2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article
The temperature dropped into the mid-50s last night and made for excellent sleeping conditions. Never-the-less, Linda was up at 6:30 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8 AM. I used the last of the current batch of coffee beans yesterday so I opened four fresh bags this morning, a half-pound each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (regular and decaffeinated), Seattle Blend (regular), and Sweet Dreams Blend (decaffeinated). Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home roasted and vacuum packed the beans for us in 1/2 pound amounts so they would stay fresh through the winter. I made a full pot of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (half-caffe) and Linda prepared toast and grapefruit for breakfast. One of the things we bought yesterday at Joshua Citrus was orange marmalade so Linda opened it and we had some on our toast. It was not as bitter as most orange marmalades I have tried and I liked it.
Tonight was the weekly Powerball lottery drawing and the amount was approaching 400 million dollars so we agreed that we should buy a few tickets. Since there was a possibility of rain this afternoon Linda wanted to get her walk in early so she walked to the Winn-Dixie supermarket in search of lottery tickets. The Winn- Dixie is in a shopping plaza with other stores on the same (south) side of US-70 as the Carefree Big Tree RV Resort about 1/2 mile west towards downtown. There is a very wide sidewalk along the south side of US-70 that is used by walkers, bicyclists, and folks in golf carts, from our resort and the much larger adult community just to our east, to get to the shopping area just west of us. The Walmart is immediately across the street, with a stop light and crosswalk, but golf carts cannot go there as far as we know.
I’ve needed to change the water filter under the kitchen sink for a while so today I finally did. I installed the GX1S01R GE Drinking Water Filter housing in fall 2014 to replace the Everpure unit that gave me no end of difficulty whenever I tried to change the filter cartridge. It turned out that neither of our two filter wrenches fit the housing and I had to get my large slip pliers out to get it off. The inside of the housing was dirty so I boiled some water in the microwave, added a small amount of dish soap, cleaned it thoroughly, and rinsed it out.
The GE drinking water filter element is a Class I media (0.5 – 1.0 micron) that reduces or removes more things than most filters, including: MTBE, VOCs, Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Cysts, Mercury, Turbidity, and Asbestos. The capacity of the element is listed as 500 gallons* (*depending on water conditions) and the useful life is listed as 6 months. The filter feeds a special drinking water faucet in the kitchen sink that is only used for cleaning food and cooking so I doubt that we run anywhere near 500 gallons of water through it in 6 months, or even in a year. Given how we use our motorcoach, and the cost of the filter elements, I will probably change the filter once a year. To that end I wrote the date on a piece of Frog Tape and attached it to the housing.
I continued to focus on my article for BCM about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourns’ 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion. I thought I might get it done by lunch but I did not get back to work on it until after 11 AM. I worked on it most of the rest of the day and into the evening and still did not get it finished. By 9 PM I had the photos selected and processed but deferred integrating them into the article until tomorrow. I will then upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Diann that it is available for review.
Lunch was left over black-eyed peas, fresh fruit, and hummus with sourdough pretzels for dipping. Dinner was salad and pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions in BBQ sauce with fresh strawberries for dessert. We went for walks after both meals and Linda got in 10 miles today.
If we watch TV at all on Wednesday evening it is usually PBS and so it was tonight. Nature was on cross-species animal bonding, Nova was on an archeological investigation of WWI trenches and tunnels, followed by a two hour program on the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the search for the Higgs bozon particle and other, possibly more elementary ones. It was after midnight by the time I got bed.
2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session
We were both awake around 7 AM. Linda read for a while and got up around 7:45. I drifted back to a light sleep and finally got up at 8:15. By the time the coffee was ready to drink it was 8:45 AM. Linda washed off some blueberries and poured our cups of Joe.
Linda bought 10 tickets yesterday for the Powerball lottery. Our $20 investment returned $4. The good news was that no one won and Saturday’s drawing will likely approach $700 million. I know the odds of winning are astronomically small, but any non-zero chance to win even a piece of that pot seems worth another $20. After all, you can’t win if you don’t play.
We had granola with fresh berries for breakfast. I then e-mailed the Geeks on Tour to see if we could arrange a meetup. That’s the name of Jim and Chris Guld’s business and they are currently just up the road at the Thousand Trails Preserve (RV park) in Zolfo Springs. They are full-time RVers who do seminars and in-depth training classes on a wide range of technologies at RV rallies, parks, and other venues. You can find them here: http://www.geeksontour.com. They also do a weekly podcast and have an extensive catalog of video tutorials.
I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing my BCM article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion. I uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox for them e-mailed them the link and some instructions. I also sent the link to BCM publisher Gary Hatt.
We had hummus with sourdough pretzel nibblers and fresh fruit for lunch around 1 PM. Our plan for the afternoon was to go watch a practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions. The U.S.-based stallions’ facility is just up the road in Myakka City and they have practice sessions open to the public at 3 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 AM on Saturdays. They ask (charge) a $5 donation per person. The facility has bleachers but you can bring your own chair. We had planned to go today because the forecast for this afternoon was pleasant.
We want to order some fresh citrus fruit from Joshua Citrus here in Arcadia and have it shipped to our children in Michigan. It will be much more economical for us to have it shipped to one place and Meghan agreed to receive it and distribute it. We were going to stop there on our way to see the Lipizzaners but at 1:15 PM it was still overcast. I wanted to take photographs so we decided not to go and will visit the facility another time.
With the change in our plans we took a long walk around the resort. I then had to figure out something else to do. I was tired and decided to take a nap. The sofa was not available as Linda was working on her counted cross-stitch project so I curled up on the bed next to Jasper (the cat) and dozed for a couple of hours.
For dinner Linda fixed a side of mixed grains, steamed some broccoli, and sautéed a package of Gardein Orange “Chicken.” The orange chicken is a soy-based dish and it is very tasty.
After dinner we turned on the TV and I worked on the bonus content photographs for my article on the recent Arcadia converted bus rally. Perhaps because of the distraction from the boob tube, was trying to clean up a slightly complicated situation I had created for myself, was just not in the humor, or some combination of the three, I found the work a bit tedious. I stuck with it long enough to get it better organized and then stopped at a somewhat logical point and watched TV.
2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks
There was rain in the forecast for overnight and I heard the first few drops before I went to bed just before midnight. The rains came in earnest sometime between 4 and 5 AM and it rained hard around 7 AM. I was awake at that point and decided to get up and check for leaks. Fortunately there was no sign of the leaks we had during the last rain event. I fed the cats, plugged in the charger for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and made the coffee.
After checking the user manual we determined that it is OK for the Mi-Fi to be plugged in and charging while it is turned on and operating. The issue with the device is that it really wants to be unplugged from the charger once the battery is fully charged and can overheat if left connected. Since we do not have a usable RV park Wi-Fi signal at our site it simplifies our online life if we can just leave the Mi-Fi on with the Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it. The Mi-Fi battery is very slow to charge, especially when the device is turned on, but it eventually reaches full charge. The battery will not even operate the device for 12 hours but it will operate long enough to get through the night. What I am still trying to figure out is when to plug it in during the evening so that it is fully charged just before we go to bed. That is a trial and process. Once I have it figured out I need to make a habit of plugging it in when I get up in the morning and again at the right time during the evening.
After a little more discussion I e-mailed Jim Guld to confirm plans for a visit and dinner this afternoon. We settled in with our coffee and iPads for a while and finally had breakfast at 9 AM. Linda had two frozen toaster waffles she wanted to use up so we had those with peanut butter. I also add a little apricot preserves on mine. We split one of the Ruby Red grapefruits we bought at Joshua Citrus the other day. Yum.
With company coming later today we took showers. While Linda was getting her shower I copied recent photos from the Sony SLT- a99v to my ASUS laptop. An updated version of the Play Memories Home software was available, so I downloaded and installed it. After I showered, shaved, and got dressed Linda cut my hair. We then cleaned the coach, putting away things that did not need to be out and sweeping/mopping the floor.
With the cleaning of ourselves and the coach completed, we went on an errand run. After dropping off a small bag of trash our first stop was the Winn-Dixie supermarket. We then drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off recyclable plastic. We swung by El Pirata Mexican restaurant to check out the menu and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company. While I picked out some Sugarbelle oranges and Ruby Red grapefruit Linda ordered a three tray box of mixed citrus fruit that included Honeybelle tangelos, Meyer lemons, Navel oranges, and Ruby Red grapefruit. The box will be shipped to our daughter and she will divide up the fruit with our son. That arrangement allowed us to send more fruit at a lower cost than shipping to two addresses. Our final stop was at Walmart for a few food items we did not find at Winn-Dixie.
Back at our coach I spent some time updating the Participants Database for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter (FTH) website. I also spent some more time trying to recall just how I set up the WP-Members plugin for the SLAARC website so I can recreate it for the FTH website. I was not able to do that in the time I had available and I think that might be due, in part, to changes that have been made in newer versions of the plugin. I set up a WordPress User for Linda using the WP-Members registration form and it did not work the way I remembered it in the SLAARC website. Apparently I am going to have study the user manual in detail.
Christine Guld called at 2:30 PM to let me know that she and Jim were on their way to our resort. They arrived around 3 PM and we quickly settled into an easy conversation covering a wide range of topics. Jim and Chris are the “Geeks on Tour” and do technology training (edutainment) at RV rallies and other venues. They have seen and done a lot of things and are interesting, fun folks with whom to share time.
At 4:30 PM Jim drove us to dinner at Magnolia Seafood and Grill in downtown Arcadia. The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and we got a nice corner table by the front picture windows. Today was Jim’s birthday and we enjoyed sharing it with him and Chris. We lingered over dinner for almost two hours and by the time we left people were waiting in the lobby for a table. I don’t like to wait for tables, but it’s usually a good sign when a restaurant is that popular. Everyone said their meal was excellent. Jim drove us back to our coach and dropped us off. There was a music jam back at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve in Zolfo Springs starting at 7 PM. They wanted to cap off their evening there and we certainly understood.
We walked over to the resort office and picked up our mail. My driver license renewal paperwork was there but nothing else. Back at our coach we turned on the TV. PBS/Create was airing the Las Vegas BeeGees concert from 20 years ago (again). With that as background we doodled on our iPads and eventually went to bed.
2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work
Our plan for today was once again to go watch the Royal Lipizzan Stallions practice session at their facility in Myakka City. Fog moved in last night and was still thick by the time we finished breakfast at 9 AM. That was when we needed to leave in order to get there and set up our chairs in time for the start of the session at 10 AM. For the second time this week we decided to defer this event to a future date with better weather.
Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked for a while on photos for the BCM article on the Arcadia Rally 2016. No one won the Powerball lottery on Wednesday and by this morning the top prize had exceeded 800 million dollars, an all-time record for any lottery in the U. S. Linda needed a few grocery items for our dinner and we wanted to buy a few more lottery tickets so we walked to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to take care of those errands. It was approximately a one mile round trip and on the walk back the cloud cover broke up into partly sunny skies. Back at the coach we opened all three roof vents, turned on the exhaust fans, and opened the windows wider.
Linda settled back into her counted cross-stitch project and I turned my attention to our FMCA Freethinkers website. I checked the SLAARC website (WordPress) to see how I set up the quick registration page through the WP-Members plug-in and then set up a similar (hidden) page for the FTH website. I cleaned up a lot of other things on the website as well, including the member directory. This work occupied the rest of the afternoon except for a lunch break and a brief walk.
Lunch was grilled “cheese” (non-dairy) and tomato sandwiches–very messy but very good–with grapes and orange slices. The walk was brief because we stopped to visit with a couple from Ithaca, Michigan. While we were chatting we watched low, thick white clouds moving towards us from the southwest against a dense, dark gray sky. A couple of drops of rain was our early warning to return to the coach.
We got back before the rain started but once it did we closed the roof vents and reduced the window openings. The forecast a few hours earlier had a chance of a thunderstorm at 9:15 PM but by 2 PM it was raining hard and an old leak around the bedroom exhaust vent/fan reappeared. I also found a small leak at the lower outside corner of the new lower passenger side windshield. We were both pretty discouraged at these continued leaks having hired people to fix them. The heavy rain continued off and on for hours prompting Linda to track it in her iPad and eventually turn on the TV. Lee County, which includes Fort Meyers about 45 miles due south of us, was under a tornado warning. Arcadia is in Desoto County, which is the next one north, but the weather here was not severe, just wet.
While Linda was preparing dinner I e-mailed the members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter to let them know that the public portions of the chapter website were now open for viewing and that I would be e-mailing each of them a unique username and password for the Members Only area in the near future.
For dinner Linda made a quinoa dish with julienned carrots, diced green onions, grated ginger, edamame, diced cucumber, and diced bell pepper. She served it at room temperature and it was another fabulous dish.
After dinner Linda put on the Bengals-Steelers NFL playoff game while I started generating the usernames and passwords for the Freethinkers website. I finished that work in about 90 minutes with the process of creating users automatically sending an e-mail to each member with their login information. With that done I settled on the sofa with my iPad to finish up blog posts while we continued to track the weather. The frontal system responsible for the wet/severe weather stretched from out in the Gulf of Mexico ENE across the Florida peninsula and was drifting to the east as storm cells raced along it. Fort Meyers got 3″ of rain and sustained some wind damage from a rare January tornado. The system was due to pass over Naples between 9 and 9:30 PM. Our friends, Barb and Chuck, are there so hopefully they will just get rain like we did.
We did not have any more rain after dinner so we opened the roof vents and turned the exhaust fans on. The forecast for Arcadia kept changing through the evening with the probability of rain around midnight bouncing up and down. By the time we went to bed it looked like we might be done with precipitation for the night.
2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art
We made it through the night without any further rain or threatening storms and got up around 7:30 AM this morning. We got dressed right away but I did not make coffee. Our main objective for today was a visit to the Florida Winter National Wood Art Expo and Competition (FWNWAEC) in Punta Gorda. We gathered up raincoats, camera gear, and a list of addresses for places we might visit, and headed out around 8:15 AM. We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then continued west into downtown where we picked up US-17 and headed south to Punta Gorda.
We had a pleasant drive down and arrived at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda just after 9 AM. The FWNWAEC opened at 9 AM so our timing was good. The parking lot was mostly empty so I got a spot near the building and we finished our coffee before going inside. Admission was $7 each and we got wristbands that allowed us to come and go all day if we wanted to.
We spent a couple of hours looking at all of the wood carvings on display and I photographed a few of them. There were also lots of vendors selling tools, materials, supplies, and finished products. At one of those tables we met John, who heads the woodcarving group at our RV resort, and learned that there will be woodcarving classes at the Turner Center February 8-11 and another exhibition there on February 20. He invited us to stop by when the woodcarving group meets at the resort on Thursday mornings.
By 11 AM we had seen everything we wanted to see. On our way out of the building the ladies at the entrance table were explaining to someone else some of the other things to do nearby and I heard mention of a Farmers Market. I asked about its location and got directions. Before leaving the event center area we walked the grounds around the Convention Center and Tiki Bar that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel next door. We then headed south on Retta Esplanade through a nice area of wonderful homes on our left and waterfront parklands on our right. There was a very large craft fair in progress but we passed it by in favor of finding the Farmers Market.
The market was inland a few blocks and was located in a smaller, but lovely, park where the vendor canopies were spread out along a winding pathway that led to a historic house which was open for visitors. There was also a group of about eight musicians with guitars, fiddles, and such. Linda bought a large Miatake mushroom after we sampled some and decided it was one of the best mushrooms we had ever tasted. We found another vendor selling turmeric in root form. She said it would keep for months so Linda bought a large piece. At another vendor she bought sesame seeds and flax seeds, so the market turned out to be a good stop.
From the market we continued south in search of the Peace River Wildlife Center. It was a small, private facility but had quite a collection of animals, mostly birds, that were being rehabilitated (if possible) for release back into the wild or living out their lives’ (if release was not possible). A small donation was requested on entrance and willingly paid. Most of the birds were in enclosures that made them difficult to photograph but the pelican area was open, and wild birds came and went, so I was able to get a few photos there.
From the Wildlife Center we drove back north into downtown Punta Gorda and the headed northwest on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor towards Port Charlotte. Our destination was the Earth Origins market in Port Charlotte which was, conveniently, located on the east side of the Tamiami Trail. I say conveniently because the Trail was basically a 20 mile long strip mall. It was six lanes divided plus left and right turn lanes, and choked with cars, so having the store on the side of the road we were already on was definitely convenient.
We were done with our shopping by 2:30 PM and realized that we were only 36 miles from Steve and Karen Limkemanns’ place in Nokomis (near Venice). We called and got Karen on the phone. Steve was out riding his bike but was due back soon. They had no plans for the rest of the day so we headed their way. We had been to their mobile home park (Bay Lake Estates) two years ago but had not been there since they bought their own place this past March. It took about 45 minutes to get there, by which time Steve had returned from his bike ride. We got a tour of their new place, which was one of the newer units in the complex and very nice. We also walked up to see a unit that had caught fire and completely burned. It was stunning to see how little of it was left. The unit next door did not burn but the vinyl siding facing the fire melted and sagged. Most RVs are built much the same way as mobile homes and park model trailers and they do not do well in fire situations.
Before going to dinner we decided to drive to the Venice Rookery. We saw a sign for it driving up and wondered just what it was. It turned out to be a large pond with an island that was a favorite resting and nesting area for egrets, herons, Anhingas, and other birds. The island provide natural protection from land-based predators and locals told us that a large alligator protected them from any threat that might try to swim across. I took what photos I could but had not planned on doing wildlife photography and did not have the correct lens(es) with me.
The temperature had been moderate during the day and our shorts had been appropriate clothing. The best time to view the birds is apparently at sunset when large numbers of them return to the rookery. As the sun sank towards the tree tops it got decidedly chilly and we finally had to call it a day. We will be back on the 18th to see The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theater and made plans to return to the rookery with appropriate clothing and photo equipment.
From the Rookery we drove directly to Cafe Evergreen for dinner, an organic restaurant not far from Steve and Karen’s winter home. The Café is not specifically vegan but always has some nice vegan selections. Linda and I both had roasted beet Reuben sandwiches. She had an edamame salad as a side and I had baked sweet potato “fries.” We both had lots of decaffeinated coffee but no dessert as we were quite full by the time we finished our meals.
We went back to Steve and Karen’s place and visited a while longer before finally leaving a little before 8 PM. Linda wanted to see Downton Abbey at 9 PM and we figured we had an hour drive to get back to our RV park in Arcadia. The GPS wanted to take us south on I-75 but we went north 10 miles and took FL-70 due east through Myakka River State Park. About half way to Arcadia we encountered an accident scene and had to wait for 15 minutes before we could continue our trip. We got home a few minutes after 9 PM so we were still able to watch the show. The Abominable Bride episode of Sherlock was rebroadcast following Downton Abbey so we watched it again.
The weather had cleared out behind the strong cold front that pushed through the area yesterday and temperatures overnight were forecast to drop into the upper 40’s. We closed down all the windows before we went to bed. I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before climbing in. It had been a long day and neither of us felt like reading or writing so I turned off the lights and we went to sleep.