywhere.  He did, however, give me the name of the manufacturer (Kent-Moore) and manufacturer’s part numbers (J-34064-51 & J-34064-52) of the two tools.

I searched online for these tools but mostly found listings for the Kent-Moore J-34064-B Rockwell-Meritor Dura-Master Brake Tool Set – Complete.”  Many of the listings were on Ebay, were very used, and prices were all over the map.  By this time I was wishing it was Wednesday last week rather than Wednesday this week.  I had hoped to upload more blog posts today but that was clearly not going to happen.

I took a break for lunch, which was hummus, pretzels, and carrot slices.  We opened the caramelized onion hummus.  It reminds me of California Dip made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix.  Yum.

I had a reply from ESET a couple of days ago with some additional suggestions about how to get Smart Security 9 to properly synchronize with Windows 10 Update.  We fiddled with ESET Windows 10 update notifications on Linda’s computer and realized that her machine is still running Smart Security 8 and needs to be upgraded.

Joe called back and I brought him up-to-date on what I had (not) accomplished today vis-a-vis the tag axle brake.  Chuck called back as well and we spent quite a bit of time going over the brake situation.  We did not necessarily resolve anything, but there is great comfort in being able to discuss such issues with friends who are fellow converted bus owners.  They get it, and their empathy is genuine and informed.

Around 4 PM I logged in to the FMCA website and went through the registration process for the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2016 rally.  At the very end the website said an error had occurred and to call the office.  So I did.  Bridgett took all of our info and passed it over to accounting for processing.  Linda noted a short time later that the credit card charge appeared to be pending twice.  Linda won’t know if that is actually the case until it posts to our account.  FMCA is a big enough organization that they should not be having these kinds of eCommerce issues with their website.

We got a couple of Yuengling beers out of the refrigerator and went outside to sit in the shade.  The midday sun was brutal today but as soon as it got lower in the western sky it was lovely outside with moderate breezes and comfortable humidity.  We were just getting ready to relax and enjoy our brew when Joan stopped by with her dog Toby.  Toby is a very friendly miniature Schnauzer and we appear to be his new best friends.  Joan had barely continued on her walk when a couple stopped at the end of the pad (by the street) and the man held up his right hand, Palm facing us, and pointed to it.  That is the universal sign of greeting between Michiganders (or Michiganians) and we was pointing to where they were from in the Lower Peninsula.  It took me a moment to realize that I recognized them from Williston Crossings where we were parked next to each other in December.  It was Ken and Pam from Grand Rapids.  They arrived yesterday after spending the winter at Williston Crossings.  We chatted for a while and then they continued their walk.  We got the impression from a distance that they were not very friendly and so we did not interact with them much at WCRVR.  Our loss; they were perfectly wonderful people.  I think Pam was just shy.  Shame on us for not reaching out; we certainly know better.

The light was fading and we were not hungry for dinner yet so we drove to the CVS store in Bushnell.  We bought a Florida SunPass transponder to use with the bus as our only good route from Webster to Cape Canaveral is via the Florida a Turnpike and another tollroad.  The transponder can be moved between vehicles and used with the car in tow behind the bus.

When we got back Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with deli slices for dinner along with fresh strawberries.  We watched a PBS program on WW II British military intelligence.  Linda went to bed at 11 PM and I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose.  I then went to bed and worked on this blog for a short while before turning out the lights at 12:30 AM.  It had not been an easy day and I went to sleep tired and discouraged at the turn of events regarding our rag axle brakes.

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

The last few days have been hot with daytime high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80’s.  The relative humidity has been moderate, leading to clear skies and intense sunshine, but there has been a persistent breeze which has helped keep things comfortable, especially in the shade.  The coach is not in the shade, however, and we have kept the awnings in because of the wind, so we have been running our air-conditioners all day.  By late afternoon, with the sun lower in the sky, the air temperature moderates just enough, without a significant rise in relative humidity, to be very pleasant; the kind of weather conditions that are perfect for just sitting outside with a cold beverage and relaxing.  As the temperature drops after sunset the relative humidity rises and approaches 100% for some period of hours before and during sunrise.  That does not make for good sleeping so we have also been keeping the air-conditioners on all night.

With the day I had yesterday I needed a good night’s sleep.  Still, I went to bed discouraged and frustrated and did not sleep that well even though I was very tired and fell asleep quickly.  I was up this morning at 7:30 AM and made coffee.  Linda was up by 8 AM.  We had cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast.  Linda’s focus this morning was tax returns.  I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and knew before I started that I would not accomplish all of them.

I started by putting a call in to Billy at American Frame and Axle regarding the brake caliper rebuild but had to leave my name and number.  I got a text from Joe and replied to it.  I heard back from Billy a short time later.  He does not have a mechanic working on Saturday mornings so the earliest he could rebuild the tag axle brake calipers would be Monday morning.  He seemed to think, however, that we would not have a problem doing the work ourselves.  I texted that information to Joe and then turned my attention to other things.

Linda texted Linda Whitney (K4YL) regarding getting together for dinner.  Linda W suggested we meet for linner (a late lunch / early dinner) at Papa Joe’s which is in between their house and our resort.  They agreed on 2:30 PM as the time, which avoids the lunch and dinner crowds.

The wind was light-to-calm today so we deployed the awnings on the coach to shade the windows.  We configured the water softener for a brief backflush and then set it up for recharging.  With that process underway, Linda went into work on tax returns while I dumped the waste tanks.  Once the waste tanks were drained I added TechRx to the toilet and sinks and updated the spreadsheet I use to track water usage and softener capacity.  I then settled in to work on updating the MS Outlook 2013 address book entries for our FMCA GLCC chapter.

Updating records like that is slow, tedious work.  I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes to check on the water softening process.  I did that repeatedly over a two hour period, so that further slowed my updating work.  The softening process was all done by 1:15 PM and I checked the hardness coming out of the softener.  It was higher than 1.5 gpg but closer to that number than to 3.0 gpg which is the next color patch on the scale.  That reading was both annoying and discouraging as it was essentially the same reading I had before I started the regeneration.  That is not the first time this has happened and it may be the case that the salt brine was not completely flushed out of the softener.  I will check it again after the next fresh water tank fill.

At 1:30 PM we started getting ready to go to linner at Papa Joe’s in Brooksville.  It was an easy 30 mile drive to the restaurant, which is just north of FL-50 (Cortez Blvd) on Spring Hill Highway.  We were there at 2:20 PM and got a table.  Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) Whitney arrived a few minutes later.  The food was good and we all ate too much.  We lingered past 4:30 and finally went our separate ways.

We were back by 5:15 PM and decided to go for a walk.  It turned out to be a long one as we followed the paved road that runs through the Phase 2 part of the property to the maintenance and construction building way back in the woods. In sight of the building we followed a wide path to the left that had been mowed through the grass.  It turned out to follow the road system for Phase 2 with all of the infrastructure clearly visible.  We were almost around the last dry “pond” when the mowed path ended.  Since we were wearing shorts and sandals we chose not to hike through the brush and had to turn around and walk back the way we came.

A fairly dense cloud cover had developed and the wind had come up from the NNW so when we got back to our coach we put all of the awnings back in.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing is supposed to be here tomorrow so Linda pulled all of the tire covers off, folded them up, and stored them in the car.  We will remove the new windshield covers tomorrow morning.

I had hoped to update my e-mail addresses for current GLCC members and create a set of new, smaller e-mail groups but I did not get that far.  (I also need to investigate creating an e-mail group in QTH cPanel.)  I need to have an efficient and accurate way to send information to the chapter members and my immediate need is to notify GLCC members to register through FMCA for GLAMARAMA16 and then let me know if they want to park with the chapter.

I had also hoped to take care of some computer update issues today but did not get them done.  These included upgrading ESET SS8 to SS9 on Linda’s computer and resolving update notification synchronization issues between ESET SS and the Windows 10 Update service on both of our laptops.  It’s also possible that we might have to manually update drivers on both computers.  I did manage to edit another blog post from December 2015 but did not get any posts uploaded.

Linda thinks she is coming down with a cold and but is running a fever and developed chills.  That did not sound like a cold to me.  She put on her denim shirt/jacket and got Juniper on her lap.  I put on the PBS NewsHour but she fell asleep before it ended.  She woke up later and stayed up until 10 PM to take more Tylenol and then went to bed.  I stayed up and watched a program on PBS about the Battle of Gettysburg followed by Charlie Rose and then went to bed.  I did not have any more communication with Joe this afternoon or evening so I presume he will not be here first thing in the morning.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing and Pressure Washing is scheduled to be here tomorrow, however, so we will have to be up and ready to go before they arrive.

 

2016/03/09-11 (W-F) Shop Eat Be Happy

2016/03/09 (W) Groveland, Publix, Updates

I was busy interacting with Bill and Brenda, and photographing their work, for much of the morning yesterday as well as diagnosing/fixing the problem with the charger section of the Magnum 4024.  The charger problem took me past lunchtime and a return call to John Palmer to let him know that it was resolved, at least for now.  We were sitting during the afternoon when Joan and Bill (from Boston) stopped by with their miniature schnauzer, Toby, and sat awhile to visit.  As a result I did not start working on yesterday’s blog post until after we had eaten dinner and gone for a walk.  I was up until The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ended at 12:30 AM (on Wednesday) but did not quite finish the post.

For the record, the Magnum 4024 appears to be working again (for now) and the house batteries were back up to full charge by last evening.  After much consternation yesterday the “fix” turned out to just be a reset of the unit.  The “trick” was following the directions in the manual.  Easy enough to do, and it doesn’t require very many words to describe, but it took a lot of time to get to that point and rule out other possible problems.

We were both feeling tired this morning, and perhaps a bit lazy, and did not get up until 8 AM.  While Linda made oatmeal from scratch with raisins, dates, and walnuts I fiddled with the rear TV and antenna trying to tune in stations.  I tried using the www.antennapoint.com website to locate TV transmitter towers but it said there weren’t any within 60 miles.  I knew that wasn’t true and I have had problems with this website the last few times I have tried to use it, so I’m done with it and used the TVFool.com website instead.  It found four dozen towers within 60 miles, but none closer than 53 miles.  Most of the stations were in three clusters, generally corresponding to Tampa (195 degrees), Ocala (350 degrees), and Orlando (90 degrees).

We have the front antenna at position ‘8’ which is approximate the 2 o’clock direction relative to the nose of the bus, which is the 12 o’clock position, and is currently pointing south of due west at 255 degrees.  That means the antenna is pointed in the general direction of the Ocala area stations, but we seem to only be picking up the Tampa area stations with signals that are strong enough to lock onto.

The rear TV/antenna is finding signals from both Tampa and Ocala but is unable to lock on to any of them.  I turned it to position ’14’, which is approximately the 6:30 orientation on the bus and corresponded to east, towards Orlando.  When I rescanned I was finally able to pick up some stations that the TV could lock onto.  The rear TV antenna, however, has been defective since the day I installed it which was, unfortunately, over a year after I purchased it.  Thus, it was out of warranty before I ever applied power to it.

When I was done playing with the TV I made our morning coffee and we sat down to breakfast while the coffee brewed.  After breakfast Linda played her morning word games while I finished yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  Linda made a grocery list and then got dressed and went for a walk while I continued to write.

Linda located a Publix supermarket on FL-50 in Groveland approximately 3/4 of the way to Clermont.  The city of Clermont is about 23 miles east of Webster and a few miles west of US-27.  It is the historic center of the Florida citrus industry and a place we plan to visit at least once while we are staying at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

US-27 is the highway we used to go to South Florida several times last month.  It runs northwest from Miami and then turns north, more or less paralleling the Atlantic coast of Florida some distance inland.  It passes along the west edge of Lake Okeechobee and passes near a string of towns that include Sebring, Frostproof, and Winter Haven before reaching the Clermont area.  From there it turns northwest and runs through Ocala and Williston, eventually reaching Branford where it turns more westerly towards Mayo and the Florida panhandle.  Having spent winter 2014 in Williston, traveled home by way of the panhandle, and then returned to Williston by way of Mayo for Dec 2015, we have probably traveled as many miles on US-27 in Florida as we have on I-75 or any other particular road.

We left at 10:15 AM to drive to the Publix.  We headed west back into Webster, dropped south on FL-471 about 5 miles to FL-50, and headed east.  It was a nice drive on FL-50 eastbound and the terrain became slightly hilly as we passed through Mascotte just before reaching the supermarket on the west side of Groveland.  We were back at our coach around 12:30 PM and split an apple for lunch.

We both had multiple updates pending for our iPad and smartphone apps, and numerous updates for the Windows 10 OS on our laptop computers, so we wanted to use the resort Wi-Fi to download and install the updates.  I shut down and packed up our computers and iPads and we drove over to the library room in the clubhouse.  I checked the Wi-Fi signal strength with my phone and it was strong enough to use so we set up all of our devices.

I did not count them all, but I estimated that we had between 60 and 70 updates across our six devices, requiring somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 GB of data.  Linda’s updates completed smoothly and more quickly than mine as my ASUS laptop appeared to hang up on the download of the OS update.  I ultimately shut down and restarted my computer to get things moving along again.

As we were getting near the end of the process the Internet connection went out.  We were still connected to the Wi-Fi but had no Internet access so I walked around to the office to see if they knew about it and needed to reset the gateway.  They did know about it because it affected them too, and Joann said it happens with some regularity, often around mid-afternoon.  By the time I returned to the library the connection had been restored.  Linda walked back to our coach at 3:30 PM but it took me until 4:30 PM to complete my computer updates.

After I got back to our coach and set up my computer we went for a walk around the resort.  Back at our coach I off-loaded the photos I took on Monday and Tuesday from my camera to my computer.  I processed one of Mara, Michael, Linda, and me (that was taken by someone at the RV park) and e-mailed it to Mara.  I processed three photos of our bus at our site at Florida Grande and five photos of the window covers that Bill and Brenda Phelan made for use yesterday.  I uploaded the photos to a couple of Dropbox folders and e-mailed the links to Brenda, Chuck Spera, and Ed Roelle.

For dinner Linda made a salad with a kale and arugula base, tomatoes, almonds, dried cranberries, and firm teriyaki tofu, and used an Asian sesame dressing.  So good.  Dessert was fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas.  After dinner we poured a couple of small glasses of white wine and sat outside enjoying the cool night breeze and looking at the stars.  We agreed that it was the first night since we arrived in Florida on December 1st that the weather conditions seemed perfect for just sitting outside after sunset.  We also agreed that our initial experience of FGMCR is very positive.

I texted Al Hesselbart to see if he is still at Breezy Oaks near Bushnell.  If he is we will probably drive over there tomorrow for the 2 PM music jam and then go to dinner.  I checked my e-mail and had replies from Ed Roelle and Brenda Phelan.  I also had one from Christy Budai letting me known that the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA GLCC chapter had finally been submitted.

We do not have the same TV stations here that we had in Arcadia and the PBS stations we can get do not carry the same programming.  That left us without our usual Wednesday evening science and nature shows.  Linda is tired most nights by 10 PM and headed off to bed before 10:30.  I stayed up working on this post and caught some news, weather, and the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

2016/03/10 (R) Coyote Rojo Redux

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda got up a few minutes later.  I did not start recharging the Verizon Mi-Fi soon enough last night, and did not leave it plugged in overnight, so the battery died and it went offline sometime before I got up.  I plugged the charger back in, got our network back online, and then made coffee.

Sometimes it takes a while but I eventually think of things.  It occurred to me this morning that I can cycle the charge on the house batteries while the coach is plugged in to an external source of AC power.  All I have to do to draw down the charge is turn off the charger section and let the DC loads run off the batteries.  Why this had never occurred to me before, and why it finally did this morning, I have no idea.  Perhaps it was because I finally had a problem in need of a solution.  I am not 100% confident about the charger section of the Magnum 4024 at this point and noticed yesterday that at Full Charge the indicated voltage was a bit higher than 25.2 VDC.  The weather forecast for today, however, is SE winds at 10-to-20 MPH with gusts to 30 and a high temperature of 87 degrees F; probably not the day to be playing with the house DC power system.

I had not gotten a reply to the text message I sent Al Hesselbart last night so I called him.  He picked up right away and reminded me that he does not send or receive text messages.  He was out fishing with a friend on Lake Panasoffkee and did not expect to be back in time for the 2 PM music jam.  He was open to having dinner and thought they would be back by 5 PM.  He agreed to call me when they were leaving the Lake and we would agree on a time to meet at the Mexican restaurant near Bushnell.

Al was the executive director of the RV&MH Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana for many years and then served as the museum’s historian for quite a while before retiring.  He full time RVs in a 1977 Newell that he moves back and forth between Breezy Oaks and Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana.

Linda moved the cats’ litter tray out of the shower and then went for a walk.  I took a shower, got dressed, and started processing more of the photos of Bill and Brenda Phelans’ RV Windshield Covers of Florida mobile workshop and the process they went through to measure, make, and install the external mesh window covers for the cockpit of our bus a few days ago.

The residents across the street and to the left had low decorative stone flower bed borders installed on Tuesday.  The five man crew was here all day so we had dust and noise from the saw, but they finished in one day and the result was very nice.  The husband, Pete, was out front this morning so I walked over to compliment him on how nice they looked and ended up chatting about the park.  He invited me to see their “villa’ (casita, coach house, etc.) so I went back to our rig and got Linda.  The wife, Eleanor, arrived a few minutes later in their golf cart.  We got a nice tour of their lovely villa and had a nice chat about the resort.

I was working on photos and Linda was reading when we decided that the wind was strong enough to warrant stowing the awnings.  In spite of the wind they were easy enough to roll up and it only took a few minutes.  We were concerned about heat gain through the uncovered windows on the south facing driver side of the coach so we pulled the opaque white MCD night shades down half way.  We opened all of the awning-style Windows wider than usual and turned on the roof vent exhaust fans.

Linda made teriyaki tofu and arugula pocket sandwiches for lunch, after which I continued to work on the photos.  I finally uploaded 40 image files to the Dropbox folder I created yesterday for this purpose and e-mailed Brenda to let her know they were there.

I also sent the folder link to Gary, at Bus Conversion Magazine, to see if he would be interested in an article about their converted EMS/ambulance that serves as a live-aboard mobile workshop for their business.  Bill and Brenda had converted a couple of buses before buying a Super C motorhome.  They also ran the Arcadia Bus Rally for the last five years, after assisting Jack and Paula Conrad for the first 11 years, so they know their way around conversions.  They are well known to the magazine and the bus conversion community and I think it would make a good article as Gary transitions BCM from being strictly bus conversions to encompass the broader concept of mobile dwelling conversions.

In spite of the 85 degree afternoon high temperature our rig stayed acceptably comfortable even with the awnings rolled up.  The wind was steady at 15 to 20 MPH out of the south with lots of puffy clouds and the relative humidity was 45%.  As a result we had good airflow through wide open windows and out the three roof vent exhaust fans, which I had running on speed 2 of 3.  The cockpit was still warm, but not like it was before we got the custom windshield and cockpit side window covers.

Juniper (our female cat) likes the heat and slept up on the co-pilot/navigator seat like she always has while Jasper slept on my swivel chair, then in his carrier on the floor, then on our bed, and finally tucked himself away on the tile floor on my side of the bed at the rear of the living area, which is the coolest place in the bus in the afternoon when we are parked facing west.  In the late afternoon we sat outside in the shade reading and it was incredibly pleasant.  Even though it is almost spring, this is why people go to Florida in the winter.

I called Al at 5:25 PM and they had just gotten back to the dock.  They needed to drive back to Breezy Oaks so Al could shower, change clothes, and get his car.  He said he would call when he was ready to head to the restaurant as we are approximately the same driving time away.  We agreed to meet at Coyote Roho, just west of Bushnell.

We decided to leave at 6 PM without waiting for Al to call so we could check out downtown Bushnell.  The restaurant was only a 9.6 mile drive, which our iPad Map app said would take 19 minutes, and Bushnell was a couple of miles short of that.  Driving north through Webster we found the Farmer’s and Flea Market site and farther up the road the site of the county fair.  The parking lot was full and the amusement rides lit up the area like it was Times Square.  There wasn’t much to Bushnell so we drove through to the Walmart parking lot to await Al’s call.  We were only there a short time and decided to go on to the restaurant and get a table and have a drink while we waited.  As we arrived at the restaurant Linda realized that I had two missed calls and a voice message from Al indicating that he was leaving at 6:15 PM.  I called him back and he answered as he was pulling into the parking lot.

We have only eaten at Coyote Rojo one other time, and that was back in December when we drove down from Williston to visit Al at Breezy Oaks and listen to the Thursday afternoon music jam.  Our recollection was that the food was good, so we were looking forward to dinner as well as conversation with Al.  Linda and I ordered the vegetarian fajitas and a vegetarian burrito and split them.  We were underwhelmed by our food but the server was attentive and we enjoyed spending time with Al.  We stayed at the restaurant talking long after we had finished our meals but all good things come to an end, or at least have to take a hiatus, and it been a long day for all of us.  Al is headed to the FMCA rally in Perry, Georgia all next week so we probably will not cross paths with him again for a while.

On the drive back to our resort the clouds had cleared off and the low humidity resulted in very bright stars.  This was the first time we had entered FGMCR at night and it was understated but grand with the street lights lining the curving entrance road and the main level of the clubhouse subtly illuminated.

Linda prepared fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert and we watched our usual Thursday evening TV programs on CBS.  I put the finishing touches on today’s blog post and then went to bed.

2016/03/11 (F) FGMCR Happy Hour

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and cleaned the bean grinder.  Linda was up shortly thereafter and we had orange juice with our vitamins.  Breakfast was Publix Premium brand cinnamon raisin English Muffins, which are not really muffins at all.  Muffins are small cakes whereas English Muffins are bread.  We had them with vegan cream cheese and jam.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast.  I checked e-mail and corresponded with Brenda Phelan and Gary Hatt regarding a possible article for BCM on Bill and Brenda’s EMT/ambulance mobile workshop truck conversion.  I then settled in to upload blog posts for mid-November, starting with the one for the 13th, and worked on that task until time lunchtime.

For lunch Linda used whole wheat pita pockets to make sandwiches with vegan deli slices, vegan cheese, and lots of arugula.  We had red grapes and sweet-hot-garlic pickle slices to go with our sandwiches.  After lunch we went for a short walk.  Linda had a letter to mail and while we were at the mail room we took pictures of the cards listing sites for sale.

Back at our rig, Linda marked the sites on our resort map so we could check them out on one of our future walks.  I continued uploading blog posts and Linda decided to go swimming.  I was going to walk over at 3 PM to join her but I got a phone call from Bill Gerrie at 2:45 PM and was on the phone with him for about an hour.

Bill and Karen live in Limehouse, Ontario and are members of our FMCA GLCC chapter and the CCO group.  We talked about buses and rallies, of course, and a little bit about politics and food/health.  He and Karen are planning on attending the FMCA GLAMA rally (GLAMARAMA) in June along with Joe and Mia Temples and another couple who live near them.  Mike and Kathy will not be coming, however, as Mike is not well.

Linda called to see if I was coming to the pool but it was too late in the day by that point.  I finished uploading the blog post for November 17 and then got ready for the official resort happy hour.

Friday’s at 5 PM is FGMCR Happy Hour at the clubhouse; BYOB and a dish to share.  Linda uncorked and then stoppered our bottle of Moscato and packed it along with two of our polycarbonate wine glasses, a container of caramelized onion hummus, and our container of Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We put on our FMCA National Education Committee name badges and I grabbed my RVillage Ambassador hat and we started walking to the clubhouse.  We got as far as Bill and Joan’s rig just as they were backing out.  They offered us a lift and we accepted.

The happy hour turned out to be more of a “carry in” (pot luck) and the only thing we could eat, besides the stuff we brought, was fruit salad.  Even so, we had our fill.  We had not tried the caramelized onion hummus before.  It was very good and reminded me of the California dip we used to make with Lipton onion soup mix.  We sat with Bill and Joan and two other couples; Artie and Carol from Rochester Hills, Michigan, and Bob and Sandy from Valparaiso, Indiana.  After we were done eating one of the residents provided some comic entertainment.  Apparently entertainment is not usually part of the happy hour event.  We would not be regulars if it was.

Like the Wednesday morning “coffee” at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, the happy hour was not what I was expecting and did not give us a chance to mingle and meet people other than the folks at our table.  Happy hour was over by 6:15 PM and many of us returned to our coaches while some stuck around to play poker or hand-in-foot.

Back at our rig I checked the inside of the driver side tag axle wheel for signs of an oil leak by looking under the coach between the passenger side drive axle and tag axle tires with a flashlight.  The wheel appeared to me to be dry and there was no sign of oil on the concrete.

Since we did not have a lot to eat at happy hour Linda made a simple mixed fruit salad for us.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, at least not on the stations we could receive at FGMCR.  We ended up watching a fundraiser presentation on PBS/Create about heart health that included food and fitness.  Most of the doctor’s advice about food was already known to us and some of it we disagreed with, based on what we have learned from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org, but we did find the five markers of metabolic syndrome interesting.  We were also reminded (confirmed) about the role of “white carbs” (simple sugars and highly processed carbohydrates like flours) in elevating triglycerides and cholesterol and contributing to the formation of plaque in the blood.  I was going to make popcorn, but after watching this program it did not feel right, somehow, and we went to bed popcornless.

 

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

2016/03/03 (R) Edison Ford Estates

Our plan for today was to visit two places in southwest Florida that we had not gotten to yet; the Edison Ford Estates in Fort Myers, and Sanibel/Captiva Islands.  As usual when we plan to leave early and be away from the coach for the day we did not make coffee or eat breakfast.  Linda walked down to Mara’s motorhome to tend to her cats while I took care of ours.  I then loaded the camera gear and a few other things in the car and drove down to Mara’s rig to pick up Linda.  We stopped at the local Bank of America ATM and then at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bagel for Linda.  (I had my vegan apricot bearclaw pastries from Publix.)  Suitably provisioned we headed down FL-31 to Fort Myers.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates.  Fort Myers, FL.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates. Fort Myers, FL.

The southern terminus of FL-31 is at FL-80.  From there it was about five miles (west) to the city limit of Ft. Myers.  We continued on FL-80 through downtown, which is an attractive and very upscale part of the city, to where it ends and turns into McGregor Boulevard.  Shortly after turning onto McGregor we pulled into the parking lot for the Edison Ford Estates complex at 9:30 AM.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights. Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison Ford Estates is a historical complex that preserves the winter estates of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford on the east bank of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida.  The Edison estate was named Seminole and the adjacent Ford Estate was named The Mangoes.  There are two identical houses on the Edison Estate and a more modest house on the Ford Estate.  Other buildings and structures include caretaker quarters, garages, a small office for Edison, a swimming pool, a cistern and water system, gardens, and lots of exotic trees.  When it was originally developed the Edison Estate included a pier that extended 1,500 feet out into the Caloosahatchee River.  It had trains and transport cars and was initially used to bring in all of the materials to build and landscape the Estate as these had to get to the site by ship.

Both men were workaholics and although they only used these estates for a few weeks in the winter they worked as well as socialized while here.  Indeed, Edison had a lab on the property where extensive work was done on trying to find a plant source of latex, the key material needed to make rubber, which could be quickly and easily grown in the U.S.  Edison and Ford, along with Harvey Firestone, formed a biological research company to finance this research, and presumably profit from any positive outcome.  Some 17,000 plants were tested and the one that emerged as most viable was Goldenrod.  Ford and Edison had almost 1,300 patents between them, and Edison is still the only person to have been awarded at least one U.S. patent every year for 65 contiguous years.  His greatest invention, however, could not be patented; the modern research and development laboratory.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates.  Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline.  Fort Myers, FL.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates. Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline. Fort Myers, FL.

We wrapped up our visit to the Edison and Ford winter estates at 2 PM and headed on down McGregor Boulevard, the boulevard of Royal Palms, towards Sanibel Island.  Our initial destination on the island was an organic vegan cafe named Sanibel Sprouts.  We did not have any trouble getting onto the island or getting to the restaurant but the traffic backed up to exit the island reminded us of our recent experience in the Florida Keys and was more than a bit concerning.

For lunch we split the Mexican salad.  The salad used a base of arugula, a dark leafy green with its own unique, slightly peppery taste that was very well suited to the dish.  A vegan “taco meat” mixed with ground walnuts added depth and texture, and a dressing with cumin tied it all together.  We then split an order of waffles which consisted of two waffles topped with strawberries and bananas and served with real maple syrup.  Both dishes were excellent and I asked the cook how the waffles were made.  She indicated that they used the King Arthur brand gluten-free general purpose baking flour (rice flour based), Earth Balance soy-based vegan butter substitute (5 scoops), almond milk, and vanilla flavored Stevia sweetener.  They were fluffy, light, crispy on the outside, and very tasty.  Yum.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway.  Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway. Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

After lunch we continued deeper into Sanibel Island.  We saw a sign for the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and pulled in.  There was a one-way road through a section of the Refuge but it was a “U. S. Fee Area” ($6 per car).  We checked to see if Linda’s Golden Access Pass was valid for entry.  It was, so we went in.  Although the skies had become overcast the drive through the Refuge was an unplanned event and an unanticipated treat.  We got see a variety of birds but the highlight included two different opportunities to see White Pelicans, one of which also included Roseate Spoonbills and other birds.  White Pelicans are the second largest bird in the continental U. S. (Behind the California Condor) with a wingspan of nine (9) feet.  We also saw a couple of alligators which surprised us as the water here is connected to the Gulf of Mexico.  Indeed, the tide was coming in while we were there.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff.  Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff. Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here. Fort Myers, FL.

From the end of the drive through the NWR we continued on to the north end of Sanibel Island and drove over the short bridge to Captiva Island.  We drove to the end of the road, turned around, and drove back.  There is a lot of “island commerce” on Sanibel Island.  Captiva Island, by comparison, is mostly residential, vacation rental, and resort properties.  Many of the homes were massive, elaborately landscaped costal properties.  I estimated that houses of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet were common, 5,000 to 6,000 square feet were numerous, and some of them had to be 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.  We tend to think of the really expensive real estate in Florida being in places like Naples, Marco Island, Miami Beach, and West Palm Beach, but it’s hard to imagine that any of them are more expensive than the island mansions we saw on Captiva Island.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida.  The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family.  This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan.  The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida. The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family. This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan. The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

The drive back down Captiva and Sanibel was smooth and flowed right along as far as the restaurant.  At that point we encountered the traffic backup we had seen coming in.  Traffic was not moving at all and people were pulling out of line and turning around.  Our map showed that there was an alternate way to get back to the causeway.  We suspected that the turn-arounds were locals who were headed that way so we decided to do that as well.  The traffic could not be worse and we would get to see a different part of the island.

That proved to be the case and we were only in a stop-and-go back up for about 10 minutes instead of the one-to-two hours I figured it would take if we stayed on Periwinkle Way.  We were off the island by 6:45 PM and headed back to the mainland on FL-867.  Fairly quickly we were on FL-865 headed more easterly but on a faster road.  We eventually got to US-41 (the Tamiami Trail) and headed north.  Not too far along I spotted a Panera and we stopped to get coffee.  We continued north as far as Colonial where we headed east to I-75.  From there it was five miles north to FL-80, three miles east to FL-31, and 36 miles north to our RV resort in Arcadia.

An alligator just shows its head (left center).  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

An alligator just shows its head (left center). J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

We got back to our coach at 8:10 PM.  Linda grabbed a flashlight and the keys for Mara’s rig and walked down to take care of her cats.  I unloaded the car and then took care of our cats.  I planned to check my e-mail and then settle in to watch our usual Thursday evening TV programs, but my computer and the scheduled programs altered my plan.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much.  Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one.  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much. Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one. J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

Our e-mail servers were not responding so I shut down my computer and all of our network/comm equipment and restarted everything in a specific order.  Disaster!  My computer would not log in and claimed to have missing authentication components.  This is the second time my ASUS laptop has crapped out since I upgraded it to Windows 10, and I was pretty unhappy about it.  At this point I do not have any confidence its stability, especially its update process, and think it was clearly not ready for release.  Unfortunately not upgrading really wasn’t an option.

I watched Charlie Rose on PBS followed by Tavis Smiley and a program on Black artists.  That was followed by This Old House and Ask TOH.  I think I restarted my computer several times before it finally “healed” itself and allowed me to log in.  With all of those TV programs as background I finished most of this post, off-loaded photos, and backed them up to the NAS.  I tried my e-mail again and was finally able to access it.  It was 2 AM when I finally went to bed, which had not been my plan when I got up this morning.

 

2016/03/01–02 (T–W) Politics and Nutpods

2016/03/01 (T) Super Tuesday Nutpods

Today was officially our fifth month away from home this winter; not full months, of course, but the fifth month by name nonetheless.  I got up briefly at 6:45 AM to add food to the cats’ bowls and went back to bed.  With less pestering from the cats we slept in longer than usual and did not get up until just before 8 AM.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online.  We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online. We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

I made coffee and tried the new Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that arrived yesterday.  To our mutual disappointment, it separated almost immediately.  I was able to blend it back in by stirring, but it would just separate again if I let it sit.  We were both disappointed.  The reviews of this product sang its praises and made special note of it not separating like other non-dairy creamers.  We bought four containers of it for $3.50 each, so I will use them up, but we won’t be buying any more of them.  What we both find odd is that we do not recall having this problem at home where I have used unflavored soy-based creamers for a long time.  The only obvious difference between the bus and the house is that we have a dishwasher (machine) at home, but neither of us think this is related to the mugs not being clean on the bus as they are washed in soapy hot water.

Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and a small glass of juice to wash down our vitamins.  After breakfast Linda went to Mara’s motorhome to take care of the morning cat chores and I settled in to work at my computer.  I dealt with BCM- and SLAARC-related e-mails and investigated why the ES|ET Smart Security 8 software on my ASUS notebook computer was apparently not synchronizing with the Windows 10 update function.  I discovered in the process that there was a Smart Security 9 upgrade available so before requesting technical support I installed the upgrade.

While the upgrade was downloading and installing I called Ed and Betty Burns and arranged to meet them for linner at Sweet Tomatoes on University Parkway in Sarasota at 3 PM.  We needed to drive to Petco for cat food anyway and the restaurant is just across the street.  Since they now live in Florida, no longer work at the Middleton’s berry farm north of Detroit during the summer, and have given up RVing (at least for now), we probably will not see them again any time soon and wanted to visit with them one more time before we left south(west) Florida for the season.

When Linda got back I turned off the outside water and tested the fresh water pump.  It appeared to be working normally, so I left the outside water off and we resumed using the pump.

I proofread yet another draft of the April issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and marked up a few final corrections to my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  Soon enough it was 1 PM and time to leave.

We stopped at the Shell station on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch and filled up the tank.  Regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) was $1.79 per gallon.  A week ago I bought fuel at this same station for $1.56 per gallon.  We arrived at the Petco, in the massive University Town Center shopping district, at 2:20 PM.  They were out of the exact food we needed (Royal Canin Sensitive Digest Thin Slices) but had the loaf form of the same food so we bought all nine cans of that.  That will be enough to get us past Mara and Michael’s return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.

We were at Sweet Tomatoes by 2:50 PM and had just started to go for a walk when Ed and Betty drove by, so we turned around and met them at the front door.  We were at the restaurant for almost two hours and had a good meal and a nice chat.  We talked about our upcoming travel plans and Ed and Betty, who have taken care of some important medical issues, indicated that they are thinking about getting a Class B or B+ motorhome or possibly a pull-behind RV.  There is an outside possibility that we might cross paths with them in the Canadian Maritime provinces over the summer.  Towards the end of our meal Ed and Janet Roelle showed up with Nathan.  We chatted briefly with them, said “fair well for now” to everyone, and headed back to Arcadia.

We stopped at the Publix supermarket on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch for a few grocery items we cannot get in Arcadia.  (It should be noted, however, that Publix is building a supermarket in Arcadia.)  We got back to our coach just before 6 PM and spent a few minutes with our cats, both of whom were very glad to see us and wanted our attention.  At 6:20 Linda walked down to take care of Mara’s cats and I walked down about 30 minutes later.  Linda had the TV on and “Super Tuesday,” with 11 states holding presidential primary elections, dominated the news cycle.  We walked back to our rig at 7:45 PM under dark, clear skies and bright stars.

We watched NCIS and NCISNOLA but Limitless was preempted by Super Tuesday election coverage so we found a documentary on PBS about the Statue of Liberty and watched that.  Linda fell asleep before it was over but it was followed by an equally interesting documentary on the public health hospital on Ellis Island that operated for nearly 30 years in the early 20th Century.

2016/03/02 (W) Windshield Caulk

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  While Linda tended to Mara’s cats I made a few changes to the ES|ET Smart Security 9 settings on my computer.  I then selected and processed three possible post card photos from last week and e-mailed them to Linda’s iPad.

When Linda got back from tending to Mara’s cats and motorhome she worked on creating this week’s photo post card for Madeline and uploaded it to the PhotoCardApp service in San Diego, California.  She then got to work on tax returns.  I finalized the bonus photo captions for the BCM featured bus article on Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion, uploaded everything to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the magazine staff to let them know it was there.

The motorhome that was next to us on the passenger side for most of the winter pulled out on Sunday.  On Monday the resort put another rig in that site.  It stayed for two nights and pulled out this morning.  We never even met the people.  Early this afternoon the resort brought in another rig, a 42 foot 5th-wheel being pulled by a suitably large pickup truck.  Phil, from the resort office, was the escort and parking attendant.  I popped out to see if I should move my car and Phil said it would help, so I backed deeper into our site and well out of the way.  It took some doing but Phil managed to get the rig backed into the site.

As long as I was outside I had several chores to take care of before we pull out of here on Monday and today seemed like a good day to take care of a couple of them.  I found some silicon spray lubricant and managed to pull the emergency breakaway key out of the lock on the front bumper of the car just far enough to spray some in.  I let it sit a minute and then wrapped what was left of the tethered cable around my hands and pulled hard enough to finally get it to come out.  With the key out I sprayed the inside of the lock and on the key and then inserted and removed the key several times.  I sprayed a bit more, put the key back in, and let it sit.

Our new neighbor was outside setting up their rig so we got to meet him.  His name was also Phil and his wife’s name was Marylou.  Phil was retired from the U. S. Army and they recently became full-time RVers.  We chatted briefly and met their two adorable Dachshunds.  We let them get back to the task of setting up camp and moved on to my second chore, which required Linda’s assistance.

The other day I pulled the caulking out from between the new passenger side lower windshield and the new windshield gasket.  I let it sit a couple days to see if the gasket would reform to the glass as a result of warm temperatures and hot sunshine.  It didn’t, so I got the tube of black caulk I found the other day and got it ready to use.  I used the small 3-step stool to get high enough to work and Linda prepared several wet paper shop towels.  I applied the caulk, which is designed for window trimming and should work with glass, to the gap between the windshield and the gasket.  Linda held the windshield wiper out of the way while I worked and handed me the wet paper towels as needed.  I did not do a very good job but hopefully it was good enough to keep the windshield from leaking water and prevent wind noise.  The caulk was water cleanup, so that made it easy to take care of putting everything away.

By 4 PM the outside air temperature was about 80 degrees F with a nice breeze, scattered clouds, and a hot sun.  That made for very pleasant conditions outside in the shade, but inside it was 85 in spite of having the windows open and the exhaust fans running.  Linda went outside to read and I was having a problem getting my laptop to connect to the NAS so I shut off my computer and the NAS and went outside to join her.

As we move towards spring we have the sun on our windshields for more of the day and are now getting the late afternoon sun on the passenger side of our motorcoach.  Linda commented that if we ever buy an RV lot somewhere she wants it oriented and/or landscaped so the passenger side of the coach is always in shade.  Duly noted and agreed.

I worked on this blog post for a while using the new MobiSystems OfficeSuites app.  Now that I have figured out how to use it with Dropbox, and have learned how to create folders and move files, I am satisfied with how it works and might go ahead and spend the $19.99 for the full-featured “Premium” version.  Not that I am using most of the features of the free version, but why limit myself.

We skipped lunch today and by 4:30 PM Linda was hungry so she went inside to prepare our dinner.  I played a few games on my iPad and when the sun dropped below our patio awning and obscured my screen I went inside.  Linda had just set our salads on the table so it was good timing.  She made large salads with a kale and spinach base and lots of yummy toppings including sliced fresh apples.  She put our monthly dose of four Brazil Nuts on the side and served still water with half of a Meyer lemon squeezed into each glass.  I eat faster than Linda does so I packed up our computers and iPads and loaded them in the car while she finished her dinner.

When Linda was done eating we grabbed our smartphones and drove over to the activity building.  Dominoes and pinochle are scheduled on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM in the main room, but the library was not scheduled for use so we set up our technology in there.  We got both computers, both iPads, and both smartphones connected to the resort Wi-Fi system and then connected through to the Internet.  I had ~300 MB of app updates for my iPad and Linda had ~425 MB of app updates for hers.  I had six app updates on my phone and Linda had three.  Those tend to be smaller than the iPad updates but probably totaled another 200 MB combined.  We both had critical updates for Windows 10 and have no idea how many MB they were since Windows 10 does not think that is information the end user needs to know.  People using limited data plans, however, probably differ with Microsoft on this point.

Folks started showing up for the games at 6 PM and they were underway by 6:30.  Linda’s devices were all up-to-date by then so she walked over to Mara’s motorhome for her evening cat chores.  I finished up with my updates by 6:45, packed up our tech toys (tools), and drove back to our rig.

Wednesday night is PBS nature and science night for us and the theme this evening was space exploration.  But first we had to get tuned in to the results of yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary elections.  After three hours of space exploration documentaries Linda went to bed while I watched Charlie Rose.  He had four guests, two from each end of the political spectrum, and they provided their analysis of the current presidential candidate race, to the extent that anyone understands what is going on.  Reassured that the world really is in chaos, and that the American electorate has crossed the boundary into collective insanity, I went to sleep.

 

2016/02/25-29 (R – M) Sand Castle Stallions Port

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

We were up at 6:30 AM this morning and did not have coffee or breakfast.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 7 AM and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  Our destination was an endodontic office in Lakewood Ranch were Mara had an 8 AM appointment for a root canal procedure.  As we were coming into town Michael spotted a Dunkin Donuts.  Location duly noted.  I pulled up to the office building at 7:55 and we all went in.

The endodontist said the procedure would take about an hour.  Michael stayed to wait for Mara while Linda and I drove back to the DD for coffee and something to eat.  The DD was in a small shopping plaza next to a Shell station so I topped off the car’s fuel tank before we topped off ours’.  I bought regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $1.56 per gallon.  We were getting ready to leave DD when Mara texted Linda that she would be longer than originally thought.  The tooth needed a filling and the dental practice next door just had a cancellation and could take her right away.  That was fortunate for Mara as she and Michael are leaving on Saturday for a week long cruise.  She also wasn’t sure she could get in to see her dentist before July, which was much too long of a time to rely on the temporary filling the endodontist had put in place.

With Mara’s dental needs taken care of we headed west on FL-70 to I-75 south to Exit 207 and then west to US-41.  A short jog to the right (north) and back to the left and we were on Siesta Key Drive headed west to the island of Siesta Key.  We drove through the town, which was very quaint (upscale trendy, actually) and found a place to park with public access to the beach.  The Siesta Key beach is very fine white sands, reputed to be the finest and whitest of any beach in Florida.  We walked quite a ways south from our entry point past the main public entrance and numerous lifeguard stands, all of which were staffed.  The wind was strong and the waves were high and I took a few photos.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach.  Siesta Key, FL.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key, FL.

When we got back to the car we exited the island via the southern bridge and drove down US-41 to Venice.  We found a parking spot, which is not easy in Venice, and walked around the historic downtown area, which is now a mix of quaint and upscale shopping and lots of places to eat.  It is a very attractive area but there were a lot of people there.

We were just window shopping when we walked past the TableTop store.  As the name suggests, they sell a wide variety of products used to set a dining table.  We looked around to see if they had plastic wine glasses but did not see any.  We were just about to leave when we spotted one.  It was smaller than we wanted so we asked if they had others.  They did, we just did not see them!  They were not plastic, however, but were made of polycarbonate.  That’s the same material used for contact lens blanks and motorcycle visors.  It felt heavy duty and had a slight bluish cast.  The sales associate assured us that they could be cleaned in a dishwasher and would not discolor, craze, or crack, and will not break even if dropped on concrete (although we do not intend to test that claim).  We bought four of them at $15 each.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

When we had seen enough of Venice we returned to the car and drove a short distance to Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis for linner.  I had the veggie (vegan) burger and Linda had the vegan beet Rueben.  Mara had the stir-fry noodle dish, which both of us have had before, and Michael had the Chana Masala.  Our waiter, by his own admission, was having an off day but the food was good and we took our time enjoying it.

When we were done with our meal we were also done exploring for the day and I drove us back to Arcadia.  On the drive back we discussed plans for tomorrow, which included Solomon’s Castle in the late morning, Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in the mid-afternoon, some before and after errands, and a picnic lunch.  Back at the RV Resort we dropped Michael and Mara at her RV and then returned to ours.  We watched our Thursday night CBS TV programs and had some popcorn later in the evening.  We headed to bed at 11 PM, watched a few minutes of Charlie Rose, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

Our two main attractions today were Solomon’s Castle, near Ono, Florida and Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions near Myakka City, Florida.  Both locations were within 25 miles of Arcadia and each other, so we did not have to endure an excessive amount of car travel.

We picked up Mara and Michael at 10:15 AM, stopped at the local Wells Fargo bank branch, and then headed west out of town.  At the edge of town we headed north on FL-661 towards Ono.  We turned onto CR-665 and five miles later turned off onto Salomon Road to the parking lot of Solomon’s Castle.  We had the address in the GPS, but there were occasional old hand-painted signs confirming the route.  We arrived just before 11 AM, when the “castle” opens for tours, but the parking lot was already crowded.  We bought our tickets for the 11:30 tour and then strolled around the part of the grounds between the parking lot and the castle while we waited.  Horse Creek runs through the property, much of which was wet.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

Solomon’s Castle was built by, and is still the home of, Henry Solomon and his wife.  Henry, who is about to turn 81, is an artist who has been creating art objects for 76 years.  Much of the main floor of the castle is an art museum, although the walking tour includes the living room and kitchen.  Other living spaces are on the second floor and were not part of the tour.  There is also a guest bedroom available to rent for $125 per night but I do not recall if an overnight stay included breakfast.  There is, however, a scale “replica” of the Santa Maria that houses part of the onsite cafe and is run by Solomon’s daughter and her husband, who live in a separate house on the property.

Solomon’s Castle and his art are quirky.  Although we did not get to meet him, we came away with an image of his sense of humor, and caught a glimpse of him in his workshop while we were walking the grounds after the tour.  Solomon works in a variety of materials but mostly metal and wood, and mostly with discarded scrap materials including food cans, beer cans, and parts/pieces of automobiles.  I took quite a few photos while we were there.  I don’t know what our son’s professional opinion of Solomon’s corpus would be, but some of his pieces were interesting and we had to respect the sheer quantity of work he has produced.  He seemed to have a particular interest in Picasso, copying several of the master’s works in wood montage.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

From the castle we continued north on CR-665 up to FL-64, the Florida Cracker Trail, and then west about five miles to Wauchula Road where we headed south to Myakka City.  At FL-70 in Myakka City we headed east about 1/2 mile and pulled in to a local park on the north side of the road that affronted the west bank of the Myakka River.  The picnic tables were all bolted to the concrete slabs that served as the floors of the open-sided shelters so we ate our lunch in the shade.  The air temperature was in the mid-60’s, and there was a breeze, so we ate with our jackets on.

After lunch we headed west on FL-70 to the other side of Myakka City were we turned south on Singletary Road.  About seven miles down we found the entrance to the Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School complex.  Hermann’s is the home of a group of Lipizzaner horses that tour North America.  The original horses were part of the 500 Austrian Royal Lipizzaner horses rescued by General George Patton at the end of World War II.  Gabby Hermann is the matriarch of the current operation and the original horses were brought to the USA by her father.  The Lipizzaner horse was first bred in Austria in 1565 from Arabian and Andalusian stock.  Six lines were produced and new Arabian and Andalusian stock have been included in the breeding since that time to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training.  Myakka City, FL.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training. Myakka City, FL.

Hermann’s has open rehearsals (performances) every Thursday and Friday at 3 PM and Saturday at 10 AM when they are not touring, weather permitting.  These are not “dress rehearsals” as the houses and riders are not fully costumed the way they would be for a show while on tour.  They do, however, put the horses through all of their maneuvers.  The rehearsals take place in an open air arena connected to the nearby stables with a pair of gated fences.  There are bleachers on the two long sides of the arena and visitors also bring lawn chairs and set them up on three sides of the arena.  We arrived around 2:15 PM and there were already people there.  Admission was a $5 “donation” per person, but it was not optional.  It was well worth the price, however, and we made an extra contribution at the end of the show.

We secured good seats in the last row of the one of the bleachers at the top of the stairs with our backs to the sun.  That allowed us an unobstructed view for photography with light from a good direction.  It was a good thing we got there early.  Six fully-loaded tour buses showed up after we got there along with lots of passenger cars.  The bleachers were packed and the lawn chairs were at least two deep around the fence.  After the show we walked over to see the 17 day old colt and walk through the stables.  I took photos and also snapped a few shots of the tour buses after chatting with the driver of a 2016 Prevost H3-45 with a beautiful deep purple paint scheme.  I would sure like to have one of those to convert.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School.  Myakka City, FL.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School. Myakka City, FL.

When we were done at Hermann’s we drove back to Arcadia and stopped at Walgreens before returning to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort.  We spent a little time at Mara’s motorhome so she could walk Linda through the various cat and RV chores that needed to be taken care off during the next week.  With that done we stopped at the mail room.  We had a slip in our mail slot that there was a package for us in the office but it was after 5 PM and the office was closed.  We figured it was the shipment of Nutpods vegan coffee creamer but we would not be able to pick it up until Monday as we would not be around during office hours on Saturday and the office is closed on Sundays.

For dinner Linda made lentil potato burritos using various leftover ingredients that we wanted/needed to use up.  I opened the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine, using the cork puller that Mara gave us the other night, and we had some for dessert.  We were both tired so we watched some TV, including the first of three episodes of a new Masterpiece Mystery series named Silk about barristers in England.  We did not watch the second episode as we had to be up early in the morning and it was going to end too late.

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

We were up at 6:30 AM and left at 7 AM for Dunkin Donuts where we got something to eat and a couple of large half-caffe coffees.  As planned, we were back at Mara’s motorhome at 7:30 AM.  By 7:45 we had Michael, Mara, and their luggage onboard and were on our way to the cruise ship terminals at the Port of Miami some three plus hours distant.

The GPS wanted us to go south on FL-31 but we had already decided we would take FL-70 east to US-27 and then take that south/southeast as far as I-75.  We stopped at a Marathon station in South Bay to use the restrooms and let Mara and Michael get some coffee.  We headed east on I-75 to its end point at MM 0 and then followed whatever roads the GPS told us to use to get to Port Miami.  When we were almost to the Port we deviated from the GPS and took the tunnel under the water to get to the cruise ship terminals rather than exit the highway and use the bridge.  There was some temporary confusion, and minor tension, surrounding this but soon enough we ended up at Terminal F where the MSC Divina was docked.

Traffic was heavy and chaotic, but we found a spot at the curb and got them unloaded.  A quick handshake and a hug and we were on our way.  I never cease to be appalled at the incredibly pour traffic engineering we encounter at major transportation terminals.  We did get a stunning view of the skyscrapers that dominate the downtown Miami skyline, but after a bit of driving around we managed to escape the island via the bridge and I was glad to be clear of the area.

Linda had researched vegan friendly eateries last night and selected one called The Kitchen.  It was near Miami International Airport, not too far from Port Miami, and basically in the direction we needed to travel to return to Arcadia.  She put the address in the GPS and we enjoyed a slow, late Saturday morning, drive through downtown Miami.  We arrived around 11:30 and there were only a couple of other diners there.  As is often the case, it was a slightly funky little place, but it had an entirely vegan menu with lots of interesting options.

The Kitchen is, in fact, the prep facility for a chain of local eateries, and plenty of other customers showed up while we were there.  We had the tacos, which included plantains, and the nachos.  The tacos were good, especially the plantains, but the nachos were outstanding.  Both were made with vegan chorizo sausage.  The nachos had a base of blue corn chips with beans, tomatoes, salsa, and cashew cream.  It was also a big serving.  For dessert we each had a coconut date ball and a gobi berry chocolate brownie.  Yum.  The Kitchen was a bit pricey but most of the ingredients were organic and the food was fresh and very tasty so we felt it was good value for the money.

We left at 12:30 PM and I turned the wrong way leaving the parking lot.  It turned out we were on US-27 headed north so we stayed with that choice.  The GPS wanted to put us on the Interstate/Tollroads but we knew that eventually it would put us back on US-27.  There was a lot of traffic and frequent traffic signals, but we eventually got clear of the developed urban area.  Not too far out we stopped at a roadside park with an airboat operation and switched drivers.  Linda told me later that I napped for about an hour but my experience of the situation was that I nodded off and woke up repeatedly because of neck discomfort.

We got back to our RV resort around 3:45 PM and stopped at the mail room on the way in where I retrieved a box of magazines from BCM.  The 3 PM Mardi Gras parade had just ended but some of the decorated golf carts and masked participants were still hanging around the activity building.  I made a mental note that the Mardi Gras dinner started at 7:30 PM and we returned to our rig.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our local network online.  I opened the box of magazines to see what was inside and e-mailed Gary to let him know what I received.  Linda needed to attend to Mara’s cats, Maui and Sabra, and we both had several updates pending on our iPads and smartphones.  We packed up the iPads and walked to the activity building where I set up our technology in the library while Linda went on to Mara’s Bounder to tend to her cats.

I got both iPads and both smartphones connected to the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system, which can only be picked up at/near the activity building (which includes the office, lanai, library, dining room/kitchen, card room, and laundry room).  The best reception is outside in front of the building, as the antenna is on the peak of the roof ridge at the front gable, but the reception in the lanai and library is very usable.  There was one other person there using the Wi-Fi but she left shortly after I arrived.

The updates for our iPads took 500 MB and the smartphone updates took at least another 250 MB, so it was at least a 0.75 GB update session.  Our 12 GB monthly Verizon data plan works out to about 0.4 GB per day, on average, so we are trying to do our updates using the park Wi-Fi and save our data plan for web searches, document/photo uploads/downloads, and other work we want and/or need to do from our motorcoach.

While I was updating our devices Linda got a text message from Mara and I was able to watch the latest OK Go video and play a few games.  Kate sent me the link a week ago and I was waiting for a chance to use the resort Wi-Fi when there were few, if any, other users.  I also downloaded the latest issue of The Gypsy Journal digital edition.

When I was done I packed up and walked over to Mara’s rig.  Linda exchanged text messages with Mara.  She and Michael are on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise for the first time.  They had finished the opening session with Jessica Porter and Neal Barnhard, M.D. and enjoyed it very much.  They had just sat down to dinner and we’re excited about that too.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and recalled what it was like for us the first time we went on this cruise.  Linda packed up a few things to bring back to our coach.  Mara made Broccoli salad last night and there was a lot left over that she wanted us to eat.

It cooled off quickly after the sun set and the overnight low was forecast to be 42 degrees F.  We closed up the coach and then had some of Mara’s broccoli salad along with vegan Italian “sausage” for dinner.  We finished the Barefoot Moscato wine, had a few grapes for dessert, and settled in to watch some TV programs on the local PBS channels before going to bed.  We had spent 7 hours driving/riding in the car today and we were tired.

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

It was cool in the coach this morning and I stayed in bed, under the covers, with the electric heating pad on, until after 7:30 AM.  The cats were persistent, however, and I finally got up and took care of their needs.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the zone control thermostats for the bathroom and the kitchen/living area and the electric toe-kick heater for the front of the bus.  Linda got up at 8 AM as I was making coffee.

We had granola for breakfast, after which Linda packed up her laptop computer and gathered up papers related to work she needed to do.  She took the car and drove to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats and then work there.  She did not need to be online and figured the cats would appreciate the company, or at least get more accepting her presence and attention if she spent some quiet, extended time there.  I stayed at our rig to catch up on draft blog posts and attend to our cats.

Last week I downloaded the free version of an app called “OfficeSuite (Free) Mobile + PDF” and have been using it to write the drafts of my recent blog posts.  It works at least as well as the native iPad Notes app, better in my opinion (so far), and creates a native docx format Word document.  It also works with various cloud services.  Hypothetically that should save me the steps of e-mailing it to myself, selecting/copying the text from the e-mail, pasting it into a blank Word doc, and then cleaning up all of the junk caused by the Note app, which is considerable (numerous calendar hyperlinks).  I say hypothetically because I have not yet set up or tested the cloud sync feature.  That was on my “to do” list for today.

Around 11:30 AM it was getting warm in the coach under mostly sunny skies.  I opened windows and roof vents and then put out all of the awnings. I continued working on my blog posts from the last four days and was finally ready to upload one of them via a cloud service.  We have a Dropbox account but we also have OneDrive accounts as part of the Windows 10 OS on our notebook computers.  I don’t normally use OneDrive but I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.

I set up the credentials to allow the app to connect to the OneDrive account attached to my OS login.  I then tried to move or copy the Word docx file for Wednesday’s blog post from “current files” to the OneDrive under Network locations but the OfficeSuites app would not give me the OneDrive account as an option.  I checked the Help screens for information to assist me but could not find anything pertaining to this specific problem.  The app has Pro and Premium upgrades available ($ and $$) but the feature chart indicated that interfacing to all five of the different cloud services was included in the Free version.  Rather than waste time on this I called David Aungier to let him know there was an updated version of his featured bus article in a folder in my Dropbox and then kept working on draft blog posts.

At 1 PM I was getting ready to walk over to Mara’s rig to get the shower supplies from Linda when she returned in the car.  We have been able to avoid removing the cats’ litter box from our shower by using the showers at the building by the swimming pool.  That also keeps the shower water out of our grey water tank, allowing us to go more days between dumps.  I got my towel and the soap from Linda and walked over to the shower house.

When I got back from my shower I trimmed my beard and shaved.  It had probably been at least a month since my last beard trim and I was starting to look a bit scruffy.  All cleaned up and feeling refreshed I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then returned to the issue of getting the OfficeSuites app to sync with one of my cloud services.  It appeared that Dropbox might be the best choice so I established the connection to that account.  Voilà!  I was finally able to copy a local Word file to the folder I had previously set up in my Dropbox for blog post documents.

I proceeded to finish each post in turn and copied it to the Dropbox folder which immediately uploaded it to the cloud server.  I checked my ASUS notebook computer to make sure the document had made it to the local hard drive.  It had, which meant I could move it to where I keep the draft posts and start editing it directly.  This was a big deal for me as I expect it to streamline the blogging process.

As I was working on all of this I realized that I had told Gary at BCM that I would review and comment on an article he had received from Lloyd DeGerald and would try to get it back to him by Sunday evening.  Lloyd is a highly experienced, factory-trained, Webasto / Aqua-Hot service and repair technician and has worked on our Aqua-Hot in the past.  His article was basically a terse service procedure consisting of a numbered list of steps.  There were some things that I was not clear about so I added comments and highlighted them in yellow.  I got the document e-mailed back to Gary, with answers to several questions he had asked, just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.

Dinner was an improvised dish of red beans and rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and kale.  I added a little extra Tabasco hot sauce to mine and it was a very good dish.  After dinner Linda did the dishes and then we walked over to Mara’s motorhome, by way of the garbage trailer, to tend to the evening cat and rig chores.  Maui stayed out long enough to get up on the hassock and show some interest in me.  I let her smell my hand but when I tried to pet her head she swatted at me.  Too much, too soon.  She played with a cat toy that Linda shook around, ate her dinner, and disappeared into the bedroom.  Sabra stayed out the whole time we were there, ate her dinner, and chased feathers that Linda moved around.

We walked back to our rig before 8 PM and watched a special about the Manners of Downton Abby on PBS.  The overnight low was forecast at 54 degrees F so we closed the roof vents but did not close the coach windows all the way before turning in for the night.

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

Last night was the Academy Awards but we did not watch the show.  We had not seen any of the films and were more interested in a pair of specials on the Manners of Downton Abby about the role of the show’s historical consultant whose job it has been to make sure all of the actors were as authentic as possible in their speech and mannerisms.

We got up this morning between 7:30 and 8 AM, which seems to have become our norm of late unless we have an outing planned that requires an early departure.  We had our usual coffee followed by granola with blueberries for breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a bit and I finished my blog post for yesterday and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  Linda noted that today was February 29th.  In a month that is usually two to three days shorter than all the others it was like having a bonus day.  I also enjoy the relative rarity of the event.

At 9:30 AM Linda packed up her computer and papers and walked over to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats.  She planned to stay and work a while and was expecting a call from Dave at the bakery around 10 AM.  I finished my coffee, got dressed, and settled in to work at my computer.

When Linda returned we walked to Walmart for a few grocery items before it got too warm outside.  When we got back and had the groceries put away, we reconfigured the back of the car.  After Mara’s arrival, but prior Michael’s arrival, we had reconfigured the back of the car.  We had removed one of the rear seats and put the other rear seat down so Mara could go places with us.  Most of the stuff went back in the car but in order to store the removed seat in the front bay of the bus and make room for some of the stuff from the car we had moved the air compressor and two of the four chassis stands to the passenger side engine bay.

Just prior to Michael’s arrival we reconfigured the back of the car again as we now needed four seats.  To keep our stuff out of sight and protect it from the weather we bought a small tent, set it up behind the bus, and put everything in it.

When Mara and Michael return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise on Saturday Michael is going to rent a car to and get them back to Arcadia from Miami.  He will be sticking around for another four weeks and they will need a car for most of that time as we are leaving Big Tree Carefree RV Resort a week from today.  So today we put both rear seats back up, emptied out the storage tent, reloaded the car, and repacked the front bay of the bus.

As long as we were working outside I stripped out the bad silicone caulk between the new passenger side lower windshield and the gasket.  I found a different product in one of our parts and supplies tubs and got it out.  I did not apply it, however, as I wanted to let the rubber gasket relax and hopefully reform to the glass.  In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that the Safelite installers did not know what they were doing.

It was a sunny day and by early afternoon the air temperature was 80 degrees F, so we put on our swimming suits and walked over to the pool.  We stopped at the office to retrieve our package of Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer and put it in the mail room until later.  After a nice soak and vitamin D treatment we showered, changed into dry clothes, and walked back to the mail room to retrieve our Nutpods package and other mail.  Being the last day of the month our electric bill was there along with an invitation to the Michigan reunion lunch scheduled for July 14 in Concord, Michigan.  The Resort does have a strong sense of community, and people take that back to their home states/provinces when the leave.

I had a text message from Kerry Fear requesting payment for snowplowing services for February.  Linda wrote a check and got it ready to mail.

For dinner Linda made stuffed poblano peppers and pan-grilled them.  (We do not travel with an outdoor grill, either propane or charcoal.)  The stuffing was rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan sour cream, cumin seeds, and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese.  So good.  We had some Barefoot Riesling wine after dinner and fresh mixed fruit salad (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries) for dessert.  I really like the way we eat.

After dinner we watched our usual PBS news programs followed by our usual CBS entertainment shows.  I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.  I was getting ready for bed and turned on the fresh water pump.  It normally runs briefly to build up pressure and then shuts off.  This time it just kept running.  That meant one of two things: either there was an opening in the system (faucet or leak), or the demand pressure sensor was not working.  I shut it off, put my sweats and Crocs back on, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to investigate.

It was almost midnight but there was plenty of light from the resort street lamps.  I checked both sides of the utility bay and did not see any sign of a leak other than the small drip from the fill valve packing nut.  I turned on the shore water supply and opened the valves to allow it to flow through the softener to the coach.  Once the lines and softener were filled and pressurized I did not hear any further water flow, so I was somewhat confident that we did not have a leak in the system.  I left the outside water turned on so we could flush the toilet and run water to wash our hands.

Back inside I wrote a sticky note not to turn on the water pump and stuck it on the toilet seat.  Linda woke up right after I finally got to bed so I was able to tell her in person, but the note was still a good reminder.  I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Tom Waters of Pink Floyd and then went to sleep. February 2016 had been a very busy, but very satisfying month for us.

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/21 (N) Punta Gorda

Our destination today was Punta Gorda.  We arranged last night to pick up Mara and Michael at 9 AM and stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  As a result we slept in a bit and did not make coffee or have breakfast.  I stopped at the Shell Station to top off the fuel tank and then pulled into the DD next door.  Coffee and food in hand we headed to downtown Arcadia on FL-70 and then headed south on US-17 to Punta Gorda.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Mara had researched things to see and do and entered them into the “Map My Plans” app on her iPad.  The app can arrange them in the best order (shortest driving distance) to visit.  Our first stop was an historic train station from 1928 that is now a local history museum.  It was closed on Sunday’s, but we got to see the outside.  Our next stop was an open air arts and crafts market near the Convention Center.  We saw this market last month, when we visited the Woodcarvers Expo at the Convention Center, and it was there again today so we stopped.  Mara bought some earrings and Linda bought an apron.  There was also a husband-wife guitar group playing some very interesting original music that seemed to be of derivative Spanish influence.  They were selling CDs, and I am always tempted to buy one from groups like this as I would likely never find them anywhere else again.  But I didn’t.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station.  Punta Gorda, FL.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station. Punta Gorda, FL.

From the arts and crafts market we drove to the farmers’ market.  We also visited this market in January and really liked it.  The same vendors were there so we were able to buy some more Miatake mushrooms and some Sweet Hot pickles.  Linda also bought a selection of fruits and vegetables.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

From the farmers market we drove to Ponce de Leon Park and visited the Peace River Wildlife Refuge.  This was also our second visit to this facility, which has an interesting collection of injured birds who are at least living out their lives in comfort and safety.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL.  Most of the cars were General Motors products.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL. Most of the cars were General Motors products.

After our visit to the refuge we drove to an alligator preserve but it was closed.  We back-tracked a short distance to the Muscle Car Museum.  Though not free, we paid the nominal admission charge and spent a couple hours examining a very large and very nice collection of Chevy cars and trucks.  Among others they had a couple of 1957 Belairs and a couple of 1967 Cameros.

 

 

 Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair.  He had one very similar to this when he was in high school.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair. He had one very similar to this when he was in high school. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Neither of us are particularly nostalgic about our youth, or any other part of our past for that matter, but I had a 1957 Belair my last three years in high school (in the late 60s) that I customized.  It was not a muscle car but it was candy apple red and it was mine.  Linda’s first car after she graduated from high school and started working was a 1967 Camero.  It was a white convertible with a red interior and a 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood.  It had an automatic transmission, and was not a muscle car, but it was powerful and we took it to from St. Louis, Missouri to Colorado and back on our two-week camping honeymoon right after we got married.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero.  It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero. It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

We discussed finding a restaurant in Punta Gorda for linner but Mara and Linda did not turn up anything promising.  I set the GPS and started back to our RV resort.  In less than an hour we were back and dropped Mara and Michael at her rig before returning to ours.

Back at the coach we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and checked our e-mail.  Gary had sent the first draft of the April 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine for me to proofread.  I went through my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion and started annotating corrections.  I will need to go through it again with the original open for comparison but I was too tired to do that today.

For dinner Linda sautéed the Miatake mushrooms in EVOO with garlic, onion, and Egri Merlot.  She also cooked a spaghetti squash, set out some black grapes, and poured out the remainder of the Merlot, which was left over from last night’s dinner.  This was only the second time we have had Miatake mushrooms and it is difficult to describe in words how exquisitely good they are in terms of taste, texture, sight, and smell.  We agreed that they were the best mushrooms we have ever had.

After dinner I connected the Sony a99v-DSLT to my computer and off-loaded the 105 pictures I took today.  I looked through them quickly but did not see anything that I thought would make a good postcard for Madeline.  My computer seemed to be working again so I backed up photos, blog posts, BCM files, and other files to our NAS.  I tried to access the Backup and Security components in Windows 10 and it appeared they had been restored to proper operation.  I checked for updates and the system said it was up-to-date.  ES|ET Smart Security is still telling me I have 17 updates and most of them appear to be drivers related to the computer hardware and low level system functions.  I need to contact ES|ET and ask them about what this actually means and how to resolve it.

We were going to walk over after dinner and visit with Mara and Michael but all four of us were tired and took a pass.  We watched Father Brown on PBS, the Simpsons and something else on FOX, and then Downton Abbey on PBS.  Linda headed off to bed after Downton Abbey and I watched the end of CSI: Cyber.

 

2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

We got up, showered, got dressed, and went down to breakfast around 8 AM.  We were packed, checked out, and had the car loaded by 9 AM.  We headed north on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, exited at some miles later, and headed west.  FL-94 ended at FL-997 where we headed north.  In looking at a map later, we would probably have been better off to get on FL-997 right from the hotel.  There was major road construction on FL-997 all the way to US-41, but traffic moved along at the 50 MPH posted speed limit.

At US-41 we headed west.  This is Miccosukee Indian territory, as indicated by the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming facility (Casino) at the NW corner of Fl-997 and US-41.  A short way to the west this stretch of US-41 (the Tamiami Highway between Tampa and Miami) is bordered by Everglades National Park on the south and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area on the north.  It eventually leaves both of these and runs through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We pulled in to the ENP entrance for the Shark Valley Visitor Center and immediately and got stuck in the line of cars waiting to get in.  The parking lot had filled a few cars ahead of us and it was now a one car out, one car in situation.

Once we were in we checked out the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower seven miles one way due south into the Everglades.  It was a two (2) hour narrated round-trip and cost $24 per person ($19 for seniors).  You can hike or bike out to the tower for free (after gaining admission to the NP).  We did not have that much time so we walked part way down the road along an open channel of water about 15 feet wide and found lots of wildlife photo opportunities, including birds, a large turtle, and alligators.  The most interesting thing we saw was a cluster of at least a dozen young alligators, ranging from one to two feet in length, piled up on top of one another.

A little farther west we left US-41 and drove a small 2-lane road for 38 miles.  The first half was paved and the second half was good gravel.  It was a lovely, slow drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 MPH and a few nature photo opportunities along the way.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

After rejoining US-41 we continued west through the Big Cypress National Preserve as far as FL-29 with Everglades NP once again on our left.  We then headed south through Everglades City and re-entered the park.  The Gulf Coast Visitor Center was very small and did not have the ENP shirts we had seen at the Flamingo Visitor Center and were now hoping to buy.  The vendor operated gift store did not have them either.  The only things you can do from this point in the park are explore the NW coastal portions by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat.  We did not have time for any of that on this quick visit so we pulled up the address for our RV park in the GPS unit and pushed on.

We had a better look at Everglades City on the way out of town and decided that it was an interesting looking little place.  A traveling carnival of some considerable size was setting up in the middle of town, literally.

Back at US-41 we continued west as we were still somewhat east of the north-south line through Arcadia.  The only other route home from here would take us north on FL-29 and then back east on I-75 and eventually back through LaBelle and up the west side of Lake Okeechobee.  That would be a much longer trip and it was already starting to feel like it had been a long day.

We left US-41 at Collier Blvd. and traveled north about seven miles to I-75 north.  Traffic was heavy, congested, and stop-n-go initially but eventually freed up.  We traveled about 39 miles to exit 141 at Ft. Myers and headed east a few miles to FL-31.  Our final 38 miles were straight north to Arcadia where FL-31 ends at FL-70 just west of our RV resort.

From the Shell station in Arcadia on Tuesday morning to our coach at 5:45 PM today we put 919.4 miles on the car’s trip odometer.  The speedometer on the car reads slightly high, probably because the tires are not factory original specifications, so our actual mileage may have been slightly less by about one mile for every 60 miles traveled.  That would be approximately 15 miles for our trip, making the actual mileage perhaps 905 for the four days, for an average of 225 to 230 miles per day.  That’s a lot of driving, but the purpose of our trip was to get a first glimpse at a lot of south Florida that we had not seen before.

We brought a few things in from the car, spent some time with our cats, and then visited with Ron and Vera (who did not even realize we were gone), before walking over to Mara’ rig for dinner.  Mara made a pot of vegan chili and a wonderful salad which we enjoyed with a glass of her favorite Malbec.  We talked about our trip, how the kitties did in our absence, and discussed the logistics of Michael’s upcoming visit.  We returned to our coach around 9:15 PM, finished unloading the car, unpacked a few things, adored our cats, and relaxed with our iPads for an hour before going to bed.

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

I was up at 7:30 AM, partially prepped the coffee, and then unpacked clothes and hung them up or put them in the laundry hamper.  Linda got up sometime after, after which I ground the coffee beans and finished making our morning coffee.

We noticed last night that a few folks had things sitting out in their front yards suggestive of a garage sale.  This morning there was quite a bit of commotion outside and we noticed several yards just from our rig with lots of stuff sitting out on tables and/or the ground.  Clearly Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was having an official yard sale event today.

We had granola for breakfast and then strolled through the resort.  Based on one comment we overheard we got the impression that the yard sale might have started yesterday but there was still lots of stuff available.  We are not yard sale people, as a rule, and our real destination was the laundry room.  Most of the parking spaces were taken but the room was empty and none of the machines were in use.  We walked back to our coach, loaded our laundry, computers, and iPads in the car, and drove over to the laundry room.

I got the laundry into a washing machine while Linda got her computer going and connected to the park Wi-Fi system.  I then started my computer and got online.  Her computer screen came up dark.  It has done this many times in the past, but not recently.  We think it may be related to the battery, but we are not sure.

Our main reason for bringing our computers over was to download our e-mails from the last four days.  BCM, in particular, has a habit of sending me large files as e-mail attachments or links to large files in a Dropbox, which I prefer.  I had at least 118 e-mails but no large attachments.  I did not get a count from Linda.  Both of our computers are also set up to automatically sync our Dropbox account, and one of the things it does is automatically backup four WordPress websites.  We only had 2.5 GB of data left on our Verizon account to get us through February 19th, so we wanted to transfer as much data as possible via the park Wi-Fi system.

Once the laundry was dry, folded, and hung, we returned to our coach where Linda put on her swimsuit and then joined Mara at the pool.  After putting the clean clothes away I rebooted and reconnected our computers and iPads to our local network and turned on the NAS.  Once everything was up and running I connected the camera and off-loaded all of the photos from the last four days; just over 400 total.  I got a bite to eat and then put on my swimsuit, gathered up my towel and a pair of dry shorts, and went over to the pool to join the ladies.

BP20160212_01732_400x300

A Purple Gallinule near the Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

When I arrived Linda and Mara were sunbathing.  The pool was cool even though it is heated but once I was in and swimming gently I generated enough heat from muscle activity to be comfortable.  I swam for about 1/2 hour and then sat in the hot tub with the whirlpool turned on and positioned myself to vigorously message my lower back.  Linda had taken the soap when she went so I took that along with my towel and shorts and used to shower to rinse off the chlorine and get cleaned up.  I returned the soap to Linda and walked back to our coach.

I doodled on my iPad while Linda read a book when she returned to the coach.  She left at 4 PM to walk to the grocery store with Mara while I laid down on the sofa to take a nap and Jasper curled up next to me.  I was aware of Linda’s return, gradually woke up, and finally got up.

Linda invited Mara to come for dinner.  While she busied herself with the preparations, I went through all of the photos from our trip to Everglades National Park and Key West and backed them up to our NAS.

While I was looking at photos ESET Smart Security kept popping up messages letting me know that it needed my attention.  I opened it and it presented me with a loooong list of critical and recommended updates.  Given our data situation this month I deferred those until I can take my computer back to the office/laundry/activity building and use the resort Wi-Fi system.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a “pasta” dish using an edamame and mung bean fettuccine style noodle.  Mara came to our coach around 6:45 PM and brought a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was based on blended avocados and it was a delicious finale to a scrumptious meal.  There was a nice orange glow in the western sky but it was too dark by then to eat outside.  It was also getting chilly following sunset so we ate inside and polished off a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio between the three of us.

Mara left a little before 9 PM and we turned on the TV to see if anything interesting was on.  One of the PBS stations was showing a three part drama titled Arthur & George based on a true life event in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and starting Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as Doyle.  Linda went to bed part way through the third episode but I stayed up to watch it as it was very well done.  I flipped channels for a while after that but nothing else held my attention and I finally went to bed sometime after midnight.

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

We were still tired from out whirlwind trip to south Florida and slept in this morning.  When we finally got up Linda made pancakes for breakfast, this being Sunday and all.

It’s a good thing we have our 2 GB of bonus data for the next couple of billing cycles.  Between the Windows 10 upgrade on two computers (most of which we did using the RV resort Wi-Fi), the upgrades to the iOS on both iPads, the inevitable updates to applications on all four devices, and quite a bit of work on BCM articles as well as our personal website/blog, we have had to monitor/manage our data usage very carefully for the January 20 through February 19 billing cycle.  Even with being gone for four days to the Everglades and Keys, and taking our devices to the activity building to use the Wi-Fi, we will be very close to our limit by this Friday, which is the 19th.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

My computer was indicating that I had 22 updates available which meant that Linda’s computer probably had a similar number.  One of them was a Windows 10 cumulative update which I knew would be large so I took both computers to the library and did the updates there.  I then spent part of the day processing and backing up photos before turning my attention to blog posts.  Even with our data situation I uploaded several from mid-October and prepared several more.

We had a relatively easy day otherwise and I did not record all of the details which are now mostly lost to me.  Brenda Phelan called around 5:15 PM to let me know our tire and windshield covers were ready but she and Bill were headed out for a couple of days on windshield cover appointments.  They would be back on Wednesday and we deferred dealing with delivery until then.

For dinner Linda made a mushroom bourginione with macaroni.  She used a Lindeman’s 2014 Shiraz to make it and we also drank some before/with our meal.  She bought a pint of Soy Delicious Cookie Dough non-dairy “ice cream” the other day and we had that for dessert.  After dinner we settled in to watch our Sunday evening TV programs, including Downton Abby.

2016/02/15 (M) Ready, Set, No

We had our usual morning of coffee, juice, and granola for breakfast.  Our fresh water tank had dropped below the 1/3 level yesterday or the day before.  The monitor only indicates Empty, 1/3, 2/3, and Full so once it drops below 1/3rd I have to check it visually.  Fortunately the tank is translucent polyethylene and is located behind a door such that I can see the water level when the lighting is right.  Given how we are parked, facing southwest, the light is best in the morning as access to the tank is from the driver side of the bay.

The tank was down to the 1/8th level, which is about 15 gallons.  We might have gotten one more day’s use but there was no reason to run the tank dry and the pump works better with a full tank.  I dumped both waste tanks and refilled the fresh water tank.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after the tank was full and it was indicating somewhere between 0 and 1.5 gpg.  I updated my Excel spreadsheet accordingly.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

Linda had work to do today on family tax returns and set up her computer on the temporary dining table while I continued to work at my computer on the desk.  I selected and processed a couple of photos from our visit to Everglades National Park for Linda’s weekly postcard to Madeline.  I then selected and processed photos to include in the blog posts for the dates of our visit to the Everglades and Keys.

Brenda Phelan had also sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding our tire covers.  I replied to that and indicated that we might pick them up on Wednesday when she and Bill are back at their shop in Lakeland.  With that done I started preparing for a 3:30 PM telecom meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I printed off six documents:  meeting notice, agenda/notes, short survey results and sampling information, and the long survey results and sampling information.  All told it was 55 sheets of paper, but I wanted/needed to see the survey results printed out.

At 3:29 I dialed in and was the first caller, which I though was odd.  I doubled checked the meeting notice and realized the meeting was Wednesday the 17th.  I knew that, but historically we have always met on Monday afternoons and I just had it in my head that we were meeting today.  The upside us that I have more time to digest the data and think about how I want to handle the fact that the sample/response was too small (in my expert opinion) for the results to be considered representative of the FMCA population.

We had leftovers for dinner, after which we settled in to watch the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX as our usual Monday evening programs on CBS were preempted by the Grammy Awards, which did not interest us.  At 10 PM we switched to PBS and watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking, followed Charlie Rose.  Rose’s show was focused on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scilia, who passed away over the weekend.

 

2016/02/11 (R) Key West and Back

We were up at 7 AM, showered, dressed, and went down to breakfast, which consisted of fruit and potatoes.  We went back to our room and gathered up the stuff we would need for the day.  We loaded the car and headed south on the Florida Toll Road to its terminus at US-1.  We headed south on US-1 and stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank before continuing our trip to the Florida Keys.  We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on the north end of Key Largo where we got a map of the Florida Keys and a few suggestions on what to see and do.  We continued south and found ourselves in a massive traffic jam.  The problem turned out to be construction work on the drawbridge.  Most of US-1 is a 2-lane road from the mainland all the way to Key West, and there are a few drawbridges along the way.  Anything that impedes traffic, be it a drawbridge, construction, or traffic accidents, can create huge traffic jams.

We stopped on Big Pine Key and found the National Key Deer Refugee Visitor Center.  We drove down Key Deer Lane and stopped at a small lake where we talked to a volunteer naturalist but did see any deer.  We decided to return to this spot on our way back north in the late afternoon and then drive out to No Name Key in the hope of seeing some of the small, unique deer.

We eventually got through the traffic congestion, continued south, and finally reached Key West, albeit a bit later than we had planned.  We drove along S. Roosevelt to the southernmost point in the Continental United States.  There was a long line of people waiting to go to the actual point, and no obvious place to park so we kept driving.  We finally found free street parking on Turner Avenue near the Catholic Church.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda.  Even rarer is that I am smiling.  But then, why not?  I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda. Even rarer is that I am smiling. But then, why not? I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We walk