Friday, 26 February 2016
Southwest Florida

While we were at the View-Navion Rally I learned of a solution to the 3 quarts of water wasted each time you turn on your hot water for a shower. The short video I made (2.5 min) you can watch here  and it has all you need to know. I had to wait until now to upload to YouTube as I had used up my Verizon data allowance for the prior month.

The Palmetto Encore RV Park had a unique shared sewage dump. See the sign in the photo and click to enlarge for the details. Fortunately we did not stay in Site H-12



Our friends Ginny and Alan moved back to the USA from Panama last year. We learned a good deal about condo design in this part of Florida. They are in a new two story fourplex overlooking a small lake. It has a three car garage with the third car parked in front of the second car. Many of the residents have downsized from much larger homes and have to deal with getting rid of a lot of stuff. Of course the garages hold much of their unneeded stuff. We spent a good part of the evening at another neighbor's condo that holds a party every Friday. Our hostess was formerly the television "Katie Couric" of Venezuela. Her partner was a long term live-aboard boater on an 48 ft trawler that he sailed all over the Caribean including Venezuela. He had also cruised on the first passagemaker yacht invented by Robert Beebe. Beebe was first to prove that a properly designed yacht could circumnavigate the earth under power rather than sail.


Anna Maria Island

This pier on Anna Maria was built in 1912 to provide dockage for ships from St Petersburg and Tampa. The dock is 678 ft long. The wharf on the end houses a restaurant and places to fish. It is the number one tourist attraction in Anna Maria. Carol and Gary have a beautiful house a few blocks from the pier on an inlet with homes on both sides. The island has become such an attraction that homes are being sold and used for one week rentals. This is rapidly destroying the neighborhoods and the owners move elsewhere. We had dinner at Galati marina and sushi restaurant. Galati is one of the largest boat dealerships in the USA. If you keep your boat here it has to be washed twice per week and kept in immaculate condition.



Returning to Bradenton we stayed with Kenlake Marina friends Eileen and Doc. Doc took me to see his new 35 ft. Newmar motorhome that has a massive slide-out on the street side. It is almost as long as the motorhome. There are 4 large rack and pinion units that control the in and out. Doc had downsized from a 38 ft to a 32 ft. He was too cramped in the 32 ft so he traded it in for the 35 ft. which has more floor space than the 38 ft. Later in the morning we went to a new Goodwill in a former Sweetbay supermarket. It gave me quite a few ideas to promote for our Goodwill. I took quite a few photos with the store manager's permission.


Burnt Store

Ria and Hans, Nortel friends, have a condo overlooking the harbor at the large Burnt Store development. We went to Lashley's restaurant (see photo) and were waited on by Ashley. (no relationship to the restaurant). I had a sea food salad but in hindsight wished I had picked the stuffed quesadilla soup bowl that Ria and Hans shared. I asked if they had any bread and was told they don't have bread at lunch but do have crackers. We ate inside and sat out the huge storm that hit southern Florida that afternoon.


Cape Coral

It was an easy drive to Cape Coral where we parked in Fred and Joanie's driveway (see photo) in their late 60's house with an indoor pool in the lanai. Fred has been a writer and photographer all his career and wrote the three cruise guides that we print. He writes mainly for agricultural magazines and is concerned about what will happen to print magazines. He has a draft of a very large novel he has written but it still needs work and we didn't get to see it. However, he asked Mavis and I to review a coffee table book with a number of his photos accompanied by very short stories in short lines of text. He refused to call it poetry. The book is beautiful and we talked a lot about how to get it published on print-on-demand.


Big Cypress

I had not reserved a place to stay in the Big Cypress/Everglades and figured we would find something. However, I was constantly worried about what to do if all the sites were taken.  Well we found an old Florida campground that was the most interesting place so far on this trip. You are greeted by a huge sign "Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters" beside a campground sign. They had a site. We were escorted to the site by one of the owners on his bicycle.  It was a little damp from the rain but had new water and power pedestals and was level. He said it had a dump but it was not at the site. His parting word were that this was a quiet place and he didn't want us making a lot of noise, like we were big time partiers. It was quite a complement. We then set out to find the dump site and walked to the store (see photo). At the back of the store a door opens to a zoo.  We were greeted by the zoo owner who was a fountain of information on plants and animals. Mavis was in heaven. In one enclosure was a huge 21 ft. curled up boa constrictor snake which he poked to show it was alive. I suggested he should have signs on the road promoting the world's largest snake like the world's largest prairie dog in Kansas (see here)  but he said that would be dishonest because there is a 25 ft. boa somewhere he knew about.  He also had several parrots, one which went crazy hoping for attention from the visitors. The noise was deafening. Today we head for Key Biscayne where boating friends live.


Posted on 02/26/2016 12:35 PM by Bob Duthie
Friday, 19 February 2016
Cedar Key, St. Petersburg

Cedar Key

Lunch was at Tony's Clam Chowder in the town of Cedar Key.  It was so good we bought a 51 oz can of it that will feed 12. We will save it for a busy day on the boat and when we can get 51 more ounces of heavy cream to mix with the chowder. The campsite was a few miles from town and a vast improvement from the decrepit place we stayed in on our March 2011 trip. Cedar Key RV Park has paved full service sites and caters to short term RVers. Permanent residents are not allowed. It would be great place for a rally but you can only book multiple sites from April to October. There is one fire pit that serves the entire park. This is a great feature as it avoids the clouds of smoke from multiple fires often found in RV parks.


Tarpon Springs

I set up the GPS thinking we would stop at Tarpon Springs and have lunch. The GPS took us down a beautiful new toll road, FL-589 that takes you to Tampa Airport.  The traffic on the old coast road, FL-19 is very heavy. We got off at the Port Ritchie exit which should have been close to Tarpon Springs. However, the toll road is so far inland at the point we couldn't find Tarpon Springs. When we found a place to stop and get our bearings we would have to go 20 miles out of our way and decided to skip lunch at our favorite Greek Restaurant.

Pasadena Point

Our boating friends, Ellie & Bart, formerly from Nashville have lived for 5 years on a 49 ft Defever trawler at several other area marinas but are now at the Pasadena Golf and Yacht Club. It is so nice it changed my feelings about Florida living. It has also changed our friends' feelings as they purchased a condo there and put the Defever up for sale. We had an excellent dinner at the club.

St. Petersburg

This morning we left early and drove a short distance to the 1924 Vinoy Hotel, a St. Petersburg landmark. Vebbie and Roger from Kenlake Marina were staying on their Hatteras LRC at the hotel marina. Marina slip renters get full privileges at the hotel. We had fabulous breakfasts (see photo of Mavis breakfast) and then took Vebbie's guided tour of the hotel. The yellow disks are made in Germany, are solar powered, and the rims are lit up brilliantly. They are very expensive. But can be obtained here.  Mavis and I walked around the downtown area and set a new record on my step counter. We took the Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay and are now at a dumpy RV park in Palmetto as all the good parks are booked solid in February & March.

Posted on 02/19/2016 4:50 PM by Bob Duthie
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Florida-Charleston Adventure

Nashville Startup

This is our third adventure in the new Trend motorhome. We drove our car up to the shed in Murray, KY on February 6th.  I checked the levels and discovered the propane tank was empty. It seems the full tank I left in the unit last fall had all leaked out. Somehow I had not closed the valve on the tank, however, with all equipment turned off there should not have been a leak. Just before we put the unit into storage there was a recall to replace defective cables connecting the propane tank to the regulator. The regulator takes the high pressure gas from the propane storage tank and delivers low pressure gas to the stove, fridge, furnace, and water heater.  No propane means none of these devices will work. Only the fridge will work when there is shore power. Monday morning I called Cullum and Maxey and they said they would fix the problem. It took them about an hour to replace the regulator. The tank was filled and we were ready to go.


More Propane Problems

We left at 11:00 on Tuesday, Feb 9, and headed for Hanceville, AL. It was snowing (see photo) and the roads were covered with brine. The Trend became covered in salt and road dirt. I have never seen such a dirty RV. I checked the propane levels when we got to the Hanceville campground. The propane was down to half; another regulator failure. I called around and found the Camping World at Calera a few miles south of Birmingham had a replacement regulator, but would not be able to install it for 3 days. I decided to buy it and have someone at the Rally we were going help install it.  Wednesday we picked up the regulator and then I asked at the Service Desk if they could possibly install it. Mike, the service manager said he could have it done after lunch. We waited in our unit, had lunch, and explored the largest Camping World store I have ever seen. We found $50 in stuff we just had to have. The regulator was replaced by 2:00PM. The mechanic that did the job came out and told me all the things he had done. There are a lot of government regulations that govern anyone that works on propane systems. For example you need a manometer to set the pressure properly. I am glad I didn't attempt it. We refilled the propane tank and headed for Live Oak Landing (LOL) near Freeport FL arriving safely in the dark around 8:00PM.  I learned that it is a good idea to practice before driving a new rig in the dark. How do you turn on the high beams and turn them off? How do you dim the screens on the radio and the dash? 


View-Navion Rally, Freeport FL

Thursday morning we were awakened by chain saws and a very noisy tractor pulling branches along the driveway behind the Trend.  It seems the live oaks are dying out and branches are dropping on the road. It's not surprising the oaks are dying as they have built so many park homes there is not much room for the trees. We moved to another site and doubled up with another couple. One member of our group was forced to move out of their site so they could cut off branches. We had a good time with many of our old and new friends. I took a walk one morning and got another annual photo of my favorite dilapidated house for sale by owner. The price has gone up to $160K now. Get it while you can!. Many people toured the Trend. That night I gave a slideshow on two of the trips we took last year, Big Bend National Park and Grand Marais-Alexandria Bay. I was amazed to learn that Big Bend can be over 100 degrees in March.  We had nothing but 60 degree weather in early March. At this point on Saturday we have had hot water showers and 5 nights of running the furnace. The level still shows full so the future for our propane looks good. I did a video interview with Gerald Keene which I will post on YouTube after the 18th when a new month starts on my Verizon data account. Gerald has invented a neat way to not waste water while waiting for the Instant Water heater to warm up.


St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Sunday we drove to St Joseph Peninsula State Park. It's great place to walk on the beach and the walking trail beside the water and marshes. There were no empty sites last night but people left in great numbers this morning on Presidents' Day.  One of our friends from the Rally, Cindi, parked right beside us for happy hour. Last night we had the most violent storm with pelting rain and high winds that rocked the Trend.


Manatee Springs State Park

Today there were no "walk in" sites at Manatee Springs State on the Suwannee River but we did walk by the river and saw one manatee ripple. We are at the Chiefland RV Park tonight. Tomorrow we head for Cedar Key. 

Posted on 02/16/2016 7:05 PM by Bob Duthie
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