Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What a difference two weeks makes!

Isn't it amazing how much has changed since my last post two weeks ago?  The whole world is reeling from the virus.  All our lives have been impacted, many sacrifices are being made all in the hopes that our complete change of lifestyle can dull the edges of this sword.  Our little world here in Florida in the winter is usually a bustling center of activity, socializing, camaraderie, crowds around the pool, pockets of people enjoying a drink or a meal together, the pickle ball and tennis courts crowded, events like pot lucks or a show that draw in more than a hundred people, just the noise of lots of folks enjoying themselves.  Now we have tons of vacancies much earlier than anticipated, most of the Canadians have run for home, and who can blame them, their insurance has told them they will not be covered here in the US for the virus, other people, rightly so, feel that if they are going to weather this storm they should be back home.  Most everyone is abiding by social distancing, it would be humorous watching everyone space themselves out at 6', if it wasn't a real deal.  All our amenities have been shut down, the pool, rec hall, events, cards, bocce, on and on.  People are walking and riding bikes like never before, there isn't anything else to do.  You still see an occasional group of people together that either don't care, don't believe, or are just rebels.  At least there is a uniqueness here at our park and I'm sure many others that dot Florida in the winter, the majority of these people come here for the season, stay the whole season, and have basically controlled their environment right here, we mostly all know one another, have respect for one another, and don't create a big threat in our closed little group.  Obviously, as you enjoy the restaurants, bars, beaches, shopping, etc, you open yourself up, but we here in Florida have basically shut down, our restaurants are take out only, and many have just shut their doors as they can't maintain the staff for take out only, the beaches, jetties, seawalls, parks are all closed.  Our grocery stores are still open and it so nice to see them individually sanitize the carts and baskets as you arrive, use care checking you out, see the people maintaining space there as well, bottles of sanitizer in most cars as you get back in your vehicle, yes folks there is something real happening here, and people are taking it seriously.  I pray we can beat this thing, get enough time to flatten the curve, make sure the medical facilities are able to deal with it, allow more time for a treatment or vaccine.  I see the dedication from grocery store workers, pharmacies, first responders, police, etc, that are still going to work to provide for the rest of us that are hunkering down, we owe them our thanks.  There are many, many people that are struggling now as they watch their jobs go away.  But we are resilient and I know we are going to come out the other side of this, hopefully triumphant and victorious.

There has been and continues to be much discussion about RVing at a time like this.  Lots of comments that state we are already pretty much self contained and no threat as we travel, it's not a communal kind of life style, you can stay away from people, etc.  But even so, more and more federal, state, city, and county parks and campgrounds are closed.  Numerous private campgrounds are closed, some have even asked the people there now to get out.  Now if you are a part time Rver, no problem, yes your trip might have to be cancelled, but you can always sit it out at home, but what if you are a full-timer like we are?  This coach is our home, and we can be self contained and shelter in place, or socially distance like anyone else, but where should we do it?  What about the fact that your reservation is running out where you are and your upcoming reservations are now becoming questionable, the state parks where you had reservations and intended to stay for several weeks have closed, where do you go?  I happen to think that traveling in an RV is a very safe way to move about, you can fuel without contact, check in to a park without contact, sites are usually spaced apart from one another, you can stay a safe distance from neighbors, does it really matter where you are?  But on various social media along with the banding together to beat this thing, I am seeing little indications here and there of another sentiment, I hope no one is coming to my state, town, village, area and bringing the virus, maybe we shouldn't allow anyone in?  I read a post where someone had gone for a hike in a national park and was appalled there were out of state plates in the parking lot!  Come on, this we do not what we need right now when we all should be banding together to beat this thing.  So what have we decided to do?

Jan and I, with a lot of discussion with her sister Karen and Tom, our neighbor here, and planned caravan partner up through Maine this year, have decided to pause our count down clock for up to 30 extra days.  We have extended here in Florida and are very confident that with this pause it will give us enough time to see where this is going one way or another.  That way we will be here in a known environment, surrounded by people we know, our doctors, should it come down to that, are here, it seems to be a pretty safe area as to the virus, we can maintain our distancing, and it gives us the luxury of time.  We have cancelled most of our plans in the Atlanta area, medical items that aren't absolutely necessary, so are still very hopeful with a good outcome we will still be able to resume our plans of heading to Maine for 6-8 weeks.  We'll see.

So now that I have bored you to tears with all my pontificating about a subject you are probably already sick of, I'll move on to more mundane stuff.

Just so I don't disappoint you I'll start with food, little did we know it was essentially our last lunch out.
Delicious fried clam strips and shrimp!
We were able to have a nice dinner get-together before all this crested with Debbie and Harold, Doug and Nancy, and Tom.  We had a good time, all while maintaining our distancing, and as it turned out it was also goodbye, as Debbie and Harold took off for Canada the next morning and Doug and Nancy back to Maine soon after.  We also had a last time dinner get together with long time friend Ray and Linda knowing it would be the last time before a resolution to this situation appears.  It's so hard not having your hugs as you say goodbye for the season.  It is so surreal, it's like, and I am stealing another friend's description now, being immersed in a sci-fi movie.  Jan has finished Mah jong and I have finished bocce.

If you remember last year our awning over the front passenger side slide had a problem.  When a service center adjusted the fabric they inadvertently broke the extrusion and with the wind and wear it released the fabric on the end.
The broken end

You can see how the extrusion slides in,
and the fabric slides into the extrusion
I called the manufacturer to see about getting a new extrusion and although the part wan't expensive, $40, the freight from California was $200 plus!  After all the entire piece is more than 15' long.  Well that didn't cut it, so I compromised, I bought the whole part and had them cut it to several reasonable lengths and then send it.  I resigned myself to only replacing a piece of it.  What I did was pull the fabric out of the extrusion about 2 feet from the end, cut the piece off, and then inserted a 2 foot piece instead.  It is black, and where it is can barely be seen in or out.  It was a successful repair.

My custom tool to hold the awning fabric while doing the repair
You can see where I cut it

Slipping the new piece in

Jan doing her best to show the repair before I secured it in place
Another project we had been putting off was pressure washing our roof after the oak leaves do a number on it, then washing and waxing the coach.  We still thought we'd be leaving soon so we picked 2 days to do it and got er done.
Before, yuck!

Jan starting the job

It is gleaming now with its new wax job!  And to celebrate a tough job well done, happy hour, while maintaining safe distances:-)
My expression reflects the bug trying to drink my bourbon:-)

Our companion in solving the issues of the world, BIL Tom
Then of course we had to have a couple unexpected issues.  We have over 100 recessed puck lights in our ceiling and under our cabinets.  They have a frosted glass lens that are a real bugger to remove to change the bulb.  We have slowly replaced all with LED's, and we had 2 acting up.  I tried and tried using all the tricks I could think of to get the lens off, to no avail so had to end up replacing the entire fixture.  Very frustrating.
One of the new fixtures going in
Then we go back into the bedroom and turn on the vanity light, and find out we can't turn it off!  Our coach has all its lighting done through a multiplex system, basically a computer system where every switch in the coach can be programmed from anywhere to do anything, a great system when it works.  I tried the few things I could think of and finally had to call for help.  The tech had me troubleshoot the system and said we had a bad module, after ordering it, it thankfully came quickly, we got it installed and all is well now.
The lit switch is the culprit

The brains of the system in our back closet
The bad module

New one going in
So that has wrapped up all our projects for the season, not to say more won't pop up.  Now we wait, just like everyone else, praying for a welcome resolution.  Be well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The countdown has started

We are now less than 3 weeks from departure.  Chores are being taken care of, and most things are being checked off our list.  I serviced our AquaHot, basically a clean up of the burner compartment, filter replacement and a new nozzle.  Only takes about an hour, good for another year at least.
Case open, ready for service

After the grueling task of the AquaHot, friends Harold and Debbie invited us over for a nice evening with drinks and dinner!  Delicious, thank you.  

I did get my tooth taken care of, it did need a crown after all.  I drove a rental car 540 miles each way to Atlanta, spent an enjoyable evening with John and Diane, then drove back in heavy traffic, taking about 2 extra hours on the way back.  All worth it by the way:-)

Soon after getting back we had a nice invite for a surprise dinner at Doug and Nancy's, a real Maine feast, haddock chowder and lobster rolls!  Superb. Wow!  Thank you.

Add in tons of lunches, happy hours, breakfasts, and visits with lots of friends.  We have a gentleman here at our park that plays Taps most evenings at sunset.  He does it at random spots all over the park and one night when we were over at Harold and Debbie's, we had the distinct pleasure of having him play there!

Other odds and ends, puzzles, oysters, and even spent 2 days tying flies, getting ready for the summer!
One of the hardest Liberty puzzles we have ever done
Thanks Ray!

Nice day by the Myakka River

With delicious oysters!

Some of the flies I tied
Last season while on the road I started using an additive to our diesel fuel.  If you remember, I had discussed the possibility with the increased number of stations that have added Bio-diesel to their pumps.  It is anywhere from 5-20%, and decreases the potential energy and lubricity as compared to regular low sulfur diesel.  I went back in all my spreadsheets and calculated my average fill up was 80 gallons, so I planned to use 1 oz of Biobor algicide along with 4 oz of Opti-Lube Summer blend for each fill up.  It seemed to help my mileage a tiny amount, so after noting almost every truck stop has at least 5% bio-diesel now, decided to continue using it.  I bought a neat container that holds 8 small containers from Opti-Lube, and I premix those small containers making it very easy to pour it in before I fuel.  So another order from Amazon:-)

We enjoyed a great party at Harold and Debbie's!

Excellent entertainment from Phil later on!
We always stock up on booze here in Florida, it is cheaper by far, up to $25/bottle if we catch a sale, which we did, so managed to wipe out Total Wine's entire supply of bourbon, just kidding......  But we do buy enough for hopefully the entire time we are away.

Jan had been noticing our Splendide combo washer and dryer didn't seem to be drying very well.  She did a super cleaning of the vent in addition to the unpublished procedure to clean the drum and it didn't help.  Then she noticed that at the very start of the dry cycle when the machine puts in a little water, to fill the trap as it turns out, it didn't shut off, and managed to put enough water in the drum to make the clothes wet.  In fact we were terrified it wouldn't shut off the water at all.  We have an extended warranty on the machine so I called their technical support and after a bunch of questions, they determined the main circuit board was bad.  Good news is they would send it free, bad news is, the washer would have to be pulled out, laid on its side, and accessed through the bottom to replace the board.
Our washer/dryer
So with BIL Tom's help, he and I pulled the unit out.  It weighs about 100 pounds, but it is very unwieldy with not a lot of room to deal with. 

The new circuit board

Where it sits in the machine
It was a fairly easy replacement other than having to move the machine.
Buttoning it back up
Then again with Tom's help, we put it back in, hooked it all up, and........ it did the exact same thing!  The water kept running?!?  Back on the phone, this time they feel if it wasn't the board then it has to be the cold water solenoid, and oh by the way, they aren't covered by warranty:-(  So we order a new cold water solenoid and wait awhile longer without a washer/dryer.  So after only two days our part arrives.  Good news this time, it can be changed right where it sits, the solenoid is accessible through the top of the machine!  

Top removed, the marking is its location
This job was easy, only about 30 minutes, and thankfully, all works perfect now!  Back in business.  We still have to fit in washing and waxing the motorhome, including a pressure wash of our very stained roof.  A yearly event exacerbated by sitting under pretty live oak trees that drop a serious number of leaves, how can it be that much?  

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Friends, family, fellowship, excitement, and a dose of reality

It's funny sometimes, it takes an outside viewpoint to remind you of all the things you tend to take for granted.  We had a wonderful visit from friends John and Diane, who spent several days with us.  They were so impressed with our winter digs.  It took them to notice all the folks that went by with a hello for us to rerealize what a unique and pleasant place this is.  The friendliness and camaraderie is palpable.  Being nomads, most of our travel time is spent with just Jan and I, interspersed with a short chat, a smile or hello, and once in awhile an impromptu cocktail visit.  Here we are surrounded by a huge number of not only acquaintances, but friends.  And although Jan and I don't participate in a lot of activities, we still have that loner stigma, there is an absolute plethora of things to do.  We have been experiencing the profound enjoyment of friends, family, and fellowship. 

Our nephew Walker came in to visit his dad, BIL Tom for a few days.  It was nice to see him and catch up on his life, Tom got him playing bocce with us, and Walker even took first in one of Tom's poker games.  

As I said, John and Diane came to visit, we had a great time, introduced them to several friends, enjoyed many cocktail hours and meals together, and I even got John playing bocce.
Diane, Moi, John, and Jan

Nice spot for lunch with great friends
Having dessert around our fire

The park here has a huge competition every year called Senior Games, anyone can sign up to compete in an amazing number of activities, from shuffleboard, tennis, pickle ball, ping pong, putting, trivia, golf, etc, but the biggie is bocce.  First off there is mixed bocce competition, then men's bocce, and women's bocce.  But the event of the season is the face off between the Men's champions and the Women's champions.  We joined at least 175 other people watching the very hotly contested match!
Half of the audience

And the other side
Who won?  The women did, and it was quite a game, the score went back and forth several times, but the women won the match!  In the history of the men vs women match, the men have won 7 times and the women 6 times.  

Jan and I have been working on organizing and arranging all our fishing gear to be ready for next season, ordering supplies that were used up and I have been tying flies so we'll be ready for the summer.
A few hoppers, called Chubby Chernobyls I tied
All this really gets us excited about the upcoming fishing season!  And believe it or not we only have 5 weeks here left.

We even took time out to make homemade pizza, you know I had to get some food in here somewhere:-)

As you know, we really love our lifestyle, but as I have touched on before there are some disadvantages that go along with all the wonderful parts of it.  One of them concerns medical and dental issues.  We have addressed most of it by moving almost all our doctors to Florida.  We spend 4-5 months here so it makes it easier to have our exams and surprises taken care of here, and it has worked out very well.  Thankfully, even with my several issues, we have always been given the go-ahead to go a year between visits.  We still have one doctor, our dermatologist, and our wonderful dentist in the Atlanta area.  We keep our dermatologist there because we like him, he is familiar with us and we only need to see him once a year.  But our dentist, now that's another story, we love him!  When we moved to Atlanta 20 years ago we met him and have been going to him ever since, and when we've had challenges with our schedule, he has accommodated us.  But most important, we trust him, have had nothing but excellent results from all procedures, and chicken me is totally comfortable and trusting of his work.  Sooooooo.  I just broke a tooth.  When you travel and are far, far away from your doctors or dentist, obviously depending on the severity of the problem, you are going to have to get attention where you are, and over the years, there have been times we have had to seek medical help wherever we were.  In fact, many years ago, when we had first started full-timing, I broke a tooth, and at the time we were in L.A., that would be lower Alabama, near Fairhope.  We were 350 miles away from our dentist, and figured at the time the trip up there, trying to squeeze in, wouldn't be worth it, so I called around and found a local dentist that could see me.  It turned out I needed a crown, so I had the new dentist do it, with a very new technology where I had a permanent crown put in, in only a few hours.  Success.  But it was not to be, after a few months, my tooth was getting sorer and sorer, and I was miserable.  I made it work until we got back to Atlanta and our dentist removed the offending crown and replaced it with another, no problems since.  Now, I'm sure this was in fact a fluke, I don't think the new dentist did anything wrong, but it sure made me, a nervous dental patient think twice about what to do if anything would happen in the future.  Fast forward to my now broken tooth, suffice it to say, I have an appointment in Atlanta, and will drive up the 540 miles, get it taken care of and drive back, and it will coincide with our visit to Atlanta in early April to get my permanent crown.  Yes, Doctor Bill, me, is assuming I will need a new crown.

I am in no way saying this would be the solution for everyone, just saying this can be a real consideration when traveling and especially full-timing being in many faraway places.  Give some thought to how you will handle these unforeseen medical or dental events.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A few projects, and finally the chair is fixed

After Jan got back from Colorado, her sister Karen came in for a visit.  We enjoyed catching up, having many lunches and dinners, and were able to plan a bit for some caravan traveling with her and Tom in their motorhome this year.  Yes, our plans are coming together and it looks like we'll be spanning the country once again this year.  We plan to spend almost 8 weeks in Maine to be followed by a week visiting our son Jason and Joanne in Buffalo, then westward bound we go, back to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Then a detour to Las Vegas where we will meet up with Karen and Tom to see a show, and then with a loop down into Arizona, back to Taos for Thanksgiving.  Pretty extensive trip, but we are always happiest when we are changing our surroundings.

As I said previously, we ended up ordering a whole new chair mechanism, a six pack, and a new memory and control box with harness for our inoperable driver's captain chair.  We had to dismantle it completely into 3 pieces to be able to access the guts, made much more difficult by the fact we couldn't move it.  So while waiting we accomplished another item on our list.

We have a 50 amp power cord that powers in and out.  When retracting it piles the cord in a "bucket", and after 12 years and going in and out who knows how many times the cord was showing signs of wear, abrasions, and internal twisting of the wires, time for a new one.  Now they come in several lengths, 36', 45', 50', so it was a simple affair to pull it out all the way, measure it, and then estimate how much wire was inside the coach running to our transfer switch.  Doing that we ordered a 36' power cord.  We wanted a longer cord but we didn't think there would be enough room in the bucket to hold that much.  A few challenges came up, of course, accessibility being the biggest.  Our transfer switch is fairly easy to get to as long as I contorted myself to get in the basement, keep from stabbing myself in the head with sharp corners, and turning, sitting mostly to get to it.  From there it was a piece of cake:-)
The big gray container is the "bucket"

The transfer switch.  The top big wire is the power cord,
the bottom comes from the generator

A contorted me after removing the cord
The other thing to consider is the cord comes in through a hole in the bottom of the coach, then goes up through a pvc pipe to the mechanism that moves the cord in and out, then into the bucket, out through the bottom of the bucket, up and around to the transfer switch.  I had estimated about 5 feet overall and added to our measured length made me order the 36' cord.  WRONG.  I came up with a great plan to tie a rope to the old cord, feed it through as we pulled out the old cord, than attach the rope to the new cord and pull it back through, a good plan as it turned out, except, we couldn't get the cord to come out?!?  Removing the bucket to see what the story was would be impossible, so we cut a hole in the bucket to see what was what.  We found a collar, which wasn't completely unexpected, but we also found a big tangle of maybe 3 feet or so jammed in there as well.
The hole in the bucket and most of the tangle
After we removed the collar and the tangle we were able to pull the cord with attached rope out to be able to run the new cord through, and we found that our new cord was perhaps 5' shorter than the old one!  We debated sending it back and getting a longer one, but at this point we had no power cord, as we had to cut it to get it out, would have to wait probably a week to get another one, so we agreed, hardly ever are we in a situation where we have trouble reaching the power receptacle in a campground, so we pressed on.
New cord almost in

Got it all installed, and found out we couldn't reach our power receptacle!  Short by about 2 feet.  So I quickly made an extension cord from a good section of the old cord and we were back in business.
Our extension cord
Later we found a 10' section of the old cord that looked good, so I made another extension cord we will carry with us if we run into problems in the future.

We had a rainy day to break things up so I took advantage of that time and was able to tie some more flies.
Pretty productive couple hours
Our seat parts arrive and we get right to it.  What a job.  Trying to fit the wiring harness and the control box into the six pack was challenging, but luckily Jan is great at puzzles, so eventually we got it all to fit, albeit with some rewiring of the new harness.
Our work station with the new six pack

Reworking the harness

All packed into the six pack
After we get the harness in we were able to power it up to see if it worked correctly.......and it didn't, no memory, intermittent movement, and a couple movements were backwards!  So back on the phone to the manufacturer, several phone calls back and forth, they found we needed a different memory box, so they graciously overnighted the new part in, and this time it worked like a champ.  Don't think we are quite done yet, though.  This six pack moves the seat forward, back, up and down.  The seat also has heat, lumbar support, and the seat cushion moves forward and back, so I have to splice into the brand new harness to power up the rat's nest of wires to make everything work.  A bit nerve-racking, but it all turned out fine.
Some of the wires in the seat itself

Jan helping to feed wires and bolts into position
All we had to do then was reassemble everything and all was good.  Now we have a movable seat again!
Jan working to get the last bolts in

This gives you an idea of the rat's nest of wires
So we celebrated our accomplishment with cocktail hour with friends, Debbie and Harold, and mother nature rewarded us with an awesome sunset!