Surgery Day

Let’s start this one off with a Pro Tip…one should just avoid downtown Miami FL during rush hour…just don’t do it.

I wish I could report great things happening since we arrived in North Fort Myers and my last post…but I can’t…so I’ll tell ya about Connie’s eye stuff instead.

The reason we came down early…and I recommend against coming this far south in September as it’s just way, way too darned hot…was to get Connie’s eye worked on since she had some leftover scar tissue from her detached retina repair back in May. So we headed 45 miles south to the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Naples branch on Sep 14 to have an appointment with Dr. Smiddy to see about getting it fixed. They tested her vision and even with her glasses on she was seeing less than 50% of the letters on the 20/350 line on the eye chart so she was 20/400 rated. He confirmed that she needed the surgery…explaining that the scar tissue was caused by retina back side cells that had floated free during the detachment attaching themselves to the front side of the retina…and they sort of scrunch the retina up like a crumpled kleenex…the scrunched retina causes a hump which interferes with proper focusing of the lens onto the retina. The treatment is to surgically remove the scar tissue…basically the scrape it off…and that lets the retina go flat again…although it retains the wrinkles it used to have while it was scrunched up and hence she should not expect to get back to vision the way it was before the detachment. He said “let’s talk about scheduling” and then “how about tomorrow”. He does surgery over in Miami Mondays and Thursdays and wants to see her the day after surgery and it was either Sep 16 or wait 2 weeks as he’s spending all of next week over in Miami seeing patients there. So we opted for Sep 16 and he told us to be there (downtown Miami) at 0800.

Now the Institute over there is 157 miles from Seminole…so you know that meant we got up at 0dark30 to head over. We were on the road with Big Red shortly after 0400 and it’s a good thing we left earlier than we thought necessary as we had about 15 miles of stop and go traffic with associated idiots cutting in and out and generally doing stupid things to get a car length ahead…we got to the Institute about 0730. First problem was that the parking garage was too low for Big Red to fit into…but luckily we spotted a surface lot and got in there then hustled up to the 5th floor. 

We started with one of their PAs Terry about 0805 with medical history and a review of the procedures she was getting. First up was a vitrectomy which sucks all the goop out of your eye…this makes space for them to work with their tools and makes it easier to see. They cut a couple of 1/8” or so long incisions in the white part of the eye and stick their tools in while viewing things through the lens at the front. The second procedure was a somthing_or_other_ectomy…well, one of those ectomy words anyway…which is the actual procedure for scraping off the scar tissue. Why can’t they call it just plain old “scraping off the scar tissue” I have no idea…but they’re doctors so they need to make it sound more complicate than it really is I guess. They told us it would be 4-6 hours and gave Neil a super secret patient number…it was 13406…so he could track her progress through pre-op, anesthesia, start and stop of the procedure, surgery complete, and recovery as things went along.

PatientStatus

This neat little status board was in the waiting room so he followed her along…sure enough, her scheduled 1030 surgery started about 1015 and finished at 1043…just about the half hour that Dr. Smiddy said it would take. He told her as he left the OR that everything went as expected and he would see her Friday morning over in Naples. 

She was on some IV stuff that made her pretty loopy as well as some local shot into the eye area…the recovery nurse came and got Neil about 1110 and took him back…we finished up the post-op instructions, she got dressed, and we headed for the parking lot about 1130. Neil offered to go and get Big Red…she declined…then when we went out into the sunlight she was completely blind as her operated on eye had a patch on it and the bright light washed out her right eye as it normally does…I gotta tell ya she was pretty freaked out by that.

Neil offered her his elbow like you do for a blind person and we spent a good 10 minutes negotiating the block and a half over to the parking lot then headed out for home. We kept looking for lunch and finally spotted the Golden Arches about 30 minutes later so we grabbed a couple of burgers and pressed on arriving back at the house about 1515. We immediately took a nap for a couple of hours as we were wiped out.

Once we got up…Neil said she looked like a pirate…her response was Aaaaarrggh!!

Aaarrggh

After dinner we headed off to bed early…and showed up Friday morning Sep 16 at 1010 for our first followup visit. They took the patch off, she popped on her glasses…and her immediate comment was “Wow, I can see better.” A quick eye chart scan showed her getting 4/5 on the 20/200 line so she’s already got significant improvement and it should only get better from here. We go back in 2 weeks for another follow up on Sep 30 and she has some drops for Neil to put in 4x a day until they run out. The gauze pad she’s supposed to leave on until the eye feels the same with or without it…probably 2 days or so…and she needs to keep either the hard protecting patch or her glasses on to serve as a mechanical shield for the eye at least until that appointment so when the gauze comes off she’ll just use glasses during the day and the patch at night.

We’re glad that things are looking up…hopefully they’ll continue to improve as expected over the next 6 weeks…she may need a new lens prescription for that eye as well but we’ll worry about that later. She’ll probably also need cataract surgery within a year to fix it as well but again…we’ll worry about that later.

We now pause for a short political rant.

  • Why is it that liberals are quick to excuse behavior by their selected political candidates while condemning the identical behavior by the other side’s candidate?
  • Why do liberals…and tea party people as well…always claim that the other side’s lies are way worse than their side’s lies?
  • Why do families whose kids  run and then pull a gun on a cop while being investigated for what turns out to be an admitted armed robbery…and then the kid gets shot…claim that it was murder and that the cops should have used a taser on him…then complain that “it was only a BB guy” when it looks exactly like a 9mm semi-automatic pistol? Don’t cops have a right to go home at the end of their shift?
  • Why can’t we have a presidential candidate…I would settle for one, just one…that’s worthy of the office. We’ve got a choice this year of a complete moron liar who doesn’t understand the constitution…and a complete moron liar who lies about everything…why tell the truth when a lie will do…and breaks the law but is given a pass.
  • Why do liberal always want the “rich” to “pay their fair share” when they’re already paying the vast majority of personal income tax dollars…especially when you could confiscate 100% of the wealth and income of the “rich” and still not have enough to pay for all the income redistribution programs they want to have?
  • Why do liberals not understand that communism doesn’t work…or that the utopia which is the end effect of what their economic and social demands will accomplish won’t work either?
  • Why do tea partiers not understand the constitution?
  • Why does the various news media always write headlines designed to foment unrest and riots, particularly in any situation where more than one race is involved? What happened to the days when the news reported what we used to call facts…instead of politically slanted editorials (on both sides) masquerading as facts?
  • Why do tea partiers not understand that we’ll never be able to kick out the 11 million (or however many it really is) illegal aliens (or undocumented immigrants as the liberals cal them) of the country. The government doesn’t have the staff, money, facilities…and more importantly the competence…to collect them and kick them out.
  • Why don’t tea partiers understand that we cannot force the Mexican government to pay for a wall on the border…or understand that it won’t keep people out anyway…or understand that the net immigration the past few years across the US/Mexican border has been to the south?
  • Why doesn’t anybody in our government understand that peace in the Middle East just ain’t gonna happen…those folks have been killing each other for thousands of years so what hope do they possibly have that we can affect that. Heck…they kill each other over religion over there…that went out with the Crusades for western civilization. Connie and Neil are Roman Catholics…but they know hundreds of Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, and what have you…and I can reliably report that neither of them has ever, ever even considered killing them just because they’re Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, or what have you.
  • Why doesn’t our current administration and the Russian government understand that they can’t declare a cease fire in a country where the majority of the fighting is being done by the government in that country and rebels against it?
  • What makes most reasonably normal people turn into absolute assholes when they get behind the wheel of their vehicle?
  • Why do most cars you see on the road display a complete lack of any blinker fluid…you know, the stuff that the turn signals need to operate?
  • Why do politicians insist on saying stupid things…don’t they realize that “We don’t have any information yet.” is a perfectly good answer. After the bombing over the weekend in New York City…the mayor said it was an intentional act but definitely not terrorism…and the governor said it was clearly terrorism but definitely not international terrorism. Then Monday morning the police released the name and a photo of the suspected bomber…and while I don’t want to cast any undue aspersions on any group he does have a Middle Eastern name…so I’m guessing that he’s pretty likely to be involved with some terrorist or organization with terrorist sympathies. Just sayin’. 

Sorry about that…I had to wrestle the keyboard back from Kara…she’s getting terribly unforgiving in her old age ya know. I had to go outside for a bit…ya know what bears gotta do in the woods…and she snuck in and picked up the keyboard while I wasn’t lookin’. Dadgum that woman…she’s always fomenting some sort of trouble.

On to interesting things found on the net this week.

Here’s a link to The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity a paper written by an Italian named Carlo M. Cupola…an economist who worked at Cal Berkley.

Meanwhile at healthcare.gov

MeanwhileAtHealthcaredotGov

Ya know…size _does_ matter.

SizeDoesMatter

Ya don’t say.

YouDontSay

So…not bottomless after all I guess.

So NotBottomless

Came in a little too hot on the landing.

ALittleTooHotOnTheLanding

And finally…we’ve come to a fork in the road.

ForkInTheRoad

Cyas.

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Arrived in Fort Myers

Well…we kept an eye on the storm formerly known as Invest 99-L and now known as Tropical Storm (and then Hurricane) Hermine and as Neil expected it would based on long observation of storms in the Gulf while he was growing up…it headed farther north and was due to make landfall Thursday afternoon up at the eastern end of the Florida panhandle. Our planned route was down 95 to Daytona Beach then South-Southwest through Orlando and then South on US-17 and FL-31 from just west of Orlando.

We got hitched up and were on the road by 0830 or so…no rain to speak of before we left and relatively little wind. We had considered as a storm evasion tactic that we might continue on down I-95 it the weather or traffic around Orlando was bad and head west at Fort Pierce. Weather looked fine and traffic was fine so we continued with our planned route. Turns out that if we had continued on southwards we would have been pretty near to Cape Canaveral just about the time the SpaceX rocket blew up…or as Elon Musk put it later…caught fire…although it sure looked like it blew up to us. Maybe it was just a really, really fast fire. Technically he was right…it was not an explosion as that results in more rapid oxidation of the ‘stuff that goes bang’ with wave fronts propagating at many, many thousands of feet per second. Looking at the video…it really was just a really energetic fire. The Falcon 9 uses liquid oxygen for the oxidizer and highly refined kerosene for the fuel. According to the reports we’ve seen the fire started in the region of the second stage oxygen tank. For those of you who don’t really know about liquid oxygen…literally anything will burn if you dump liquid oxygen on it…even a big lump of metal like an anvil that a blacksmith uses. Dump a gallon of LOX on one of those that has a couple of glowing charcoal briquets on it and in about 15 seconds the anvil…all 100 pounds or so of it…will be gone. You can find plenty of videos on the internet of things like anvils, picnic ground BBQ grills and other non flammable objects catching on fire with treated with LOX. Neil can tell you stories about pictures he’s seen of oxygen files on submarines…and it ain’t pretty. Anyway…what most likely happened was that there was some sort of leakage from the oxygen tank while filling it…that was in progress when the problem happened. Leakage would have started a fire in the rocket’s structure that would spread rapidly…like in milliseconds. Wouldn’t take long for the fuel tank to be breached and then the whole thing goes up. Neil’s guess is that in the video the actual fire started about 2 seconds or so before the flame eruption and spent the intervening 2 seconds eating into the fuel tank. Once you see the actual fire on the video…it’s clearly a petroleum product fire as evidenced by the orange flames. Anyway…technically it wasn’t an explosion as that would happen much faster than what you see on the video. Back in the day…Neil was intimately involved in several…well, let’s just call them explosive projects. When you look at the video of actual explosion…the video is usually at 25,000 or 50,000 frames per second instead of the normal 32 or 40 frames per second that TV, movies, and internet video uses…and when you’re looking at those high speed videos the explosion wave typically travels 100 yards in a half dozen frames of video. Looking at the video of the SpaceX incident…it’s clear that the wave is traveling more on the order of 200 feet in a half dozen frames of video that’s running 800 times faster. So…technically Musk is right despite what it looks like although I’m sure that most non-techies would call it at explosion.

Anyways…enough about that.

We ran into a little traffic going through Orlando…maybe 10 miles of construction barrels although we still were rolling along at 40…and maybe another 10 miles of sort of traffic but again we were still rolling along at 40-50. We briefly considered…when we were in the Orlando area…continuing on down I-4 to I-75 which was the GPS recommended route…but looking at the weather there were rain bands rolling into the Tampa area from Hermine and it looked like we would be better off taking 17/31 as we originally planned. So…we did…and ran into maybe 20 minutes total of rain before we got far enough south for it to stop…some of it was pretty heavy but we were still doing 40 or so down the 4 lane portion of US-17 during the rain and by the time we got to the 2 lane portions the weather had cleared enough where it was no longer raining as we had gotten enough south. 

We rolled into Seminole about 1530…quickly checked in at the office and parked in our usual site 101. Really hot though. We did utilities and then had some frozen lasagna for dinner. Friday Neil did most of our winter setup…we’re going to be here for at least 7 weeks before our potential run up to Cedar Key for 10 days…and then we hit the Elks for fried fish dinner in the evening.

Saturday we watched Alabama…you know, the defending national champs…just trash USC 52-6. The commentators went on and on about Alabama’s lack of a quarterback and how they were starting a ‘rookie’…along with graphics showing how the last 4 rookie QBs for the Tide had performed in their first year…3 championships and one loss in the semifinals. The Tide’s defense was a typical suffocating ‘Bama defense holding USC to 6 points. The offense took a little longer to gell and nothing really happened until they pulled the starting QB at the beginning of the 2nd quarter and put in a true freshman named Jalen Hurts. This kid is looking pretty good…made a couple of freshman mistakes…but ended up with 2 long touchdown passes and 2 running touchdowns…between the beginning of the 2nd and midway into the 4th Bama hung 52 on them. They looked scary good…the D was in mid season form.

Nothing new beyond that…I’ll have another report later.

Interesting things found on the net this week.

It’s a rough neighborhood when your shopping cart is up on blocks.

RoughNeighborhood

And store clerks really need to give clear instructions

UnclearInstructions

Cyas.

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Morning Rush Hour and Dodging Storms

Well…as I predicted in my last post…we pretty much done nuttin’ since our arrival here at Pelican Roost RV Park on Naval Station Mayport FL.

We’re situated right at the mouth of the St. John’s river looking north towards the river…the Atlantic is visible off to the right and the channel splits just before the RV park with the left side heading into the Navy basin here at the base and the right side heading in towards the port of Jacksonville.

We’ve been watching the weather closely this year…we’re here earlier than usual and it’s still hurricane season down here in the southeast…in particular we’ve been watching what used to be called Invest 99-L and was upgraded to Tropical Depression Nine this morning. Tropical Depression 8 is up the coast off of NC and is turning eastward toward the open ocean without making landfall and Hurricane Gaston is well east and north of Bermuda heading northeast into the Atlantic…neither of those are a concern.

Tropical Depression Nine on the other hand…we’re keeping an eye on. That’s the one that dithered around  down in the islands for  what seemed like days and finally headed west between Florida and Cuba, passing about 60 miles south of Key West into the Gulf of Mexico. As of this morning it’s forecast to remain a Tropical Depression at least through tomorrow with winds of 35 knots as it continues northwest into the Gulf. Sometime Tuesday or Wednesday it’s forecast to turn back towards the northeast and then by Thursday morning when we’re due to leave here it will still be off the coast near Cedar Key with a track northeast. Landfall will be Thursday afternoon at Cedar Key and it will continue northeast through the Jacksonville area sometime Friday morning.

So…assuming it doesn’t speed up or turn farther to the east then we’ll be just fine…with us on the road by about 0800 or so Thursday morning we should see a little of the early cloud cover at worst and mostly we’ll drive out of it’s path as we continue another 320 or so miles south to Fort Myers. Fort Myers itself will be unaffected unless it turns to east instead of northeast and even then it would need to turn today and the winds make that highly unlikely. It’s a really unorganized storm so far…all of the cloud cover, wind and rain is to the southwest of the center of rotation…and although the weather guessers seem pretty sure of the path they’re all over the map on intensity. Fleet average of the models indicate a Tropical Storm near hurricane strength (70 mph wind) at landfall but we should be well clear. We’ll continue to monitor and if necessary we’ll just leave a day early on Wednesday to make sure we’re out of Dodge before it happens…we prefer not to travel in rainy conditions unless we have to.

We were up with our coffee around 0800 this morning and decided to sit outside and watch the Monday Morning rush hour…we figured that we would see several of the ships in the Navvy basin head out for weekly operations…these days the non-deployed ships tend to do that a lot and then come back in on Friday…the Navy keeps track of both time in port and time in homeport these days and to keep the time in homeport average to 50% ships tend to do a lot of M-F at sea periods.

Lo and behold though…although there was rush hour it was all coming in vice going out. First up Neil spotted a submarine sail down by the breakwater and we got a nice view of a fast attack submarine as it headed into the basin…Neil’s says it’s a Virginia class. The fairing at the base of the front of the sail means it’s either Seawolf or Virginia class…and the lower fairing height, antenna configuration and overall length make it pretty obvious…to him anyway…that it’s not a Seawolf class. Things were so much simpler when they had the hull number painted on the sail.

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The other guy coming in was identified as the Eurasian Highway…a Japanese flagged car carrier coming in…that’s gotta be one of the ugliest ships I’ve ever seen. The owners built it for efficiency in cargo carrying and fuel consumption though, not looks I know…but dang it’s ugly.

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Other than that…we’re just hanging out. We wandered over to the beach Saturday for an hour or so until we got too hot, made some homemade eggnog to age for the holidays, and try to sit outside on the veranda and watch the world go by every afternoon. It’s continued to be in the 90s with pretty high humidity most days…but it’s also been breezy and sitting in the shade it’s actually pretty pleasant outside. Not so much walking around in the sun…Neil walked over to get a haircut and some cash this morning after rush hour was over…and based on sitting there thought it would be ok to walk instead of drive around…he got back and concluded he was incorrect.

Interesting things on the net has been slim this week…these are all I found.

An Olympic one…Bolt crossing the finish line.

BoltCrossingFinishLine

And no more monkey business…

MonkeyBusiness

Yeah…I know…those were both pretty lame but I can only do what I can do. There were several others that would have made the cut except I…mostly…try to keep this blog to G or PG.

Cyas.

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Columbia SC and Transit to Jacksonville

Today’s post starts with a Pro Tip™. Always make sure that the restaurant you were planning on visiting is open on the day you’re planning to visit.

We were stopping by Columbia SC for 3 reasons…first to visit our friends Bill and Linda, second to visit Congaree National Park, and third to visit Hites BBQ. We (Connie) found this place in a magazine article and it’s supposed to be one of the top BBQ places in SC…so naturally we wanted to eat there. We arrived late Friday afternoon after a 300 mile travel day…and I gotta tell you that I-40 east of Knoxville and then I-26 through NC has to be the steepest and most curvy interstate highway we’ve ever been on…and we’ve been on a lot of them including out west and Alaska. 40 is just hilly…but 26 curves through a mountain pass for probably 40 miles and has many curves marked at 40mph as the safe speed. It wasn’t dangerous…but instead of an easy 300 mile freeway day…driving on freeways is normally pretty mindless and doesn’t require intense concentration on the road…that 100 miles was really more concentration-required-wise like driving on a narrow 2 lane country road with no shoulders and ditches on both sides. Neil was really exhausted by the time we arrived…so we decided not to eat out and just have leftovers instead. Saturday we were out the door early for the 110 mile drive over to Bill and Linda’s house…after a great steak dinner…and naturally a little working on Bill’s New Horizons…we got back home about 2100 and hit the sack. Sunday afternoon we had a nice nap as we had gotten up really early both Friday and S Saturday. Monday we headed over to Congaree National Park…this was established as a National Swamp Monument back in 1976 and upgraded to Park status in 2003. We watched the movie at the visitor center…excellent as with most Park Service movies) then did the 2.5 mile boardwalk through the park…which is essentially a coastal lowland hardwood bottomland that floods completely for 3-4 months per year.

After our hike we looked up Hites…and were all set to go there for dinner…until we found out that it’s a part time only place and is only open Friday and Saturday for takeout only. Bummer…we were really looking forward to some good BBQ.

As an alternate…we decided to try Maurice’s Piggie Pork BBQ…a local chain. Looking at Yelp…the reviews ranged from “outstanding, best BBQ ever” to “why would you want to eat here, the owners are racist and the food is terrible’. We decided to give it a try anyway as the only other place with good reviews was like 30 miles away on the other side of the city of Columbia so more like 45 miles to drive there and skip downtown. We went into Maurices (a take out only location but the food comes from the main restaurant on the other side of town). We got a couple of takeout dinners…chicken for Connie and brisket for Neil…and headed home to eat. Long story short…Maurices has terrible BBQ and don’t eat there.

Congaree National Park has 26,000 acres and is the last remaining large stand of old growth Loblolly Pine trees. These used to blanket pretty much the entire southeast coastal area and are one of the largest pine trees…with the largest one measured at over 160 feet tall and a base diameter of about 6 feet. The park sits at the junction of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers and was originally owned by a lumberman named Francis Biedler. Logging in the area turned out to be pretty much impossible due to the soft terrain and frequent flooding so it was never heavily harvested. Before the Civil War it was a prime hiding place for runaway slaves who lived here in small communities to escape slave trackers. The park is filled with what the locals named guts and sloughs. During high water season (5 or so months each year) guts fill first and create small ponds or lakes in the park. Sloughs fill and become creeks, creeks flow rear round, and when water reaches it’s maximum depth the entire park is pretty much flooded creating a wide, very slow moving fresh water river very similar to the Everglades. Large stands of Cypress and Tupelo trees dominate most of the forest with the Loblolly Pines on the higher ground…although higher in this case means maybe a foot or two, not anything significant. 

The ground next to the boardwalk. It’s a mix of clay and decayed vegetation and is about 8 feet thick. It’s known as Dorovan Muck and filters the water to keep the floodplain healthy. Most normal people…well, we just call it dirt.

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 Looking down the boardwalk…it was actually very greenish under there due I guess to the leaves overhead…so I left the photo colors uncorrected.

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A couple of spiderwebs across the way…and a shot of just the spider who was right over the boardwalk. Not sure if it’s the same type of spider in both shots…but the webs were very similar in size, shape, and attachment technique…and only about 30 yards apart so since they were in the same micro-habitat and since spiderwebs are generally species specific they’re probably the same.

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Cypress knees…these are thought to be part of the root support structure…there are 10s of thousands of these throughout the park but they’re concentrated at particular elevations. Go another 50 yards down the boardwalk and let the elevation get a foot higher or lower and the Cypress trees and knees just stop to be taken over by Tupelo trees or Loblolly Pines.

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A Cypress tree with a large hole in the side…growing sideways from the base…along with a close up of the hole area. Neil thought it was a neat looking tree.

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Wild turkey…a group of 5 or 6 of these crossed the boardwalk about 50 yards in front of us. This was the best shot I got…didn’t have the bird lens on the camera and the light was really low.

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Connie standing by the base of a Loblolly Pine…pretty good size tree, huh? The next photo is a vertical shot of the same tree…Loblolly Pines only have branches at the very top and generate a two tiered canopy in coastal lowland forests…Loblolly’s at the top, Cypress/Tupelo in the middle and Palmetto at the bottom. I thought I had a shot of the Scrub Palmetto…the state tree of SC…but apparently not so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were there.

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Wildlife was sort of scarce on this hike…so I tossed in this lizard Neil found at the visitor center…it’s about a foot long.

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We stayed at Weston Lake Recreation Area which is part of Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia in site 17…great site, nice concrete pad and pretty easy in and out. Two problems with this Fam Camp though. First…water pressure is really terrible, only about 25 psi. That one would have been easy to work around but since we only had 4 nights we didn’t bother to just fill the tank and use our water pump instead. Second problem was power…although it seemed pretty good we had this strange transient in the campground Sunday night when power went out and back on. Normally our inverter picks up the load off of our batteries but in this particular case whatever it was caused the inverter to reboot which made our DirectTV receiver reboot on loss of power…first time that’s ever happened in 4 years. Everything came back, fridge, A/C, etc and all seemed good until Monday morning. We had something else happen early on then…some sort of transient that while not rebooting our inverter did make our microwave come up with an EEPROM error on the screen which wouldn’t clear. Neil was going to troubleshoot that when we got to Jacksonville…until he found out we had no power to our Bigfoot jacks…so he spent an hour troubleshooting that and trying to figure out why we had no 12v power. Battery was fine, our inverter indicated it was charging, no blown fuses. He ended up opening and shutting our 12v circuit breakers again and completely powering down our inverter and then everything came back up including the microwave. Problem solved…but he has no idea what was up with it. Anyway…because of the power and water issues we probably wouldn’t stay at Weston Lake again.

After completing our electrical fix we were hitched up and on the road by about 0930 Tuesday morning and arrived in a hot, hazy, and humid Jacksonville area 315 miles later. We checked into the park and were given a choice of 6 back in sites…there were 6 or 7 of the waterfront pull through sites empty. Neil asked about those and all are booked for Friday and Saturday nights. The lady in the office told us we could have one of them but would have to move Friday and back into it on Sunday…since one of the pull throughs is on the second row we decided to pass. We’ll still have views out to the water until Friday and then again starting Sunday when the weekenders move out…and we have a couple of palm trees to shade us during the morning and the rig to shade us during the afternoon/evening from ursine 26. Neil got utilities hooked up and we sat under the palm trees for a couple of hours before a well deserve shower and dinner…which was leftover grilled Italian chicken from over the weekend mixed with a package of Zatarain Caribbean Rice. Neil tossed in a little extra cilantro and a quarter cup of cream to make the rice creamy rather than drier…so it ended up more the texture of risotto instead of rice…and it was quite excellent.

Site 26

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Looking from our doorway out to the water…almost exactly towards where the shot above was taken from.

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Connie relaxin’ with a frosty adult beverage.

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Our plans for our time here in Jacksonville are…sit in the shade, drink beer, eat at the local Irish pub, eat at the local seafood place, and eat at the Chief’s Club here on base. Other than that…we’re doing nothing.

Connie was originally going to officially retire from her part time job with NVCC at the end of the year when she’s eligible for Social Security. She got an email from her boss a couple of weeks back that had all sorts of hours limitations for the transition period to the new person taking over…she was unhappy about the treatment she was getting as she got close to leaving…and when she combined that with her ongoing frustration with trying to work while she has her eye issue she decided to go ahead and leave early and will be leaving as of Aug 31…so she’ll be officially retired as of then.

Connie’s working this morning…and we’re mostly doing nothing for the next 8 days before we head out on the last leg of this year’s travel season…although depending on how the eye thing goes we might go ahead and head back up to our previously last scheduled stop at the Low Key Hideway in Cedar Key the last 10 days of October.

Interesting things on the net this week.

Not a political statement…just an acknowledgement of what might happen if liberals achieve all of their goals.

The British Are Coming

Laziness level…expert.

LazinessLevelExpert

The Gestcher Belvedere Hotel halfway up a mountain pass in Switzerland. This would be a neat place to stay someday…but not in winter unless it’s not snowing and the road has been plowed.

GestcherBelvederHotel

Cyas.

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Georgetown KY

Well…we headed out early Wednesday morning August 10 on our 292 mile trip from Benton IL over to Georgetown KY which is just north of Lexington. We dumped and hitched, fixed (at least temporarily) our power cord problem, made a short jaunt north on I-57 to I-64 and then stayed on 64 all the way to just before Lexington…getting off on the northwest side of town right before we started to get into their rush hour traffic and headed north a dozen miles before arriving at Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown and getting settled into site 61 which is a nice 50 amp FHU site on the fishing lake. We were scheduled for a week.

Our problem with our power cord is that we discovered the power reel for pulling in then cord no longer reels…it runs for a few seconds and then quits…and is running very slowly when it does run. Since it’s a DC motor it might be just low voltage due to switch corrosion…or it could also be the built in overheat mechanism in the motor. Neil talked to the folks at New Horizons and they’ve had to replace the switch a decent number of times for similar issues…so we ordered a new switch to be sent to Florida and we’ll just live with it until then. The workaround is that instead of using our built in power cord we just pull out a foot or so and plug in our 50 amp extension cord to run to the pedestal…the extension cord is easy to just coil up and toss in the basement. We actually discovered the problem on departure from Benton and for the short term just pulled the cord completely out to it’s max length, coiled it up and bungee corded it to our ladder on the rear, and bungeed it up to the frame and trailer hitch to keep it off the street as we drove. On arrival here Neil figured out how to manually coil it up by turning the cable reel through a couple of skinny openings…he had tried that in Benton but was unable to do so with the weight of the cable pulling against him. He figured out a different way to contort himself and get both hands into the mechanism, Connie held up the cable to assist with the weight and feed it into the reel and in 10 minutes or so he was able  to get it reeled in and the extension installed.

Dinner on our arrival was at Ruby Tuesday’s…we tried this place in town but it turned out to be a highfalutin’ foodie place and not the bar we thought it would be so Ruby’s was our second choice.

Other than that…we’ve just pretty much done not a lot. We did head out Friday and did the tour over at the Wild Turkey distillery in nearby Lawrenceburg…and tried to do the one at Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles after our lunch at the Inn in Vesailles…but again skipped it as we walked in the door and immediately were turned off by the corporate nature of the place…we sort of figured out due to the maxed out parking lot that it wasn’t gonna be anything but a cattle call type thing so we headed home instead. 

Tuesday we headed over to Keenland Racetrack…which is a horse racing facility in Lexington…for their morning tour…we figured that if you’re in Kentucky you ought to at least see bourbon and horses so we did. We skipped another tour at a retired thoroughbred facility…it was $30something apiece to get in…figuring that $8 apiece at Keenland was really enough for us anyway as we aren’t really horse people. We spent a nice hour and a half getting taken around by our guide telling us about the history of the track and the activities that go on there. Keenland has 2 3 week racing calendars in the spring and fall but is primarily used as a training track and auction facility. They have the largest thoroughbred horse auctions in the world…running a total of 3 sales per year…each lasts about 2 weeks and auctions off somewhere around 4,500 horses bringing in over $500 million a year. We also found that Versailles KY is not pronounced vur-sigh like the French palace but vur-sales instead. Strange…just strange. 

A little known fact…although there are many types of horses that run in races…Pinto, Arabian, Quarterhorses, etc…most races are limited to thoroughbred horses. Every thoroughbred in the entire world of horse racing (63 countries) is descended from Arabian stallions that were brought over to England to mate with native mares in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Somewhere around 160 bloodlines have been identified but about 95% (depending on who you believe) descent from 3 Arabian stallions named Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Arabian. 

We found the local Elks Lodge…but it’s about 12 miles away down itty bitty roads so never really made it over there…we have our own brews a anyway including a half case each of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout and found a barbecue place named Babe’s just a mile or two down the road.

A few shots from our trips.

The aging rick at Wild Turkey distillery.

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Our Wild Turkey samples before we…er, sampled them.

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A view from the distillery towards the Kentucky River. The railroad trestle in the background is about 300 feet high and is now used solely for bungee jumping…with a dip into the river as an optional fee added experience. The vehicle bridge below it is next to the railroad bridge and is (according to our tour guide Bubba…yeah, that was his actual name) one of only 2 S-shaped bridges in the US. To us…it looked pretty much like a straight bridge across the river with a curve at each end so the road could continue climbing up the ridge. I guess the curves were actually bridges and not a fixed road on the ground…so maybe the claim is true.

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A shot of one of the horses exercising on the track…we always thought that a racetrack was just a cleared dirt area…but the track is actually a sandwich of materials totaling about 3 feet in thickness…gravel, special dirt and some other layers in there. Makes a real funny sound when the hooves hit the dirt.

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Alarm clock designed by Satan. When it goes off the three geometric pieces on top fly all over the room and you have to collect them and return them to their appropriately shaped hole before it will shut off.

SatansAlarmClock

I always wondered about this one. Everybody’s seen the space shuttle’s main engines…but you can only see the exhaust nozzles of course. The narrowest point is the point at which the velocity of the exhaust becomes supersonic. The SSMEs…as you know…burn a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen…some of which is pumped through the pipes around the nozzles to carry away heat and keep them from melting. What I wondered about was how the gases got into the engine. Turns out the pipe goes to this thing called an injector at the top of the engine…this is one of the injectors being machined.

SSME Injector

And finally…a throwback for ya’ to the grand old days of 2014 when we went over to Ireland. There were a whole series of religious statues we found that resembled other things…you surely remember them from back then…Dead Ball Jesus, First Down Jesus, TV Timeout Jesus, Touchdown Jesus, and my personal favorite Fourth and Short Mary. Well…we wuz watching the Olympics the other day…and after all of the finger wagging in the pool, grousing about how your Olympics were ruined by being accused of previous doping, and sour loser complaints from he US Women’s Soccer team goalie…not to mention the couches in the rowing venue and armed robberies by guys posing as policeman…anyway this one seemed perfectly apropos for the entire week.

I present to you…Unsportsmanlike Conduct Jesus.

UnsportsmanlikeConductJesus

My favorite moment of the games so far has been the Women’s 400 meter final…the US runner was just beaten out at the line by a runner who literally dove forward onto the track…this allowed her to reach the line first by carefully timing the dive. Perfectly legal…as the only rule is that the torso that reaches the line first is the winner. Second favorite moments were Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt…those guys just ain’t human. Bolt seems like the only guy at the track who is actually having fun while he’s doing his job…and Phelps has to have had a mermaid ancestor along the line somewhere.

Tomorrow we’re off to Heiskell TN just north of Knoxvegas where we’ll visit Neil’s baby sister MJ for a day before heading onwards to Columbia SC.

Cyas.

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New Horizons, Columbia MO, and Benton IL

Well…we finally made it out of Camp Horizons and once again it was a pretty frustrating experience.

We originally arrived on Sunday Jul 24 for a Monday July 25 service appointment…and is typical for service back at the factory we did absolutely nothing for an entire week despite Neil asking Ken about progress at least once daily. We finally saw some service guys late on Monday Aug 1 and they shoe-horned about 6 hours of actual work into the next 2.5 days…although to be fair there was some drying dead time involved so we really have no complaint about the speed of progress once they actually started. We continue to wonder how and why they neglect service when most of their customer base comes via word of mouth from owners. At the prices they charge one would think that service would be higher on their priority list. Unfortunately…it isn’t and that’s just the bad that comes along with the good when you buy a New Horizons coach.

So…what they did for us was basically fix some fiberglass cracks in our outer skin…long story short is that they had a design issue which caused the fiberglass (which has no stretchability at all) to crack when the frame flexes. The basic fix is that instead of a single long fiberglass sheet on the entire side of the rig they are now putting a stress relief cut vertically from the top corners of each slide cutout to the roof, filling it with flexible silicone and covering it with a trim strip painted to match. It looks pretty decent and the painting was really the long pole in our getting done as most of the strips had multiple colors of paint on them. We also had a larger crack from the lower rear corner of our bedroom slide down to the basement door and a basement door that no longer had a rectangular frame due to the frame flexing and the door binds. So we got a new door there as  well…NH has gone to a new vendor for their doors with better latches and stiffer frames.

This coach was also there with the owner trying (for either the 5th or 6th time) to pick it up…he said it’s been on order for 2 years and it’s finally about ready for delivery. It’s a 52 footer with the rear 12 foot as a toy hauler basement for the owner’s Harley…he travels full time for work and ordered the rig because he was tired of living out of hotels. He was far less angry than he deserved to be over the overdue delivery and multiple visits for delivery. Nice looking rig though…never seen a 4 axle 5ver before. The truck is painted to match the rig and it looks great.

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Anyway…we finally were done about 0900 on Thursday morning Aug 4 so we paid our bill and got ready for the road. Ken had told us previously that NH felt like they had a moral responsibility for the design flaw…and we were hoping that would mean a no charge repair but really didn’t think that would be the case. As it turned out…their moral responsibility meant that they only charged us half of the labor for the fix and no parts charges. I know we’re out of warranty…but fixes due to faulty design on their part really should have been covered in full. They don’t have any legal responsibility to do anything though…so I guess that half is better than nothing.

Our first stop was in Columbia MO…we were originally only going to stay one night but could not make a reservation at our second stop at the COE campground on Lend Lake in Benton MO until Saturday night…so we spent 2 nights at Cottonwoods Campground just north of Columbia instead. While there we visited the local Elks Lodge…which is one of the best lodges we’ve ever been to. Friendly, great menu, good brews…and a lot busier than we are used to seeing Elks Lodges including lots of younger folks instead of the more typical ‘people our age or older’ crowd.

While there we drove over to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park…where they have, you guessed it…a rock bridge. Not as large as some of those out west but pretty nice. The third shot is of a cave entrance named Devil’s Icebox that had a nice cool 60 degree breeze coming out. The hike was about a half mile total and was almost entirely on boardwalks…but it was about all Connie can do until her eye is fixed this fall.

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Saturday morning we hitched up for the next leg of our eastward journey…and discovered that our front right jack pad fell off and was sitting on the ground. We had never heard of the feet coming off until the recent NHOG rally…and now 2 of ours have fallen off. After we lost the first one Neil bought a new one up in Elkhart and had MorRYDE replace all the nuts and use Locktite on them to prevent recurrence…well, so much for that as the pad and nut stayed on the ground when we raised the jack. Neil is going to have to see about getting the nut tack welded on once we get south.

On arrival at our next stop…site 161 at Sandusky South Campground on Lend Lake…we checked in, backed into our pretty nice site…and then discovered the next problem…bad power…our Progressive Industries management system wouldn’t connect. Neil took a look at the readouts and we had 147 volts on one leg and 106 on the other…no wonder it didn’t work. The system protected us from any damage though. We also saw that 161 was a W/E only site and not full hookup as advertised on the website. So we drove back up to the entrance and the camp host moved us to site 181 instead…which is a full hookup site. We backed in…verified the power voltage which was good…and got setup. Unfortunately…no satellite visibility here and the only TV station the batwing can pick up is PBS…so we’re watching a  lot of British shows on PBS this week.

Connie worked and Neil went to Walmart for groceries and that’s about all for here…although we are trying to sit outside every day for awhile and read in the breeze as the weather has cooled off some and it’s actually pretty nice outside. Wednesday we’ll head another 300 miles east to Georgetown KY right outside Lexington for a week.

Interesting things found this week.

A reminder that one should always speak up.

SpeakUp

Darned sneaky Chinese.

SneakyChinese

The alphabet as taught to doctors.

MedicalAlphabet

And lunchtime on the original Star Wars set.

StarWarsSetLunchtime

Cyas.

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Groundhog Day at Camp Horizons

Have I mentioned how much being stuck at Camp Horizons is less than fully appealing? Have I mentioned how the more things change the more they stay the same?  Color us frustrated at this point.

After arrival on Sunday…we really didn’t expect any work on Monday as there are always leftover rigs getting fixed from last week…and it was raining anyway. We talked to Ken Tuesday morning and gave him our list…Mike came by in late morning to tell us he might be over that afternoon…but here it is Wednesday at 1030 and no work yet.

Ken’s explanation is that the two rigs left over from last week had bigger problems than expected…and that they’ve been in here for 2 weeks and are in a hotel since neither is inhabitable right now. I understand that…but really wish one could get a straight story on when your work might start. Looks like we won’t really get going until probably Monday. His explanation is likely the real story…but we really wish things happened more as scheduled rather than looking like a Chinese fire drill.

Putting in the relief cuts to prevent further cracking, repairs to the existing cracks, and repainting the repairs will probably take 4 days since it’s a lot of time both waiting on fiberglass to cure and in the paint booth waiting on paint to dry before masking for the next color. Had we known that our route here from Elkhart would have been different and more leisurely. We knew going of course that nothing really happens fast when at the factory for service…glad to see our low expectations are valid.

At least we’re not paying for campsites for a few days…and the beer at the Elks Lodge here is very cold and very delicious.

Maybe these interesting things will improve our outlook.

I work with idiots…

WorkingWithIdiots

Long luggage wait.

WaitForLuggage

Bad decisions.

StupidBadDecisions

Definition of irony.

DefinitionOfIrony

Cyas.

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