Venture Out - Cudjoe Key

Venture Out - Cudjoe Key
Fox at Quail Run

Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting for Parts and a Pee


St. George, South Carolina (high 90, low 70)


On Wednesday morning, we decided to head into Charleston and see a few sights. We felt an early start was a good idea since afternoon rains were predicted. It seems we just can’t get away from these Florida-like afternoon thunderstorms. The day before, Charleston got some very heavy afternoon rains and some really bad flooding. One woman had to get out of her car in downtown Charleston and swim.

Before we could do any sightseeing, we had to stop at Northern Tool. Al had seen an extension bar online, that he thought would work for the motorhome. We decided the 4 inch drop hitch we bought, was just too low. Our receiver on the motor home is a few inches underneath the coach, so we needed an extension. Unfortunately, when we got to Northern, the part was the wrong thing.
That lead to many other camping and trailer places, to try to locate the right part. We either need an extension that is rated at 10,000 lbs, or a 2 inch drop hitch with the same rating. Fortunately, we’re in a big enough town that we had some options, however it was looking pretty dismal for a while. We finally found an Rv place that could order one. It should be in by Friday. We think this one will work fine, provided it’s the right part. We really don’t want to tow the truck until we get this corrected.

By the time we did all the running around looking for that part, it was getting late and we got the call from the Vet to go pick up Chatty. We made a quick stop at Whole Foods, then grabbed a Subway sandwich and went to pick up our little Chatty.

So much for seeing the sights in Charleston.

Our expected rain came during the late afternoon and evening. We got some really heavy rain, and we were pleased to see the campground handled all the water very well.

Yesterday, we stayed home with Chatty. He wasn’t doing well at all. He looked like he felt miserable. He wouldn’t eat, and is still having trouble urinating. I won’t go into all the details, but he’s still having trouble this morning, although he is now eating again and seems to be feeling better. He just needs a really good pee! We’re concerned since this is the beginning of a holiday week-end. We certainly don’t want to have to drive 40 miles into Charleston and take him to an after hours veterinary emergency clinic. $$$$$

We’re hoping we will be able to see some of the sites in Charleston, but until Chatty improves, we’re going to have to hang around the house and keep an eye on him.

Hurricane season is really heating up. Isaac is finally on the move and weakening. We’re now watching Hurricane Kirk and Tropical Storm Leslie. We’ll be glad when September is over, as it’s typically the busiest month of hurricane season.

The campground is having a cook out on Labor Day. They are providing steaks. We haven’t decided if we will eat a steak or not. We’re not craving meat, so maybe we’ll just skip the steak…maybe not. So far, we’ve stuck with our Vegan eating style, with the exception of a soup mix that had a small amount of chicken in it. We have always agreed that we can eat whatever we want on occasion, if we feel the urge. So far, we haven’t felt the urge to eat anything non-vegan.

Yesterday, I had a smoothie for breakfast. Al also had a smoothie, 3 cans of tomato juice (he loves that stuff), and two english muffins with peanut butter.

I toasted some pumpkin seeds, and we had them for a snack. These were absolutely delicious! I put some pumpkin seeds in a pan with about a tablespoon of oil, some Lowry salt and ground Cayenne pepper. I lightly browned them. This is a delicious snack. Nice warm and salty toasted seeds!

For lunch we had tacos, and pizza for dinner. We also had Happy Hour. Al had a few beers, and I had one big vodka tonic. Oh, we also had a macadamia nut cookie and a few corn chips.
We eat every time we get hungry, or just want a snack. We don’t have to limit the amount of food we eat. We eat until we’re full, or stuffed to the gills!

You can see, we're not starving.

Our weigh-in today showed Al has lost 13.5 pounds and I’ve lost 10. We’ve been vegan for almost 6 weeks. Pretty good, huh?

So today, we are waiting for the part we ordered, and a pee from Chatty. Wish us luck… until we get him fixed up, we're probably not going to go on to Asheville.



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plans Change

St George, South Carolina

We were tired yesterday, and the plan was to hang out at home, remove the love bugs from the front of the motor home, maybe take a nap and watch a movie.

Those plans changed when we noticed our kitty Chattanooga (Chatty) was straining in the kitty pan, unable to urinate.  This is a fairly common thing with male cats. They get little crystals that prevent them from urinating.    I felt his bladder and it was about the size of a walnut.  We’ve been through this before, so it was an easy diagnosis for me.

We got a recommendation for a local Veterinarian and off we went.  When we got to the building, I knew we were in trouble.  It was a new building with a staff of veterinarians.  Yup, this was going to be expensive.

The doctor agreed with my diagnosis. She needed to keep him there a night or two to clean out the crystals and get him flowing again.   He has a catheter inserted….poor baby.

She gave us an estimate of roughly $600.  We almost had heart failure.  We’ve been down this road before, spent a ton of money and didn’t have successful results.   I know how it starts….$600 here $600 there and before you know it you have a $6000 bill and no cat. 

One of Al’s friends is a veterinarian.  He told Al that nowadays in Vet school, they teach them how to make money.  This is exactly what they teach in law school too….how to maximize their billable hours.  They tell the young vet students to treat the pets of the people who have money, and don’t worry about the ones who don’t.  What happened to young people who want to be a veterinarian because they loved animals.  Al has several customers who are veterinarians, and let me tell you…..they make serious money!  

We left him there.  We really had no choice.  He was pretty uncomfortable and it was only going to get worse overnight.   We’re wondering if the stress from the past week brought this on.  He travels in his kitty cage when we’re driving the motor home.  He spent several days in there where he was unable to get out to urinate.  We try to let them out a little while when we stop, but we may not have let him out often enough, and he may not have gone when he got out.   We won’t make that mistake again.  Everybody gets more pee breaks!  Of course we normally don’t travel  like we have the past week.

We got some pretty hard rain yesterday, all associated with Tropical Storm Isaac.   So far we’ve not experienced any strong winds or thunderstorms.  It looks like the next 3-4 days will be rainy.   That’s not the best weather for exploring Charleston.

The plan for today is to try to get a part to change the height of our new Blue Ox Tow bar.   We’re not happy with the height of it.  It looks good when you’re on level surfaces and the coach is fully aired up.   It’s supposed to be as level as possible, but you  can go up to 4 inches, as long the motorhome is higher than the towed vehicle. It’s a no-no for the coach to be lower than the toad.    Before we take off, I always watch to make sure the toad is rolling properly, and I didn’t like how it looked when Al applied the brakes.  When the coach is fully aired up it sits slightly higher than the toad.  When he brakes a time or two, it’s slightly lower.    Diesel motorhomes have an air ride and braking system.  When you park, you let the air out and the motorhome sits low to the ground.  When you run the engine, it airs up until the motorhome reaches drive height.  Every time you brake, you lose a little air.

We bought a 4 inch drop hitch and that is what we’ve been traveling with.  We have about decided that we don’t need any drop at all.  We do need some sort of extension because the receiver on the motorhome is 4-5 inches in (underneath the motorhome).    The toad would be too close to the back of the motor home if we didn’t get an extension. So, that’s what we’re going to do today. 

I don’t think we’ll be doing anything fun today!

Oh….we met an interesting couple. They were parked next to us the other night.  As a  severely  “directionally challenged” person, I greatly admire people who can help me find my way around.  Their son invented MapQuest!   That was one of the first programs I ever used to help me find my way.   I especially liked the fact that you could get it to reverse it and tell you how to get back home!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

We Landed

St George, South Carolina

We really didn’t feel like traveling anywhere yesterday.

Al really didn’t feel like driving north on I-95, especially after we read Sherry’s blog about the poor conditions of the highway in South Carolina.

We considered staying put in the southern coastal area of Georgia.  Cumberland Island National Seashore was nearby and we really would have loved to have been able to spend a day there with the wild horses.  It’s only accessible by boat and we understand it’s a very natural and beautiful place.

We kept checking the hurricane   “spaghetti models”  and the “cone of uncertainty”, to see where Isaac was going and where the bad weather would be.

Unfortunately, we were still not sure we would be in a good area.  Our concern was that if we waited in south Georgia for the day, we would lose our window of opportunity to leave.  Since the storm continues to move at night, and we don’t, we figured we’d better get some more distance between us and the storm.

Florida got hammered yesterday and again today, with heavy rain bands and squalls.  Glad we weren’t there.  The Vero Beach area got some 20 inches of rain.  We had been there just a few days ago.  Glad we left.

Reluctantly, we left about 11:30 am.  It was a bit breezy when we left,  but sunny all the way.

We saw dozens more utility trucks heading to Florida to help with the storm damage.

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Just before we crossed into South Carolina, the road got pretty bad.  In fact, that was my clue to get out the camera and take the following picture.

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The interstate was named the Dwight Eisenhower highway, and we guessed it had been built during his presidency and hadn’t had much maintenance since!   We hit a nasty pot hole or two, but it wasn’t as bad as we had expected. 

We drove up the interstate about 189 miles and landed at Jolly Acres Rv Park, in St. George, South Carolina. This is where Sherry and David stayed last night, and in fact, I think we’re probably in the same site they used last night.  Thanks Sherry for the good recommendation.  It’s a great spot for overnight or even for exploring Charleston a little bit.

Map picture

Jolly Acres is about 5 miles off the I-95, and very close to I-26, which will take us right into Ashville, North Carolina.   We’ve been wishing we were in Ashville all summer long because of their much cooler temperatures.  We’re only about 200 miles away.

This is a very nice campground.  It’s well cared for and everything is immaculate.  The Passport America rate for 50 amp is $20.33 a night.  They allow 4 nights (but not the week-ends) at that rate, but only charge $125 for a week.  We think we might just stay here about a week, get some R&R and explore Charleston a little.  We’re about 45 minutes from Charleston, so it’s easily a day trip. 

We’re tired of moving.  During the past week, we moved the motor home twice to go to Clearwater, once to go to Vero Beach, once to go to Woodbine and again to come here.  We drove way too many miles.  This is definitely not our travel style.  We prefer a drive less than 200 miles and then stay a couple weeks.  We do not have PDD!

Today we were planning on doing some chores, including Love Bug removal from the front of the motorhome.  Love bugs appear like clockwork twice a year, in May and September.  They are a few days early this year. 

Want to see what a love bug looks like?  Maybe this would have been a better “the end” shot?

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This is what our windshield looked like.  Once we set up camp and let Baxter out of his travel cage, he went after all these bugs.  It took him a few minutes to realize they weren’t going to be any fun to chase, since they weren’t moving.

 

We’re looking at the maps and just started realizing we might have to go over some mountains to get to Ashville.  (duh) 

Al and I have never driven a motorhome or trailer into the mountains.  We’re Floridians and not used to mountains….or hills for that matter.  The highest elevation in Florida is 345 feet, and that was nowhere where near we lived.

Driving this big rig in the mountains makes us both nervous, and we’re not sure exactly how to handle the braking or transmission.  I guess we need to read our engine and transmission manuals.   Any good advice or suggestions?   We don’t want to burn up our engine like Howard and Linda did.

Have any of you driven I-26 northwest from South Carolina into North Carolina?  That’s the route we will be taking.  What should we expect?  

We are planning on setting down roots here for about a week.  We need to be sure of a campsite (thanks Bill and Nancy for the reminder), and frankly we’re tired of moving.  We are only 45 minutes from Charleston and there is lots to do there, so we’ll keep busy……providing the weather holds out.

Florida is getting hammered today with rain and wind.  We got some pretty strong Isaac related rain today, but so far not much wind.  We are still not completely out of the path of the storm.  Hopefully, as it moves west things will improve here.

We planned on relaxing today, taking a nap and maybe watching a movie.  Unfortunately, we ended up spending half the day taking a kitty to the vet.  He’s okay.  More tomorrow.  No, it wasn’t Baxter.  He’s here and ornery as hell  Smile

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dilemna

Woodbine, Georgia

We’re still trying to decide where to go.  We really would like to stay in one place for a while.  We do not like this style of travel.

We left Vero Beach at 8:30 am…..a record for us.  We got on I-95 and headed north.  Tropical Storm Isaac is not cooperating and the two best hurricane models were in complete disagreement.  

We decided to head to south Georgia.

Sherry posted about seeing many power company trucks on the road, and we saw them as well.  I also tried very hard to get a good photo when I saw a bunch all together.  I was not very successful at it either, Sherry.   I guess they are expecting mass power outages for the state of Florida.

We ended up about 244 miles up the road in Woodbine, Georgia.  We pulled into the same campground that David and Sherry stayed the night before.

It’s an ok overnight spot with narrow, grassy sites.  It would have looked a lot better if the grass had been mowed.

The nice thing about this Passport America park is the price and the little path to the boardwalk.

boardwalk behind Walkabout rv park, Woodbine Georgia

It was a lovely place to have happy hour, despite the noise from the interstate.

We unhooked the truck and took a drive over to Crooked River State Park.

Crooked River State Park, Georgia

It’s a typical Georgia park….lots of pine trees.

Crooked River State Park, Georgia

The outside roads were paved and wide.  The campground was pretty nice but a lot of the sites would be difficult to maneuver a large rig into.  They had one part of the campground closed down (as typical for Georgia).  It may have had better options.

Crooked River State Park, Georgia

This morning we got up and watched the sunrise from the boardwalk.

We needed some down time.

boardwalk behind Walkabout rv park, Woodbine Georgia

We really don’t know where to go to avoid heavy winds from Isaac.  It’s now moving towards the west, but they are still predicting a right turn once it makes landfall.  That right turn may just put it coming towards us.

We sure would like to stay here for a few days.  There is a lot to see and do in this area, but I think we should move on.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Running From Isaac

Vero Beach, Florida

We left Quail Run right before Sherry and David.  We saw them driving around the loop, preparing to put the Honda on the tow dolly, as we were pulling out.  Neither of us got a very early start (as usual).

Initially, we were thinking maybe we would head north up I-75.   We noticed that the  “spaghetti models”  were trending the storm away from the west coast of Florida.  That was good news.  It was looking like the south east part of Florida might be a good place to be, so we headed towards Vero Beach.

The hurricane center sends reconnaissance planes out frequently and we get frequent updates.  While we were traveling they had revised the “cone of uncertainty” more towards the east and Vero Beach wasn’t looking so good anymore.  By this time, we were almost there, so we decided to spend one night there and then we would be close enough to the interstate to head north on I-95, or stay if things changed.

The Spaghetti Models are projected paths of many different computer models.   There are two computer models that are the best.  The Euro and the GFS, and they had two completely different views on where Isaac would go.  That was making it very difficult for the National Hurricane Center to forecast, so they just widened their “cone.”

ISAAC Spaghetti Models   Cyclocane

Most models are now coming together, predicting an initial landfall in the Keys. Yesterday, it was Miami (not good news)   It will then move into the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, strengthen, then make another landfall somewhere on the Florida Panhandle or even further west towards Mobile Bay or even New Orleans.

The problem with this storm is, that even though Vero Beach is probably not going to be in the direct path of the storm, it’s such a huge storm that we could still get tropical storm winds., which are winds between 39-73 mph.   On top of the high winds, we would be on the bad (right) side of the storm and  hurricanes frequently spawn tornado’s.  

Another thing we have to consider is that these models are only guides.  The can,  and frequently do change directions at the last minute.  A few years ago Hurricane Charley was expected to make a direct hit on Tampa.  At the last minute (thank goodness for us) it made a right turn and struck Port Charlotte.  It did a LOT of damage and a lot of Snowbird and 55+ mobile home parks were destroyed.   Many senior citizens were suddenly homeless. It was very sad.

So…..we still have a dilemma.  This is where we are at right now.  Isaac is supposed to come from Cuba, over the Keys and then northwest towards somewhere between Mobile Bay, Alabama and Tallahassee, Florida  (or in that general direction)

 

Map picture

We’re concerned if we stay here our options would be limited, should it decide to take a sharp right and head east, or even veer further east.  Where we are currently at we have no good escape route.

We used to think that once a hurricane went over land, they quickly lost strength.  The two hurricane seasons from hell (2004 and 2005) proved otherwise.  They can easily enter on one coast, move up diagonally and exit on the other coast and  do a ton of damage all along the way.

The bad thing about Florida is that  you can only flee one direction. The other three directions will land you in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.  The only way to get away from water is head north.

The problem with heading north, is that it’s predicted to make a sharp right once it makes landfall.  That will put it going into Georgia, North and South Carolina. We won’t want to be on the right side of the storm when it moves through Georgia.

This is a huge storm and due to the size, it will take a while to wind down.

Of course it’s still actually considered a tropical storm, but as soon as it gets over open water, they are thinking it will become a category 2  (cat2) which is 96-110 mph winds.   They are much better at predicting direction of a storm than intensity, so it could easily become stronger.  

So, we’re sitting here watching the latest weather forecasts and maps.  I think we’re going to get on the interstate and head north.  We may very well end up where David and Sherry spent last night. 

At least if we get way up ahead of the storm it will give us some options.  The storm isn’t moving that fast, but it still travels at night.  We don’t!  

We’re open to suggestions, if anyone has any!   We had been wanting to go to the Savannah, Charleston area, and also to Ashville, North Carolina.  It looks like we may get there after all.

Right now, we’re just playing it by ear.

and we’re off…….

Friday, August 24, 2012

Getting Out of Town

We are planning on leaving the area today.  We just haven’t finalized our plans yet.

We have a big tropical storm (Isaac) heading in this direction.  It’s expected to become a hurricane.  Florida was right square in the middle of the “cone of uncertainty”  until late yesterday.

The cone is slowly moving west, giving Florida less of a chance to see a landfall.

Tropical Storm Isaac cone of uncertainty and 5 day track   OrlandoSentinel.com.png

However, this is not set in stone and things can certainly change. We are on the west coast of Florida, towards the middle.  You can see if the hurricane comes to the right side of the “cone”  it will come directly over us.   The problem is that the upper right quadrant of a hurricane is the worst place to be.   

We are not as worried about a direct hit, as the strong winds and rain from the feeder bands of the storm.   Hurricanes are known to spawn tornadoes and we don’t want to be anywhere in the area…..if we can help it.

So, do we head north and follow in the path of David and Sherry?   Do we head east and go over to Vero Beach as we previously planned?   One place we definitely will not go is anywhere near the Florida panhandle.   Landfall just might be on the northern gulf somewhere between Pensacola, Florida and Texas.  These storms frequently make landfall and then take  a sharp right.  Many times they head right up the east coast.  So, do we want to be in South Carolina or Georgia?   Maybe not.

We had hoped by this morning we would have a clear choice of the best place to go.  We are leaning towards Vero Beach, but we’re still not certain.  We’re thinking maybe we’ll go there, and then if things change, we’ll be close to I-95 to head north.

In the meantime, Al and I worked all day getting things ready to travel.  We’ve been sitting here since June 20th (except the two days we spent in Clearwater)  

Al took the kayak racks from the old truck and mounted them on the new one.  We hadn’t done it earlier because we weren’t sure which truck we would be towing. 

We also took the TST Tire Pressure monitors off the old truck and put them on the new one.   They had to all be re-calibrated for the different tire pressure.   He aired up the new truck tires a little bit while he was doing that. 

Al also moved all the “stuff” from the bed of the old truck to the new one.   He had to put the bicycle rack on the new truck,  check the fluids (again) and did some cleaning and organizing.

He kept pretty busy, and mostly worked outside in the heat and humidity.

I broke down and called Verizon for help with our  Mi-fi connection.  We have free Wi-Fi here so we hadn’t been using Verizon.  We discovered a problem connecting my laptop. Al’s Xoom was working fine, so we knew if was my laptop.  It took a little while to get through all the phone prompts but he got me fixed up quite easily.  Yea!!

Next, I had to re-calibrate the sensors on the tire monitoring system.  Al’s job is to air the tires and move them over, and my job it so calibrate them. I can never remember how to do it and always have to read the directions.

I’ve been having a bad neck and headache the past few days.  Nothing seemed to help, so I finally gave up, put some  Joint Flex  on it, and laid on a heating pad.  That helped some.  I wondered if it was all stress related.

Next was a run to the grocery store.  There is a great little place here called Nutrition S’mart.   They have lots of health foods and organic produce.  We’ve been going there a lot since we started our  “Vegan Experiment.”

We’re trying to eat more like David and Sherry do.  They eat a lot of beans.  We were there the other day and David was cooking up a dish with black beans, tomatoes, avocados, and maybe rice.  It looked good, and the sunflower seeds he was browning really smelled delicious. 

Al has been getting a little discouraged because he had hit a plateau on his weight loss.   He finally broke through the barrier  and is now down 10 pounds!   I hit the 8 pound mark in just over a month.  I’m sure it will slow down from here on out.  Part of the problem is the longer we eat Vegan, the more things we find to eat and we’re eating too much!   It’s truly been the easiest weight I’ve ever lost.  We eat all we want (maybe that’s one problem) and we snack often.  We’ve discovered some really delicious foods and there are so many more things we haven’t even tried yet.  

 

Any of you who follow politics (and I hope you all do) know that the Republican National Convention is in Tampa this week.   Yes, that’s right, they planned a convention on the Tampa waterfront in the height of hurricane season.

There are a lot of   “Occupy” people coming to camp out, protest, and make generally make a mess.  They stay in tents in little tent cities.  They interviewed one guy who just arrived and asked him what he had done to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane.  “What hurricane”.  He went on to say his “charm” and personality would keep him safe.    Good luck with that one.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a tent during even the outer edges of a hurricane.  Tampa emergency preparedness people have to make plans for them to go to shelters,  but these people are saying they won’t leave their stuff, so they won’t go.  Of course there is no room for all their “stuff”.     No problem….enjoy the rain and wind.

I guess we’ll drink more coffee and mess around on our computers awhile and see if we can come up with a plan.

See you tomorrow… where I do not know!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tony Saved the Day

We got a call from Tony at Rentz Trailers, about 8:30 yesterday morning.  He had already been on the phone with Lazy Days and they gave him some good advice.  They said this coach has had some problems with water getting into a tail lamp bulb and it causes a lot of problems.  They told him to replace the entire switch and they felt certain that would fix the problem.

We packed up again and drove all the way back to Clearwater.

Again, we had pretty sunny skies and a nice trip over the water.

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Once we arrived in Clearwater, Tony removed the socket and replaced it with a new one.  We were hopeful that was the solution.

It wasn’t.

By this time we were getting prepared for another long day.  Tony looked all over the coach and checked all bulbs and connections. He kept looking and trying different things.  He discovered we had power on the right side to the front mirror and marker light, but it stopped at the rear tail lamp.

After more looking and thinking, he finally discovered the bulb for the right mirror was shorted out and that had evidently caused all of our problems.  It’s working just fine now.

Yes, Tony is our Hero!

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While Tony was looking around, I was snooping around under the engine, looking for any other issues.   Al always does this when he checks the oil before each trip, but this time I found a big problem.   The serpentine belt (which drives the engine) had a small little knick in it.  You wouldn’t see it unless the belt stopped exactly where it did.  I showed it to Tony and he said that belt would have blown very soon.    Thankfully, they would be able to change the belt.  We also had them change the a/c belt while they were at it. 

We decided to have them do an oil change while we were there.  It had been on our to do list, but living in your home make it difficult to get these things done….especially when you have critters!

So…..as it turned out, all the problems with our braking system and lights turned out to be one of those things that “happen for the best.”   Had we not been over there, we would probably not have seen the bad belt until we were stopped in the middle of  I-95 in rush hour traffic,  in the rain, running away from a hurricane.  Smile

Okay….now that all is said and done.  Our opinion of Rentz Trailers.   I probably should wait a few days for it all to sink in, but I know if I do that, I’ll never get back to it.

I want to be fair in my assessment.  Yes, we had some problems.   Yes, some of them were their fault.  One of the major things and Tony said we should have had the coach over there.  He said Joe should never have told us they could do the work getting the truck set up for towing without having the motorhome to check all the connections.  That was their error.

We got  some bad attitude and rude treatment from the owner.  We certainly didn’t appreciate him trying to blame us for everything that happened, especially when they hadn’t even checked our truck.  They made their share of mistakes.

Yes, they connected the vacuum hose up wrong.  They should have caught it when they moved the truck.  I certainly realized the problem immediately.

Yes, the driveshaft disconnect disengaged on  its own after they said it was working fine.  As it turns out, Tony told  when we asked them to put the truck back on the lift so that we could see it, they should have never lifted it the way they did.  It needs to be on a whole vehicle lift otherwise the cable that moves the connection gets stretched.  Tony was upset they did that.  He personally re-checked everything and re-adjusted the cable.  That was their fault. They are the experts.

Yes, they cut the electrical wiring on the old truck.  Tony said the guy thought we didn’t want to use that vehicle to tow any more.   If that’s so, why did we leave the tow bracket on.  That was definitely their error.  Tony said he will fix the wiring for us, all we need to do is call him and schedule a time.

The problem with the Air Force One is a little tricky.  It was working fine before they took it off.  Did it get dropped or mishandled, or was it just a fluke.  We’ll never know.

The lights not working were definitely due to some electrical issues in the motorhome.  This is a 2003 model motorhome with lots of time for dampness and weather to corrode circuits.   They would have caught these things if they would have had access to the motorhome.  We took Joe (the owner)  at his word that they didn’t need the motorhome.

So, would we recommend this shop again?    In our opinion Tony should be running the entire place.  He has more customer service skills than the owner, or at least more than  Joe showed to us. 

Tony went above and beyond the call of .  He only charged us 2 hours labor for at least 4-5 hours of labor.  Of course some of that electrical diagnostics should have been built into the price we paid.  The two hours included  the labor for the oil change and the two belt changes.

The problem here is Tony is not really a mechanic anymore.  He is the shop foreman.  He is the one they go to for questions and he keeps the shop running.  He appears to be a good mechanic and we trust him implicitly.  Unfortunately, he normally isn’t the one doing the work.   The other one working on the coach was Benny.  He appeared to be pretty careful, but he didn’t have the same knowledge or skills as Tony.  I was happy that Tony changed the belts and checked the oil after it was done.  If Tony would do the work or at least check up on the work done, I’d be a lot more comfortable.     All in all, it’s probably no worse than most shops and most of the problems we had were due to the motorhome.  The thing that was wrong with the tail lights was only occurring when we had the headlamps on.  We rarely use the headlamps and this could have been going on for a while.

So, the afternoon thunderstorms were starting.  It was starting to thunder and lightning as we were hooking up.  We had to hook up the truck to the motorhome for the first time with our new Blue Ox hitch, and our new driveshaft disconnect….all in the rain!

We felt pretty comfortable by this time that everything was working as it should.

We headed back over the bridge and again this is what it looked like.  Look familiar?

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This time we left about 2:30 so at least we weren’t in rush hour traffic.  Of course with light traffic the idiots could go as fast as they wanted.

Here is a result of that.  Idiot number one.

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Idiot number two.

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I neglected to take a picture of idiot number three, but there was one. 

It used to amaze me in my days as a claim adjuster.  People would call to report an accident.  They would tell me it was raining like crazy and they hydroplaned.  “how fast were you driving”  Oh, I was doing the speed limit.   “what was the speed limit?”  70.   “oh, so you didn’t slow down even though you said it was raining like crazy?”   Idiots.

grrrrr…

We got home, pulled into a pull through site, extended the slides and felt right at home again.

Now, on to the next problem…..

Have you see the hurricane forecast?   Yep, we are in the “cone of uncertainty.”  That means soon to be Hurricane Isaac could come right up the center of Florida.

Tropical Storm Isaac  Forecast Cone Includes Miami  Florida  PHOTO

We are definitely not going to the east coast as we had hoped.  No sense trying to do any snorkeling over there.  The seas will be high no matter which way the hurricane heads.

So, where do we go?   If we head straight north into Georgia, the storm could go into the gulf and make landfall in the Florida panhandle, and we’d be in the line of fire.   The worst place to be in a hurricane is on the right side of the center.   Many times, these storms make landfall and then take a sharp right and head towards north and south Carolina and then right up the coast.  We’re trying to determine our best course of action.  We do not want to be in here, that’s for sure.  Right now, the storm is expected to make a slight jog.  When it does,  that will determine it’s future path.  If it’s sooner it will head one way, later it will effect a completely different area.   What to do….what to do?

Maybe we’ll join Eldy and Jeanne in Maine!

In the meantime, we’re trying to get things wrapped up around here.

We bought a 4 inch drop receiver for the motorhome.  As you can see in the picture below, it looks perfectly straight.

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The problem is that it’s a bit too low and when the motorhome hits a bump, the hitch gets very close (or drags) the ground a little bit.  We need to raise it, but not too much.   Another little issue to work out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It Was a Hard Day

We got packed up and ready to head over to Clearwater to finish getting the lights and supplemental braking system fixed.

Tony, the mechanic was out getting some parts.  We didn’t want to head out until we knew for sure he would be there.  He called and discussed the issues we were having.  Prior to that phone call he was getting the information second hand.  I was glad that he called because information tends to get mixed up when you use a third person.

We got there about noon.

It was a pretty drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway which goes across the bay into Clearwater.

courtney campbell causeway 

We knew it was lunch time, but they were going to look at the truck and hold off on their lunch.  We told them to go ahead and go, we’d wait.   We wanted their full attention and preferred them well fed.  Smile

They had already checked the truck and said every thing checked out okay.

While they were gone,  we hooked the truck up to the motorhome.  It appeared to us that air was coming from the motorhome to the truck so we felt the problem was the truck.  Al called customer service at Air Force One.  He told him how to check a few things.   At that point he was in agreement.  By this time, Tony, who is the Shop Manager and previous head mechanic, was working with us along with another guy (can’t remember his name)

We really like Tony.  He knows his stuff, is professional and very nice.   Tony ended up talking to the guy at Air Force One, who was giving him things to check.   If was finally determined that the problem was with the computer box for the break-a-way.  It was telling the truck that it had become disconnected from the motorhome.  It was doing it’s job by applying the brakes.  This part was working fine the last time we towed, which was June 20th.   It could have become damaged when they removed the system.  Or it could just have been a fluke.   They replaced the part and then still had another problem.  That turned out to be the wire wasn’t making good contact…a mistake on their part.   It happens…

Then they started working on the lights.  We had no left turn signal or brake lights on the left side of the truck when it was attached to the motorhome.  They checked those out and everything appeared to be fine on the truck.  Finally after quite a bit of checking and trial and error, they determined that the little computer module on the motorhome that has something to do with controlling the lights.  It is there to protect the circuit in case of some sort of a short.  It was bad.   We agreed to replace it.   They wouldn’t charge us labor, just the $150 for the part.

During all this, we had the generator running, and I was getting in and out turning on the turn signals, lights, and pumping the brakes.  I must have gotten in and out of the motorhome a hundred times….or at least it felt like that.

After they got the module replaced it worked fine for about a minute, then we had nothing.  No lights or signals at all.   It turns out we blew a fuse.  We replaced the fuse but the signal was weak.   The fuse may have blown before the module replacement….it all got very confusing to me.  

At some point they decided the blue coiled cable that gives us power from the motor home to the truck was corroded.  It had been left plugged into the coach.  We could see it had some corrosion.  They cleaned it out the best they could but it still wasn’t working right.  Then they replaced the both ends. 

Somewhere along the line we ended up with the turn signals and brake lights working unless we turned on the head lights.  When the headlights were on we had no right turn signal.  

They fiddled with some other connections in the engine compartment.   By this time, I mostly stayed in the coach waiting for them to tell me to turn the signals off and on.  Most of that time was spent listening to the constant dinging from the engine telling me I had the key on.  It was driving me crazy.  I was getting tired.  I had a bad head ache and I was worried about how we were able to get “home.”  

The good news is that we got absolutely no rain, thunder or lightning there all day.  They were able to keep working and they never stopped until about 4:45 when it started to storm.  The problem wasn’t fixed and they didn’t know what else to do.  We quickly wrapped everything up before the lightning started.  They put the truck into a service bay, and we decided to bring the coach back to our place in Wesley Chapel.   Tony was going to call Lazy Days this morning to see if he could get some guidance.   I still feel confidant that he knows what he is doing, and we know that electronics can be tricky to diagnose.   The problem with the lights not working was on the end of the motorhome.

Our next problem was now it was 5:30, rush hour traffic and we had to drive home in a bad storm.

I pulled up my weather app on my Droid and saw that we would be heading into a very ugly looking storm as we crossed the bridge.  By the time I saw that, we were already on our way with no way to pull off.  I was a bit nervous, but it never got windy and actually didn’t rain that hard.

The trip across the bridge was sure different from this morning, huh?

courtney campbell causeway

Traffic wasn’t too bad until we got on the Tampa side.  Al freaked out when he saw what awaited him.

This is our approach to the Veterans Expressway.  It was bumper to bumper for miles and miles.

rush hour traffic

We did get to watch a few planes coming in for landing at Tampa International.

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plane

We got back to the campground, pulled into a pull through sight since it was raining.  We decided to go ahead and set up normally.  It was driving me crazy having the slides in.  As soon as we got the slides out, I thought to myself…Oh it’s good to be home.   Then I started to think…I’ve been home all day, why did just putting the slides out make me feel like I was home?  

We made pizza for dinner (vegan style) and were in bed early.  We were both exhausted.  It was a hard day.

This morning, we’re back to Clearwater for part three.   Wish us luck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Part Two

The saga continues:

Al called Air Force One tech center yesterday morning.  He gave Al a few   possible  causes to what  could be wrong, but nothing more.  They were the ones who recommended Rentz Trailers to us in the first place.

We called Joe, the owner of Rentz yesterday and explained that our lights weren’t working on the left side,  the cut the wiring in the old truck, and the problem with the supplemental braking system.

The Air Force One braking system is a great product.  It uses the air from the motorhome to activate the brakes in the towed vehicle.  It worked flawlessly until they removed it from the old truck and put it on the new one.

We explained how the brake pedal on the  truck  would activate on its own  after we   hooked up  the Air Force One in the motor home.  He offered to send a tow truck to get our truck since it wasn’t safely drivable.  We asked if a mechanic could come here to look at it and he said he’d check with the mechanic to see what he thought.  The mechanic wasn’t too keen on that idea.  He said if he got all the way over here and didn’t have the right tool, then he’d have a problem.  Okay.  We can understand that, so we agreed to have the truck towed.

We weren’t thrilled about having our brand new truck towed away, but we had no choice.

The guy arrived about 1:30 with a flat bed truck.

Off it went.

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Although we have driven the truck over to Rentz a few times, we have never driven the motorhome.  There were a few streets that we weren’t sure we would want to drive the motor home.   Low branches, tight turns, etc.   So Al humored me and said we could take a drive over there and just look at the roads again, and decide the best route to go with the motor home.   There are some bad traffic areas and some areas we wouldn’t want to go in the motor home.

We got over to Rentz and the owner Joe was outside.  He gave us a dirty/funny? look when we drove up.  He walked into the building without saying one word.    We asked him if our truck had gotten there yet.  He said it had and was in a service bay.  The mechanic had quickly looked over it, but didn’t think it was anything he did wrong.  

Okay….how quickly did he look it over?  He started   to get   very defensive.   He said they were slammed today and the mechanic would start on it first thing in the morning.   The other guy that we had been dealing with agreed to come outside and look at the wires on the old truck that they had cut.  They couldn’t figure out why those were cut, and didn’t offer any apology or help.   He said to bring it by another day and they could fix them.  Okay….we’re here now….we’re not bringing it back with the motorhome tomorrow, because we can’t tow it without the lights that you cut the wires to!   It was late in the day and no one could get to it right then.

We didn’t get good vibes, and we never once got an apology for our troubles.   I think at this point they feel it was something with the braking system and not something they did.

This morning we’re going to have to pack up the motorhome and take it over there.  They will have to connect everything together to see what is and what is not working.

We are not very happy with this place right now.   They got good references from others, but at this point we certainly would not recommend them.   There is no point in getting ugly with them.  We  will give them a chance to make things right.  I think they will.  Al is not so sure and is prepared for a battle.  I hope I am right.

Wish us luck.

 

new information:

I continue to document this procedure for our records….should we need to take this further.

Yesterday Joe, the owner of Rentz Trailers told us they would start on our truck first thing this morning.  The mechanic came in at 8am.

So at 9:30 this morning we called them.  Joe is out of the office until Tuesday.  Justin who is the guy we have dealt with the most is out today also.  Tony is the mechanic and he is working on some other vehicles that they have been having problems with (imagine that) and he has to run and get any parts that he needs since Justin is off.

So…..nothing has been done.  Jake (the owners son) assured me that Tony would be back shortly and that he would look at it right away.   I asked him to call me when Tony started on it.  He said he would.  (yeah right)

I explained that this is our home.  I explained that we have animals inside  and when we bring it there we will have to run the generator.  We don’t  to sit there half the day, then be told they couldn’t get to it.  We also have some strong storms coming our way and wanted to drive over there before they arrived. 

Now we wait.

Monday, August 20, 2012

For Our Records–Rentz

This post is mainly for our records.  We are having some issues with the work done on our new truck to make it ready to tow behind the motor home.

We brought our new Nissan truck to Rentz Trailer Hitches in Clearwater, Florida.

They were to do the following:

install Blue Ox Bracket, install wiring for lights to new truck,  install the new driveshaft disconnect, and  remove the Air Force One braking system from old truck and install it on new truck,  The cost to remove and re-install the Air Force one was $570,  for 6 hours of labor.  We thought it was too expensive, but other quotes were the same, or higher.

The first thing we did was to bring both trucks over.  They removed the Air Force One from the old truck in 45 minutes or less.   We left the new truck there for a few days.

After it was there a few days they called to tell us that the driveshaft disconnect was the wrong one.  We were a bit upset that it took 3 days to figure that out, but we let it go.

We decided to bring our truck home until the correct part came in.

When we went topick up the new truck, I  went to back it out of the parking space and immediately realized there was something very  wrong with the brakes.  It was like I had no brakes.  I almost couldn’t stop when I put it in reverse.  

They looked at it and realized the guy put a  vacuum hose on backwards, which resulted in us having no power brakes.  They had it corrected in a few minutes but a warning light stayed on on the dash.  After a short drive the warning light went off and we were good to go.  

I was a little uncomfortable for a while wondering if we were going to have brakes.  That was the first problem.

Saturday,  August 18, we went back over to drop the new truck off for the drive-shaft disconnect to be installed.  We waited a few hours until they called to let us know it was ready.

They told us they took it for a test drive and got up to 60 miles per hour.  All appeared to be working fine and they got no vibration.

Al had previously asked them to let us see the part once it was installed, so they put it back up on the lift for us.  They explained how everything worked.

The mechanic then drove the truck from the service bay to the front parking lot. He barely backed it out of the bay when we heard a loud noise coming from our truck.  It sounded to us at the time like he was cranking the engine and it wasn’t starting.  It was making a terrible noise.   We aren’t sure exactly what we heard but it sure sounded like it was making that noise when he was cranking the engine.   Problem number two.

So….they looked at it again and realized the drive-shaft had dis-engaged on it’s own.  This is how it is supposed to be when towing, not  how it is when you’re driving it.   Apparently the noise was coming from the driveshaft turning when the engine was running.  Did this cause any damage to the new driveshaft disconnect part?    They didn’t think so.  I have my doubts. 

There is a little red knob on the floor.   It is supposed to be pushed in all the way (engaged)  when you are driving.   It had come out (or never gotten pushed in all the way) about 1/4 inch and caused it to dis-engage.   Okay…I’m getting more nervous about the quality of their work.

So…… we have the truck home and we decide to check the lights and Air Force One braking system.

We hooked the truck up to the motor home and connected the lights and Air Force One. The first problem was the brake lights and turn signals on the left side weren’t working.   Al checked and we have power from the motorhome, so we know the problem lies with the truck wiring.  This is problem number three.

Then he checked the Air Force One.  It is supposed to apply the brakes in the truck when we apply the brakes in the motor home.  Problem number four.  The brake pedal in the truck went down, but wouldn’t come back up!    Can you imagine if we had been towing?  We would have been driving the motorhome pulling a truck that was constantly braking.   We would have been dragging the truck behind us.  I can think of a few problems…fire, burned brakes and tires, damaged motorhome.

There is a little red light on the back of the rear view mirror.  It lights up when you apply the brakes.  It was staying on.  The light sounds good on paper, but in reality, you can never see if when you’re looking from the back up camera monitor. 

Al disconnected the truck from the motorhome and started to back the truck up.  Every time he applied the truck brake,  the pedal stuck.   He had to manually  lift the brake pedal with his hand before he could move the truck.  Every time he braked, the brake pedal would to the floor.  He would lightly tap the brake and it would go all the way to the floor on its own.    I am not comfortable that it won’t happen again. 

We read the manual for the Air Force one and decided maybe we needed to give the system more time to build up air.  We reconnected brake line from the motor home to the truck.  Again, when I applied the brakes on the motor home, the brake in the truck went down but wouldn’t come back up.  We disconnected it and Al tried to back up.  He lightly touched the brakes to put the truck in reverse, then the brake pedal would go all the way to the floor.  He had a really hard time pulling the pedal up and every time he would tap the pedal it would go hard to the floor.  

So……  We decided to see if the lights were still working on the old truck.  We knew the Air Force One wouldn’t work since they had removed it, but we wanted to see if the brake lights and turn signals worked.  They didn’t, and here’s why.

 

2004 nissan cut wires from rentz

They cut the wires on the old truck.  Now, we can’t tow either vehicle!  Al thinks this is the wiring for the lights.  He can’t  understand why they needed to cut those wires.  We paid them to wire the new truck.   What were they thinking? 

So…..this morning we’re going to be making a few phone calls first thing.  

We paid them over $3000 for this work to be done,  and to put it mildly, we have been less than satisfied with their work.  So far, they have fixed everything and it seemed to be just the normal things that can happen, but that was before we discovered these additional problems.  Since we didn’t take the motor home over to them, they couldn’t check everything out.  They had assured us that they could do the work without the motor home being there and we took them at their work.

We had planned on leaving town tomorrow, but I think we knew in our hearts that it would likely not happen. 

So…..wish us luck.

The first thing Al is going to do is call the people at Air Force One.  I hope they can give us some help.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tennis Balls and Driveshaft Disconnect

Wesley Chapel, Florida

We finally have the new truck set up and ready to tow.   At least, we hope we do. 

We had a new baseplate installed, the Air Force one braking system removed from the old truck and reinstalled on the new one, the wiring done, and a driveshaft disconnect installed.  We will be able to tow the Nissan truck 4 wheels down by just disconnecting the driveshaft when we tow.  There is a red knob on the drivers side by the hump.  You pull it out to disconnect the driveshaft.  The truck will roll, but you cannot drive it like that.

We didn’t take the motorhome to the shop due to the logistics of getting it there.  We are hoping the lights and braking systems all work, once we hook up the truck to the motorhome.

We also don’t know if we will need a drop hitch since we’re not sure whether the height of the new truck and the motor home will line up.  We need to air up the motorhome and see exactly how high it rides. 

We may need one of these.  They come is different drop sizes.

Roadmaster 2 In. Hi Low Drop Receiver   6 000 lbs

We had all the work done at Rentz Trailers in Clearwater, Florida.  They do a lot of this type of work, so we felt confident they would do it all correctly.  They were nice enough to loan us one of their trucks so that we wouldn’t have to wait there for 5-6 hours.  

We hoped to run some errands and maybe do a little sight seeing. 

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.

 

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The normally afternoon thunderstorms came from the other direction and brought us morning showers.  

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We got some thunder that literally shook the ground. 

Here is our view while driving over a bridge.  Notice the heavy rain?  We’ve been offshore in our boat when we would see one of these squalls!   In fact on occasion, we’ve come up from a dive to one of these in the distance. 

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This is what a tropical shower looks like!  Fugly, huh?

We did manage to go to Sweet Tomatoes for lunch, dodging rain showers to enter and exit.  Al broke his vegan diet a little and had some chicken soup.   He only had the broth, not the big chicken pieces.

They finally called and said the truck was ready.  We looked at this expensive new driveshaft disconnect and learned how it worked.  It was a much larger part than I had pictured.

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The mechanic took it for a test drive and got up to 60 mph.  No vibration which was a good thing, because they say there can often be a small vibration at certain speeds.

They took it back off the lift and were driving it to the front parking lot when all of a sudden it started making a horrible loud noise.  It turns out the driveshaft  “un-engaged”  itself while he was driving.  We were a bit upset that it could happen.  After checking it out a little bit, they determined that the knob hadn’t gotten pushed in quite all the way and that it allowed it to slip out.  I was a bit nervous on the way home…frequently asking Al if his knob was still in.  Smile  

 

Today, we’re planning on attaching the new Blue Ox Tow bar to the motorhome and hopefully we can check the lights and brakes without having to move the motorhome.

Then we will have to remove the kayak racks from the old truck and put them on the new one.  We didn’t do this earlier because we weren’t sure everything else would be ready with the new truck.  We planned on taking the old truck if necessary.

If all goes well, we plan on heading out Tuesday. 

 

Now on to tennis balls.

Al and I have both had problems with sciatic nerve pain off and on over the years.   For those of you who have never had it, it’s a terrible pain in your butt when you are sitting.  It feels like someone grabbed a nerve and twists it.  It’s almost impossible to sit in one spot when you get that pain.  It’s usually in the right side.   It’s caused from a nerve that starts in your hip.  Many people have good results from getting a cortisone shot in the hip.  It helped Al for quite a while.  I have never gone to a doctor (I hate doctors) about my problem and it has come and gone over the years.

Lately it’s back.  I happened to read somewhere about using a tennis ball to relieve the pain.  You sit on a tennis ball and roll it around in the area where the pain is.   You know when you get the right spot.  I thought it was worth a try and I gotta tell you, it really seems to work.    Of course sitting on a tennis ball while you’re trying to drive is not the most comfortable thing, but it’s a whole lot better than the sciatic nerve pain.  Try it.  It works for me!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Change of Plans

Wesley Chapel, Florida

Nothing much happening around here, but we did see this guy who found a great way to spend an afternoon.  I’ll bet it was a bit cooler up there.

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This is called a Powered Para-motor.   If you look carefully you can see the person has something similar to  a fan with a motor strapped to his back.

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The motor is not very powerful and is quiet.   The motor is used to push them once they are airborne.

When you are taking off, you have to run to get the parachute filled with air.  Once the parachute is filled with air, the pilot starts to ascend.  The motor doesn’t help with the take-off, but once airborne, the motor pushes you around in the sky.  You have handles for steering.

Their motto is “low and slow”.   They like to go slow and low so that they can enjoy the sites.  If the motor dies they won’t come crashing down.  The main thing that causes them to crash are wind gusts, but for the most part they are pretty safe.

Al and I nearly bought two of these para-motors a few years ago.  They were about $7000 back then.   We would have needed two and it just wasn’t in the budget at that point.  We’ve always thought we’d love to do it.   Maybe someday we will.

We’ve been hanging out around here trying to stay out of the heat.  Sherry and David came over the other night and we had a nice visit with them.  Baxter really liked Sherry.

Here is a cute picture of Bax sleeping on the dash in his bed.  Do you think he may have outgrown it a little bit?

Baxter one year

I woke him up when I got the camera out and he was yawning here.

Baxter one year

He’s a big old boy.

 

We’re still doing well with our new vegan diet.  I’ve lost 7 pounds now.   I’m not sure where Al is. …8 or 9 I think.  I have never lost weight this painlessly before.  We eat as often as we like, and as much as we want.  We try to get in plenty of fruits and vegetables.

The easiest way for us is with smoothies.

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This one just had fruit in it, but usually we throw in a big batch of spinach to make it a bit healthier.  It changes the pretty pink color to green, but the taste isn’t much different.  They are surprisingly good.

Sherry told us about Tofu Crumbles the other night.  Al found these at a local Publix grocery store for $3.69. 

tofu scrambles

I had seem them before but was a little leery of them, until Sherry and David gave us their seal of approval.

Here is what they look like.  They seemed to grow once I took them out of the box.

tofu scrambles

I mixed up some dry taco seasoning, heated it up in the microwave and we had instant tacos.  No messy cooking of the ground beef.   I substituted the cheese with hummus, spinach for the lettuce (because it’s healthier) and we had wonderful healthy tacos.  We only ate 4 tacos so we probably have enough left for 6-7 more. 

 

The new driveshaft disconnect part arrived yesterday.  We’re taking the truck back Saturday to get that put in, and then the new truck will be ready to tow.

So, with that in mind, we’re going to tow it!  Yeah…we have plans to get out of dodge.  Mom has been doing better (knock on wood), so we are hoping we can get away for a while.

I think we’re going to head over to Vero Beach (east coast of Florida).   We can stay for $3 a night on our Thousand Trails membership and it’s close enough that we can get there quickly.  We’re ready for some beach time.  We may even stop in at Kissimmee Prairie on the way back.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hot, Humid, and Rainy

Wesley Chapel, Florida

We sure wish we could head north to Ashville, North Carolina.  They are having the kind of weather I’d like.  Low 80’s during the day and 60’s at night.   Or better yet.  Maine, like Jeanne and Eldy.

This is a typical Florida summer.   HOT.    This heat is the reasons the snowbirds head north!  It’s been in the 90’s every day and mid 70’s overnight.  The humidity is high and we get a thunderstorm just about every day.  It doesn’t last long but it can really come down hard when it does.     This is our normal subtropical summer pattern.    Historically, hurricane season starts heating up now and peaks in September.  We’re holding our breath on that! 

We haven’t done anything fun lately and we keep thinking we need to make a trip to the beach.  There are some beautiful beaches nearby, but for some reason, we haven’t gotten motivated.  Maybe a trip to Fort Desoto Beach, or Honeymoon Island?

There are some nice rivers we could kayak, but in this heat, we prefer salt water kayaking, where we can get out and get wet. 

I don’t know why we haven’t been motivated to do something fun.  Maybe it is the fact that we lived in this area so many years, and there is nothing new to explore.  Maybe, it’s the heat.   Whatever the reason, our life has been pretty boring, which makes it difficult to write a blog.

The main thing we’ve done lately is go food shopping.   We have discovered so many new things to eat, and food seems to occupy most of our waking moments!  

I just discovered a new website with some wonderful vegan recipes.   Some of you have expressed an interest in eating some vegan foods, but don’t know how or what.  Here are some easy and great looking recipes:  Happy Herbivore Recipes

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Almost a “toad”

Wesley Chapel, Florida

Our new truck is still not ready to be towed behind the motor home.  It appears the drive-shaft disconnect part  did not fit, so we will have to wait for another one to be sent.

It’s no big deal, except for the fact that we had to drive 40 miles over to Clearwater to pick the truck up.  We didn’t want to leave it there for who knows how long.    They did get the Air Force One braking system, and the tow bracket installed, as well as all the wiring done.  The only thing left to do is the driveshaft disconnect.

 

We are almost at the end of week number three of our new vegan lifestyle.    We have not missed meat or dairy products, and we are having no cravings because we can pretty much eat/graze all day long. 

We’ve been discovering more and more delicious foods that not only can we eat, but that we like to eat.  Who knew there was so much great food out there that didn’t have meat or dairy?  You get stuck in a rut of eating the same things over and over and there is so much variety out there if you just take the time to look.

 

Here are a few of our favorite new finds.

Blendtec Blender

We bit the bullet and bought a super high power  Blendtec blender .   It was not cheap,  at $360,  but we felt it would help us to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables.   They had a demo day at Sam’s club so we drove over to look at it in person.  We could have gotten it on Amazon for $369, but I wanted  to actually see it before we paid that much money.

There are basically two top blenders that have the power needed to do what we need it to do.  The Blendtec and the Vitamix.

There are numerous You Tube videos comparing the VitaMix blender to the Blendtec blender.

Which is better?   

Both have have big motors (although the motor in the  Blendtec is larger) , both are extremely powerful and both have a 7 year warranty.  Both are expensive.

The following is a video comparing the two blenders.  They both did a great job.

The reason we decided against the VitaMix,  was it’s size.   It’s over 20 inches tall, and wouldn’t fit under my kitchen cabinet.  I plan on keeping it on the counter top so that I’ll use it often.  The base is a lot larger and heavier too. Even though the Blentec is smaller and lighter weight, it gets the job done as well as the VitaMix.   For us, smaller is always better since we live  in a RV.    We also like that it has preprogrammed buttons for most uses.  If you want to make ice cream, you hit the ice cream button, soup, the soup button, or smoothie’s the smoothie button.  There are quite a few different buttons for whatever you want to make, plus a pulse button, where you can raise or lower the speed of the blades. 

We made a great soup in the Blendtec.  It’s so powerful that the friction actually heats things up if you blend it long enough (90 whole seconds).  So I made a quick and easy soup with:  tomatoes, onion, cilantro, taco seasoning mix, avocado, garlic, and jalapeno.  You hit the “soup” button, it does it’s thing automatically,  and when it stops,  you throw in a handful of corn chips, hit pulse and it chops the corn chips up into the hot soup.  Yummy!   The soup is thick, spicy and delicious.  When you’re done, you put a little water and a drop of dish soap into the blender, hit pulse a few times and it washes itself!

I also tried a blended drink last night for happy hour.   I’m happy to report that it makes a great frozen mixed drink too!

I’ve gotten quite a few comments from people who are either already on a vegetarian/vegan diet, or who have thought about it.  Some of you said you were interested in changing your diet, but didn’t know how, or what to eat.

Here are a few of our favorite new food discoveries.  It’s really not too hard, if you just take a little time to discover all the wonderful plant based food that is out there.

 

Hummus is our new best friend.

Yummy.  It’s made with garbanzo/chick peas.  Doesn’t sound good, does it?

hummus

Trust me, it’s thick, creamy and delicious.  There are many flavors.  We like the spicy varieties.   We spread it on tortilla shells, for wraps, or bread or pita’s for sandwiches.  It’s also good as a dip for chips or veggies.  You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it.  It does have olive oil in it and many vegans try to stay away from oils.  We don’t.  We figure we’re doing very well the way we are right now.  Oils, salt and liquor are not taboo for us!

We like pizza but sometimes don’t want to take the time to make a home made pizza crust.  I don’t like the looks of any that I’ve seen in the stores.  We can no longer get the frozen pizzas at the grocery store, which were a staple in our old life.

We discovered these  brown rice tortilla shells in store demo.   We found them in the freezer section.  They are delicious as a pizza crust.  We throw one in the Nu-Wave for 5 minutes to crisp it up, then toss on the pizza ingredients and cook another 5 minutes of so.  So GOOD!

 

brown rice tortillas

 

One of the ingredients we put on our pizza is this “cheese”.

daiya mozzarella shreds

It is delicious and comes out gooey and creamy on your pizza.    We had been using an almond milk “cheese” until we tried this at the demo.  This is much better, although it looks ugly in the package.

Another thing we love are lentils.

lentils

I made tacos with them.  I just added some dry taco seasoning to some cooked lentils.  I put them on taco shells with lettuce/spinach and some hummus.  VERY good!

And finally….my cute kitten picture of the day.

Baxter

I guess Mr. Baxter is now a year old, so maybe he’s not a kitten anymore!