Monday, January 31, 2022

Day 70 - Wauchula, FL - TT

Monday (70) - Went north to Lakeland for a vet appointment in the morning. It turned out to be about ¼ mile from the glass shop. It is clear and sunny but not what I would call “warm” at only 59°F. 

The new water pump that I picked up on Amazon back in November developed a slow leak. I removed it and it was from a poorly assembled pressure switch. A rubber diaphragm was pinched and didn’t seal completely resulting in a very slow leak through the switch itself. Enough of a leak that the pump started to run continuously as sufficient pressure to shut off the pump couldn’t be built up. And, enough that the wood subfloor is pretty wet. I re-installed the old water pump and set a small (250watt) electric heater near the wet subfloor. Hopefully it’ll dry up. 

Fortunately, the last day to return it to Amazon is tomorrow so I quickly packed it up and dropped it off at a UPS shipping location here in Wauchula. We had dinner here last week and wanted to return. It was very good. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Day 67, 68, 69 - Wauchula, FL - TT

Friday (67) - Another overcast day and I had another RV chore that needed to be done again. Defrost the refrigerator. It seems that I had just done this chore but the high humidity here in FL causes it to ice up pretty quickly. The last time I had just worked on the freezer. This time both the freezer and refrigerator had ice built up. Having the AC/DC compressor chest is handy as there isn’t a rush to get this task done. All of the frozen items will stay in there all day until the regular freezer gets back down to ~5°F.

More playing around with Modbus and the Victron stuff. I came up with a simplified panel within HomeAssistant that shows the information in the smallest available space. HomeAssistant does log all this information at intervals set for each bit of data. For example, some of these values are updated every 10sec others, every couple of minutes. And you can get graphs of the data over arbitrary time intervals. I have the inverter/charger turned off so the battery will get partially drained. We are parked under a pretty good canopy of trees so very little solar even if it wasn't overcast.

The “Charger State” took a bit of digging as the Victron 100/50 charge controller reports its status as an integer. I set up a template within HomeAssistant to translate the possible values to text. The picture is a screenshot of the file editor on the HomeAssistant iPhone app. Kind of clumsy to use on the phone but it works good enough. 

Today is day #69 which means that I will be headed home to Fairbanks in a few weeks. I have one appointment plus need to visit the borough office and the DMV (oh joy…).

Saturday (68) - Sunny and kinda cold. It was windy last night and the forecast was for more later today and tonight so I went ahead and packed up the outside stuff including the awning. Tonight, I’ll shut off our water and drain the hoses just to avoid problems that I don’t need.

I signed up for both test sessions today as it’s too cold for the pool. And, like so many of the TT parks, the hot tub is down for repairs.

One more stress point for me is done. We received the temporary tag (60-days) from Alaska in the mail today. The one I got from Idaho was only good for 30 days. It was sent from Fairbanks over a week ago. USPS is slow…

Sunday (69) - It did get cold last night but no problems. One more cold night then things start to warm up again. Supposed to be mid-80s by the end of the week. But then I’ll probably be complaining of the heat. On Tuesday, we are heading towards the coast for several days around Sarasota. Bridget’s grandparents and parents had lived there so she has a lot of good memories of the area. 

Today, there was a group testing in TN with one VE (volunteer examiner) there in-person and the rest online. It was a mess. After we did the first seven people in individual rooms, they decided to try a group in one room. I may hear how it went via email later. 

Tonight, I’m making barbecue ribs, baked macaroni and cheese, steamed broccoli, and baked beans. A good cold weather meal. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Day 65, 66 - Wauchula, FL and Myakka SP - TT

Wednesday (65) - It was another cold day today and yesterday’s rain continued this morning. I had been seeing all these YouTube recommended videos in my feed for cast iron pan pizza. It prompted me to pick up a dough ball from Publix along with some pizza toppings. After letting it rise this afternoon while I was doing test sessions, I divided it in half and made a couple of pan pizzas. They came out pretty good. The challenge in making them was the lack of a rolling pin. For some reason we haven’t needed one in the RV over the last five years or so. For pies I’ve just used pre-made crusts. Since there is still sauce and toppings, I may need to pick up another dough ball.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a bit warmer and much drier so I think the plan is to go to Myakka River State Park about an hour south east of here near Sarasota. We are headed to a KOA park in that area next week but only for a few days. KOAs are on the expensive side. Not Disney expensive but more than we are paying here. 

Thursday (66) - We went to Myakka River State Park near Sarasota. There were quite a few alligators visible from the road and the trails. 

There was a canopy walk, which made me think of the one in Singapore. This was nothing like that. Only a hundred feet long instead of miles and very bouncy. Capacity was four people at a time. At one end, was a tower that went up to ~270 ft with a nice panoramic view. The last photo is looking east and north. 

Further down the road was a short boardwalk out into the lake/swamp to see birds. Not very many birds today. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Day 63, 64 - Wauchula, FL - TT

Monday (63) - It actually dropped to freezing last night or sometime early morning. This is the box near the door where I display the outside temperature. Or at least an approximation as I don’t have the sensor in an ideal location. The little white sensor sticking out the back of the box measures the inside temperature and humidity. The display was intermittent and the hot glue holding the bezel had come loose. Hot glue doesn’t stick really well to plastic and I chose to use it for that very reason. Permanence isn’t a desirable characteristic for homebrew projects such as this. While it was off, I also replaced the butt connectors with the Wago connectors. 

The cat agrees that FL is cold. She seems to like sitting next to the electric heater yesterday and today. It is supposed to be warming up for a day or two then the low is dropping down to 32°F by next weekend. 

Tuesday (64) - This morning, we headed east to Sebring. A town large enough to have multiple grocery stores, a Petco, and an iHop for lunch. It was overcast most of the morning and sort of showering right now. And only 55°F in the middle of the afternoon. I went ahead and signed up for the afternoon test session but don't necessarily want to lead like I did yesterday. The last time I was lead VE was in September. It's was quite a while and I kept thinking that I was forgetting things. 

We stopped at Publix for some groceries and they had fresh pizza dough. I am planning on trying pizza in a cast-iron frying pan. Maybe tomorrow as I already had beans soaking for today's bean, kielbasa, and kale soup. Normally, I use navy beans but didn't have any in the cupboard. Trying it with black beans.

I finally figured out how to query the Raspberry Pi running the Victron VenusOS software from HomeAssistant. It isn't documented very well but I have Modbus running on VenusOS and the HomeAssistant server sends a query every 10 seconds. Now that I know how to do it, I can probably knock the query interval down quite a bit. But I've been messing around for this on/off for quite a while. Shown here are the battery state of charge, voltage, and current from the Victron battery monitor and the solar panel input voltage, input current, and charging current. This is from the Victron MPPT solar charge controller. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Day 61, 62 - Wauchula, FL - TT

Saturday (61) - The AT&T Internet was good enough for a test session this morning. This was sort of the test as it’s the first one attempted from this RV park. There is fast WiFi at the clubhouse and pool but I haven’t made it there yet. 

When I was working on the refrigerator earlier this month, I noticed that the tech at the shop where we purchased the rig had simply jammed the 12VDC wire for the coil cooling fan into the terminal block. Sloppy incompetence. I had ordered these nice Wago terminals and this is the first time I’m trying them out. You just open the levers and insert the stripped wires. The spring-loaded levers snap closed and you have a solid connection that is reusable. Pretty cool! I have several more places I can use them. 

I finally got around to cleaning up the wiring and power in the cabinet next to the TV. The new item is the Anderson Powerpole connecting block near the top and the buck converter with a nice backlit display. I picked up the Powerpole connecting block at the Orlando Ham Radio Outlet and the buck convertor in kit form from Amazon. It takes anything from 5v to 30v as input and you can adjust the output voltage to whatever you want and, if you so choose, limit the output current. The older buck convertor (just to the left) is powering the Pi-Hole DNS blackhole server. It has over 96,000 domains on its blacklist and has blocked roughly 5% of dns requests. Probably all ads. I'll think I'll keep it running.

BTW, today was the first sunrise and sunset in Utqiaġvik since November. Sunrise at 1:25pm sunset at 1:52pm.

Sunday (62)
 - What is this all about? 33°F is the low for tonight! Not what I expected in Florida. I guess my expectations were wrong. We'll actually need to run the furnace instead of the heat pump tonight. I may as well dig out the electric space heater...

The new buck converter is working great. I'm using it to power the Raspberry Pi3 with a dual-band full-duplex UHF/VHF board as a hotspot. When I used a standard Pi 2.5-watt wall wart, the Pi would reboot whenever it transmitted. When the hotspot is just listening, it draws 2.4-watts. When transmitting, it goes up to about 2.54-watts. The old buck converter and most of my wall warts couldn't supply that and I ended up picking up a 3-watt wall wart on Amazon last summer. Now, it's powered off of 12VDC and not the inverter. I have one more buck converter to set up for the Pi running Venus OS, the Victron open-source software.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Day 60 - Florida RV Show

Today, we drove up to Tampa to attend the Florida RV Super Show. It is much bigger (and better) than the Quartzsite RV show we attended about 4 years ago. A lot of accessory vendors as well as manufacturers. There was also wandering entertainment. 

The one thing that struck us when looking at the new RVs, is how cheaply they seem to be made. With the exception of the higher end class A and super C models. Almost flimsy compared to our seventeen year old Mandalay which surprised both of us. 

I was hoping to pick up a few more TPMS sensors but the EEZRV folks didn’t seem to be there. Neither was the 12VDC refrigerator retrofit company. The MagnaShade folks were there as I was curious about their installation program. We have tickets for tomorrow but don’t plan to spend another day. Plus, being Saturday, it’ll probably be really crowded. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Day 58, 59 - Wauchula, FL - TT

Wednesday (58) - I drove up to Lakeland, FL, to have the Jeep windshield replaced. Non-OEM glass wasn’t available so they replaced it with Mopar glass. This meant that we retained the little Jeep on the passenger side. 

After dropping the Jeep  off at Safelite Glass, I walked to a fast food place for a breakfast sandwich. On my way there, I, literally, picked up a battery powered Milwaukee Sawzall. I was waiting to cross the highway when it rolled out of a truck going around the corner. I picked it up before someone ran over it. It’s a bit banged up but seems to work fine and the Li-ion battery is charged. A Milwaukee charger is about $27 on Amazon. When I purchased my corded sawzall back in 2005, the rechargeable ones weren’t that good as most had old technology batteries (remember ni-cad?). A cordless one is a nice addition. 

The windshield was installed in about an hour. I guess the Jeep was pretty simple and the rubber was not hardened and dried out. 

Thursday (59) - In todays “lottery” for a full hookup site, we got one. It really isn’t a lottery as they go through and make a list of all the available sites at 1pm. At 2pm, they announce names based on your arrival time. E.g. we arrived on Wednesday at 12:30pm. It’s not an great site as it backs up against the road but 50amp electric and sewer (as well as water) means being able to run the washer/dryer and everything on electric to conserve our propane. Once inside, I can barely hear the road noise. 

We are planning on going to the Florida RV Show tomorrow in Tampa and it’ll be nice to know that both of the A/C units can be left on. The Internet is slightly better here as well. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Day 56, 57 - Eustis to Wauchula, FL - TT

Monday (56) - After the rain and the wind, I went up on the roof to sweep off the debris and the water on the slide toppers. There were quite a few pine cones. While up there, I usually check all the Dicor and seams. All looks good. The wind continued on and off throughout the day and the temperature didn’t even hit 60°F. A sunny but cool day. I went ahead and packed everything up while it was dry.

Two test sessions today while we have decent AT&T throughput. Tomorrow, we are moving around 100 miles south to Peace River RV park near Tampa.

Tuesday (57) - It was only a hundred miles today but it took 2½ hours. Signal lights and slow traffic for the first 70 miles. This park has a lottery system for their full hookup sites. So we are in a 30amp/water site right now. It’s a large site and reasonably flat. Our tanks are empty so we should be good for a while. 

Tomorrow is my windshield appointment up in Lakeland. About an 45min north of here. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Day 53, 54, 55 - Eustis, FL - TT

Friday (53) - Originally, I had an appointment today to get the Jeep windshield replaced. There was a lot of gravel on the interstate in Montana and Wyoming and, since I was going under the speed limit, I would occasionally get a shower of small gravel every time a large truck went by. The small crack grew until it was the full height of the windshield. When I made the claim, the insurance company asked if the non-OEM glass was acceptable. I said fine, that it really didn't matter to me. It turns out that the shop was unable to get any of the non-OEM windshields. They made me a new appointment for next Wednesday at a different shop near the next RV park where we will be. And, they are installing OEM glass. Bridget was a little annoyed that I had agreed to a non-OEM replacement as it wouldn't have the little Jeep easter egg on the corner of the glass. (See picture)

Saturday (54) - A nice, quiet day. Now that the refrigerator works on propane, we seem to be able to run both A/C units when plugged into a 30amp connection. All other appliances are shut off. Refrigerator and water heater on propane and converter turned off. During the day the solar panels do a decent job keeping up with the 12VDC usage. I guess the SoftStart units helped. With both of them running, we are drawing about 25 amps from our 30 amp shore power. The refrigerator adds about 3-4 amps when running on AC so that was enough to shut down the rear A/C unit. This is the first time we've actually been able to test running both A/C units when on 30 amps since I installed the SoftStart units in both air conditioners in mid-October.

After numerous phone calls and emails, I finally got an Alaska temporary tag yesterday, and they emailed me a copy until I can get the physical copy sent down.

Sunday (55) - Windy day today with gusts of 35mph. I put most of our outdoor stuff away last night including the awning. Plus, we had rain and lightning this morning. Nothing like the snow, wind, and rain they are getting further north. 

Yesterday evening, I went outside to watch the ISS. It passed from the SW directly overhead. It was easily the brightest object in the sky as it was illuminated by the sun which was just below the horizon. It faded out just past the zenith. Nice to have a clear sky and good position relative to the sun.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Day 50, 51, 52 - Eustis, FL - TT

Tuesday (50) - It dropped down to 48°F last night. There is a large cold front moving into the eastern states over the next several days according to the weather guessers. Since Bridget is out of town, I went ahead and signed up for a couple of ham tests today. I didn't participate while we were in Old Town as there wasn't enough bandwidth. I did one session while we were in the Disney RV park as they had pretty phenomenal WiFi. AT&T seems to be working fine as long as I use the 5GHz WiFi. There must be a lot of interference on 2.4GHz.

I've been working on the refrigerator again. It hasn't been working on propane. I thought it might be the igniter element as they develop cracks. So I picked one up on Amazon. Of course, it wasn't a trivial swap. the new one is slightly different from the old one. It isn't the igniter element. I would really like to replace this absorption refrigerator with a compressor version. But that introduces other issues making it a non-trivial conversion. It made for a frustrating afternoon. 

Wednesday (51) - I looked up the manual for a Dometic absorption refrigerator and it said to adjust the igniter element 3/16” from the top of the burner. If it’s too close it won’t spark as the igniter will “think” the burner is lit and if it’s too far, the voltage isn’t high enough to bridge the gap. So I installed the new element and adjusted it. BTW, adjustment is by bending sheet metal. It now works! That’s a load off my mind. 

On the way to the Orlando airport, I stopped at HRO aka Ham Radio Outlet. This gave me an opportunity to twiddle the knobs on a couple of HF radios. Something I hadn’t been able to do in Alaska. 

Thursday (52)
 - Saw this little guy at a small pond within the campground right adjacent to a designated dog walk area. Must be there to take care of strays. It's about 70°F now and I'm waiting for the morning (AKST) test session to start.

Later this afternoon, I need to return to the dentist in Gainesville to finish the tooth repair. It's almost two hours away according to Google Maps. This brings up the biggest negative I have about Florida. To get anywhere, you are either on small roads or paying tolls. So it takes a long time to get anywhere. The small roads aren't the problem. There is no direct path anywhere. From the Orlando airport to here, you probably turn from one road to the next maybe 30 times. I'm glad that the Jeep has Carplay so I can use Google Maps or Waze on the dashboard screen.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Day 46, 47, 48, 49 - Eustis, FL - TT

Friday (46) - The others went to Legoland and I moved the RV to an Encore park northwest of Orlando. We are here for around 1½ weeks or so. It’s nowhere near as nice as some other Encore properties we’ve stayed at but the price is right. 

The pool is smaller but it’s nice and there is a hot tub. The hours are kind of odd. Dawn to dusk. Maybe there are no lights. Publix is only ½ mile down the road so no driving is required. 

Saturday (47) - By noon it was already 75°F with a forecasted high of 77°F. I set up the table under the awning for the morning test session. "Morning" as in 9:30am AKST. The AT&T signal seemed good enough this morning when I connected during the monthly eastern time morning session. One of the candidates dropped out so I didn’t stay on but there was enough packet loss for my audio to be barely understood. 

We walked down to Publix to pick up a couple of items and we also stopped at Burger King as someone wanted a kid’s meal. (With toy…)

I’m typing this at the pool again. It’s now 78°F with a light breeze. Perfect weather. I’ll try the afternoon session (5:30EST) to see if it’s any better. 

Sunday (48) - My son headed back home this morning. We had a wonderful time with him and his son both at the Disney parks and just sitting around the campground. Bridget is flying with his son up to the Chicago area tomorrow. The task of the day was washing the Jeep. There was a lot of white mud from the dirt road near the Old Town RV park. The last mile or so was dirt. Since it has a soft top, we can’t just run it through a car wash. Compared to other vehicles we’ve had, the Jeep has a lot of nooks and crannies to clean. Not perfect but at least we can see out the rear window again. 

Monday (49)
 - This morning, I drove Bridget and our grandson to the Orlando airport for his flight home. Bridget is flying back on Wednesday. I pulled over to set the gps destination and decided to have breakfast. Bridget had picked up some sous vide egg bites at Dunkin’ Donuts but they were cold. I’ll have them tomorrow. 

I don’t think I really did much else today. I was on the phone for a while to find out what the status of our license plates. The dealer sent the paperwork to our home address instead of the DMV. I went online and requested an Alaska temporary tag. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Day 45 - Orlando, FL

Thursday (45) - Today is an "off day" or "resort day". Not going to any park. We ended up staying at Hollywood Studios until around 8:30 or so after riding Rise of the Resistance again. This is a photo from within the Star Wars area of the park. The last two days racked up 36k steps and, these days, that's a lot for me. I used to be able to do that routinely but not anymore. 

Since the AT&T signal here is pretty good, I'm going to try doing a test session. Between intermittent campground WiFi and almost non-existant cell signal at Old Town, I haven't participated in the sessions for quite a while. 

Later - The AT&T signal worked great as long as I was on the 5GHz SSID. Maybe there is too much interference on the 2.2GHz frequency. After the test, I went to the snack bar and had a Mickey pretzel for lunch. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Day 44 - Hollywood Studios

Wednesday (44) - We used the early admission again at Hollywood Studios and were in line at Rise of the Resistance at 8:29. It was still a 40 min wait but the line was moving almost continuously, which was nice. It is a very well done ride. You are surrounded with Star Wars “stuff”.

The effects are good. And everything feels huge. The ride vehicles are trackless and travel in pairs (not connected together) as you escape from a Star destroyer. 

We had breakfast at Ronto Roasters but one was fixated on a huge chocolate donut from Joffrey’s coffee stands. I’m told that their donuts are pretty tasty. 

We then went to the Indiana Jones stunt show. Of course, the highlight was the older Ural rig. The rest of the show was pretty good and it was nice to have a seat for 45 minutes. It may be another 16k step day with running from one side of the park to the other. Tim purchased the Genie+ add-on so we could make reservations on rides. Thank you!

We went on Smuggler’s Run where you “pilot” the Millennium Falcon. I had the up-down control and the controls were backwards. Push forward to go up, pull back to go down. Very confusing. At least to me. 

We then had lunch at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Traditional American fare where they harass you. No elbows on the table, finish your vegetables, etc. I had two appetizers instead of a meal. Fried cheese and a wedge salad. It was a good choice for me. 

After lunch, we slowed down as there wasn’t anything “scheduled” for a while. We spent most of the day in the Star Wars section of the park. They’ve done a fabulous job in this area.

At 7:50pm, we went on Rise of the Resistance again. It was even better the second time!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Day 43 - Animal Kingdom

Tuesday (43) - We were out the door before 7am as we were able to enter the park 30 minutes early since we were staying at a Disney property. We went to the Safari ride and the animals were much more active at this earlier time. Plus, it was a much shorter wait. 

We went to the Avatar area and went on the river ride with scenes from the movie. This relaxing ride is one of my favorite. The dinosaur ride was dark, loud and jostled you around quite a bit. Not a favorite. 

Near the end of the afternoon, we watched Kite Tales and a couple of characters came riding by afterwards. This is how Disney is doing character meet-ups. Social distance meet-up.

We finished the day with dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. A touristy restaurant with animatronic animals. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Day 42 - Fort Wilderness

Monday (42) - We had a 3½ hour drive back to Disney except we are staying at Fort Wilderness, a Disney owned RV park. I think there is something like 1000+ RV sites. They are roomy enough and have a nice, flat concrete pad. There is enough room for two vehicles in addition to the RV.

We are here until the end of the week. My oldest is here with his son so Bridget has a couple of full days scheduled. We are at one of the pools and it water slides, some sort of water jet pad with fountains. The entire pool only is 45” deep so it is designed to be “kid safe”. There are also quite a few life guards. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Day 41 - Old Town, FL

Sunday (41) - I finished a couple of tasks related to flat towing the Jeep. The break-away cable is attached to the motorhome frame and not to any part of the hitch. The reason for this is in case there is a failure in the hitch, tow bar, or baseplate, the Jeep brakes would be applied. I attached it to the rearmost frame crossmember. The cable was more than long enough to reach the Jeep. 

I also zip-tied the wiring in place where it ran through the Jeep engine compartment. I still need to run the extra wire from the Jeep brake light switch to an LED on the motorhome dash so I know when the brakes are being applied. Not essential or required but it seems to be a good idea. 

We leave this park tomorrow. I’d definitely return here as it has been generally quiet. This past weekend was the exception. It was packed with locals who just came for the weekend. And many were in “party mode” for New Years. But some left yesterday and most of the rest left today. I’m at the pool right now and it is a very toasty 80°F right now. (And quiet!)

Everything outside is put away as there is wind and rain in the forecast for this evening. And, the Pi-Hole server is finally updated and appears to be working. Faster web page load times. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Day 40 - Suwannee River

Saturday (40)
Happy New Year! Today we went with Mike and Kathy on a pontoon boat ride on the Suwannee River. It was a wonderful trip. We anchored near Fanning Springs for lunch and slowly came back to the campground where we rented the boat. 

We saw several alligators, one river otter, and too many turtles and birds to count. It was sunny and around 80°F with a nice breeze blowing up river. A great way to start the new year. 

Kathy served as captain for our trip. After a quick stop, we explored down river for a short ways and got the boat returned with a few minutes to spare.