Bill and Brenda Phelan, of RV Windshield Covers of Florida, operate a mobile business based out of Lakeland, Florida. This is a photo gallery of the 1-day process they went through to make and install a set of five mesh covers for the windshield and front side windows of our 1991/92 Prevost H3-40 VIP Royale Coach (Monaco) converted coach. We were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida, at the time. Their mobile workshop is a converted EMS truck and is also an RV suitable for business trips of up to three weeks. The photos are not captioned. Click on any image to open the gallery view.
I was awake at 7 AM having only slept for six hours, and not slept well at that. The Magnum remote showed the house batteries at 23.9 VDC and 44% SOC. The Fault light was also still on, and 24.0 VDC was my target voltage, so I put on my sweats, went outside, and turned on the AC power to the coach. The charger section of the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger did not activate, which was very concerning, and I was not getting any current on L1. Figuring out what was wrong, and fixing it if possible, was not what I planned to do today but suddenly became my first/highest priority task. I was reminded, once again, that the RV lifestyle has a lot of unexpected twists and turns and successful enjoyment requires a willingness and ability to deal with whatever comes up.
In order to get on with our day I shut off the Magnum inverter and then shut off the AC shorepower. I unplugged the AC cables into and out of the inverter and plugged the AC subpanel directly into the external AC feed. I turned off the 12 VDC master switch, disabling all of our 12 VDC devices, including our water pump and the control circuitry for the auxiliary air-compressor, and disconnected the positive 24V battery cable from the Magnum 4024, removing power from the unit. I turned on the shore water and at that point we were able to use the coach, at least as long as the auxiliary air pressure remained high enough to operate the air-flush toilet. Worst case was that we might have to use the small portable air compressor and/or start the main engine occasionally to pressurize the system.
My next priority was making coffee and having breakfast. Bill and Brenda Phelan were due to arrive at 9 AM so we needed to be up, dressed, and ready for them. I called Brenda at 8:20 AM and she said they were on the way and would arrive on time. I drove up to the main gate at 8:45 and waited for them. When they arrived I directed them to our site and then drove back myself.
The first time we met Bill and Brenda was when we attended the Arcadia Rally 2014 (at the end of December 2013). They took over the operation of the rally starting with the 2012 gathering at the end of 2011, and ran it for five years, but it was not their main business. They had several businesses including a food concession trailer (The Fry’in Saucer) that they just sold. Their main business is making windshield covers, tire covers, windshield wiper and mirror covers, and patio mats. We ordered tire covers and windshield wiper covers from them at the Tampa RV Supershow in January and they shipped those to use at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia a few weeks ago.
They were here today to make external covers for our bus windshields and the glass on both the driver and passenger sides of the cockpit. They operate RV Windshield Covers of Florida as a mobile business out of a very unique vehicle. Having converted a couple of buses into motorhomes they bought a used EMS truck (ambulance) and reconfigured it as a small motorhome with an industrial sewing machine and storage for all of their tools, materials, and supplies. The window covers are custom made on site, so the mobile workshop is a necessity.
After looking at our coach and discussing the job with us, we decided to have one large cover for the windshield, on large cover for the driver side fixed windows, and three covers for the passenger side. The reason for three covers on the passenger side was that the door has a window that opens and we wanted to be able to cover it independently. That required the fixed windows above it and to the rear of it to each have their own cover. Basically, the work went as follows:
- Measure the window to be covered.
- Roll out a large enough piece of fabric on the ground.
- Cut the fabric to that require shape and dimensions, but a bit larger all the way around.
- Hem the edges and reinforce them, adding loops to the four corners and the company label to one of the hems.
- Attached 1/2 of a snap fitting to each corner to start, and in the center of the upper edge of wider pieces.
- Hold the fabric up and get it temporarily in position and mark the location on the body of one of the upper corner snaps. Drill and hole and screw the mating park of the snap into the body.
- Attach the fabric to the snap and then stretch it to the other upper corner and mark the location of that snap.
- Drill a hole and screw in the mating part of the snap.
- Attach the fabric to the second snap. Repeat this for the lower corners and any additional snaps that are needed to get the fabric to stretch tight and lay flat.
- Repeat for each window cover.
While Bill and Brenda worked I called John Palmer to get his opinion about the Magnum 4024 problem. He suggested that I reset the unit and see if that cleared the fault. If not, he suggested I call tech support. He confirmed that he had a couple of units in stock if I needed one, and also had high end standalone chargers.
I wanted to go through a careful diagnostic procedure before calling Magnum T/S. I found the manual on my iPad and looked at the diagnostic and routine maintenance procedures. The wiring appeared to be good and power was making it through the Progressive Industries EMS unit. I thought I had reset the unit earlier but according to the manual I had not done it correctly, which is to say, I had not actually reset the unit. Followed the directions and voilà! I called John back to update him.
When Bill and Brenda were done working we got out four chairs, visited for a while, and gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work. We were impressed with their on-site fabricating and installation process and very pleased with the way the covers turned out. The chocolate brown mesh fabric is the same one we chose for our tire covers and complements the paint colors on the bus, including the chocolate brown upper body.
Once Bill and Brenda left Linda changed into her swimsuit and went to the pool while I took a nap. Linda eventually returned from her swim, I eventually woke up from my nap, and we eventually had dinner. At least I presume that we did as I did not finish this post at the time and am editing it for upload to our website many months later. I did, however, record that Joan and Bill, whom we met at the welcome party yesterday, stopped to chat, and that another couple also stopped.
[ 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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade
We had a long day yesterday and even though we were in bed before 11 PM we still slept in until 8 AM this morning. I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as we were picking up Mara at 8:50. We shut down our computers and iPads and packed them for travel. We set the windows in the bus so the cats would be comfortable. At 8:45 AM we loaded the car and drove over to get Mara. We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then headed west on FL-70 for Ed and Betty Burns’ place in Bradenton.
The main purpose of our visit today was to upgrade Linda’s Samsung laptop computer and my ASUS notebook computer to Windows 10 using Ed and Betty’s unlimited broadband data. A secondary objective was for Linda to purchase/download the latest version of Turbo Tax. Our tertiary goal was to update iPad and smartphone apps.
We got to Ed and Betty’s a little after 10 AM, introduced them to Mara, and got busy setting up our computers. We had a bit of a false start but finally had the Windows 10 installation process launched by 11 AM. After quite a bit of conversation, Linda and Betty busied themselves making lunch and Mara settled in to go through her mail. Once the files for Windows 10 appeared to be downloaded I initiated the update process for eight apps on my iPad2. Betty washed off a bag of red grapes and set them out for all of us to enjoy.
At 12:30 PM we moved our technology to a coffee table in the living room to clear the dining room table for lunch. Betty made a large pot of vegan chili mac and we had sliced avocado, tortillas, and potato chips to go with it, along with grapes and slices of Meyer lemons for our water. Florida really is a good place to be if you want to “eat fresh.”
The ladies left around 1:45 PM to go for a walk while Ed and I stayed behind. I connected my phone to their Wi-Fi and updated a dozen apps. My computer was finally ready to configure Windows 10 at 2 PM and I went through the customized personalization rather than accepting the Express Setup defaults. My iPad was up-to-date so I started working on this post while I waited for the Windows 10 process to finally finish.
It took until 2:30 PM for my computer to be fully booted up and usable. About that same time Linda’s computer was finally ready to configure. I wanted Linda here for the configuration choices so I waited for her return. The ladies got back at 2:45 PM and Linda resumed configuring her machine. We had originally planned to go see the 3 PM practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions in Myakka City, but we would have had to leave at 2 PM to get there. We will definitely go seem them, but for now this was, once again, deferred to a future day.
Linda purchased, downloaded, and installed the latest version of TurboTax and was done installing updates by 4:20 PM. Her update process went smoothly, if slowly, and without any apparent hitches. When the initial Windows 10 upgrade finished on my machine I did not have any of the quick start or system tray icons which concerned me greatly. After rebooting my computer, more than once, the icons eventually returned. I installed an undated driver for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU). I also had a problem with the sound but was able to resolve it using the audio troubleshooter.
I rebooted my machine for what I hoped was the last time at 4:45 PM. It took 15 minutes to fully boot up and I made one more check for updates. It appeared that the operating system updates were all done but there were still updates to install for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are large and tend to take a long time to download.
By this point Betty had opened a couple of bottles of wine and convinced all of us that the collect best option for dinner was to order pizza and eat at their house. Linda coordinated the pizzas and ordered them from Vertoris’ where we ate last night and which was only seven miles away. While she and Ed were in transit to get the pizza and salad I updated Photoshop and Lightroom. I started each program and Photoshop indicated that it had a problem with the video card driver and had disabled some of its enhancement features. That was not an immediate problem as I do not presently make any use of Photoshop, but the incompatibility was distressing nonetheless.
I had done what I could in the way of updates for today so I shut down my computer and packed it away to clear the table for dinner. Betty set the table and Linda and Ed returned a short time later with the food. We sat down to a wonderful meal with friends that finally concluded around 7:30 PM. It had been a wonderful day with friends and we had gotten a lot accomplished thanks to the use of their technology, but by 7:45 PM we were all tired and the three of us were on our way back to Arcadia. We dropped Mara back at her motorhome at 8:45 PM and were back at our coach by 8:50 PM. We watched the end of an episode of Endeavor and then watched another complete episode. By then we were sleepy tired and went to bed.
2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads
We slept in this morning until after 8 AM and so did the cats. We lounged around in our sweats drinking coffee and eventually had granola for breakfast. It was cloudy with rain coming and we considered spending the day in the bus in our sweats when we remembered that it was the first Saturday of the month.
The Arcadia Farmers Market takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month so Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go. She did, so we got dressed, picked her up in the car, and drove downtown. To our disappointment there were only four vendors there and only two of them were selling food. One was a local farm that had freshly picked Napa cabbage and locally produced honey. Linda bought a head of the cabbage and Mara bought a cabbage and a jar of honey. We took a short walk around downtown and then drove to Joshua Citrus Co.
At Joshua Citrus we bought a few Ruby Red grapefruit and a few Honeybelle tangelos. Mara also bought a variety of citrus including Meyer lemons. We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for cat litter and a few sundry items while Mara picked up some groceries. We dropped her at her motorhome and took a minute to meet another couple from Howell, Michigan who were just getting ready to pull out. We then returned to our rig around 1 PM.
Linda made rollup sandwiches with soft tortillas, Napa cabbage, dark greens, and hummus. At 1:30 PM she phoned Mara to see if she wanted to go for a walk and headed over to rendezvous with her. I had a call earlier from Dave Aungier and called him back. He had downloaded his BCM article from my Dropbox and reviewed it. We went over a few minor changes, which I made to the Word doc, and discussed the process of submitting it to the magazine and working it through to publication.
Dave and I were done talking by 2 PM and it had started to rain lightly. Linda had worn her raincoat but returned around 2:30. By that time I had turned my attention to the three articles that Stacy had finished proofreading and returned to me. I went through each one and accepted most of the changes. I then went through each one and made sure I had all of the image files properly identified and organized. I backed up all of the files, moved them to the READY folder, and then uploaded them to my Dropbox. Once everything had transferred I e-mailed Gary (BCM publisher) and Jorge (layout) and let them know the files were there. I had a few more e-mails back and forth with Gary and had to redo a panoramic photo that had discontinuities in it that I had not noticed.
Mara came to our rig to discuss some logistics related to the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that she and her friend, Michael, are going on at the end of the month. As it turns out we will take them to Miami and pick them up when they return and take care of Mara’s two cats while they are away. Mara waited for a lull in the rain and returned to her rig a little before 6 PM. For dinner Linda prepared a salad with diced Napa cabbage and honey roasted peanuts and a homemade dressing made with rice wine vinegar, sesame and vegetable oils, Dijon mustard, fresh grated ginger, salt, and pepper. It was very good. She then reheated the leftover pizza from the last two nights. The pizza was exceptional when it was fresh and, although it lost its crisp crust on reheating, it was still tasty as leftovers.
While Mara was visiting the leak around the bedroom ceiling vent/fan reappeared. The lower outside corner of the lower passenger side windshield also leaked, but we expect that to happen every time until we do something to fix it.
After dinner we watched a couple episodes of Endeavor and then a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By. After that we watched a PBS documentary on Jason Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter. We caught a few minutes of news and weather and went to bed.
2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday
Today was just one of those days. It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s another story. As we do most days we started our morning with coffee.” As she often does on Sunday mornings, Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast. We split a ruby red grapefruit as well.
Linda walked to Winn-Dixie with Mara while I settled in to work at my computer. My plan was to edit and upload blog posts but in the end I only got two more posts ready to go and did not get them uploaded. Not that I was goofing off; I was busy all day but ended up taking care of other things.
For starters, I downloaded an updated version of the Logitech SetPoint software for my Logitech UltraThin Touch Mouse and then reconfigured the settings. The mouse is capable of a variety of things with just subtle movements but seemed to be less stable than before the Windows 10 upgrade. I was also having problems with my cursor jumping around while typing. I initially noticed it while typing e-mails but noticed it later while working in Word. Linda had the presence of mind to suggest that it might be the touchpad. Sure enough, the touchpad was active. That had not occurred to me because it wasn’t active under Windows 8.1. Apparently the upgrade to Windows 10 activated it. So much for maintaining my existing settings.
I had additional e-mails back and forth with Gary and Jorge at BCM, as result of which I updated the BCM page on our website. I also e-mailed Brenda Phelan to check on the status of our tire covers. When I finally got to work on blog posts I selected and processed several photos from our visit on Thursday to the Ringling Estate. I then edited the two posts mentioned previously.
When Linda got back from Winn-Dixie she made rollup sandwiches for lunch with dark leafy greens and garlic hummus in soft tortillas. We had red grapes to go with the sandwiches. After lunch she walked up to the mail room. I got a happy birthday card from our daughter and son-in-law, which was nice. The eight pounds of coffee we ordered from Teeko’s back home had also arrived. I checked the order to make sure it was correct. It was, so I stored the box as we won’t need it for another couple of weeks. I exchanged a couple of text messages with my daughter and decided it would be easier to just call her. We had a nice chat.
Mara walked down to our coach mid-late afternoon and the three of us went for a vigorous walk through the entire RV resort. We all returned to our bus and visited long enough for me to demonstrate the mapped location history feature in RVillage. Mara headed back to her rig around 5:30 PM and Linda started fixing our dinner. She made vegan Sloppy Joe’s with TVP and baked sweet potato fries. Yum.
Eventually it was time for Super Bowl L (50). I had intended to continue working at my computer all evening but my enthusiasm had waned and I found the game distracting. We kept the volume down and played games until 9 PM and then switched the TV to PBS and watched Downton Abbey. When it was over we switched back to the game. It looked like the Denver Broncos were going to beat the Carolina Panthers so we watched a documentary on PBS/World about a family in Japan. Linda went to bed when it was over but I switched to PBS/Create and watched a tribute concert to American film composer John Williams. Jasper curled up with me for a while and then indicated it was time to go to bed.
2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep
It got down to 40 degrees F outside last night and dropped into the upper 50’s in the coach. Juniper stayed close to us for most of the night and snuggled up next to my head around 4:30 AM. The cats must have eaten most of their food during the night as by 7 AM Juniper was most insistent that I get up. I finally did at 7:15 AM, fed them, turned on the furnace, and made our morning coffee. Linda was up by 7:30, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and was playing word games by the time the coffee was ready. That girl really likes her word games
Linda checked our Verizon account via her iPad and we had used 7.03 of our 10 GB of monthly data plus the 2 GB of extra allocation we got for downloading and installing the Verizon go90 app on our phones. The data usage function on the Mi-Fi device (Novatel 5510L) showed 9.03 out of 12 GB as it combines all available data, so they were in agreement. It’s a good thing we have the extra 2 GB each month for the next few billing cycles. This current cycle (January 20 through February 19) has included iOS and app updates for both of our iPads, app updates for our Android phones, uploading of four BCM articles to our Dropbox (with lots of photos), numerous e-mails with large attachments, and upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 on both of our computers. Even though we made some use of the resort Wi-Fi while at the laundry room, and did the Windows OS and some iPad/smartphone upgrades at Ed and Betty Burns’ place using their unlimited broadband connection, it has been a heavy period of data usage for our Verizon account. Twelve gigabytes is not enough data to get us through a typical month while we are away from home.
We had granola for breakfast with fresh fruit and juice and then settled in to finish our coffee and doodle on our iPads. I e-mailed my blog posts for the last five days to myself and then download/installed the Gmail app on my iPad2. We took showers, got dressed, straightened up the bathroom, and got on with our chores. I turned on the electric block heater for the engine to warm it up for a maintenance start later today.
We are headed to Homestead and the Florida Keys tomorrow for four days so today was, in part, a travel preparation day. Linda’s first task was a trip to the post office to mail the book she bought at The Ringling estate for Madeline’s Valentine’s Day present.
We are taking the car and leaving the cats behind in Mara’s care so Linda wanted to clean up the bus a bit. We also both needed haircuts. Linda made a 1 PM appointment at a place near the Winn-Dixie. One of my tasks was doing laundry which I took care of at 11 AM. Linda finally got hold of a real, live person at the Florida Toll Road Sunpass system but the account is in my name and they would not talk to her. She found me in the laundry room and worked her way through the phone menu until she got back to an actual person and then put me on the phone. The woman was very nice and very efficient and it only took about 10 minutes to get our account reconfigured so we could access it. We logged in and confirmed that we still have a credit balance and updated our credit card information.
When I was done with the laundry I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop. When Linda got back from her appointment she cut my hair. Another task was giving Mara a key to our coach and going over the care and feeding of our feline friends. Linda took care of that.
A few days ago our Progressive Industries EMS threw another PE2 error code, which indicates an open ground. The current error code is 0 (zero), indicating that everything is OK, so it is/was obviously a momentary problem. Presumably the problem is in the resort wiring as that is what the PI EMS is designed to monitor and protect against. I wanted to do done things with the bus chassis today so I took care of this at the same time. Unlike last time, I shut off the circuit breaker at the power pole, unplugged the shorepower cable, cycled the breaker a couple of times to wipe the contacts, cleaned the contacts on the plug, inserted and removed it several times to clean the contacts in the outlet, plugged it back in, and turned the breaker back on. All of that was designed to clean electrical contacts and remove a possible marginal connection.
Another thing I did today was start the bus engine, let it warm up, moved the bus aft and for slightly to make sure the brakes were not frozen, and re-leveled the coach before shutting the engine down. I shut of the block heater and Aqua-Hot burner before starting the engine. We are a little over half way through our stay here at Big Tree RV Resort and given the often humid, rainy conditions I wanted to make sure the brakes were not rusted closed. I also wanted to check the fuel gauge as we have been running the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system on cold mornings and it uses about 1/4 gallon of diesel fuel per hour when operating. When I was done with this process I turned on the fuel polishing pump so it could run while we were away.
We still had enough gallons of fresh water on board that I decided not to dump and fill the tanks today. With the engine/chassis stuff taken care of my main focus today, when not preparing for our trip, doing laundry, eating meals, going for walks, and dealing with e-mails, was working on my blog. It may be the thing I want to do, but it is often not the thing I need to do, or in some cases, the thing I have to do.
I failed to record what we had for dinner but I’m sure it was tasty. We watched TV for a while and then went to bed.
2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip
My night was interrupted around 1:30 AM by very strong wind gusts. All of the awnings were out except the large patio awning and were perfectly capable of being damaged by the gusts. I put on my sweats, slipped into my Crocs, and went outside to stow the awnings. The two bedroom window awnings and the driver side living room awning are held open by straps with a loop on the end that slips over a hook mounted on the side of the coach. The roller tubes are spring loaded and self-retract when the straps are released. While retracting they have to be controlled, using a long metal rod with a right angle bend on one end and a semi-circle handle on the other, but are otherwise easy to deploy and stow. Besides the possibility of the fabric tearing where it mounts to the body or the roller tube, we had the front end of the driver side front awning flipped up by a strong wind gust in Sheridan, Wyoming. I would not have believed that was possible unless I had seen it happen, but we were not about to risk having it happen again.
I spite of my sleep being interrupted I was up at 7 AM. As we do every morning, we fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray. We finished packing, adjusted the windows, loaded the car, pulled out as of our site a little before 8 AM, and stopped at the dumpster to drop off a bag of kitchen trash. We drove to the local Shell station to fill the fuel tank and stopped next door at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat. We then headed east on FL-70.
Our destination was Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park. Our route was FL-70 east to US-27 south to FL-821 south (which is part of the Florida Toll Road system) to its terminus at US-1 in Florida City just south of Homestead. From there we headed west through Florida City and on to Everglades National Park. This part of Florida is very flat but it was still an interesting drive. It was cloudy and cool for the whole drive down.
We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and stamp our National Parks “Passport.” We entered the park using Linda’s Senior Access Pass and a few miles in stopped at the Anhinga and Limbo Gumbo trails area. We walked both trails, each about 1/2 mile in length, and I took quite a few photos. By the time we got back to our car it was 1:30 PM. We were hungry and wanted to get more information about boat tours so we drove the 34 miles to Flamingo. We had lunch at the Buttonwood Cafe and went over to the Marina to check on buying fuel. They wanted over $5 per gallon so I passed.
We also checked on the pontoon boat tours. Two different tours were available, one into Florida Bay and the other into the Mangroves. Both tours left on the hour starting at 9 AM with the last one departing at 4 PM. The tours lasted just under two hours, and cost $35. They did not take reservations and tickets could only be purchased the same day. We decided to return to the park tomorrow and deferred any decision about the boats until then.
By this time, it was late enough in the day that we decided to start back towards the entrance 34 miles away. We stopped at Pa-Hay-Okee and hiked the boardwalk before leaving the park for the day. On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a Shell station in Florida City and filled the fuel tank for a more reasonable price per gallon. We found the hotel, a Hampton Inn just off exit #2 of the Florida Toll Road between Florida City and Homestead, and checked in. We had lunch rather later and were undecided about what to do for dinner, or when. We drove across the street to the Publix supermarket, bought snacks for tomorrow, and bought red grapes, hummus, and sourdough pretzel nibblers to have for dinner in our room.
We had Direct TV in our room but eventually found PBS and CBS and watched our usual Tuesday night programs. We also found The Weather Channel and Weather Nation and checked the current weather and forecast for the next few days with great interest. Some of the coldest weather of the year was dropping down through the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, affecting the Northeast, mid-South, mid-Atlantic, and Deep South past our location and all the way to Key West. We had brought a variety of clothing, so we were prepared.
2016/01/26 (T) Filter Me This
The low temperature overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F. That’s good sleeping weather for us, so we left several windows open and did not need the furnace and I did not turn on the heater pad on the bed.
As I have written the last couple of days I have not been feeling quite right. This morning I had a productive cough. That is never a good thing but it is better than having stuff in my lungs that won’t come out. I was feeling better today so perhaps I am finally kicking out whatever it is that got hold of me.
I made our morning coffee and used up the last of the current batch of coffee beans. We have used six pounds of coffee in the last 60 days; a pound every 10 days on average. We left home with eight pounds of coffee from Teeko’s; two pounds each of four different beans/blends packaged in 1/2 pound vacuum sealed bags. I blend pairs of beans in equal proportion when I grind them to make our daily half-caffe morning coffee. We have four 1/2 pound bags left, which will carry us for about 20 more days at our current rate of consumption. We have been vacillating about whether to order more beans from Teeko`s but decided today that we probably should, and do so relatively soon.
Breakfast was our usual, but always scrumptious, granola and fresh blueberries with orange/grapefruit juice. After breakfast Linda spent some time trying to get in touch with someone from the Florida Sunpass (toll road) system but was unable to ever speak to an actual human being. We have a Sunpass transponder in our Honda Element from two years ago and have a Sunpass account to go with it. Unfortunately, we did not record the details of that account in our password app and have been unable to access the account to see if it is still active, has a credit balance, or to add money. Up to this point we have not needed to use the Florida toll roads, but eventually we will. She finally got frustrated, sent an e-mail to their contact address, and then went for a walk
When she returned from her stroll, Linda busied herself with her counted crisis-stitch project. Last night she made arrangements for us to visit SE Florida and the Florida Keys. She zeroed in on February 9, 10, and 11 and confirmed that Mara was willing/able to take care of our cats while we were away. After looking at various options we decided that we wanted to use Homestead, Florida as a base from which to explore the area. One reason was that the prices for lodging in Marathon were $200+ per night and in Key West $400+ per night. We are not late night party animals, so we did not need to spend that kind of money just to have a place we could stumble home to in the middle of the night.
The best price she found for a hotel was a well-rated Travel Lodge in Homestead for $109 per night but Trivago would not let her specify a non-smoking room. The Travel Lodge website clearly showed both smoking and non-smoking rooms so we were not about to risk ending up in a smoking room. The next best deal was for a non-smoking room in a Hampton Inn for $160 per night, which includes breakfast. We have always liked Hampton Inns and as a bonus they did not have a reservation cancellation fee. She booked us for the three nights.
Our plan is to leave early on the 9th and visit Everglades National Park via the Homestead entrance. We will then check in to the Inn late in the afternoon. On the 10th we will leave early and drive through the Keys, seeing what there is to see along the way, and eventually arriving in Key West. We will get a taste of the Conch Republic but leave in time to get back to the Inn in Homestead at a reasonable hour. On the 11th we might return to Everglades National Park and/explore other things in the area. We will probably sleep in on the 12th, enjoy the complimentary breakfast (as much of it as we can eat), and then check out and head back to Arcadia.
While Linda was walking and working on her project I edited seven more blog posts. Late morning I took a break to finish the regeneration of the water softener. I removed the clear housing from the pre-filter housing attached to the inlet on the water softener, removed the diverter tube and flat washer, and returned them to the plastic zip lock bag I store them in. I put the opaque blue housing back on without a filter element inside and ran water through the tank to flush out any remaining salt brine. I tested the water coming out of softener and it was at 1.5 gpg. That was a very discouraging result given that I just used almost 52 ounces of table salt to regenerate it. In the 3-1/2 years we have owned this water softener I have only once successfully regenerated the softener back to zero (0) grains per gallon. Overall it has been a disappointing purchase.
It was time to replace the sediment filter ahead of the softener and the carbon filter going into the fresh water tank but we did not bring spare cartridges with us. I took a minute to take several pictures of the caulk that is peeling loose from our new passenger side lower windshield and attached one to a text message to Chuck Spera which resulted in a brief exchange. I then took the car and went on an errand run.
My first stop was Walmart where I found a pair of 5 micron 10″ sediment filter cartridges, a pair of 10″ charcoal wrapped taste and odor whole house filter cartridges, two 48 ounce boxes of coarse Kosher salt for future regenerations, and a bag of animal crackers. (I checked the label and they did not contain animal products)
My next stop was the local NAPA Auto Parts Store. They had small tubes of silicone adhesive caulk, both black and clear, but I did not buy any at this time. My next stop was the local Shell station where I topped up the fuel tank. I then moved the car next door to the Dunkin Donuts and got a frozen mocha latte made with almond milk. It was warm today and I wanted a treat.
Back at our coach I measured our windshield wipers and then e-mailed Brenda Phelan the dimensions so she can send us the correct sun covers along with the tire covers we ordered from her and Bill at the Tampa RV Supershow. With that done I contacted Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida to see if we could take advantage of their 2-for-1 special and stay two weeks for the weekly rate.
Our current departure date from Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia is March 7th. Florida Grande was able to take us starting on that date for two weeks so I made the reservation. The resort is south of Ocala and The Villages, north of Bushnell, northeast of Brooksville, northwest of Lakeland, and west of Orlando, so it is centrally situated to a part of the state where we can easily spend two weeks exploring and touching base with some friends in the area.
With Florida Grande in hand I pulled up the website for Jetty Park Beach and Campground at Port Canaveral on Cape Canaveral. We were hoping that we could get in there when we left Florida Grande. Our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, moved to Jetty Park when they left Fort Wilderness at Disney World in mid-February. They have done this every year for at least the last six years. I visited them there two years ago after dropping Linda at the Orlando airport, so I know it’s a nice little park in a unique location and an ideal place to explore Florida’s Space Coast.
The Jetty Park online reservation system indicated that no sites of the type we wanted (full hookup) were available starting on March 21st but said to call or e-mail the office. I knew from my conversations with Pat and Vickie that the park campground was extremely popular with repeat visitors who book their reservations a year in advance. They had also told me that folks occasionally cancel reservations but if I called and checked repeatedly we might be able to get in.
I got an answering machine and left my name, cell phone number, and the dates we were interested in. I got a call back a short time later from Scott. He was able to put us on a site for one night on March 21st at the daily rate, and a different sight for seven nights starting on the 22nd, which qualified for the weekly rate. Sold.
Jetty Park is a bit more expensive than what we normally like to spend for camping but it is on the Atlantic Ocean between the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cocoa Beach. It is also on the south shore of the channel that separates the park from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Spaceflight facility as well as and a U. S. Navy submarine base. If you are there at the right time submarines can be viewed as they are going into or out of the base. The Port/channel is used heavily by cruise ships, including the Disney Cruise Lines. If the timing is right, rocket launches can also be viewed from there, up close and personal. I was lucky enough to see a military satellite launch when I was there two years ago. My recollection is that it was me and about 10,000 other people, not only in the park but lining the access roads for miles to the west. I remember thinking then that it would be much better to be camped at Jetty Park Campground than fighting this traffic after the launch. Indeed, I crashed (no pun intended) on Pat and Vickie’s sofa for 90 minutes until the traffic dissipated and then drove back to Williston Crossings.
I e-mailed Pat and Vickie to let them know we got into Jetty Park Campground and give them the dates. We hope they will still be there for at least part of our stay but even if they have already moved on there is way more to do in the area than we can experience in one week. I then e-mailed Ed Roelle and Bruce/Linda Whitney to update them on our travel plans.
With all of that accomplished I returned to working on our water system. I use a sediment filter cartridge in the first housing, which I removed and replaced with the 5 micron cartridge I bought earlier at Walmart. I then unscrewed the housing that is mounted inside the water bay. I had to use my large slip pliers since the filter wrench could not be positioned properly to turn it far enough to loosen the housing. The element that was in there was a specialized cartridge that I bought it in Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter. It was more expensive than most and my recollection is that it contained some silver and had a very small micron rating. We have a 0.5 micron drinking water filter that filters for five different things including cysts, lead, and VOCs, so a whole house carbon wrapped filter on the water input to the coach fresh water tank should be more than adequate.
We went for a walk and stopped at the activity building. We were expecting a package from Amazon tomorrow but Pat, one of the resort managers, flagged us down to let us know it arrived today. We picked it up from the office and carried it back to the coach. It was 15 pounds of the Science Diet Sensitive Skin and Stomach cat food, which we could not find locally.
For dinner Linda made sautéed kale with garlic and turmeric and vegan quesadillas with Daiya cheddar cheese. Red grapes rounded out the meal, which was simple but delicious. We went for another walk after dinner and then settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV shows. All of the shows were repeats that did not require our full attention, so Linda worked on puzzles and I worked on this post.
2016/01/27 (W) Rained In
The rain started around 2 this morning and intensified through the 4 AM hour before tapering off and ending, temporarily, around 7 AM. We awoke at 7:45 AM and realized it was Wednesday. The weekly coffee at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) is Wednesday at 8 AM so we got dressed quickly, grabbed our complimentary coupon, and walked over. As with the last time we went, the place was packed with no seats available as the “regulars” had all arrived at 7:30 AM. They were out of regular coffee so we both filled our travel mugs with what was left of the decaf. We decided not to stay for the announcements and door prize drawings and walked back to our coach.
The weather forecast was for the rain to resume late morning and continue until dinner time tomorrow so Linda decided to get a long walk in before the rain returned. While she was out I used my computer to upload two more blog posts. My goal is to get 5 to 7 of them uploaded each day, but after doing two I tired of the task. I don’t feel sick, but I am still coughing stuff up occasionally and I feel a little tired, which I attribute to fighting off whatever ailment I have developed. Jasper, our 11 year old male mackerel tabby cat, started sneezing yesterday and the sneezing became more frequent today. He is eating and drinking, and does otherwise appear to be out of sorts, but we will have to keep an eye on him.
Mid-morning I phoned Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home and ordered eight (8) pounds of custom roasted coffee beans, two pounds each of four different things, to be vacuum packed in 1/2 pound bags. I ordered Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, both regular and decaffeinated, Seattle Blend (caffeinated), and Sweet Dreams, a decaffeinated blend. When I grind the beans just before making our coffee I mix the Yirgacheffe beans 50/50 or I mix the Seattle Blend and Sweet Dreams 50/50 to make Sweet Seattle Dreams. The Yirgacheffe is a single bean coffee, smooth and pure, whereas the Sweet Seattle Dreams is a blend of many beans and is slightly more complex in flavor. We like both so I usually alternate between them from day to day.
We left home the day after Thanksgiving Day with eight pounds of the same assortment of beans. At our current rate of consumption of one pound every 10 days our current supply of beans should get us to mid-February, approximately 80 days from when we left to head south for the winter. The new beans will be shipped USPS and should be here in 7 to 10 days.
That was the last thing I did of any note for the rest of the day. We were socked in by the weather since we chose not to walk in the rain. Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I took a nap. I eventually got up and played games on my iPad while she took a nap. I laid down a second time and flipped through the various local OTA TV news and weather stations but did not fall asleep. Rainy days are good for that, especially when there isn’t anything else I feel like doing. Eventually Linda made dinner which was a bit of work. She made mujadara, a brown lentil and basmati rice dish with cumin, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, topped with caramelized onions. It was very good.
After dinner we watched the PBS Newshour, which is providing reasonably intelligent coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign and the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. We then watched our usual Wednesday evening PBS nature and science programs. Linda went to bed at 10 PM but I stayed up until midnight to watch Charlie Rose, which I consider to be one of the most intelligent shows on television. I went to bed to the pitter-patter sound of rain lightly falling on the roof of our coach and drifted off to sleep.
2016/01/28 (R) Bloody Nose
The rain continued overnight into this morning and intensified between 4 and 6 AM. I was awake off and on starting at 3 but awake to stay by 7. We both got up at 7:30.
Jasper, our make cat, started sneezing occasionally a couple of days ago and was sneezing more frequently yesterday and into the evening. We awoke this morning to find blood spattered on the living room floor and a couple of spots on the captain’s chair nearest to the desk. It appeared that Jasper was probably sleeping in that chair when he had to sneeze. We were able to clean all of the blood off of the tile and get the spots out of the chair fabric.
Before I could make our morning coffee I had to open the last four vacuum-packed bags of coffee beans and transfer them to the airtight stainless steel storage canisters. While I did that, and then ground the beans and prepared the brewer, Linda researched sneezing and bloody noses in cats. (She is our Google queen.) Based on what she found, he almost certainly has an upper respiratory infection, but beyond that it’s hard to say. He is eating and drinking, which is good, and his behavior has not changed as far as we can tell, which is also good. (He’s an 11 year old cat and normally sleeps more than he is awake.)
The rain quit by 8 AM but it was solidly overcast. The chance of precipitation through lunch time was only 15% but jumped back up to 30% at 1 PM. Juniper, our 7-1/2 year old female cat, seems to be just fine and climbed up in Linda’s lap where she likes to be whenever possible. While we drank our coffee Linda used her iPad to check in on the world and play a few games, while I used mine to finish up yesterday’s blog post and start on today’s post.
I decided to call the veterinarian’s office at 9 AM and see if we needed to bring Jasper in. They said we probably should and scheduled an appointment for 12:30 PM.
We had granola for breakfast and then got dressed. I settled in at the desk and worked on blog posts for the rest of the morning. The rain was forecast to continue through the day and into the evening before finally clearing out of the area by midnight. There was a bit of a lull during the morning, during which Linda walked over to the dumpster with our small daily bag of kitchen trash and then got in a long walk before returning to our coach. Once she got back Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project.
We put Jasper in his carrier at 12:15 PM and drove the short distance to Desoto Veterinary Services where Dr. McNulty checked him over. His lungs were clear and his heart was strong and normal, but his temperature was elevated slightly. Doc gave him a shot of a multi-acting antibiotic and antibacterial nasal drops. The drops were actually ophthalmological, but he pointed out that anything designed to work in the eyes will also work in the nasal/sinus area as that is where fluids from the eyes end up via the drainage tubes.
As long as Jasper was there Dr. McNulty scarped some tartar off of his teeth. I had never seen this done on a cat that had not been anesthetized but Jasper tolerated it quite well. Linda said she had seen our vet back home, Dr. Carron, do this before. In addition to the bill for today’s services we purchased six more doses of Cheristin flea medication. That will cover both cats for February, March, and April until we get home. We will switch them back to Revolution as we still have quite a supply of it and it also protects against heartworm.
Before returning to the RV resort we drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off our plastic recyclables. By the time we got back to the coach it was starting to rain again. Jasper was glad to be back in the coach and out of his carrier and we glad to be snug in our home-on-wheels and out of the rain.
We had a bite of lunch and I resumed editing blog posts but was struggling to maintain my concentration and interest, so I took a nap. When I got up I checked e-mail and had a reply from Pat and Vickie Lintner. They will be at Jetty Park Beach and Campground at least through the end of March so we will get to hang out with them while we are there.
Late afternoon I had a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint. We chat occasionally but this call was promoted by a visit to our website where she noticed that my latest blog post was from early October 2015. She was wondering if I had stopped blogging or if we had, perhaps, stopped traveling. The answers were ‘no’ and ‘no’, of course, but that was just an opening to a conversation, not the end of one.
For dinner Linda made tortilla wraps with BBQ pan-seared tofu and caramelized onion and served a side of corn and edamame. I really like this way of preparing tofu but it is messy. I have come to the conclusion that my favorite way to have it is wrapped in a soft, warm tortilla. It’s tasty, and helps contain the mess.
After dinner we tuned in the PBS Newshour for our daily dose of presidential campaign nonsense and analysis. We then watched our usual Thursday night CBS TV programs for a brief escape from the bizarre reality of American politics.
The rainfall over southwest Florida in the 48 hours from late Tuesday evening through late this evening has been epic, and the rainfall totals for the month of January have been historic. Some places closer to the Gulf Coast to our west, southwest, and south received almost 13 inches of rain and most locations received 5 to 10 times their normal rainfall for the entire month. Fortunately Arcadia, in general, and Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, in particular, seem to drain well and we did not have any issues with flooding. Our coach continues to have leaks, however, and while that is frustrating enough by itself, they seem to appear in new places and not reappear in previous locations.
This time around the carpet runners on the entry stairs were soaking wet. Besides the leak around the new, and newly installed, passenger side lower windshield, it appears that water has gotten under the new landing platform as the passenger side rear lower corner is water stained and wet. My guess is that water ran down into the stepwell from there but how it got there in the first place is a mystery. Given the problems I discovered with water under the pilot and navigator seats, my guess is that water somehow got to the landing from there, but that only begs the question of where the water gained entry and how it got that far in the first place.
2016/01/29 (N) Ed and Betty
Jasper had a difficult night, sneezing often and usually multiple times when he did. As a result I did not get the best night’s sleep. The weather cleared out overnight and in spite of Jasper’s difficulties I did get some rest. I woke around 7 AM to a beautiful sunrise lighting scattered clouds to the southwest. We had coffee, toast, and juice for breakfast, showered, and got dressed.
We pulled out of our site at 10 AM and stopped at the Resort dumpster on our way out. We left the Resort about 10:10 and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton. We stopped at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch, just east of I-75, and Linda bought flowers. We arrived at Ed and Betty Burns’ home, just east of I-75 and south of Fl-70, around 11:15 AM.
It was great to finally see Ed and Betty again. Since the last time we saw them they have sold their motorhome and bought a manufactured house (double wide) in a nice development in Bradenton, Florida.
For lunch Betty had baked a loaf of German Rye Bread and made a pot of vegan vegetable soup from a mix she found. She also had grape tomatoes and orange segments. It was an excellent lunch of good food shared with good friends and we very much appreciated her accommodating the way we eat.
After lunch we went for a walk around their gated community and I took a few pictures along the way. We stopped at the clubhouse and pool to check it out. Like the rest of the park they were large, excellent facilities. Back at their house we sat outside chatting and enjoyed some hot tea. It eventually cooled off to where we started to get cold and went inside to continue talking. Rather than go out for dinner we decided to have dinner at Ed and Betty’s. That led Linda and Betty to drive to the Publix supermarket about a half mile from their house to gather ingredients while Ed and I stayed home a opened a couple of bottles of wine. We chatted into the late afternoon enjoying wine and tortilla chips with peach salsa.
Linda and Betty started preparing our evening meal at 5 PM. We had a nice salad that included non-dairy Daiya mozzarella style “cheese.” Slices from an Italian baguette with non-dairy spread accompanied the main dish of angel hair pasta with a slightly sweet Ragu pasta sauce. We waited a while and then had dessert of Marie Callander’s Peach Cobbler served hot with Almond Dream non-dairy ice cream on the side. Once again it was a wonderful meal and we were stuffed.
We finally left at 8:30 PM and drove back to Arcadia. We stopped to check our mailbox and were back in our coach by 9:45 PM. An episode of Endeavour had started at 9:30 PM and we picked it up in progress. When the episode was over at 11 PM Linda headed to bed and I tuned in Charlie Rose.
2016/01/30 (S) Blog Swimming
The temperature dropped back into the 50s last night so we had good sleeping conditions and the coach was only slightly chilly when we woke up this morning. I ran the heating system just long enough to bring the temperature inside up to 70 degrees F and chase away the chill. We had a beautiful day on tap with high, scattered clouds, sunshine, light winds, and temperatures climbing into the 70s. This is why people come to Florida in the winter.
After coffee and a light breakfast of grapefruit and toast, Linda went for a walk and I settled in to work on blog posts. She ended up at Walmart looking at swimming suits for me and called me to see what my waist size was. I did not know, and did not want to dig out a tape measure at the moment, so I told her I would go to the store later and find something. The swimming pool here is heated and there is also a hot tub with a whirlpool feature. Both of them are used regularly but we had not been in them yet as the weather has been too cool and/or too wet. I thought it was still too cool today, but Linda was determined to get in the water.
When Linda returned from her walk I took the car and drove over as I wanted to top off the fuel tank while I was out. I had measured my waist so I had a rough idea of what size swimming suit I needed. Walmart only had one style that I liked so I bought one, along with a new pop-up nylon mesh laundry basket. When I got back to our coach I tried the swimming suit on. It was huge and needed to be returned. I wanted this swimsuit crisis dealt with now. Linda had bought something that she wanted to return so I took both items and their receipts back to the store.
It seems that there are often long lines at Walmart Customer Service counters, but that is just a matter of timing. I did not have to wait very long and the returns were easily accomplished. The problem with the swimming suits at Wally World is that there are gaps in the waist sizes. They had the same style I had previously purchased but the next smaller size looked like it would be too small. Given how much too large the supposedly correct size one was I decided to buy it. I did not have much in the way of options at that point.
I tried it on when I got home and it seemed to fit OK. At my urging Linda had already gone over to the pool. I wore a shirt with my swimsuit, put on my Crocs, and walked over to join her. I found her in the pool hanging on to a foam swim noodle and floating around with a smile on her face to match that of any kid. We were both good swimmers when we were kids, but that was a long time ago. I no longer regard water that is deeper than my shoulders as a friendly place.
The pool was cool on first contact but I could tell that the temperature would be OK after I had been in for a few minutes. I eventually got all the way in and got my exercise by walking around in water up to my neck while moving my arms back and forth through the water. All movements under water are done against considerable resistance and provide good exercise. When I first got there the sun was still bright and warm but eventually thin clouds started to obscure it.
When we were done in the pool we moved to the hot tub, which was quite warm, and Linda turned on the whirlpool pump, which was quite invigorating. When we were done in the hot tub Linda rinsed off in one of the showers to get the chlorinated water out of her hair. I had not gotten my head wet, so I did not bother rinsing off. I had the slight shell of chlorine about me the rest of the day and evening, but it was OK; kind of like a perfume for men.
I resumed uploading blog posts until dinnertime. For dinner Linda prepared large salads with mock cold cut slices, garbanzo beans, fresh blueberries, grape tomatoes, and Daiya shredded non-dairy cheese. She finished up the balsamic vinaigrette and dressed my salad with an Asian soy-ginger vinaigrette. We had a couple slices each of the Italian baguette she bought yesterday and it made for a large, tasty, and satisfying meal.
After dinner we took our iPads and smartphones to the activity building and used the Resort Wi-Fi to download and install all of our app updates. Linda also downloadable and installed the latest update to the iPad operating system (iOS 9.0.2 I think). Once the updates were done we walked back to our coach and watched another episode of Endeavor, which tells the story of the beginning of Endeavor Morse’ career with the Oxford, England city police department and how he became Inspector Morse. Like most BBC dramas, it is extremely well done. We stayed up and watched an episode of “As Time Goes By”, a delightful British comedy starring Judy Dench. There wasn’t much else on that interested us after that and we turned in earlier than usual. I had the lights out before 11 PM.
2016/01/31 (N) Bus Article Photos
Today was another pleasant day, weather wise, with light winds and a high temperature in the mid-70s, but more cloud cover than yesterday. Whatever I caught a few days ago is still with me and Jasper is still sneezing, so the boys on the bus are both still a little under the weather.
I met Dave Aungier at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and photographed his 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion. Dave wrote an article about his bus for Bus Conversion Magazine (long hand) and had his friend Bonnie put it into MS Word. She e-mailed the file to Dave and to me. Other than breaks for lunch and to go for a walk with Linda, I spent most of the day reformatting the article in two columns, doing some minor editing, and then selecting, processing, and inserting photos into the article. I did not finish the work by dinner time and figured I would finish it tomorrow.
Our friend Mara was scheduled to be at Horizon Coach tomorrow for repairs on a slide out seal and then check into our RV Resort. Her cat, Sabra, has been ill and she decided to push everything out by a day so she can take Sabra back to the veterinarian where she is staying near Ft. Lauderdale.
Lunch was roasted red pepper hummus with onion on the dark German rye bread that Betty Burns baked for us last Friday. Double yum. On our first joint walk of the day we found a small group of musicians playing at the gazebo to an equally small audience. The Petanque (p’tunk) and shuffleboard courts were also in full use and there were folks in the swimming pool. Petanque is a form of Bocce Ball that is favored by the Resort residents from Quebec. Linda went swimming later in the afternoon. We had baked potatoes for dinner topped with a sauté of onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and kale. A dollop of Tofutti vegan sour cream added a bit of creaminess. We went for another walk after dinner and stopped by the activity building. The library was full of folks playing dominoes and other folks were gathering for the 7 PM karaoke session.
I was done working for the day and settled in with Linda to watch Downton Abbey and whatever else might be on TV this evening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was the third and final day of the converted bus rally in Arcadia, Florida. Like the last two mornings we walked over to the activities building at the Turner Agri-Civic Center for bagels and coffee. We went over at 7:30 AM so we would have time to eat and visit and still get back to our coach before 8:30 AM. We arranged yesterday for Hotties Detailing to wash our coach and polish the Alcoa aluminum wheels this morning. They expected to be on site around 8:30 AM and were actually a few minutes early.
I stayed around the coach to get them started and then wandered off with my camera to take photos of all the rigs in the east row. Most of them were backed in facing east so I wanted to take advantage of the morning light. We had fog again overnight and into the morning but it dissipated by 9 AM. I returned to our coach before Hotties finished to check on the work. They did a nice job at a fair price.
I went to Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s coach to interview them for a featured bus article in Bus Conversion Magazine about their 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion. By the time I was done with the interview it was time for their lunch so I returned to our coach. I went back in the afternoon and photographed the interior and bays of their bus.
As it was last night, dinner was served at 5 PM. The food for everyone else was different from the night before but included bread and baked potatoes so we were able to have that in addition to our salads.
Starting at 7 PM Master of Ceremonies John Vickery handled the door prizes with help from rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan. The recipient of the third boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines was Dan and Sandy Cerrato. I was getting their information after the door prizes concluded and they invited me back to see their converted bus, a 1953 GM PD4104 that they have had for 37 years. I got the grand tour and had a long chat with both of them.
This was Dan and Sandy’s first rally of any kind ever and I got the feeling that they really enjoyed it. They are very proud of their bus, and obviously still very fond of it after all those years. They had started subscribing to BCM in early 2015 and Dan had read all of my 2015 articles. BCM was also where they found out about the Arcadia rally. They live near Ocala, Florida, so it was an easy trip for them. Dan was interested in writing an article for BCM about their bus and their experiences with it, so we talked about that at length and I offered to assist him if he wanted.
The entertainment for New Year’s Eve was Kenny Flint and the Rough Diamond Band. We sat with Paul/Claudine Elbisser and Dan/Kathy Rory and their son James. James is a young man with Down’s Syndrome but he had the time of his life dancing with the ladies. Kenny even let him sing/play with the band for a couple of songs. We had snacks and a little bit to drink, but not much, and stayed until midnight to welcome in the New Year. We did not have champagne this year, the first time I can remember that we skipped that part of the New Year’s celebration. With the playing/singing of Auld Lang Syne at midnight the band wrapped up the entertainment for the evening and the small crowd drifted out and headed back to their rigs.
On the way back to our coach we stopped at Dan and Sandy’s bus and sat around a small campfire for a while. Scott Crosby was there and David Evans joined us for a while. Although it was not cool enough to require, or even justify, a campfire everyone enjoyed it. It’s just not camping without a campfire. Both Scott and David have GM Silverside buses from the late 1940’s. Scott does video production and some still photography professionally and owns/operates the BusGreaseMonkey.com website/forum. He mounted his small camera on a tripod and made time exposure “light paintings” of several buses, including ours, which he e-mailed to me.
By 1 AM we were tired, thanked Dan and Sandy for the campfire, and headed home. Linda was to bed and asleep right away but it took me until 1:45 AM to finally turn out the lights and go to sleep.
Although I went to bed late last night I was awake at 7 AM this morning and got up at 7:30 to find the rally venue shrouded in dense fog. Linda was still sleeping at 8 AM so I put some of my non-dairy soy coffee creamer in one of our FMCA insulated flip top travel mugs and walked over to the activities building. There are 82 rigs at the rally with close to 160 people and I estimated that 50 of them were at breakfast when I arrived. Some folks had probably been there at 7 AM when breakfast started and left before I got there. Others, including Linda, showed up after me but before breakfast ended at 9 AM. Breakfast was a simple, self-serve, affair at this rally: donuts, bagels, cream cheese, orange juice, and coffee, both regular and decaf. Coffee and a toasted bagel, dry, works for us.
We chatted with Frank Noehl and Jim Seagraves, both members of our FMCA GLCC chapter, and were eventually joined by Jerry and Rose Mary Campbell. Jerry and his parents (Jack and ?) have MCI 102C3 motorcoaches that they converted to Detroit Diesel Series 50 engines from the 2-cycle engines that were original to them. There are two other MCI coaches here with the same engine conversion, and Jack was the driving force behind all four of these repowers. The four buses are parked together and I was interested in hearing more about this process.
The DD Series 50 is basically the same engine as the Series 60 but with four inline cylinders rather than six. I chatted with Jerry yesterday and had a look at his engine bay at that time. It’s a nice installation; a bit tight in spots but it fits. The 50 Series engine was used in transit buses and local delivery trucks but not in long-haul trucks or motorcoaches. Jerry’s engine is rated at 350 HP and 1200 lb-ft of torque. That’s essentially the same torque we get from our DD 8v92TA but 100 less horsepower. I seriously doubt that this would be an adequate engine for our Prevost H3-40 VIP conversion, but it is an intriguing idea should we ever need to replace our 8v92. The Series 50 and Series 60 engines are 4-cycle, inline configurations and develop their torque at lower RPMs than the 2-cycle 92 Series engines and cruise at highway speeds at lower RPMs. They are also designed to work with the newer Allison “World” transmissions.
We were back at our coach by 9:30 AM. The temperature was still in the 70s, if not by much, and there was a stiff breeze so it was actually pleasant sitting in the shade under our patio awning. We had PB&J sandwiches for lunch with Halo orange segments and Snyder Sourdough Pretzel Nibblers. The day eventually heated up, however, and I went inside to work at my computer while Linda went for a walk. I edited the blog posts for September 26 through 30, 2015, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and uploaded them to our WordPress site. Linda got back and stayed inside to read while I took the camera and went out to photograph the buses and other RVs at the rally.
Even with partly cloudy skies the sun was very hot and many of the rigs were not in good light. And even though they were parked with a generous amount of space between them they were still close enough together to make good photos a challenge. Folks also tend to have their toads parked in front of their rigs, making good photo vantage points just that much more difficult to find.
As I was photographing I was approached by someone who introduced himself as Dave Aungier. He said he had read all of my BCM articles and enjoyed them and wanted to write one about his bus but needed help with the photos. That is a much easier situation for me than actually writing an article about someone else’s bus. His 1977 MCI MC-5C was parked between two open-sided buildings where I could not get good exterior photos. Like most of the attendees he plans to leave Friday but will not be in a hurry to do so and is willing to pull his bus out into the open grassy boondock area so I can photograph it. With any luck this will be an easy collaboration.
I got pictures of most of the rigs except the back/east row. On my way over there I stopped to chat with Jimmy Clay and his brother-in-law Ronnie Mewbourn and Ronnie’s wife Diann. They were here two years ago when I photographed Jimmy and Sadie’s Iron Horse Eagle conversion, which ran as the featured bus in the April 2014 issue. After chatting a while we agreed that I would come back tomorrow with a notepad to get Ronnie and Diann’s “story” and possibly some interior photos of their 1968 Model 07 Eagle conversion. They also plan to leave on Friday but will not be in a hurry to pull out and agreed to move their bus out into the grassy boondock area if needed so I can photograph it.
By the time I got to the eastern most row of buses, most of which are facing east, it was almost 4 PM and the sun was behind them and in my face eliminating the possibility of good photos. I will try to shot them early tomorrow morning, weather permitting.
Dinner was at 5 PM. Bill and Brenda included a mini salad bar as I had suggested so we were able to have a large plate of shredded lettuce with sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, and garbanzo beans. They also had a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing just for us.
Master of Ceremonies John Vickery handed out the door prizes and the recipient of the second set of Bus Conversion Magazines was Ken Siems. The entertainment for the evening was the karaoke trio, Shake, Rattle, and Soul, doing oldies. They were OK and given the typical age of the rally attendees, which was older than us, those who stuck around knew the tunes and enjoyed hearing them again. They performed from 8 to 11 PM and I presume they were much less expensive than an actual live band.
As of this evening no one had stepped forward to take over the rally from Bill and Brenda. It occurred to me that not only is it a lot of work to organize a rally, there is financial risk involved. Live entertainment, or even a DJ, require non-refundable commitments far in advance, especially for dates like New Year’s Eve. You also have to book a venue and put a deposit on it, and you have to incur these expenses without knowing how many people, if any, will actually show up. Most bus nut are not in a position to incur that kind of financial risk, and the upside potential is small to non-existent. Nick and Terry Russell, of The Gypsy Journal, are very savvy business people but gave up doing The Gypsy Journal Rallies because they were losing money on them even with the assistance of a small army of dedicated volunteers. Sad, but true.
Although they are not the same kind of experience, one of the things that is emerging in place of these larger, organized, fee-based, rallies are “non-rally rallies.” RVillage calls them “Get-Togethers.” Someone picks a time and place and sends out word. Everyone is responsible for their own camping fees, if any, and there are no planned meals, entertainment, or seminars. Entertainment and seminars, if any, are strictly impromptu participant-driven events. There might be some “pot-luck” (carry-in) community meals, but not necessarily, and they are typically not prearranged. Basically, the event is not really hosted or sponsored by anyone, there’s no organizing that takes place, and there is no group, couple, or individual that has any liability for what happens.
Even though we were pulling out this morning we did not set an alarm to get up at some particular time. We were up by 7:30 AM anyway. I did not make coffee or have breakfast and started preparing for departure. We packed up our computers and put them on the bed, put away remote controls, and turned off the laser printer and NAS. While Linda cleared off counters and secured drawers I took care of some outside things.
I pulled the tow bar parts bags out, set them aside, got out the tow bar adapters for the car, and inserted them. I folded up the two bag chairs and put them in the car and folded up the plastic table and stowed it in the front bay. I checked the pressure in the two front/steer tires on the bus and they were fine so I did not have to get the air compressor and hose out. I put up all of the awnings and opened the air valve for the engine accessories and toad braking system.
When everything else was ready Linda pulled the car out while I turned on the bus chassis batteries and started the bus engine. I let the chassis air up, pulled up the tag axle, pulled out of our site, and then backed up until I was parallel with, and close to, the edge of the road on the passenger side and not blocking anyone’s driveway. Linda pulled the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing. The breakaway cable finally broke so I got the spare cable out of the glove box but I could not get the key out of the disconnect. Rather than risk breaking it and thereby disabling the car, we decided to travel without it.
We had a final, quick chat with our neighbor’s, Danny and Dorothy, and with Ken on the other side, and pulled away around 9:10 AM. We were out of the resort and headed southeast on US-27 at 9:26. At Ocala we headed south on I-75 as far as exit 301 (Cortez Blvd) at Brooksville, and headed east on FL-700 as far as US-98 and headed south. Most of this segment was also co-terminus with US-35. The drive was mostly rural and very pretty. It was warm outside but patchy clouds kept the temperature inside the coach from getting too warm, at least for a while. Eventually I turned on the OTR HVAC system and it worked well.
We passed through several smaller towns but eventually got to Lakeland which was much larger, with lots of stop lights and traffic, so it took longer to get through. Still, it was an attractive community and something to see besides an Interstate highway. The Detroit Tigers spring training camp is in Lakeland and we will likely drive up for some games while we are in this part of Florida.
US-17 joined up with US-98 as we were leaving Lakeland. Somewhere south of Lakeland (Fort Meade?) US-98 turned east towards Sebring and we continued south on US-17 to Arcadia. A few miles before reaching US-70 west of Arcadia we turned onto NE Turner Road which ran due south towards the Turner Agri-Civic Center and bypassed downtown Arcadia. We pulled into the Civic Center, which was the rally venue, at 1:15 PM.
Linda checked in with rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan. Linda stayed with the coach while Bill drove me over to check out sites. I selected site #9 which would have us facing west with our passenger side facing north. Although this orientation put the afternoon sun on our windshields, it also provided shade in conjunction with the patio awning. Dan (?) led us over to the site and then left us to unhook the car and back the bus in. We leveled the coach (we thought) and I shut it down and went through our arrival preparations.
The inside of the coach was cool from the OTR HVAC and I wanted to keep it that way, so we left the windows and roof vents closed and put the insulated foil panels in the three large skylights. We also found the snap covers for the side windows next to the driver seat and installed those. We were able to position the coach which generous space to our passenger side and far enough back that the 25 foot shorepower cord just reached the outlet box. After plugging in we turned on all three of the residential air-conditioners. We deployed all of the awnings, including the patio awning, to shade the windows and provide a shady place to sit outdoors. We also have a fresh water and sewer connection but may not use them while we are here. We are only here until Friday or Saturday and came in with a mostly full fresh water tank and mostly empty waste tanks.
Although it was very warm (86 degrees F) and humid the clouds had thickened and filled in during the second half of our drive and there was a good, steady breeze. The bus ran well today including the OTR HVAC. The low pressure light only came on briefly one time while I was idling at a stop light. Apparently it works a lot better when it is relatively warm outside.
Once we were set up we had a light lunch of roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers with fresh apple slices and orange segments. We then drove to Walmart to pick up some anti-itch cream and bought a few grocery items while we were there. We checked out the filling station on the property and decided it was not a good choice for our bus. We also found the entrance to Big Tree RV Resort which was, literally, across the street from the Walmart. We drove back towards downtown and stopped at the Winn-Dixie to see if they had a better selection of boxed wines than the Walmart. They did, and we bought a Franzia Crisp White. We drove the rest of the way into downtown in search of a filling station with diesel fuel, and access for large vehicles, before returning to the rally site.
Linda wanted to go for a walk so we strolled past the buses and other RVs that were already here. We ran into Scott Crosby working on Dan’s windshield. We met Dan, Kathy, and their son James at the FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September. Apparently the windshield on their GM PD4106 started coming out of its gasket along the top and caving into the cockpit on their trip to Arcadia. Scott was up on a ladder getting the gasket reseated around the frame and glass.
We continued our walk and discovered that Paul and Claudine Elbisser, also from our FMCA GLCC chapter, were here. We visited with them for quite a while before finishing our stroll around the rally and returning to our rig for dinner. Linda microwaved a sweet potato and served the last of the Gardein stuffed mock turkey roll and broccoli that we had for dinner on Christmas day.
After dinner I tried tuning in OTA TV stations, orienting the antenna both WNW towards Tampa St. Petersburg, and due south towards Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Ft. Meyers. When I scanned for stations I found about 60 in each direction although many of them were the same stations. So much for digital TV signals bring highly directional. We watched reruns of our Monday evening TV shows on CBS. We also turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi so we could get online long enough to check TV tower locations and network affiliations, check our e-mail, and change our location in RVillage.
I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM with the draft of the February 2016 issue and a request that I proofread Part 1 of my 2-part article on our Habitat For Humanity RV Care-A-Vanner build in July 2013. I was a little tired from our day’s activities and was not in the humor to review articles, edit old blog posts, or write new ones so I just watched TV and fiddled with the thermostats and fan speeds on our air-conditioners. I was puzzled by the fact that it felt humid in the rig in spite of the air-conditioners having been on all day. The front and rear ones seem to be cooling better than the middle one, but the front one was the only one that we seaw water dripping from the drain line outside the bus. I admit to having some level of concern about where the condensed water from the evaporators is going, assuming they are condensing any moisture.
The overnight low was forecast to be about 70 with morning fog, i.e., 100% relative humidity so in spite of the fan noise we left the bus closed up and the A-Cs running. I adjusted the thermostats down to make sure the condensers would run, and lowered the fan speed in the bedroom to reduce the noise level. I plugged the power in for the rear OTA TV antenna, but it was not functioning correctly and was clearly not going to fix itself. It needs to be replaced but I am reluctant to buy another one of the same model as the failure rate so far has been 50%. Linda read, and I played a few games, on our iPads and then went to sleep.
I got up at 8 AM this morning, fed the cats, and made a pot of coffee. Linda was up by the time the coffee was brewed and we enjoyed our first cup before having breakfast.
Linda has been in holiday shopping mode and ordered a 250 sheet pack of 8.5×14 brochure paper for our holiday letter. The paper is 38# double-sided coated color laser printer. It is made for quad-panel (three folds) brochures and is scored every 3.5 inches so it folds into an 8.5”x3.5” finished size. Using the front and back it has eight panels. The current layout of our letter takes two full 8.5×14 sheets so it should use all eight panels.
At 9:30 AM we had granola with fresh berries for breakfast. Linda opened a new bag, transferred it to the plastic container, and put a piece of Frog a Tape on it so she can tally the servings. She wants to know how many servings we get from each batch so she can better estimate how much to make to take with us next winter. The real limitation is the size of the new freezer.
After breakfast Linda settled in to work on Madeline’s holiday stocking and I walked to the NAPA store to get the E-clips for the window lever pins. The local NAPA store ordered them yesterday from two different places but neither order came in. They reordered them from Jacksonville and said they would be in in the morning.
When I got back to the coach I revisited our holiday letter and adjusted the layout so the photos and captions would fit on the 3.5″ panels and not fall on the folds. I had to shrink the photos slightly to get two of them side by side and I had to shrink the panoramas even more. I also modified the captions to make better use of the space, moving the location to the top line with the date and leaving more room for the description underneath. As a result of those changes the layout only used six of the eight panels so I will have to add photos or figure out how to enlarge some of the existing ones to fill out the space.
Somewhere in the middle of all this we took a lunch break at 1 PM. Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced an apple in half. Simple but delicious.
I had a call from my sister and spoke with her for a while about our dad. Later I called the social worker at the hospital and she called me back a short time later. I then called our attorney’s office but did not get an answer, so I contacted him by e-mail. I got a call back from him not long after and was able to expand on the reason for my call.
I e-mailed Brenda Phelan about the Arcadia Rally at the end of the month and dealt with e-mail correspondence from Gary at BCM. He wanted to pull Part 1 of my 2-part article on Habitat for Humanity (HFH) up to the January 2016 issue to plug an unexpected hole and needed me to do some urgent last minute work on it to get it ready for Jorge to lay out. This sort of thing happens all too often, but I agreed to work on it this evening. Truth be told it wasn’t as big a request as he thought it was and I don’t mind helping him out if I can.
The temperature got up to 77 degrees F today with partly cloudy skies but by 4 PM the sun was low in the southwest sky and it was starting to cool off. We both needed to get off our butts and move around so we went for a walk through the resort. We ran into John using his electric motor bicycle to escort someone to their site. As he passed by he said we had a package in the office so we altered our walking route to go there and retrieve it.
It was one of several packages we are expecting from Amazon and had supplies Linda needed to continue working on her counted cross-stitch project. We stopped and talked to Jeff and Kathy briefly, dropped the package back at our rig, and walked part of the newer/north end of the resort. It was still pleasant outside when we got back to the rig so we sat outside with our iPads and had a few peanut butter pretzels as a snack.
By 5 PM the sun was below our horizon, which consists of RVs to our southwest. There was still plenty of daylight but by 5:30 it was fading and cooling off fast. I finally went inside and started working on the HFH article for BCM.
For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and reheated the leftover pizza from last night’s dinner. It was just as good as last night, maybe better. I continued working on the article after dinner and watched our Thursday evening TV programs out of the corner of my eye. By 9:30 PM I had spent all the time I cared to in front of my computer but was not done with the article. Moving photos around is time consuming and a bit tedious. I like to stay productive, so I switched to my iPad to work on this post. Yeah, it’s still a screen, but I interact with it differently and have more options as to where and how I sit. We were up until 11 PM but fell asleep quickly once we got to bed.
I was up late last night and thought I would sleep in this morning but the alarm on Linda’s iPad had other ideas and woke me up at 7:15 AM. I got dressed and while Linda was getting ready I started downloading an update for Photoshop CC 2015 on my ASUS laptop. These Adobe downloads are very large and very slow so I left it to run.
We did not have breakfast or coffee at home. Linda made PB&J sandwiches and packed a bag of pretzel crackers, some fresh fruit, and some water in a cooler bag with some freezer packs. The forecast was for very warm, very humid conditions so we closed up the house and turned on the air-conditioning. We loaded the camera, raincoats, hats, folding camp chairs, an iPad, and some GLCC T-shirts and flags into the car and left around 8 AM for the GLCC/CCO Back-to-the-Bricks rally at the Fireman’s Park in Clio, Michigan.
We took Hacker Road to M-59 east to Old US-23 and stopped at the Kahuna Coffee shop. We had seen the sign for this place but had never been there. The owner was there and she was very nice. She has a smaller version of the JavaMaster hot air coffee bean roaster that Jeff has at Teeko’s. Her selection of green beans, however, was very different from Teeko’s with lots of flavored beans but none of the ones we usually buy. Knowing that she gets her beans from the same place as Jeff, however, means we could probably order the ones we like if Teeko’s disappears. She is friends with Jeff and is well aware of the probable impact of the Panera opening up across the intersection from Teeko’s. But I digress.
This morning we were interested in coffee and bagels to go. Kahuna had a better selection of bagels than Teeko’s but we got our usual choices; “everything” for Linda and cinnamon raisin for me, toasted with nothing on them. They had Swiss Chocolate Almond coffee brewed so we tasted a sample. It was very smooth, with no bitterness and just a hint of the named flavors, so we got two large ones to go.
We got back on M-59 eastbound and 100 yards later took the entrance ramp to northbound US-23. US-23 merges with I-75 at the southwest corner of Flint and we continued north on the combined road until we exited at M-57 and headed east through Clio to M-54 and turned south. A few miles later we turned into the Fireman’s Park on the east side of the highway. It was 9:15 AM as I parked the car.
When I talked to rally co-host Marty Caverly last week only 14 rigs had RSVP’d for the rally. There were over 20 rigs there when we arrived and five more showed up during the day. A guy also brought a Country Coach Prevost XL conversion down from Saginaw for the afternoon. He is trying to sell it and wanted to let the rally attendees check it out.
We made the rounds and said our “hello”s to everyone. As has happened at past rallies where we have dropped in for a day many of the ladies took off to check out local garage sales. Bill and Karen Gerrie were just pulling out but stopped to chat briefly. Frank and Sandy Griswold’s Featherlite H3-45 conversion has windows that slide open rather than swing out like our awning windows so I asked Frank and several other people about screens for these. Everyone had the same suggestion; that any local window and door business should be able to make them. I was trying to get useful information for someone who had e-mailed me as a result of an article in BCM.
The roundtable discussion started at 2 PM and most of the rally attendees were back by then. Pat Lintner, our GLCC national director, gave a pitch for the FMCAssist program, which is included as part of the annual FMCA membership and more than worth the annual cost of $40. I announced that we had GLCC T-shirts and a few flags with us if anyone wanted to buy them. I also announced that the Arcadia Rally website had disappeared but that Bill and Brenda Phelan are working to fix the problem and the rally is still on for December 26-31, 2015 with departure on January 1, 2016.
Ed Roelle had two topics for the roundtable: 1) “towing insurance” for our bus conversions, and; 2) causes and cures for hard water deposit buildup in the fresh water plumbing associated with an Aqua-Hot (Webasto diesel burner) heating and domestic hot water systems. Most of us use, or have used, Coach-Net for our “emergency roadside assistance” coverage. The plan includes towing but many of our members have switched to one of the three Good Sam ERS plans. The top (platinum) plan is ~$140/year.
A couple of years ago Coach-Net decided they would not cover bus conversions more than 40 years old and alienated quite a few folks in the converted coach community. They eventually reversed that position but the damage was done. Others who stayed with them have had issues getting service or being charged ridiculous sums of money for simple things. Coach-Net was officially endorsed by FMCA until recently, and is still endorsed by The Escapees RV Club, but FMCA has found a different provider for this important service.
We stuck around after the roundtable and continued chatting with folks in constantly shifting groupings. The dinner meal was planned for 6 PM, and by 5:30 preparations were well under way, so we started saying our “goodbyes.” We finally got our chairs back in the car at 5:50 PM and pulled out at 5:55. There were very ominous clouds moving towards the rally site from the north as we started for home and a severe weather watch had been posted.
To get home we reversed our route taking M-54 north to M-57 west through Clio to I-75/US-23 south. We stayed on southbound US-23 at the split with I-75 southwest of Flint and eventually exited onto M-59. Instead of going west towards home we headed east and pulled into the Hartland Meijer’s to pick up something for dinner and get fresh ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner with Steve and Karen.
The weather we saw approaching Clio from the north was just moving into Hartland as we left the Meijer’s, so it was a rapidly moving system. The storm clouds were very dramatic but we got back to the house and got the car unloaded before the rain came. The wind gusted strongly for a while but in the end we did not get as much precipitation as we needed or thought we would.
For dinner we had vegan burgers with all the fixin’s, oven-baked French fries, and fresh strawberries. It was 9 PM by the time we were done eating. We were both tired from our long, but very enjoyable, day so we went to bed earlier than usual.
The Ibuprofen/Tylenol mix did the trick and I slept comfortably through the night. Twinges were just starting as we were waking up, so breakfast was two zucchini muffins, half of a banana, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen, washed down with orange/grapefruit juice. Linda went for a walk after breakfast as it was supposed to be rainy most of the day.
I spent part of the morning selecting and re-sizing photographs from the Arcadia Bus Rally 2014, uploaded them to a folder in our Dropbox, and e-mailed the link to Brenda Phelan who runs the rally with her husband Bill. She had put out a request on Facebook for photos if anyone had them. I did an article for Bus Conversions Magazine on that rally shot over 700 photos, so yeah, I had a few.
I registered us for an RVillage Ambassador webinar later today on the new mobile app, and then came upstairs to have lunch. We enjoyed the vegan Sloppy Joe’s Linda had made, along with some vegan baked beans (canned) and store bought apple sauce. It had been raining lightly for a while and the intensity increased while we ate, but it fell straight down with little to no wind. The radar loop on Wundermap (Weather Underground) showed that we were in the leading edge of a large fetch of moisture that would likely train over our location for several hours and that is, in fact, what happened.
I took a short nap. I rarely do that, but I always enjoy it when I do. I worked the rest of the afternoon at my computer editing blog posts and finally getting around to selecting and processing photos to go with some of them. I had called Kerry Fear this morning regarding snowplowing this winter and he stopped by the house around 3:45 PM to meet with us. He lives nearby and plows our neighbor’s driveway, which is how we got his name. We agreed to hire him for the season on a handshake; no contract or pre-payment. He will send us a bill every now and then and we will pay it.
Linda made creamed corn for dinner and served it alongside vegan Sloppy Joe sandwiches and fresh strawberries. Again, a soft, easy on the teeth, meal that was very tasty.
The RVillage webinar started at 7 PM EDT and lasted 45 minutes. They wanted feedback on this latest development by Friday so they can finalize it for general release. I continued working on photographs for the blog and installed a set of updates on our Linux box before calling it quits for the evening. Linda had started watching the first episode of Sherlock from last year so I watched most of it with her. Much to our disappointment Doc Martin has disappeared from Amazon Instant Video as part of our Amazon Prime account. We can still get it, but we would now have to pay extra. As much as we like the series we are not going to pay extra to watch it.
It spite of the rain today, we made and received a number of phone calls on our AT&T landline and were online through our DSL connection quite a bit, including streaming the episode of Sherlock, all without noise or service interruptions to the best of our knowledge. We are hopeful that our AT&T service is finally restored and will continue to operate reliably.
One of the calls was from Chuck letting me know that Matt at Bob’s Speedometer Service had tested his VDO bus speedometer and found it to be broken and not repairable. Chuck ordered a new one through Matt, who will take care of programming the odometer with the current mileage. Once it comes in and Chuck verifies that it works I will likely be ordering one for our bus since ours has failed in the same way as Chuck’s. I could go ahead and remove ours and take it in, but I have lots of other things to work on a figured it made sense to wait and see how this works out for Chuck.
The final day of the Arcadia (Bussin’) Rally featured breakfast, seminars, meetings, tire kicking, preliminary departure preparations, dinner, door prizes, and a New Year’s Eve party with a live band.
Once again breakfast was coffee, juice, donuts, and bagels. But we didn’t have to cook it or clean it up, and it was the first social activity of the day, so it hit the spot. The building was already decorated for New Year’s Eve with sparkly signs and ceiling streamers. Although celebrations are really about the people, the room decorations added a festive touch.
After breakfast I went over to photograph Frank Morrison’s GMC PD4014 “Cool Cruiser” and interviewed him about it for a possible BCM featured bus article. The coach conversion was originally done by an architect in Flint, Michigan and the interior is different because of that. Frank bought the bus from him.
The morning seminar was on GPS and mapping technology with Tom Mason.
We did not attend the morning seminar because the Converted Coach Owners (CCO), which we belong to, had a meeting at the same time. There were approximately 15 people in attendance. CCO is a small, independent group of converted bus owners most of whom are from the lower Great Lakes area, so this was a pretty good turnout for being so far away from home.
After the CCO meeting I had the opportunity to talk with Jack Conrad at some length about the rally and get a few pictures of him and Paula. Jack and Paul started the Bussin’ Rally in December 2000 (the 2001 Rally) and turned it over to Bill and Brenda Phelan after the 11th one in December 2010. Acadia Rally 2014 (Dec 2013) was Bill and Brenda’s third as organizers and hosts.
The afternoon seminar was a roundtable discussion lead by Howard Best. With respect to owner-converted buses the knowledge and experience that assembles at the Arcadia Rally is probably unmatched by any other such gathering during the year. Even with 100 buses and 200 people, the Arcadia Rally was very relaxed and these experts were very accessible. Throughout the rally participants ambled from bus to bus and stopped to chat. Sometimes they pulled up a chair and sometimes you would find their heads in a bay discussing a technical issue. It was just that kind of event, and has been since it started in Dec 2000.
The afternoon seminar was followed by bingo with Bob Ernst calling the action once again. Linda, Karen, and Kathy came over to play, and Linda had bingo on the first card! I think she’s hooked.
As the day went on we noticed quite a few people making preliminary departure preparations and decided we should do the same. We had hoped to not have to dump our tanks until we got back to Williston on the 1st, but we were getting low on fresh water which usually means our waste tanks are nearing full. We dumped our holding tanks, filled the fresh water tank to the 2/3rds mark, stowed the water hose, and put lawn chairs away. All that remained to do on the outside for tomorrow was stowing a step stool, a couple of mats, disconnecting the electrical shoreline and stowing it; turning on the chassis batteries and engine accessories air switch, and hooking up the car for towing. The inside usually takes less than an hour to get ready and we typically deal with that about 90 minutes before we plan to pull out. We don’t like to do this too soon as once the interior is prepped for travel it is more difficult to use for living.
At 5:15 PM we headed over to the activities building with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Kathy for dinner. A centerpiece had been added to each table and about half of the rally goers had changed into dressier clothes. Like last night’s meal, there was a serving line to get your food. Volunteers staffed the various serving stations, and it was a smooth, quick process. Dinner included spaghetti with marinara sauce (no meat, thank you!), veal parmesan, shrimp, green salad (no cheese, thank you again), and desserts, including fruit cocktail (thank you a third time) with sweetened tea, unsweetened tea, and water to drink. People also brought their own beverages to suit their tastes.
As the band started bringing in their equipment I figured it was going to be a long, loud night, so after dinner I went back to the coach to work in quiet surroundings. In my absence the door prizes were given out starting at 7 PM. After the door prizes were distributed a group of volunteers put the New Year’s Eve party decorations on the tables. These consisted of plastic lei, party hats, tiaras, and noise makers.
The New Year’s Eve party got started around 8 PM with country rock band Desert Moon. We sat with our dinner group at a table in the middle of the room with good access to the main doors. The room acoustics were very “live” and the volume was dangerously high so Bill and I came and went throughout the evening, finding camaraderie with like-minded individuals who gathered outside the building to talk buses in the cool evening air. The median age of the rally participants was probably between 65 and 70, and many people left long before midnight and of those who remained many were also in and out of the building. There were often more people dancing while the band was on break than when they were playing as the volume of the pre-recorded music was lower. But enough of us stuck it out until midnight to bring in the New Year when Bill and Brenda lowered a sparkling ball from the ceiling while we counted down from 10. At the stroke of midnight (EST) we all said our “Happy New Year’s,” and then many of us went back to our coaches and went to bed.
Our children are grown and have not spent New Year’s Eve with us in quite some time, having lives and friends of their own with whom to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Our tradition for more than 10 years now has been to spend a quiet evening at home enjoying some traditional foods, watching the celebrations from around the world on TV, and finally having a champagne toast at midnight. We no longer have those foods since we changed the way we eat and we have been busy enough at the rally that it never occurred to us to buy a bottle of “bubbly.” We did open a bottle of Black Star Arcturos Late Harvest Riesling, which served the occasion just fine, but what we really enjoyed was ringing out the old year and bringing in the new one with old and new friends who share our interest in the converted coach and the lifestyle it makes possible.
One of the activities that often takes place at RV rallies, especially converted bus rallies, is a scheduled open house. People with owner-converted coaches are like a fraternity, and are always interested in what their fellow coach converters have done since they last crossed paths. We are still undecided as to whether we will open our coach because of our cats, who tend to be wary of strangers, but just in case, Linda decided to clean house this morning while I wandered the rally site taking pictures.
Rally organizers and hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan are expecting 100 rigs to show up and by noon today at least 90 had arrived. More arrived during the afternoon and a handful were planning to come in tomorrow. The rally officially starts tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:30 AM with coffee, juice, donuts, and bagels.
Late morning we drove to the Arcadia, Florida historic district. Most of the district lies between eastbound and westbound FL-70 from FL-17 west for a couple of blocks. There was a sidewalk market throughout the district and we soon figured out that Arcadia is a center for antiques and collectibles. Much of the original architecture remains but except for a few restaurants and other businesses most of the square footage is devoted to vintage resale. This was perfect for us; lots of people out and about and lots of interesting things to look at, absolutely none of which we had any interest in buying. It helps us stay within budget.
We had a light lunch when we got back to the coach after which Linda sat outside and read while I worked on some digital photographs. Even though it was cloudy, the temperature got up a bit past 80 degrees F and the bus reached 84 inside. I shut the computer and network electronics down since heat is their main enemy and we went over and had a long chat with Mike Muller and MaryAnn Nash who are parked two spots down from us. They are another GLCC couple and Mike is the GLCC VP.
We returned to our bus around 4:30 PM to read and write when we felt a few raindrops. We put the folding chairs away and went inside just as it started to rain so we closed up the roof vents. The rain was brief, but the forecast for overnight and through the day tomorrow is for widespread, persistent, and occasionally heavy rain. The combination of temperature and wind has been quite pleasant, and we have had very few bugs, but the humidity has been noticeable. We expected that, this being Florida after all, but the storms forecasted for tomorrow are associated with a cold front, behind which the humidity should be a bit lower.
As dusk settled over the Turner Agri Civic Center we saw folks out strolling and decided to take our wine glasses and go for one ourselves before dinner. Along the way we met John Silver of Central Florida Bus Sales and Repairs. John has two coaches for sale at the rally; a 1994 Prevost XL (DD 8V92) Royale Coach and a 1997 MCI (DD 60 Series) Vantare. Although it was night by the time we got back to the coach, we had good visibility for walking as the main entrance road to the Turner Agri Civic Center has a long line of very tall, very bright lights. Many of the buses had their interior lights on, and some had exterior lights as well. It made for a pretty sight.
Many RVers like to dine out, especially at rallies with friends. While we enjoy the company of our fellow RVers, we prefer to dine in as much as possible. We have delicious dishes prepared with healthy fresh ingredients in reasonable portion sizes and at modest cost in the comfort of our own home. Tonight was left over Tofurkey with baked potatoes and mustard greens that Linda bought from the only sidewalk vendor we found selling food in the Arcadia HistoricDdistrict today. We started with a small glass of white wine and ended by finishing the vegan chocolate cake.
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