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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Guess What Followed Us Home?

 

Sunshine Key Rv Resort, Florida  (high 78, 66)

 

Do you remember the last time I had a blog with a similar title?

 

Here is a reminder.

(awww….look how cute Baxter was.

Baxter 

So, what is it that followed us home this time?

Can you guess?

 

No, it’s not a kitten.

No, it’s not a dog.

 

and it’s actually not home with us yet.

 

Here it is.

 

Proline Boat

We have been arguing for years about getting another boat.  He kept checking Craig’s List and I kept finding something I didn’t like about the boats he found.

Yes, Al finally whined enough and got his way, wore me down, and we bought a boat!  We have always had out boats, but when we sold our house and became full timers, I thought our boat ownership days were over.  Al agreed reluctantly, but I think he had his fingers crossed because he’s been talking boats ever since we got back to Florida.

Since we spend a lot of time in Florida and in the Keys, I guess it’s not such a bad idea.   The Keys is such a wonderful place to have a boat.

We thought about renting a boat, but they cost at least $150 a day, and you have to return them by 4:00 pm. 

This boat didn’t cost too much, and we’ll be able to use it whenever we like.   It’s cheap to insure and we found a place to store it when we’re not here, for only $35 a month. We don’t intend to take it back to Tampa.  For right now, it will stay here in the Keys, but of course we could always come and get it if we changed out mind.

If you read the blog from a few days ago, this was the same boat we went for a ride on.   I didn’t mention that is was a test drive because we hadn’t finished checking out the motor, and hadn’t made the deal yet. 

Our “new” boat is a 17 foot Proline with a 90  horsepower Evinrude motor.  It has a nice deep V hull and it handles the ocean waves very nicely. It tops out at about 42 miles per hour, so it’s got plenty of power.   It’s quite a bit smaller than we’re used to, but with this great hull, we’re comfortable going the 8-9 miles out to the reefs. 

We already joined SEA TOW, which is a water rescue service.  If you get stranded offshore they will come and tow you in.  We always had them for our previous boats, and won’t go out without them.   The Coast Guard won’t tow you in unless it’s a life threatening situation (been there, done that).

We have room on our camp site here at Sunshine Key to store the boat, or we could keep it in the water at the marina, while we’re here.   I believe they charge $400 a month to keep your boat in the water, so we probably won’t be doing that!

We will pick the boat up today and then hopefully the winds will die down enough to get out in the water, but we may just wait until after the Easter week-end since there are a lot of boats on the water.

We spent yesterday picking up a few things for the boat.  Things we had, and practically gave away at our garage sales.

Boat electronics have sure changed since we last had a boat.  The boat has a color depth recorder/fish finder, and a color GPS plotter.  I didn’t even know what a plotter was!   We’ll have to learn to use all these fancy electronics, but they look to be pretty user friendly and the GPS is a Garmin, so we’re familiar with them.

The boat also has a VHF radio.  We believe in redundancy, so we always carried a spare hand held radio…just in case.   That’s one thing we didn’t sell.   I just asked Al if he knew where it was and he said he brought it with us…..just in case he were to get a boat.   :)

I guess he won!

 

Sunshine Key from the fishing bridge.

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Hey….if you don’t hear from us for a few days, please call the Coast Guard!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Boat Ride

 

Ohio Key, Florida (high 74, low 65)

We’re still waiting for the March winds to die down and the temperatures to come back up, so that we can get out on the water in the kayaks. It’s been pretty chilly here in the Keys, but things appear to be improving.  We’ve been here in November, December, January, February and March and we’ve never had this cool of weather.  It’s very unusual, especially for late March.

We actually got out on a boat ride late yesterday afternoon and the wind died down just about the time we went out.

We went out of a canal off of Little Torch Key, crossed under Highway 1 and over to the Atlantic side.  When you’re in the water here, you’re either in the Atlantic side or the Bay side.  The Overseas Highway (highway 1) divides the two bodies of water.

We came upon an island called Picnic Island.  It was where the movie PT109 was filmed.  I guess we’ll have to watch that movie now.

The next island we came to was called Little Palm Island.  Al had read a Brad Thor book where they talked about this wonderful little island resort.   It’s where the rich and famous go to be pampered.   The only way to get there is by boat (yacht) or helicopter.   I understand they have a breakfast buffet for a mere $75.   You can ride out in one of their beautiful old wooden water taxi’s.  If you want to get in some of their pampering, it will only cost you $3000 a night to stay there.  Word is that Willie Nelson was there recently.  

Little Palm Island

Al and our boat captain, Nick.

Proline Boat

The wild hair on Nick make you think he is a Key West native, but he’s actually from Maryland.  He and his wife Rindi just retired from the government and have a house on a canal.   They split their time between the Keys and Maryland where they also have a boat.

This next picture is taken of a cat sitting in a boat across the canal from Nick and Rindi’s place.  The boat is in the water and the cat climbs down the steps to enter the boat.  Nick said it is one of the Hemingway 6 toed cats.

5 toed cat in boat

After our lovely boat ride, we headed back home for happy hour.

I loved this sign that was in front of an Rv here in the park.  It’s 5:00 somewhere!

cute sign

Last night was the warmest and least windy we’ve had since we’ve been here.  I hope that is the end of the wind!

Even the pigeons were trying to stay warm and out of the wind.

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We went for a walk under the bridge the other night.  Notice, it is happy hour!  This is one of the bridges I love to photograph when we kayak under it. 

Al under sunshine Key bridge

The tide was out, exposing the rocky shore on this part of the island.

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The other day we took a drive down to Key West.  We figured it would be a good day to visit since it was too windy to get out on the water.

Boy, did we figure wrong.   Easter week is NOT the time to visit Key West.  Unless of course, you like big crowds!  We turned around and headed home after seeing how crowded it was. 

There were a lot  of beautiful flowers blooming, so we’ll have to go back next week.

Notice the blooms on this tree?   I had to snap the shot as we were driving by, so it’s not a great picture.

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We had a tree in Georgia (and the name of it escapes me for the moment) that had blooms similar to this.  This was not the same tree though, but it sure was pretty.

The next picture is a bougainvillea.

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Notice where the air conditioning unit is mounted on this next house?

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One of the motorhomes here in the park had the most beautiful outdoor lights.   They appeared to be little dots of light going  down the side of his coach and in the palm trees.

I didn’t even try to capture it in a photograph. The little twinkle lights would kind of wash down the side of the coach and up into the palm trees.  

We got a chance to ask the owner yesterday and he said they are called Bliss Lights and he got them from Amazon.  He was busy getting ready to leave so we didn’t get any more information. 

Here is the website where they sell them.  There are a couple short videos and the one showing the portable unit looked interesting.  I think that may have been the one the guy here had.  

Here is the link from Amazon which shows a picture.  Trust me, the picture doesn’t begin to capture how beautiful they are.

It is going on our Christmas wish list!

We’ve got some interesting things planned for the next few days. 

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

They Ruined Happy Hour

 

Sunshine Key Rv Resort, Ohio Key, Florida (high 68, low 56)

 

Yesterday was another very windy and cool day.  I think the temperature might have reached 70 degrees, but with the winds gusting to 39mph most of the day, it felt much, much cooler.

We started our day with a long walk along the bridges. 

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We both wore rain jackets with hoods.  The sun finally came back out yesterday after a few days of cloudy weather.  It was nice to see the sun again, and if the wind would just quit we’d be able to get out in the water.

 

I had some health insurance paperwork I needed to work on and after I finished, I had to fax something.  We drove up to Marathon to find an Office Depot.  They charged $2.29 to fax one sheet of paper.  Ridiculous.

We made a quick stop to Curry Hammock State Park looking for " Bob”.   He is the huge iguana we saw last fall.  In case you missed that blog post, check here to see how beautiful he is.

We never found Bob.  Iguanas are an invasive species and they are trying to eliminate them from the Keys.   I would sure hate to think he had been killed.   He was such a magnificent creature.   Hopefully, Bob is still alive and well and we’ll cross paths again.

We did see this cute little bird.  A Kestrel, I think?

Kestrel?

After we left the state park and faxed our paperwork, we drove around a bit, and decided to go to the Sunset Bar and Grill for happy hour.

The restaurant/bar is situated right on the Atlantic Ocean side and they have a beautiful heated pool.  When it gets dark the pool lights change colors.  They have green lights in the ocean by the dock, and combine that with the setting sun and tiki torches, and it’s a wonderful place to watch the sun set.

In case you missed the beautiful pictures at sunset, here is a link to a previous blog post.  It’s so beautiful at sunset.

We were last there in late November and December when the days were shorter.  They have happy hour specials between 3pm and 6pm and at that time of year, it’s timed perfectly with the setting sun.

However, with the time change and the longer days, it was bright and sunny when we arrived and just the same when we left.  It’s not that we couldn’t go later, but we like the cheaper happy hour prices.

Beyond the pool is the Atlantic Ocean and over to the right hiding behind the palm trees is the 7 Mile bridge leading back to our campground.

Sunset Bar and Grill

We sat up on the covered top deck hoping it would be a bit warmer, but the wind was blowing straight at us.  We had our trusty rain jackets on, but were still a bit chilly. We could have moved, but that’s the best view.  After two vodka tonics, I didn’t notice the wind quite as much.  :)

It amazed us how many people were actually in the pool swimming.  It was mostly kids, but a few adults and many of the parents were walking around in bathing suits.      The kids didn’t seem to mind even when they got out of the heated pool.   I guess we’ve lived in Florida too long and our blood is too thin, because we were chilly even with jackets on.

The wind never did die down and was still gusting to 39 mph when we went to bed.  I read blogs from people out west that have trouble sleeping at night because the wind rocks their rigs all night.  We noticed some shaking, but for the most part the coach was stable.  I would get pretty nervous if we  the rig was rocking, so I’m glad the wind didn’t get any stronger.

The sun is out again this morning and the winds have died down a little bit.   It’s still not kayaking or snorkeling weather, but we think maybe we’ll jump in the truck and head south and see what we can find to do.  We might just try to find a little beach out of the path of the wind and have a picnic and read our books.  I guess we’ll see what the day brings.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gremlins and Wind, Wind, Wind!

 

I think we have gremlins in our Motor home.

If you’ll remember, when we first tried to leave for the Keys, we had a main slide that wouldn’t retract.  That resolved itself (mysteriously) but now other things keep popping up.

On our way down here Sunday, I turned on the generator as we were driving.  It has a little light on the switch that lets you know it’s running.  The light wasn’t on and I couldn’t hear the generator running so I assumed the generator was malfunctioning.  After we stopped, Al tried it again, the light came on and the generator started right up.  Later when we started it up again, the indicator light wasn’t working but the generator was running normally.   Evidently the problem is with the light on the switch and not the generator.  Not a big deal, but an annoyance. 

We have 4 interior and one exterior switches to turn the water pump on and off.  One is in the kitchen.  The indicator light on that switch quit the other day.  The water pump works fine, but you don’t know if it’s on or off from the kitchen switch.  Another annoyance.

When we got here, Al hooked up the water.   We had almost no water pressure on the cold water side, but plenty of pressure for the hot water?   We even tried using the water pump and it’s no better.   We have  water cut offs under the coach that allow you to cut off water to each area.  In the event of a leak, you don’t have to shut off the water to the entire coach.  We figured maybe a switch got bumped accidently, so we didn’t worry too much. Yesterday morning, Al checked the switches and all appear to be where they should be, so his next thought was a dirty water filter.  That sounds logical, so all we  need to do is crawl inside the basement compartment (after removing two tons of stuff) and change the filter.  The filters are not in the easiest place to change, so they don’t get changed as often as they probably should.

Can you see why he doesn’t change the filters as often as he should?  The filters could have been located more conveniently.

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As soon as Al pulled the old filters, we knew that they were the source of the problem.  What do you think?

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Maybe we’ll have to change them a little more often, but we’re thinking it had only been about 3 months.  We put a sticky on the filter with the change date, so we’ll be able to tell next time.

Another thing we noticed while driving here on Sunday, was that sometimes when we would accelerate after quickly slowing down, the ATC light would flick on for a second and then we’d get kind of a jerking or slipping feel.  It was almost like the transmission was slipping, but we think it was something to do with the ATC (automatic traction control)   We have an ATC switch, but per the manual the ATC is always on and you can only briefly toggle the switch if necessary. It can’t be turned off and on permanently.  That will warrant further investigation.  Any ideas or suggestions will be welcome.  The jerking, skipping motion was only for a second and it was fine after that.  It was not normal, so it concerns us.

After changing the water filters, we came in and had lunch.  I tried a new recipe I found for a black bean burger.  I only like really easy recipes, with very few ingredients. This one qualified and they were pretty tasty.  The 2 main ingredients are black beans and oats. 

 

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If anyone wants to try them, click  here for the recipe.  I didn’t have onion or garlic powder, so I substituted with finely chopped onions and garlic.  I didn’t bake them, I fried them in a little olive oil.  They were tasty, but Al would have preferred it if I had skipped the mustard.  I’m sure you could add or subtract lots of ingredients.  I guess the oats are what held them together.

 

The storms and squall line that came through central Florida (and we smugly thought we had outrun)  came to the Keys yesterday.  I had been keeping an eye on the radar (from the Weather Bug App on my phone) during the night.  It looked a little ominous, but there were no tornado watches or warnings, so I wasn't too nervous.

Most of the rain went around us, but boy was it windy.  Here in the Keys we are at sea level, there are few trees and nothing to block the wind, so when you get 30mph gusts, you feel it.   There will be no kayaking any time soon.  It rained off and on all day yesterday, but I think the rains are finished.  If we could just get rid of the wind.

We haven’t decided what we’re going to do today, but it looks like it will be something indoors, because it’s not only very windy, but it’s chilly as well, with high temperatures only expected to be 70 degrees.  With the wind, 70 will feel petty chilly.  

I know, I know…I’m not getting any sympathy for those of you who are up north battling the snow and ice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Florida Keys

 

Sunshine Key Rv Resort, Ohio Key, Florida

We finally got out of the Tampa Bay area and made it to the Keys.  I was beginning to think it wasn’t meant to be.

We got on the road about 9:00 am Saturday morning.  It was about a  240 miles trip, and  we arrived at  Midway Campground mid afternoon.    You cannot make reservations at Midway campground, and you cannot call ahead to check on availability, so you have to hope for the best.  There are not many other options nearby, so if you don’t get a site at Midway, the only other place close by is Monument Lake Campground, which has no electric or water.  Since it was very hot and humid, we were hoping for the 50 amp electric service of Midway.

We held our breath as we drove into Midway, and were relived to see the campground mostly empty.  It was so hot and humid that the only thing we wanted to do was lay down and take a short nap.  After a while, we mustered up the energy to go out for a drive over to a nice boardwalk.

The Bald Cypress were without leaves the last time we were here.  They all looked to be dead. Sherry also commented on them.  Here are some pictures for you Sherry.  See how pretty and green everything is now?

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The Bald Cypress all have beautiful new green growth, and the everglades looks completely different from the last time we were here in December.

As we got near the end of the boardwalk, we frightened a group of birds and off they flew up to the trees.

Here is a pair of Wood Storks, which posed nicely for me.

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We also saw a lot of these beautiful air plants.

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I didn’t take any pictures of our campsite or the campground because I’ve taken so many in the past.   If you are interested in Midway Campground, just do a search on my blog and you’ll come across a lot of photos.   It’s located on highway 41.  The sites and main road are paved, and there is 50 amp electric, but no water or sewer at the sites.  You can fill up your fresh water and dump your tanks.  It costs $10 a night with the Senior Pass.

They had Purple Martin houses set up and they were attracting a big crowd.  Nice to see.

Notice the almost full moon in the background?

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Our original plan was to try and avoid the horrible construction mess east bound on highway  41.  It has been going on forever and we have come to dread that part of the drive.

However, since we missed our 2 previous departure dates and therefore our campground reservations at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, we had to try to stay at Midway.   Avoiding that part of highway 41 was possible if we went all the way back to I-75, but it was too far out of the way, so we soldiered on.

It wasn’t any better than it was last December, or last April, or last February, or the December before that.  Progress is  very slow on this construction project.

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They have some big bumps, which are fortunately now marked.  The worst part is those “rumble” strips that will shake your teeth and rattle your bones if you go over them faster than about 2 mph.

It was only 12 miles of construction, but it was a long 12 miles.

As we traveled east on 41, and as we got into the Keys, we noticed the wind picking up.  We were thinking ahead of some of the big bridges along the overseas highway.   That could prove to be interesting.

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As we drove closer to Sunshine Key and saw other motor homes coming the opposite direction, Al mentioned that they had safely crossed the bridges and we should be okay.  I replied, “yeah, but what you don’t see is all the motor homes that blew off the bridge and are floating in the ocean.”   :)  

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I wish I could have accurately captured the color of the water.  The pictures don’t show the beautiful turquoise color that it actually was.

The winds were strong, but we slowed down, held onto the steering wheel and arrived safely at our “home” in the Keys.

After lunch, a short rest and a beer for Al, we took a walk along the bridge.

Ahhhhhhh…….back in the Florida Keys.

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This morning we awoke to a squall line approaching us with some ugly looking storms approaching.  This is the same storm that’s bringing a cold front and caused some severe weather in Orlando yesterday.  We smugly were thinking we had missed this storm…..but here it is.   Hopefully, it’s not going to bring anything severe.  We are expecting very cool weather (for the Keys) this week with one day only expected to be 68 degrees.  That’s very unusual for the Keys this time of year.

Hopefully it will warm up, the winds will die down and we’ll able to get in the water and do some snorkeling and kayaking.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Guess Where We Are?

 

If you guessed “the Keys”, then you’d be wrong.

Sometimes it seems things are not meant to be.  We have been trying to get down to the Keys for almost week and it seems that one thing after another keeps delaying our departure.

Our latest plan was to head out last Thursday morning. 

I had made another reservation at Jonathan Dickinson State Park for one night, as a half way point to the Keys.  We’re just not up for a 400 mile drive.  Well, we are, but we just need two days to do it.  :)

 

Anyway……I called Mom Wednesday night.  (you see where this is going, don’t you?)

She mentioned that she got a voicemail message directly from her wonderful doctor, and he said he needed to speak to her, and to call him back first thing Thursday morning.  She had just had some blood work done in follow up to a change in her thyroid medicine.  We thought it was probably that, but she thought he sounded worried and that worried her.  We were also a bit concerned that he himself called, and  not the nurse.

She tried not to worry, but of course a million things were going through her head, and she was worried.  Doctors just don’t realize how something like that can send your mind whirling.  

We had been up very early that day and were tired, so we had headed off to bed about 9pm, when the phone rang. It was Mom telling me she was having very strong heart palpitations and she thought she might be having a heart attack. 

She called an ambulance, we raced out the door and met her at the hospital.   The hospital was pretty busy, but thankfully they found a room for her.

A nice woman doctor came in shortly and asked a lot of questions. She took everything seriously, but mentioned that palpitations are usually caused by something.  She didn’t think Mom was having a heart attack, but was concerned about the rapid heart rate.  I told her about the voice mail from her doctor and the thyroid issue.

They kept her hooked up to a monitor, and  ran a few tests. They didn’t find anything wrong, so the doctor told her she could go home, but if she felt more comfortable, they could also keep her overnight.  Mom decided to go home, but as soon as she made that decision, she started having palpitations again and decided against leaving.  Apparently, she was still a bit nervous about it and thinking of leaving the hospital brought them on again.

So, the  plan was for her to stay overnight and we would go on home and get a little sleep.  It was about 3:00 am by this point.   We got on the interstate, got almost to our exit, when my cell phone rang.  It was Mom’s nurse telling us they were releasing her after all. They had contacted her  doctor and he didn’t want them to admit her overnight because he knew what the problem was and he could fix it. He said her thyroid levels were too high, and wanted to to see her first thing the next morning.   We turned around and drove on  back to the hospital.

By the time we picked her up, dropped her off at home and got back to our home, it was 5 am.  We slept for a few hours and then had to take her into see her doctor.   It turned out her thyroid levels went from being extremely low the last time, to very high this time.   Not a good thing, but at least we know the cause and can make adjustments.   Dr. Cichon is such a nice man and caring doctor, but I don’t think he realized how his phone message caused such stress for Mom.  I think he was pretty worried about her because he gave her a hug before she left the office.

So…….Mom has instructions to quit taking the thyroid pills for a week and then to change to a different dosage.   She had no more palpitations yesterday and the current plan, is if she is still okay today, then we will leave Saturday morning. 

I’m not holding my breath!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Slide-out Update

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 77, low 46) rain

 

Yesterday morning, another neighbor came over to look into our issue with the slide-out that wouldn’t retract.  They decided to manually bring the slide in a little bit. Bill’s theory was that possibility there was a flat spot in the motor and once you got past that, it would operate.  We really didn’t know how to manually move the slide, but Bill did, so they gave it a try.

Guess what?   It worked.  I pushed the button inside and in came the slide.  We tried it several times and it worked every time.   I know there are a lot of systems built into these Rv’s that will prevent things from working if something else is on, or off.  For instance, the Tv won’t run with the engine running.  The slide won’t operate without the emergency brake on.  So, we’re wondering if somewhere the system was out of sync, or if it was as Bill thought and just a flat spot in the motor of the slide.  Was the problem a fluke, or a warning something else was wrong?

We canceled the appointment with the mobile Rv mechanic.  No sense in having him try to diagnose a problem that isn’t a problem at the moment.  Will we live to regret it?   I hope not!

So…..we’re cleared for take-off.    Or are we?   It seems there is a big storm system out in the gulf that’s heading inland and right towards us.   You know me.    I’m nervous when the word “storm” is mentioned and we don’t want to be traveling in the rain.  We could likely outrun the storm provided we got out of here before it got here.  We haven't decided yet.  Right now, I’m a little sleepy and the thought of going back to bed for a short nap doesn’t sound half bad.   :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sudden Change of Plans

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 81, low 60)

We got up early yesterday morning preparing for our trip south.  We actually made pretty good progress and were going to be able to leave a bit earlier than normal.

However…..

When we went to retract the living room slide and there was nothing.  No power, no movement,  nothing.  We checked everything we knew to check and then our neighbor Ken came over and helped Al check a few more things.  Apparently, there is no power at the main switch inside, but there is power in the side compartments by the batteries.

The slide is made by Power Gear.  I emailed their tech support (which was very prompt and helpful).  In case any of you have the same slide manufacturer, you might want to make note of their email address for their tech support.  It is “info@powergearus.com.

They also have some videos that offer some help as well.  Evidently Power Gear makes other motor home components as well, so you may have their equipment somewhere on your Rv.

Here is the link for some diagnostic videos.  I haven’t had a chance to watch any of them yet, so I can’t vouch for them, but it’s a place to start.

The first thing we did was go to Lazy Days and get a couple fuses and a new relay module.  The old ones we had appeared to be okay, but we decided to go ahead and get new ones, just in case.  Then we would also have a spare for later.  Unfortunately, that didn’t help, but that was all we knew to do.

After a trip to Lazy Days and Cracker Barrel (we needed comfort food)  I started e-mailing Power Gear asking for guidance.  They responded almost immediately asking me questions.  I would have preferred a phone conversation, but they go the e-mail route.

By the time we got to this point, the campground internet was slow, slow, slow and all it did was frustrate me more. 

We didn’t get anywhere, except to understand we need to first find the slide control module that has 6 pins.  We thought we found it, but it turns out it was only the slide control board and was not made by Power Gear.

I did some research on a few Rv forums and discovered the slide control module can be hidden almost anywhere in the coaches and they are often difficult to locate.

We plan on contacting Monaco this morning to see if they can offer some guidance as to the location of the slide control module.

In the meantime, we had a call out to our mobile Rv tech.  He finally returned our call last night about 7:30  (I was sweating there) and he will come later this afternoon.  That made us feel a little better.

We are a bit frustrated about not being able to head down to the Keys, but on the plus side, we are safe and sound in our “home base” campground and we have the options of a mobile tech or Lazy Days nearby.  It would have been so much worse if we had made it down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and had to get out of our site after the first night.  Also, on the bright side, they had some pretty good rain down south last night and more coming today.  We might have had a bad travel day to the Keys.

So, we’re looking on the bright side and are hopeful this will be an easy fix and won’t cost too much, or at least be a warranty item.

We understand you can hook up a battery to the wires on the slide motor.  That will tell you if the motor is bad.  The fact that we have no power coming to the interior switch may make that unlikely. That would probably be an easy fix, so hopefully that’s the problem.  That would also be a covered repair, where wiring issues would not.  Wish us luck.

Another example of plans made in jello!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just Google It

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida  (high 82, low63)  rain

Some light rain moved in last night, coming in from the Gulf.  I hope it stops when we start our outside preparation for travel.

Yesterday (remember how I said we procrastinate?), Al decided to replace the bad inner tube in the kayak cart tire.  It had needed replacement for several months, and Al finally find the correct tube a few weeks ago.  Did we replace it as soon as we found the tube?   Nooooooooooo.  We much prefer to wait until the very last minute so that we have a lot to do the day before we travel.

He was having a heck of time putting the tube back into the tire, being careful to align up the valve stem.  Actually, getting the tube inside wasn’t too hard, but the inner core was not going on correctly.   We both worked on it for a few minutes, trying everything we could think of to snap the tire back onto the inner core.   My answer for everything is to “Google” it.   I went online and did a search for replacing tube in tire on kayak cart.  Would you believe, I found a You Tube video for what looked to be the exact same tire?  It was for a boat cart, but it was just what we needed.  They provided a few tips that allowed Al to snap the tire right back onto the inner core!  Thanks to the guy who put out the You Tube video!   If you need to know how to do something, you can almost bet there is a You Tube video out there!

Do you “Google” things often?   Last night, we saw a commercial for an old soap opera and I got to wondering how long a particular actress had been on that show.  So, I “Googled” it and found my answer.  The internet is a great thing, isn’t it?  I often wonder how different my life might have been if the internet was around when I was growing up.   I might have found something that really interested me for a career, instead of just “getting a job.”

 

Today is travel day.  We’re up early, drinking our coffee and green smoothies.   Last night Al said, maybe we could try to leave by 9am.   I just laughed.   :)

We only have about a 200 mile drive today, so there is no hurry except that the earlier we arrive at the state park, the more time we’ll have to explore it.

See you down the road.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Time to Move On

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 81, low 59)

Tomorrow we leave on our trek south to the Keys.  We have reservations for one night at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which is about half way there.  We’re trying a new route this time, trying to avoid the horrible construction on highway 41.

We’ve been getting some last minute shopping done.  Most everything we need we can buy in  the Keys, but there are a few important things we can’t get there. Like our brand of kitty food.

We’ve also  been taking care of some errands and chores that we should have done the past month of so since we’ve been here.  We managed to  procrastinate until we couldn’t procrastinate anymore.  Will we ever learn?   It’s not likely.

 

I have been feeling a bit run down the past few days and sort of achy all over.   At first I attributed it to being tired,and wondered if the time change was the cause.  Resting hasn’t helped, so I guess I have a little bug or something. I guess it’s time to start doctoring myself with some Echinacea and cranberry pills.  We went to the gym yesterday, hoping it would make me feel better.  It didn’t, so I guess I won’t go today.  On top of the over all achy feeling, my shoulder has started bothering me again.  It had begun to feel better but now it’s hurting again.  It better not screw up my kayaking.

By the way, Mr. Baxter hates the time change.  He feels his breakfast has been delayed unnecessarily.

 

I’ve been doing some planning for summer travels.  Hopefully, Mom will be well enough for us to get out of Florida for a while.

I’ve read a few blogs lately from people who are staying at Corp of Engineer campgrounds.   I get so frustrated trying to navigate their websites  and find campgrounds, that I rarely even consider them. Then I remembered that Judy had mentioned a book that she used for finding COE parks.

Corps Camping  Jane Kenny  9781885464316  Amazon.com  Books

Sometimes it’s nice to have an actual book to scroll through, verses internet.  I think I’ll go ahead and order it from Amazon as soon as we get to the Keys, and have an address to send it to.   We like the state park experience, but prefer cheaper prices, so with the 50% discount for seniors, we may try to visit more COE parks.

Anybody have any COE parks in the south east that you love and can recommend?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This and That

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 67, low 38)

The temperature this morning according to our outside digital thermometer got down to 33.  According to the app on my phone it was 44.  I don’t know which was one right, but our heat pump never quit.  The sky is blue and it looks like it’s going to be a pretty day.

 

We have our health insurance through USAA, which is the company that I retired from.  It’s fairly inexpensive and so far has proved to be good insurance.   USAA has a program to encourage all employees and retirees be healthier by eating right and exercising.

They have a program to reduce our insurance premiums by $200 a year, if you do certain things during the course of the year. 

There are a lot of ways to earn the needed 500 points. You can take a health assessment test, a fitness test,or a nutrition test.  You can give blood, or do a community walk-a-thon, or many other things of that nature.    I am trying to monitor my exercise and walking steps and record them daily.   The pedometer helps a lot with that as it automatically keeps track of 7 days of steps.  I just took another nutrition assessment today and I am up to 350 of the needed 500 points.

I realized, that for the first time in my life, I am actually doing about all I can do to take good care of myself.  I am exercising regularly, and eating the right things.   I am still overweight, but that’s also coming down.

All of my life, I always told myself that I needed to exercise more and eat better, but I never did. Until now.

Having the gym nearby has been a tremendous help, but we’ll soon be heading to the Keys and away from the gym.   We’ll definitely miss it, but hope to get in enough kayaking and walking to make up for it. 

 

We had a mobile Rv mechanic out yesterday to fix a little problem we’ve been having.

Our rear air conditioning unit makes a loud crackling type sound when the compressor shuts down.  It’s been doing it for quite a while and I finally procrastinated enough to get it looked at.   Since we’ll be heading south to warmer temps, I wanted both a/c units working properly.  The rear a/c still cools, but makes that annoying noise.

When we had the other things repaired at Lazy Days, we should have  bitten the bullet and stayed there a bit longer and gotten the a/c fixed as well.  The tech there looked at it briefly but didn’t see anything obvious and blamed it on the box inside that’s covered in silver tape.  We didn’t think that was the problem.  I could live with it, if I knew it wasn’t going to cause other problems, or burn out the compressor, but I don’t know what causes it.

Anyway, a mobile tech came out yesterday.  Of course I couldn’t get the noise to happen while he was here.  He got up on the roof and noticed the rubber grommets holding the compressor were very loose.  He said they could probably have vibrated up into the squirrel care and caused that noise.  He tightened them and also checked the front a/c unit and found the same issue.  We were both just sure that was the problem.

There was no noise after he made the repair, but as soon as they left, I started hearing the annoying crackling noise again.  It figures!

I’m waiting for a call back to see when they are coming back.   I don’t know if I have to wait around here all day, or not.    grrrrr

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to Quickly Sell a Home

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 75, low 48)  rain

Another cold front is moving down into Florida, bringing some much needed rain for a good part of the day.  Fortunately, it doesn’t look like anything severe, but will be a good day to go to the gym and maybe watch a movie.

I spoke to my best friend Carol yesterday. Actually, she’s my second best friend.  Al is my very best friend.  :)

Carol and her husband Mike live in Arkansas.  Several years ago, she started talking about downsizing and moving into a “retirement” type of house.  One that would be easier to maintain as they get older.  They are not RV’ers and have no desire to full time.

A few months ago they looked at a smaller home in a gated 55+ community.  They went back and looked at it again a few weeks ago, and decided it would be right for them.  They made an offer and signed a contract for the purchase.

Their intention was to buy the new one, then fix up the old one and prepare it for sale.  She’s a nurse and works nights, so she didn’t want to have to sell a house while working.

Anyway, a next door neighbor had always told them that if they ever decided to sell the house, to let him know.  She didn’t think he was serious, but it turns out he was and they bought the house after looking at it one time!

The buyers are an Air Force family and apparently the loan has already been approved.   A home inspector came out yesterday.

The best part of the deal for Carol and Mike, is that they sold the house “as is.”   They didn’t do the first thing to fix it up!   How great was that!   The new couple is allowing them to rent the house out until they are ready to move into the new house. 

Some people are just lucky!

Don’t you wish that would happen to you, Merikay and Craig?

Friday was a red letter day for me.   I signed up for Social Security!  It was easy and fast.  I decided to start collecting at 62.  I know, I would earn more if I waited a few years, but as they say on the website, if you live to your expected age, you’d get the same amount anyway.  I’d rather get a little less now for a longer period of time.

Al will be getting Medicare come November. Wow.    I did a little information gathering on that as well.  It seems the health insurance we have now, (thanks USAA) will be adequate as a supplement with Medicare being primary.   He will no longer have any deductible and it appears we shouldn’t have much or any in the way of out of pocket expenses.  Working at USAA turned out to be a very good decision on my part.  It has allowed us to have very good health insurance before Medicare kicks in.   It’s almost as good as the government workers get!

Thanks for all the tips on my virus protection.  Rick, as usual was helpful and told me Microsoft updated their Defender software and it took care of the problem I was having. I restarted Defender, and scanned my pc with that as well as MalwareBytes.  Unfortunately still having pop-up ads.   Recently I noticed  when I”m on the internet ad any site,  there are underlined” words or sentences that if you click on, or hover over, you get an ad.  Anybody else noticing that?  I never got that before.

I am still concerned about my computer.  With the pop-ups and the underlined words, I know things are not as they should be.   Paul and Marti recommended Vipre,  which was recommended by the Geeks on Tour.   I think I’ll give it a try and see if it can find anything else!   I shudder to think what a mess I would have if my computer was hacked.   

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Windows Non-Defender?

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 81, low 55)

 

Yesterday was another busy day, starting out with our usual visit to the gym.  We both tried to hit it a little harder than normal since we’ll be away from it while we’re in the Keys.

After we soaked in the warm therapy pool for a while, we headed over to Mom’s and took her to lunch.   She had the “chatties” and just about talked our ears off during lunch, but it was very nice to see her so energetic for a change. It was like she’d taken a pep pill.  Lunch took forever!  (I can post this on the blog because she never reads it)

After lunch, we took her out and did a little shopping. 

This morning during morning computer/blog time, I decided to double check my anti-virus program since I’ve been getting a lot of Pop-up’s lately.

With my new laptop with Windows 8, it comes with Windows Defender and it supposed to be the latest/greatest virus protection from Microsoft.

I never had any problems before when I was using Windows Security Essentials.

Since I’ve been getting so many pop-up ads, I decided to run a scan.  Every time I try to run either a quick or full scan, I get an error message saying “Windows Defender couldn’t scan your PC.  The program’s service has stopped.  You can start the service manually or restart your computer which will restart the service.”

I tried restarting the computer several times and kept getting the same message.  I finally looked online and it appears many others are having the same problem and Microsoft is aware of it.

So, I’m in the process of downloading and running AVG anti virus software.  I’m not deleting “Defender” so I hope that won’t be a problem.

Have any of you run into this issue?  

I just ran a scan from Malware Bytes and it found quite a lot of malware on my computer.  Scary.  Here I thought I was protected.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Hunger Games

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 76, low 50)

The Hunger Games was the title of a hit movie.

It is also what goes on around here, every morning.

Mr. Baxter, who is a really big boy, with a really big appetite, is ready for a really big breakfast very early in the morning.

He went from this:

Baxter

To this:

Baxter and Little Noogie

Notice the other kitty?  She’s a little smaller than normal, but can you see the difference in size?  He’s a really big boy, with a really big appetite.

We’ve had a real problem breaking him of waking us up at 3:00 or 4:00 am for his breakfast.  That in itself was a real battle of the wills, but we finally won that one.  Or maybe, we compromised because he still wakes us up, just not as early.   :)

However, he is only patient for so long and then we start hearing the pitter patter of “little” feet running from the front of the coach, all the way back to the bedroom.  He runs down the hall, jumps up on the dresser and then does a quick scratch on the shades to make sure he gets your attention.  He knows he is not supposed to scratch on the shades, so he does it real quick, and then watches for the reaction!

For his efforts, he gets a squirt with the water sprayer, and off he goes running back down the hall.  Pitter patter, pitter patter.

It becomes quite a game.

Al is in charge of the pistol grip sprayer, which is kept by his side of the bed.  After a few blasts of water, he starts to chuckle.  I lay there trying to get a few more minutes of sleep, until I finally wake up to watch the “hunger games.”

By the time we finally get up Baxter is pretty wet!

As time goes on, the running gets more insistent and the “pitter patter of little feet” starts to sound more like a herd of wild elephants.   The light scratch on the shades gets consistently louder.  It becomes more and more frequent, and more and more insistent, until we finally decide to get up.

Mr. Baxter wakes up hungry! 

But….before he gets his breakfast, we have all three have to make the bed.  

What a lot of fun that is, with the help of a big furry, hungry, playful cat!

As you start smoothing the sheets, up pounces a big fluffy, hungry kitty ready to help!

We toss a Q-tip down the hall to get him off the bed long enough to start the bed making process.  He chases the Q-tip, retrieves it,  and then brings it right back and drops it on the bed, ready to go again.  I’ve never seen a cat play fetch before.  Each time he brings it back, he gets praised.  It takes quite a few “fetches” before we can get the bed made, but Baxter enjoys it and it gives him some much needed exercise.

So…..that’s how our mornings begin around here.  The cats get their breakfast before we get our coffee, but we wake up with a few laughs and smiles on our faces.

Baxter eats his breakfast and guess what he does next?  Yup, he goes and takes a long nap!  Hey, the boy is tired after getting up so early!

 

Our weather has been pretty cold here for 5-6 nights.  The day time temperatures are fine, but we’ve had quite a few nights in the 30’s.  Anything lower than the heat pump runs on, is too cold for me, and that is exactly what we’ve had.

It looks like winter is over now, with temps to be in the low 80’s all the rest of the week.  Hopefully the temperatures in the 30’s are over for the winter, but….

We have decided that winter is definitely going to be over for us, because……..

 

WE’RE HEADING BACK TO THE KEYS!

We decided to take a different route down this time.  We normally take I-75 south to Highway 41 and stay overnight at Midway Campground off 41.  There are two problems there.  One, Midway Campground  is first come first serve and you cannot call to see if there are any spots.  We always worry if we’ll be able to get a site or not. The other problem is the construction on 41 heading to the Keys is  horrible.  We’ve gone that route quite a few times and with the construction and narrow one way lanes, it’s an accident waiting to happen.

We decided we’ll head east on Highway 60 and then take I-95 and the turnpike south.   We really hate I-95 around Miami, so we’ll probably hop over to the turnpike, despite the extra expense.

This way we could bypass the construction on highway 41 and hopefully find a campsite we could get a reservation for.

Unfortunately, getting a reservation this time of year in Florida is not easy.  At least not a reservation where we knew was big rig friendly and not the only site no one else wanted.

We wanted to stay at Jonathan Dickenson State Park, but of course nothing was available.  I decided to keep checking and hope for a cancellation and I got lucky and snagged one!  We’ll only be there one night, but maybe we’ll stay longer on the way back.  We have reservations in the Keys from March 19, through April 17.  I hope nothing happens to prevent our travels.  I always worry!

We’re starting to get into the “Keys mood”.  Sherry mentioned in a recent blog about how you develop a routine at each place you stay. That is so true and we already know our routine in the Keys.   Up early and walk along the bridges watching the sunrise.  Play all day around the water and then watch the sunset at the Sunset Bar and Grill!   Can’t wait!

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Monday, March 04, 2013

Uh-Oh

 

Wesley Chapel, Florida (high 67, low 39)

Winter has arrived in the Tampa Bay area.  It got down to 30 degrees last night, but thankfully it’s starting the warm up today.

Al read an article in the newspaper about a group of paddle-boarders that were leaving on a 300 mile trek to Key Largo from Fort Desoto Park.  I posted about it on my previous blog.

We decided to venture over to Fort Desoto park, which is about an hour south of us and see if we could watch the paddle boarders leave.

Map picture

 

We thought it would be fun to watch them take off on their journey, but we wondered if they would postpone their trip due to the very cold and windy weather.

You can see by the map, that they would have to cross that bay to get back over to the Florida coastline and out of some of the worst winds.   It would have been risky standing on a paddleboard in those seas.

Fort Desoto is a county park that has a wonderful campground.  It’s huge, with not only the campground, but lots of beach area, a marina, a fort, a pier, and lots of picnic areas.  There are wonderful paved bike trails and lots of areas where you can launch a kayak or canoe.

The paddle boarders were supposed to leave by the east beach area, so we headed over there.  Nothing…no people, no spectators, and no paddle boarders.

We drove all around the park and saw nothing.  We asked a cop that was “working” on a deserted beach area giving tickets/napping/hiding.  He didn’t know anything about them, but then again, he may not have been awake.

We went over to the pier and other than a few fisherman, it was pretty deserted.  It felt bitter cold with the brisk wind and temps in the upper 40’s.  We didn’t stay there long.

We bundled up in layers, but needed gloves for our cold hands.

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We drove over to the north beach area, parked, and walked towards the woods where two men with cameras were watching something in a tree.

It was a little more out of the wind, but still pretty chilly there as well!

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Of course, we had to ask what they were watching and they told us there was a mother owl and two owlets.

Here is mama.

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We never found the second baby, but here is the best I could get of the baby.  Look how fluffy he is.

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We watched them for a while and then walked over to the north beach.  This is our favorite part and we normally see Roseate Spoonbills there.  Not this time though.

It’s amazing how much the beach has changed over the years.  Partly from the winds, currents and storms, and partly due to people.  Did you know that if you dig a hole in the sand, build a sand castle, or drop anchor, that you can change the entire beach?    Well, you can.  Not so much on a straight beach, but more so on a small island.  We’ve seen it happen many times.  We used to take our boat out to Anclote Key.  We would be shocked at how much the beach would change from week to week.  Sometimes it would be from someone dropping an anchor and making a hole in the sand.  That hold would give way for the waves and currents to wash away an entire section and make an inlet.  We saw it time and time again.  And that my friends, is why it’s not a good idea to build a house on the beach!

 

To get to the north beach, you have to walk over a little bridge.  There is a pretty little lagoon where the Spoonbills like to feed.

 

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It was warmer on the north beach, so we headed down the beach and picked up a few shells.

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It was Sunday.  This next guy was “preaching to the choir”

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There were a lot of pen shells in the surf.  They have the most beautiful iridescent coloring.

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A few Horseshoe Crabs.

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The most amazing patterns in the wet sand.

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It looked like carpeting and snow.

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This is the prettiest part of the beach in our opinion.

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Big fluffy white sand dunes.  White enough to be snow and cold enough too!

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After a while the sun came out and it felt much better.

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Despite the wind and cold, it turned out to be a lovely day at the beach.  Most of the winter has brought temps in the 70’s or 80’s.  So why did we pick the coldest day of the year to go to the beach?

After walking the beach for a while, we headed back to snap a few more owl pictures.  The ranger was there sitting in his truck with the heat on and watching the birds.  Apparently, they have generated a lot of attention and he was keeping people from disturbing the birds.  We liked that. 

Al asked the ranger if he knew if the paddle boarders had taken off or not?  He did not know, but radioed in and got the answer.   Yes they did….. yesterday!

UH-OH.

I’m blaming Al for that one.   :)  

It was okay though because we still had a wonderful beach day.