Monday, January 30, 2012

Three Lakes WMA and watching the world pass us by!

We are having a delightful time here at Three Lakes WMA, relaxing and visiting with others.  What a way to spend one's time, just watching the world go by.   I didn't realize that it has been 5 days since the last time I blogged.  My apologies for neglecting you.

Yesterday, the fellows made a trip to another WMA about 45 miles north of here.  We were met by the volunteer at the gate who was checking in (and out) the hunters.  It looked to me like it was a very slow day for him and he was delighted to have someone stop in and ask lots of questions.

The first question was "tell us about the campground."  It is rather small compared to Three Lakes, but very nice with just a few rigs and the grass was mowed short.  He explained to us what days we could camp and and for how long.  During the general hunting season, the campground is open from Thanksgiving until about January 22nd.  From then on, the campground is only open on some weekends from Thursday until Monday evening.

What we loved to hear was that we could schedule  our rendezvous there if we were inside of that time frame.   We'll work on that. There are a number of trails radiating out from the campground, so there are adequate opportunities to go hiking.  There is much more we can do on our stay there.

In the mean time, we are planning to  visit it once we leave Three Lakes, which is in early February.  We could stay in this WMA until about the fourth of March if we wanted to.  (Our next rendezvous starts February 25, so we have a little time to work in something extra.)

Today was laundry day in our household and it was obvious that we're in tourist country, as the washer and dryer fees were the most we've ever paid.  I guess they want to make all of their profit in the short winter season.  If you have been following the weather here in Florida, it is almost unreal.  The low was 46 this morning, it was 56 in our living room and 60 in the bedroom.  I've never paid attention before on how much impact our body heat has on the bedroom heat.  It does make a difference.

There is not much else to say, so we'll call it a day with this one.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three Lakes WMA and loving it

We were able to leave the repair shop yesterday afternoon at 3 PM.   A little late to hit the road, but I was ready.  (Sandy really wasn't all that in favor of such a late start for a 100 mile run.)  Traffic on Florida 27 was moderate, and we quickly exited to a county road, east bound through more orange groves.  It felt good to be on the road, away from the traffic noise at the repair shop and soon to join our other boondocking friends.

Thanks to the GPS co-ordinates and Sandy's trucker's version of the Garmin GPS, we went right to the location.  (The car version suggested a different shorter route that I wanted to use, but Sandy said "no way".  We found out today that the short route has 8 miles of dirt road, with three soft spots.) Our friends saw us coming and waved us in; what a great feeling to be back among friends.  We parked the rig on the interior road and walked the group's area before deciding where we'd park.   What a joy it was to hit the right buttons and have the jacks go down and the slides go out.  (I did notice one error but chose to ignore it for the time being.)   We then joined the group for a brief social hour before breaking for dinner and then I went to the campfire hosted by another group that they have become friends with.

The error that I noticed last night was that one of the jacks didn't extend.  So today we borrowed a can of ?? to coat the jack shaft so that they would work better.   Things went from bad to worse.   Then we had one jack that refused to retract once the coach weight was off of it.  We pushed, pried and finally using a different switch combination were  able to make it retract some.  We didn't push our luck once we had the coach mostly level.  Perhaps tomorrow we'll try it again.

Since we were intending to visit an area south of here, we had some mail sent there earlier.  But we aren't there, so I made a phone call to the post office to have the mail sent to the local post office.  Sorry, but they will only do it if I submit a "change of address card" so that they know where they have sent it.   So we went to the local post office to fill out the card and spent 5 minutes trying to convince her that there was only one mailing envelope involved.  Finally, she agreed with me.  In the process, I did lay my sunglasses down and lost them.  Oh, the challenges one faces in life.

Officially this campground is an unregulated "hunt camp".  Hunters are allowed to bring their rigs in and leave them for the duration of the season.  So  while the camp appears to be full, about three quarters of the rigs are un-occupied except on weekends, if then.   In a walk about the camp this morning, we met a couple from Iowa that has been here since early December and plan to remain here until the end of February.  The campground is roughly a 20 acre field with a few trees scattered about with a loop road through it and no specific parking sites.  Everyone parks to  suit themselves.

I need to mention that while there is some truck traffic on the road, but it stops at 6 pm or so.  It is very peaceful here tonight and as we used to say as kids, "Dark as the Ace of Spades!"  Once I stepped outside tonight, it was  black.  There are no street lights anywhere near here.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Patiently Waiting for a part

We're still here in Avon Park, patiently waiting for the replacement part for our HWH hydraulics.  I know we shouldn't complain, but it is tiring to think we're spinning our wheels here when we could be out in the rough with friends.   But the weather has been fantastic and we have electric (which keeps Sandy very happy).  The lows are about 58 and the highs are close to 80.  It is just very nice.

Supposedly, the part we need is coming in tomorrow.  At least Tuesday is two business days from Friday and we asked for 2 day delivery.  Of course, who  knows what the nasty weather in Iowa has done scheduling.  However, we'll wait!

Today we went to Walmart to replenish our stores and pick  up two prescriptions.  Sandy did a good job of getting the groceries.  On the prescriptions, thankfully they are not critical.  We did get Sandy's prescription.  But for prescription, they were to get a new prescription from the doctor and they claimed it didn't happen.  I won't bore you with the details on Sandy's prescription, but suffice it to say, it wasn't just a walk in and pick it up.  We also stopped at a small auto shop and had the Honda serviced.  So now we're good for another 8000 miles more or less.

We're going to think positive tomorrow morning and top off the water tank early. We'll also put the rig into travel mode by storing stuff.  I shudder to think what our GVW has done to in the last few years.  We have lots of books, files etc that  occupy space and weigh something!

What we won't miss leaving here is the highway noise. It is constant from about 6:30 in the morning to about 9:30 in the evening.   But again,  we know it will end.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Slideouts -- Be careful when buying them in your RV

If you have been reading our blog, you're well aware that we had a major system failure last Tuesday.  The hydraulic system that controls the jacks and the slides failed.   Let me tell you folks, it is a very demoralizing event.  As our motorhome sat there with the slides out, it couldn't be towed down the road.  (It is much too wide.)

Since we have RV'd for more years then we care to remember, we had a good idea of what we needed when we purchased this motorhome.   We wanted access to the kitchen and refrigerator so that we could use it during the noon breaks.  We also needed access to the bathroom facilities.  (Isn't carrying your own potty one of the advantages to using an RV?)   We are the owner/moderator of a yahoogroup called Walmartrving and many of its members get very concerned about the use of a slideout in a commercial parking lot.  How are they going to sleep overnight if the slide does not go out?

We have seen some units, especially fifth wheels, where you couldn't access the refrigerator or many of the kitchen facilities while the slides are in.  With that in mind, how do you expect to resupply and store your groceries when you make a quick stop at Walmart while enroute?  It doesn't work very well.

Those are the short-comings that the trusty salesman won't tell you about.  All he is looking for is that commission check when he sells a unit to gullible you.  Remember, it is buyer beware.

So how did we fare with our three days of living in a compressed RV?   Well, it was challenging.  The meals were fine.  We did have to change the seating arrangement slightly for me.  (Slides in or out, Sandy has full access to the kitchen area.)   Where we were slightly inconvenienced was in the bedroom.  Since our plan had been to do the laundry on Tuesday, Sandy had set the laundry bag out of the tall closet.  Sandy had been able to retract the bedroom slide, but that was it.  Had the laundry bag been left in the tall closet, our clothing supply would have been  zip!   The hanging things in the short closets were available.  Anything in the bedroom chest of drawers was kind of available via a 3 inch opening of the drawer.  However, they were empty as we were headed to the laundromat.  We had lots of clothes after visiting the laundromat, just no place to store them!

This morning at 8 AM, the mechanic showed up with the cap to make a slight change in the hydraulic pump to see if the problem was the pump or a valve.  Thankfully, it was the valve (easier to fix) and it was music to our ears when I pushed on the "Extend" button and the slide moved out.  Sandy and I both wanted to let out a shout that it works.  Sandy then tried the bedroom slide and it worked! HURRAH!!!   (Finally after three days, Sandy could make sure that the bed covers were all properly in place and stretched.)  This afternoon, we even tested the "Retract" button and it works.  Amazing what technology can do.

Tomorrow morning Sandy wants to vacuum and then we need to move from this location to another one.  (In the beginning, we were told that if we stayed, we might have to move after a couple of days.  We can handle that.)  Our new location will be closer to the highway but very level.  I failed to mention that the slight change on the pump plumbing was to leave the jacks disabled.   So we have no leveling jacks right now.   (They will always come up, but they need the pump to go down.)  Our new location is in their work area, so they'll want to get us in and out.  The replacement part is scheduled in on Tuesday (providing old man weather doesn't mess things up!)

Remember, if you're going to purchase an RV with a slide-out, seriously consider how you can live in it when the slide fails.  (Murphy is alive and well.  It will fail sometime.)


Thursday, January 19, 2012

We're patiently waiting in the dealers lot

Here we sit, patiently waiting in the service shop's lot.   But we're living high on the hog by Sandy's standards.  We have electric, water and sewer connections.  So Sandy gets to cook with her convection oven.  That opens up a whole new world for meals.  So we're not complaining about that either.

We did keep busy today with housekeeping chores.  First on the list was getting our laundry done at a laundromat.  No big deal if you bring it (the laundry) along.   When we arrived at the laundry, Sandy asked, "where are the towels?"   She had rolled them into a roll in the bathroom and I had carried them forward in the motorhome, stopping to put my shoes on. The towels never made it to the car.   So I had to return to fetch the towels from the driver's seat.  Thankfully, it was only a mile one way and traffic wasn't too bad.

I've always thought of Avon Park as being a kind  of upscale area for snowbirds.  Well, we walked out of the first laundromat, a first for us.   The floor was dirty, water was leaking from some machines and even the machines were dirty on the outside.   So we found another laundromat only a half mile closer. It had a unique wall on two sides (just an iron grating).  It was a little better.  Sandy's big complaint was that one of the dryers had very little heat.  Also, I was surprised to see that the change machine was mounted in an iron framework on the outside of the building.

With the laundry done and our letters mailed,  our next task was to make ready to travel again.  So since we have plenty of good water available, we emptied our fresh water tank and refilled it.   So  now we're ready to leave if the rightful owner of this lot returns early.  (He is off site attending a "flywheelers' gathering" in the next town south.   Flywheelers are old steam engines and antique tractors.)

It was about 5:30 when the shop manager showed up and asked if they could take a look at our problem.  Obviously, we invited them in.   It was readily apparent to me that the mechanic that was along had worked on  HWH systems before.  A quick call to HWH in Iowa and a short discussion between the mechanic here and the service tech at HWH quickly identified what had to be done.  Unfortunately, we were stymied for the night because they need a brass cap from someone's tool box so that they can pull a hydraulic line.  With that line pulled and capped, they can point to the failed unit if certain things happen.  They'll finish that part of the job in the morning.

They left and I was assigned the task of unwinding the emergency mechanical retraction screws that pulled the slide in.  Sandy and I figured that it would take about 300 turns on each of two rods.  The retraction rods need to be released so that the hydraulic system can retract and extend the slide.  I have the needed tools and it just takes some time to make that many turns on the rod.

Let's just hope that tomorrow morning they decide that the bad item is a small valve, which HWH has in stock (they have already checked)   The next issue is getting it here.  Thankfully, our schedule for the next few days is very flexible.   Sandy likes the services here, so she is in no hurry to head back to the boonies.  

But we both are getting tired of living in a very confined space!  It is tight quarters!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We're at the dealer, a-waiting service

Just as planned,  this time we actually pulled out of the park and headed "down the road".  Since we had some prescriptions being ordered a the  Clewiston Walmart, we went north via Clewiston.   In Clewiston, I suggested that we skip the laundry task and wait and do it at the dealer today or tomorrow.  Sandy reluctantly agreed.  (I had surfed and knew that the dealer we were headed for in Wildwood had a launtry facility in his mini park for the customers.

On the way to Wildwood, my plan was to stop at the dealer at Avon Park in case he was willing to take on our problem.  We arrived at Avon Park at 3 PM.   I talked with the dealer and yes, they'd put us in the Que as long as I understood that it might be a while.  We happily agreed.

So here we sit, parked in his mini park with 3 point hookups.  As Sandy said, "you mean I get electric for a while?"  While Sandy was shopping this morning, I was looking up information about the dealers.  I also called HWH for more advice about which dealer to use.   The tech that I've been working with commented to me that it is probably not the pump, but the shuttle valve.   Okay, so it is a smaller item, but it can be a show stopper just as well if they have to order it from Iowa.  

We are very much jammed in here at the dealer's lot.  I told Sandy that his show room is similarly configured.   There is no wasted space in the office area.   Also, no big inside work area that is spic and span.   The "shop" is on some old concrete in front of the office (in the sunshine).   The reason we came here was that online reviews and a personal friend who lives in an adjoining town that said "Go to Stuarts".  So  here we are!

We really enjoyed our stay at Dinner Island Ranch.  Yes, it is a rustic place, but it has what we needed, open space to spread out and make maximum use of the solar sunshine.   The ranger stopped by yesterday afternoon and filled us in on more of the background of the area.   What we'd really like to see is installation of a dump station and a fresh water source.    But we're happy with what it is, basic camping that is free!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A show stopper, No Hydraulic slide retraction power

Today was to be one of those days when you venture forth and do a lot of things and in the end find a new site to park the rig for a while.  But a-lass, it was not too be!  We had returned everything to its rightful place, filled in the fire pit, stored the firewood and the last thing I had to do was bring in the living room slide and we're ready to roll.  Major problem--- The hydraulic power unit to drive the slide seems to run, but no retraction action takes place.

We called HWH and they gave us some directions.  But nothing worked, so we decided to explore the services of a Mobile RV Service Tech.   Well, his prices were just a bit more than we wanted to spend  ($200 service charge to just drive out and  look at it.)  So we decided to pull the slide in with the mechanical override.   Yes, it can be done, but it is not fast.  So now we have the slides in and we're living in cramped quarters, not fun!!!!

Since this was to be a moving day, we  had left the laundry clothes out.  Also, it was necessary to move, as the holding tanks are about full.  Our fresh water tank was also about empty.  (We dumped a 6  gallons of water before we knew we had a problem.)   Also, last night I noticed the "stink" oder of the LP flame.  So it is time to find an LP supplier.  But here we sit!

We've located three possible dealers that we'll call in the morning.  One of them will get a visit from us, hopefully late tomorrow.  (Before we get there, we need to buy groceries, pick up some prescriptions, get the LP tank filled, find a hair salon for Sandy and fill up the motorhome with diesel.  And then drive another 100 miles plus.  But life could be worse.  The low tonight is to be about 60 and tomorrows high is about 80.  I think we can handle it okay.

I guess we'll look back on today as just another "bump on the road".    At least we're healthy.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Great Day in Southern Florida

Today is a great day here in southern Florida.  Admittedly, it was a bit cool this morning (frost  on the Honda), but this noon it was delightful.   The breeze was a bit much, but we can handle that when we're parked here at Dinner Island Ranch.

This morning while we were sitting in the down wind side of one of the motorhomes, we had another couple come in. So  naturally, a couple of us went  to meet them and help them get parked.  One of his first words to me was "I'm here because of what you've written in your Blog!"  (   Okay, I knew a few friends have read it, but this couple was a stranger to us.  (We soon became well acquainted.)

They are snowbirds from Illinois and hoping to spend the winter in Florida without getting themselves bankrupted by camping fees.   It didn't take long for the group to welcome them and perhaps overwhelm them with where we're planning to park (in free or nearly free locations.)  Like ourselves months ago, it is hard to imagine that this place (and many more in Florida) are completely free other than our expense to dump and load up with water.  Before we part company tomorrow, I'm sure we'll have them convinced to become members of the SKPs.

Yesterday while browsing on the web, we found a place close to Punta Gorda (and our park Paradise Park) that also has free camping. It has two locations (one immediately off of the interstate) that are free in November, December and the first two weeks of January.  It is part of the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management area.  Officially, it is a hunt camp, but I think open to all users.  A friend has already volunteered to check it out for us.

On Tuesday we leave this park and go  to  the Dupuis WMA for a week. It is free, and includes a water hydrant and a dump  station. Frankly,that is hard to beat.  As a friend has said, "We're always looking for low cost parking locations, cheaper is better and free can't be beat!"  While at Dupuis, we intend to check out another WMA called J.W. Corbett WMA.  Supposedly, it has free camping, but we'll have to pay a yearly entry fee of 29 dollars  (or a daily of $3).  The entry fee is good for all of the WMA areas for one year.  So the price becomes a non-issue.  After Dupuis, we go to Three Lakes WMA for two to four weeks, so we'll get good use of our entry permit.

When I  use the abbreviation of WMA, it can mean "Water Management Area" or it can mean  "Wildlife Management Area". Yes, confusing, but I didn't name them.


Friday, January 13, 2012

We're well into Week II of the Rendezvous

We're entering the wind down mode here at the rendezvous and there seems like so much to do.  Today we had one of the members leave.  I thought he left before telling us where his secret find of grapefruit was.  However, he had told one of the members and so this afternoon, all of us went "grapefruit picking".  It is no easy task, as the grapefruit trees are in a forest and very tall!   I had a 20 foot pole and many of them required the full length of the pole to reach the fruit.  

When we returned to our rigs and eventually sorted the haul, I think all  of us were nearly overwhelmed by how many we had obtained.   Now our only challenge is to eat them.   (We already had 40 grapefruit purchased on Tuesday when we visited the market in Immokalee.)     The site also had an orange tree, with all of the oranges above the 20 foot line.  The reason the citrus trees are so tall is that they are in a tall cypress and palm tree forest.

We are heading to a Florida Conservation park that requires an entry fee or the purchase of a yearly pass.  I've visited their web site a couple  of times and became frustrated trying to find the route to purchase the permit.   Today, we were successful at purchasing the permit with our credit card.  Obviously, we don't have it yet.  However, they give you an online receipt that you print and keep in your vehicle.  The receipt includes a validation number that someone can use to verify that we purchased the permit.

One reason we wanted to get the permit early was so that we can use it to explore another area owned by the same Florida division.  As we explore  various online Florida divisions, I find that they have a number of campgrounds.  There is the Florida Water Management Districts (5 of them),  the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service,  the Florida State Forests and I suspect a couple of others.  Of course there is the over used   Florida State Park system, which is very popular (and VERY expensive).

I suggested to Sandy today that perhaps we ought to go into Immokalee on Monday and get some ice cream and enough strawberries from the market to serve everyone.   Her reaction was that everyone is probably about filled with strawberries after Tuesday.  Tonight we took a brief  count and everyone is still working on the strawberries that they purchased on Tuesday. We still have two days to think about it.

Tonight a cold wave arrives and is supposedly changing our daytime temperatures.. The low tomorrow morning is to be 47 and 45 on Sunday.  The day time temperatures will be in the mid 60s.  But by next week, the temperatures will rise to mid 70s during the day.   We kind of like that, especially after seeing what is happening in the northern snow belt states.  Florida isn't too bad!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Watching the World Pass us by!

 I was going to write a blog entry last night, but other things got in the way.  First it was reading the news, then the email, then it was time for my evening snack. Oh yes, we were going to do a blog entry and I turned the computer back on to do it.   But first we have to load Chrome and it brought up the Google News which I had to read.  Then something struck my fancy and I loaded our email program to see if there were any very important late messages.  Of course, there was an attachment or two that needed reading.

The evening news was on and I finally decided that it was time for the sack. It was only when I was in bed that I remembered that I hadn't written my blog.  The thought occurred that perhaps I should get up and do it.  But why hurry it along, it can wait until morning.

I was awake very early this morning and decided that I should get up early and do the blog.  But first, while I was in bed, I thought about what I wanted to cover. It must have been heavy  thinking because I later realized that it was nearly 6 AM and I  still hadn't written the blog.   Of course, Sandy decided to get up then and it threw my whole plan off schedule.  So we'll do it after breakfast.

Well, breakfast came and went, the dishes were washed and finally we fired up the computer to write the blog.  Of course, it was new news and we had to read all of the email.  Then it was Nick's blog which is always interesting.  Eventually we had the email read and the Google News read and it was time to head outside for some productive work.   As we headed out, I remembered that the mission for today was to write the blog.  Okay, we'll work on the door first and write the blog later.  Now is  later and it is finally getting done.

Last Tuesday, most of us here headed into Immokalee and the Farmer's Market.  However, this is not just any market, but a market where most of the sales are done via pallets of product or for small quantity, only a lug.   However, we found a few vendors that were selling small quantities and we loaded up.  A lug of grapefruit, a flat (1' by 2') of strawberries, a big bag of beans, a  watermelon, a couple of butternut squash and I think that was it.

When we purchased the string beans, the vendor had a long pickup box filled with string beans.  I asked her how long it would take to sell the whole load?  She replied that they'd be gone by tomorrow night. That is a lot of string beans!

Back at the campground we settled in for a long afternoon nap before our usual 4 PM social hour.  It was a bit windy,  so we gathered around the fireplace, but no fire.  Perhaps tonight.  A cold front went through (so they say) but we didn't really notice any difference.  Okay, the high was 77 verses getting up to 80.  We can handle that.

There are 6 rigs in our group and in the timbered campground there are 3 tents and 3 rigs, all part of another group.  Time to publish this and enjoy a nap!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dinner Island Ranch boondocking

We arrived here at the Ranch on Tuesday and we have spent most of the time just plain relaxing.  No heavy hitting.  After getting settled in, we did go out on a fire wood scavenger hunt and located  a nice downed tree that seems to have almost fixed us up for the 2 week rendezvous.   We think we have enough firewood.

This morning was our day to make things happen.  We served them pancakes for breakfast at 8 AM.  I was surprised that about half of the group was really pushing to have the start time at 8:30 or later.   I may be in trouble, but I just said that it would start at 8 AM.   Everyone was present and all seemed in a good spirits.  I enjoyed it very much, thanks to the great pancakes (from scratch) mixed up by Sandy.  The key ingredient was "oatmeal".   We did not use the campfire to bake the pancakes, but instead used an electric griddle powered by our Honda 2000i generator.  The generator was hidden behind our motorhome with a 100 foot  cord running to the griddle.  I don't think anyone heard the generator, especially when all were present.

I received an email from my sister last night that my mother was not eating and not exactly with it.  (She is only 100 years old.)   But a call this morning to the nursing supervisor at the care center reported that mother was her old self again and had finished 3/4 of her grapefruit for breakfast.  That alone is enough good news to really make my day!  We are fortunate to have several sisters living in the area where mother is so she does get several  visitors.   One sister calls me on her cellphone to tell me when mother is available to talk.

It is time to call it a day.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dinner Island Ranch WMA, (boondocking)s

Yesterday we bid goodbye to our park friends and hit the road to another Boondocker's Rendezvous.  It was a great time to leave, as a cold wave was coming in.  This morning we felt the full effect of the cold wave.  The bottom line is that we're still married, but I'm sure Sandy is wondering how much more of this stuff she can take! It was only 36 on my table this morning, after the heater had been on for 10 minutes.  The bedroom was 38.  Outside, it was a cool 28 degrees.

In  case you're wondering, we do not use any heat at night in the motorhome. Yes, there is a heater, but we've just ignored it ever since we purchased it.   When we're boondocking, they don't recommend using them because you can take a battery down before the night is over.   And when you're in a park, why use your gas when an electric heater works so much better?   Ah, the joys of boondocking with friends!

Dinner Island Ranch WMA is 25 miles east of Immokalee  (FL) and it must be in the heart of citrus growing country.  We are parked in a treeless flat plain, probably about 1000 by 500 feet.  Lots of room and we have only 4 rigs here.  There is an adjacent campground in the trees and it only had one rig last night.   Today's activities are to locate some firewood.  We can cut up any down trees, so we need to find them.

It is time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  Everyone have a nice day.