Rivers Edge II

Rivers Edge II

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Technology

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 77, low 51)

When we were in the beginning stages of thinking about a fulltime Rv life, I remember being told about this new fangled gadget that hooked to your computer and gave you internet. An air card.  What?   How could that be?    It sounded amazing, I was intrigued, and went right out and got one!  How great it felt to be able to have internet wherever I went.

Of course things have changed and improved over the years.  We can now live in our Rv’s and have all the comforts we used to  have in our sticks and bricks homes.  Well, I don’t have a garbage disposal or dishwasher, but I’m sure they’re available.  I don’t miss either of them.

With the power of the internet, we connect with each other and are able to learn and share with each other.  How different would our Rv’ing  lives be without internet?

I remember sometime back in the early 1970’s, someone told me about a “word processor”.  Boy, that concept was hard to comprehend.  How could you process words without a typewriter?  

I love being connected to the world through my laptop and Smart phone. 

The GPS system was made for people like me who  are “directionally challenged.” 

We love our Directv and Tivo.  No commercials are watched in this house….well maybe during Super bowl!

What made got me thinking about technology is something I just tried that’s available from our bank.  It’s not exactly new, but it’s the first time I’ve used it.  USAA bank has offered this service for years, but I never tried it.  I thought you had to use a scanner.  

You can take a photo of a check you want to deposit, and send the image to your bank via your Smart phone!   It’s quite amazing.  I tried it today for the first time.

I simply had to open up my bank account app and log on. I then selected “deposits” and it guided me the rest of the way.  I had to take a picture of the front and back of the check, select which account I wanted it deposited to, and then key in the amount.   It never told me what to do with the checks afterwards though.  You can be sure I’ll hang on to them for a while!  Amazing!

So what kind of new technology do you think we’ll have in the next 5 years?  10 years?   I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the latest technology.  I don’t seem to have the patience to learn something new like I used to.  Thanks to Rick for all of his tutorials and for keeping us informed of all the latest things.  For instance, did you know Outlook was back?  Rick did!  I”m sure Sherry will be glad to hear about that!

Speaking about technology.  Do  you remember me telling me about the gadgets we picked up at the Rv show?  The Grip stic?

They certainly aren’t high tech, but boy do I wish I had invented them!

Well, the longer we have them, the more we use them and I just wanted to share.   I’ve never seen them for sale anywhere other than the Rv show, but I imagine they’ll be on one of those “As seen on Tv” shows before too long.

They are GREAT for closing bags.  I think we got about 20 in the package we bought and they are currently all in use except for about 3 or 4 of them.

This is what they look like.

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You fold the bag over and insert them into the fold.

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Once they’re sealed, they won’t come open.  You can easily seal the air out.

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This particular bag of blueberries has it’s own zip lock closing, but you know how those are.  They don’t stay closed and you have blueberries all over the freezer.  With the Grip Sticks, they cannot come undone until you slide it off.

We use them for chips, frozen goods, cheese, and just about everything else.

 

We still haven’t installed our Sewer Solution hose that we bought from the Rv show.  I’ll review it once we try it. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remembering our Friends

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high  80, low 54)

 

Well, it seems our cold front has ended and we’ll be turning the heat off and the a/c back on later today. 

I got up this morning and was online, reading blogs and checking out the news, when I came across a very sad story.

A British couple was on a round the world cycling trip.  They were 34 years old and  left Britain in July 2011.  They had cycled through Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China. Here is a link to an article about them.

"They never talked about the trip as having a destination or a deadline or a time scale," said Ben Thompson, Mary's brother. "They didn't have firm plans, they had rough ideas. They just loved people. They were always dragging people to the campfire to share a story and a beer and some food."

Sadly, they were struck by a pickup in Bangkok, Thailand.  Both were killed.

They were living their dream and they were struck down and killed by a careless driver.  It’s reported the driver of the truck reached down to pick something up from the floor and struck them.

They were living the life they had dreamed of living, like many of us in the Rv community.

Very tragic and very sad.

It reminded me of our blogger friends Bruce and Margie, who were also tragically killed, back in October, 2010.  They were walking when they were struck and killed by a car.  I will never forget the day that I heard about Bruce and Margie.  Like many bloggers, we had never met them personally, but we felt we knew them because of the blog.

It struck us all very hard, and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of them.

For those of you who didn’t know Bruce and Margie, I put a link above for their blog, on the day we found out the news.  I warn you, it’s a tear jerker.  If you read further back, you will see what a wonderful couple they were.

In reading a little about the British couple who were killed, it reminded me of Bruce and Margie and how much they both were enjoying their lives.

It’s a good reminder for us all.  First, watch out for traffic, and secondly, live each day to the fullest.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Does Google Have Ears Too?

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 69, low 47)

Two days of cold weather arrived here in the Tampa area.  We don’t really mind a little colder weather, as long as it doesn’t get too cold for our heat pump to run.  So….we’re requesting temps no lower than about 37.  Okay?

Last night got down to 32, so we had to run the noisy propane furnace.

The good news, is that it looks like a warming trend will bring us back to more normal temps.

 

Regarding our warranty work and stay at Lazy Days.  I had a question as to the company that provided our extended warranty.   It was written through Go Rving Network and the company is Allegiance.   This was the first time we’d used them and they handled the claim promptly and fairly.  

We bought the “comprehensive” coverage in which everything is covered that isn’t listed on the exclusions

The exclusions normally are mostly wear and tear items, such as  flooring, trim, moldings, shocks, batteries, wiper blades, hoses, rust or corrosion, brakes, awnings, slide gaskets and seals and those types of things.   It’s pretty much common sense.  There are cheaper policies, but we wanted an all-inclusive one.  We paid dearly for it and so far, we’ve paid more in than we’ve gotten back.  I hope it stays that way!

Our policy is written in easy to read language.  I encourage everyone to take a look at their policy and see what their exclusions are.  I read our policy before we purchased it.

 

So….yesterday, Al was reading the paper and asked if we needed a coupon for Bertolli pasta sauce. I said no. 

A very short time later, I happened to look at my blog and there was an add for Bertolli pasta sauce

Frequently, I look online for something and the next thing I know, there is an add on my blog for it.   I  mention “Lazy Days” in the blog and then there is an add for them.  I understand that, but when Al speaks to me and then the next thing I know is that same item shows an add in my blog????   Strange!  

Maybe Google is really everywhere and all-knowing.   I know they have “eyes”, but do they have “ears” too?

My blog post titled Sex on the Prairie, really brought out the anonymous commenter's too!!

 

We didn’t make it back to Lazy Days yesterday to try and catch Bobby Freeman.   We really wanted to but Al was having a bad bout with his diverticulitis and we felt he needed to stay home and rest.   Normally, if he starts to get a flare up, he drinks some Aloe Vera and papaya juice and it stops it before it gets too bad.  This time, it didn’t work.  We feel it was mostly related to our recent diet.  We haven’t been having our green smoothies every day, and while at Lazy Days, we ate at the cafe and strayed from vegan diet.   Al paid the price….didn’t bother me.  :)    We learned our lesson!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sprung From Lazy Days

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 56, low 30)

 

Brrrrr, it’s cold in Florida right now!    Fortunately, we should have only one more night of really cold temperatures, then back up to normal.

We were “sprung” from Lazy Days yesterday morning.  The extended warranty was prompt and covered the faulty fluorescent lights, the inverter remote panel, and the step cover.  I believe having the work done at Lazy Days may have been helpful with the extended warranty They are a big organization and know how to write up the warranty requests.  We hadn’t wanted to go back to Lazy Days, because we know all too well that once you get checked into “Hotel Lazy Days, you can never escape!       As it turned out, we were very happy we went there for our repairs.  

We’re happy to have gotten the other maintenance items done as well.  I got a comment asking on the cost of the coolant flush.  For our diesel motor home, it was $199. The cost to repack the wheel bearings was $266,  and the lube was $198.  We think the prices were about normal, but we didn’t check around.  The convenience of having it done while we were there was most important. 

The repairs were actually finished Friday afternoon, but we chose to stay in one more night, to avoid the Tampa Friday afternoon traffic.   As usual, Lazy Days accommodated our request.

We took advantage of the extra time and got in a few more soaks in the wonderful hot tub.

We got up very early Saturday morning, headed over to the hot tub at the campground, and enjoyed a cup of coffee while having a nice hot soak.  We’ll sure miss that!  Evening happy hour and morning coffee in the hot tub!

After a while a woman named Cindy joined us and told us of an amazing day she had on Friday, over at the campground.

It seems that a guy staying in the campground put on an impromptu show.  His name is Bobby Freeman. He was there for service on his bus and was not being paid to put on a show.

He told Cindy he wrote a lot of songs for Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.

He has a yellow Cadillac that he tows in a trailer behind his bus, that’s set up as a sound system. I believe she said he had three piano’s.   Cindy said he would talk awhile, telling jokes and stories, then would sing and dance.  She said it was the best show she’s ever seen and she’s been to Vegas many times!  

Apparently, he has been putting on these little shows at Lazy Days for the past few days and has been drawing a regular crowd.   We may go over there today and see if he’s performing. 

We intended to bring the motor home back to our campground, then go back and see if we could catch a show.  Unfortunately, Al wasn’t feeling well, so we decided to skip it.  We may go back today.

It’s nice to be back “home.”  While at Lazy Days, we were living in the unsettled mode, and didn’t completely “unpack” since we didn’t know how long we would be in service.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Making Lemonade

 

Seffner Florida, (high 71, low 52)

We are still at Lazy Days, camped out in one of the 300+ service bays, affectionately known as “Bay View” or the “Bays Inn.”   Or some might call it “hell.”

When we decided to come here, we had two problems.  The most urgent was the burning smell coming from the rear of  the coach.  The second was the clicking noises coming from the inside remote panel for the inverter.  

As I explained in the last blog, the burning smell was coming from a burned wire in one of the overhead fluorescent lights.  

The clicking noise from the inverter panel went away and frankly once the burning smell was corrected we weren’t too worried about it and wondered if it was just some kind of fluke.

While we were here, we decided to have some maintenance work done.   We ended up having the coolant changed and flushed, the brakes checked, a lube job and the wheel bearings repacked.   All expensive on a big rig like this, but all important.

We planned on leaving Thursday and since the inverter panel hadn’t made any more noise, we thought we were good to go.  Just a fluke, right?

Wrong………..

Early Thursday morning someone’s car alarm went off about 4 am.  Of course we jumped up to make sure it wasn’t ours and that’s when we heard the familiar clicking noise coming from the inverter readout panel.

Then it started reading “equalizing” and the voltage was rising rapidly.  

The first thing in the morning, we grabbed our service tech Rob. This time, he was able see and hear what it was doing. He wondered if it was a bad inverter, or a bad panel.  He saw first hand the rise in voltage as it went into equalizing mode.  He confirmed voltage over 15 16 is not good and hard on circuit boards on appliances and such.

He happened to have a spare panel matching ours and plugged it in and viola…..the clicking stopped.  He put ours back, the clicking started.  He did that a few times and concluded we had a bad panel. 

What luck for us that he happened to have pulled one of these panels, for his own use, from a previous repair.  It helped diagnose our problem instead of just buying the part and hoping for the best.

The bad news is that Lazy Days did  not have a brand new part on hand and it will have to be ordered. 

The good news is it’s being sent overnight and should be here today. 

The bad news is the part alone is almost $400. 

The good news is that we have an extended warranty with a $100 deductible.   We paid good money for the policy and this is our first chance to see what kind of service we will get from them.  I’ve read the policy and exclusions, and I believe this should be covered.  Let’s see how long it takes them to respond.

Since our policy covers multiple repairs under one deductible, we decided to get everything else we could find fixed for the single deductible.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, the only thing we could find that may be covered is the automatic step cover.  Rob fixed it in about 5 minutes. 

So, it’s Friday and here we sit, waiting for the part and waiting for the go ahead/denial from the warranty company.  The last extended warranty claim we filed on our other motorhome, was initially denied.  Being the good little ex-claim adjuster that I am, I had read the policy, understood what exactly was wrong, and was ready for them when they initially denied the claim.  After having it denied 3 separate times, they ended up paying our claim. It was a broken bolt inside the generator.  The policy clearly said outside bolts were not covered.  We went round and round over the inside verses outside issue, and I won and it saved us over $1500.   Moral of the story is, if you have a warranty claim, read your policy, especially the exclusions and know exactly what the problem is.  If they deny it and you feel you have a valid claim, ask them to review it. Make them explain exactly why they are denying it.  Don’t trust the shop to fight for you, do it yourself.

So, what have we been doing while camped here at Camp Bayview?   When Rob’s working on the coach, we have to be out.   I’ve had to put the kitties in cages during the day and of course that means they can’t get to the kitty pan.  Not good for them and I think that caused Chatty to get sick the other night.  It’s hard on them and it’s hard on us.

The good news is they have a nice customer waiting room, with Tv’s, comfy couches, free coffee, free WiFi, and plugs to charge your stuff.

The bad  news is just before we came here, Al was trying to fix a shower leak and removed the old caulk.  So, we have no shower to use while we’re here. 

The good news is that Lazy Days Campground is next door and has showers which we have been able to use. 

Our site in Bayview has full hook-ups…  water, sewer, electricity, but we’re under cover, so we couldn’t raise our satellite dish, and we missed Survivor and Nashville!  bad news.

So, what did we do for Valentines day?   Dinner, drinks, movie, flowers?    No….we already got our presents.  Al got a Lube Job and I got wheel bearings repacked!  Romantic, huh?

Last night, it was cool (about 60 degrees) and raining.  We decided to go over to the campground and have a nice soak in the hot tub, if it wasn’t too crowded.  We went over there and found no one in either the pool of the hot tub!  Perfect!   The hot tub was nice and warm so the cold rain didn’t bother us at all!  It felt so good!  That  was our Valentines celebration.  

So, while we’re forced to be here, we are dealing with it as best we can and trying to make lemonade!

Hopefully, we’ll get out of here today, but we’re not holding our breath.  There are certainly worse places to be!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fire in the Hole

 

Seffner, Florida

Yesterday morning, I was busy minding my own business, working on the computer and trying to plan the rest of my day.  The morning was slipping by and I needed to get out of my recliner and away from the internet.

I had clothes drying in the dryer.

All of a sudden, I heard a clicking noise which sounded similar to the sound the metal racks in the convection oven make when we’re traveling or the dryer is running.   I got up to investigate and couldn’t quite locate the source of the sound, but then it quit.  It was coming from the right front of the coach.

Shortly after that I got up to check my clothes in the dryer and noticed a burning smell.

Uh Oh!   That got my attention.   This smell was coming from the rear of the coach, near the dryer so I thought that was the problem.  I turned the dryer off, then went all over the coach on a sniff and touch tour.  Did this smell?  Is this hot?  One of the first things I checked was the outside refrigerator vent.  All seemed well there.

Then the next thing I noticed was the clicking noise had started up again.  Occasionally I noticed a very, very faint beep.

Did I mention Al was working and not at home?

I finally pinpointed the source of the clicking.  It was coming from the little box over the front door.  It’s connected to the inverter and gives us a readout of the battery volts. 

I went outside and checked the inverter to see if it was burning/hot/making an unusual noise.  It wasn’t.  I called Al and made sure he was going to worry right along with me.

In the meantime, the burning was still strong in the rear of the coach by the dryer.

The clicking noise continued and I pushed a few buttons.  Of course I didn’t know what I was pushing.

Al suggested I call the Lazy Days Service Center help line.  I spoke to Greg and tried to explain it all to him.  He had me flip the circuit breaker to the inverter and disconnect the remote control line (looks like a phone connection) on the outside inverter.

That stopped the clicking of course, but Greg said in about 4 hours I would not have enough batteries to run  the air conditioning.   It was pretty warm yesterday and our site had no trees, so that wasn’t going to work.

Greg recommended someone look at the coach because the inverter inside panel was now reading “equalizing”.   I don’t know why that happened. Was it the buttons I pushed?  What happened?  I normally don’t push buttons I don’t know about, but this time I did.  

I called a few mobile Rv techs and of course only got voice mail.

We decided to bring the coach to Lazy Days for an emergency appointment.  They are always very busy this time of the year, but they squeezed us in.  Thanks Lazy Days!

Of course we weren’t planning on traveling yesterday, so it was a hassle packing up in a hurry and getting to Lazy Days before they techs went home for the evening.

The tech restarted the inverter and it appeared to be running fine.  It was back to the normal “float charging” like normal, and not clicking.  We don’t know what that was all about.

Rob, the tech at Lazy Days,was really good at listening to what I told him and checking the most obvious sources for the burning smell.  By the time we got to Lazy Days, the smell had pretty much dissipated.  He was at a loss as to where the burning smell came from, but I insisted I smelled something burning, and I was not imagining it.  I was not going to rest until we figured it out.

Thankfully, we happened to notice one of the rear fluorescent lights was burned out.  Then I remembered it had been working that morning because I remembered noticing it flickering like they do when a bulb is ready to blow.   Rob pulled the cover, and noticed a wire had burned!

There was our burning smell.  I guess when it burned, it shorted the light out.   We were relieved we discovered the source of the smell.  He changed the fixture out.  That’s likely to be one expensive light fixture!  Rob says this is normal for these lights as they get older.  Normal to have a wire short out?   We have 7 of these lights throughout the coach and the others will be changed out before we use them again!

So……the clicking noise still hasn’t come back.  It’s hard to diagnose a problem, when you can’t find it.  Maybe it was a fluke.  I think I’ll go online and see if I can fine out if anyone else has had this problem.  Any ideas??

While we’re here, we decided to see if they could do some maintenance work we’ve been needing.  Fortunately, they could fit us in while we’re here.  We’re having the engine coolant changed, a lube job, wheel bearings repacked and the brakes checked.

We spent the night in one of the service bays last night.  For those  of  you that haven’t experienced the joy of of camping in a service bay at Camp Lazy Days, you don’t know what you’re missing!

The good thing about being here is that we have access to the campground and facilities.   We had dinner at their poolside restaurant and then enjoyed the wonderful hot tub!

Al left me alone here and is working on some pest control accounts, so I have to entertain myself in their large waiting room.  Fortunately, I have a comfy couch, and free internet. The kitties are in their cages.  I feel bad for them and of course I worry.

The joys of living in your Rv!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Product Reviews

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 82, low 59)

We are adjusting to being back in a big city after being away for two weeks.  Man….the Tampa traffic is horrible.  The drivers are aggressive and always in a hurry.

Unlike the traffic on the prairie.

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We have been going to our wonderful gym.  There are cheaper ones around, but we really love the Tv’s on the bikes and treadmills, the hot pool, and the sauna.  I find myself getting interested in a Tv show and not realizing how long I’m the treadmill or bike.  It sure helps keep from getting bored.  Of course the best part is the wonderful warm pool.  It’s not quite as warm as a hot tub, but it’s pretty  close!

 

Unfortunately, it’s back to reality this week.  Al has some pest control accounts to do this week, and I have paperwork, and cleaning to do.

We brought back a LOT of prairie dust/sand/dirt with us and now it’s time to get rid of it.

Remember how dirty our truck was?

 

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After I took this picture, more dust accumulated on the back window to a point where you almost couldn’t see the “wash me” print.

The first thing we did was head to a car wash for the truck.

Fortunately, the coach wasn't nearly as dirty since it didn’t run up and down the prairie road several times a day.  However, we did feel it was probably too dirty to use The Solution this time.  There are a few people here that will come to your site and wash it for $100 or so.    Our main concern with using them was that we’d end up with swirls in the clear coat.  Our coach is dark so they really show up.  We have a few already from before we bought it, and we didn’t want any more swirls.

So, I decided to give The Solution a try on some of the least dirty places.  It did a good job and I didn’t see any swirls.  I then tried some of the dirtier places towards the bottom.  I used a more product than normal to really wet the coach and it did a great job. I change the microfiber towels often once they get dirt accumulating on them so as not to grind the dirt back into the painted surfaces.   It worked as well on the really dirty places.  The dirt is gone,there are no swirls and it left a really nice smooth surface and a good shine.

Cool!   I don’t think we’ll be paying any to wash the coach since we have The Solution.

So, it passed the test for normal dirt and now passed the test for prairie dirt as well!

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If you haven’t already tried The Solution, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It works great on clear coat finishes, windows, chrome.  It washes and shines all at once, and does a great job removing bugs.  It’s quick and easy too.

No, I don’t work for them, do not get a commission, just like to pass on a good product.

I just noticed they have an internet special where you can get 4 gallons for the price of 3.  They are normally $40 a gallon, and with this, you get a nice savings.  

I just ordered 4 gallons and am splitting with a neighbor.

 

So, now on to my next product review.

I posted a while back that we bought pedometers that were recommended by a few other people.

Omron Pedometer at Amazon

I’m happy to say they have passed the test and we really like them.   We ended up ordering ours from Walmart, because Amazon couldn’t quite get it straight that I have a separate mailing and billing address.  I don’t think I’ve still gotten it straightened out with them.  I keep telling them my shipping and mailing address (for debit card purposes) and they end up switching the two around.  It must be me, but I gave up and ordered through Walmart.

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We’ve had pedometers before where you have to reset them every day and it’s usually a bit of a hassle.  With these, once you set them up the first time, they automatically start over each day and keep a running 7 day list going.   They measure the number of steps…both regular and aerobic, calories burned, and miles walked.  It’s really helping us to get motivated.  We want to get in at least the recommended 10,000 steps per day.

It’s easy on the prairie, it’s easy when we go to the gym, but not so easy staying home cleaning, and doing laundry..

 

That’s all the products I’m recommending today.

How about you, do you have anything you really like???

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Little More Prairie Excitement

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 79, low 55)

Reluctantly, we left the prairie Friday day morning.  We arrived safely back in the Tampa area at our home base.  I certainly won’t miss the sand and dirt from the prairie, but my view is certainly not as nice.  We already miss the beautiful Live Oaks keeping us nice and cool throughout the day.  There is definitely something about that prairie that draws people there.  We hope to go back in May.

This guy moved into the site next to us the day before we left.  I would have loved to look through his telescope, but we didn’t want to invite ourselves!

Can you believe the size of this telescope?

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A few mornings ago, we were walking the trail and noticed a group of birders being led by the staff biologist, Paul.  We found out that we had just missed a pretty interesting site.

Remember the Caracaras we saw saw sharing a meal, then mating?

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I’m sure it was the same two, and I believe on the same tree branch that they both shared a snake.  The birders were lucky enough to watch them completely strip a snake and then discard the carcass.  Paul retrieved the carcass and showed everyone how well they cleaned the skeleton.

Here is a photo of the snake carcass.

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Sorry if this is a bit too graphic for some, but I thought it was interesting how they managed to get all the meat off the snake.  I don’t know why they didn’t eat the head.  Maybe because of the venom?  Paul told them it was a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin.

We were just a few minutes too late to have gotten to watch this!

The night before, on our nightly sunset ride along the park road, we came across four snakes.  Here is Al jumping up and down, trying to scare the snake out of the road.

 

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A few minutes later, we saw two more snakes.  We stopped to try to scare then out of the road, and one ran under the truck tire.

We didn’t want to drive over it, and it was getting dark.  Al didn’t have anything except a bungee cord to scare it away. While we were trying to figure out how to move the snake, a park ranger came along.  He had a snake hook and quickly removed both snakes from the road.  He thanked us for not running over the snakes.

The ranger told us this was a Brown Banded Water Snake. Not poisonous.

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We saw more Red Shouldered Hawks there, then we have anywhere else. They always posed so nicely.

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Notice how they hang onto the branches?

 

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We saw such amazing wildlife.  This next photo was taken on of our morning hikes. These were just a small part of a huge flock of White Ibis. 

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I guess that’s enough prairie photos for now. 

On our way home we came across an interesting plant.  This only shows a small portion of the trailers filled with oranges. There were hundreds of them!  Fresh Florida orange juice on the way to you!

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They won’t be coming to me though.  I can’t drink the orange juice you buy in the store.  Even if they say it’s fresh squeezed, it doesn’t taste right to me.  I guess it’s because of too many years of having our own citrus trees and squeezing our own.

So, we’re off the prairie, back in civilization, back to traffic, and back to the gym.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Sex on the Prairie…part two

 

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee, Florida

Tuesday, we decided to head out early for a hike.  Of course, before the hike, we had our sunrise drive along the road. That gives us a chance to wake up, drink some coffee, and for the temperature to warm up a bit.

We went to the trail along the pond area where the gators hang out.

It was a beautiful hike.  Clear blue skies, and lots of bird activity. 

If you look carefully on this Eastern Meadowlark, you can even see his little tongue.  His mouth is open because he is singing.  They sing ALL the time.

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Although it was bright and sunny, you could still see a trace of the moon.

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This particular trail leads you beside some little ponds.  It’s lined with trees, and is a good place to spot wildlife.

You always see gators, herons and Egrets.

We kept coming upon a bunch of birds that obviously were not happy to see us.  They would storm off and would make a squawking sound that sounded kind of like a dog.

We kept trying to get a better look at them.  Al with his binoculars and me with my camera, but they kept flying off.

I finally was able to get a not very good picture of one of them.   I believe it is some sort of Tern.  This was the best picture I could get, and I had to work for this one.

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We saw lots of other small birds, most of them were Palm Warblers.

On the way back, we came across these two gators sunning themselves right by our trail.  They are usually in the water and further away from the trail. Al wasn’t concerned, but I’d prefer not have to walk by a gator facing right at me, if I can avoid it.

Not to fear, soon a white truck came by and we knew if we waited for him, he would scare the gators back into the water. 

Sure enough, at the sight of the truck, they splashed back into the water, allowing us to pass.  They kept their eyes on us though.   Vehicles are not allowed on this trail, however I believe these guys were allowed since it leads to their property.  My hero’s!

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We had such a nice walk in the morning, we decided to go back to the same trail before sunset. 

After we had finished our hike and were back at the parking lot, we kept hearing loud squawking noises and rustling of the palm trees.  We were curious as to what was making this sound, as we had never heard it before.

I searched the palms with my camera and saw a Caracara feeding on something.

They were a LONG way away and it was getting towards dusk, so my pictures were blurry.

I kept my camera pointed up and pretty soon I saw another Caracara, and one appeared to be sharing the food with the other.

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I didn’t capture the picture of that unfortunately, but before I knew it, this is what I saw.

(sorry for the bad picture…it was the best I could do)

 

Yep…..more sex on the prairie!

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I am upset these pictures were blurry, but at least I captured something.

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Bad pictures or not, this was still a very exciting moment for me.  Unfortunately, Al hadn’t quite found them in his binoculars, so he didn’t see this amazing sight!   How lucky was I to have caught this?

It was another great day on the prairie!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Fire…Or What a Way to Ruin a Hike

 

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee Florida (high 78, low 49)

We didn’t get out hiking yesterday until nearly 11 am.  We decided to go back to a trail just off the main road that leads a couple directions, including back to the campground.

It was a pretty day, warm with a gentle breeze.

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It was too late in the morning, and even the Meadowlarks were hiding.  We saw very little wildlife and it was getting pretty boring.  We decided to continue for a while longer, and see if we could find anything.

We had gone about a mile and a half when Al noticed a fire off in the distance.  Of course when we notice fire, we immediately check to make sure it’s not coming from the direction of the motor home.

This time it was.

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At first this fire had a lot of thick black smoke.  The kind you might see if an Rv was burning?

I have been particularly nervous about fires in Rv’s lately since I have heard of FOUR  the past month of so.  There was one at a Bluegrass festival that we passed on the way here.

These Rv refrigerators have a pretty good history of catching fire.  I read somewhere Norcolds are at about a  2% failure rate.  That’s way too high in my opinion.   We decided to order an automatic fire extinguisher that fits in the outside refrigerator compartment. It’s heat activated.  In fact, we decided for good measure, we’d  order two!   We figure, it could be the best money we ever pay for “insurance.”

But….the fire extinguishers have not arrived yet and the more we looked at the heavy smoke, the more nervous we  became.  It looked very much like it was right in the direction of our campground.  Al even got a bit nervous, which in turn made me really nervous. We knew if it was coming from a campground it was very probably an Rv burning. 

It really  looked like it was coming from the campground.

We decided to head back and see where the fire was.

We walked faster and and faster, and rushed back as quickly as we could.

As we got nearer the main road, we realized the fire was not at the campground, and was either on the far reaches of the prairie, or some nearby land.  As it turned out, it was a prescribed/controlled burn on a neighboring property. 

Phew….   We felt better, but are even more anxious to get our new fire extinguishers installed. 

What a way to ruin a crappy hike!

We went back to our nice “unburned” motor home, ate lunch, started some soup, and took a short nap.

After naptime, we took a drive over to the showers and do a load of laundry.    We saw the same group of deer we’d seen the night before, only this time we saw “Big Daddy.”

You can sure tell they don’t allow hunting here.  I don’t know what happened to his right ear.  It’s floppy.

 

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Later on, before sunset, we walked over to the camping area that’s reserved for the star gazers.  We talked to a nice man who  staying there. He had a huge telescope.  He had it plugged it, connected to a computer and camera and was getting ready for darkness.  He told us a lot about the telescope and the stars…most of which I sadly cannot remember. 

We walked until it got too wet and turned around and headed home for happy hour and a marshmallow roasted on the campfire.

 

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Is it just me, or have they done something different with marshmallows?  They didn’t taste as good as they used to.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Prairie Dust

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park,  Okeechobee, Florida  (high 74, low 46)

 

As we’re winding down our stay on the prairie, we’re  trying to hike some trails we haven’t done before.  This preserve is so large, you have to drive to the hiking trails, or be worn out before you get there! We drove the truck about 5 miles up to the East Military Trail.

On the way to trail, I was able to capture an unusual picture of a Caracara in a tree. 

Crested Caracara in tree

We only did about 3 miles on the trail.  It was a beautiful day but we didn’t see much of interest, so we didn’t go all the way.

These palm trees are very common on the prairie.

palms on prairie

We saw several varieties of flowers.

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I did take a few photos to try and capture how vast this area is.  It looks so different in person, but I have not been able to quite capture it on a photo.  A better photographer could.  I have been trying out the free Windows Photo Gallery program, and discovered they have an easy way to stitch photos together to make a panoramic photo. 

IMG_8072 Stitch

I’ll have to work on getting some better photos to make a panoramic photo, now that I’ve discovered this easy program.  The reason I looked at the Windows Photo Gallery is because for some reason when I try to download photos from Picasa, my videos won’t upload.  They do fine on Windows Photo Gallery.  I’m sure there is a good reason, but I have not found it.  Yes, I have gone to “options”, and selected all the file types available.

There were quite a few horses here in the equestrian camp this week-end.  This is a wonderful place to ride.  I wish I had a horse to explore all these trails.  No way can we do all them on foot.

A group went on a night ride Saturday night and then they were back out there Sunday morning.

This is the view from our window.  We love our view here.

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When we leave here, we will have a very big job removing all the prairie dust and sand from in and out of  both the truck and the motorhome.   The main road into the campground is crushed limestone, and it gets pretty dusty as you can tell by our truck.  The trails are all sandy, so there is plenty of dirt to go around.  I’ll be vacuuming for weeks probably.

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Yesterday late afternoon, we decided to take a walk up the campground road.  We find we always see more wildlife on the road than the trails.  This was no exception.

The deer aren’t skittish, but don’t appear to have been hand fed.

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We stopped and were talking to one of the many campground hosts, when Ranger Jen drove up on the swamp buggy.  She offered us a ride back to our campsite.  We jumped on the chance to ride the swamp buggy.  She took us on a little tour and pointed out some Penny Royal plants that were just starting to bloom.  Thanks Jen!  We’re available anytime!

Jen is a wealth of knowledge so we took the opportunity to pick her brain a bit.  She told us about the hog hunters in the park. They come every week-end.  I believe they are Indian.  They  bring horses and dogs.  The dogs find the hogs and then from horseback, they lasso them and take them to market.  I really hate killing any animal, but the terrible damage they do, makes it necessary to preserve the prairie.  Four wild hogs can destroy an acre of ground in one night. Jen told us that in December they removed 70+ hogs and 50+ in January. 

You sure get a great view from high up on the buggy.

These deer didn’t seem concerned at all.

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After Jen dropped us off, it was time for our evening drive up the road.   Sunset was beautiful but nothing out of the ordinary, so I didn’t take any pictures for a change.   We had to get back so that Al could watch the Super Bowl.

I did get a rare photo of two Caracara sitting on fence posts.

two Cararara

I tried to capture this guy flying off, but with my slow shutter, I only got…..

 

the end

Caracare the end

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Can You Believe This One?

 

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee, Florida (high 73, low 40)

This week-end they are doing  re-enactments of the battle  between the US forces and the Seminole Indians. Al is a history buff and wanted to go, so we headed down to Okeechobee on Saturday.

It was an all day event with canon firings, displays by the US Army, alligator wrestling, and booths with stuff for sale and historical displays.   It cost $10 per car to get in, all to a good cause.

The battle occurred on  Christmas day, in 1837.  The Seminoles battled the US Infantry and the Missouri National Guard for control of the land.

This was the largest battle in the deadly Second Seminole War.  The forces of the United States had been battling the Indians for two years, unsuccessfully.  They wanted the Indians moved out of their home in Florida and sent to Oklahoma.

The  Infantry left Tampa with 1,000 men in late November, led by Colonel Zachary Taylor, who would later become the 12th President of the United States. The Indians had been fleeing south until they reached Okeechobee, where they finally took their stand. 

Over 300 warriors took their positions in a densely wooded hammock along the north shore of Lake Okeechobee.  In front of the hammock was a large sawgrass swamp in which the soldiers would have to cross.  The Indians placed canoes by the lake for their eventual escape.  They knew they could not defeat such a large army.  Their goal was to give the fleeing women, children, and elders time to reach their hideouts in the Everglades.

The Battle of Kissimmee re-enactment

The first group sent into battle was the Missouri National Guard.

The Battle of Kissimmee re-enactment

Next was the Infantry.

The Battle of Kissimmee re-enactment

Colonel Taylor declared victory since he was in control of the land at the end of the day, but the Indians had also accomplished their goal of allowing their families a chance to escape.

There are still a lot of Seminole Indians still living in the Everglades.  It was sure a sad time in Americas history.

After coming back home to our prairie, we decided to sit outside and try to read by the campfire.  The campground is completely full this week-end, so it was a tad noisy, between playing kids, barking dogs and squawking crows. 

Before we went to sit outside, I happened to be by the window and saw a woman walking her very large dog  (Laberdoodle?).   Our patio side faces the campground road.  This very inconsiderate woman walked her dog into our campsite, and let her dog do his business about a foot from our patio rug!  I was in such shock I didn’t get a chance to say anything, but you can be sure she heard me slam the window!  I watched as she so politely picked it up….but still!!!!  A foot from our rug….on OUR campsite?     Can you believe she did that?   Oh the joys of being in a state park on the week-ends!

After we sat outside by the campfire for a while, it was time for our nightly sunset run along the campground road.

The night before, we happened to see a large owl sitting on a metal fence post between the office and the family campground.   Natalie, who works in the office told us where we should look for one, and sure enough he was right where she said!  Thanks Natalie!   Natalie works here, but her husband is the caretaker for the piece of land the Battle of Okeechobee sits on.   Her husband was one of the "Missouri National Guard” and is in one of the pictures above, wearing a pink shirt.

Sunset was beautiful as usual, but we didn’t see as much wildlife as we sometimes do.  We definitely saw a lot more wildlife when we were here last June.  I guess we’ll have to come back.  :)

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Al spotted this vulture posing nicely in the top of a tree.

Turkey vulture at sunset on the prairie

Turkey vulture at sunset on the prairie

We slept in this morning and almost missed sunrise.  We didn’t crawl out of bed until 6:40 am. 

Sunrise was gorgeous, as usual, but I won’t bore you with any more photos…..at least not today.

 

We are enjoying our stay here so much, that we extended it two more days!  The weather is supposed to be in  70’s to low 80’s during the day and 40’s and 50’s at night.  Now that’s my kind of perfect weather!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Beautiful Florida Prairie Sunset

 

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Okeechobee, Florida (high 70, low 40)

Burrrr…it’s chilly this morning.

We are definitely into our “prairie routine.”  Our daily routine is the same, but every day is different, because the prairie is ever-changing.  Every sunset and every sunrise are different.  You never quite know what you’ll find.  All are beautiful in their own way, even on the days where there are too many clouds to see the sun.

sunrise on the prairie

Some mornings are foggy.

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We did the 30 mile run into the town of Okeechobee the other day.  It’s the nearest place for groceries, so you need to stock up before coming here.  We picked up a new electric frying pan, since we’ve decided it’s easier to cook on that than the stove top.  Easier clean up.

Saturday and Sunday they are having a battlefield re-enactment of the battle of Okeechobee.  We haven’t quite decided whether we’re going or not.  We really hate to take a day away from the prairie, especially when we’re getting close to having to leave.

We’re enjoying some nice hikes and usually see a few interesting critters.

This is a Little Blue Heron that was kind enough to pose for me.

Little Blue Heron

My  very favorite bird is the beautiful Crested Caracara.  They are so used to me by now, that they call me by name.  :)

Crested Caracara

There is a bombing range nearby at Avon Park.  We frequently hear exploding bombs and an occasional plane.  I thought the sky was pretty with all the contrails from the many planes.

sunset over prairie

How many other prairies have palm trees?

sunset over prairie

 

sunrise over prairie

This morning, I’m fixing a vegan version of SOS.  I use Light Life brand “ground beef”, almond milk and cornstarch for thickening.  I like it real well, but Al wants me to spice it up a little bit.  We’re squeezing some oranges we bought in Okeechobee.  Nothing better than fresh orange juice squeezed from nice cold oranges!

Last night we made our first pizza using our convection oven.  (vegan of course).  I guess Merikay and I were thinking alike because she made one recently and posted her recipe on her blog.  Her eggplant pizza recipe sounds good and I’m going to definitely give it a try.

Well, here’s hoping I will be able to get this blog to post.  I’m finding too many pictures causes me problems with my 1x service.