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Sunday, December 18, 2011

And the countdown to Christmas is underway

We are officially decorated for Christmas! Well, not completely.  As usual, my memory of where I put stuff last year was a bit fuzzy and I forgot that there were several strands of lights that I drool around the cabinet tops and all that were decommissioned due to a failure to illuminate.

So, I am now mostly decorated and a WalMart trip is in order to round out the decorations.  That is ok. I need to pick up a few other things, too, and I really don’t like to drive 7 miles to get just 1 thing.  The problem is that I am still in the habit of “making a mental note” of what I need. Of course, that scratchpad is almost used up and I keep forgetting to check it, anyway. Hmmm, maybe I should write THAT down so I don’t forget to check it….. Obvious flaw in that, somewhere.

On to better things.  I have really been unhappy with my internet connectivity “out here” in RVing land. So far, the campground supplied Wifi, whether paid or free, has been outright frustrating.  Likewise, my Sprint 3g/4g service, even when using the HOTSPOT feature on my phone, has been unruly and I am tired of having to work out some Rube Goldberg workaround to get everything connected consistently every time we move or I take my phone out of the process to use it.

Yesterday, after a lengthy amount of research, I ordered a Verizon 4g LTE USB Modem.  It’s a Pantech UML290 which should just plug right into my Cradlepoint MBR1000 router and provide the best of the best in a connectivity hotspot.  That is what my Verizon based Kids keep telling me, but that’s another topic.   I chose the UML290 because it has held the Editors Choice awards for a long time and is still up there. A really big reason, though, is because it has external antenna connections for 3g and separately for 4g external antennas.  This is a biggie!

I thought for a long time that Campground Wifi problems were surely in the CG system but I now have it clear that very often if not most of the time, the problems are in the backhaul side provided by the ISP that delivers the broadband connection to the campground.  Nothing I can do in my RV will make up for that other than to have other connectivity options, like Verizon.

The BestBuy store in south Jacksonville is holding my USB modem for me and from the data rates I have seen from others around here, it will be an awesome solution.   I just have to go pick it up sometime today.

I have been a loyal Sprint customer for many years and money wise, their unlimited everything plans are big $$$$ savers over everyone else’s plans. But I depend on good Internet connectivity to keep me sane and it is very unlikely that I will ever be in a campground that is close enough to a major city to get their 4G Wimaxx service solidly. I know they are putting in an Advanced LTE 4g service over the next 18 months but I need it now!

I will still keep my phones on Sprint but the only likely alternative to Verizon might be Millenicom but they only offer 4g on their hotspot device and not on a UML290 USB Modem. Living in an aluminum cage in the walls of the RV makes it mandatory to have a way to put up an external antenna for the best wireless connectivity.

So, now it’s time to go pick up “my Precious!”

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The birds are scrambling

The marquee at the Fargo Theater in Fargo, Nor...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s 58 degrees on a fine sunny Saturday morning and it’s warming up nicely but the way the snowbirds are leaving this campground you would think a bad weather witch was coming to turn this place into Fargo, ND. It has been a pretty steady stream since about 7  AM.

For us, there is no problem at all. The projected temperatures of mid 50s to upper 60s are right in the middle of our favorite comfort zone so we will enjoy the elbow room… for a day or two… maybe. This RV park is so roomy that their presence is not particularly noticeable other than when we are walking around the roads and see the empty sites.

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We are comfortably settled in for the winter and I even pulled out the collapsible leaf rake and swept up the site around us though it was little more than a few pine needles and pin Oak leaves.

I parked Clifford a little differently this time to give me better access to the Sprint 4G service tower to our east but so far it does not appear to have made much difference in my signal strength. I can, however, stream movies and other video content through it with no blurps or gags so I am happy for now.

I setup the Dish antenna, yesterday, and we get a great signal.  I signed onto the Pay-as-you-go Dish Network plan for RVers that lets you suspend/resume your dish subscription without extra fees. It just has to be done by prepaying month to month. If you don’t pay then the service stops until you do.  Makes it easy.

The Dish receiver, a VIP211K unit, integrates the Dish programming guide and the local broadcast TV guide into its own guide. It also includes a Digital TV Converter section in the receiver so I don’t need a separate over the air (OTA) converter box for a non-digital TV. I just hook the dish cable and the OTA coax to the receiver and it does the rest to switch between these sources as I change channels.

ttfn

Budd

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back to the Florida campground

We are back in the Stagecoach RV Park in St. Augustine, FL. Same park and same site that we were in before the Thanksgiving trip back to the Stix n’ Brix in NC.  Boy, it’s nice to be back here.

The whole Turkey adventure was very nice and we did enjoy it but the weather was starting to turn on us. More important, our dear SIL, Bette, had some more stuff to get started on this week so it was time to kiss the kids and get back  down here. We did have an exceptional time while we were there, though and even got an early Christmas (see: wow-we-ve-got-hdtv for the details.)

Just before hitting the road, Katie had a seizure at 4am in the morning. It lasted about 90 minutes and was more severe than the last few. It was only 72 days since the last one that she had but they usually happen more frequently in the late fall and winter than through the summer months. More to come on her blog.

The trips up and back to Florida were uneventful other than the old gremlin of the fuel temperature sensor triggering a false alarm in the engine computer.  Guess I will have to replace that sensor after all.  It has been really nice that Mer drives about half of every day’s mileage. She does an excellent job and I have no problem with going back to the bunk and taking a nap after my shift at the wheel.

The only problem with trying to nap is coming down through central South Carolina on I-95.  They have done a lot of work on the road and most of it is better but it is still really rough enough to bang me around in the bunk.  Just getting horizontal for a bit is still a real help.

More to come…

ttfn

Budd

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WoW! We’ ve got HDTV!

Remember the RCA color TV ads from the 60s?  “Wow, We’ve got Color TV!”? Portrait of Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody:...Color media sources are so common today that it is hard to imagine watching shows in black and white that should have been in vivid color, like Howdy Doody,  Sure, Clarabelle finally made it into full living color before the show was cancelled but I don’t think that kids really noticed the lack of color…. until it started being viewable in full color on their home TVs.

High Definition TV is much like this.  What one comes to accept as normal may be really substandard to many others.  Sure, I go and stand in CompUSA or BestBuy and try not to drool like a fool as I slowly cruise through the TV departments. Mer, on the other hand, has really not had the exposure or even the interest in the difference between HDTV and anything else.  Heck, she grew up without TV at all (or mostly… it was a Dad thing). After only a few minutes of watching this new one she is wondering how we ever enjoyed watching anything in non-HD.  As it is with many things it has to be experienced to be appreciated.

Well, our generous kids puddled their Christmas gift funds for us and presented us with a Samsung 32” HDTV and nifty wall mount to hang it on.  Since we are not planning to be back here for Christmas they felt we should have it “professionally” installed (by EmeryIII) before we left.

He put it in on Saturday and it is excellent!  The installation involved removing all the old electronics center equipment and the 27” CRT tv from 1999. That was a four-handed two-person job!

Since we mostly watch the TV from our recliners, we wanted it much higher so our creaky old necks don’t have to get kinks from tucking our chins to watch it over our noses.  We finally figured out that it could be mounted where the entertainment components had been in the upper cabinet and those could be relocated where the old TV had been.

EmeryIII removed the old smoked glass doors and crafted a tight fitting swing out panel to attach the HDTV mounting bracket to.  Now, we have full access to all that space that the old CRT TV took up. 

 

 

 

 

 

One big concern I had in trying to plan to put in a larger TV was the overlap with the cabinet doors to either side of it.  The TV mount that Emery found is made to swivel in 3 dimensions so it easily shifts to either side to clear the doors when they need to be opened.  The vertical tilt it allows makes it a perfect viewing angle from our reclined positions.  For the first time, Merrily can see TV straight-on from her chair and we can actually watch TV while eating at the dining table (not that this is necessarily a good thing).

We have such great kids and the installation job that EmeryIII did is truly professional in every way.  Thanks guys and a special thank you to Emery for spending his Saturday doing this right for us.

We are truly blessed beyond our rights.

 

Thanks guys.

 

 

 

 

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gobbled the Gobbler… now what?

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

Image via Wikipedia

This Thanksgiving was even better than we had imagined. Shawna and Randy hosted 17 of us for a food free for all. Besides bred-in family there were 6 friends that joined us as well. 

It took 3 kitchens and two days to prepare all the food and about 3 hours to finish off the meal but it was grand! There were so many choices in the serving dishes that we had to resort to salad tongs to dish up some of them. 

I am really glad we came back here for the holiday. It has been memorable and completely overshadows all the niggling little annoyances of Doctors appointments, kidney stones, back pains and the like.

Having said all that it seems that something happened to the dangling carrot and I can’t find it.  The Urologist wants to start on eliminating the stone right away (which really means it will be at least 2 weeks before the first attack happens and they put in a stent.  Next will come a lithotripsy and given the size (18mm) it is very unlikely that they will be able to shatter it enough in one treatment for me to pass all the pieces. This means at least one more lithotripsy 4 or more weeks down the road and while I might be willing to stick here for an extra week, having to stay longer than that is really raining on my plans.

My SIL’s next surgery is still not scheduled but expected to be early Dec. Right now, she is not feeling so good for some reason so all that may change.  Bob, Mer’s brother with the progressing neuropathy, is heading into some aggressive treatments to attempt to stop it. Going through that treatment the last time really sucked the wind out of his sails and made him very nonfunctional. Given Bette’s pending surgery and following recovery, they are really going to need a lot of hands on assistance into January and maybe beyond.  We really need to get back down there, pronto so I can’t dawdle around here throwing stones.

Despite all of this, everyone is happy and healthy (except us old farts) and all have great outlooks for Christmas and beyond so we will roll on out of this year and into the future with miles of smiles.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

ttfn

Budd

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey day is bearing down on us

as we try to get all the little bothers of appointments and changes to the RV taken care of before we have to leave, again.  Our perspective from St Augustine was that 2 weeks in Raleigh was going to be a really long time and we were not sure we really wanted to stay up here that long.

But the cold weather, Doctor's appointments and a lot of other "gotta-do" life flotsam and jetsam we needed to take care of while here, has really squeezed our elective time into very sparse and scattered pockets.  Our Aerostar van (Yeah, the one with the tree on it, thanks again, Hurricane Irene) has been disposed of so we are down to just the Smart cart for local transportation. You know me, if I really don't have a passion for doing something, I will probably not start working on it until I can't find more fun things to do.  Being here is no different.

I miss ST. Augustine.  I miss the weather, the dog park (Katie does, too), the spontaneous walks around the RV park at all hours (no hills, no mosquitoes and reasonably lit). Here, a walk involves an initial uphill hike up our driveway just to get to the street.  Sure, I like to hike but this is not hiking. Walking our neighborhood is just plain work without the passion.

On other fronts, My decades old right kidney stone is confirmed to be 18mm and has moved to a precarious spot in my right kidney so it needs to come out before we go anywhere medically remote (like the Rockies). There is just  too much risk that it will suddenly block that kidney and cause it to shutdown in a matter of hours. I am waiting to hear from the doctor as to whether he wants to bang it to pieces with lithotripsy (high powered ultrasound) or remove it percutaneously (make a hole). I have had more than a dozen lithotrypsies since the 1980s and really prefer that approach.... except for the stints they sometimes have to stick up there to keep things flowing.  I don't like the stints! They usually hurt more than the stones and make me both dysfunctional and constantly irritated (oh, wait... maybe that is just me...)

On a better topic, our kids are grand!  They are all happy, busy, productive and glad to see us.  That makes everything else tolerable.

The house is coming along, nicely. Emery has become an impressive power on Craigslist and has made the basement into a product showroom for interested parties.  I will admit to having some trepidation about coming back here and actually seeing what is gone from our lives. I have not walked through the house but in going into the basement and seeing all the open floor space he has made, I thought I would get sick to my stomach.... But I didn't. When I saw it I actually felt relief for the first time in years.  Strange.

I will say that I tried to prepare myself by focusing on NOT looking for specific things that had been there. That seemed to help a lot and it seems best to leave what is out of sight... out of mind.

On other fronts, Mer's sister is doing well in Carillon and though she wants out of that situation, it is simply not possible as her needs require trained assistance 24/7. She is certainly far happier than she was in Wake Forest and has settled into this new lifestyle.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness and thankful reflections. It is also a time to steel ourselves for the coming winter hardships.  Knowing we are returning to St. Augustine is a nice carrot to have dangling out in front of us.

ttfn
Budd

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November catch-up…

I am starting to think that blogging is just another performance art.  Here it is a month since I last updated anything even though I have thought and planned  doing it at least several times a day since the last post.  I struggle with the “right content” so much that I don’t get anything committed to e-paper and it becomes less creative and more like taking out the garbage because the can is over-full.

However, stuff does continue to happen and I could try to beg off because of it, but I won’t. The headliners are:

  • My Sister-in-Law is doing miraculously well after her surgery! Absolutely amazing that she is doing so much better than even before they discovered the cancers. She has to have one more surgery, probably before Christmas and then a bunch of months of heavy chemotherapy but her doctors are giving her a strong positive outlook once this is all finished.
  • Although the site number has changed we are still in the Stagecoach RV Park in St. Augustine, FL. It is a much better site for us with no one behind and a nice view out of the rear window.  The park Wifi continues to be very slow and really sporadic despite the excellent signal strength.  It also pretty much quits when the temperature falls below about 55 degrees.   I Finally paid to get my Sprint Hotspot turned on in my Samsung EPIC 4g phone and that is about 4 to 6 times faster and way more reliable. I can usually watch episodes of TV shows that we have missed.
  • Katie the Poo is on day 50 of being seizure free. She is in need of a grooming and doing very well since her ear infection. We finally have some ear drops that have stopped the irritation and smell she has always struggled with in her ears. She gets to the dog park a few times a week and we all love it when we go. Excellent dog park at the Joe Pomar park in St. Augustine.
  • With no Cable in this park our only TV has been digital over the air broadcast channels through a converter box (DTVCB) (old analog TV) which limits our viewing/recording to 1 channel only, at a time. Trying to remember when to switch the DTVCB so it records the shows we like, is like being a city bus driver with Roseanne Barr sitting right behind you.
  • Mer’s sister in KnightDale is doing much better since she changed assisted living facilities. Her spirits and her health are improving steadily. Good facility, good care and the relief this has brought for Mer has been huge.
  • Thanksgiving is coming and we are headed back to the house for a couple of weeks with the kids.  It is kind of exciting and yet, we have so enjoyed being close to Mer’s brother and wife, despite their health problems that we are looking forward to returning back here, after the holiday.

We are planning to leave here on Monday or Tuesday so I need to get busy working down my departure list.  Diesel prices are down right now so I may run out and fill up before we hookup.

Life is fun, isn’t it!

ttfn

Budd

Friday, October 14, 2011

So, anyone see what happened to September?

How does the time get away from me. Here it is the middle of October and only a few weeks before we are due to leave for a Texas winter. Let me see… where did I put all that time… oh yeah!  I remember…..  I used it all up enjoying myself! 

We are here partly due to family illness which is progressing positively. Spirits and comfort levels are high and we all can get together every few days to have some more fun. That helps everyone.

The Stagecoach RV Park,

2011-09-07 15.30.30.jpg
2011-09-07 15.30.30.jpg
here in St. Augustine has been very pleasant. Some heavy storms (they call it a nor’easter, down here) was really stirring up the beach scene with 12-15 foot waves and so much wind that it was carrying the foam up onto the beaches and even into the parking lots and roads near the beach.  Looked like soap suds everywhere.

 

Katie-the-Poo

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DSC00888.JPG
continues to improve and is back to normal from her ear infection and we continue to be healthy which is a bit unusual for us this time of year.

I just finished upgrading my Samsung EPIC 4g phone’s operating system from Android 2.2 (Froyo) to 2.3 (Gingerbread) after waiting too long for Sprint to provide an update.  It is wonderful!  I liked it before but I love it now.

I seem to stay either too busy or too relaxed to get on with some of the little work I need to do around here to get ready for traveling.  I still have not even fixed the  air line to the driver’s side seat in the truck. It popped off coming into town and I had to pinch it off with one hand til we could get stopped. Maybe this week…. or maybe not.

Our eating habits are still forming but we have gotten considerably better at managing portion sizes and often just split a meal when we eat out. Between senior menus and senior portions we are doing better and I hope that translates to healthier, too.

The Max Burton 6000 Induction Hotplate

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2011-10-14 10.22.47.jpg
we got before we left Raleigh, has been great.  It quickly heats/cooks anything we have tried without heating up the RV and does it faster than the gas range.  I don’t think that we have even opened the range top for at least 3 weeks.

Crockpot cooking has also been ramped up a few notches and we have been crocking it one or twice a week.  We need a new crock pot, though. This one is an all in one piece and I really think we would use it a lot more if it had a removable crock for cleaning.  We are contemplating a few choices in the context of our regular needs and available cabinet storage. This one is a small 4qt unit and we don’t really need much bigger than this for the two of us.

Our plans are to head west the beginning of November, if the holiday home time pangs don’t get to us, first.  We can already feel them tugging at us so plans may change… again.

ttfn

Budd

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Medical Stress and a Realization!

Katie the Poo has an ear infection that has had us quite worried (we did not know it was her ears). More details are in her blog, http://katie-poo.blogspot.com but this scare has brought some fears to the surface for us.

Being “out here” and not in our usual place with the usual familiar resources, like doctors, Vets, hospitals, etc. available to us, has been an unspoken “what-if” concern from the beginning of our planning.  We just did not really think much about how it would make us feel because we had worked through plans for how to deal with any such situations that might arise.  Trust me! It made us feel pretty helpless and exposed!

Simple things, like finding a Veterinarian for our little girl was not as simple as we had planned.  Mer had to call 4 vets offices before we found one that could even see her.  Fortunately, St Augustine has a Regional Emergency Veterinary Hospital just for nights and weekends and once we were referred to them, it became much easier to make headway.

But time goes so slow when you are in pain.  When one you love is in pain, it seems to be stationary! Worse than that is not knowing exactly where help will come from or how to get there.  When we got settled into this campground we kept an eye open for nearby vets “just in case” we should need one for Katie.  It turned out that when we did actually  NEED one, none of these were available and that was scary.  Suppose it had been one of us rather than Katie?  How hard would it have been to have been seen by a doctor in a strange town?

This whole area needs more work for the future. In the past 24 hours, I have gone through all sorts of scenarios involving one of both of us needing immediate medical care and in light of yesterday’s events, I can no longer just assume that going to a nearby hospital or ER or Urgent care is going to work. I think we really need to figure out a way to get the care we might need in a strange place on a moment’s notice.

One thing that we became aware of is the natural tendency to deny the possible severity of a problem because of the apparent logistical difficulty in getting appropriate help right away. I mean that it’s easier to say “it is not THAT bad” than to say “take me to the hospital” when one does not know exactly where that hospital is, how to get care there, how to pay for it and how to endure all the assumed delays and indifference that will surely be a part of making that choice. It feels better to hope it will get better than to fear it will get worse so action must be taken, now!

There will be more to come on this topic. This is a really big hole in being prepared no matter where we might be.  But, being out on the road with nothing familiar around makes this lack of adequate preparation potentially lethal.

ttfn

Budd

Friday, September 23, 2011

And the days keep getting shorter.....

We have been enjoying family and the St. Augustine area  for nearly 4 weeks but it only seems like a few days have gone by. Evenings are already coming sooner in the day and we have only touched on a few of the many things we  had hoped to be a part of before we moved on to our next planned destination.

It seems like we have barely gotten started here and already our departure is looming up in front of us. Well, that can be fixed and we have done so by extending our stay another month. Boy! Do I feel better!  Just a little tweak in the plans and we are good, again. Love this lifestyle!

However, this does make me think a bit about what has gotten us to this point over so many years.  A lot has certainly been about our own directed efforts to see this lifestyle realized but many things have slipped, skewed and bubbled up in front of our planning and have all had to become a part of making this happen.

I understand that there are laws of physics which say things like, you can't be in two different places at the same time and water flows downhill. But there are other laws which we all experience but no one ever explains. These include;

  1. The more fun you are having the less time you have left to enjoy it.
  2. When you are feeling poorly is when mechanical things will break.
  3. Wifi will be great as long as you don't really need it.
I think Murphy touched on the notion of these "other" laws with his "If something can go wrong, it will." Over my life, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidences of their existence in painfully humorous sayings and jokes.  They are like the sandspurs of reality in the calmly soft flesh of relaxation and enjoyment.  They cannot be ignored but we don’t really want to experience them, either. Trying to be ready to deal with them is more like planning your own funeral arrangements decades (hopefully) in advance of your actual demise….it is something that few are even willing to talk about much less invest their time into the preparations.
 
Angus MacGyver
So I really think that MacGyver had it right.... Be Prepared and always bring your A game, first.... you may not get any do-overs.  Making the future turn out to be something like you have imagined is a clear win, in my book.
 
Ten-plus years of working towards a full-timing lifestyle has passed and we are now there.  I cannot say  with any certainty that there was any particular time or event that made it happen because it seems like we were always working towards this state with our long term planning and our spontaneous daily choices.
 
It has not played out like we thought we had been planning it. Economics, family and political circumstances and personal preferences have all worked sideways to our desires but we have still pressed on and become that which we desired.. Full time Rvers.
 
Along the way, we have learned that this is not a turn-key lifestyle change.  Just to purchase the equipment and fund the excursions does not make the lifestyle. One must be invested in its process and envision its rewards, complications and costs before it can be meaningfully experienced. A lack of emotional investment in it may rob the life of its savor and it will just pass as all other time does, with some memories and some pictures relating a long vacation.... somewhere else.
 
It is worth doing well if you really want to do it at all and this means making it a long term goal and focus.  Just thinking that one can “try it out” for a little while may be the very thing that ruins it for them.
 
Yoda was right!  "Do or Do Not.  There is no Try!"

As one reader pointed out... I never got to the point of this blog.... senior moment or just tired, maybe, so I have reworked it a bit for clarity.
 
To be clear, for sure we are enjoying this RV life. Though it has not played out as we foresaw, it has probably turned out better than we ever imagined.

I feel that this is because we have kept moving towards it for the past 10 years despite all the "life junk" strewn in our path.  We have been invested in its success all along the way so that now, we truly own it and relish each day in it. What we dreamed and worked for is now our life and we are blessed to be here.
 
ttfn
Budd
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Salt Springs, Florida and RV Ports

Yesterday’s blog was about how we happened to pass through Salt Springs, Florida. Today’s will be about what we found there and why it really appealed to us.

First, the $50 really did make it into our new savings account at Woodforest National Bank.  Hooray for that!

Mer’s brother, Bob, has spent most of his life in this area of Florida and when he heard we were going over to Ocala his enthusiasm was almost out of control.  I have been to Ocala… it is not that much to get excited about but he was insistent that we go through the beautiful Ocala National Forest.  Honestly, from St. Augustine, you can’t get to Ocala without going through it unless you want to nearly double the miles to get there.

Anyway, he was going on and on about checking out the various springs along the way, like Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Silver Springs.

He also knew we have been interested in RV parks with RV Ports, which are shelters that you can park an RV under while you live there. He mentioned that there are a couple of RV Parks in Salt Springs  that he and Bette had visited that had RV ports.  Of course, we were interested, too.

Salt Springs is about half the trip to Ocala from St. Augustine.

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The roads are excellent and the trip is through a lot of national forest so it was not unpleasant to go this way. But when we reached Salt Springs, we were already feeling behind our expected timeline and did not want to dawdle too much so we sort of skimmed through the RV parks.

Actually, the first park we visited is a development of deeded RV properties. It is nice, compact (a little too much so for our tastes) and has spaces available to rent or buy. Some rentals are brokered through the developer, Elite Estates, but many are rented directly by the owners. A list is available in the guard house at the entrance. Prices are negotiated directly with the owners so there are no prices printed on this list, just phone numbers.

We did not take the time to visit the offices of Elite Estates to see what they had for rental information.  Overall, it is a nice place, gated, free wifi through out the park and borders a big lake. Perhaps on a longer visit to this resort we could find a few spots that we could fit completely into while hooked to the truck but only a few even looked close to being a fit.  Some decent space between lots was the norm but often, they backed up to each other pretty closely.

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From there, we moved onto the other RV resort, Salt Springs Village, which borders the western side of Elite Estates. This is a 55+ retirement community so a lot more park models and manufactured homes are in this area. On average,  the lots are significantly larger and there are a fair number of them with real RV ports attached.  Also a full facility resort, it borders a lake, has swimming pools, club house and the usual things one finds at a real resort.
2011-09-12 15.35.32.jpg
2011-09-12 15.35.32.jpg

We really liked the atmosphere in Salt Springs Village a bit better than Elite Estates.  It seemed more like a place we would be comfortable living for extended periods.

So, you may ask, where is the other shoe?  Actually, Salt Springs is out in the boonies and in a real cell phone dead zone.  Elite Estates does have Wifi but I don’t know about the Salt Springs Village area since my cell battery died trying to get GPS and online maps while on the way to Salt Springs. Boy! When it can’t connect to anything it really eats batteries.

Now, the other shoe….

We had to hurry on to Ocala before the bank closed. Yes, they are open everyday of the year but not 24/7, so we did not want to get there late and still not get our $50 (remember that little incentive for this trip?)

When we finished our banking business in Ocala, we decided to go back the way we had come. On the way into Ocala we had passed an RV Resort called

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Wilderness RV Park Estates which looked pretty inviting from the highway.  We stopped in there as we headed home and really liked what we saw… to a point.

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2011-09-12 17.40.01.jpg
Again, this resort is a bunch of deeded lots, some are available as rentals and some for sale. Some are really spiffy with obviously a lot of $$$$ put into the landscaping but a very large percentage of them can easily handle our 65’ overall length and there is a whole area of very long pull-through spaces, too. The office was closed so we did not get any further information about the place but they do have rates posted on their website and honor Passport America and Good Sam memberships. $445/month is not a terrible rate.

The newest section of this park has lots that are even larger and range up to 7000 sq ft/lot. Lacking a map or any other info at the time we were there, we did not even discover there was this newer section until we were back home and could look it up on their website. The property is located along the Florida Greenway with access to the Ocklawaha River and just a mile or so from the entrant to the Ocala National Forest.

The overall atmosphere is of a pretty new resort with good paved roads and facilities but a great big sign out by the highway that says “Foreclosure Auction” which is scheduled for 9/21/2011. I don’t know what that might mean to owners or RV renters in the future but I just know that I like the feel of the park… and I did have good cell service (I finally found my car charger).

ttfn

Budd

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chasing the Wild Goose

An ongoing banking concern we have had in planning for our travels has been branch availability wherever we might be. Yes, I do bank online, Yes, I do have national banks but have you ever tried to make a cash deposit in a town where your bank has no branches?

Also, if there is a problem, it usually crops up on Friday evening or a holiday weekend and trying to get it settled out of your mind is impossible until the next “banking” business day… whenever that might be.   I don’t do well with angst on my mind.

We do shop at Wal-Mart, a lot. We get the value we demand and the convenience we need and never have a hassle, other than their being out of a product that we want to refresh in our pantry.  Therefore, Woodforest National Bank seemed to be the perfect merger of the WalMart convenience and my banking availability that I want.  They are open every day but Christmas and that is the kind of access window I really expect from anyone standing between me and my money.

So, before leaving NC we opened an account at Woodforest National Bank. Along with waaayyyy too much paperwork, we received instructions on how to get $50 for free by going online and participating in a little training session about how banks work for you.

The tutorial was actually informative and at the end, we each got a certificate to print out and take to a branch to receive our $50. Actually, it was $25 for each of us and to be credited into a sweep savings account (which is newbank speak for a savings account that backs up your checking account if the latter tries to go overdrawn). The money in the savings is “swept” over into your checking to prevent an overdraft and they get to charge you $2 for doing it.

But I digress. The point was to get the $50 that lay at the end of this rainbow.  The manager at the WFB where we opened the accounts told us (erroneously) that we could go to any WFB within 30 days of opening our checking account, present the certificates and get our savings account opened with the $50 in it.  The “ANY” is the important part. The 30 days is the deadly pendulum.

As all this happened 6 days before we had planned to leave for Florida, we figured we had plenty of time to get ‘er done before departure.  As usual, I missed the catch-22 in this…. We had to participate in the tutorial and THEN print out the certificates before we could get the $50…. and Hurricane Irene decided to brush by us a couple of days later, drop a tree across our bow (actually, across 2 cars) and leave us dangling between insurance talk (sorry, not available on weekends) and the truck’s windshield wiper motor dying just as we pulled out of the driveway to escape Irene (sorry, parts department is closed until Monday).

The back burner the $50 performance piece got put on was in the next county but we confirmed with the WFB branch that we could do it “at any Woodforest National Bank branch”. …

Days later, after finally getting settled down in St Augustine, Florida, we found that Florida only has 3 WF banks and the nearest is in Ocala, 80 miles away! 

We stewed and fumed about this for two weeks then decided to go ahead, take the Smart car over there (cheaper on gas) and get our free $50 (which would now cost us the price of the gas and our time… but I am trying to not be negative.

There were a few stops along the way (another story, another time) and we arrived there about an hour before closing, presented our certificates and the confused look we got in exchange said “Uh-Oh!”.

Turns out, you can’t do that from here. They have to be turned in at the bank branch that opened the account!  Ok, so red is not a favorite color of mine but that was about all I could see in a flash!

Mer quietly put her hand on my thigh as the flustered bank employee got up to seek the branch manager.  Eventually, he came over, extended his hand, his name and a big smile and said “We can’t do that from here”.  “You have to go back to the branch where you opened the account.”….. Clearly, his gasoline was not helping my fire one bit.

The short end of this is that he saw our plight, contacted the branch manager back in Raleigh and arranged for our signing of the signature cards that they needed and faxed them back to Raleigh.  Apparently, the forms were different than what the Ocala branch uses and it took a second call to the Raleigh branch manager to get them properly filled out.

Finally, we had it done, our $50 would be in our account the next day (today, and it is!) and we could drive the 80 miles back to St Augustine knowing that we had scored a juicy deal (hear the sarcasm?)  The trip cost about $19 in gas and had there been a psychiatrist available, I am sure his bill would have been a lot more.

You will have to read tomorrow’s blog to see why we ended the day knowing that this had been a good thing to do, today.

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just another day at the beach – St Augustine, FL ( 81°/62°)

Friday…. let’s see… what to do, what to do?   Oh yeah, WalMart!  Gotta go for groceries and beat the weekend crush!

Dawdling…. dawdling….. dawdling… what?  It’s already 2:30 pm and we haven’t eaten anything, yet?  Ok, OK…  we will stop for something on the way to WalMart.

Leaving…leaving…leaving… What’s that smell?… oh yeah, shrimp shells and “parts” in the garbage from dinner last evening…. gotta get it out of here before we go.  Yep, I will just tie it up and put it in the back of the $prite and drop it off at the dumpster on the way out of the park.

BANG!   CRASH! SQUEEK!… crappy dumpster doors! 

Driving, Driving, Driving….. oh yeah, Sonny’s Barbeque on US 1.  Gotta have that….kinda on the way… if we go out of the way… just a little…

uh… what’s that flashing on the dash?  … looks like a gas pump.  Hmm where are all my bars to show me how much gasoline I have.. er…rather, don’t have.   Pit Stop!  Pronto!  Guess I will have to only imagine the smell of BBQ over the lingering rank shrimp stink in the car and the stinky Shell Gasoline tinkling into its tank.  Ding!, Pay!,  now, Driving…..Driving… Driving….

Sonny’s BBQ!

What’s that squealing racket coming from the music system?.. Jimi Hendrix, you say? More like a tank being drug sideways across a concrete slab coated with broken glass and ball bearings. .. yeah, I know he was an acclaimed guitarist… he also invented obnoxious white noise. How useful has that turned out to be?

Excellent!  Shared a half baked chicken ( no, it really was a half chicken) lunch with 2 sides (make those 2 baked sweet potatoes, please.). Sure, I will have a gallon of iced tea to drink….

Waiting….waiting… waiting….

Drooling….drooling…. drooling  … (I did mention we had not eaten yet, today)

Diet is over!  Food is here! Gimme a drumstick while you sort the parts.  Mmmmmm, nice yams  … (sweet potatoes, you dirty old man) Butter, cinnimon, melting hot. 5 different BBQ sauces you say? decisions… decisions… decision!

Eating… eating…. eating….

Apple cobbler ala-mode?  of course! It’s the exclamation point at the end of the meal. It is absolutely necessary to complete the meal and say “I’m ready for a nap.”

What?… oh yeah, we still need to go to WalMart…. sans nap… it’s just across the street.

Driving…. driving….driving… parking… walking…shopping… shopping…. shopping.  What?  No Joe’s Crabshack Salmon filets?… or any other of “the shack’s” products.  Rats!  I’ll have to make do with a can of starkist!

Checkout time!……. still checkout time….. still checkout time……still checkout time…..   Hey! don’t these people know that today is not Saturday?… and what’s with trying to use a bunch of coupons in the self service checkout lane?  That’s just not fair.   I am on a fastpath to a nap! MoveIt!

Push cart, squeeky wheel, load $prite, close doors.

Driving…. driving….driving …  Home!   Unloading.. unloading…putting away… yeah, that’s frozen… ok, Put away…. put away…. pu away…. done!

Naptime!…. RING…. RING….RING!… grrrr  NOT nap time…. Hello. No, we were not doing anything, what’s up?…..

 

……… All this is our day and now, it’s my blog.  If there is anything you don’t understand, just ask.

ttfn

Budd

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stagecoach RV Park–St Augustine, FL ( 83°/67°)

pano

Stagecoach RV Park:   RVParkReviews  :    Heavy Haulers CG Directory

This is a nice park but not a resort.  It is mostly large pull-thru spaces. Some with concrete patios (for a few $$$ more). 2011-09-07%252015.30.20 No pool, no kids play area, no off leash pet area but it is clean, kept up, mostly open level sites on gravel/grass/packed sand and nicely treed but not dark.

Sprint 4G works in the east end of the park (not where I am, though). 

Wifi is limited at 750kbps/ 170kbps

It is TengoInternet delivered through Bellsouth.net and has been pretty solid most of the time but there is a lot of variability based on time of day a lot more than the number of RVs in the campground. I suspect it is due to the two huge outlet malls a couple of blocks away that soak up bandwidth big time during business hours.

The actual local wifi signal strength throughout the park is excellent but with the speed limited delivery, even small included youtube pics on a web page stutter some.  Forget about getting any smooth HQ quality delivery any time of the day or night.

There is no CableTV but I pick up about 20 Digital channels over the air but few of these have I any interest in watching.  If their bandwidth delivery was better, then the lack of cable would not be such a bother.

2011-09-07%252015.30.122011-09-07%252015.30.43

The main roads are paved and the intermediate roads are packed gravel and kept up pretty well.

 

The layout is comfortable and nice for long walks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting Acclimated to “retired!”

St Augustine, FL - Iso T-Storms 93° / 77°

We spent the day just settling in to what will be daily fare for us for hopefully, a very long time to come.

Merrily’s brother bob came by about 5pm and took us on a mini tour of the St Augustine area.  He showed us where important stuff is, like good seafood restaurants, good beach accesses and more good restaurants.  To bad we are now on the cash and carry plan which does not include much eating out.

Still, a great day. After the tour we went to his house for a great dinner of pulled pork, Bob Evans mashed potatoes, homemade Cole slaw and apple pie. Seriously yummy!

Katie came along and was terrific.  A little curious but no obnoxiously so and she got to meet their dog, Skitch, which is a foot long hairy black 12 volt dog someone put a 36 volt battery into.  Talk about wired! He does not just run from place to place, he teleports! Katie was a little overwhelmed and finally climbed up on the back of the couch behind my head to escape him. I have never seen her retreat quite like that.

I think it spooked her.

Anyway, all is fine, now. We just got back home and are chilling for the evening.  Maybe tomorrow I can find the Digital TV converter so we can watch some over the air broadcast TV since there is no cable in this campground.  So far, Merrily has read books in our down moments and I am still happy with what I can do with the Wi-Fi…. or nap a little, which is something I have not had time for in many moons.

I know this does not sound all that exciting but at this age exciting is less important than regular.

ttfn

Budd

Friday, September 2, 2011

Settled into a spot and had a great evening with our relatives.

(St. Augustine, FL Stagecoach RV)

These are nice accommodations at Stagecoach. We settled on this amenities-sparse park due to no monthly rates at the other parks we were interested in. Wi-Fi is very powerful here but the backhaul limits us to about 700kbps down /  200kbps up best case:

 

Compare that to what I was getting on my Sprint Epic phone 2 days ago:

 

and it can be a little “laggy” sometimes despite only a 15ms ping time.

Right now, at 8:23am on Friday, I can only get:

Slow Wifi Coupled with the lack of cabletv and the digital TV converter for over the air reception has fallen down behind the TV and can’t get out, means we are going to be sans- media for bit.

Still a nice park, though and all too convenient to two outlet malls at this I-95 exit including a Camping World. There goes my upgrade budget for the next year.

We had dinner with Mer’s brother and SIL, Bob and Bette, last night. Excellent pseudo-Mexican fare with a pitcher of lip smacking margaritas for the table. Best Pollo Loco I have ever had and huge portions, too.  We will eat there again before we go.

It was really super to finally get to hug them and just be with them. As usual when we get together, we all talk at once and do a lot of laughing until we are exhausted.

I will say that it is very nice to finally be with them and know that we don’t have to leave next Thursday or …. any particular date or time. We can visit in a much less frenetic mode and really savor the time together for whatever it is.  It always seems that our visits are too short and we all have lists of things to share and do and never can quite get through all that before parting. This time, we are just here until we leave, period.  It is wonderful!

ttfn

Budd

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

St Augustine. Working out accommodations

Here is my miracle worker!  She does everything for me and I appreciate her more than my own life.

After the "getaway blues" of previous posts about the tribulations that all happened as we were trying to leave our Stix and Brix, we stopped at the Pilot/Flying J at Dunn, NC to fill up.  170 gallons and $632 later, we pulled out headed south down I-95. We stopped the first night at Bass Lake RV park in Dillon, SC about 120 miles from Raleigh. Yesterday, we drove on down to Walterboro, SC, and spent the night in the New Green Acres RV park.  New Green Acres CG in Walterboro. Site C25Quite nice other than being right next to I95 but this is the same as is true of Bass Lake. In both cases, it's OK for a night and though these parks are appealing for longer stays, the highway noise really ruins the rest of the experience.  SC seems to have booming highways. Big trucks going down them seem to keep booming and it sounds a lot like nearby thunder.

This morning, we left Green Acres. I was disappointed that I could never get the cable TV hookup to work but I cannot say it was not my fault after the events of the past week.

We pulled into the Stagecoach RV park in St Augustine, FL a few blocks off of I95. Some road noise if you are outside but not really bad.  I still prefer quiet.

Given our reasons for being near Jacksonville, Stagecoach RV park is the closest of the ones we have seen even close to our price range so we thought we would plan at least a month here.  However, the desk person did not know anything much about the monthly rates and available sites so we have to check back in the morning with the owner to get that worked out.

To be honest, I love the setting, hate the traffic noise and the lack of Cable-TV so we are backpedaling on our plans just a bit. First thing in the morning we will check the monthly rates and availability at St John's RV park about 5 miles farther south on I95 on hi-way 207.  We will also check the same at the Indian Forest CG a couple of miles east of that same intersection. We drove through both parks this afternoon after setting up in Stagecoach and though both have cable and Wi-Fi, Indian Forest has a much better ambiance for us, is closer to the beach, St Augustine old town and a Super Wal-Mart.

If they have reasonable monthly rates available I think we will likely move to Indian Forest, tomorrow. ST. John's RV park is a second choice to Indian Forest, though.  $375/month + Elec is hard to beat around here so Stagecoach may end up being our residence for lack of monthly availability at the other two places.

I will admit that I had my first surprise this evening when we went out for a walk after dark and no mosquitoes flying around!  They are show stoppers for me as I react badly to their bites. Bob,  my BIL, had told me that he could not remember being bitten around here in the past several years of living in the area.  I can handle the humidity and even the gnats. Just not the mosquitoes and chiggers.

Well, Mer has retired and I am on her heels a lot earlier than usual, tonight.  Not a hard day but tomorrow will be a long one.  We finally get to see Merrily's brother Bob and his Chemo-embattled wife after 2 years absence and we can never stop having fun when we get together so bedtime may come really late tomorrow night.

We have all been deep friends since Bob and I were in Middle school in central Florida. No matter what the gaps in time between visits have been, there has never seemed to be any discontinuity in our relationship because of them. I count Bob as one of the very best people I have ever known and always a stellar benchmark for me to grow towards in my life.  I admire his courage and convictions and the incredible stamina that he has shown in carrying some unusually massive and long lived life burdens. This latest goblin which has been thrust upon his shoulders, is certainly the worst I have ever known of..

God Speed, Bob and Bette. We are here for whatever benefit of comfort to you guys that we are able to provide during this sketchy period of your lives and just know that it will be survived.

ttfn, my friends
Budd

Monday, August 29, 2011

N O W !!!!!!!!

This blog has been fulfilled. We are on  the Road...... NOW!

Left the house this afternoon and are now resting nicely in Dillon SC for the evening.  Some slight irks and traumas tried to forestall our departure yet again but thanks to Emery, III stepping in and taking up the slack by removing and replacing the windshield wiper motor that just decided to strip its gears, hauling stuff to Goodwill, cutting the tree up that fell on the van and Smart car during Irene and generally being front and center whenever anything cropped up to stall our departure this time.

He has certainly been the STP (oil treatment) that has kept us from getting bound up by a few dozen more glitches and goblins that have popped up these past few days.

Thank you, Emery. You make me cry for Happy.
ttfn
Budd

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whoops.. there goes another rubber tree plant...

Not what I wanted to wake up to Saturday morning.  Goodnight, Irene! Did you have to do this the day before we were due to leave here?

Yes, we watched out for hurricane Irene and knew when the winds in our area would start placing us at risk. What I forgot (happens too often, now) was that I always park all the vehicles in a parking deck or out on the open street where big stuff can't fall on them. I did not consider that my neighbor had a defective tree that would break off at the spot. It could have fallen in any of the other 358 degrees of direction and would not have bothered anything but these 3 degrees.. crap!

I guess this is what you call a sacrificial Van.  The '93 Aerostar took all of the hit from the tree and the Smart was just trapped by the branches until I cut them off.  No damage to it.

The dent in the van's windshield frame and the bullseye pattern in the driver's side of the glass is surprising little damage given the size of the tree.  The bad news is.. no comprehensive insurance due to the age.

This, plus the windshield wiper motor stripping its gears on the Truck as I started to move the RV, has delayed our departure yet another day or so.

But no one was injured by Irene and no serious damage so.. there is the lemonade.

ttfn
Budd

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Under the weather

The rain we are finally getting has been wonderful. It has been desperately needed around here. But Mer and I have gotten some sort of stomach bug. Hers has now taken her voice and we are pretty drained at the moment but still kicking.

Other than this news of dubious importance, not much else has been going on. I am still waiting to hear back from the insurance guy about the rest of the claims for damages from the tornado. So far, I have fronted about $2k towards repairs with another few hundred to go.

We are still aiming to leave here around the 17th of August and heading down to visit with Mer’s brother, Bob, his wife and family.  After that, the plans are pretty open until Dec 1.

Here’s hoping that all this rain means more civilized temperatures.

ttfn,

Budd

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sweltering!

Ok I said it!  That should be enough! It can stop anytime, now.

This oppressive heat here in central North Carolina is just reminding me of too many summer days as a kid in Central Alabama and Central Florida, BC (Before Conditioning (air, that is)). The phrase that I remember the most was, “It’s a nice day, go out and play.”….. NOW!

Bacd then, I thought it was mean.  Now, I am sure it was just the adults resenting the huge amount of heat generated by 3 kids bodies indoors.  We were dulling their cool space.

This is not Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana or Mississippi.  After all, it “IS” NORTH Carolina and that should count for something at least a little less tropical.

image 

My Dad used to say that it was all just in my mind and that it really wasn’t all that hot. These are not my numbers but I will play along and pretend I am in, oh, let’s say, Port Orford, Oregon.

image

There!  Now I feel so much better…… not!

Maybe I just need some visual aids to help me chill out….

Ahhhh… Now That’s what I’m talking about!

ttfn

Budd

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The night was...... Sultry.

Not much is happening around here because it is just too hot and humid.  Our plans were to just not be here during this typical summer weather..... well, so much for plans.

Being here is accomplishing some important things, though.  The 15k A/C - Heat pump on the roof has been replaced by insurance. It was damaged in that tornado we were in on 4/16/2011 in the Smithfield KOA along with the thermostat.

Still a few little things, like the rear ladder, needed to be dealt with but I have managed to get a few coats of Red Max Pro on the front fiberglass end cap of DaKotR and 1 coat on the rear. This certainly makes it look better, is easier to clean and that should help us with the 10 year age limit on an RV that some parks capriciously enforce. I if an RV looks "spent" it might not be allowed to stay there.  I, also, still need to fill some cracks  that are developing in the caulked seams on the roof but they are not close to leaking and that can be done whenever weather permits. This time, I am going to redo them from scratch and then cover the seams with EternaBond seam tape. From what others have said, this should stop the bi-annual reworking of these seams on the end caps.

The other really big issue has been the generator exhaust coupling leak that has refused, for 7 years, to stay fixed.  Now that we are planning to spend more time off the grid and have a residential refrigerator that will need shore power to cool, we need a dependable generator that will not kill us.

To this end, I pulled the generator out, one more time, and took the offending piece of the exhaust pipe to a welder... and he fixed it, permanently! Fixed in this way will make getting the generator in and out of the RV a bit more difficult but not impossible and now, we should be able to trust the generator when it is running. I am now waiting on some better weather to install it, again.

Along with this, I want to add one of those Generator exhaust extensions that take the exhaust up above the RV.  I played with this for a little bit with a make shift arrangement and it was very nice. It made the generator even a lot quieter when outside and we never smelled any exhaust while it was running this way. That was always an irritating thing to keep getting whiffs of exhaust, especially when outside the RV.

We have always been concerned about leaving our dog, Katie, in the RV for hours and having the A/C go out.  The replacement thermostat I got for the A/C unit has a Wifi remote access capability.  As long as we have access to the RV's Wifi system we can monitor the temperature (and control it) in the RV from our Android Phones wherever we might be.  Eventually, I plan to add a webcam link to watch over her, too.   That would be nice and then, maybe we can figure out why she has to go around when we are away and tip over all the trash cans in the place. She rarely bothers anything in them but just goes over and tips them over and then walks away.

The garbage can is another matter, though, and is usually raided if we don't remember to put it up where she cannot get to it. A different fix is needed for that problem.

ttfn
Budd

Friday, July 8, 2011

Not a happy camper at the moment

We just got word that a close relative has been diagnosed with "C".  Prayers are helpful and encouraged.

Compared to this news, I don't really have much to say, for now.  Please ck Back in a day or so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ahhhhh. Cool at last!!!

Hawley’s Camping Center in Garner, NC has been extremely helpful in getting my A/C replaced that was killed in the tornado of 4/16/2011.  The A/C came in on tuesday evening and I got a call Wednesday morning about it. Although their service dept is scheduling about 3 weeks out, they were very accommodating given it’s July and we live in the RV.

The service Manager, Wayne, really bent over backwards to work us in and Robert, a great RV tech, did the same to get it swapped out and running.

In two hours, exactly, from when I pulled on Thursday Morning, I was driving out of their driveway, once again, a cool and happy camper.

Kudos, Hawley’s.

I still have to get settled with the insurance folks but that is just paper work, now. I still have to fix the rear ladder but that ,also, can be worked out…. now that we can get up and move about the RV without slipping in our own sweat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The waiting game… Again

Tuesday, I went to Hawley’s Camping in Garner, NC to see about a few things including scheduling the AC replacement.

When we were hit by the tornado on 4/16, it is likely that some electrical surge that was not completely handled by my surge equipment managed to get through to my AC, my UPS on the computer, my cordless phone and the thermostat on the AC.  Unfortunately, proving this was the cause is limited to the simultaneous timing of the failures of these separate items.

It took 3 days for us to get power back but a small generator kept our refrigerator cold.  The rest of the electrical stuff was off until full power returned. Even then, I only noticed the UPS was bad when the power dropped a day later for a few minutes.

The cordless phones, while powered on are only used when I have a good enough broadband connection to run my Magic Jack and the Wi-Fi service in the Smithfield KOA was just not solid enough to make that usable.  I did not try to use it until we were in the Zooland Family Campground in Asheboro, NC some weeks later.  It turns out that the base unit is now dead.

As for the thermostat and AC, those were not discovered until a few weeks later than the tornado and we needed the heat pump up in West Virginia and all it would do is hum for a couple of seconds and then shut off.  I figured that the compressor is frozen, maybe due to the hole in the condensing coils on the roof from some flying debris during the tornado.

So, I need a new AC, Thermostat, UPS and Cordless phone.  I have contacted Progressive Insurance and though it has already gotten complicated, I am still trying to arrange a meet with the appraiser and the Hawley’s service tech later this week (I hope).

I am certain that the AC is not repairable and in a leap of faith, I already ordered a replacement 15k heat pump ($1000 – prepay) so it will hopefully be here be installed before the weekend.  I hope the Progressive guy comes through so we can get back on the road next week.

Meanwhile, I need to focus on fixing the exhaust connection on the generator and cleaning and glossing the rear fiberglass end cap of DaKotR.

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RVBudds Newest Blog Hub

I have tweaked and twiddled with the prototype pages I previously showed and have found more things that I would like to be able to do with it.

Though something of a programmer in my previous life, I am no HTML whiz so I look for higher technologies than the original hammer and chisels to create web pages.  I still like Windows Live Writer and still want to use it to maintain most of this new format.  So far, I have been unable to find a way to use it on the Google Sites platform that the previous prototype is built on.

I feel it is vital that readers can leave anonymous comments if they want.  I will deal with the spam that comes through that window just so it is easier to use for most of you. Google Sites still does not have a reasonable way to let readers post anonymous comments so that is strike two for Google Sites… for now.

So, back to Blogger.com to see what I can weld together to get something close to what I am aiming for.  Some of the private comments I got about my original Hub page were about how uncomfortable it was to look over the main page and I agree.  Even after a lot of tweaking, it is still not as easy on the eyes as I would like so I have worked up another version of a hub page where all of my blogs are anchored.

What I have come up with is this: RVBudds.blogspot.com/

image

It is less complex to the eye and flows better. It lacks a lot of the borders, framing and fine tuning flexibility of the previous design, however, it does support commenting and I can use Live Writer to maintain it.  That will save me a whole lot of time.

It also allows me to continue to use this blog as my DAILY blog so I don’t lose the continuity and my archives of posts and comments will continue to be available and grow with the site.

As before, one can get to any of my other blog sites from this one page but each of the other blogs it references can be individually “followed” if desired.

I will be adding a few features, like a SEARCH box for all my blogs, An archive list, Followers and much more but I really don’t want this hub page to get out of control with bells and whistles.  I tend to over build when I get enthusiastic about a project and some of my wonderful wants turn into “why-in-the-worlds?” really quickly.

Please check it out and please leave comments (now that you can).

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, June 4, 2011

“Forbin, There is another system”

For a number of months I have been working towards a different blogging setup that should make it a little easier for folks with specific interests to just follow those parts that they like.

I know that not everyone is interested in everything I write. Heck, I am not always interested in all of it at one time, either.  Plus, I wanted the more technical material to be a little easier to find for reference purposes.  Right now, a post for a single day may have some stuff about travel, a little work I did on a PC, a new problem that has cropped up on the RV, etc.  This does give a sense of how my day went but it is almost useless for reference when I want to link back to a technical item that is buried in a journaling blog of the day.

I had the idea that on a main blog entry page, I could have the latest 1 or 2 posts from each of several other topically selected sub-blogs of mine.  Anyone could just view that page to see what has been updated and go directly to a specific topic or blog. This is a little like blog readers do across a set of blogs but I like the idea of having a focus point that provides a jumping off place to start.

 So, Ta-Da!

image

You can click the picture or just go to: https://sites.google.com/a/webdoms.com/rvbudds/ to access the new site.

I wanted the individual sub blogs to maintain their own RSS feeds and comments because imageI know that some people are only interested in one topic, like what travel  related content I may post. This way, any given topical area can be separately subscribed to by anyone and they don’t even have to see the headings on any of my other blog areas if they don’t want to.

imageIf you are interested in PC technical stuff then you can subscribe to just that one.

 

 

imageOr if RV Housekeeping and organization tips interests you I have a topical blog for you to enjoy (I hope).

Still, there is nothing earthshakingly different for daily readers but I am hoping that this new format will make the content more aligned with your interests.

I will maintain some blogging on this site, too, until I am sure the new format is going to work like I want. Please comment here or there and let me know what you think, how you like (or don’t like) the new site and make suggestions.  I really want to kick this up a notch and I don’t have Emeril in my back pocket to give a good BAM!

ttfn

Budd

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First day of Hurricane Season

Official or not does not much matter when it is 96 degrees and 72% humidity with no breezes and no ocean to cool one off. Hot hot hot!

Sure seems like the tropics are here, today, checking us out for some later hurricane activity…. Like RVers checking out campgrounds for future visits.

No an outside day, for sure so I turned to inside tasks like, finding the power brick for my printer. As usual, I stumbled across it up in cool, breezy West Virginia (See, I can change my mind) and put it in a “special” place so I would have it readily available. I think my special place was pitched out because I can’t find it anywhere!

Irked!

So other stuff is trying to fit the oak door panels from the Norcold RV refrigerator onto the household refrigerator we replaced it with.  Got to do something about that great white whale sitting in the middle of DaKotR. It is absolutely wonderful, functionally, but aesthetically…. not so much.

Also, I have still not heard from Progressive about my A/C that was damaged in the Tornado in Smithfield, NC on 4/16 so I guess I am going to have to get pushy with them.

Dr. visit #1 went fine, today, Dr. visit #2 is tomorrow but I don’t expect any surprises other than some med changes.  We will see.

ttfn

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Followup on the Household Refrigerator installation:

At the beginning of the year, we replaced our defunct Norcold LM1200 12cu ft. RV refrigerator with a standard 22 cu foot Household refrigerator.  It was pretty much a test to see if we could work with it instead of a gas/elec  RV refrigerator so we just used an older extra refrigerator we kept in the basement for summer water melons and beer.

In the past 6 months of use, it has never been a problem for us and even when we have been traveling unplugged for 9 hours at a time the freezer still stayed below 15 degrees.  We are very happy with the household refer and especially with the much larger capacity and far better internal layout and flexibility it has over any RV refer we have seen.

Since this was a test, we left some of the labor to finish off the installation until we were sure we were going to like it and that it would be a completely satisfactory solution, which it is.  One of the things left to do was to seal off the outside venting that was there for the RV refrigerator.  Although I wrapped each vent door in a trash bag and pinned it shut, it looked odd and the winds on the highway shredded them pretty quickly. With them unsealed it has been like living with a window open all the time so before summer gets really hot I needed to finish this off.

The main thing I was concerned about was air infiltration. A secondary concern was just plain insulation which is problematic on the bottom vent because there is only 1” behind the refer and the air being exhausted when the refer is running needs to be able to circulate back into the interior of the RV or the compressor will overheat and it won’t cool very well.

The upper vent door was no problem and I fully insulated it with part of a bat of pink fiberglass insulation glued over the 4 mil plastic film I first glued to the backside of the door to seal out all airflow through it.

I think that this will work fine for the summer.  I may revisit this later, to see just how well it is actually sealed but short of pulling the refrigerator and sealing the hole from inside the RV I don’t see much chance of doing it any better.

ttfn

Monday, May 23, 2011

Innovation–A Key to successful Full-timing?

Let’s face it. Going from 2400+sq ft of house with a basement, garage, closets and such into a 400sq ft “everything” means that when you have a problem you need to be MacGiver.

Nick Russell has his Great White (Greg) and Geeks on Tour on his speed dial. These are his resources AFTER Terry the Terrific!

Others depend a lot on…. others when struggles pop up. However, just as in a stationary life, seeing deeper into what surrounds you can empower your creativity and return some real satisfaction when you solve a problem with little more than what is at hand.

For instance, this campsite at Pipestem DSC03244State Resort Park in WV, really does not have a “patio” area. Sure, there is a fire pit that you can sit cross-legged at on the high side and stand on the low side with it at chest height.

But it is impossible to put the picnic table anywhere but on the pavement (where the RV is) or in the street and have it level enough that the salt shaker will remain upright.

This dropoff also made for a really big “last step” coming out of the RV.

My solution: DSC03250

Turn the picnic table into a mini patio and steps.

Looks a little scary but it is so solid that Merrily, Katie and I were dancing on it.

Once I got it leveled up I jack-strapped it tightly into the fold out RV steps and not only does it make it much easier doing the in-out thing but it is dead level for actually sitting down and eating (if it weren’t that we are parked under the caterpillar Oak hotel.) It also makes a great stand up work bench at the left end and that was a big help with all the outside stuff I have been doing.

See, innovation is not hard. One just needs to be open to the opportunities that are waiting to be used.

ttfn

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A wunnerful… a wunnerful!

Beautiful day. Nice temps, nice breezes, no rain, no mosquitoes and we are parked under the Caterpillar Oak hotel. I have seen some bad caterpillar droppings from the oak in front of the house in Raleigh but this puppy has some prodigious cata-poop coming down out of it.

But that did not deter my attitude, today.  I tackled a few more long deferred tasks, like patching the crack in the skin of DakotR at the bottom front corner of the bedroom slideout opening.  It has been there since we bought it and I have made lame attempts to fix it a couple of times but never really did more than gush some goo onto it.

This time, I gouged out the gunk inside, widened and straightened the edges out and generally cleaned all around, all around before patching.

I used some Dyco 20/20 caulk and filled the bugger. I then patched over that with a piece of Eternabond Seam sealing tape.

That should hold it!

Another put off too long job was to replace the main awning rear arm lock.  The original one never had a locked position. It just was pushed into place and would gradually work its way open in route. Last year I had bought a couple of new awning locks and managed to get the front one replace (cause it broke off) but never got around to it.  Actually, I never seemed to be able to get myself, my drill and drill bits, my pop rivet tool and the new lock all together at the same time.  It seems that one or another of these items managed to go into hiding.

I got them altogether today, though, and replaced the old one. One problem with the non-locking type is that it would not stay open and out of the way while trying to stow the awning and would jam between the main support and the spreader bar behind it, usually just as the awning was rolling in its last foot or so.

I also tackled the tar and gunk thrown up onto the lower front panel of the 5th wheel (I just gotta get some mud flaps on those fenders).  The best combination I came up with was Turtle Wax Bug and Tar remover followed by a Marine black streak remover… now I just have to do the other 3/4s of that area.

The water pressure here is so high that without a pressure regulator it causes the filtered water faucet in the kitchen to drip constantly. I had a nice Watts Home pressure regulator which gave good flow but installed it in the house several years ago due to very high street main pressures. I just have to replace it as these RV pressure regulators just throttle back the water flow so much that a good shower is impossible.

It’s another thing to “pick up” when we get back to Raleigh. the list is getting pretty long right now even though we only plan to be in port for a couple of weeks.

I hope the rains hold off tomorrow, too, while I have the drive and clarity to work on some of this deferred maintenance stuff.

ttfn