Tag Archives: Al Hesselbart (RV historian)

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.


2016/01/11 (M) – 15 (F) Family and Friends

2016/01/11 (M) Jack and Paula

Linda was up at 7:30 AM and read quietly.  I got up at 8:15 AM and made coffee.  We had granola for breakfast with fresh strawberries which finished the current batch of cereal.  Linda got another batch out of the freezer to thaw.  We have five batches remaining.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that we had been billed yesterday for almost $500 by iPage for web-hosting services.  I originally signed up with iPage in January 2013 for three years.  I transferred everything over to QTH in August 2013 but did not cancel the iPage account.  I did not realize that the account was set up for automatic renewal.  I logged in to see if I could close the account and cancel the transaction or initiate a refund but the website just gave me a number to call.  I did and finally got to talk to Scott in billing.  He was obviously a native English speaker and was able to take care of everything quickly and efficiently and provide a confirmation number.  If iPage’s technical/customer support had been that good I might never have switched to a different web-hosting service.  I am, none-the-less, very glad that three of the four websites I work with are on QTH.com‘s web-servers and wish that all four of them were.  The technical and customer support there is second-to-none.

Linda wanted to send another postcard to grand-daughter Madeline so I downloaded the photos I took yesterday and selected one of a heron to use.  I post-processed it at several different sizes and copied it to the NAS.  She needed it on her iPad, however, so I e-mailed it to her.  Even though our iPads (and phones) can connect to our secure Wi-Fi network they are not able to access the network resources such as the NAS and printer.  I really should take the time to figure out if there is a way to do that.

On the drive home last night the Honda Element started displaying a message to “Check Gas Cap.”  I pulled off the road and checked but it was on tight.  The message, however, did not clear.  When we got home Linda Googled the message and found several sites that indicated it was a periodic system check and would clear the next time around, assuming the cap was not, in fact, loose.  That could take days, however, depending on how much we drove the car.  The answer for most of this week will be “not much.”

Linda went for a late morning walk.  The Element needed fuel so I drove to the Shell station on FL-70 to fill up the tank.  Linda had walked to Winn-Dixie and was just returning as I was pulling out so she rode along to the filling station.  She ran into Claudine Elbisser at the produce market and found out that she and Paul were still at Jack and Paula Conrad’s place south of town.  Jack and Paula started the Arcadia Bussin Rally and ran it for the first 10 years before turning it over to Bill and Brenda Phelan.

Back at the coach Linda heated some Amy’s vegan chili for lunch.  She opened a new (sealed) pack of saltine crackers as we like to crumble them in our chili and have a few on the side with vegan butter spread.  They did not taste quite right but we were not sure just why.  They were not spoiled but it seemed as if they were slightly stale (not crisp) and the flavor was also “off.”  They were Publix branded and all of the grocery items we have ever gotten from there have been good quality but we decided to throw the crackers away.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

We went for a walk after lunch during which Linda got a call from her sister-in-law, Mary.  They agreed that we might do something together tomorrow if Spence and Nancy had not made other plans for them.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon but cool with highs in the upper 60’s.  Rather than sit around the coach I called Jack to see if we could stop by for a visit.  He and Paula did not have anything specific going on so we drove to their place about 10 miles south of Arcadia.

When we arrived we were greeted by Jack and Paula but found out that Paul and Claudine had pulled out this morning, so we did not get to visit with them.  We then realized that when Claudine told Linda she had to run “because Paul was waiting for her at Walmart” he was waiting in the bus.  John and Lois Vickrey were there, however, and the six of us had a nice visit.  There were two other converted buses at the Conrad’s but the owners were not around.  We did not recognize their names but both coaches were at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and we would probably have recognized them on sight.

By 4:45 PM the sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped into the low 60’s.  We were getting cold so we excused ourselves and left.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for a box of angel hair pasta and a box of Nabisco saltine crackers.  Back at our coach I closed the two roof vents and we closed all of the windows.  I checked e-mail and Linda started working on dinner.

She started with a nice salad of baby kale, scallions, olives, and pumpkin seeds dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.  The main course was angel hair pasta with a vegan mushroom cream sauce.  She used the Miatake mushrooms we bought yesterday at the Farmers Market in Punta Gorda.  It was outstanding and we really liked the taste and texture of the mushrooms, which were a new culinary experience for us.

We went for our usual after-dinner stroll around the resort and stopped by the activity building where lots of residents were playing bingo and smaller groups were playing cards and games.  In another building a dozen men were playing pool.  It was a beautiful clear night with the constellation Orion rising in the eastern sky.  Although the air temperature was crisp folks were out walking, just like us.

Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs (CBS).  They were all re-runs, which we thought was odd, but we watched them anyway.  We were off to bed at 11 PM and straight away to sleep.  I turned on the electric heater pad and set it on 3.  Toasty.

2016/01/12 (T) Myakka River State Park (FL)

The overnight low temperature was 47 degrees F; not cold enough to warrant turning the heat on in the coach but cold enough to cool off the interior by morning.  We pulled up the blankets when we went to bed and I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed; a more efficient use of energy than heating the whole coach.  As a bonus, the cooler the coach the less the refrigerator runs, although the new one is much more efficient than the old one.  When it gets cool enough in the coach Juniper (the cat) gets under the covers between us and puts her head between our pillows.  She is such a princess.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

We finally got out of bed at 8:15 AM and slipped into out sweats.  I made coffee while Linda talked to Kathi at the bakery back in Michigan.  We doodled on our iPads while we drank our coffee and let the coach warm up.  By 9:30 it was 72 inside.  I turned off the heaters and we sat down to a breakfast of homemade granola with blueberries and bananas and a small glass of orange juice.  We doodled for another half hour after breakfast and then got dressed.  In preparation for meeting Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary, at Myakka State Park at 11 AM Linda made a picnic lunch and I got the camera gear ready to go.

We had planned to be on the road by 10:30 AM but actually left at 10:39.  The 29 miles to the park entrance was not all 60 MPH, so we did not get to the visitor center until 11:20 AM.  Ron and Mary were already there waiting for us.  We looked at maps and discussed what we wanted to do.  Ron and Mary wanted to see alligators in the wild, so they had come to the right place.  The main park road crosses the Myakka River about a mile into the park from the entrance / visitor center with parking at both ends of the bridge.  We knew from our visit two years ago that this was an excellent place to see alligators, as well as a variety of birds and so it was again today.  After spending some time on the bridge we walked along the south/east bank of the river and found two more alligators sunning themselves on the opposite bank.

A little farther down the road was the parking area for the Canopy Walk and Nature Trail.  We climbed the tower, walked across the suspension bridge, and then climbed to observation deck at the top of the second tower.  The suspension bridge goes through the forest canopy about 35 feet in the air and affords a view of the forest that most of us rarely see.  At 76.1 feet AGL the observation level put us well above the top of the trees with a commanding 360 degree view of the park and beyond.  I shot a nine frame panorama from west through north to east.

By the time we got back to our cars we were all ready for lunch so we drove to the developed area on the south shore of Upper Myakka Lake.  This area has one of the two campgrounds, a boat ramp, air boat tour concession, restaurant, restrooms, picnic tables, and a trail that leads out to a platform where the lake flows out and becomes the river.  We found a picnic table in the sun near the shore and had our PB&J sandwiches, oranges, pretzels, and water.  After lunch we walked out to the platform and were rewarded with more views of wildlife.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Our next stop was the “Birdwalk,” an elevated boardwalk near the northeast corner of the lake that goes out into an open harsh and gets people close to the shore.  There was lots of wildlife out there but most of it was some distance away.  A sign indicated that the donation box was to raise money to build an observation tower at end of the boardwalk above the existing viewing platform.

Our final stop for the day was the parking area for a trailhead in the northeast corner of the park.  The main trail led to primitive campsites as much as 10 miles away.  We did a loop of about 2.5 miles (by my estimate).  Although the entire trail (park) was level terrain the footing was rough or soggy in places.  Portions of our hike were through the forest and the rest was through prairie.  It was our most vigorous hike of the day and I did not take any photos even though I carried the camera along.

By the time we got back to our cars it was 4:45 PM.  The sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped.  We discussed our plans for Thursday and then headed our separate ways.  We had just left the park entrance and headed east on FL-72 when I spotted a group of 6 to 8 feral hogs on the north side of the road by a stream about 100 feet from the road.  Linda did not spot them in time so I turned around and went back.  As I slowed down they took off but Linda got to see them.  I turned around again and headed towards Arcadia.  Less than a mile down the road I saw four more in the ditch just off the north side of road.  They were very large adult animals.

We were back at our coach by 6 PM and had left over Asian salad for dinner.   It had been a slightly more physical day than normal so after dinner we settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs on CBS.

2016/01/13 (W) Coffee Clutch

Today was our second Wednesday at Big Tree RV Resort.  The only significance to that factoid is that Wednesday morning is the weekly resort coffee.  As new arrivals in the resort we received a coupon for free coffee but forgot to go last week so we made a point of getting up and going this morning.  The coffee starts at 8 AM but we had been “advised” by folks to arrive early if we wanted a seat.  We got there around 7:50 AM and the place was packed.  We got in line to get our coffee and found out that today’s gathering was sponsored by an insurance agency and was free of charge. We found seats and made the acquaintance of the people sitting near us.

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

This was not a coffee clutch where folks stand around, mingle, and chat.  There are somewhere between 700 and 800 people in this park and I estimated that at least 400 of them were present at the coffee.  Everyone was seated on both sides of long tables for the entire duration of the coffee, which lasted until 9:15 AM.  It was very organized and consisted of introductions, lots of announcements, lots of door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing.  For the seasonal and permanent residents the information is probably useful, but it was not that interesting or useful to us.  We might go one more time just to take advantage of our free coffee coupon but the nature of the gathering won’t afford us any opportunity to meet people and talk to them over coffee so we probably won’t make a priority of going.

Today was laundry day for us.  Linda needed a few things from Winn-Dixie, including a few Powerball lottery tickets, and walked down to get them.  I gathered up the laundry, sorted it by color and temperature into three batches, and drove over to the laundry room in the activity building.  The washing machines only took about 25 minutes so I stuck around until they were done.  After getting those loads into dryers I went back and got the bedding, returned to the laundry room, and put it in a washing machine.  I took my iPad with me but ended up in a conversation with a few folks.  By the time I was done with the laundry and back at our coach it was 2 PM.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

I took a long a long nap during which Linda went for a long walk, prepared ingredients for tomorrow’s lunch, and worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  I finally got up just in time for dinner.  After dinner we watched a fascinating documentary titled “Autism in Love” as a result of which we did not watch Nature.  We did, however, watch NOVA. It was also a fascinating program exploring new discoveries and understandings about the role and relationship of minerals in the origin and evolution of life on earth.

I watched some of the evening news on channel 11-1 and also checked the weather on channel 11-2.  A strong low pressure system was moving east from New Orleans across the Florida panhandle with strong storms coming ashore in that area.  A long, comma-shaped cold front extended from the low far down into the Gulf and was advancing on the peninsula.  It was forecast to come ashore starting north of Cedar Key after midnight and then progressively affect all of the shore communities south to Marco Island with strong thunderstorms along the front and a low possibility that some of them might become severe.  Rain, possibly heavy, was due in Arcadia starting around 4 AM and getting heavy by 5 AM.  Knowing this obviously doesn’t change whatever is going to happen, but knowing what is expected allows us configure the coach properly and to be prepared and react appropriately to events as they unfold if needed.

2016/02/14 (R) Ron and Mary

We were up by 7:30 AM this morning, had showers, got dressed, and had breakfast.  Linda finished food preparations for lunch today and then straightened up the inside of the coach while I dumped the holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank.

I was outside a little later in the morning and learned from a neighbor that the sewer line that services row K (where we are parked) had developed a blockage and sewage had “backed up into a couple of rigs.”  No one, however, was able/willing to be more specific than that.  A plumber was called and I chatted with him briefly when he arrived.  He confirmed that the sewer line ran from our end of row K south towards the front of the park by Hwy 70.  He determined quickly that there was indeed a blockage and I learned from him later that it extended along a considerable length of the sewer pipe.  This was not the first time he was called to deal with this and was able to get the drain line opened up.

Piecing together the available information I figured it was entirely possible that the sewage that backed up was from our tanks but that the blockage was not something we caused.  Linda, however, was of the opinion that the plumber had been summoned before I dumped.  Regardless, I’m sure it was unpleasant for those who were affected and I hope we do not have a repeat of this situation while we are here.  While in no way our fault, we would hate to have contributed to the situation in any way, however inadvertently.

My reasoning was that we are the second rig from the far end of the drain line and the tops of our waste tanks are almost 4 to 5 feet above ground level.  The tanks are large and if they were near full would release a considerable volume of effluent with a significant head pressure.  If the drain line was mostly constricted (reducing its  available volume), and the blockage was not very far down stream (also reducing its available volume), the weight of the contents of our waste tanks could cause the drain line to quickly fill and then force the effluent up through any available path, such as another rig’s dump hose.  This would continue until the levels reached equilibrium.

In a trailer with its floor not that far off the ground sewage could, hypothetically, back up into waste tank(s) and then into the toilet and/or sinks. None of that would happen, of course, unless the dump valves on the other RV(s) had been left open.  We have always been told that leaving the dump valves open on an RV is a very bad idea but the reason is that getting a good, thorough, dump requires a nearly full tank.  Today’s events have given us additional reason to keep the valves closed except to dump.

 Now that’s what I’m talking about!  We have got to get one of these.  A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! We have got to get one of these. A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Ron and Mary arrived a little after 11 AM.  We gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work we have done and then sat and visited.  Eventually we were hungry and spread the tablecloth on the outside picnic table and had lunch out there.

After lunch Ron drove us to Joshua Citrus a couple of miles south of our resort where we bought a variety of citrus fruit.  We then drove to downtown, parked, and walked around poking our heads into some of the antique shops.  Mary was looking for a pair of clear glass lamp chimneys with a 2″ diameter base.  The closest she came was a pair with a 2-1/4″ base.  Apparently 3” diameter bases are common, 2” diameter bases, not so much.

We returned to the coach for a while and then took two cars and went to El Pirata for dinner.  It was our first time there although friends had told us it was OK and it was the #4 rated restaurant in Arcadia.  Linda did not care for her margarita and also did not care for the veggie fajitas or any of the sides that came with the dish.  I had Dos Equis Amber in a bottle, so it was fine.  I thought the food was OK; not outstanding but not disagreeable, so perhaps she just wasn’t in the mood for Mexican food tonight.

The restaurant wasn’t full so we lingered and chatted for quite a while but eventually it was time to leave.  We were only a few minutes from home but Ron and Mary had an hour’s drive to get back to Spence and Nancy’s place.  Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Thursday evening CBS TV programs and then headed off to bed as we planned an early departure tomorrow morning to get to the Tampa RV Supershow.

2016/01/15 (F) Tampa RV Supershow

As forecast, the rain started around 4 AM and by 5 AM was fairly heavy.  I was not, however, aware of any lightning, thunder, or strong winds.  We got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed, and had some of the Honeybelle tangelos we bought yesterday.  Honeybelles are only available for about a month starting this time of year and are highly touted so we bought a quarter-Bushnell bag.  We were, however, quite disappointed in their taste and texture.  We will eat them anyway, of course, but they will not be the treat we were counting on.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to drive to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Tampa RV Supershow.  It was still raining and was forecast to continue through the morning.  I took the vertical grip off of the Sony SLT-a99v to lighten it and make it easier to carry in the Cotton Carrier camera harness/holster.  I packed a couple of extra batteries, we took our raincoats, and headed out.

We encountered very heavy rain between Arcadia and Tampa, especially along FL-70 between Arcadia and I-75.  We arrived at the fairgrounds around 10:15 AM, got our tickets, and made it into the Expo hall just as another heavy band of rain moved through.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow.  The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow. The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

Just inside the door to the right was the major display of Prevost bus conversions and to the left was a major display of Airstream trailers and Class B motorhomes.  We crossed paths with Steve Zigler, Prevost Sales Manager for conversion shells and chatted briefly.  We met Giesle from the home office in St. Claire, Quebec and also met Melanie from Millennium Coach.  We found out from Melanie that Millennium is now the primary corporate support for the Royale Coach Club.  Apparently Liberty Coach took over sponsorship when Royale Coach folded around 2005 and Millennium took over from Liberty some time more recently.  We were members at one time but have not paid dues in several years.

The Prevost coaches were one of the main things we came to see and meeting people from the company was a bonus.  Our other objective was to check out all of the parts and accessories vendors, of which there were many, and RV Parks and Resorts, of which there where an equal number.  We mostly picked up literature until we found Bill and Brenda Phelan’s booth.  One of their products is tire covers made from heavy nylon mesh material.  It blocks most of the sunlight while allowing moisture to escape.  We have meant to get tire covers for years but never have so we ordered six in a dark brown material.  They are a significant purchase, but not compared to the tires they are designed to protect.  They will make the covers based on our tire size and ship them to us.  They also make nylon mesh windshield wiper covers but I need to measure the length of our lower wiper blades and send Brenda the measurement.  Another product of theirs are windshield and side window covers.  These, however, are custom made on site.

 The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer.  Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer. Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

In the other vendor building we stopped at the booth for Williston Crossings and Belle Parc RV Resorts.  Alan, who is the managing partner for both properties, was staffing the booth so we chatted with him briefly.  We also stopped at the booth for Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, Florida.  This was the other RV Resort that our friend, Ed Roelle, suggested we check out two years ago.  Unlike Williston Crossings, where we ended up, the lots in Florida Grande are all for sale as deeded properties with a fractional ownership in the common grounds and structures.  At least that was our understanding.

The sites at Florida Grande sell for about $48K and a coach house can be added for about $31K.  HOA fees currently run about $550 per quarter but we did not inquire about how the level is set or what limits might exist on them being raised.  Lots can be placed in a rental pool when unused but we did not ask if owners can arrange their own sublets.  We heard from someone later than only about half the lots are sold.  That means lots are still available for purchase, but also makes such a purchase potentially risky.  It means plenty of unsold lots are available to rent and if the rest of the lots do not eventually sell in a reasonable amount of time the future of the whole development would be in doubt.

We are not planning on purchasing a lot anytime soon, in Florida or elsewhere, but it is an idea that interests us longer-term.  We might drive up in the car to check it out or, more likely, stop there for a few days in the bus when we finally leave Big Tree RV Resort in March.

We eventually found our friend, Al Hesselbart, manning his Antique RV booth at the far end of the fairgrounds.  He was asked by the RV Show organizers to put together an antique RV display but relegated him to a remote corner of the show.  He had commitments from the owners of eight antique RVs, plus his own 1978 Newell, but four of them backed out at the last minute and the other four simply did not show up.  Whatever their reasons it was disappointing and inconsiderate.  Al had a large TV monitor with a slide show of about 500 images running automatically in a loop.  He had them in a shelter to protect them, and him, from the worst of the rain.

It was almost 5 PM by the time we got back to our car.  We discussed calling Ed and Betty Burns, who live near Bradenton, to see if they were up for a visit but we were at least an hour away and decided it was too short a notice, too late in the day, and we were too tired.  We fought our way through Friday rush hour traffic across US-301 to I-75 and headed south to exit 217, which is FL-70 to Bradenton (west) and Arcadia (east).  We stopped at the Speedway for gasoline and bought two coffees to scare away the cobwebs.  It had been a long day.

As we continued east on FL-70 Linda got a call from her sister, Marilyn, to finalize plans for tomorrow.  We got back to our coach around 6:45 PM and had a light dinner of garbanzo bean salad sandwiches and a small glass of wine.  We then watched a program about Agatha Christy on PBS/Create followed by two episodes of Miss Marple.  Linda headed off to bed before the second episode was over while I remained up to continue working on my blog posts from today and the previous two days.

I stayed up to watch the WINK evening news (channel 11-1).  They reported that the storms this morning included a confirmed EF-1 tornado in south Fort Meyers and wind damaged property in Lehigh Acres.  The meteorologists made it clear that the January tornados from today and last weekend would normally be quite rare for this time of year but were not unusual in an El Niño year like this one.  We are headed to Fort Meyers tomorrow for the first time to visit with Marilyn and the weather forecast looks fine if a bit cool.  Another round of strong storms is forecast for Sunday morning in connection with the passage of yet another cold front trailing from a strong low pressure center moving east across the Florida panhandle.  We plan to stay home Sunday but Marilyn is flying back to St. Louis, Missouri, weather permitting.