Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On the Farm, taking a break

It is great to be off of the road.  Today, we mowed some lawn, but otherwise we did little to nothing. I had intended to finish the lawn mowing this evening after the wind died, but after my second nap, I decided it could wait another day.

We did drive over to the silo to see if the turkey vultures had returned to their nest on the silo roof top but they haven't.  So my idea of a vulture cam can be suspended for now.  We'll continue to watch the silo in case they return later in the season.

We also moved our water barrel out of the garage and ran the deep well pump jack to fill the barrel.  I always pump the well after returning north to flush out the pipes.  It was very obvious that it hadn't been pumped all winter as the initial water was very rusty. But it cleared up after about 20 or 30 gallons were pumped, probably about the amount of water standing in the pipe all winter.

My biggest issue tonight was doing the editorial corrections to yesterday's blog. My chief critic absolutely does not like double spaces between sentences or an extra space between words now and then. She claims to not have a program turned on to put a period in at every space so that she can find them easier. I guess if that is her biggest complaint, I can live with that!


The Pony has reached the Barn, now what?

It was about noon yesterday when we pulled into the farm yard.  What a joy, relief and blessing to all.  The blessing was that we were off of the road and not a danger to anyone else and vice versa.  The cross wind blowing from the south was very aggressive and moved us and others around on Interstate 80.

We had been at the HWH service shop/factory less than a day and I think we were the only customer for the day.  Perhaps that says that the HWH system is getting more reliable as they age. (If you believe that one, I'll sell you a freezer for use in the Arctic!) I think it is one of two things, either the motorhomes are still in winter storage or they are south for the winter yet.  The actual repair was very quickly done, just replace two special valves in the rear jack lines. My question was why did both valves plus another different kind of valve in the pump assembly all independently fail on the same day?

The pump assembly valve controlled the slide extension/retraction action and was repaired at a dealer's shop in Florida.  We had decided then to not repair the jack problem until back at the factory.  So for a whole month, we lived with only being able to use the front jacks. It was a bit of a pain, but I'd much rather have someone work on my rig that understands what he's working on.

When we're away from the farm, we turn all of the breakers off at the meter pole, since there is nothing here that needs any light.  A farmer friend goes to McDonalds at 5 or 6  in the morning driving a road about a mile away, but keeps track of our travels by observing if the yard light is on or off.  So yesterday I decided to not show our presence and left the yard light breaker off.  So who drives in from the field, but our farmer friend on his tractor who was here to do some field preparation work. So much for hiding from the neighbors!

One of the reasons we returned a bit early was the failing health of my 101 year old mother.  So after we had the motorhome parked on the farm, we drove to  the care center to  visit her. It has been almost 6 months  since we've seen her, but we'd say that she is the same as last fall.  Other than an antibiotic pill recently given to her for a "boil" on  her back side, she takes no medications. I wish I were that well off.  Ten days ago the report was that she was not eating and very lethargic.  But yesterday she was eating (desert first) in the dining room in her wheel chair.  She also recognized us and that brought a smile to her face. We briefly visited with the care center nurses to let them know that we'll be in the area and left.

It was then time to do our laundry and head back to the farm.  So on the return trip, it was via the laundromat, a necessary stop for those of us without built in washer/dryers.  (If it was built in, then we'd have to visit the RV park more often, plus we've seen some RV parks that prohibit the use of laundry facilities in your rig. It overwhelms the disposal system.)

I best wrap this up, as there is work to get done outside!


Monday, March 26, 2012

There has been a weather change and it isn't warmer!

We were up early this morning after a very relaxing night in central Illinois on a farm.  However, the temperature was just a bit lower.  We used the electric heaters and made it pretty comfortable for breakfast.  However, when we started putting stuff away  for travel mode, Sandy noticed that the driver's window was wide open and a good breeze was coming in.  No wonder it was cool when we got  up and the heaters just didn't warm the rig.

It was 49 degrees on the outside when we were back on the road.  When we arrived here at HWH at 2 pm or so, the outside temperature was only 43 degrees, with a stiff NE wind.  It must be about the same this evening.

A friend of ours posts a blog  entry every day a few minutes past midnight.  Nick and Terry hosted a rally in Yuma last week and have been kind of beaten and in need of serious rest.  This morning was one of Nick's classic blog posting about having too many friends.  Nick took control of the day and has told some friends that "No, Nick and Terry are too tired and don't want any visitors".  With that kind  of a welcome, some of his friends have become very offended.

As I've had all day to reflect on Nick's problem, the thought occurs to me that friendship is a two way street. What many people don't understand is that there are levels of friendship.  We may think of someone as a very close friend while that person thinks of us as one of their many acquaintances.   That is especially true in this RV life style.   We know hundreds if not thousands of people via our computer classes, rallies and Escapades that we have attended.   We had a case this past winter of a fellow introducing himself as an old friend of ours.   He had attended a seminar of ours at an Escapade 5 years ago.  He remembered the time and the place and it still didn't ring any bells for me.  I'm sorry folks, but my memory just isn't that good.

My memory is great if you get it on the right subject.  Let's talk electrical circuits, solar charging or some historical items.  But some historical items don't register, such as the sequence of things from the 9/11 report that I'm in the midst of reading.  It is a fascinating document to say the least.

Bring on the warm breezes that the weather man promises tomorrow.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Timberview Lakes Campground RV Park, Bushnell, IL

 We headed north on Wednesday shortly after visiting with Bob and Karen at the Flying J in Tallahassee.  We're trying to hold it down to 200 plus miles per day.  (We seem to be doing a few more than that.)

Thursday was a short day, as we ran into a difficult rain storm as we neared Birmingham.  By the time we cleared Birmingham, I told Sandy to find us the nearest Walmart, it was time to quit.  We ended up at Jasper, Alabama and the Walmart was happy to let us stay in the lot.

Friday was a big day, as we exited Alabama, passed through a corner of Mississippi, crossed Tennessee and   Kentucky and ended up in Ft. Massac State Park on the southern edge of Illinois across from Puducah, KY.  However, this will most likely be our last time there, as Illinois has raised their fees for state parks and it isn't worth $20 a night.  (A lot of Passport America Parks are more economical than that.)

We declared Saturday to be our day of rest and laid low at Ft. Massac all day.  What a joy to not face the interstate traffic.

Today (Sunday) found us back on the road, heading north in Illinois. Since our original destination had been a state park also (Jupiter College SP), we went looking for another PPA park and had two options.  When we called one this morning, they bluntly said that they were closed.  The second one said they were open and the price was $13 a night.  So here we are (it really isn't open, but a good business man isn't about to turn a customer away).

We're trying to take it easy, but Sandy said that we put on 4 more miles than either of the previous days headed north. So be it!   Sandy jokingly says that when the horse is headed for the barn, there is no stopping it.

We are a half day out from HWH where we have a Wednesday appointment.  We'll call tomorrow morning and see if we can get squeezed in early.  If we can get in early, perhaps we can get to the farm by Wednesday.  (We're in no hurry, but sooner is always better!)

Once parked on the farm, we'll make a quick trip to Amana to see my mother and talk with the care center personnel.  The last we heard, she was doing much better (but not eating!)  She is only 101 years old.  Once we have that issue squared away, we're off to Forest City to the Winnebago factory to meet with the rally folks about a seminar I'm to give plus a few other things.  Life just doesn't seem to be slowing down for us.

This park we're at is really out in the country. The road went from a state highway, to a county road with a painted center strip, to a county road with no center strip to something slightly more than one lane (but all asphalt). The grass is green, the doves and birds are sounding off and there is no road noise. Plus we just saw a buck deer walk through the middle of a plowed field.

I'll sleep well tonight!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jaaper, Alabama and heading north

We left Dothan, AL this morning in a thin overcast.  The sun poked above the horizon sometime after 7, but shortly was blanked out by the overcast.

As the day progressed, the thin overcast became darker and darker.  As we approached Birmingham, AL, the showers started in with gusto.  Of course, when we were in the thick of finding our way through Birmingham, it really came down.  But fortunately, there was little to  no wind.

As we headed northwest from Birmingham on 78W, it continued and I told Sandy to find us a Walmart.  So here we are in the parking lot of the Jasper (Alabama) Walmart and  happy to be off of the road.  We checked with the customer service desk and they readily agreed that we made the right decision, plus we were welcome to stay all night (my intention)!

Since we're headed north and I assumed that it would be cooler, our plans were to stop at a Corp. of Engineers park about 50 miles up the road (and treat Sandy to electrical hookups and an electric heater if we needed one.) But I'm sure there will be no need for a heater again tonight.

Actually we would have made our destination if we hadn't been delayed by semi rollover in our lane south of Birmingham.  Initially, traffic was dead in the water and then after 90 minutes, it was moving slowly. Going through major cities is almost a no sweat deal when Sandy has her trusty Garmin GPS with the route programmed in.  She is able to tell me when the next turn is and if it is right or left.  I still read the street signs just to make sure.

Tomorrow's destination is an Illinois state park just north of Paducah, KY. If not there, we'll probably stop at an RV park, as the Walmarts are kind of scarce south of there. (It may be cold and I'll need some electric heat.)


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On the move north finally

Spring is here.  It is time for all of the birds and other migrating animals to be heading north. So guess what we are doing?  Our long slow north bound trek has begun.  We did 200 plus miles today on mostly Florida interstate highway 10 and two words can describe it:  "Not busy".   We could also say that the speeds were relatively modest.  Yes, there were a few crazy folks, but for the most part, it was moving very sanely.

When we left the national forest this morning and needed to get onto I-10, the highway department had nicely blocked the entry ramp from the south bound traffic only.   Before I reached that point,  I noticed a car entering the west bound ramp from the south.  So when we couldn't enter the ramp from the north,  I slowed way down and decided I could use the ramp from the south. It was a tight turn, but we made it.  Otherwise, we had smooth sailing all day.

Tonight we're enjoying the good services of Wally World, otherwise known as the Walmart parking lot in Dothan, AL. Right now there are 4 very quiet RVs and one semi with his engine running.  Of course, we were here first and he had to put his nose in among us  The nerve of some people!

Our last four days in the forest were also marked by one inconsiderate RVer.  She plopped herself down almost in the middle of our group and quickly made herself like a bad penny.  As she talked on her telephone, she let her tiny (but very fat) mongrel run free.  The mongrel stayed close to her van, but not  close enough.  It was observed relieving itself far from her van.  A member of our group joined our afternoon social circle and the unlucky fellow stepped on the dog pile and tracked it to our group.

One of our group immediately took the unlucky fellow in tow and the two of them headed to her van to explain a few things to her.  I guess she was understanding of the problem and quickly gathered up the remaining residue. Her excuse was that she had been too busy talking on the telephone to watch her dog.  When a member of our group  heard of her excuse, he commented that "I guess there is one woman that can't multi-task!" (She can't talk on the phone and watch her dog that is supposed to be on a leash at the same time.)

 We had two rigs with dogs and I should comment that they did practice the group rule (unwritten) that dogs are not allowed in the group when food is around.  For some people, it is no problem, but many of us don't like the idea of handling your dog and then using your fingers to reach for finger food out of the bowl.

The semi has left and I need to wrap this up. The extra hour of daylight from the time zone change is about to catch up with me.  Another hard day of driving north again tomorrow.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Making plans for the future Rendezvous

The last 3 days, I've been making mental notes about what I can post in the blog (when I'm doing it.)  Well here I am and my mind is blank.  Absolutely zero.  It is most frustrating to say the least.

Sandy keeps commenting to me that I'm an idea person and she ends up being the follow through person.  It may be so.   To help the group some, I suggested that we ought to  have an ice cream social.  Everyone thought that was a great idea and one member is picking up the ice cream this noon at Walmart. The social is scheduled for 3 pm this afternoon.

The bad news is that I'm now the bad guy for ruining the diet of our members.  I guess I'm the fall guy.  However, we've got big shoulders, so we'll take the licking and keep on ticking!

We have about a dozen rigs squeezed into this campground, counting everyone.  However, everyone is so laid back and considerate of each other, it is no problem.   One lady made a broom out of some palmatto leaves and every morning sweeps out the restroom.

Yesterday evening, we were given an education on hiking the trails here in Florida.  They don't have porta-johns along the trail, so users have some guidelines to follow.  The issue becomes more interesting when there are multiple users of the trail, such as a group hike.  In our good American culture, we don't talk about some things, so someone may make an off hand comment which others usually pick up on.   The classic one was a guide telling the party to "wait here while he checked out the blue berries", meaning he needed a potti break.  But as he did a side route off of the trail, one lady charged after him saying that she wanted to see what Florida blue berries were like. For some people, you  have to be very direct.

Yesterday found us driving to the East Tower Campground just to see the area again. It is really better than this one with one big short-coming.  For most people, there is no cell phone service, thus no internet.  We found a tent in the campground plus one toy hauler trailer.   To get there, we used our GPS (Garmin) to find our way. It sure would be nice if the road names (used by Garmin) were the same as the forest service signs.  In both Ocala NF and here in Osceola NF, the roads are numbers.  However, Ms. Garmin calls them all by strange names that are never on our pamphlets.  (I suspect that the county 911 committee gave them names and the forest service has chosen to ignore them.)

With that I better quit rocking the boat.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday potluck, venison and a hog ham

I'm still moving slowly after another big meal with the group.  Tonight we had a designated potluck (everyone shared ahead of time what they would bring).  The main course was a well smoked deer hind quarter and a large ham from a wild hog.  They were excellent.  The meat source was a local boondocker that is no longer RVing and then one of our members smoked them.

The meal brings out the best of everyone for social interaction. Plus we have two foreign couples that either spoke no English or at least very little. One couple is from Quebec (French) and the other couple is Austrian (German).  The couples were welcomed to the group and join in with what we do.  Don lead them on a 5 mile hike on the Florida trail this morning and they were not the worst for wear this afternoon.  Yesterday Don led us on a 2 mile hike which I survived very well.

Spring is definitely here.  The day time temperatures are close to 80 degrees and the nighttime low is usually above 58 degrees.  There is no need for a heater under those conditions.  (I understand the Midwest is seeing similar temperatures.)  Perhaps we'll check it out in 2 or 3 weeks.

We plan to leave here mid next week and stop in the Apalachicola National Forest.  (It is spelled right and I typed it correctly the first time.  I did check it to be sure.) The spelling of so many of the names here in Florida really taxed one's memory!  A Yankee has to wonder how they came up with the name and the spelling!

Enough for tonight from the West Tower Campground, Osceola National Forest, Florida.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

West Tower Campground, Osceola National Forest, Lake City, FL

 We arrived at this jewel of a campground yesterday noon.   The area is about half the size of a football field or smaller with a few trees here and there.  Plus there is a forest service fire tower near the road.

Based upon our experience of last year plus having visited with some campers at Three Lakes WMA, we were expecting about a dozen other campers here. To our pleasant surprise, there is only one car, a Quebec couple who speaks zero English.  So there is little conversation with them.  (Linda Hayes is able to converse with them some.)

Presently we have 5 rigs with two or three more expected.  We  have plenty of room.  The generators will hum a bit more because of the trees but we'll all tolerate that.  Don has been calculating which trails he'll explore again and all of us will go on a wood gathering mission this morning at 9 AM.

Wood gathering should be pretty easy as it looks  like the forest service has cut down several dead trees that presented a hazard to the road.  Or perhaps the wind toppled them and the forest service sectioned them and laid them in the ditch. Either way, they will make good firewood in our pit.  I have my electric chain saw along, so all should go smoothly.  Plus I have the splitting mall and a wedge along, so we can cut some larger trees and still reduce them to burnable sizes.

Incidentally, someone commented to me personally that they can't post a comment to my blog.  I'm not sure why not, but now that we have good internet service here in the forest, we'll try to remember to see what the problem might be.

The weather has been fantastic this winter here in Florida.  We've only endured two cold snaps so far.  The really good news is that we have only had to refill the propane tank once all winter.  Perhaps global warming is a reality.  But time being, we'll enjoy it.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Palatka, FL for a night at Walmart

 The title could have also been "parking on Sam's ground" as we are staying in the local Walmart.  We've been by the store on several occasions and there have always been trucks and RVs in the south west corner of the parking lot.  So tonight, we add one more to the total.

Our stay at Shanty Pond came to an end this morning under some trying circumstances.  Last night one lady accused me of intending to "Kill the stay at Shanty pond".  She had her wires crossed and I  informed her that we were working on how we could extend the stay in  Ocala NF by using second site also.  I don't think she believed me.

Three of us went out late in the day yesterday to look over some sites recommended by the forest service manager. In our absence, she tried to get the group to vote on using Shanty Pond by saying that we knew that it was to be discussed so by being absent,  we gave up our right to vote.  However, others would not allow her to proceed, so we got to attend a meeting at 9  AM  this morning and vote on the use of the site.

Not only did we vote  to return to Shanty Pond again in 2013, but to make it a 3 week stay.  It is amazing how people react when they hear only  half of the story.   There was  no secret about it that we were looking for another site.  The intent was to have two sites in the Ocala NF that we could use, two weeks at one and another two weeks at a second.

A big plus here at the Palatka Walmart is that the air card works wonderfully.  We have real internet now.  No waiting and waiting for an update.  Surfing is a pleasure again.

Tomorrow we go to West Tower in Osceola NF, a site with good internet service.  Yuppee!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, March 5, Shanty Pond, Ocala NF, Florida

 Okay, I think we dodged another one again.  Sunday morning arrived with gusto.  We had a very heavy shower that didn't last long. What  however much it rained, they loved it here in Florida.

From our viewpoint, it brought some cold weather that made me make sure that the bed covers were in place. It was 51 degrees in the bedroom, 45 in the living room and apparently 35 or so outside. I'm really amazed that body heat can provide that much heating in the RV.

Today was an even better day; it warmed up some more, we had more solar sunlight and are batteries were recharged completely without running the generator.   Life is good when that happens.

We were joined this afternoon by a couple that we met at our computer rally in May.  They needed a reasonable place to stay here in Florida and knew where we were based upon reading this blog.  It was great to see them.  (We were a bit taken back by their arrival.)  But we have lots of space  available.  In our campground here, there are about 60 sites total, with 9 of them  occupied by our group and only two or three other RVs.  In other words, where are the people?

We are planning to depart for another park on Thursday or Friday, so we have little time left to get our plans finalized for next year.  So Sandy and I will probably do some more driving around in the park.   Supposedly, there are some large campgrounds around here.  We need to find one that has lots of sun and is level..  We do like it here because of the closeness of the shopping, laundry and restaurant.   Where we've previously been spending our time, we'd have to drive 25 miles one way for a store.  We're also paying a premium price of $4 a night.  (Not too bad, but it isn't free like the others were.)

Life is not too bad.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Very Poor Connections, may not get this out

We are at Shanty Pond Campground in Ocala National Forest, northern Florida.   Very poor connectivity, so you may not get it.

All is well at this end.  A big pot luck dinner tonight.  Earlier in the day, we supported a member who had his solar power system setup wrong.  Another fellow resolved all of the issues we think.

Have a nice day.