March 2005 Blog

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Tuesday, March 1

Today I decided to clean the carpet and upholstery in the car. Iím embarrassed to say that Iíve been lazy and have never cleaned it. I cleaned it deeply and thoroughly. This Green Machine is a great machine!  I am very pleased with this carpet cleaner. I worked a couple of hours on cleaning the car.

We threw away the old car mats and decided to buy some new ones. Again, we run up against the problem that there isnít much selection of goods in Key West. We went to several places and finally bought some very cheap ones to last until we get back to stores with some variety.

While I was cleaning the car Mac finished running the power cable through the basement compartments.

We were both tired and sore so we decided to go out and eat dinner tonight. We went to Meteor Smokehouse for ribs. The ribs were delicious. We ordered a slab to share and itís served on a tray, like the trays used in a cafeteria. They have 2 styles of ribs and we had the St. Louis style ribs. We also ordered another dish that we were too full to eat so we had it boxed up to take home with us.

Wednesday, March 2:

Today we started waxing the RV. Since itís supposed to be cool but sunny all day we decided to start on the driver side since itís in the sun and the weather would be cool enough that we wouldnít get too hot. It was hot sweaty work anyway because of the sun shining down on us. We got that whole side done and I did the front of the RV below the windshield. It was very hard work but it looks much better to us.

In the afternoon Mac installed a new horn on the RV. Our old one worked sporadically, which can be dangerous. I said that we would need a loud horn for out west when weíre going down the mountains and the brakes fail and we canít stop the RV to warn people to get out of the way. He just looks at me like my imagination is working overtime again. Of course, there wasnít much of a selection of horns at the stores. Mac wants one with a deeper sound than this one, he says this one is too high pitched.

Thursday, March 3:

The weather is windy, cloudy, rainy, in other words, YUCKY today. We decided to go to Home Depot and pick up supplies for a few projects that we want to get done. We got molding for the cat door. Had I mentioned that previously? Mac cut a hole in the bathroom door so that the cat can visit the facilities as we are going down the road. So, he wanted to get some molding to finish the door nicely, right now it just has masking tape around the edges of the hole. We also picked up an assortment of plant hangers. I want to hang our plants while we are traveling instead of having them travel in a box. Previously, when we couldnít hang them outside while traveling I felt the plant wasnít getting enough light and suffered from it. So, we are going to try a couple of ways to hang them up while traveling and see which works best for us.

After Home Depot Mac needed to go to the post office so I decided to go into Ross and look around. Well, I found a few great bargains and had to buy the stuff. When we left there and before we managed to get out of the shopping center parking lot Mac saw some reclining chairs that he wanted to look at. They were at Winn Dixie and were on sale for $59. What a deal! We got 2 of them, even if they only last for one season they are still cheaper than the over $100 wanted by Camping World for a reclining chair.

All this shopping worked up an appetite so we decided to eat lunch out. Thereís a Chinese Japanese restaurant that weíd been meaning to try in that shopping center. Itís name is Hong Kong Restaurant. They have a lunch menu that is very reasonably priced. For less than $6.00 each we had an entrťe, pork fried rice and choice of soup or egg roll. The food was very good, and there was lots of it. I couldnít eat all of mine and had the rest of my food packed up. There was enough left for my supper tonight. This evening the wind started kicking up and Mac looked up the weather and saw that we were going to have lots of gusty wind tonight with rain storms so we took down the awning. We did have heavy rain most of the evening too.

Friday March 4:

Today the weather is still cloudy and gusty wind. Weíve been inside this morning working on our blog and various other computer tasks, i.e., playing Solitaire, Mahjong, reading the RV related forums, etc. Itís a hard job but hey, someone has to do it.

LOL.  Don't let her fool you.  When I got up at 7:00 she was searching online resume databases and had already made the coffee.  I really have a great assistant, and she works for coffee and bagels! :-)


In the afternoon I decided to run up the Keys to the thrift stores since weíll be leaving next Friday and this will probably be my last chance. I found some good paperback books for our journey. As I was leaving the Salvation Army in Big Pine Key I saw 2 of the Key Deer behind the building. They are so cute! Hereís a joke I made up: Watch out for the Key Deer or you might get Key Lime Disease!

March 5-9:

We finished waxing the RV and we think it looks really nice. Mac also took the car to the Hobby Shop here on station to check it over. He found a screw in one of the tires and had that repaired. He also called and made an appointment in Tampa for our car, the CV joints need looking at. In general, we spent these days getting everything done to leave out from here. We were scheduled to leave out on the March 11 but we decided to leave on the 10th and give us an extra day in the Everglades.

March 10-11:

We leave Key West. It is a day of conflicting emotions. We are sad because we really enjoyed staying here. But yet we are excited to hit the road and start our adventures for 2005. We will be back to Key West next winter.

Thankfully the drive up the Keys was uneventful. Since we are pulling a car we have to make sure that wherever we stop we can easily get out of without having to unhook the car. We found that Tea Table Key, Islamorada and approximately the area of Mile Marker 80 all have great areas for pulling off the road and easily getting back on. Great place to take a coffee break.

We again decided to take Highway 41 through the Everglades. There is less traffic than on the interstate. Highway 41 is named Tamiami Trail, I guess itís the road between Tampa and Miami. Beside the highway through the Everglades there is a manmade drainage stream, large ditch, small river or whatever itís called. This is to keep the water off the highway during the rainy season. This stream has lots of wildlife in it. As weíre driving by we see lots of alligators sunning themselves, they look like black logs at first glance. We see fishing birds, such as the Kingfisher and the Cormorant. Also there are White and Blue Herons.

We drove up to the Everglades and stayed at the same park that we stayed at back in December. We took a walk around the lake and enjoyed looking at nature. The lake has about 5 alligators in it that we saw. There may be more that we didnít see. As we walked around we found the ďtrailsĒ that the alligators use to get out of the water and lay up on the land to enjoy the sun. It was a little scary to realize that you could walk up on an alligator while talking a walk around the lake.

We talked with the campers parked next to us who seem to have been in the Everglades for a while. They told us about all the different places to go and see. They also told us about the free camping site right down the highway. We decided to go down to the free site and look around some more. The name of the camp is Bern Lake Camp Ground. There is a sign on the road but the sign doesnít tell you that itís free. It is a lake with campsites around it.
We parked on the south side facing east so that our solar panels get plenty of sun. We walk around and look at the wildlife. Of course, this lake has alligators also. There are lots of birds around that we enjoy watching too.

Mac did some research on the internet and found that this lake is the best location for looking at stars in all of southern Florida. There are no lights in the camp and the lights from Miami are just far enough away that they donít interfere with stargazing. So we got out the reclining lawn chairs and set up for a night of gazing into the heavens. WOW was it great. I had forgotten there were so many stars in the sky. It was so incredible to sit back and look at. We also saw some shooting stars too. It got a little chilly but it was still great to see the stars.

The campground was quiet also. The people camping here were all considerate of others and didnít make a lot of noise. I was at first concerned that a free campground would have a bunch of rowdys in it but that wasnít the case. So if youíre in the area check out the campground and the stars.

We only stayed one night at Bern Lake. We wanted to stay longer and check out the Everglades but we have appointments in Tampa and need to get up the road. We drove up to Naples and stopped at the Goodwill Thrift Store and a also shopped at a grocery store. When we got out of the RV to go shopping we discovered that we had left one of the bedroom awnings down. Thankfully, there was no damage done at all. So, we got to have a good laugh and add another item to the checklist of items to do before leaving a camp.

As Chris said, we stopped the first night in the Everglades on US 41 at Monument Lake Campground (same location as in December).  Today we drove less than 10 miles to another Big Cypress Preserve campground on Bern Lake.  One great thing about this campsite, it's FREE!  Gotta love that!



A few photos below from yesterday and today.  Click on this link or on the photo below to see them all.


Our Camp Site on Monument Lake

March 12-13

We spent the night at the SKP Park in Wauchula again.  We dry camped for only the one night and left early the next morning.  We drove over to Bushnell to stay at the SKP Park there.  We intended to dry camp but our auto park would not release when Mac put the RV in reverse.  So we are currently on a pull through full hook up site.  Mac made an appointment to have the auto park ďthingyĒ (excuse the technical term) adjusted.

March 14 - 20   Catching up

Hi Everyone.  Just a quick message to catch up on things.  As you know, our last "stick house" was in the Tampa area, so this is our "maintenance and healthcare" stop.  We've been busy with our normal work for the business, and also with appointments for maintenance on autos, RV's and bodies :-)  We're staying in Bushnell, at Sumter Oaks RV Park, an Escapees RV Club park.  All this is going on in the Tampa, Clearwater, and Orlando areas, so we have to get up early every day and are worn out by bedtime.  

Monday, we took my Mom's car to the dealership to have the brakes checked.  A few weeks left on warranty and she was hearing a squeak, so better safe than sorry!  Turned our her brakes were fine.

Tuesday Chris went to see the Orthopedic Surgeon about her knee.  8:30 AM appointment.  I'll let her tell you about this, but short version is that she's hoping to have it replaced in November 2005.

Tuesday was also our car's turn in the shop.   We took the 96 Honda Civic to Hondaland of Tampa.  Why a dealership you may ask?  Well, we needed CV joints and we're about to take a 12000 mile trip this summer, so we wanted factory backed warranty on the repairs.   

Lucky for us we took it to Hondaland! We received some of the best service we've ever gotten at a dealer.  To start with, they gave us a "free" loaner to drive for the day.  Now I expected that when my car was new, and I took it to the selling dealer, but it's 9 years old and has 136,000 miles!  We took the rental and went for lunch.  Then Chris dropped me off at the shop and I worked on the laptop/cell phone in the waiting area while she shopped the thrift stores.

While we were there, I mentioned to the service rep that I was going to buy a new keyless remote -- I had taken ours snorkeling and salt water had ruined it.  The service guy said No Way!  I'm not going to let you spend $90 on a new remote.  He took me back to look at a box full of old remotes.  We sorted through until we came up with two that matched my car, then we found 2 batteries.  He programmed them and they work great!  He also had them check the trouble codes in the computer and reset the airbags.  I had forgotten to mention the light on, we had banged the front end on the towbar, and he said that could mess with the sensors.  To top it all off, he gave us 4 general admission tickets to the St. Petersburg Grand Prix! 

Wednesday, and the RV was up for some work.  7:30 AM appointment in Orlando, so we're up at 4:30 AM.  We had an intermittent problem with the Auto Park system not disengaging in reverse.  Arrived at the current RV park and we couldn't back up into our slot!  They were very accommodating and gave us a pull-through until we could get the RV fixed.  Turns out it "fixed" itself because neither I, nor the service tech could duplicate the malfunction.  The RV shop we picked to work on it was Golby Motor Corp. in Orlando FL.   They specialize in old GMC coaches, and also service the Workhorse chassis.  I don't have either, but they've been in business a long time and have a good reputation for working on all kinds of motorhomes

Good and bad results.   They got me right in for the appointment, and got started right away that morning. They couldn't duplicate problem with the Auto Park, but intermittent problems are that way and I understood.  They added fluid to the system and said it was OK.  They also adjusted the manual park brake so that it worked (hadn't before), and did a full chassis lube. 

All this was fine, the problem I had with them was with the inspection of our rear brakes. I had told them this:  "I want you to inspect the rear brakes.  They seem to be working fine; however, the front brakes are new, and they lock up easily on wet pavement and the rear doesn't seem to contribute much.  Also, we are heading to the western mountains this summer and want to ensure our rear brakes are in good shape for that trip." 

Well, they only looked at the main rear axle disk brakes.  They did not look at the tag axle drums.  The service manager told me they assumed they were OK since disks were OK.  I told them that's not what I expected when I asked for a brake inspection. 

They offered to look at the tag axle as I was leaving, but I had already lost confidence in the shop.  The point was that I asked for a "brake inspection", not just someone to give the visible disks a quick look and say all is fine.  I'll get brakes inspected elsewhere. The work they did do was good.  Svs Mgr was hard to talk to.  Didn't communicate much.  Lots of "uh-huh" and "sure" and "ok" but not much explaining of things. 

Thursday, I visited a local dentist.  I started having pain in my right, rear, upper molar on Wednesday.  By Thursday morning it was really bad!  The dentist said I needed a root canal.  He gave me Vicoden (which I only take at night) and an antibiotic.  I have recently signed up for dental insurance which starts in April, so I think I can make it until April 1st before getting the tooth worked on. 

OK, That's enough for now.  I'll just say briefly that Friday was a productive work day, Saturday we worked 1/2 day, and today we waxed the car, and did a touchup on the RV with detailing spray (kind of a spray on - wipe off wash-and-wax stuff).  Of course it is now raining. LOL

Oh, Chris will probably beat me up for this, but it's been kind of stressful around here this week and she's been really fighting the "smoking monkey" hard as it's trying to climb back up on her back.  Any encouragement for her would be appreciated :-)  She quit smoking on  November 30th, and has been doing really good!  Don't tell her I told you about encouraging her, OK?  She'll probably read this in a few days and I'll be in trouble!

 Wednesday, March 23

We got up early this morning because I have a doctorís appointment at 8:30 in Tampa. It is raining hard on the way to Tampa. I drive the car down and Mac drives the RV down later. We do some other chores after my appointment and then Mac has a doctorís appointment in the afternoon. Afterwards, we head out to meet the girls in Pensacola Florida tomorrow. We drive to Tallahassee and spend the night at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, March 24

Early morning and we get a call from our daughter, Tina that the bus of friends that they caught a ride with are not going to Pensacola but to Panama City. We arrange to meet the girls at Marianna Florida and turn around and head back towards Tampa.

The girls are all tired from their bus trip down from Illinois. 2 fall asleep and the little one stays awake and talks to us. We decide to spend the night at Chiefland at the RV Park there.

Friday, March 25

We left Chiefland and drive on to Tampa. We met Macís mom for lunch at Macaroni Grill. After lunch we visit for a while and Mac runs over to U-Haul to see if we can rent a one-way truck on the 30th instead of April 4 as scheduled. When we picked up the girls Tina found out that the bus of friends planned on leaving on the 29th instead of the 31st as originally planned. If we can get the U-Haul this will be a blessing in disguise. We can drive the RV and the U-Haul to Illinois and visit even longer. The U-Haul dealer came through for us and we can get one on the 30th. Yea!

We left Tampa and drove over to Lakeland on the way to Orlando and Mickey Mouse. We rented a room for the night for the girls and we stayed out in the parking lot in the RV (with permission). The girls swam in the pool. I stuck my foot in and that water was too cold for me. It wasnít a heated pool so brrrr it was cold! After they finally got out of the pool we ate dinner at Bob Evans. After dinner we went to Wal-Mart and shopped for supplies while on WDW. Back to the hotel and nighty night to everyone.

Saturday, March 26

We arrive at Disney World and get checked into Fort Wilderness. Mac and I will be staying at the RV park and the girls will be staying in a cabin at Fort Wilderness. We had read that the RV park was cramped and tight fitting kind of small. It was a little, but after being so close to our neighboring RV that you can hear them sleeping at night down in Key West, we donít consider this tight at all. We decided to rent them a cabin so that there would be enough room for everyone. The cabins are very nice. There is a bedroom with a bunk-bed and a full size bed. The living room has a couch that one could sleep on. It also has a full size Murphy bed. The dining area has bench seating that one could sleep on too. There is a kitchen with a refrigerator that has an ice maker, full sized stove, and a dishwasher. The kitchen is equipped with cooking pots and pans and also has dishes and utensils.

Our other daughter and her fiancťe will be joining them tonight so there will be 5 in the cabin. We plan on eating breakfast and at least one other meal at the cabin while on WDW to save money. After everyone gets settled in we go to my favorite place to visit, Magic Kingdom. We rode the ferry to get there from Fort Wilderness. The girls enjoyed that a lot. I donít know why but I love this park the best of all the parks on WDW. We had a great time there until closing and then we rode the ferry back to Fort Wilderness.

Sunday March 27

Happy Easter!


Animal Kingdom today. They have so many pretty flowers and animals there it is a nice place to visit. Of course they have rides and shows too. The have a new ride theyíre building, Mt. Kilimanjaro. It looks like it will be lots of fun. After a few hours I got a wicked headache and Mac and I went back to the RV. The girls stayed and had a great time.

Disney really cares about the safety of their guests.  Have you heard that Disney has installed over 500 Automatic External Defibrillators (AED's) in their parks, cruise ships, etc?  These life saving devices are located all around Disney World in Orlando and can be used by anyone who witnesses a heart attack.  The manufacturer claims these give heart attack victims a 70% improved chance of recovery! 

I saw one at the bus stop in Ft. Wilderness, and right next to it I saw an example of why Disney bought these.  See the photos below:


That's right $2.50 for a 20oz. bottle of Coke!

Now I'm a free market capitalist kind of guy, but that's just absurd!  The last time I paid $2.50 for a Coke, naked women were dancing on the stage.  LOL :-)

Monday, March 28

Waiting for the sky to clear so I checked email and did a little work. 

A few days ago we had a recurrence of the AutoPark Brake malfunction.  Would not release in reverse while engine was very hot.  I found someone on the RV.NET forums who has experienced the same problem and who had a specific fix for it.  Lots of conversation in threads over the last few years, but only a few actual fixes.  This is an electrical vs. mechanical fix, so it only works for unlocking the brake when the cause of failure is the cam switch at the base of the steering column.  That switch allows release with the gear selector in all positions except PARK.  I can now work-around the problem by manually closing the connection and disengaging the AutoPark Brake.  I'll take pictures and write a more detailed article for the technical section.  When completed, I'll come back here and insert a link.  Here's the link

We are visiting Epcot today. The weather is beautiful when we leave Fort Wilderness after lunch. While visiting the park we plan on eating our way around the world. We plan to stop at each country and get one dish and all of us have a bite of it. While we were visiting Epcot, half way through eating, the weather started getting cooler and windy. It got quite chilly to us so we went to the souvenir store to see if we could get sweatshirts or something warm to wear. The staff were very surprised how busy it was in the store. You could hardly walk there were so many people trying to get warm. I found a nice jacket with Mickey on the back of it. It really got cold that night. It was nice to finally get back to the camp and warm up.

March 29

Everyone sleeps in late. Today is the day chosen to go to Universal Studios Islands of Adventures. Iím tired of amusement parks so Mac and I bow out and the girls go on without us. Last year we went to Universal Studios and I was very disappointed in the place. I figure if you are going to spend so much money visiting the park they should devise some system so that you can ride enough rides and get your moneys worth out of the visit. Also, handicap accessibility there is really bad. I didnít enjoy it and really didnít want to go there again. WDW has customer service and customer satisfaction down to a science. The staff is always so friendly and helpful and just great to talk to at WDW.

So Mac and I went shopping at a few stores. We found 3 Disney discount outlet stores. 2 are premium and 1 isnít. We also found a Universal outlet store and a Hard Rock Cafť outlet store. We bought T-shirts for the girls. We also cooked dinner for the girls and when they got back we had a good time for our last night on Disney World. The girls all said they had a great time today and that the rides were great even though the wait was long at the rides.

Below is a little slide show of six photos from Disney.




All The Girls At Epcot: Chris, Lindsey, Tina, Nikki, Amanda

Yes, I'm the only male in the crew. I've contacted a drug company about selling off the excess estrogen :-) -Mac

March 30

We left WDW and hit the road to Tampa. Good-bye Mickey, see you real soon.

While leaving the RV park on WDW to drive to the section to hook up the car I noticed that the steps on the RV were still down. We got Mac to stop before any damage was done. There is a part that has broken so he had to tie up the steps. Weíll have to get a part to repair them.

It has worked out beautifully that we are getting a U-Haul and driving the family back to Illinois. We picked up the U-Haul truck and we get it packed up with the help of my friendís son and his friend. We ate at McDonaldís (yuck) and hit the road. Once Tina found out that you could smoke in the U-Haul truck that was it, no one else could drive it. We drove all the way to Perry Florida and spent the night at the Wal-Mart.

March 31

We want to take a detour and go to Pass Christian Mississippi and see my parents today for a short visit. Today is my dadís 82nd birthday. Tina hasnít seen him since 1989 and the grandkids have never met them. So off we go to Mississippi. We hit patches of rain that are very intense but we drive on slowly. The kids had never been through a tunnel so they got a kick out of the tunnel in Mobile Alabama.

We arrived and visited with my parents for a few hours. We could have spent the night there but we decided to get up the road after visiting. We didnít get very far after visiting. It wasnít raining when we arrived but it started while we were there. We wanted to get up the road a ways and also have some dinner. We ate at Barnhillís Buffet on Highway 49 in Gulfport. I was disappointed in their food. My parents had said it was a good place to eat, very reasonable prices too. It was reasonable but we thought the food was lousy. It could be because it was close to closing time and so the food wasnít fresh. We may try them again but itís far down on my list of restaurants to try. We hit the road heading up Highway 49. It was raining very hard. We drove to Hattiesburg and decided to spend the night at the Wal-Mart there. It rained hard all night long.

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