Thursday, June 26, 2014

Can't Go Further!

Previous posts indicated our compass heading to be generally 180 degrees.  Motorhomes can't go in the water, at least Phaeth can't, so today we will reverse course and head generally northward. 

It's probably a good thing since it is very warm down here in the Keys this time of year; uncomfortably so in the middle of the afternoon.  The photo of me at the "Southernmost" marker in Key West shows me a little wilted.

While in Key West we stopped in for lunch at an Irish pub (the waitress was actually from Ireland) which was a nice place.  As you can see Joanie is wilted, too, and we took the opportunity to re-hydrate somewhat.
We came down to the Key because we had never been, they were close, and we had heard so much about Key West.  Well, now we can say we have been there.  If that statement shows a little disappointment in my attitude it is because we were.  It is more than a little touristy in Key West and we should have expected it.  It may also be because two giant cruise ships were docked at Key West each carrying 5,000.  The ships towered over the churches, homes and museums.  We came down in the summer off season to avoid the crowds and encountered them anyway.  Oh well, such is life on our crowded little planet.
So today we are headed toward and hope to make Naples, Florida by evening and camp there for a couple days then keep heading northward.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Moving South.

Yesterday we broke camp at John Prince Park Campground in Lake Worth, Florida and took the Florida Turnpike south.  The day was not without its learning curve. 

1.       John Prince Park is a great place!  It is large and spacious and that is most unusual for a metro campground.  It is on a lake that has a boat ramp, has a variety of hook-up options and camp site sizes, is clean and well maintained (it is a county owned park), security is constant and it enjoys the wonderful weather that Florida is famous for.  It has a fairly reliable WIFI.  It’s only drawback that we noticed was weak OTA TV channels which is not that important to us.  We will try to remember to stay here again.

2.       RV failures can happen at the most inopportune times.  Engine running, seat belts buckled and the steps won’t retract.  Everything stowed and hooked up and ready to go and the entry steps didn’t want to work and you can’t travel with your steps hanging out for many reasons I won’t go into here.  (Give me a call or e-mail me if you want to know.)  For the very first time we called Coach-Net who were very nice and helpful but it could take a day or more to have a tech come out to our location and we had a reservation elsewhere.  We had to get on the road ASAP.  It took an hour of grunting, groaning and finagling them to get them half way up and safe enough to leave.  Check out time was 11 AM and it was now 10:45.

3.       When you think you are able to go, something else blocks your path.  Trying to get out of the camp ground we encountered a small class B motorhome being serviced by a gigantic wrecker and taking up the whole campground road and campground roads are barely wide enough for one rig at a time let alone two.  They said that they “would be a least 15 minutes” which is translated as “at least 30.”  GOAL.  Get Out And Look.  I found an alternative road in the park and without having to unhook and back up, we were finally on our way.

4.       We found out that Coach-Net is really a helpful outfit.  On the way down to the Keys they called us to see how we were doing and gave us the name and phone number of a couple of their “recommended” RV techs in the Keys area which we called today.

5.       Grassy Key is really not very grassy.  But the sunsets rarely disappoint. 

6.       All the camp grounds in the Keys are pretty small as water surrounds you closely and dry land is at a premium and probably very expensive.  Some sections of US 1 are not but a 100 feet between the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other and probably flood in storms at high tide.  US 1 is the lifeline that holds all of the keys together (it took the place of Flagler’s rail road which was built at the beginning of the 20th century.)  All along the Keys you are not but a few yards from it.  Traffic noise at night is something you will have to get use to especially when the windows are open.  But because it is summer ours are closed and the A/C is on.

7.       The Keys remind me a lot of Myrtle Beach.  Same kind of tourist stuff.  Looking out over the water is about all the “raw nature” you are going to get to see.  But it is good viewing!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Butterfly World

Yesterday we went to Coconut Creek, Florida to visit this popular attraction.  Some people describe the experience as walking back into the garden of paradise.  The gardens are indeed beautiful and the butterflies are so numerous it is almost like snow in the air.  It is a serene and totally relaxing feeling and you have the time and opportunity to appreciate the wonder that is God's creation. 

It is also a wonderful learning experience about the life cycle of the butterfly and their migratory antics.  They also have a marvelous insect zoo that will give you creepy crawlies. And the birds are marvelous!  They have aviaries of small colorful African birds.  And they had some that you can get close to, also.

As a tip you should take a "real" camera with you.  Don't rely on your handy smart phone camera.  The shutter speeds are much too slow to capture the visual experience that are butterflies.  Even though it was overcast, there was enough light for the smart phone camera to do its job but you need shutter speeds above 1000th of a second to do any justice to the little creatures.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Here are some photos from the last few days.

As you may have read, we are parked right next to the main runway of the Palm Beach Park Airport which has a very active flight school.  It's great fun for me to sit outside our motorhome and watch the students practice touch and goes.



For Father's Day we gave my dad an American Flag to fly daily on his post box.  I installed it for him since he's not good with tools.
We needed to take the couch covers to a laundromat that could take things that size since our washer and dryer can only do small loads.  Joanie used her new smart phone to find a laundromat close by. "Find laudromat", she said into the phone and closest one was a Latino laundromat.  The manager was the only person who could speak English in the place and she spoke English about as well as we spoke Spanish.  However, we did well enough to get the job done.  The manager was a lovely person. We even watched a little latino Judge Judy on the store's TV.  Spanish reality TV is pretty easy to understand.
Self portrait.  It's a reflection in the chrome mirror of our motorhome.
A tree here in Florida that is very colorful!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Surge Guard Worked. 

The last few days here in Palm Beach County we have been racked by strong afternoon storms.  Very heavy rain, wind and plenty of lightning and thunder.  We were visiting with my dad yesterday afternoon when we experienced one.  After the rain let up we headed back to camp and were deciding what to have for dinner when I noticed that it was getting warm in the front of the coach.  The thermostat confirmed it.  I went to look at the 120 volt breakers and sure enough, the front A/C was tripped.  I reset it and the A/C came back on. 

We then noticed that the light under the microwave flickering and the A/C tripped again while the rear A/C was still working.  We were watching the weather channel on the TV but the TV was having no problems.  We also began to hear some random thumping noises similar to the slide toppers or window awnings being assaulted by the wind.  We went out to look around and I got my volt/ohm meter and continuity tester out to check the electricity at the post.  I was not getting good readings then behind me I heard more and louder thumping coming from the electrical bay.  I opened it and found the source of our mystery sound: the Surge Guard was making the noise.  Lights on the surge guard indicated low voltage and sporadic electrical service.
I immediately shut off our 50 amp plug at the post and called the camp office.  They had just lost power and had called in the problem to the power company.  A neighbor was out looking at his coach at the time we were and said he too was having problems.

About 40 minutes later I noticed the park street lights on so I flipped our breaker switch and we were soon charging the batteries again and running the A/C.  It never got uncomfortable inside the coach but if it had we could have always run the generator to get the A/C working.

Until we heard the noise we were not aware of the electrical problem because the coach batteries were seamlessly kicking in to provide light (which is all 12 volt) and the invertor was giving us 120 volt power from the batteries for the TV and microwave.  Other than the A/C breaker tripping, we had no damage.

The Surge Guard does not come as a standard piece of equipment on most RVs but it should.  The problem we experienced could have done a lot of damage to our converter/inverter or to our appliances if it had not been for the Surge Guard.  I suspect the storm had brought down a tree branch onto wires supplying the campground and was causing intermittent power disruptions.

So the newbie full-timers had another learning experience.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I'm still awestruck. 

I am still amazed at the engineering of this vehicle.  We are parked in Lake Worth, Florida here to see my dad.  We took the car over to his house yesterday and had lunch then went shopping.  While Joanie and I were in Beal's department store, a super cell storm suddenly blew up and it was like a hurricane with high winds and torrential rain.  Lots of tree debris came down and I could only hope that the storm we were experiencing in Boynton Beach was not the same storm in Lake Worth because I had left the big awning out. The awning is an electrically deployed type with wind speed sensitivity that should retract on sensing strong wind speeds.  I drove home with great anxiety after seeing storm damage in the road ways.  But when we arrived, the awning was indeed retracted and there was no damage to Phaeth.  It did what it was supposed to.  Thank God! 
God used Tiffin to bless me.

I also needed a hair cut.  While we were out shopping yesterday, I got one.

The rains brought out some of the locals to see what they might find for dinner.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Our First Planned Destination.  On Monday we arrived in Palm Beach County, Florida to see my dad who lives in Boynton Beach.  He will be 92 in August.  He still lives in his house, drives during the day and goes to church regularly.  It had been a few years since we had seen him last and he wanted me to look at couple of things that need repairs. 

The ride down the Florida peninsula was pleasant as I-95 is flat, well maintained and 3 or more lanes wide in each direction.  I put Phaeth on cruise control at 60 mph and let everyone pass me so driving was a good as it gets. 

This is our traveling companion who mostly sits on the dash and looks out the windshield.  He doesn't ask for much and just nods his head in agreement with what ever the discussion is at the time.
Mostly by chance (or perhaps price) we chose to stay at John Prince Park RV Campground in Lake Worth.  It does not have a very visual presence on the internet so you cannot really see how wonderful a place this is until you get here.  It is close to dad's house.  It is a county park meticulously maintained with all paved roads and pads.  Colorful foliage abounds and we are just a few steps from a lovely lake.  The county sheriff and the park patrol drive by several times a day and park is gated and closed at night.  We are here in the "off" season so all the snow birds have long since flown back north and there is plenty of room and sight selection to choose from.  There is a real dog exercise area, plenty of benches and the campground is large enough to give you a good walk in the evening.  We are planning on staying two weeks. 
The camp ground is far enough from roads and railroads as to be quiet.  However, there is another source of sound that some may find annoying but not me.  We are parked right next to the main runway of the county airport.  I have always been fascinated by airplanes so to me this is no annoyance at all and Joanie and the dogs don't seem to be bothered. There are no jets taking off or landing only small single and double engine fixed wing aircraft and small helicopters. Besides the occasional executive, there is an active flight school here for both fixed wing and helicopters so I watch the students do touch and go practice mostly in the evening and since we do not have cable TV here and over-the-air TV is not reliable, my Walter Mitty imagination is more entertaining.  (We have a satellite TV antenna and may some day get Dish.)
Yesterday Joanie was very busy practicing her organizational skills (which are second to none) stowing and re-stashing stuff in Phaeth.  We moved some more stuff to the basement and Joanie rearranged her cabinets for dishes, pots & pans and pantry stuff.  Joanie is getting us more comfortable all the time.
I'm getting pretty shaggy and need to find a barbershop today and Joanie wants to go shopping for some new tops.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tight!  We moved farther south to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to a camp ground called Sugar Mill Ruins RV Park.  It is a quaint and charming campground but it is NOT big rig friendly.  There are some sites that can take a 40 or 42 footer but not with their toads.  There are a lot of permanent lots with park models and permanently placed trailers.  Lots of old trees and plenty of shade.  Tree branches were not a problem but the trees themselves have gotten large and protrude into the sites.  We had to make a very tight hairpin turn just to get on our street but we did not have to detach Hope. 

However when we made an even tighter turn into our site, our water and sewer bay did not line up with the campsite's utilities.  So Hope was sticking out in the street if we were to line up with the sewer and water.  So we had unhook Hope and move her to the front of Phaeth. 
I am very proud of myself for making these maneuvers.  Remember, you cannot back up with a four wheel down tow.

With Hope unhooked, we went shopping at a nearby Publix.  Joanie had a real hankerin' for sea food so she bought 2 pounds of fresh shrimp at $14.50 a pound.  Now that's an expensive hankerin'.  But she also bought fresh corn and tomatoes and she cooked an early Sunday dinner that was exceptional!

The location reminds me a lot of Jacksonville where we lived for a few years.  The flora, humidity, and soil is the same and I feel very much at home here.  But everywhere we go now is "home"!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

We're not waitin' around.   After all, what is there to wait for.  We hooked up Hope to Phaeth for the first time this morning and hit the road. 

But first I made the hardware attachments from Phaeth to Hope which included the safety cables.  I put Hope in neutral and gave her a shove backwards to activate the two tow arms. I made an adjustment to the brake line and Joanie checked out her turn signals and brake lights.  THEN we gingerly eased in to traffic on I-77 south. 

Then the rains came. 

I wanted to stop at the first Flying J and check out the tow package and get fuel but the rain was so bad we just kept going.  The rain finally let up after we got on to I-95 and we found a smaller Flying J truck stop that did not have the Motor Home Lane.  So I squeezed into a truck lane to fill up.  Thanks to some very courteous truck drivers, we squeezed out pretty much they way we squeezed in. 

Adding Hope to Phaeth has increased our length by almost 10 feet.  We have to be a lot more aware of turns and corners with her as our turning radius has increased.  Hope tracks inside Phaeth's turning radius so we must make sure our turns are wider.  We learned this lesson well when, while searching for a rest stop, we saw "Visitor's Center" and thinking we could walk the dogs there, ended up winding our way through a Shoney's parking lot because the visitor's center was bogus.  I thought we were in hot water for sure.  But God showed us a way out that worked great and now we are wiser.
This is what Hope looks like from our cockpit.  We watch Hope trail behind us on our backup camera.
You are by now saying to yourself that this must be the first time they had a toad.  And you'd be right.  We experienced more than a little trepidation attaching a 4,000 lb appendage to our rolling house.  But Phaeth handled the addition nicely.  I believe that it was easier handling the rig with Hope behind us; the slight pull on our tail gave us more stability.  Most RVers say that they feel no difference at all with a toad.  I understand that now.  The toad is only about 10% of the weight of the motorhome so it won't be noticeable to most people.

We saw LOTS of RVs on the road today.  The interstates were heavy with all kinds of traffic but I have never seen so many Class A's with toads in one day.  There were Class C's and fifth wheels, too.  People who work from location to location because the economy is recovering and families starting out on vacations were out moving today.  With baby-boomers retiring and choosing this life-style, you will see more on the road.
We parked for the night at Golden Isles RV Park in Brunswick, GA.  Got a great rate with our Passport America card.  We hope to be in Smyrna Beach, Florida tomorrow night.
I made my first home-made modification on Phaeth this afternoon.  The adhesive pad that came with our Rand McNally 7720 was not holding on the wooden dash causing Randy to fall over from time to time and we got tired of putting the adhesive pad back down.  So I drilled two small holes in the plastic pad and fastened it down to the wood of the dash.  Hey, it works!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Homeless?  Yesterday I put on a button down shirt, long pants and dress shoes to go to the closing attorney's office.  Joanie dressed up and helped me look presentable.  We were introduced to the buyers of our old stick & brick house.  What a happy and joyous closing!  The young couple were so excited and while they tried to act with decorum, you could tell they were giddy.  We were happy to be able to detach ourselves from the last anchor that had been holding us back.  The de-stuffing process was now finally, officially, irrevocably over!  There were smiles on the faces of the real estate agents and the lawyer even cracked a smile as she tried to keep us all on focus of what needed to be done.  She had to conduct the signing ceremony under the banter of the new owners and old owners asking questions, giving tips, telling stories.  Later our agent told us that that was one of the happiest closings she had ever attended.

"OK, let's go home."  That is what we said to each other as we climbed into Hope and pulled out of the lawyer's parking lot.  A great feeling of relief and lifting of stress over came us.  We headed home to Phaeth and the dogs, had lunch and took a nap.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hope gets a nose job.  Monday we got a call from Campers Inn in nearby Kings Mountain, NC that they had received all the parts for the tow package and that they could begin work as early as Tuesday if I wanted.  The tow package has been the one modification that has been holding us up so We said emphatically and enthusiastically, " HECK YEAH!"

So yesterday I was up early and fighting morning rush hour traffic around the Charlotte metroplex to get from Fort Mill, SC to Kings Mountain by 8:30 AM.  Then I had to wait in their freezing waiting room for almost 7 hours while they drilled holes, cranked nuts and bolts, spliced wires and shoved cables on our beloved Hope.  They did a good job performed by an experienced RV tech.  However, one negative (besides the over abundance of air conditioning in the waiting room) is the policy of not allowing the RV owner any where near the work area.  It was almost like they did not want you to know what was going on.  People are very concerned about what strangers do to their abodes.  Tom Johnson RV in Concord, NC allows owners to see what is going on and advises the owners of the progress.  Campers Inn needs to re-think this policy.

Service work done by RV dealers ain't cheap either!  Parts take time to acquire. So be sure you have thought through all the details of what you want done.

Our entire tow package consisted of:
Ready Brute Elite tow bar & supplemental surge brake combo
Blue Ox base plate
Blue Ox universal clevises
Tail light wiring kit
7 to 6 pin coiled electric cable (this connects the turn signals and brake lights of Phaeth to Hope)
Ready Brute breakaway kit (this applies the brakes on the toad in the event the tow bar fails)
Ready Brute tow bar rock deflector (this saves Hope from rocks being thrown by Phaeth)
Ready Brute tow bar cover (this protects the tow bar when not being used)

You can see the shiny clevises attached to the black base plate and the electrical connection and brake loop connection in the center under the bumper.
With labor at $120.00 per hour the whole thing came to $3,261.29.  Ouch!  My consolation is that it will last a long time, God willing.  The material is probably the best.  The tow bar is rated at 8,000 lbs and Hope is a diminutive 4,000 lbs.  The supplemental brake system is one of the most popular and simplicity in its engineering makes it extremely reliable.  I am still adding 2 tons to the vehicle I am driving (we are now over 37,000 lbs) which means that even using Hope's brakes, we need a longer stopping distance.  I need to keep that in mind when driving.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

It's Done!  It's Done!  I have to apologize for the delay in posting but we have been busier in the last few days than we have in a long time.

We are out of the house! Sleeping on a real bed in Phaeth.

Friday we shut down the Time Warner Cable network, finished calling the utilities and other services to cancel all our connections to our old life and we moved Phaeth from her storage place to the KOA in Fort Mill, SC because that is the closest campground to our stick & brick house so we could move our remaining belongings into her.  We could not park Phaeth in the driveway. Shucks, we would have trouble moving her into our little cul-de-sac.  She is too big and the street is too small, trees to close, branches too low, etc.  So we parked her and started running Hope back and forth. 

But it was so good not to have to sleep on that dang fold out bed and so good to get a good night's sleep on Phaeth's Sleep Number Bed.

Yesterday we made more trips then went to Mass and we will finish today.  Yesterday was mostly food from the pantry and fridge.  Joanie has been working like a Trojan getting everything put away in Phaeth.  I am surprised the number of storage places Tiffin has been able engineer into their motorhomes.  They have a reputation for that.

Joanie got the ice maker working which had not been used since Phaeth was winterized last.  When the first ice cubes came out I popped one into my mouth and YUCK! YUCK! YUCK! The anti freeze was not yet flushed out of the ice maker.  While it is not toxic, that stuff will kill taste buds!  My tongue still has not fully recovered.

We have to be totally out of the S&B house by Tuesday so the new owners can do their final walk through.  Tomorrow we will do some cleaning, mop the floors, etc.  Thursday is the closing at 10:30 AM  so I guess I will have to put on long pants and a nice shirt because we have to be there to sign papers.

My back feels like we have moved a ton of stuff in the last few days.  I have to remember to get Phaeth weighed as soon as possible and adjust her tire pressure.

It is a totally different set of emotions now.  For years we had lived in anticipatory anxiety for this very moment.  That brand of anxiety is gone now.  We have left our old life style and have begun our new adventure.  There is no going back now.  The old S&B house is empty.  We must make our way in this new world that we have chosen and that brings with it a new brand of anxiety.  It is a feeling of great relief on the one hand and new hope and anticipation on the other.

Joanie and I both feel as though we are doing God's will in this change.  We have already encountered new souls with whom we have shared the Lord's joy.  I believe that we are "on the road" to where God wants us to be.