Tag Archives: Panera

2016/04/01-05 (F-T) J-P-Shuffle CCAFS Farewell Celebration

2016/04/01 (F) The J. P. Shuffle

Linda was up before me and got to see one of the cruise ships come in at 6:20 AM.  She said it was all lit up and quite a sight.  I got out of bed at 8:20 AM and made coffee.  Linda prepared toast and jam for breakfast and gave each of us half of an orange.

I finished up my post for yesterday, worked on this one, and then noticed that an iOS 9.3.1 update was available for the Apple iOS 9.3 update that I installed Wednesday evening and Linda installed last night.  It was only 18 MB but still took a long time to download and install.

Today was April Fool’s Day and time for us to once again do “the Jetty Park shuffle.”  I have checked at least once, and often twice, each day to see if an appropriate full hookup site had become available through cancellation for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but it had not.  Around 10 AM I walked to the office to check one last time.  Scott Ward was the JP staff person on duty and was very helpful but a site was just not available.  He was able, however, to put us on site #357 for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night’s.  I shortened our stay on site #3 to two nights and paid the balance for the one night.

Site #3 is a water only site, no electricity and no sewer connection, and the rules say that NO pets are allowed in that section, which is right along the channel and outside the regular fenced campground.  The staff was aware, however, that we have two cats onboard and let us have the site anyway.  We do not ever want them to escape, but especially here.

Our generator can produce more power than we can get from a “50 Amp” RV electrical connection, so not having electricity is not really a problem.  The only real downsides, other than having to move, are that we can feel, hear, and sometimes smell the generator.  We also had a problem with a circuit breaker for its cooling fan last winter.  I made a temporary fix to it but have never fixed it permanently.  We also do not like to leave the genset running when we are away from the coach, such as will be the case on Saturday morning.

I selected/processed three photos of the manatees we saw on Tuesday at Merritt Island National Wildlife a Refuge and e-mailed them to Pat and Vickie.  I then replied to a couple of e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine.  By this time it was 11 AM so we prepared the bus, inside and out, to be moved.  With all of the Windows and roof vents closed it warmed up quickly inside even with a lot of the coach in the shade.  When I turned the ignition key the engine turned over but would not catch and my heart just sank.

I really like this bus, but I have grown weary of the uncertainty of whether things will work when needed.  I turned the ignition key off and rechecked the transmission selector and parking brake settings.  I also switched the suspension out of Level Low to drive mode although that should not have mattered.  With the ignition key turned to the ‘ON’ position the 12 V chassis battery seemed a little low and a red light flashed a few times on the transmission selector, so I turned the key off, went to the outside battery disconnect switches, and turned both the 12V and 24V disconnects off and then back on.

Back in the driver’s seat I tried again.  Normally the engine only turns over a few times before it fires.  This time I let it turn for four or five seconds and it finally started.  If I had any sense I would have driven it to the W. W. Williams Detroit Diesel service center in Orlando, but I moved it to site #3 at J. P. instead.

Our coach in Site #3 at Jetty Park & Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL. This is the “water only” camping by the shipping channel. All of these rigs are parked facing north towards the channel. It’s a great spot to watch the ships come and go.

To get from site #358 to site #3 I had to exit the fenced campground and drive around the east end of the park past the beach parking, concession building, and playground and then west along the edge of the shipping channel and around to the back row of the water only sites, all of which face the shipping channel.  As such it was a long drive to get to a site we could see from the one we just vacated.

We left the car at site #358 temporarily and Linda rode along in the bus.  I made the whole trip in 1st gear, to keep the RPMs up, and turned on the OTR A-C, both to cool the interior of the coach and to put more load on the engine and help get it up temperature.  I did not pull the tag axle up as we had walked the park/campground enough to know that I did not need to make any really tight turns.  When I was mostly into position on site #3 Linda got out and spotted the final position of the rear end.  These channel-side sites slope down towards the channel (facing north) and the back row sites get steeper the farther off the back off the site you go.  I wanted to pull forward just enough to get our tow bar clear of the access road behind the site and Linda accomplished that with an inch or two to spare.

I left the engine running and switched it to high idle to run the OTR air-conditioning.  While Linda went back to get our car I got out the step stool and awning pole and deployed all four awnings.  I then started the Genset to make sure it was going to run and produce electricity.  I also thought we might run the residential air-conditioners.  When Linda returned with our car she wanted to open up the coach so I shut off the OTR bus A-C, dropped the engine idle to low, and let it idle for a couple of minutes before shutting off the engine.  I left the genset on for the time being.

Both of our systems had been reacting to what we had eaten the last few days so we passed on lunch and just hung around our new site which was, in fact, very pleasant with a view of the water in the channel and the high ground of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the opposite bank.

Our driver side neighbors stopped to chat on their way to the beach and let us know that they had just spotted dolphins in the channel.  I walked over and caught a glimpse of several arching repeatedly out of the water but by the time Linda got there they had submerged and not resurfaced.  Given where we are parked we should have a good chance to see dolphins and view cruise ships coming and going from the Port.

Linda made a cold garbanzo bean salad for dinner last night.  After dinner I was trying to get us connected to the park Wi-Fi system but could not maintain the connection or get us logged in.  I tried using our Verizon Mi-Fi but could not get the WiFi Ranger to work with it.  I tried to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with the Mi-Fi but there were problems with that as well.  At one point my ASUS notebook computer decided that it could not detect any Wi-Fi networks even thought it had two of them sitting within a couple feet of it.  I got disgusted with the whole situation, shut everything off, and we went for a walk.

Linda waves to the Disney “Magic” cruise ship as it heads out to sea from Port Canaveral, FL. There is always a crowd along the channel to wave the cruise ships in and out.

We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach and Vickie joined us.  We headed to the beach where we enjoyed a very brisk breeze until lightning to the southwest signaled that it was time to return to the safety of our rigs or one of the park buildings.  We headed back past the playground area towards our coach and Vickie split off for the gate in the campground fence that provided the most direct access to her site.

Back at our site we closed up the coach against the humidity and coming storm.  I then started the auxiliary powerplant (genset) and turned on the air conditioners.  Not long after that it started to rain, lightly at first, but it eventually became very heavy for a while before finally moving offshore.

With the A-C’s running I was reminded that I need to change some of the AC circuits in the main panel.  The front and middle air-conditioners are on different legs of the AC power system, front on L1 and middle on L2.  That makes sense as we would normally want to run both of them at the same time to cool the front half of the bus (living, cooking, office space) when we are awake and using the bus.  The 3rd/bedroom A-C has to go on one of the two legs and either one could create load balancing issues.  Unfortunately, the middle A-C unit is not currently producing any cooling.

To make matters worse, the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger also draws its power from L1.  Again, it had to go somewhere, but the current configuration tends to put too much load on L1 and not enough on L2.  Even though the genset is oversized for our electrical needs an imbalance between L1 and L2 is still a problem because it is set up as a 240 VAC unit with a 240 VAC voltage regulator.  Although it has an active neutral, allowing it to supply 120 VAC to both L1 and L2 (180 degrees out of phase) the regulator is only concerned with maintaining the 240 VAC between the two legs, not the 120 VAC between each leg to neutral.

If the loads on the two legs are not reasonably balanced, the 240 VAC will “drift” off center from neutral with the voltage on the high load leg dropping and the voltage on the low load leg rising.  That, in turn, can/does cause havoc with some of the devices onboard, especially the microwave oven, APC uninterruptible power supply that powers the Amped|Wireless router, and the APC line voltage stabilizer that powers the laser printer.

We were, however, able to watch TV and found Ken Burns’ JAZZ documentary on channel 24.1.  By 11 PM we needed to get to bed as we had to be up and ready to go by 7:45 AM tomorrow morning.  I turned the genset off around 11:30 PM and let the house electrical system switch to the inverter.  I tried to watch the end of JAZZ on the TV in the bedroom but the TV and antenna controller kept losing power.  That, in turn, caused the TV to shut off and the controller to reset to position 8.  My phone and iPad chargers, both of which were plugged into AC outlets, also kept cutting in and out.

I encountered this same issue when we were boondocking at John Palmer’s place in Mayo, Florida at the end of November 2015.  At that time I turned off the SEARCH WATTS feature thinking that it was causing the problem.  Apparently that was not the problem.  My best guess is that under very low load conditions the inverter is either:  a) not inverting at all, or b) producing a voltage and/or current that is not well regulated.  In either case, it would play havoc with our entertainment and communications electronics.

Rather than screw around with this anymore tonight I gave up , turned off the TV, unplugged the antenna controller, resolved to ignore the device chargers, figuring they would work when the refrigerator or air compressor ran, and tried to fall asleep.  I could have turned on the AC lights in the living room, or our small portable fan, to draw enough AC current to keep the inverter working, but that’s really contrary to the whole notion of minimizing your energy usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary when running on batteries.

2016/04/02 (S) Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour

I was awake at 6 AM and we were both up and dressed by 7 AM.  I did not make coffee or have breakfast and Linda just had a piece of bread as making toast would have required me to start the genset.  The batteries were at roughly 24.6 VDC (and showing 72% SOC) with no load being drawn by the inverter so there was no need to recharge them this morning.  We were due at Pat and Vickie’s coach at 8 AM so I gathered up my camera, holster, and extra batteries.  We left at 7:40 and took our time walking over to their site.

Pat and Vickie have seating for four in their Jeep Grand Cherokee and have been providing transportation for our group outings.  We left just after 8 AM for the short drive to the Exploration Tower at the west end of Port Canaveral.  We signed up for a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse that departed from the Tower at 8:30 AM and included admission to the Tower when we returned.

There were only twelve of us on the small tour bus plus a driver (Mike) and two tour guides.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  One of the tour guides (Jim) had worked at the Station and was our main guide for information about the Station and the various launch sites we visited; and we visited a number of them.  One of the things we learned was that CCAFS is a Station rather than a Base because no one lives there.  All of the Air Force personnel working at CCAFS are from Patrick Air Force Base, which is located south of Cocoa Beach.  The U. S. Navy also has a presence here with facilities that service ICBM and attack submarines.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Lighthouse had its own cadre of docents, and was very interesting to see and learn about, but only accounted for a little less than an hour of a 3-1/2 hour tour.  The other tour guide was Ron and he provided most of the information about Port Canaveral.  Just after exiting CCAFS we visited a small museum devoted to the history of the Station.  It was located next to the building that now houses the launch control facility for SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight venture of Elon Musk of PayPal.  There are other private/commercial companies operating at CCAFS besides SpaceX .  One of the largest is United Launch Alliance (ULA), an independent company that was formed by merging the space operations of Boeing (which absorbed McDonnell-Douglass years ago) and Lockheed-Martin.

All that remains of one of the launch pads at CCAFS, FL.

We did not really understand ahead of time what we were going to see and we were surprised by the dilapidated condition of the old launch sites.  All that remains at most of them are concrete and brick works.  Metal superstructures that were subject to rusting were long ago removed and control centers that were once stuffed full of equipment are now “abandoned in place” or used for storage.  It was like visiting an ancient historic site, which in fact it is; the first rocket launched from this site was a German V-2 in 1950 and the Mercury missions occurred in the early 1960’s over 50 years ago.

A continuation of the previous image, this is the command bunker and tunnel. CCAFS, FL.

Back at the Exploration Tower, which is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority (CPA), we got wrist bands good for admission through closing time today.  The weather had been overcast all day and a check of the radar on our smartphones showed heavy rain moving our way.  Even though we were hungry we decided to experience the Tower before the rain moved in.

This is all that is left of what was once a heavily reinforced HVAC building at the launch pad. The superstructure in the distance is in active use by SpaceX and ULA. CCAFS, FL.

The Exploration Tower has seven floors plus additional structure at the top.  We took the elevator to the top floor which features an outdoor observation platform oriented to give a commanding view of Port Canaveral, CCAFS, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center to the north, as well as the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  There are also views to the south of the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.  We took the stairs down to each floor in turn.  Each floor has a theme with related exhibits and we stopped at each one.  The 3rd floor is a small theater that shows a 20 minute film about Port Canaveral and the surrounding area; past, present, and future.  The film starts on the hour and half hour so we caught the 1 PM show.  The second floor is a balcony that affords a view of art hanging above the 1st floor lobby and gift shop.

The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL. The top floor includes an outdoor observation deck.

Back on the 1st floor I bought two coffees while Linda and Vickie shopped for gifts.  Linda found a stuffed toy of a manatee for our grand-daughter Madeline.  When we finally got back to Jetty Park at 2 PM Linda made sandwiches for lunch and I washed off some grapes.  I checked the house battery bank voltage and it was still OK.  The temperature had cooled off under cloudy skies with a strong southerly breeze, so I did not need to run the air-conditioners.

I took a nap for an hour.  Not long after I got up we noticed activity in the shipping channel so I took the camera and we went out to see what was going on.  We set up two chairs in front of the bus to watch the action.  The blue tug boat was hanging around the entrance to the Trident Turning Basin, which we had not seen it do before.  The Brevard County Sheriff boat came out along with one of the harbor pilot boats.  A U. S. Coast Guard boat, with a large caliper machine gun on the bow that was manned, headed out the channel towards the ocean at high speed.  We thought perhaps we were going to get to see a submarine arrival, which are always unannounced, but the reason for all this activity turned out to be the Carnival Cruise Ship “Valor” coming into port.  It was delayed from its scheduled arrival by almost 12 hours but that worked to my advantage as the cloud cover had thinned and provided nice lighting on the bow of the ship as it traveled west into the channel.

A 180 degree panorama, from west through north to east, from the observation deck of the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL.

A little while later the Norwegian Cruise Line “Spirit” left its dock and headed for the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by the police, Coast Guard, and harbor pilot boats.  About 20 minutes behind the NCL Spirit, the Disney “Fantasy” left its dock and started its slow trip down the channel.  Vickie showed up before it got to our position and had her iPad with her.  As the boat came abreast of our position, Vickie spotted dolphins swimming just in front of the bow.

I got out another chair and we sat in front of the bus and chatted for a while.  Vickie eventually returned to her coach to fix dinner and we went inside.  I transferred today’s photos to my computer and selected two to process and send to Vickie.

A dolphin swims in front of one of the Disney cruise ships as it heads down the channel from Port Canaveral, FL. towards the sea.

For dinner Linda improvised a potato and broccoli dish with onion, garlic, and couscous.  It was light and very tasty.  After we were done eating I texted Vickie.  They were also done with dinner so we met her at the office and went for a walk.  Back at our coach Linda checked online and found a news story about the Carnival Valor.  The Valor was delayed due to a medical situation that required them to return to the Turks and Cacos.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, passengers were being advised to embark starting at 9 PM and to be onboard by 11 PM, with departure shortly thereafter.

Back at our coach we watched some TV and waited up for the Carnival Valor to leave as the nighttime departures are rather something to see with the ships all lit up.  Linda waited until midnight and then turned in for the night.  I stayed up until 1:30 AM but it was still docked at the west end of the port so I gave up and went to bed.

2016/04/03 (N) Bon Voyage

I was waiting for the Carnival Valor to leave Port Canaveral last night but by 1:30 AM it was still at its terminal.  It was all lit up but going nowhere, so I finally went to bed.    By midnight the skies had begun to clear and the wind, which had been steady all day, became stronger and started shifting around to the northwest and becoming noticeably cooler.

The cruise ships are particularly magical at night and I had hoped to capture some images of them, having set my camera to SCeNe selection mode (SCN) and selected “Night.”  In spite of being up late I did not sleep soundly and was aware of headlights around 5 AM.  Someone had apparently driven over from the campground to watch ships, or perhaps driven into the park, which opens at 5 AM, for this purpose.  I then noticed a ship in the shipping lane heading for the mouth of the channel.  Around 5:30 AM another cruise ship came in.  I got up, put on my robe, and tried to photograph it from the cockpit of the bus.

The nighttime arrival of the Carnival “Victory” cruise ship at Port Canaveral, FL.

I got up to stay a little after 8 AM and started the genset so I could make coffee and heat water.  Linda got up shortly thereafter and prepared our breakfast cereal.  We could see cruise ships docked at the west end of Port Canaveral so Linda checked the CruiseTimeTables.com website, and found that there were four cruise ships scheduled to depart today; three at 4 PM (the Carnival Sunshine and Victory, and the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas) and one at 4:30 PM (the Disney Magic).

The Magnum ME-ARC indicated the house battery bank was at 24.6 VDC and 69% SOC.  I turned on the genset and the charger started in Bulk Charging mode drawing 110A at 24VDC, or just over 2,600 Watts, on L1.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, which is on L2, to balance the load on the genset a bit.  When the battery charger had backed off a bit and switched to Absorption mode I turned on the block heater for the main engine, which is currently on the same leg (L1) as the charger.  Balanced loads lead to balanced voltages, but it is also better for the genset mechanically to run under a somewhat heavier load than a light one.

Around 10 AM I walked over to check site #357.  It was already vacant so I went to the office to confirm that we still had it reserved for tonight through Tuesday night.  We did, so I told the office clerk that I was going to go ahead and move, if I could get the engine started, and would then come in and register.  If I couldn’t get it started I would extend our stay on site #3 until we could get the problem resolved or get it towed.  The clerk was not particularly sympathetic, but then he was the one who would have to deal with an irate customer who could not have their reserved site, and the people who camp here have very particular preferences about their sites.  Fortunately, site #3 was open so we could have stayed there until we needed to dump our holding tanks.  We could minimize water usage by using the campground bathrooms, so we could have stretched our dry camping if needed.

Back at our rig we started preparing to move it.  I moved the car over near the pedestrian gate that is very close to site #357 and walked back to the coach.  Linda had secured the inside enough for the short, slow trip.  I checked the maintenance chargers for the chassis batteries and they indicated 100% charge levels.  I opened the air supply valve for the engine accessories, engaged the 12 and 24 volt chassis battery disconnect switches, pulled the wheel chocks, and put the entry step stool away.  I put the Level Low system in Drive mode, just in case that mattered, and turned the ignition key.  The bus motor cranked quickly and fired right up!  That was a relief.

The Centurion Battalion of the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps had arrived at the picnic area sometime before 8 AM with a large contingent of cadets and their adult leaders/chaperones.  And they had arrived in a large number of cars that filled the available parking spaces just on the other side of the road that ran behind the back row of RV sites where we were parked.  There was still plenty of room to back out, but Linda positioned herself outside to keep an eye on the back end of the rig.

The motorhome on our passenger side was also ready to leave and backed out before I did.  I don’t think he would have presented an obstacle, but having him gone was one less thing to have to keep an eye on.  I pulled up the tag axle and then pulled forward to the right to position the coach at an angle to the road behind it.  I then backed up and cut the steer tires hard left to swing the nose around to the passenger side and guide the rear end cleanly into the road well clear of any other vehicles.  Linda climbed on board and I turned on the OTR A-C, partly for comfort and partly to put more load on the engine.

We made the 5 MPH trip around the east end of the park and campground back to the campground entrance on the south side where Linda got out to open the gate.  Once I was clear of the gate she got back onboard.  We wound our way through the campground, familiar now with the road system.  When I got to the 2nd to last turn I saw that the last turn was blocked by a pickup truck pulling a 5th wheel trailer out of its site so I continued straight ahead and went clockwise around Red Knot Circle.  By the time I got back to the same intersection the pickup truck and 5th wheel were out of the way and I was able to proceed to site #357.

Linda hopped out to act as spotter.  Using what I learned two years ago from Big Bill while getting parked at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida I moved to the right edge of the road as the back-in site was on that side.  As I pulled past the site and the rear wheels were by the front of the site I cut the steer tires to the left, positioning the coach at an angle to the site, all the while avoiding trees, RVs, cars, and other obstacles.  I backed straight, keeping an eye on Linda in the driver side rear view mirror, and started swinging the nose to the driver side while keeping an eye on the car parked on the other side of the road.

As soon as I was clear of that car I swung the nose hard to the driver side.  We were well clear of the Sea Grape trees on the passenger side so I straightened the steer tires and pulled forward until I had a good view of the concrete pad on one side.  I backed in following Linda’s hand signals until I could see the pad on both sides, got the rig straight and centered, and backed up until Linda gave me the stop signal (arms crossed at the wrist above her head).  We ended up parking with the front tires just off the front edge of the concrete pad as the coach was close to level and we wanted to avoid lower branches at the rear of the site.  As it was, I still had to lower the front slightly, but at least the Level Low system worked this time.  I also had to adjust the rear on one side, which worked a lot better after I lowered the tag axle.

With the coach neatly tucked in to its site and sitting level Linda walked the short distance back to where the car was parked and drove it around to our site.  Once the car was parked I walked to the office and took care of the registration.  When I got back I tried to get our network up and running but encountered all sorts of problems.  I wasted most of the rest of the afternoon trying to resolve them, to no avail.

While we were camped on site #3 I had to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router/range-extender to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  That configuration worked OK out there, but was not working here.  The Wi-Fi ranger was seeing a number of campground Wi-Fi signals with adequate to very good signal strength, but was having a very difficult time connecting to them.  When it did, the connection would drop after a very short time.  The Amped|Wireless router/range-extender was having an equally difficult time connecting to the Wi-Fi Ranger and staying connected when it did.  I tried connecting the Wi-Ranger to our Verizon Mi-Fi but that did seem to work either.  I also noticed that the cellular signal was not as strong as usual.  Linda commented that her phone was having trouble connecting.  I finally got disgusted with the whole thing and set it aside.  Sometimes the best solution is to “just walk away.”

There were four cruise ships starting down the shipping channel roughly on time and in the order specified and Vickie joined us for the ship parade.  We were out there waiting for them, camera at the ready, and by the time the last ship was headed out to sea I had shot about 200 images.  Vickie had already eaten, and we were not ready for dinner yet, so we walked the campground and park, including the pier.

It was chilly all day yesterday with a high temperature in the low 70’s and a steady breeze from the north that resulted in a hazardous conditions warning for the beach.  As the light faded it got colder and we returned to our motorhomes.

Dinner was a nice salad and Amy’s enchiladas.  Simple, easy, tasty.  It turned colder after sunset under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, initially, but eventually the coach was a bit too cool so I closed the roof vents and Linda narrowed the window openings to just an inch.  We were a little tired, not particularly captivated by what was on TV, and had to be up earlier than usual in the morning, so we were in bed before 11 PM.

2016/04/04 (M) Farewell For Now

It turned chilly after sunset last night under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, actually, but eventually the coach felt chilly and we closed it up, mostly, and were in bed a bit earlier than usual.

We were up at 7 AM this morning and got dressed right away.  I made coffee, which used up our supply of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans, and we headed over to site #303 at 7:30 to see Pat and Vickie off.  They have been here since mid-February and today was departure day.  The bus motor was already running when we got there and we just watched while they got ready to pull out.  We learned long ago not to “chat” with RVers during their final departure preparations.  They drove around by the office to hook up their car and we walked over to watch.  I took a couple of pictures with my phone and used the “dawn” setting for the first time.  Soon enough they were ready to go, so we said our final “farewells for now,” and, just like that, they drove off and were gone.  Assuming no mechanical or weather issues they will be home in northern Indiana Wednesday evening.

A group of five brown pelicans coming up the channel just above the water. Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, FL.

We always find that leaving an encampment after we have been there for an extended period of time has a strange feeling and we experienced that vicariously as Pat and Vickie drove away.  The strangeness, as best I can describe it, is a combination of a sense of loss—the giving up of a familiar place and the people there—and anticipation of the journey ahead, both positive and negative.  The anticipation is positive in the sense of the possibilities of new experiences that come with the adventure of the road while the negative anticipation stems from the potential for mechanical, weather, traffic, or health problems.

With Pat and Vickie out of sight we returned to our coach and had a light breakfast of toast and jam and finished our coffee.  Linda then worked on a grocery list while I tackled out networking problems.  I gave up in disgust around 10 AM and we drove to Cocoa Beach to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Publix supermarket first and found most of what we needed there.  A quick stop at Sunseed Food CO-OP filled in our list with blueberries, coffee, and vegan mayonnaise.  I stopped at one of the Shell stations on the way back to J. P. and topped off the fuel in the car so we would not have to deal with that tomorrow morning.

Back at our coach we got the groceries unloaded and put away.  Linda then heated some leftovers for lunch and washed some grapes.  After lunch I put in a call to Chris Yust, our National General Insurance Agent, to ask her about the letter/form we received regarding Coordination of Medical benefits.  She called back a short time later and we discussed it.  She logged into her agent support system but there was no indication of the letter/form.  Normally she can see anything the insurance company has sent to her customers.  She confirmed that we really did need to send the form in with the requested documentation.

Linda had already photographed the fronts and backs of our MPSERS/BCBS cards.  When she tried to print them the printer was “offline”.  We had this same problem at the beginning of our winter travels and it turned out to be NETWORK related.  The fix back then was to use the Advanced IP Scanner to determine what IP address was assigned to the printer and then manually reconfigure the printer to that address.  That was under Windows 8.1.  Under Windows 10 the IP Scanner didn’t work the same way and the manual reconfiguration didn’t work either.  What is particularly puzzling and annoying is that the printer does not appear to be responding correctly when set as a DHCP client.  If it was, we would not be having a problem communicating with it.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this past week dealing with network and wireless communications malfunctions, so I did what I often do and we went for a walk at 2:30 PM.  We went out on the pier and were just starting back when someone spotted a manatee between the pier and the jetty swimming towards the ocean.  The water was clear and we got a good look at it for quite a while.  It was large and presumably a full-size adult.  They really are gentle giants and it was a thrill to see it.

We walked back to the office for coffee before returning to our rig.  As soon as we went in Scott Ward handed Linda a card.  She has not been in the office that much but I have, and have often interacted with Scott while checking on, or registering for, sites.  Still, I was impressed that he remembered my last name and made the connection to the card.  The card was from our younger grand-daughter, Madeline.  It was a ‘thank you’ card for Linda for all of the custom photo postcards she has created using the PhotoPostCard app and had printed and mailed to Madeline by the PhotoPostCard service out of San Diego, California.  Linda took a picture of the card, texted it to our son, and asked him to tell Madeline “thanks” in return.  He texted back a photo of Madeline looking at the most recent postcard, which was a photo of Linda by the channel with one of the Disney cruise ships heading out to sea.

The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas was due to sail at 3:45 PM followed closely by      the Disney Dream at 4 PM.  We walked over to the shipping channel at 3:40 PM and by the time we got there the Enchantment was starting to move away from its dock.  Something did not look right and then I realized we were looking at the stern of the ship.  The cruise ships usually dock facing the ocean, so it needed to turn around to get out of Port Canaveral.

One of the amazing things about these amazing machines is their ability to maneuver in close quarters.  When in port, they can independently push the bow and stern to either side, which means they can move sideways or turn the ship around its center (or any other point).  In this case they pushed the stern out from the dock on the south side of the channel and into the opening of the middle turning basin on the north side of the channel opposite the dock.  They then backed it up slightly into the turning basin, brought the bow around into the channel, pushed the stern out into the channel, and then started moving forward down the channel towards the ocean.  It was quite a skillful maneuver and the first time we have seen this in the two weeks we have been here.

Not long after the Enchantment cleared the Jetty and turned southeast to stay in the channel, the Disney Dream started moving slowly forward and away from its dock.  The Disney terminal/dock is in an alcove (basin) on the north side of the west end of the Port so it has to turn into the straight portion of the channel.  Of all the cruise ships we have seen come and go the Disney ships appear to be in the best condition, not that any of them look bad.

We returned to our coach and I transferred photos to my computer from the camera and from my cell phone while Linda started preparing dinner.  Dinner consisted of a kale salad followed by a brown rice and kale dish with sautéed carrots, onions, and garlic.  Linda has not had any wine in a couple of weeks because of the medications she’s been taking, but I had a glass of the Arbor Mist Raspberry.  I find “flavored” wines a questionable choice, although I like Sangria and hot mulled or spiced wine.

We went for a walk after dinner that included some time on the beach.  The park and beach were a beehive of activity yesterday but things were quiet all day today and there were only a handful of people on the beach this evening.  Both conditions are nice, in their own way.  There was, however, some activity in the Trident submarine turning basin today.  The big crane was moving and a Coast Guard cutter was in and out of the basin.  An attack helicopter from Patrick AFB also made repeated passes over the area and up/down the beach.  Our friends told us that when things start getting active around the basin it usually means a submarine is coming in but that did not happen while we were watching.

Back at our coach we turned on the TV but all of the CBS programs were repeats because the NCAA Basketball final game was on cable.  I reconfigured the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi and was able to get my computer connected to the Internet and to our NAS, which is critical for backing up photos and documents.  I did not, however, mess around further with the printer.  My plan is to move it back into my office at home and leave it there.  I will find a newer one, with better networking functionality, to put in the bus.

We planned to be on the road in the morning between 8 and 8:30 AM so we went to bed before 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep before NCIS-LA ended but I watched the channel 6 news/weather before turning out the lights.  The Cleveland Indians baseball home opener was postponed because of snow on the field and the TV weatherman reported that the average last date for snow in Cleveland is April 18, and for Detroit, April 22.  In spite of a mild winter and early spring, I knew there was a reason we were not in a hurry to return home.  The low at our house was forecast to be 18 degrees F overnight.

2016/04/05 (M) Celebration

We were up at 7 AM, showered, and got dressed.  We tended to our cats and prepared the motorcoach for them to be comfortable while we were away for part of the day.  We each had a banana, and a little orange juice to wash down our vitamins, but did not have a full breakfast or our usual morning coffee.  We gathered up all of the things Linda needed for her doctor’s appointment and were in the car and on our way at 8:10 AM.

Our destination was the office of Dr. Michael Seidman in Celebration, Florida, a trip of 60 to 65 miles from Jetty Park that would take about as many minutes.  Most of the route was Toll Road (FL-528 and FL-417) and we did not have to slow down for the toll booths because we have a Florida SunPass transponder that we can move between the bus and the car.  We put the address of the clinic, which is attached to Florida Hospital, into the GPS.  It accepted Celebration as the city, but the routing showed the destination as Kissimmee.  I didn’t care what it called the place as long as it got us to the correct location.

We left earlier than needed in order to arrive earlier than required and allow for traffic and navigational contingencies.  Less than a mile from the medical center we spotted a Panera Bread Company store and stopped to have bagels and coffee.  While we were there we made use of the free Wi-Fi to update apps on our iPads and smartphones.  We left at 10:15 and finished the short trip to the Florida Hospital complex.  We found a parking spot, found the clinic building, and found the suite for the Head & Neck Surgery Center of Florida (H&NSCF).  Linda had already completed much of the required new patient paperwork so we were there with time to spare.

Sheila, one of the office assistants, got Linda checked in and wanted to know if we had brought copies of her records from Henry Ford Health System, where Dr. Seidman worked for 30 years and treated Linda for the last 20 of those.  I had e-mailed Sheila the day after she asked me to get those records to let her know that HFHS would not send them to another hospital or clinic at Linda’s request and that the H&NSCF would have to request them.  Sheila said she did not receive that e-mail, even though I replied to one she sent Linda.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done at that point.

It was a great relief to Linda to be able to get in to see Dr. Seidman.  Dr. S and his PA, Katherine, carefully went over the history of Linda’s illness and treatment of the last three weeks.  He indicated that the treatment was what he would have prescribed, which was comforting to know.  His routine ENT examination did not reveal any indication of infection or fluid in her “good” (right) ear, which was also good to know.  He really wanted to compare the recent audiological results with her last tests from HFHS so he made a call to someone at the HFHS ENT clinic and was able to get them to fax the test results.  He chaired the ENT department for much of his time at Henry Ford, and that was apparently still worth something with former colleagues.

Dr. S also inserted a scope through Linda’s right nostril and into her throat to exam the areas that cannot be seen any other way.  The scope is a thin, flexible cable with a camera and LED light source at the tip.  The image is fed to a monitor, where I got to see it in real time, but was also recorded so Linda got to see it afterwards.  Her vocal cords did not close completely and were slightly bowed, which Dr. S thought probably accounted for her weak, slightly horse, voice but there was no sign of infection or other pathology, such as tumors.  He noticed that the Eustachian tube opening was “bubbling” which he thought was a good sign.  He also examined the left nostril and did not see anything unusual there either.

All of that was good news, of course, but we were both a bit let down that there wasn’t any additional treatment he could provide at this time.  Direct injection of steroids into the middle ear was still a possibility but he wanted Linda to wait at least four weeks to see if she improved on her own before going down that path.  Equally frustrating was that her hearing, while marginal, was too good for a cochlear implant.  Not that she is eager to have one of those, of course, what she wants is the hearing in her right ear restored to what it was before she got sick a month ago.

Our friend, Mara, was moving her motorhome today from Clermont to Winter Haven and her friend, Michael, was driving to Orlando International Airport to drop off a rental car and fly back to Phoenix, Arizona.  They had hoped to do all of that by way of Celebration and have lunch, with or without us, at Ari, a Japanese sushi restaurant.  We had indicated that it was very doubtful we would make it to lunch, given the timing of Linda’s appointment, but called Mara when we got back to our car to update her.  It turned out that when she got ready to leave her motorhome slideout would not slide in.  (I think that’s why they are called slide “outs.”)  Michael returned home as planned while Mara arranged for a technician to fix her non-sliding slideout.

We needed to fax a few documents to National General Insurance Company, so we went in search of a Staples with a copy center.  Having taken care of that we wanted to have lunch before heading back to Cape Canaveral so as not to be eating dinner too late in the day.  We found another Panera near FL-417 and Orange Blossom Trail and ate there.  The kale-romaine-couscous-almond salad was excellent and the black bean soup was as good as usual.  Well fed, we got on the FL-417 Toll Road and headed back towards the FL-528 Toll Road, which we took back to Cape Canaveral.

We were back at Jetty Park before 2:30 PM and just relaxed for a while.  Around 4 PM we went outside to take care of a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  I got out the waste drain hoses and connected two of them together to reach from the utility bay connection to the sewer connection, which was inconveniently located directly behind the RV pad.  We drained the waste tanks, rinsed out the hoses, and returned everything to their storage tub.  Using the 3-step stool, I retracted the two awnings on the driver side, which I had previously deployed to shade the Windows from the mid-afternoon sun.

We then emptied out the back of the car so I could add air to the temporary spare, which gave us a low pressure alarm on the drive from Webster to Cape Canaveral.  I had turned on the TireTraker TPMS earlier and most of the readings looked OK, but as long as I had the portable air compressor, hose, air chuck, and pressure gauge out I checked the front right (curb, PS) tire as a check on the TPMS. The tire gauge pressure was several pounds lower than the TPMS indicated pressure and was fairly close to where I wanted it so I left it alone.

Our destination tomorrow was Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida, a trip of about 140 miles.  We had about a half tank of fresh water so I did not get out the softener and add any.  Somewhere in the middle of all this work we chatted with several neighbors, but eventually we got the car and bus repacked, including the patio mat and the two bag chairs.  At that point we only had the entry mat, entry stool, and power cord to deal with and the outside would be ready for travel.

Before dinner we went for a walk out by the shipping channel, the pier, and the beach.  There were people out and about but the park did not feel crowded and was quiet and calm, unlike the festive energy of the weekend with its day visitors, picnickers, and family campers with younger children.  It’s as if J. P. has moods, and one has to spend enough time here and experience them to begin to get a sense of the place.  We could understand why Pat and Vickie like to come here every year, even if that is not what we would choose to do.

I could not recall what Linda made for dinner because I am trying to finish this post a week later.  What I do recall is that the Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to set sail at 9 PM, well after sunset.  It had been a pleasantly cool day with clear skies but turned chilly with the setting of the sun and a noticeable breeze, especially outside the campground by the water.  Linda was tired and a little chilled and chose not to walk out and watch the ship leave.  At 8:45 PM I got my camera, walked over to the channel, and positioned myself by the “Minimum Wake” sign.  I had a good view of the Port to the west and could lean on one of the posts for support if needed.  I put my camera in SCN (scene selection) mode, selected the “Night” setting, and waited.

I had not noticed that the ship was docked with its stern facing the ocean until it started to move.  Its position at the dock meant it would have to do a 180 degree turn before moving down the channel and into the ocean.  And that meant it was going to take longer to exit the port and give me more opportunity to photograph it.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines “Breakaway” doing a 180 degree maneuver in the turning basin. Port Canaveral, FL.

The cruise ships are always brightly illuminated when coming and going in the dark and are quite pretty to see as they glide almost silently by.  They are also challenging to photograph as they are often very high contrast (high dynamic range) subjects, especially at night.  Ideally I would shoot multiple bracket exposures and combine them using HDR software, but I would have to get the camera on a tripod and even then the exposures would be just long enough that the ship would change position slightly between frames.  I did the best I could with single frame, hand-held exposures braced against the sign post.  By the time the Breakaway was in open water I was getting chilled and headed back to the warmth of our bus.  I transferred the images to my computer and took a quick look at them before settling in to watch a few minutes of TV and then go to bed.


2016/03/03 (R) Edison Ford Estates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2016/02/10 (W) Everglades NP, FL

An American Crocodile at Flamingo, Everglades NP, FL.  The Everglades is the only place in the U. S. where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the wild.

An American Crocodile at Flamingo, Everglades NP, FL. The Everglades is the only place in the U. S. where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the wild.

We were up at 7 AM and took long, hot showers; a real luxury for folks currently living in a motorhome.  We had breakfast in the hotel as it was included in the price of the room.  We then headed back to Everglades National Park.  We wanted to spend the early part of the day deeper in the par so we drove straight through to Flamingo.


It was a little warmer and sunnier today, which would be nice for going on the Backcountry Tour.  We thought we would take the 11 AM boat until we found out that it’s a one hour and forty-five minute excursion with no access to a restroom.  That was, unfortunately, a non-starter for me.  We were both disappointed, as the only way to really see the Everglades is by boat or air.  Driving, biking, and hiking is very limited.


An Osprey surveys its territory near the Flamingo Visitor Center.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Osprey surveys its territory near the Flamingo Visitor Center. Everglades NP, FL.

Our trip to the Flamingo service center area was not wasted.  I photographed a pair of Osprey in a nest on the communications tower atop the Flamingo Visitor Center and photographed two adult birds in another Osprey nest in a tree by the marina.  We joined a walking tour led by a Park Ranger.  Just in the area near the visitor center we saw manatees in the marina, an American Crocodile by the canal, and lots of birds, especially Pelicans and gulls.  I took lots of pictures.


This large alligator was at Nine Mile Pond in Everglades NP, FL.  I estimated it to be 12 feet long.  It had its eyes open but was very still.  The kayakers in the back are at least 30 feet away.

This large alligator was at Nine Mile Pond in Everglades NP, FL. I estimated it to be 12 feet long. It had its eyes open but was very still. The kayakers in the back are at least 30 feet away.


Eventually we left Flamingo and started working our way back towards the park entrance, stopping at several places along the way to walk some of the available boardwalks and trails.  At Nine Mile Pond we spent quite a while observing and photographing a very large alligator.  Presumably a bull (male) I estimated his length at 12 feet.  These large adults weight approximately 100 pounds per foot, so I estimated his weight at 1,100 pounds.  I took lots of photos.


There is flora everywhere in the Everglades, but these palms have beautiful patterns when the light is right.  Everglades NP, FL.

There is flora everywhere in the Everglades, but these palms have beautiful patterns when the light is right. Everglades NP, FL.

We also stopped at Mahogany Hammock and hiked the trail and close to the park entrance we revisited the Royal Palm area and ventured part way out on the Anhinga Trail.  It was late afternoon and the sun was low enough to give us some nice color, the first we have had for the last two days.  I took a few landscape photos and then Linda spotted a turtle so I concentrated on it for a while.

I noticed the water lily pads moving and caught a glimpse of what looked like a large fish.  The Lilly pad disturbance was moving and something was clearly underwater causing it.  I was standing there watching the Lilly pads move when an alligator surfaced, revealing its head from behind its eyes to the tip of its snout.  It stayed there quite a while and I took pictures while a small crowd gathered.  It remained motionless except for its right eye, which was wide open and studying us carefully.  It eventually moved over by the boardwalk and we were able to look straight down at it through clear water that allowed us to see its entire length clearly.  It finally swam under the boardwalk and did not reappear.


Much of the Everglades is what appears to be grassland but is actually wet.  These “water prairies” are broken up by areas of slightly higher ground that support trees and bushes.  The highest point on the main road that goes to the Flamingo area is four (4) above mean sea level, and I seem to recall that it is the highest natural point in the whole national park.  Everglades NP, FL.

Much of the Everglades is what appears to be grassland but is actually wet. This vast “water prairie” is broken up by areas of slightly higher ground that support trees and bushes. The highest point on the main road that goes to the Flamingo area is four (4) above mean sea level, and I seem to recall that it is the highest natural point in the whole national park. Everglades NP, FL.

By this time the light was fading and the temperature had cooled to 60 degrees F.   We returned to our car and put the address of the Panera near our hotel in the GPS navigation system.  We headed there directly, only stopping at the park entrance to photograph the park boundary sign.


This alligator surfaced about eight feet from the edge of the Anhinga Trail.  The length of an alligator, in feet, is roughly equal to the number of inches from its eyes to its nostrils, something you want to estimate rather than try to measure.  Everglades NP, FL.

This alligator surfaced about eight feet from the edge of the Anhinga Trail. The length of an alligator, in feet, is roughly equal to the number of inches from its eyes to its nostrils, something you want to estimate rather than try to measure. Everglades NP, FL.

At Panera we had vegetable soup and the new couscous salad.  Linda had done all of the driving today but I drove us back to the hotel after dinner.  We settled in for the evening and watched Nature and Nova on PBS before going to sleep.


2014/06/29 (N) Lilly And Company

We said our “goodbyes ’till next time” to Linda H., Ron, and Mary last night as they went off to bed.  Linda and I were up at 7 AM CDT and had the car loaded by 7:45.  Marilyn was also up so we got to visit and say goodbye to her before we left at 8 AM.  We got back on I-270 westbound and headed to Bridgeton, Missouri where my sister lives.  We stopped at the St. Louis Bread Company bakery cafe on St. Charles Rock Road for coffee and bagels first and arrived at Patty’s house a little after 9 AM.  St. Louis Bread Company is the original name of the Panera bakery cafés, and they still use the original name in the St. Louis market where the company started and is still headquartered.

Patty’s house was completely destroyed two years ago April in the Good Friday tornados that swept through the St. Louis, Missouri area.  The outbreak damaged over 700 hundred homes as well as the St. Louis Lambert International Airport.   This was a newsworthy weather event, and Patty was interviewed by The Weather Channel, but little did anyone know at the time that it was just the first of what would prove to be a very bad season of much worse tornado outbreaks across the south.  It took a year to rebuild Patty’s house and she made a few changes in the design that resulted in a nicer, more livable dwelling, a small consolation for everything see lost.

Patty’s daughter, Amanda, came over around 10 AM with her daughter, Lillian Lissette.  Lilly is only six weeks younger than our grand-daughter Madeline, so developmentally they are doing similar things.  Lilly is up on two feet and very mobile.  She is a very sweet little girl who is curious about everything and is verbalizing a lot without actually saying anything.  She has all her baby teeth and an infectious smile.  She walked over to Linda as soon as she saw her, arms outstretched, and gave her a big hug.  Apparently that is not something she does with people she does not know well, so it was a very special moment that surprised her mom and grandmother.

Patty is down to just one dog, Maggie, from the three that she had for so many years.  She lost Bootsie (17) and Rosie (14) last year which was especially hard given that they survived the tornado.  She also lost Angel, a white female cat our mother had adopted and was another survivor of the tornado.

We visited as long as we could, including staying for a light lunch of fresh fruit.  We would have liked to stay longer but needed to get back to our house today.  Although Linda did not have to report for jury duty on Monday morning, she did have to go back to the dentist to have a new mold made for her crown.  We were also expecting our landscape contractors around 8 AM and would need to move the bus out of their way.

We were back on the road and headed for home at 12:30 PM CDT.  We went back the way we came: I-270 E (MO) to I-270 E (IL) to I-70 E (IL) to I-70 E ( IN), to I-465 S (IN) to I-69 N (IN) to I-69 N (MI) to I-96 E (MI) to Latson Road N to Golf Club Road E and finally to the dirt roads that signal we are almost home.

Linda has a nerve in her right hip that is giving her a problem, especially when she sits for any length of time.  She keeps a tennis ball in the car and puts it under her hip to relieve the pain.  Saturday morning she and Mary went for an early morning walk and she pulled a muscle in her left hip.  She was having difficulty sitting comfortably and we agreed that I would drive home in order to allow her the flexibility to change her position as needed.  She also took some pain medication that rendered her unsuited to driving.  On the plus side, she got to nap on the way home.

The trip took almost 10 hours including several rest stops and a stop in Fishers, Indiana for fuel and dinner at Panera.  We brought an assortment of audio CDs with us but did not play them on the drive down as we had a lot to talk about (when I wasn’t napping).  We did, however, play them on the way back to help keep me entertained and awake.  We pulled into our driveway a little after 11:00 PM EDT.  Linda made popcorn while I unpacked the car and brought everything inside.  The cats were glad to see us once they determined we were not scary alien creatures invading their house.  We enjoyed our popcorn snack and then checked the phone messages just in case there was something important.  There wasn’t so we went to bed.


2014/04/25 (F) National Corvette Museum

As forecast, we had thunderstorms overnight.  Light rain started before we went to bed, but the most intense weather was between 3 and 4 AM with lightning, thunder, and intermittent heavy downpours.  It is impossible to sleep through such weather even if we could completely darken the bedroom, which we cannot, as the sound of the storm is omnipresent and the wind rocks the motorcoach.  Once the storms subside, however, the sound of gentle rain on the roof makes for ideal sleeping conditions.  The good news was that none of our usual leaks appeared.

The National Corvette Museum main entrance, Bowling Green, KY.

The National Corvette Museum main entrance, Bowling Green, KY.

We had three things on our agenda for today—breakfast at Panera, the National Corvette Museum, and grocery shopping—all of which were in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Since we were having breakfast out we did not make coffee at home and used the time normally devoted to breakfast to take showers.  Mundane, perhaps, but we keep the cats’ litter tray in the shower, so using it for its intended purpose requires at but more work than it might otherwise.

We left around 9 AM to dark, cloudy skies but with a forecast for steadily improving conditions across the region throughout the day.  We took I-65 to make time and took exit 22 onto US-231, the main commercial drag into Bowling Green.  We stopped at the visitor information center and got some local maps and information.  The Bowling Green Panera was just down the road and we were there by 10:30 AM.  Maybe it’s a southern thing, or perhaps a smaller town thing, but this was the third Panera we have been in recently where we had to wait in line while the person behind the counter carried on a personal conversation with the 1st person in line way beyond any reasonable definition of customer service.  But I was patient and eventually got our bagels and coffee.  Not that I had much of a choice; it was the only Panera for 100 miles or more in any direction from where we are camped.

Panera is a great place to sit and enjoy unlimited free refills of excellent coffee and use free Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is not secure but they do require you to log in to their network to accept their terms and conditions of use.  Part of those T&Cs is a notice to please limit your use of the system to 30 minutes during the busy lunch period.  We have never seen that enforced until today when both of our iPads got cutoff and we received a message that we would not be allowed to reconnect until after 2 PM.  🙁   It was past noon by that point and we were ready to move on anyway.  The place was busy, but this was the first time we had ever had our use of Panera’s Wi-Fi system curtailed.

This Corvette was being raffled off at 4 PM.  1,000 tickets, $250 each.

This Corvette was being raffled off at 4 PM. 1,000 tickets, $250 each.

We headed over to the National Corvette Museum where a big “bash” was taking place.  The museum was open for general admission, but plant tours required reservations which were no longer available as of two weeks ago.  The main parking lots were filled with Corvettes and we were parked in a field a short distance away.  Because of the “bash” the lobby was packed with vendors and people, but once we paid our senior admission of $8 (each) and went into the display area it was quiet and not crowded.

The NCM was built, and is run by, a private foundation.  It is not owned, or operated, by General Motors but enjoys a very close working relationship with the company, including the fact that it is on the same street as the factory where the cars have been built since production was moved there in 1981.  Neither of us are “car people” but we found this to be an excellent museum and thoroughly enjoyed our time looking at the cars, reading about them, and trying to photograph them in the subdued museum lighting.

Because the “bash” was going on, the museum had opened the area where a massive sinkhole opened up on February 12, swallowing eight priceless Corvettes.  Since that event all of the cars had been recovered from the hole and put on display “as is.”  Most were badly damaged, some beyond recognition or any hope of repair.  Work was also underway to stabilize the sinkhole and ultimately rebuild that part of the museum and return it to service.  We had to sign liability waivers in order to enter this area of the museum and see the sinkhole.  After we were done in the museum we walked around part of the parking lot looking at the Corvettes parked there before walking back to our car.

We back-tracked towards downtown and stopped at a Kroger’s supermarket across the street from the Western Kentucky University medical complex.  This was the largest, and nicest, Kroger’s store we have ever been in.  We picked up the things we needed to take care of our food needs for the rest of the trip home.  Linda found a “power mix” of salad greens that included Mizuna, a slightly peppery and very tasty green that we had not heard of or seen before, even at a Whole Foods.

We took US-31W from Bowling Green through beautiful rolling farm lands back to Cave City.  After unloading the groceries I had a brief chat with one of the guys from the Airstream caravan who filled me in on a few more details about how the caravan operates.  The whole group had also been at the NCM today and got to tour the factory.

Linda made a pot of crushed lentil soup for dinner, from a recipe she has used before, and served it with a salad of the wonderful “power mix” greens and an “Asian” dressing.  On a walk after dinner we met a young couple, also out for an evening stroll, with their 2-year old, Dakota.  They said he enjoyed RVing, especially the rocks and the trains, and was a good traveler.  As long as he likes trains he has a bright future ahead as an RVer.


2014/04/17 (R) The Blue Angels

No, we have not been visiting religious resale shops.  Today we drove US-98 west all the way to Pensacola, Florida to visit the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).  Along the way we stopped at the Panera in Sandestin again.  The outlet mall shops were not open yet so there was very little traffic and not much of a crowd.  We took 20 minutes to enjoy some coffee and a bagel before continuing on to Pensacola.  The 100 mile trip was probably a little slower than taking I-10, but it was a leisurely, pleasant drive that allowed us to take in the coastal sights.  Photographs from today are in a separate gallery post.

As we got to the end of the bay bridge we did not see a sign for the Pensacola NAS so we picked our way through downtown and finally pulled into a Walmart parking lot where we put the address in our GPS.  As soon as we resumed driving we saw a sign for the NAS and Museum and the GPS wanted us to take a different route.  In this instance the signs won, although the GPS way would also have worked as the NAS has a front and rear entrance and our destination was closer to the rear entrance.

Four of the six U. S. Navy Blue Angels in diamond formation.

Four of the six U. S. Navy Blue Angels in diamond formation.

The Pensacola NAS is the U. S. Navy’s primary flight training facility and is home to the Naval Aviation Museum and The Blue Angels Navy Combat Fighter Flight Demonstration Squadron.  The Blue Angels’ practice sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday are normally open to the public.  They did not fly on Wednesday this week due to weather conditions so they flew today instead.  The session was open to the public and the public showed up in large numbers.  They started at 11:30 AM sharp (this is military stuff, after all) and flew for about one hour.  The practice session consisted of the same maneuvers, in the same order, that make up the “show” The Blue Angels do almost every weekend somewhere in the country from mid-March through early November.  They might repeat a maneuver or leave one out based on how the routine is going, how the equipment is performing, or the weather conditions.

The security personnel also acted as “play by play announcers,” letting the audience in their section of the grandstands know what maneuver was coming next.  While we were waiting for the practice session to start they also provided information about The Blue Angels, the NAS, and answered whatever questions people had.  The gentleman in our section had spent 30 years as a Naval aviator and was very knowledgeable.  He also had the right personality for working the crowd.

When the flight demonstration was over we toured the Naval Aviation Museum.  The museum is adjacent to the runways where the Blue Angels practice and is served by the same parking lot.  While not as extensive as the Smithsonian Air and Space Museums or the Air Force Museum, it is an excellent facility with a superb collection of aircraft and artifacts focused exclusively on Naval flight operations.  We took about three hours to wander through the exhibits, but you could easily spend two or three days here if you wanted to read every placard and study the displays more carefully.  Admission to The Blue Angels practice session and the Naval Aviation Museum are both free.  The museum has an IMAX theater, flight simulators, and other attractions that charge a fee.

We left the NAS around 3:30 PM via the rear gate and headed west towards Perdido Key.  Along the way we found the entrance to Big Lagoon SP and went in to check it out.  We had heard about BLSP from Jimmy and Sadie Clay, who spent March there as volunteer campground hosts.  (I did an article on their converted bus, the Iron Horse, which appeared as the cover/centerfold story in the April 2014 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.)

From BLSP we continued west to Perdido Key.  Just past the entrance to Perdido Key SP was the Perdido Key Visitor and Community Center, which housed the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce offices.  Four miles down the road was the Alabama State line.  Our reason for stopping here was that Jimmy and Sadie had mentioned that their daughter was the director of the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce and we thought it would be fun to meet her.  She was there (Tina Morrison) and we introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes.  They pulled up the website for Bus Conversion Magazine on a computer and there was the Iron Horse on the cover!  We got a nice map of the greater Pensacola area to help guide us back to I-10 using parkways on the west side if town, thus avoiding downtown during the late afternoon.  The drive back on I-10 was through heavily wooded rolling terrain with light traffic.  I was still tired from my night of no sleep earlier in the week and nodded off while Linda drove.

After a simple dinner Linda read while I processed photos from yesterday and today.  I updated a plug-in on all four of the WordPress sites I run and got my personal blog post for yesterday uploaded, but not the photographs.  The rain started around 9 PM and quickly intensified.  It did not take long for the bedroom vent-fan leak to re-appear.  A powerful low pressure center south of Pensacola was pulling copious amounts of moisture north into Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.  This was forecast to be a long-duration rain event, but without severe storms.  River flood watches and warnings continued for the area along with urban flash flood warnings and high surf and rip current warnings for the coastal beaches.  We decided to put a pot on the end of the bed to catch the drips from the leak and slept on the couches.  I guess that’s a good reason to keep a sleeper sofa big enough for two when we redo the living room and dinette.


2014/04/15 (T) A Taxing Day

At 1:30 AM (Tuesday, April 15) my cell phone issued a severe weather alert tone.  The message from the Weather Channel app was an emergency notification that a flash flood warning had been issued for Freeport and advised us to seek higher ground but to not drive through water.  If we had not already been awake, we were now!  But then, that is the point of having your cell phone set up to alert you to dangerous and threatening conditions with a sound that announces an imminent nuclear attack.  As if that wasn’t enough, the leak at the passenger-side rear corner of our bedroom vent-fan reappeared.  I had applied a liberal coat of Dicor self-leveling lap sealant to the outside of that vent-fan back at Williston Crossings and it had not leaked during two subsequent heavy rain events, so I thought I had taken care of that problem.  Either I missed a spot or the water got in somewhere else.

Although Live Oak Landing is on the Choctawhatchee River it is on ground that is noticeably higher than the water level and the RV sites are not right at the bank.  I figured we were safe as we could see the east end of Choctawhatchee Bay from the front of our bus.  Ocean water levels rise and fall with the tides, but oceans don’t flood.  The interior roads and sites are paved, so they were not going to get washed out by the rain and we were not going to be mired in soft ground.

We had a lull in the rain between 3:00 and 5:30 AM and I used the time to work on blog posts covering the 12th through the 14th and keep an eye on the weather.  I prefer doing one post per day, and uploading it before I go to bed, but that is not always possible.  When I first started blogging I would often write the rough draft in bed on my iPad, e-mail it to myself, get up early the next morning, finish it, and upload it.  I still do that sometimes, but just as often I end up several days behind.  BTW:  The WiFi at Live Oak Landing is very good.  We have been able get connected and do what we needed to do, even when it was raining.  We also have an acceptable Verizon 4G/LTE signal here.

The rain resumed briefly at 5:30 AM but without the previous intensity and fanfare.  It started again at 6:50 AM.  I checked the radar on my iPad Wundermap app and it showed the cold front just a few miles to our west and another fetch of rain beginning to come on shore and positioned to train over us.  It was not severe, however, and the band ultimately drifted east of us before coming onshore.  The rain event in most of the panhandle was done by 8:30 AM.   The end of the rain event, however, was not the end of the weather warnings.  Flash floods occur during and shortly after heavy rain events, but rivers can rise above flood stage long after the rains have moved through as large volumes of water upstream try to make their way to the sea.

There was no sunrise today, just a gradual change from night to muted, grey light that continued through the morning.  By mid-morning the cold front had passed by us, the winds had shifted from southwesterly to due north, and the temperature had dropped. A low pressure center had moved directly over Atlanta, Georgia with the cold front trailing SSE into the Gulf and the rainy weather shifted to northeast Florida, downeast Georgia, and up the Atlantic coast.  A wider view of the continent showed the heaviest weather farther north.  The cold front stretched along the Appalachian Mountains, up through Quebec and then wrapped around through Labrador and into the Labrador Sea.  There were four additional low pressure centers located in northeast Pennsylvania, southwest of Montreal, over the middle of Labrador, and just off the coast in the Labrador Sea.  Behind the front was cold and snow; in front of it, rain.

Linda checked the weather back home. The 3+ inches of snow recorded overnight in Detroit, Michigan pushed the total for the season to a new record of over 94 inches.  The old record was established in 1880/81.  This has been a historic winter with records broken across much of North America.

By early afternoon the storms were gone and the day was struggling to become partly cloudy instead of all cloudy.  The temperature barely broke 60 and it was windy so it still felt like winter’s last hurrah.  Linda discovered last night that the dish soap we bought at Publix never made it into one of our grocery bags.  It happens.  We needed more toilet paper, so we headed back to Publix in the early afternoon and stopped at the customer service desk with receipt in hand.  Mary said it was “no problem, just pick up the soap and tell the cashier that Mary said it was OK.”  It was only a $0.69 item, but we appreciated that Publix took our word for it.

With our shopping taken care of we decided to drive west on US-98 about eight miles to Destin, Florida.  The closer we got to Destin the more developed the area became.  We saw a sign for a Panera at a premium outlet mall and decided to go there for lunch.  Destin is a very upscale, resorty kind of place.  We crawled through traffic, and some of the worst engineered traffic signals we have ever encountered, to get to the mall and the restaurant.

The parking lot was packed and so was the Panera.  Apparently the stormy weather had prevented the residents from getting their maximum daily dose of high-end shopping, and they were all out on Tuesday afternoon making up for lost time.  In spite of the crowd it did not take long to place our order and receive our food and it was the same good quality we have come to expect at Panera wherever we find one.  Unlike Watercolor, which seemed vibrant but relaxed when we drove through yesterday, Destin seemed crowed and almost frantic; not our kind of place.  The traffic lights were so stupidly set up I concluded that the traffic engineers must hate rich people and were using them to inconvenience them to the maximum extent possible.  Being neither wealthy nor tolerant of stupidity, we finished our lunch and got out of town.

Before returning to Live Oak Landing we drove past Topsail State Park, a former commercial RV park, and through the very upscale community of Santa Rosa Beach right on the Gulf of Mexico.   We then drove to Freeport just to check it out since Live Oak Landing has a Freeport mailing address.  It was a one intersection town without anything special to recommend it.  Been there, done that, no reason to go back.

Back at our coach we were both very tired, having had very little sleep last night, and took a nap.  Naps are a great thing.  I used to consider them a luxury, but I’m seriously considering making them a part of my daily routine.  When we finally woke up Linda made a green salad and re-heated the spicy quinoa and black bean dish from the other night.  A beautiful sunset suddenly developed and I grabbed my camera to try to get a view shots.  This kind of lighting situation really requires a tripod and the use of the high dynamic range (HDR) technique, but I did not have time for either of those, so I got what I could hand held.

Sunset at Live Oak Landing.  (This photo has more image manipulation than normal.)

Sunset at Live Oak Landing. Our coach is lower right. (This photo has more image manipulation than normal because of the extremely high contrast lighting.)

Live Oak Landing has cable TV but we were able to pick up a surprising number of channels over the air (OTA).  We watched a couple of shows while I worked on blog posts.  The forecast low for early tomorrow morning was 39 degrees F, so we closed the ceiling vents and windows before we turned in for the night.


2014/03/26 (W) Coffee And A Bagel

That can only mean one thing; we went to Panera today.  The temperature dropped to 34 degrees F just before sunrise and we slept in longer than normal because we did not have any pressing reason to leave the warmth of our covers (and I had the electric heater pad turned on).  We needed to do a little shopping today so once we got up we decided to forego coffee and breakfast at home and head to the shopping district on US-24 (SW Archer Road) in Gainesville.  The 3/4 mile stretch of this road from I-75 east to FL-121 (SW 34th St) is all shopping, and most of the stores are recognized national chains.  There is a Lowe’s, a Walmart, a Best Buy, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts, a Trader Joe’s and two Publix supermarkets in addition to lots of smaller stores.  Fuel, of course.  And restaurants, lots of restaurants; I’m guessing as many as 50.

Linda at the Lazydays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Linda at the Lazydays RV display at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

Our first stop?  Panera.  Good coffee, good bagels, and good WiFi.  Over the last couple of days I finally figured out how to subscribe to blog feeds using Feedly and helped Linda set it up on her iPad2.  We filled our coffee cups several times while reading and only decided to leave as the restaurant filled up with lunch customers.

Kevin (one of the lead volunteers at the resort) at the Lazydays RV display.

Kevin (one of the lead volunteers at the resort) at the Lazydays RV display.

We have been looking for a paper towel holder for the bus galley to get the paper towel roll up off the counter.  Kitchen counter space is premium real estate in any RV, and ours is no exception.  We wanted one with a brass finish to match all of the other hardware in the coach, but brass finishes are out of style and almost impossible to find at typical stores.  Linda could not even find one online.  White plastic holders are common, and inexpensive, but not a viable option for our interior.  We found a holder we liked at Lowe’s.  It has a brushed nickel finish and mounts to a wall, or under a cabinet, from one end only and should be mostly invisible once it is installed and has a roll of paper towels on it.  It is also substantial enough that we should not have to replace it every year like the plastic ones; hopefully never.

Fisher & Paykel drawer style dishwasher in one fo the Lazydays RV display motorhomes.

Fisher & Paykel drawer style dishwasher in one of the Lazydays RV display motorhomes.

While we were at Lowe’s we picked up a 2-pack of 5 micron sediment filters for our water softener pre-filter housing.  Five microns might be a tad small for operating directly from the water supply, but we always fill our fresh water tank and then use our on board pump to take water from there.  The pump provides good flow and this keeps the water in the tank from going stale.  As a result we can tolerate a slower flow rate when filling the tank in exchange for finer filtering.

Fireplace electric heater

Fireplace electric heater

We also saw some flooring material that looked very interesting for our interior remodeling project.  It’s a slightly rubbery material about 1/4 inch thick that comes in 20 inch squares with interlocking tabs on all four sides.  It gets installed without adhesive (free floating), so it can be taken up later if need be.  It comes in a variety of textures and colors/patterns, including a “white marble” that would look good with our medium walnut woodwork, beige furniture, and beige Corian counters, dining table, and end tables.  After living in the bus for two months this past summer and three months this winter the interior remodeling project has moved from “it would be nice someday” status to “we need to do this as soon as possible” status.  My immediate focus is still on “systems,” but we may attack the interior remodeling yet this year.

Kathy, Jack, Silvia, and John at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Kathy, Jack, Silvia, and John at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

Linda needed a fabric hoop for doing cross-stitch so we stopped at JoAnn Fabrics.  Hoop in hand, we walked next door to Publix and picked up hummus, a variety of chips, and some fresh fruit.  We were due at Jeff and Kathy’s rig at 4:00 PM for happy hour followed by a potluck dinner and had volunteered to bring munchies (so that we would have something we could eat).

Linda, Spencer, and Ali at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Kevin, Linda, Spencer, Ali and Jeff at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

We hooked the Epson Stylus Photo R800 printer up to Linda’s computer yesterday. Being an ink jet printer that rarely gets used, it rarely works well when we do try to use it because the cartridge nozzles dry up and clog from lack of use.  I wanted to print a test pattern and run the head cleaning utility, but we did not have the right driver/utility software installed to do this or to see which cartridges were low or out.  Etc.  But we did manage to print the thread number index and the first few pattern sheets for her next counted cross-stitch project which allowed her to get to work wrapping, numbering, and storing all of the different thread colors that are involved.  She ordered the threads and a storage/organizer box the other day through our Amazon Prime account and had them two days later.

Spencer, Ali, Jeff, and Sharon at Jeff and Kathy's Bounder.

Spencer, Ali, Jeff, and Sharon at Jeff and Kathy’s Bounder.

While drying out the bedroom ceiling after the heavy rain early last week I noticed that one of the mounting tabs for the Fan-Tastic Vent Fan motor cover was broken.  I searched online for the company and got the website for Atwood products.  Atwood bought Fan-Tastic and moved all of the operations from Imlay City, Michigan to Elkhart, Indiana about a year or so ago.  Fan-Tastic is well-known among RVers for their fabulous warranty and factory support, so the purchase by Atwood was not necessarily welcomed by RVers.  I called and got a voice message system: “press 1 for this, 2 for that…” Etc.  Ugh. I left a message and was frankly surprised when I got a quick call back from Sharon.  I described my problem and she determined the part we needed and processed the order.  We had it five days later, no charge for the part or shipping.  They are still Fan-Tastic in my book.

We walked over to the Lazydays RV display mid-afternoon and looked at the motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers they had on display.  Six to eight years ago medium cherry wood tones with nickel (or stainless steel) hardware were being used in lots of RV interiors.  This combination happens to be a favorite of ours, but now appears to be a bit out of fashion.  Most of the units on display were somewhat newer than that and really dark wood tones appeared to be the order of the day.  Purpose built motorhomes often do not have skylights and the side windows are much smaller than on our bus.  The combination leads to interiors that feel dark and confining to me, even with the slideouts extended.  Put out the awnings and it gets even worse.  We did not see anything we would trade for.

We headed over to Jeff and Kathy’s at the appointed hour with our chairs, snacks, and Yuengling lager.  Jeff is quite the cook with a real talent for bar-b-que, Creole, and other southern foods.  He makes his own sauces and devotes a lot of time to preparation and cooking.  He made a vegan pasta salad with garlic, olive oil, and some spices so we would have something to eat.  It was excellent and we probably ate more than our share of it.


2014/01/18 (S) On Top Of The World

Sure, there are days when we feel like we are “sitting” there—we are retired after all, have our health, and are in Florida for the winter at a nice RV resort—but today we were not sitting on top of the world.  Rather, we were at On Top Of The World for a one hour talk on “humanism and problem-solving” by Jennifer Hancock.

OTOTW is a large, upscale, planned retirement community just southwest of Ocala, Florida off FL-200.  We were at a retail/community plaza that included the sales office, a sizeable theater, coffee and ice cream shops, and a few other businesses including one named Master The Possibilities.  MTP is the education center for the complex and offers a wide menu of self-development experiences.

We were made aware of this presentation by John and Marian Hagan from our FMCA Freethinkers chapter and they also attended.  The presentation was sponsored by the newly formed Humanists of North Central Florida (HNCFL), which is affiliated with the American Humanist Association.

After the talk I had to take a phone call from our son.  He was checking the house and called to let us know that the battery on our backup sump pump was indicating that it needed to have water added.  I talked him through that and then the four of us headed to a nearby Panera to talk over food and coffee.  I think it was the first Panera we have been to since we left Michigan on December 19.

We stopped at the Publix supermarket on US-27 just west of Ocala to do our weekly food shopping and got back to the RV resort around 8:15 PM.  We had left at 11:00 AM to do some shopping before the lecture, so it had been a long day.  We were surprised that there wasn’t anyone at the fire pit, when Linda remembered that tonight was a dinner/dance at the resort.

I walked over to the fire pit and found the remnants of a fire still smoldering so I pushed the pieces back into a pile and the fire came back to life.  I spent over an hour tending the fire and enjoying the warmth against the chill of the night air.  A few people wandered by and stopped to chat briefly.  John (from Vermont) mentioned that his son, Matt, who uses a wheelchair, was a ham radio operator, but didn’t have any of his equipment with him.  I offered to lend him one of our Kenwood HT’s and have a QSO with him sometime if he wanted to do that.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that we met Golda The Adventure Dog at the campfire on Friday night.  A very sweet and gentle animal, she is part Anatolian Sheppard and has her own Facebook page.


2013_10_24 (F) 50/50

We were up early this morning as Linda had to go to the bakery today.  I stopped by the post office on my way to Williamston and arrived around 9:15 AM.  Joe was already working on the coach and I got busy working on some small items.  I needed some WD-40 and neither of us had any, so it was off to the store.  As long as I was out I picked up coffee at Panera.  Yum.

No, today was not a 50/50 raffle, although those seem to be regular features of large RV rallies and ham radio meetings.  Today was a day of even odds as to whether new parts would solve some nagging bus problems.  As of the end of the work day the score was parts 0, problems 2.  That doesn’t mean the day was wasted, not at all.  We have a new governor (pressure regulator/controller) on the main engine air compressor and a new speedometer sensor on the transmission.  We also had a new hub gasket on the driver-side drive axle and dynamic wheel balances on all six positions.  The chassis had been lubed, the side-view mirrors had been tightened, the entrance door latches were tightened, and the passenger-side engine compartment door latch assembly was lubricated, as were all of the bay key locks.  That’s a lot of stuff taken of.

The auxiliary air system, however, still bled down quickly to just under 100 PSI each time the air-dryer purged and then slowly built up pressure to 130 PSI and the repeated the cycle.  I called Joe as soon as I got home to let him know.  He called someone that he relies on for advice and was told that it was most likely the unloader valve in the head of the air compressor.  The valve is not an expensive part, but replacing it requires a lot of labor.  The air compressor is bolted to the transmission end of the main engine block and the head is tied in to the engine cooling system, so not only is it difficult to get to (in a bus), the coolant (antifreeze) has to be drained at least to the point where the air compressor head is empty so it can be removed without making a huge mess.  Ugh.

As for the transmission speed sensor, the speedometer continued its bizarre, random behavior as I drove.  It stayed at zero (0) MPH when I first started driving, as it usually does, then jumped around erratically independent of vehicle speed, then decided to sit at 85 MPH (maximum on the gauge) regardless of vehicle speed, and then jumped around a bit up there.  It never did settle in to the correct speed on the whole trip back.  In other words, exactly what it was doing before we changed the sensor.  Ugh, ugh.  But at least we know the problem is somewhere else.

Chuck drove out to Williamston from Novi and arrived just before 1:00 PM.  Joe needed to test drive the 2002 Prevost XL LeMirage he’d been working on, so he drive the three of us to lunch in it.  That was the first time I had ridden in an XL and the first time I had ridden in a converted coach powered by a Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine.  The ride was very nice and the engine obviously had a lot of torque.  The thing I noticed most, however, was how quiet it was without windshield and door gasket air leaks.

While Joe finished the front end work I finished putting trim back on the wheels, packed up my tools, and reloaded the car and the bays.  With all of the work done, Joe guided me out of the garage and I pulled around into the driveway where I could hook up the car without blocking anyone.  Eventually there was nothing left to do but pay Joe and leave, so that’s what I did.

Centramatic dynamic wheel balancer on driver-side front wheel.

Centramatic dynamic wheel balancer on driver-side front wheel.

I got back to house late afternoon, got the car unhooked, unloaded the bus and the car, stripped the bed, and started a load of laundry.  Retirement may mean that someone else fixes your bus, but it doesn’t mean that some else does your laundry.

I did not get a chance to winterize our coach while it was in Williamston.  Overnight low temperatures have been dropping down near freezing, and were forecast for the upper 20’s tonight.  The living area in the coach will stay above freezing just from retained heat and the heat put out by the refrigerator, but I was less sure about the bays.  There are still water lines in the front bay from the old combo washer/dryer so I turned on the electric bay heater.  The water tank bay does not have an electric heater, which I thought was odd, until I realized the Aqua-Hot is in test bay and has an electric heating element, so I turned that back on as well.

Linda left the bakery around 5:00 PM, which put her in the middle of the afternoon rush.  I’m not sure why it’s called rush hour since traffic mostly moves slowly or not at all.  While on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia last week we were reminded of similar reversals, made famous by George Carlin, such as why we drive on Parkways and park on driveways.  And we wonder why non-native speakers gave trouble with English?  I sat on the couch and worked on this blog posting and Juniper (our female cat) curled up beside and went to sleep; very unusual for her.  We had a heavy downpour of rain and sleet that lasted for 20 minutes, but Linda finally made it home at 6:37 PM.

Dinner was pan grilled onions and extra firm tofu slices in Bar-B-Que sauce served on a whole wheat bun with a mixed green salad, a few Tostitos whole grain dipping chips, salsa, and a small glass of white wine.  The odds of that being a really tasty meal were much higher than 50/50.  Simple yet simply delicious.