Catching Up Post

Nothing much going on so I figured I would catch ya’ll up on what we been doin’ and post a couple of photos we got earlier at Cedar Key.

First up; here’s a shot getting on toward sunset I shoulda posted previously of the boat in the lagoon right outside the Tiki Bar at the Low Key Hideaway…note the platform on the stern as it will be important later.

DSC 8118

Connie went out one morning and got this shot of a wildflower out back of our rig.

DSC 8125

Then we discovered these Monarch butterflies on the bushes at the water’s edge…they must be resting up for the rest of their migration to South America and Mexico.

DSC 8145

DSC 8152

DSC 8168

She also spotted this wader out on the mudflats right near the boat in the first picture…we think it’s a non breeding willet.

DSC 8170

Another morning Neil spotted this Osprey having breakfast out on the platform on the stern of the boat.

DSC 8187

DSC 8188

As well as this White Ibis looking for lunch. 

DSC 8191

I figured those would wet your whistle for upcoming bird photos as we have numerous haunts to revisit while we are here in SW Florida.

Neil found this picture on the web about where babies come from and sent it along to their pregnant human kids.

Where Babies Come From

As well as a one about messing with the wrong guy.

Bear messed with me once

Finally…Connie ran across this one on her Twitter feed yesterday. Perfectly apropos after their thrashing of previously #1 ranked MSU last Saturday and their rise to to top of the Playoff Rankings.

Alabama Dynasty

You know you read that in Jase’s voice…didn’t ya.

Cyas.

 

Posted in RV, Travel | 2 Comments

Back in Fort Myers…and Happy

Well…our trip north to Bradenton and Mayo for BAT and rig upgrades is finished; and as promised here’s what we got done this week.

After getting up really, really early Monday morning…we had to be in Bradenton about 75 miles up the road by 0830…we fueled up BAT and headed out. We had done all the pre-move stuff and hitched yesterday so all we had to do was power and slides so it was relatively easy but we were still up by 0430. We had two jobs scheduled at A and A Hitch up in Bradenton. First up was installation of a trailer hitch on the back of the rig so we can add a bike rack and get the bikes out of Connie’s car. It’s a pretty standard hitch…Neil forgot to take a shot but I’ll get him to get one tomorrow and put it up. If you’ve ever seen a trailer hitch…it looks just like ours; a square receiver sticking out the back that you insert the square part of the bike rack into.

Second up was installation of our 50 gallon TransferFlow auxiliary fuel tank for BAT. This consists of the tank which is bolted down in the front end of the bed and the control module which is mounted up on the dash.

IMG 1486

IMG 1487

Ok…so how does this thing work. Well, it’s not connected directly to the main fuel tank so you fill it separately when you’re at the station. The main tank holds 37 gallons and the aux holds another 50…the total of 87 gives us about a 700 mile range before needing fuel…good thing as some of the stations up in Alaska next summer will be 400 miles apart. The little square thing sticking up on top of the aux tank has a filter and a transfer pump that pumps fuel from the aux tank into the main tank when it’s turned on at about a gallon per minute. The wiring harness included taps into the main tank level sensor as well as the aux tank level sensor and displays the amount of fuel in each tank on the little panel on the dash. The computer in the display panel basically monitors the main tank level and which it’s about 1/2 full pumps 3 or 4 gallons from aux to main tank…at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Turns out that our computer is improperly calibrated and pumps at around 3/4 full on the main tank. In addition, it’s calibrated for a smaller tank than BAT has so when you completely fill the main tank the aux tank gauge indicates that it’s full but the standard fuel gauge in the dash says it’s empty. Once you get down to about 33 gallons (full is 37) in the main tank the standard gauge operates correctly. Neil has an appointment with A and A for Tuesday to get it properly calibrated. We’re glad to have the extra fuel on board…in addition to not having to stop on most travel days we can pick and choose our fueling stops so that we can avoid overpriced stations or states where fuel is more expensive.

The blue thing next to the aux tank in the bed picture is our water filter/softener combination…it rides in the truck bed when we are traveling.

We had a fantastic Cuban sandwich across the street from A and A while they were doing the installs and headed out about 1400 or so. After some consolation between Connie and Neil we decided to head on up to Wildwood and stop at the KOA there overnight. That was about 100 miles up the road leaving only about 120 left for Tuesday before arrival at Mayo for the solar panel install.

We got parked, did minimal hookups for utilities and had a pizza up in Wildwood…and went bed early. Tuesday we lollygagged around and didn’t leave the park until the 1100 checkout time…we only had 120 miles left to go and our install wasn’t starting until Wednesday morning so getting there anytime Tuesday afternoon was just fine.

We arrived in Mayo and got parked in the yard at Palmer Energy Systems owned and operated by John Palmer. I gotta tell ya…John and his helper Tracy are perfectly competent solar panel installers but Connie started to wonder if we would hear banjos while we were there. John is 70 years old and is one of the prototypical good old boys…or a prepper or something. Everything he owns is on wheels “in case something happens”…whatever that means. Anyway…we got plugged into his 30 amp outlet and had filled up our water tank before leaving Wildwood so we were half way boon docking while we were there.

Tuesday morning bright and early John and Tracy got started…they couldn’t go up on the roof until the dew evaporated so John got started installing the solar controller down in the forward end of the basement right near the battery compartment.

So…how does this whole solar thing work. Normally when we’re plugged in everything is powered from AC power from the power pedestal on the site but when you’re moving or boon docking obviously there isn’t a power pedestal. In these situations the only power sources are the battery or your generator. The generator produces AC power just like the power pedestal does and you use that power by plugging the standard RV power cord into the generator. Battery power is DC instead of AC and is 12 volts instead of 120 volts…so we have a thing called an inverter which turns the 12 VDC into 120 VAC for running appliances and such. When the battery is depleted it’s recharged by one of two methods. In normal operation…AC power comes in from the generator or shore power and runs back through the inverter…which also contains circuits that turn 120 VAC into 12VDC which then recharges the battery. The batteries can also be recharged by the solar panels. The solar panels on the roof produce DC when the sun is shining and make about 22 volts each. Our 8 panels are hooked up in two sets of 4 so they produce a total of 88 VDC. This power is fed down to the solar controller which turns the 88 VDC into 12 VDC and recharges the batteries. Actually the output voltage of the solar controller varies from about 12.5 volts to 14 volts depending on how much the batteries are depleted…if they are half used then you start with a higher voltage for bulk charging…then shift to a lower voltage for absorb charging until all then to an even lower voltage for float charging to maintain the batteries full.

The solar panels are great at doing the absorb and float charging but not as efficient for the bulk charging phase…which is why when you’re boon docking you normally run the generator a short while each morning to get the bulk portion of the charge done then shift over to solar about 1000 or so to finish the absorb charge portion. Between running the generator for an hour or so and the power you get from the solar panels…along with managing how much power you’re using overnight so as not to run short on a day to day basis.

From an operational standpoint…essentially one just monitors how far discharged your batteries are and use or minimizes power draw based on that. Our batteries have a total of 800 amp hours which means we can use 400 amp hours before recharging on an ongoing basis…you shouldn’t discharge more than about 50% or so on a routine basis to maximize battery lifetime. Our residential fridge uses about 120 amp hours per 24 hour period…so we have about 280 available for other usage on a daily boon docking basis. This means we can use lights, computers, and even TV for 3-4 hours per night without worrying about running out of power. One of our jobs for the next couple of months is to try boon docking for  3 or 4 days just to get a good feel for how much power we use on a daily basis when we’re trying to conserve…essentially we’re going to boon dock here in Seminole and we can always just plug in if we run short.

Here’s what our panels look like…there are 4 on the front end of the rig and the second set of  4 on the left side over the kitchen.

IMG 1479

IMG 1482

IMG 1485

The last picture shows a closeup of the brackets that mount the panels to the roof…these are on the aft panels. The brackets allow you to raise or lower one side of the panels when you’re mounting them…this allows (in our case) them to be mounted so that they panels are horizontal when you’re parked as this portion of our roof slopes to the rear. Forward is to the right in the picture above and this is the aft end of the first panel on the right with the forward end of the second panel on the left…the forward end of the first panel has the lower bracket similar to what you see above…this tilts the panel a little forward which is just enough to counteract the downward slope of the roof as it goes back. The gray stuff over the brackets is sealant and both glues the panel to the roof (in addition to the two screws holding each bracket down) and seals the screw holes and heads to make sure no water can leak into the roof. The sealant takes a few days to fully dry and will tend to smooth itself out while it does.

We were done with our installation and testing by the end of the day on Thursday…it went a little faster than anticipated since Neil helped Tracy screw the panels down on the roof…it’s a lot easier to install them with two people than one. They aren’t heavy…only about 18 pounds or so each…but they are 21 by 48 inches so getting them aligned nicely so the installation looks pleasing to the eye is easier with 4 hands rather than just 2.

Since we were done…we headed out early Friday morning for the 330 mile drive back down here to Fort Myers. Arrived and got parked by about 1630, went out to Hogbody’s for wings and brews for dinner, and came home and went to bed.

Saturday we did a lot of our setup for long term stays…put up all our lights and outside decorations, repacked the car with the bikes under the front of the rig so we have a back seat again, and similar stuff. Dinner was leftover chicken and taters and then we watched Bama defeat Mississippi State in another great game.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 3 Comments

Quick Trip to Mayo FL

Just a quick post to (a) let ya’ll know we’re still alive and (b) what’s been happening since our transit day down to North Fort Myers.

We had an uneventful week last week at Seminole Campground…the only thing we did interesting at all was Bingo Night at the Elks and boy, did we hit the jackpot on that one. Connie didn’t win…but our friend Roland did. He always sits at the bar with us and since he was the only one at the bar that won he bought a round for the folks at the bar. In addition to that…the letter of the day happened to be L…anybody with that as the first letter of their last name gets the second drink free. In addition to that…Neil got a free drink chip from the bartender in thanks for hauling out another keg’o’beer when her Michelob Ultra keg ran dry. We had a coupla hotdogs for dinner and a good time was had by all.

Connie went out to choir practice…we went to Mass…Neil bought her a new fishing pole to replace the one Harry Demery bought her before they were married…and that was about it. We didn’t set up much since we knew we were going out of town for a couple of days.

Monday we drove to Bradenton FL about 70 miles up the coast and headed out of there about 1400 with a brandy new shiny auxiliary fuel tank in BAT. I’ll ‘splain what that means and put in a photo in my next post.

Following that we drove up to Mayo FL right near Tallahassee where John Palmer, his helper Tracy, and Neil spent the last two days installing solar panels, wiring them up, making everything waterproof. By 1400 today we were done and are now a green energy producin’ machine…even on a cloudy day this afternoon we were still generating about 10 amps of charging current into the battery. Again…I’ll ‘splain and include photos later but Neil’s too tuckered to process the photos he took of it and the aux tank right now.

Anyhoos…we’re done with all of that ‘cepting a very slight issue with our new auxiliary fuel tank that I’ll talk about along with all the other stuff next time…so we’ll be heading out of here tomorrow morning. We have to make another quick trip to the roof to remove the blocks that are holding down the wires until the sealant goop that glues the wires to the roof finishes sealing…then we’ll hitch up and be on the road for about a 300 mile trip back to Seminole.

Oh yeah; we got a notice from our bank yesterday that our main credit card had been spoofed and a fake card made up for some purchases yesterday up in VA. Neil assured them that we didn’t make them and we went through all the pending charges they have telling them which were good and which were fraudulent. The card’s cancelled and we’ll get a new one delivered to Seminole tomorrow. We didn’t lose any money…the bank is pretty aggressive about finding bogus charges and getting new cards sent out. They think the number got disclosed due to the Home Depot breach recently and somebody made a duplicate card and was charging away…but they only got a hundred bucks or so worth of stuff out of the deal. Still a pain for us though…Neil will have to change the card number in all the places that keep it like Amazon and the like…and will have to file a fraud alert with the credit bureaus to make sure nothing further was done but other than being a pain it’s not that big of a deal. Another great advertisement for the new Apple Pay system…which will make fraud like this a lot harder to do since the merchant won’t have your credit card number to be stolen by the bad guys; under the Apple Pay system you give the merchant a one tim code that isn’t your credit card number. Even if the bad guy steals the code, as far as the bank is concerned it’s already been used and hence is no good…so the bad guy’s can’t steal any money with it. Unfortunately the new system requires an iPhone 6…and we aren’t due for an upgrade until next November so I guess we’ll just have to suck it up and wait or spend the money to upgrade early. Haven’t decided which way to go with that yet and the new system isn’t accepted widely yet anyway but in a year or so it looks like the whole pay by credit card landscape will get a giant security upgrade. There’s a competing system being pushed by merchants named CurrenC…but it doesn’t offer nearly as much security, doesn’t use a credit card but uses a direct bank account debit or debit card instead, is much more cumbersome to use, and is essentially a way for the merchant to gather even more data on the customer. Under Apple’s better system…you get to use credit cards, the merchant doesn’t get any info on you, and it’s more secure…what’s not to like. The Google Wallet system for Android phones is very similar to Apple Pay and either of them is far superior to the CurrenC system which is being pushed primarily by big merchants who don’t want to pay credit card fees…like I’m willing to to give CVS or Walmart direct access to my bank account…not.

Anyhoos; that’s it for now…as I said I just wanted to let ya’ll know we wuz still alive and I’ll post some pretty pictures and explanations on all our new stuff later on.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | Leave a comment

Transit to North Fort Myers FL

Well, Neil never did take me a picture of our site 3 at the Low Key Hideaway so I don’t guess I can post one. We pretty much did nothing all week though. Connie worked a bit, Neil went on a couple rides, we went fishin’ a couple of times and we went to the Tiki Bar every nite for happy hour sandwiched around dinner. Halloween evening we drove downtown and wandered around the Cedar Key block party for awhile.

Neil found out that our aux fuel tank was in and made an appointment to get it installed for Monday Nov 10. We also coordinated our solar panel installation and after a couple false alarms and rescheduling caused by FedEx not delivering parts on time we have that scheduled for after the aux tank installation. We’re getting a trailer hitch added to the rig while the tank is being installed and decided that since we had to hitch and tow anyway we would just combine both of those tow trips into one and get done.

Saturday after our solar fits and starts we got underway about 1000 and 256 miles later arrived here at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers. We got situated in our normal site 101 and did a half setup…since we’re leaving after a week Neil left some of the more permanent winter stuff until after we return from our trip.

IMG 1478

We ran out to Hogbody’s and had wings and brews for dinner and pretty much did nothing else since we arrived. Tonight we’re off to Bingo at the Elks and will have a hotdog for dinner.

Cyas.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Transit to Cedar Key

Well…it’s been a decently productive couple of days. After my last post we hung around at Top Sail and didn’t do all that much after our rough 4 days out of 6 traveling. Connie did some work, we walked down to the beach and stood in the surf awhile, we ate more oysters at another restaurant, we got groceries from Walmart and we got ourselves a new Internet access plan. Our previous provider Millenicom…who gave us 20 GB of data monthly for 90  bucks as a Verizon 3G reseller…had their contracts cancelled by Verizon corporate which essentially puts them out of business…so we need a new plan with data via the phone system whenever we aren’t at a campground with wifi. Neil researched the options…there’s essentially a choice between Verizon and AT&T and after some thought we decided to stick with Verizon. It’s a little (very little) better deal than AT&T is offering and having our air card via Verizon and our iPhones on AT&T gives us data from both networks as there are places where one or the other doesn’t work very well.

We also upgraded ourselves to a new 4G/LTE/XLTE capable aircard which gives us faster speeds…and ended up with a 30 GB per month plan for 180 bucks…more than we were paying but it is what it is. Neil wishes we had our telecom companies regulated like the Europeans do as they pay way less than we do for way faster speeds and much more bandwidth per month. Unfortunately…we don’t so we’re stuck with whatever it is. Oh well.

Saturday morning we got up and headed out for Cedar Key…our next destination before arriving in Fort Myers with a planned stop in Mayo FL where we were going to get some details from John Palmer who will be installing our solar panels shortly. We were just getting off of the freeway for fuel and lunch when John called and after a 10 minute phone call he and Neil had swapped all relevant information and John will be calling us back later in the week to coordinate our installation. At this point it looks like we’ll leave Cedar Key on Sat Nov 1 and instead of proceeding to Fort Myers will go back 70 miles north to Mayo for the weekend. After that we’ll move a couple miles to John’s site for the work on Monday with a hope that we can get done and out of there by Wednesday. At that point we’ll drive either direct to Fort Myers or stop overnight depending on what time we get out. This installation will take care of one of our major upgrade projects…the other is our aux fuel tank upgrade. Neil also talked to the folks up in Bradenton who will be installing our TransferFlow 50 gallon tank in the bed as well as a receiver hitch on the rig (so we can mount a bike rack and get them out of the back of the car…this is our third upgrade big upgrade). The tank is on order and once it arrives we’ll schedule an appointment day. That will require hitching the house and BAT and driving about 60 miles north to Bradenton for the day…both installs are one day jobs and we should be home by dinnertime. Since we didn’t have to stop in Mayo we continued on to Cedar Key and got settled into site 3 at the Low Key Hideaway. We had some leftovers for dinner then wandered over to the Tiki Bar for brews and to watch the Alabama Tennessee game…at least the first half…the bar closed at 2100 so we went home (all of 40 feet commute) and watched the rest before heading off to bed.

Here are a couple shots we took this week…the first 3 were taken about sunset at Panama Joe’s Bar and Grill on the beach in Santa Rosa Beach. There was a partial solar eclipse right at sunset that day…but unfortunately by the time the sun got low enough and orange enough to be able to see the moon in front of the sun it had gotten low and behind the clouds so all we got were pretty pictures. The last one is the sunken fishing boat right next to the RV sites here at the Low Key Hideaway.

IMG 1468

IMG 1469

IMG 1472

DSC 8119

That’s about it for now…I’ll post a shot of our site as soon as Neil gets around to taking one.

Posted in RV, Travel | 5 Comments

Visit to Knoxville and Transit to Santa Rosa Beach FL

When last we left our heroes (as they used to say during the ‘30s radio serials), we were parked at Pocahontas Campground in Chesterfield VA near their human kids. Between them working we ended up going over on Saturday for some laundry and then again later in the week for more laundry. In between time Connie did a bunch of work and Neil worked on various honey do’s around the house. We had dinner over at the kids and went out one night for ice cream with them. Neil brought BAT over one day as Bryan had a bunch of debris from taking a tree down that needed to get hauled off to the dump…he and Bryan made two trips over there with BAT’s bed fully loaded with heavy log pieces.

Thursday morning we got packed up for our 2 day drive down to Knoxville to see Neil’s sister MJ. We stopped overnight at Interstate Overnite RV Park right off of the freeway in Christianburg VA and had dinner at the local Ruby Tuesday’s. Friday we continued on arriving at the Escapee’s run Raccoon Valley RV Park in Heiskell TN. We had MJ and her daughter Lauren over for some grilled burgers Saturday afternoon while we watched the Alabama vs Texas A&M game. ‘Bama won as expected but nobody say 59-0 with 5 touchdowns in the 2nd quarter and a 45 to zip halftime lead. The offense was clicking on all cylinders and the D played much better than in the two previous weeks against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Sunday we went out to Mass then down to MJ’s house for a brew and sat out on the veranda for awhile then off to Ruby’s for dinner (MJ gets half off as an employee) followed by heading home and getting ready for more transit days.

Monday found us on the road again…by the time we got to FL we had traveled 4 o 6 days and made 960 miles mostly southwards. We stopped overnight at the Fam Camp at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery AL then continued down to Top Sail State Park in Santa Rosa Beach FL just east of Pensacola…we arrived Tuesday afternoon. On the way south the day before we joked amongst ourselves about entering the disaster zone as southern AL was frequently referred to due to Neil’s family having all sorts of trials and tribulations. Neil joked that it didn’t count until you got south of Montgomery…which we arbitrarily defined as being south of the point where I-65 joins up with I-85 over to Atlanta.

Sure enough…on arrival at the AFB our LR slide wouldn’t open and we were just ever so slightly south of the intersection point. Based on the symptoms we decided it was a recurrence of the broken bolt we had a year or so ago in June 13 up in Jasper AB in the Canadian Rockies. We just left that slide in for the night and figured we would look at it on our arrival at Top Sail.

Tuesday we continued on down arriving at Top Sail about 1300 and got parked and setup…for a whole 4 days before our scheduled next to last move to Cedar Key FL on Saturday. Luckily we got a site on a concrete pad which meant that Neil could use his mechanics creeper to roll around under the house troubleshooting the slide issue rather than having to crawl across gravel or grass. Connie stayed on the patio and fetched tools for him.

He took the underbelly covering off…a pretty easy job as it’s just held on with sheet metal screws and sure enough the bolt was broken. So…off to Ace Hardware where we purchased 4 (only needed one but as a recurring failure we decided to have spares) Grade 8 bolt 3/16 by 1.5 inches along with lock washer and nut. Another hour or so under the house to install, test and button the underbelly back up and voilà, our LR slide works fine and dandy again.

After a shower we headed off to a local spot for dinner…Stinky’s Fish Camp…where we had brews, oysters, and some fried Brie cheese…that last was an error by the server so they gave it to us for free. We don’t normally like Brie but it was free so we gave it a shot and deep fried it was amazingly good…so good that we would order it again. We also had these rice sausage things (boudin) that were OK but we probably wouldn’t order them again.

Here are shots of our site at Raccoon Valley and our site 107 here at Top Sail. Raccoon Valley is conveniently close to MJ’s house but is otherwise unremarkable except for the 16 bucks a night rate. Top Sail used to be a commercial park that the state bought and turned into a state campground…and is pretty nice for a state park. Not quite to the “resort” class but pretty decent. Nice concrete pads, cable (luckily since we have no satellite visibility) and close to the beach.

Raccoon Valley

Top Sail Site 107

Connie worked some more today while Neil made some arrangements for installation of our auxiliary fuel tank in BAT and solar panels on our roof…that’s still in flux so I’ll pass on more details when we have them.

Yesterday on the way south…Neil got a call from our friend Bill Napier. Bill and Linda are the folks we were going to go on the trip to the Canadian Maritimes next summer and Alaska the following summer with. Long story short…the plans got changed an they’ve swapped their two trips with Alaska first and the Maritimes in 2016. After perusing our schedule we’re going with them on a caravan arranged by rvadventuretreks.com.

So…after the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally next May in Marion NC we’ll be heading north and west with arrival in Dawson Creek in late June for a departure on the caravan of June 29 on a 60 day trip through Canada and Alaska ending in Prince George BC the end of August. From there we’ll head over towards Calgary to watch the Tour of Alberta bike race then head homewards toward Fort Myers.

Our plans as of right this minute are to leave Saturday and transit over to Cedar Key for a week then depart on Saturday Nov 1 for Seminole Campground Fort Myers. The folks that are going to do our solar panel install are up in northern FL near the GA border…so depending on how things work out we may delay our arrival in Fort Myers for a few days and skip another mid winter transit up to northern FL for the install. We’ll have to see how that works out.

Once we get our Alaska plans firmed up I’ll post some details so ya’ll can wish you were there with us:-)

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 6 Comments

Nothing Going On Still

 

Just a quick note to let you know that nothing is going on. After our week up in Bull Run we left Thursday morning and motored on down to Chesterfield to Pocahontas State Park where we’re parked for a week. We’re about 10 miles from their human kids. We did nuttin’ over the weekend but went over to the kids house Monday for sheets and towels laundry. Tuesday we went over for more laundry and took BAT with us as Bryan needs to haul some stuff to the dump…so he and his dad will be doing some guy stuff today I guess. We’ll hang out here until Jen comes home and then figure out whether to eat out or eat in.

Tomorrow we’ll get packed up and ready for our 2 day drive down to Knoxville TN on Thursday and Friday. We’ll visit with Mary Jane over the weekend then continue our journey south. So by next Wednesday we’ll be down to the Pensacola area and hopefully will be in the warm weather for the duration.

At first

And on Friday we’ll…finally…be back in the South again as noted in the map below. The blue line is the Ya’ll Line ya know. 

Y all Line

Speaking of the South…I’m guessing this nun was from Southern France.

Vatican Women s rifle team

Cyas.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment