Tag Archives: post cards (MEF3)

2016/03/21-23 (M-W) Webster Cape-Canaveral Jetty-Park Recovery

2016/03/21 (M) Webster to Cape Canaveral

I was up sometime before 8 AM after a less than completely restful night’s sleep.  Yesterday was our last full day at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) in Webster, Florida and today was departure day.  I am always a bit anxious when the time comes to move the bus after sitting for a while, and even though we have only been here for two weeks it has been a lovely, comfortable place to base camp.  Although we only had about 100 miles to travel today, I was more anxious than usual because of a combination of factors.

At the top of the list was the tag axle brake issue.  While I was hopeful that Joe had taken care of it, at least for now, we would not know for sure until we moved the bus.  Another big factor was that Linda has been very ill for the last few days and was still not well this morning.  That meant I would have to do more of the work of preparing the bus for travel.  I didn’t mind, of course, I just did not want to overlook something that was normally part of her portion of the departure routine.  The third, forth, and fifth factors were:  3) using our new SunPass transponder for the first time; 4) taking the bus on the Florida Turnpike and Toll Road system for the first time, and; 5) traveling a route that came into the Orlando area from the northwest and swung around the southern edge before heading straight east towards the Atlantic ocean.  The sixth and last factor was our destination, which was not a motorcoach resort with wide, straight roads and big sites, but rather a county park with narrow, twisty roads, closer sites, and lots of trees.  Charming, but not necessarily “big rig” friendly.  I knew, because I had visited Pat and Vickie Lintner here two years ago.

We had a reservation at Jetty Park Campground on Cape Canaveral where our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, have been since mid-February.  We had reservations starting today and running through the 28th, with departure on the 29th unless we decide to extend our stay and there was a site available.  Check-in time was 2 PM and our mapping app indicated 104 miles and a little over two hours for our preferred route.  Based on that we wanted to pull out of FGMCR sometime between 11 AM and noon.  That gave us most of the morning to prepare the bus for travel, and that was comfortable even with Linda being ill and not able to do as much as usual.

I did not have coffee this morning—I never do on travel days—and we just had a couple of pieces of toast early for breakfast.  In spite of not feeling well Linda got most of the inside of the bus ready to travel and even swept the floor.  I packed up our computers and iPads and then prepared the outside stuff.

The biggest, most time consuming job, and my least favorite, is checking and adjusting tire pressures.  I had plugged in the TireTrakker TPMS repeater last night and I turned on the receiver/monitor this morning after letting it recharge overnight.  It eventually acquired temperatures and pressures from all 13 tires.  The temperatures were all in the 60’s so I knew the pressure readings were current rather than left over from our previous trip.  The sensors are not accurate enough, however (in my opinion), so I checked all of the tires with my tire gauge except the mini-spare in the car.  The passenger side steer tire on the bus needed an extra 2 PSI, but all four tires on the car were low and needed to be increased.  So did the car spare, but I was not about to empty out the back of the car to get to it.  I should have taken care of this sometime during the last two weeks as the pressure was low enough to keep triggering an alarm on the monitor, and was not at the correct pressure for use should we need it.

By 10:30 AM we were ready to go except for disconnecting the shorepower and hooking up the car.  I was going to reposition the coach so we could hookup the car at the site and then exit to the left but a landscaping crew showed up, parked along the other side of the road to our left, and unhooked their trailer.  I was not going to ask them to move, and I doubt that they would have even if I did.  It was easier to just exit to the right anyway and hook up the car at the staging area by the clubhouse where we unhooked when we came in, so that’s what we decided to do.

At 11:20 AM I disconnected the shorepower and stowed the cord.  Chassis batteries ON; engine accessory air supply ON; inverter operating; main engine start; no problem.  I let the suspension and brakes air up on low idle as Joe had suggested and then pulled up the tag axle.  Linda moved the car to the empty pad across the street to the right and watched as I pulled out.  Once I cleared the turn I put the tag axle back down and Linda followed me counterclockwise around the front “pond” to the staging area where I shut off the engine and she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Many (most) RV parks have “no engine idle” rules.  There isn’t one posted here, and the staging area is far enough from the clubhouse and the closest sites that our engine would not have bothered anyone, but since we would be hooking up the car directly behind the engine we did not want to listen to it while working.

No less than three people stopped to chat with us while we were hooking up the car for towing.  That actually violates good RVing manners (unwritten rules) but they were just curious, being friendly, and/or wishing us safe travels.  The problem is that you are engaged in a critical process and anything that distracts you can result in overlooking something with potentially serious, even disastrous, consequences.  We are experienced enough at this point, however, to double check everything before we drive away, especially if we have been interrupted.  This time we backed the car up until the tow bar arms locked in place and then secured the air line and electrical cables so they would not pull loose.  Linda remained outside to do the light check while I started the bus engine and operated the controls.  Everything checked out and once Linda was back on board we were ready to go.  She had entered our destination into the GPS unit before we pulled out of our site.

Pat & Vickie Lintner’s site at the Jetty Park Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL.

As I pulled around to the exit gate the gatehouse attendants saw or heard us and opened it.  We got big smiles, waves, and “safe travels” from them as we left.  It was 11:50 AM.

The GPS routed us the same way we had determined using our iPad mapping apps.  We turned left out of the resort onto CR-478 headed east.  The road curved around to the north about four miles later and ran up to the town of Center Hill where we picked up CR-48 eastbound.  A half mile later the road turned northeast and a couple miles up the road the GPS told us to turn onto CR-704 (FL-?).  I had just started the turn when I saw the weight restriction sign; nothing over 28,000 pounds GVWR permitted! What the?!!!

I stopped soon enough that I was able to turn back onto CR-48 without having to back up, after traffic cleared, so we caught a break there but were both a bit unnerved by the failure of our Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS to route us correctly.  It then occurred to me that the very small update I Installed last night might have reset the vehicle configuration as I vaguely recalled this happening once before.  Why R-M would design their GPS unit so it loses configuration data as a result of an update is beyond me, but there are several things about this unit that defy common sense.

Linda used her cell phone to try to figure out where we were now headed and determined that we could still get to where we needed to be.  She then opened the preferences screen on the GPS unit and found the configuration screens.  Sure enough, it thought we only weighed 20,000 pounds (we are closer to 42,000) and were only 12’6″ tall (we are probably 13’1″).  I really fault R-M for this as it creates a potentially dangerous situation.  Anytime the settings are changed, certainly if they are reset as part of an update, the unit should display a message to that effect and not allow the unit to be used until it is acknowledged.  Better yet, I don’t understand why the configuration should be changed as part of the update process.

At some point we turned left onto US-33, which seemed wrong, but Linda verified it was correct.  We ended going south on US-27 all the way back to Clermont and then getting on the Florida Turnpike (FL-91) headed south towards Miami.  We made it through the first Toll Plaza with an “OK to Proceed” sign, so we knew that the new transponder was working, which was a big relief.  The lane guidance feature of the GPS unit worked well and we did not have any difficulty negotiating the interchanges.  Linda kept an eye on the tire sensors throughout the trip.  All of the tires indicated temperatures in the 60’s except the driver side tag, which was 90 to 102.  It was definitely elevated, but not enough to be an immediate problem.  This was not unexpected as I knew that the new pads were dragging more than on the passenger side.  Interestingly, the pressure in that tire had not risen disproportionately higher than any of the other tires, indicating to me that it was probably the valve stem that was warmer due to its direct contact with the wheel, rather than the rubber of the tire, which was getting plenty of cool air blowing around it.

We arrived at Jetty Park at 2:15 PM, only 10 minutes later than our original ETA before we had to detour around the weight-restricted road.  Our name was not on the list (sigh) at the entrance gate but we were given the gate code and directed to the campground.  I found a place to pull up and shut off the engine while I went in to register us, as Linda had effectively lost her voice.  We were not on the list (double sigh) there either (same list, I suspect) but they found us in the computer.  I had confirmation e-mails, if needed, but had not brought them in with me.  We unhooked the car and parked it at the office.  We drove the bus around through the narrow, curvy gravel roads but I was able to make all the turns, even with cars parked near the edges, so the road system here is laid out better than it appears.

Jetty Park is a county-owned and operated public park and beach with a campground that has been turned over to the Cape Canaveral Port Authority to manage.  It is in a premium location in Cape Canaveral, Florida just north of Cocoa Beach and just south of the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  It is on the south side of the shipping channel that connects Port Canaveral to the Atlantic Ocean.  Cargo ships use this port/channel, but the main attractions are the Disney and other cruise ships and the U.S. Navy Trident submarines.  In addition to all of its other charms, it is one of the best places from which to watch rocket launches, and there is one scheduled for tomorrow night!  I think this is the first time we have stayed in a county park with the motorcoach.  It is more like a state park than the private RV parks and resorts where we usually stay.  It’s probably closest in appearance and feeling to a nice KOA.

Pat and Vickie saw us drive by and walked down to watch while Linda helped me back into site #343, a full hookup, 50 Amp site with nice trees around it.  I could not back far enough into the site to get the front tires onto the concrete pad due to low branches at the rear of the site.  As a result we were slightly low in front.  That would not normally be a problem but the Level Low system would not adjust the front end.  I have a spare air leveling solenoid and might have to work on this while we are here.  Ugh.  I took a picture on my phone and e-mailed it to our son and daughter.

Site #343, our first (of many) sites at JPCG (on right, beyond the trailer. Cape Canaveral, FL.]

I did not plug in the shorepower cord as I wanted to let the house batteries discharge to 24 VDC (50% SOC).  Linda and Vickie searched online for medical clinics.  Linda selected one about three miles away in Cocoa Beach and I drove her there.  It took about two hours from the time we arrived until she had her prescriptions.  We went to the CVS Pharmacy across the street to have them filled.  They would not be ready for 2 to 2.5 hours so we went back to the campground so Linda could rest as comfortably as possible.

Back at our rig I got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to the park’s public Wi-Fi system and got our iPads and my computer online.  I did not set up Linda’s computer as it will likely be a few days before she is in the humor to use it.  I checked e-mail and the throughput appeared to be usable, if somewhat slow.  I suspect it will be better between midnight and 8 AM, but that is not when I tend to be up.  If we have updates, however, or I need to upload or download are files to/from BCM, I might adjust my schedule.  The RV life requires agility.

I left at 6:30 PM and drove back to Cocoa Beach to pick up Linda’s prescription medications.  I stopped at a Publix supermarket first and bought various groceries before going to the CVS Pharmacy.  On the way back I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a coffee for me and finally got back to our coach at 7:45 PM.  Linda helped get the groceries inside and then took her first dose of meds.

I turned the front TV antenna towards Orlando and rescanned for channels.  The TV found at least 60, including CBS and two different PBS affiliates.  I pointed the rear antenna in the same direction and rescanned the rear/bedroom TV but the scan would not compete successfully.  I tried it a couple of times with the same result each time.  Arrrgh.  When in doubt, do a power-off power-on reset, right?  I unplugged the power from the antenna controller and the TV set, waited long enough for any power capacitors to bleed down, and plugged them back in.  I pointed the antenna again and then scanned for channels.  Eureka, this time they were all there!  I should have tried that while we were at FGMCR.  Doh!

We watched our usual Monday night TV shows on CBS plus a few minutes of news and weather and then went to bed.  Given how Linda felt and was still coughing I figured neither of us was going to get a good night’s sleep, but we were both tired and there wasn’t anything else to do except try.  An overnight low of about 50 degrees F was expected so I had closed the roof vents and left the windows open just a crack.  We were still operating off the house batteries and inverter so I did not turn on the usual night lights.

2016/03/22 (T) Jetty Park Atlas

Linda had a really bad night last night, maybe the worst yet since she took ill, with persistent extended episodes of painful coughing.  She was obviously uncomfortable, and no doubt also frustrated, as she was finally able to start taking medication last night at 8 PM.  She was already wrung out and very tired, and I was a bit spent myself after the day we had yesterday, but neither of us got a good night’s sleep.  Today will need to be an easy day, of necessity, and we will need to rest so we can be up and alert late this evening for the rocket launch.  An Atlas V (5) launch is scheduled from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:05 PM this evening.  It is a resupply mission for the International Space Station.

I got out of bed at 7:15 AM and fed the cats.  I was not well-rested, and would like to have gotten back under the nice warm covers, but I was also uncomfortable and had spent as much time supine as I cared to for one night.  The outside air temperature overnight got down to 51 degrees F but we closed the roof vents, and only left the windows open a crack, before going to bed last night so the inside temperature only dropped to 65.  I did not plug in the shorepower cord when we got here yesterday so I could not use the electric heater pad on the bed, but we had plenty of covers (and cats) to keep us warm and I did not need the extra heat.  I put on my sweats this morning, and was very comfortable.

Linda got up around 7:45 AM to take her medications.  She needed to heat a cup of water to make a salt water gargle mixture but the house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC.  That is roughly a 50% SOC (State Of Charge).  Lead acid batteries, including AGMs, can be discharged a bit more than that but it shortens the number of times they can be cycled so I do not like to let them go much below that level.  I took a few minutes to plug in the shorepower cord and soon enough we had 240/120 VAC power to the coach.  After Linda prepared her gargle mixture I rearranged the kitchen counter and then made coffee and got our vitamins and juice ready.

Linda tried to play a few games on her iPad while I worked on the drafts of my blog posts for the last two days and started the one for today.  Pat and Vickie were out walking and stopped by to see how Linda was doing.  I walked over to the office at 11 to register/pay for the next 7 nights of camping and walked past site #352 on the way.  It was still occupied, but the current occupants were clearly in the final stages of vacating the site.  I walked past the site again on my way back from the office and the current occupants were just pulling out.  When I got back to our coach I let Linda know it was time to move.

We walked over to the new site to scope out where to put the car and how to approach getting the coach backed in and then walked back to our current site.  Linda closed the front windows and secured a few loose items, but mostly left everything sitting right where it was as we were only going for a short, easy ride.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot electric heating element and then took care of the outside stuff.  I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the cord, and stowed it away, once again wishing that I had a cord reel.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply, and started the engine.  While the engine idled and the chassis aired up Linda drove the car to the new site, parked it, and awaited my arrival.

Moving the coach from site #343 to site #352 was a simple matter of driving counterclockwise almost all the way around Red Knot Circle, the easternmost loop of the campground, and pulling into Siskin Drive headed east.  The location of trees and a light pole made for a tricky spot to get into.  The guy in the site to our east (driver’s side) offered to move his truck but I determined that it was not really in the way.

I lifted the tag axle to shorten the turning radius of the bus while maneuvering through the campground.  The drive was easy but it took a little bit of back and forth for Linda to get me backed in and centered on the concrete pad.  The trees at the back of the site were trimmed up high enough that I could back the coach in far enough to just get the steer tires onto the pad.  That was important as the pad was level enough that I did not need to adjust the leveling of the coach, which was a good thing because yesterday the front end portion of the Level Low system would not work.  I got out of the coach a couple of times to check the location of the tires and tree limbs and was pleased to see that the tag axle tires were actually off the ground.

I shut the engine down and we went through a modified arrival routine.  As usual, I shut off the chassis batteries, closed the air supply valve for the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and put power to the coach.  The Magnum 4024 inverter/charger worked fine yesterday and it worked fine again today.  I do not know what caused the fault on the drive up from Arcadia to Webster, but resetting the unit seems to have restored it to proper operation.

The beach at Jetty Park & Campground looking south at Cocoa Beach, FL.

Linda got out the door mat, patio mat, our two bag chairs, and our plastic side table.  She also got the tire covers out of the car and put them on the bus.  I got out the windshield covers and the Little Giant step/extension ladder and set it up.  I retrieved the rivets to hold the lower windshield wipers off the glass and then Linda handed me the windshield wiper covers.  I wanted to put these on first to protect the windshield cover from getting snagged on the metal edges of the arms and wiper blade inserts.

This was the first time we have put the new windshield covers on since we got them two weeks ago so we had to figure out the easiest way to do it, or at least a way that worked. We positioned the large one-piece windshield cover behind the lower wipers and above their drive shafts.  That supported the fabric while I pulled it up under the upper wipers and attached the upper center snap and the lower driver side corner snap.  I repositioned the ladder to the driver side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, and attached the driver side upper corner snap.  I moved the ladder to the passenger side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, attached the upper corner snap, and then the lower corner snap.  I had to stretch to reach the upper snaps, so next time I will make the step ladder a little taller.

There are three covers for the passenger side: one for the door, one for the window above the door, and one for the window behind the door.  These are all small enough that there was no particular difficulty attaching them.  The trick was to start at the top and attach as many snaps as possible before climbing down and repositioning the ladder.  For the one large driver side cover I started with the upper center snap, then attached the upper rear snap.  I moved the ladder forward and attached the upper front snap and then did the three bottom snaps. When we were done with that we were finally free to relax.  Vickie and Linda discussed walking the park and Linda suggested starting between 3 and 3:30 PM.  I gathered she was finally feeling a little better, or was just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

At 2 PM Linda asked me get her some more tissues and sore throat spray.  I headed for the CVS pharmacy but ended up at the Publix supermarket, which is closer by a mile or so.  Besides liking Publix, that meant less traffic to deal with.  Somewhat like the Florida Keys, but not as extreme, we are on a long, skinny island with one main road running along its spine.  Unlike the Keys, there are more side roads and an occasional causeway that goes over to Merritt Island and on to the mainland.  I found what I needed at Publix and was back at the park in due course.

At 3:30 PM we went for a stroll around the campground and park with Vickie as tour guide.  After our stroll Linda was hungry and heated up some Amy’s Tomato Bisque Soup (vegan).  I was really tired and laid down in bed to take a nap that lasted over two hours.  When I got up I had the rest of the soup and a large green salad.  We then watched out usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs but did not get to see the last 15 minutes of Limitless as Vickie texted to jet me know they were on their way over to fetch us and walk to the shipping channel to watch the rocket launch.

The Atlas V resupply mission for the International Space Station lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station right on schedule at 11:05 PM.  The launch pad was much farther away from our position than the one used for the military satellite launch two years ago, but was illuminated by multiple light sources producing beams and shadows projecting up and highlighted by the clouds.  For all the launches Pat and Vickie have seen from this park, this was the first time they recalled seeing these lights.

Even though the Atlas V was a much larger rocket than one I saw two years ago, it was not as loud or as visually impressive as the other one.  There were scattered clouds at liftoff, which made for interesting viewing, but the rocket was fairly quickly above them and then disappeared from sight.  I tried to take a few photos, but I did not bother bringing the tripod or spend any time ahead of time figuring out appropriate camera settings.  I did, however, spend a few minutes playing with manual adjustment of the ISO setting.

A man sitting next to me was monitoring mission control on a radio so we knew what was going on before, during, and after the launch.  Only minutes after liftoff the rocket had burned enough fuel to reduce its weight by 75%, was 120 miles above the surface of the earth, was 338 miles downrange, and was traveling just under 10,000 miles per hour!  It’s time to orbit was projected to be 21 minutes and I believe the orbital velocity would be approximately 18,000 MPH.  (The actual orbital velocity would obviously be a very exact number.)

When it was all over we carried our chairs back to our rig and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s coach so she could drop her’s off.  Pat went in for the evening but the three of us went for a leisurely midnight stroll around the entire campground.  In spite of the event that had just occurred the campground was quiet.  There is some general purpose street lighting here, but not too much.  It’s a nice campground and I could see why Pat and Vickie like to come here.

Back at our coach Linda decided to sleep in the living room.  More specifically, she decided to sleep in the two captain’s chairs by locking them in position facing one another, reclining the backs, and putting the hassock between them.  She thought she might sleep better in a partially upright position.  I finished a few e-mails and retired to the bedroom where I was joined by the cats.  I was too tired to write but too awake to go right to sleep so I turned on the TV.  After flipping through the channels I settled on an old movie, The Battle of Britain.  By 2 AM it was still on, owing to too much time for commercials and not enough time for the movie, so I turned it off and went to sleep.

The “Jetty” and pier at Jetty Park. Cape Canaveral, FL.

2016/03/23 (W) On The Road To Recovery

Linda slept seven hours last night with very little coughing, at least that I heard.  She slept in the living room (her choice) and left the bedroom to me.  I had a long early evening nap and did not fall asleep until 2 AM.  Even then I did not sleep that well and got up at 8 AM.  Linda was still asleep but woke up not long after.  She wanted coffee so rather than grind up beans and deal with the whole do-it-yourself process we walked up to the campground office with our two Tervis mugs/caps and filled them there.  Free coffee all day, every day, is a nice campground amenity and not one we have found anywhere else.

Pat and Vickie decided to go to Epcot Center at Disney World today for the annual flower and garden show.  Vickie texted me to see how Linda was doing and if we wanted to go.  Linda was definitely not well enough yet to go anywhere or do anything, so we stayed behind and had an easy day at our home on wheels, starting with toast and jam for our breakfast.  Linda read a little and checked our banking.  I talked to my sister about our dad for a bit, but spent most of the morning completing draft blog posts for the last three days.  We both got showers, which brought our fresh water level down to ~1/6th tank (20 gallons).

I copied the photos I’ve taken during the last week, including the rocket launch last night, to my computer.  I selected one of the rocket launch for this week’s post card, processed it, and e-mailed it to Linda’s iPad.  While she created a post card for grand-daughter Madeline, I connected the fresh water hose and water softener, tested the harness of the water supply, (7 to 10 gpg), filled the fresh water tank (100 gallons), and connected the waste water drain hose.

With my outside chores done I selected two photos from my article on replacing the bearings in a Webasto diesel burner and e-mailed the image numbers to Gary and Jorge at BCM.  They will be used on the “Coming in June” page of the May issue, one for my articles and one for Lloyd DeGerald’s multi-step maintenance list.

The nighttime launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as seen from Jetty Park. Note: This was a long-exposure handheld shot. I was braced against a sign to take it.

I heated a can of Amy’s Golden Lentil “Indian Dal” soup and washed some black grapes for our lunch.  There was a cool breeze outside but a bit of heat gain in the coach so we sat outside, doodled on our iPads, and dozed in our folding bag chairs.  A little before 5 PM Linda decided she wanted to go for a walk on the beach.  The wind was strong out of the east with 3 to 4 foot waves breaking just off shore, but the late afternoon sun was warm enough to make for a pleasant stroll south towards Cocoa Beach.  As the sun dropped lower in the sky and was filtered by thin clouds it turned slightly chilly so we turned around and headed back to Jetty Park.  We continued our walk through the picnic and playground area and walked along the channel to the boat ramps and then to the campground office.  We got a couple of cups of coffee and sat down to watch the news but the TV was tuned to FOX News, so we left and walked back to our site, noting that Pat and Vickie’s car was back at their site.

We discussed what to do for dinner and decided on cooking the vegan Italian sausage and using it to top a salad.  I texted Vickie to ask how the garden and flower show was, and let her know that Linda was feeling slightly better.  We gave the cats their monthly dose of Cheristin flea medication, which they were due for yesterday.

Vickie came over at 7:15 PM with her iPad and we looked at all of the pictures she took at the Epcot Center Flower and Garden show.  It was clearly a spectacular exhibition and since we could not attend we were glad to see it through Vickie’s photographs.  By the time Vickie returned to her coach it was almost 9 PM so Linda suggested that we just have granola for dinner.  That sounded quick and easy to me, besides which I love her granola, so I did not need any convincing.

On Wednesday evenings we like to watch nature, science, and technology programs on PBS.  We have two PBS stations potentially available to us here at Jetty Park Campground but neither of them have 100% reliable signals.  I experimented with a range of antenna directions and selected the one that seemed to offer the most reliable signal for the 24.n channels.  NOVA was on the recreation of Noah’s Ark and Secrets of the Dead was on the discovery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Ninevah, 250 miles north of Babylon and built by King Sennacherib.

Linda once again set up the captain’s chairs as a bed so she could sleep sitting up.  I could not tune in channel 24 in the bedroom so I finished watching the show in the living room.  At 11 PM I tuned off the lights in the front of the coach and left Linda to sleep while I retired to the bedroom to write, play a few games, and watch a little more TV before going to sleep.


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

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

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.


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

2016/01/11 (M) Jack and Paula

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/13 (W) Coffee Clutch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/14 (R) Ron and Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/15 (F) Tampa RV Supershow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2014/12/01-04 (m-r) Westward Ho!

2014/12/01 (M) Back in Twelve Mile IN

As I indicated in yesterday’s post we are back in Twelve Mile, Indiana for a couple of days before heading on towards the southwest United States.  Butch and Fonda are scrambling to get ready and although there isn’t much we can do to help, we have made ourselves available.  If nothing else we can cheer them on.

We went to bed early last night, tired from our final departure preparations and 270 miles of travel yesterday, and slept in this morning.  Once we were up we had our usual granola with fresh fruit for breakfast and then walked over to Small Town Brew for coffee and conversation with owner Lisa Paul and whoever else happened in while we were there.

Well caffeinated, and pushing 9:30 AM, we checked in on Butch and Fonda.  There wasn’t anything we could help with so we both set up our computers and got online.  Linda paid bills while I updated the spreadsheet I use to track cross-purchase costs.  I hooked up their small Canon iP90 inkjet printer and printed out a copy for Butch and wrote him a check for the balance we owed them.  I showed Linda the MFJ-998 full legal limit antenna tuner that Butch wanted to sell and decided to buy it, resulting in a second check.  We plan to (eventually) use this in our base station, but it was a good enough deal that it was worth buying now and transporting to Arizona and back.  Buying it now also helped out our friends.  I logged in to RVillage and updated our location while Linda walked down to the Post Office two buildings to the west.  (Twelve Mile is a pretty small, compact town.)

Bill and Butch finished repairing Brittiny’s car this past week and she and Rock showed up mid-morning to pick it up.  We visited with them for a while and then Rock headed back while Brittiny visited with her mom.  While they were talking someone stopped across the street and off-loaded a camel.  They had three on the trailer but I’m not sure where they put the other two.  The three wise men, however, were nowhere to be seen.

Although the air temperature was in the upper 20’s it was sunny most of the day, which kept the front of the bus comfortable and well lit.  Given those conditions I decided to work on some projects in the center cockpit area.

First up was (finally) mounting the inclinometer, which turned out to be quite the little project.  I had to remove the mounting bracket from the case in order to attach it to my mounting blocks on the center windshield pillar.  That, in turn, required me to take the case apart and remove the mechanism so I could get to the ‘C’ clips that prevented the bracket retaining screws from coming all the way out of the body.  But I got it apart, mounted, and reassembled, minus the retaining clips.  Really, why would I put them back in?

Linda split the one remaining Tofurkey brand Italian sausage and served it on a couple of hotdog buns for lunch along with a couple of Clementine oranges.  A quick and simple but tasty lunch.

The inclinometer and the compass both have light bulbs in them and needed to be wired up to 12VDC accessory plugs.  The inclinometer already had a power cord but the compass did not, so I got some scrap wire from Butch and fashioned a 2-conductor power cable.  I only have four accessory outlets and three of them were already in use so I attached both power cables to a single plug using wire nuts.  I then dressed all of the wires to make for a neater looking installation that would keep them out of the way and prevent snagging and/or tripping problems.  All of this was a long-term temporary solution; I plan to eventually install a 12 VDC PowerPole distribution system for all of these accessories and hide the wiring to the extent possible or enclose it split cable loom.

I removed the four screws that hold the panel with the 12 VDC house system switches so I could get to the back side of them.  It took a while but I eventually puzzled out how the three air-conditioner switches were wired.  I removed the wire that feeds +12 VDC to the Rear A-C switch and checked for voltage at the loose end of the wire.  There wasn’t any, as expected, so I put a 2 Amp blade fuse in the 12 VDC distribution panel and checked again.  This time I had +13.2 VDC, so everything was good down to that point.  I removed the line and load wires from each switch in turn and checked to make sure the contacts opened and closed the way they should.  They did, so I checked each pin to ground to see if any of them were somehow shorted to ground.  They were not, so the problem was probably downstream from there.  I did not, however, specifically check the bulb circuit for each switch, so I don’t know if there’s a problem there or not.  The bulbs, however, get their power from the load side of each switch, so in the next paragraph the tests I did included the bulbs in parallel with whatever other loads existed.

I tested each load wire for continuity to ground and was surprised that they each appeared as a short.  I did this test with the DC- lead to ground and the DC+ lead to the wire.  When I reversed the leads each wire tested as open.  That suggested there was a diode, or something, acting as a one way current check valve.  I switched the VOM to measure resistance and rechecked each wire.  Where I had previously seen short circuits I saw 0 ohms; where I saw open circuits I now saw about 630 ohms.  Those readings might be a problem, but I don’t yet understand them well enough to know.

The bulbs are incandescent, so their resistance should measure the same in either direction.  If they are 0.6 W they would draw ~0.047 A and have a resistance of ~265 ohms (when illuminated), not the 630 ohms I saw with the red test lead grounded.  Regardless of the exact value, if a bulb was shorted I would see 0 ohms whichever way the test leads were connected.  With the black test lead to ground the 0 ohm readings were, therefore, presumably through the load wires not the bulbs.  If the relay coils were very low resistance (and protected by diodes) they would determine the meter reading in the forward direction, but I would have expected something more than a zero reading.  It seems very odd to me that all three of these loads tested as short circuits in one direction.

I had a weak Verizon 4G/LTE signal at the front of the bus so I tried calling Donn Barnes in Alvarado, Texas.  I got his voice mail and left a message indicating he could TXT message me back.  He did later and I replied that I would call him from Logansport a bit later.  Butch needed a 1/2″ x 1-1/2″ NPT male nipple so Linda and I drove to Logansport to buy one at Home Depot.  While we were there I called Donn and confirmed that he would be home this weekend and that we were still welcomed to visit and spend Saturday and Sunday at his place.  The timing looks like it will work out well as he has to work on Friday and Monday, so we will take our leave on Monday morning.

When we got back to the coach we had some pita chips with hummus while Linda prepared a green salad and started heating some lentil soup.  While we enjoyed the soup she reheated some pita bread and the leftover Koshary.  A small glass of Moscato went nicely with the meal.  After dinner we went in the house to visit with Butch and Fonda for a while and transfer some PDF files onto a flash drive for Butch.  We returned to our coach for the evening at 9 PM.  It was certainly an easier day for us than for Butch and Fonda, but we were tired nonetheless.

We were sitting quietly, reading and writing, when things suddenly got exciting.  Juniper made a sudden movement near the food bowls and I immediately glanced in her direction to see that she had caught a mouse.  We knew at least one was probably still living in the bus because yesterday we found a partially shredded blue paper shop towel in the tray where we store the shore power cords, along with two nuts that had been chewed open.

Juniper is a very skillful huntress but I was surprised that the mouse attempted to get to the cats’ food bowls, which are not in a really safe place for a mouse, with two cats on board.  Juniper is very protective of her catches, so she headed off towards the bedroom, trying to find someplace where we could not try to take it away from her.  We wanted to get it from her and remove it from the coach but our main concern was that she not kill it and try to eat it.

I got a container to try to capture it and Linda managed to get hold of the scruff of Juniper’s neck which caused her to drop the mouse.  It immediately ran further under the bed, a direction from which there did not appear to be an escape path, but we could find no sign of it save a few stool pellets.  I would have needed a much deeper container, like the trash can, to capture it.  Our best guess is that it disappeared into the OTR HVAC duct on Linda’s side of the bed.  Once in there it could travel the length of the bus with impunity, including moving from side to side and between the house and the bay’s.  With any luck it took the hint and moved outside.

Juniper took up her post by the rear corner of the dinette, where she originally caught the mouse, to wait for its reappearance.  A black cat sitting quietly on black tile at night is a pretty effective camouflage.  The problem for the mouse is that it needs to eat and even in its natural (outdoor) environment constantly takes risks to obtain food.

2014/12/02 (T) Tire(d) Pressures

Some nights we sleep better than others.  Last night was not one of our better nights.  The cats were still wound up because of the mouse and I suspect we were anticipating its return as well.  Because neither of us slept well, we slept in this morning.  By the time we were up and dressed it was 8:30 AM.  Linda was pretty sure she had left her gloves and knit hat at the coffee shop yesterday so we decided to go have coffee at Small Town Brew before we ate breakfast.

Linda’s things were there waiting for her to claim them.  We had a nice long chat with proprietor Lisa Paul and invited her to stop over after she closed the coffee shop for the day and get an inside tour of both buses.  We also inquired as to whether she had any post cards of Twelve Mile.  She did not but thought it would be nice to have a few available.  She has a friend, Derinda, who is an artist and thought she would ask her to make a few.  We were interested in one we could mail to our grand-daughter, Madeline, who will be two years old in less than three weeks.

Breakfast was raisin toast and grapefruit, simple but yummy.  We were both dressed to work and went in search of Butch and Fonda to see if we could be of any assistance.  Linda took her computer in the house to transfer some PDF manuals to Butch and then take care of some bakery-related issues.  I used Butch’s MFJ-269 SWR Analyzer to check the VSWR on his 2 meter ham antenna and his (11 meter) CB antenna.  Both antennas are glass mount.  The 2m ham antenna was tuned fairly well, showing a VSWR of 2.1 at the low end of the band (144.000 MHz) and 1.8 across most of the band (up 148.000 MHz).  That is certainly a usable range.

The CB antenna did not test nearly as well.  The CB band is channelized, with channel 1 just below 27.000 MHz and channel 40 just above 27.400 MHz.  At 27.0 MHz the VSWR was greater than 6.0.  It declined steadily as I went up in frequency but was only down to 2.9 by the time I got to Channel 40.  A reading greater than 2.0 (a ratio greater than 2:1) becomes problematic for a transmitter and readings greater than 3.0 are generally unusable.  Both of Butch’s antennas are tunable but we did not take the time to adjust them today.  Butch is taking the analyzer so we can work on the antennas while we are in Quartzsite.

Their bus is parked in between our bus and their house as a consequence of which our WiFi Ranger is not able to pick up their WiFi network signal which is already weak outside the house.  I am having a problem with the unit that has me concerned, but I won’t be able to sort it out until I can get it connected to a working Internet connection.  The problem is that the WFR finds their network and tries to connect to it, requests an IP address, and while it is waiting for a response disconnects from my iPad, which serves as its control panel.  This annoying at best since the WFR and the iPad are only 10 feet apart.

We had lunch at 1:30 PM.  Linda heated up a couple of Thai Kitchen brand hot and sour rice noodle soup bowls.  It had been cold, damp, and dreary all day and we were both feeling a bit chilled so the soup was very soothing in addition to being very tasty.  By 2 PM it was obvious we were not going to get the mid-to-upper 30’s temperatures that had been forecast and there was no advantage to waiting any longer to check/set the tire pressures.  I bundled up, put on my mechanic’s gloves, and set about the business at hand.

Butch turned the auto shop compressor on and I pulled the air hose out and connected it to our hose.  I removed the Pressure Pro sensors from all 12 tires and then worked my way around both vehicles in the same order.  When the sensors have been off for a minimum of one minute putting them back on resets the baseline pressure, which determines the pressures at which you get over- and under-pressure warnings.  I set the bus tires as follows:  front tires to 115 PSI, drive tires to 95 PSI, and tag tires to 85 PSI.  I set the car front tires to 32 PSI and the rear tires to 34 PSI.  I noted that the ambient temperature was 30 degrees F.  I then plugged in the Pressure Pro receiver and repeater and checked the pressures they were reporting.  The four car tire readings were essentially identical to the known pressures in the tires, but the sensors on the eight bus tires all registered low, in one case by 6 lbs.  As I indicated in a previous post I think the batteries are just about drained and are giving tire(d) pressure readings.  I know that I am tired of the discrepancies as I count on these readings to tell me it’s OK to drive or I need to add air to certain tires.

Bill and Bell showed up in his custom car hauler while I was working on the tires.  Bill and Butch worked on some stuff and Bell helped Fonda load food and sundries onto the bus.  Lisa Paul showed up for a brief visit and tour of both buses.  See also brought a postcard that her friend Derinda made.  It featured the building that houses Lisa’s Small Town Brew coffee shop.  Linda is going to post it to Madeline in the morning so it has a Twelve Mile, Indiana postmark.  It will be the first of what we hope are many such postcards from far away exotic places.  Being almost two years old we hope these mementos will provide a tangible connection to us while we are traveling.  I know her parents will use them as learning opportunities.

Linda and I took showers in the house to minimize the use of our stored water and waste tank capacity.  The six of us then drove down to The Old Mill restaurant just west of town for an earlier than normal dinner.  The restaurant also allowed us to use their dumpster to dispose of our accumulated household trash.  That was nice because Butch and Fonda had already suspended their dumpster service for the winter.

When we got back from dinner we got online and checked the weather forecast and road conditions along our planned route.  Bill had recently driven I-70 west of Indianapolis and strongly advised us to avoid going that way.  Our check of the INDOT website confirmed that we were well advised to avoid Indianapolis altogether.  We settled on SR-16 east to US-31 south to US-24 west to I-57 in Illinois.  From there we will take I-57 south to Mt. Vernon, Illinois where we will overnight at Wally World (Walmart).

Bill and Bell said they would be back in the morning to see us off (“watch this thing launch” is how Bill put it) and took their leave.  We hung out a while longer trying to be useful but mostly providing moral support and comic relief until it was time to winterize the plumbing.  Butch hooked up a line from his big shop air compressor, ran it through a pressure regulator, and attached it to the main plumbing line at the surge tank and pump.  Just like an RV he used air pressure to drain both water heaters and then had us open each fixture in turn and let the air blow the water out and down the drain.  We then filled the traps and toilet tanks with potable RV antifreeze.  The reason for using potable antifreeze is that it will eventually end up in the septic tank and drain field.

We finally retired to our coach leaving them to finish up some last minute things before retiring to their coach for the night.  We had some very tasty red grapes for dessert (and a couple of cookies) while we studied maps for our next few days of travel.  We had not really looked at them carefully before now and were surprised to find that we will not be in either Kentucky or Tennessee.  We had presumed that we would be, but I-57 runs into the extreme southwest corner of Illinois and then crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri, ending at I-55 in Sikeston.  From there we will continue south into Arkansas on I-55, which stays on the west side of the Mississippi river, until we intersect I-40 west of Memphis and head west towards Little Rock.  Thus we will never enter Kentucky or Tennessee and we will not drive through Memphis; at least not on purpose.

Fonda has to run to Logansport first thing tomorrow and while she is gone we will prep our bus for travel, hitch up our car, and give Butch whatever assistance we can.  We plan to be on the road by 10 AM and safely parked at the Walmart in Mt. Vernon, Illinois well before dark.

2014/12/03 (W) Finally On Our Way

We were up around 7:45 this morning anticipating a 9 AM departure even though we knew that was unlikely.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump to start warming the engine.  There was a dusting of snow on the ground and on our car; a sure sign that our departure had been delayed long enough.

Bill and Bell arrived a little after 8 AM so we invited them into the coach and chatted for over an hour while Butch and Fonda got their morning organized.  Fonda left for her run to Logansport at 9:15 AM followed by Bill and Bell at 9:25 AM when they decided they needed to go to Logansport to get breakfast.  Fonda returned at 9:50 AM and we started making our final departure preparations.  We had hoped to leave by 10 AM but suspected that was optimistic.  It’s Butch and Fonda’s first extended use of their converted coach and they have had a lot to do to get ready to leave.

We straightened up the interior for travel as soon as Bill and Bell left so all that remained for us to do was unhook the shorepower cord and store it, start up the main engine, move the bus across the street, and hookup the car for towing.  We can do all of that in 15-20 minutes if absolutely necessary, especially in warmer weather, but it typically takes a half hour.  We do not like to rush this process; it’s important that we do it correctly each and every time.  It is also a commonly understood etiquette among RVers that you do not try to chit-chat with, or otherwise disturb, fellow road warriors while they are hitching something up.

Butch & Fonda's MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

Butch & Fonda’s MC-9 getting ready to depart Twelve Mile, IN.

We were idling and ready to go by 10:25 AM but Butch had to make some final adjustments to his toad towing/braking setup.  Bill and Bell were back in time for Bill to help and Bell to take pictures and give us a good send off.  We pulled out a little after 11 AM and headed east on SR-16 with Butch in the lead but only got to the edge of town before Butch pulled off the road.  We pulled off behind him and Bill pulled off the on the other side.  We had noticed that their bus was smoking but they realized something was wrong before we could even call them on our 2m ham radio.  It wasn’t the engine; the brakes on the toad were partially engaged and he could feel the drag.  He readjusted it and we were on our way again, this time for good.

The trip to Mt. Vernon, Illinois was an easy and uneventful run.  From SR-16 we turned south on US-31 and picked up US-24 westbound.  We took this same route in June 2013 when we left Twelve Mile headed to the state of Wyoming so we knew it was a good route for us.  We had to slow down going through small towns, but that gave us a chance to catch a glimpse of these quaint little places.  A couple of larger towns had stop lights, but mostly we were able to keep rolling.

We stopped at a Pilot Truck Stop just west of I-65 for a quick walk-around and so Fonda could take the dogs out.  We continued west on US-24 into Illinois and eventually got to I-57 where we headed south.  We saw occasional construction signs but very little construction and did not incur any delays.  Butch lead most of the day and we just followed along with generally light traffic.

We stopped at the rest area just north of I-70 and took a stretch break, after which we took the lead.  A few miles later we got to the construction on the short stretch where I-57 and I-70 run together.  We had to drive 45 MPH but rolled right through.  After the construction zone we took the center lane knowing that I-57 would split to the left from I-70 and continue southbound.  Slow traffic is often worse than fast traffic as the cars end up bumper-to-bumper leaving no space for larger vehicles to change lanes.

Following the directions on our GPS we took exit 95 for Mt. Vernon, Illinois, drove a quarter mile, and turned left onto a road that ran down the west side of the Wal-Mart property.  Linda had called ahead and been told it was OK for us to spend the night in their parking lot.  The first two access drives, however, had crossbars at 12 feet so we could not turn in. The third driveway was for delivery trucks so we turned in there and headed back towards the north end of the lot by Ryan’s as Linda had been instructed on the phone.  There were signs posted prohibiting semi-truck parking so we parked temporarily while Linda went in to check on the situation.

A women at customer service confirmed that we could spend the night and asked that we stay near the periphery of their parking lot away from the main doors.  No problem.  The lot we had pulled into was not the Wal-Mart lot and was a little tight but were able to extricate both coaches without unhooking our toads and moved them to the northeast corner of the adjacent/connected Wal-Mart parking lot.  I leveled up as best I could, shut the engine off, and then closed the various air valves and switched the chassis batteries off.

The house batteries were at an 89% state of charge (SOC) when we arrived.  We locked the bus and went for a walk around the east end of the building to scout out an exit route.  We stopped in the store and bought a bag of Fritos and some popcorn oil.  When we got back to the coach I started the diesel genset and turned on two of the electric toekick heaters while Linda used the induction cooker to prepare vegan burgers for dinner.

After we had eaten Linda and I sent TXT messages to several people.  We then went over to visit briefly with Butch and Fonda and look at maps for tomorrow’s leg of the trip.  When we returned to our coach we noticed that the generator had stopped running.  Not good.  I was able to restart it but each time it shut down, so I got Butch to come look at it.

There’s a solenoid that holds a fuel valve open and we thought that might be the problem, but it wasn’t.  We checked the level of the oil but it was OK.  I started it again and Butch noticed that the squirrel cage fresh air blower was not turning so I shut the engine off.  Linda had been watching the gauges inside and said the water temperature was very high (off the end of the scale).  Butch checked the blower to make sure it wasn’t stuck. I traced the wiring back to a panel with a couple of circuit breakers and one of them was popped.  I reset it and restarted the engine and the blower came on.  Linda reported that the water temperature immediately dropped.  We suspected, but did not confirm, that the same breaker controlled the power to the large squirrel cage blower for the radiator, which is located in the inverter bay on the other side of the bus.  I let it run for another hour and brought the house batteries up to 95%.  It ran fine with normal water temperature and oil pressure so I think we found the problem and fixed it.

Linda read while I changed most of the clocks to Central Standard Time.  I turned off the electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot to unload the GenSet and then shut it down for the night.  I dialed the three Aqua-Hot thermostats back to 15 degrees C (59 degrees F) and turned on the Diesel burner.  It is only supposed to get down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit overnight but Linda put an extra blanket on the bed since we will not be using the electric heating pads as they would draw too much energy from the batteries.

It was a long day but largely uneventful except for the beginning and the end.  But all’s well that ends well, and this day did.

2014/12/04 (R) Roadside Repair

I was awake at 4:30 AM and got up to check on the SOC of the house batteries and turn on the Aqua-Hot engine pre-heat pump.  The batteries were at 68 SOC.  They were at 95% when I shut the generator off around 9 PM last night, so they had dropped 27% percentage points in 7.5 hours, a rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour or 10 percentage points every 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We did not go out of our way to minimize loads, leaving some night lights on (DC), the Aqua-Hot (DC), and the main inverter loads (refrigerator, auxiliary air-compressor, microwave clock, outlets with chargers, etc.). At that rate it would take just under 14 hours for the batteries to drop to a 50% SOC, starting from 100%.  I was satisfied with the performance of the system and went back to bed.

It started to rain off and on around 5:30 AM, the first sign of a wet day.  I got up to stay at 7:15 AM and got dressed.  I checked the SOC of the house batteries and it was 58%, so it had dropped another 10% in 2 and 3/4 hours, consistent with the 4:30 AM data.  I started the generator to provide power for hot water, lights, and additional engine pre-heating.  It would also start to bring the SOC of the house batteries back up before we started driving for the day, although the Zena power generating system on the main engine should be capable of recharging them in a couple of hours while we are driving.

Since we were not leaving until at least 9 AM we decided to have a light breakfast of raisin bread and grapefruit.  After breakfast I powered up our Verizon Mi-Fi device, got my laptop connected to it, e-mailed yesterday’s blog post to myself (from my iPad), and then checked my e-mail (on my computer).

We had the coach straightened up and ready to go well ahead of our departure.  Around 8:45 Butch indicated that they would be ready to go in 15 minutes.  That was all the time I needed to get the car ready to tow, switch the coach batteries on, open the various air valves, shut off the Aqua-Hot pre-heat loop, and start the main engine.  With the main engine running I turned off all of the loads on the generator, let it run unloaded for a few minutes to cool down, and then shut it off.

We pulled out at 9 AM and worked our way around behind the store and back out the unblocked entrance we came in yesterday.  Instead of turning on Broadway to go back to the Interstate we crossed over and pulled into the Pilot Truck Stop so Butch could top off their fuel tank.  We did not need fuel yet but I pulled in right behind him so we were positioned to pull out together.

We were back on I-57 headed south by 9:25 AM with Butch in the lead.  We ran at 60 MPH through light rain and fog with overcast skies all the way to the end of I-57 at I-55 near Sikeston, Missouri, where we continued south towards Memphis, Tennessee.  We eventually crossed into Arkansas and out of the rain, although the cloudy skies continued.  About 25 miles north of the junction with I-40 Butch called on the radio to let us know that he needed to get off the road at the first safe place I could find.  His air pressure had dropped to 60 PSI and was not building.  A couple of miles later I pulled off onto the shoulder of an entrance ramp and he pulled off behind me.  The brakes and suspension most highway buses are air-powered.  Without proper air-pressure the bus cannot be driven.

The pressure in the system was holding which indicated a supply issue rather than a leak.  The usual suspect in this situation is the “governor” (or less likely the unloader valves) on the main engine air-compressor.  Butch had a spare governor in his parts kit but we were not in an ideal spot for changing it.  He decided instead to hook up his portable air-compressor to his air system auxiliary fill connector.  He put the portable air-compressor in the bedroom at the rear of the bus and had Fonda run the air hose out the passenger side window were I took it and zip tied it to the side radiator grill.  Butch then ran it through a small access door by the passenger side rear lights and connected it to the fill valve.  The portable air-compressor is an AC powered device, so Butch had to start their generator to power it.  It gradually built the pressure to 100 PSI.  The pressure was holding so Butch dial it up to 110 PSI.  He left the portable air-compressor on for the rest of the trip and allowed us to get back on the road, making this a very clever emergency roadside fix.

After a 20 minute delay we pulled back onto I-55 and finished the run to I-40 with heavier traffic.  We exited onto westbound I-40 in West Memphis, Arkansas and completed the 38 miles to Forest City, Arkansas without difficulty.  We negotiated a tight turn onto the street where the Wal-Mart was located but had an easy time getting in at the far west entrance.  From there we pulled up parallel to a north-south curb that ran the length of the west edge of the parking lot.  We leveled up the coach (using the air springs), shut down the engine, and went through our usual dry-camping arrival routine.

As soon as we were set up Butch was back looking at his main engine air-compressor and then on the phone with Luke at U. S. Coach in New Jersey.  He decided to change the governor as it couldn’t do any harm.  I helped him (as best I could) but once the new governor was installed the compressor still would not build air pressure.  The unloader valves were the next most likely (easiest to fix) culprits, but neither of us had the parts.  There was an O’Reilly’s Auto Store across the main road from the Wal-Mart so we walked over there.  They did not stock them either, but at least we got some exercise.

The house batteries were at 78% SOC when we arrived which disappointed me as I expected them to be at least at 88% like they were yesterday at the end of our drive.  We were on the inverter from the time we started up at 9 AM until I turned the generator on at about 3:30 PM.  At our normal rate of 3.6 percentage points per hour we would have been at ~72% SOC without any charging from the ZENA system, so 78% did not seem very good to me.  It appears that I am going to have to adjust the charge voltage up somewhat on the ZENA power generating system as it should be supply enough current to run any AC loads while traveling (mostly the refrigerator) and fully recharge the house batteries.  I let the generator run through dinner until bedtime.  It brought the SOC back up to 91% with the charger in float mode supplying 10 Amps of current at 26.3 VDC.  Once the charger is in float mode it can take a surprisingly long time to finishing bringing the batteries to full charge.

Some weeks back Butch bought a grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plan on Ebay using the Assumption Of Liability (AOL) process.  He also picked up a used phone and a used Jetpack MiFi device.  Both devices can use the SIM card, but he had not had a chance to connect the MiFi through to the Internet.  We removed the card from the phone, installed it in the MiFi and powered it up.  It found a strong Verizon 4G/LTE signal right away.  The menu gave us the password and we were able to connect his laptop computer and my iPad.  He started searching the web while I downloaded e-mails.

Linda and Fonda had walked to the store to buy a few things.  When they got back we chatted for a bit and then went back to our coach.  Linda made popcorn for me (she wasn’t hungry) and we relaxed for a while before going to bed.