Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The penultimate day

The day before we leave a campground we always do as much as we can to make departure day like, well -- a walk in the park.
And when rain is forecast for the day of departure there is even more incentive to get those tasks done when the skies are clear
So today we picked up our 6’ x 5’ patio mat that we place in front of the entrance.  It had 3 months of sand and a lot of pollen stuck inside the weave so I blasted it with our new $3 garden hose nozzle.  These little nozzles have been around for some time and I decided to buy one at Lowe’s.  I thought it might come in handy for removing bugs that will get stuck to the front of the motorhome this spring and summer.  Looks like I already found another use.
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We also picked up our rope lights, and wiped them clean of sand before stowing them on reels made for electric extension cords.
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Next we disconnected the water supply hose ad stored it on the built-in reel.  Because our freshwater tank holds 102 gallons we have more than enough to last us until we reach our next park within Ocala.
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Before we disconnected the sewer hose we flushed it out by emptying the gray water tank which  holds up to 110 gallons of waste water from sinks and the shower.  The “black water” tank holds 54 gallons of sewerage –- again more than enough capacity for at least five days of use.

So all that remains in the morning is to disconnect and store the electrical supply cord and do the same for our portable satellite receiver that we use when trees block the roof mounted dish.

Tomorrow we are driving only about 35 miles into Ocala to a privately owned RV park.  It won’t be as scenic as the Ocala National Forest, but we need cell phone service and a good internet connection to plan the next few months of travel.  And we will be closer to the stores we had to drive 30 miles to reach. 

We'll miss seeing this guy who likes to sit in an ergonomically correct position for egrets

Finally, here is a photo of a butterfly that was collecting nectar from some flowering bushes near the motorhome.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bob Hastings and his railcar

I often meet some really interesting people in campgrounds.   Bob Hastings easily meets that definition because he is an active railcar buff.
Bob and his Welch Terrier, Wellington, were glad to pose for a photo.  In back of Bob is his auto carrier outfitted with an electric winch and square steel tubes that serve as rails to move his early 1980s railcar in and out of the trailer.  “Orange Crush” is the nickname of Bob’s railcar and was originally built for the Canadian National Railroad.

Bob is an active member of the North American Railcar Owners Association (visit for more information).  NARCOA has about 1000 active members who enjoy taking their railcars out for excursions on railroad lines.  These excursions are usually on the tracks of short line railroads vs. such giant carriers as Union Pacific or CSX.

I asked Bob how he gets his railcar from inside his trailer onto a set of railroad tracks.  He was more than happy to partially demonstrate how this is accomplished.
The easy way is to roll out his railcar so that it sits at a 90 degree angle to the tracks.  Then he deploys this turntable to the ground and simply rotates his 1100-pound railcar until the wheels are above the tracks.  He raises the turntable and the railcar wheels settle onto the rails.
Bob also has the option of manually lifting the railcar and muscling it sideway by using the built in handle bars seen in this photos.  The handle bars slide under the car for storage and can also be pulled out the other side where leverage is better because the Onan 4 cycle 2 cylinder 20 HP gas-fueled engine  is up front.  This little engine can reach speeds of 45 MPH and gets about 30 MPG.  but, Bob who is very safety conscious generally cruises in the 20 to 30 MPH range.

When I asked Bob what was it about owning a railcar that made it so much fun to do, he responded with: “It is the closest thing to being a railroad engineer without owning a locomotive.”
Bob’s seat is at right and the buddy chair is to the left.  Note that Bob has tricked out his cab with a dual cup holder.  He also has a CB radio for communications with excursion participants.
Here is a shot of Bob’s Canadian National railcar being winched out of the trailer.

And here is a rear view of Orange Crush.
Additional details:
Being a railcar owner takes some preparation.  To belong to NAROA you need an association mentor and pass a written and a driving test.  Orange Crush set Bob back about $2800 four years ago.  They are in limited supply so their value increases over time.
Before Bob retired he was a production engineer for GE building jet engines, which explains his affinity for all things mechanical.
Bob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio
His two favorite excursions are on:
the West Virginia Central RR out of Elkins, WV up into the mountains where there are no roads and ends where they meet up with a steam locomotive, the Cass Mountain RR out of Cass, WV (and)
the Finger Lakes RR trip from Geneva, New York to western, NY
Generally about 30 members make up an excursion which has to be carefully arranged with the owner of the host railroad.  All aboard!
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few odds and ends

For the last week we enjoyed stopping and playing with a Springer Spaniel named Reesie (think peanut butter cup). She was smart and lovable. Her owners Don and Ruth Ann Brown were fun to be with and we enjoyed a couple of campfires and went to dinner one evening. We were sorry to see them move on.
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On the subject of dogs.  I came across this sign recently.
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Yesterday we hiked a nearby trail and came across
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this unique spongy-looking plant.  From a distance it resembled clumps of snow.
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We’ve seen this guy before.
Often in the evenings a small group of musicians gather in one of the campsites directly across from ours and do some picking.  This group is really, really good.  Tonight the instruments included bass, banjo and guitar. 

And finally and under the heading of Old Guys Rule there is this clever marriage of a golf cart and a leaf blower that camp volunteers use to blow leaves and pine needles off the roads.
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Stay tuned.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Serving burgers since 1932

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New acquaintances here at Salt Springs raved to us about Angels Drive In in nearby Palatka that serves great hamburgers, fries and onion rings.  Angels Drive In has been in business for 79 years. We went there today for lunch.  The burgers were terrific.  Freshly ground beef and hand-formed patties.  The fries have the skins on them, which we love and the onion rings were light and tasty.

The burger plate is $5.45 and soft drinks come with a free refill.  No wonder they were busy.

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The diner is in an actual railroad car.

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Back at the campground here is a photo of a regional bird called the Limpkin.

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Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Florida springs

In central Florida we have noticed an abundance of fresh water springs.  Today we drove to nearby Silver Glen Springs in Ocala National ForestIt is a day-use only area, so there is no overnight camping.
It is a small slice of paradise.  The water is aquamarine in color and clear.  The grounds are shaded by live oaks draped with moss. 
And we got lucky,  A manatee was in the spring. You can see the GPS buoy attached to the manatee when you enlarge wither photo. Manatees are well protected and tracked.
And this boat captain knew where the fish were biting.
Silver Glen Spring is connected to the larger St. Johns River.
Next we drove to Orange City and Blue Spring State Park where 104 million gallons of water flow daily from the spring into the St. Johns River.
There is a bit of history here dating back to 1774 when British Colonial botanist John Bartram paddled into Blue Spring in 1774.  But for me the really interesting history was the house and river docks built by former California gold miner Louis Thursby who became a successful citrus farmer and merchant.  Thursby arrived in 1856 when he bought Blue Springs  and 300 acres for $400. 
The scene below is of the Blue Springs Run…
….which connects with the St. Johns River.
A neat day.
Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Micanopy {mick ah no pee} FL, the town that time forgot

We drove 40 miles to nearby Micanopy this morning and discovered an old small southern town that is full of charm, cats and antique shops.


Thirty eight buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Herlong Mansion, ca 1845, and now a bed & breakfast.



Alley ways and streets are tree-lined and shaded.


This 1930s truck has become part of the landscape.


The oldest house in town.


Signs that are as good as folk art.


Where we had lunch and petted the resident cat.



Another neat old mansion.

The town was inhabited by settlers in the 1830s and incorporated in 1889 with 600 inhabitants with schools, churches, hotels, stores, a grist mill and a cotton mill.   Today the sleepy town has grown to a population of 650.

Hollywood has recognized its unique appeal, filming four major pictures here:  Doc Holliday, Cross Creek, Miracle at Clemon’s Pond and The Yearling.

What a unique and charming town.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pens and Flat Panel TVs

There are several old timers here that enjoy small woodworking projects in the activities barn. I got to know a couple of the guys when they let me use their saws to cut a few pieces of wood for my TV installation, described later in this blog. 
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Roger Stranger (above) is from Saranac, Michigan and his mentor, Charlie, have become artisans by making beautiful hand-turned wooden ball point pens.

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Here is one of Roger’s pens.  He only charges $10 for a one-of-a-kind pen that is finished with two layers of wood-workers wax and a special hand-buffed sealer.  My photo does not do justice to his art.
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Here is a case of pens made by Charlie.

And here is Charlie (far right) at his favorite place. 

The saga of our TV began two weeks ago Sunday when we were watching TV and it quit working. No sound. No picture. No smoke. Nada.
The next day I removed the front of the TV cabinet and removed the TV. I plugged it to see if I could get the blue screen, but nothing happened. So it was time to order a new unit. After doing some research we decided on a Samsung because some Foretravel owners have reported good success with them as opposed to Sony TVs which seem to be susceptible to road shock and vibration.
Our motorhome rides really smoothly, but TV sets are made to hang on a wall in a home, office or store where they do not get vibration from road travel or bouncing over railroad tracks and speed bumps.
Ordering the set from B&H Video in NYC was the easy part. No tax and free shipping was a bonus. I love that store. I found that a 26 inch flat panel TV would fit over the outside of the existing cabinet without interfering with adjacent cabinet doors.
Finding a way to hang a flat panel TV in place of the old TV that was in a cabinet was the challenge. I did not want to incur the cost of cabinet modifications and I certainly did not want to sit at a RV repair facility for two days and pay someone $120 an hour plus materials to do the work.
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This is the cabinet that held the old TV.
The first wall mount bracket we ordered arrived the same day as the TV. The mounting hardware did not include the correct size of metric bolts so I made my first of 4 trips to Salt Creek Hardware.
While this is a small store, they carry a lot of stuff and their employees extremely helpful.

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Here is the modified cabinet with the bracket in place.

We got the TV installed Wednesday. but it was not without some trial and error. Wednesday morning I drove to Best Buy in Ocala and bought the same mounting bracket that a Foretravel friend suggested. But as it turned out this one would not work with our set.
So I decided to call the company that made both of the brackets now sitting on the sofa to see if they had something that would work better for us. While talking with their rep, who by the way was the perfection of customer service, he suggested that if the lateral movement was a problem, then why not use a few Velcro tabs to keep it in place? Ding! Ding! Ding!
So with that in mind I worked with the first bracket. It took two complete “guess installations”, but the second time it was perfection – at least for us. And no lateral movement. We are happy campers. And it fits so snug that we do not need any Velcro after all.
I am working on a piece of wood to cover up the opening visible at the top of the new TV.
Two final items:
Because I do not post every day some of you probably get weary of checking to see if I have a new blog.  If you send me your e-mail, I will put you on a list to which I send a notice each time I blog.
Also,  if you have any specific questions to ask, you can also contact me at the email shown below:

Stay tuned.