Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Rainbow Springs, FL

Wednesday - We went to Rainbow Springs for some hiking. There was a swimming area and the water was crystal clear. The hike went to a couple of falls and just wound around the trees. 

Here is one of the man made waterfalls that are in the state park. 
We ended up walking around four miles. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Crystal River - AirBnB

Sunday - Still raining today. Occasionally, very heavy rain. But it's supposed to be nice for the rest of the week. 

This afternoon, we went to Homosassa, a small town to the south. At 56°F, it’s kind of cold to be out wandering along the water. We stopped at the Shed at MacRae’s of Homosassa as they had some live music. It was pretty crowded as most of their seating was outside. 

Right now, I’m further down the dock at some benches outside of a small shop. 

 - Clear and sunny today. This afternoon, we drove out to Fort Island Beach just a short drive from the town of Crystal River.

 - Todays adventure was to Tarpon Springs about an hour south. Kind of near Tampa. There is a large Greek community from sponge diving. Of course, the first stop was the Greek pastry shop. We had a chocolate cannoli and coffee. 

I’m sitting out the next adventure, a boat ride looking for wildlife. I’ll pass on the chance to get sea sick. ­čĄó As the boat was planning to go out to the Gulf of Mexico before turning around. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Crystal River, FL - AirBnB

Saturday - We arrived around 5:30 due to a couple of accidents just a little north of the town of Crystal River. The WiFi at the AirBnB is pretty decent as is the house itself. It has a pool, hot tub, dock, kayaks, bicycles, and a huge kitchen. 

Saturday - It is supposed to be raining today and tomorrow but nice for the rest of the week. There has been a lot of planning going on with too many activities to do in only one week. This afternoons priority was to find a good cup of coffee. We did at Cattle Dog Coffee in downtown Crystal Springs. 

We wandered around town checking out all of the little shops. Nice town. 

The hot tub at the AirBnB is pretty nice. It’s under a canopy so no problem using it in the rain. 

Manatees are the big attraction here. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Road Trip

Thursday - A long travel day. Google says that it was 18 hours from Hondo to our destination in Florida. 

We headed due east through San Antonio and Houston before entering Louisiana. I never realized that we were around the same latitude as New Orleans. We stopped in Slidell, La, after driving around 600 miles. Slidell is a bit over the half way point. Hopefully, we’ll get an early start tomorrow. 

 - We got an early start as we will lose an hour on today’s drive. I heard that the Blue Angels are based out of Pensacola, FL, and this display is at the Welcome Center. Bridget picked up a lot of tourist brochures to help the group decide what we are going to be doing. 

Today’s drive is about 525 miles. Less than yesterday but still lots of time sitting in the car. Google says that we will arrive around 5pm. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Getting Ready for the Next Trip

Tuesday - Our next trip is another non-RV trip. We are driving to Florida to meet up with some good friends. Bridget has been planning this for quite a while. 

This afternoon, we went into Castroville to pick up some food for Florida at Dziuk’s. Some skirt steak, chorizo, and bacon. As well as some Hatch salsa and some gifts. We are also planning to bring a bunch of tamales. Having the portable refrigerator/freezer is really handy. 

We then stopped at Landmark Inn, a state historic site. It had a small museum as well as several me buildings such as the old mill that eventually turned into an electric generator. This wooden pulley and millstone were on display.

We also stopped at Haby’s Bakery, a German bakery just down the road. I picked up an apple fritter for tomorrow morning and a load of bread for the trip.

We then had dinner at Blu Lacy Smokehouse. The combo plate of brisket, pork ribs, sausage was very tasty. Better than the other bbq I’ve had in this town. 

Wednesday - The tasks continue today. We said goodbye to Dom & Martha this morning as they continue further into Texas. We really enjoyed their visit. After some grocery shopping and a test session, I regenerated the water softener. It takes two cartons of table salt which was pretty cheap at H-E-B. After draining the softener, you add the salt and run a slow stream of water through it for 25 minutes. Then rinse at a higher volume for 6 minutes. 

I will pack it away along with the hoses and regulator until we return. It’s not supposed to freeze but it will get close. Better safe than sorry. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

San Antonio

Monday - We ventured into San Antonio today with Dom driving. The first stop was the Alamo via the Riverwalk. It was not crowded at all and they had an excellent, short presentation inside the building. After a little more wandering around the downtown area, we had lunch at Casa Rio. They bill themselves as the first restaurant to open on the Riverwalk. 

We then headed back to the car and headed to three other missions in the area. A 12,000 step day…

If you want a lot of pictures, go to Dom’s blog post

Sunday, February 11, 2024

RV Tasks at the SKP Park - SKP

Thursday - Today was a productive day. I helped Dom replace his awning fabric and install a window awning on his RV. It didn't take too long to get it done considering we were following directions from YouTube. At least for the awning fabric.

Friday - The project of the day was getting an additional house battery installed. Eventually, I want to upgrade our inverter as the one we currently have is an older modified sine wave model. The square wave output is hard on electronics and appliances. The model I want to replace it with requires up to 300amps DC and two batteries we had are unable to provide that much current.

Saturday - I attended the local ham radio club meeting this morning. I got a ride from one of the other members who lives here in the park. After the meeting, we stopped at Dziuk's meat market in Castroville. I picked up a maple-blueberry pork sausage at the recommendation of another customer. This evening, I cooked it up on the Blackstone along with cabbage. I used a mild sweet-sour sauce and served it over broken-up linguine. It was delicious. The sausage definitely had a "breakfast" feel to it. 

I returned from Castroville in time to participate in the late morning test session. After the session, I charged up the laptop. This is the only time I plugged it in this week. I'm still amazed at how long the battery lasts on this laptop.

Sunday - Todays project was reinstalling the shore power cord reel. I had cleaned up the contacts a while back and it should be good to go for now. I removed the temporary twist-lock outlet for now and will re-install it later if needed. I may work on a way to have both options. 

Here, I’m sitting in the cell phone parking lot at the San Antonio airport. Bridget is flying back from a short visit to winter…

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Hanging Around the Park - SKP

Monday - After the morning test session, I took the Ural out for a short ride. I ended up at the Country Store in D'Hanis and picked up a handful of grocery items. On the way back, there were a couple of packages for Dom delivered to the office. They easily fit on the rear rack of the Ural. It is a bright, sunny day but it's only around 62°F probably due to the north wind.

In other words, it was a pretty slow day today. I did go to the clubhouse to use their Internet as I'm down to around 10GB with about four more days on the AT&T hotspot. It seems to go quickly.

Tuesday - A cool-ish, calm morning. No wind or rain the the forecast. At least for this week. I had left the solar panels tilted even though the forecast was for wind gusts into the high 30s. They are all still solidly mounted though I am considering replacing all of the plastic mounts for some half-height Unistrut channels. When I originally installed the panels, I couldn't find any that were either reasonably priced (including shipping) or in the local area. I guess the supply chain issues have eased up as the local Home Depot carries it in stock.

And, it looks like the top rung of the ladder needs to be replaced as well. Another one of today's projects. I also added an Anderson connector for the 12V supply on the portable refrigerator/freezer as the stock connector was getting unreliable. The Anderson connectors seem to be a decent design and handle the current. I still left the stock connector as the AC adapter connection isn't burned. Probably all of the bouncing when it was in the Jeep.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Medina Lake, TX

Sunday - It’s been a couple of months since the engine in the RV was last run so I started it this morning and ran it at a high idle until the water temperature was 175°F. No issues and it ran smoothly with no smoke even right after starting. In a couple of months, we plan to drive it to the Corpus Christi area for an event with sand sculptures. 

I drove the Jeep to Medina Lake to visit with some good friends. The route that Google maps suggested took me around the base of the dam and there was a view of the reservoir. I heard that the water level is around 10% of its former self. There is no water visible from the campground.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

More Projects

Friday - It's going to be a windy couple of days. Complete with some rain, thunder, and lightning. I guess I'll see how well the solar panels stand up to some wind. On my last trip down the ladder from the roof, a couple of the plastic ladder pieces decided to fail (again). I found replacements on Amazon for not only the plastic pieces but also the aluminum ladder rungs themselves. I guess 18 years is long enough for plastic sitting outside.

A couple of years ago I had looked for these on Amazon and they were ridiculously expensive. This time, the price was more reasonable. I believe that at least four of the rungs need to be replaced at this time. A project for next week. 

Another project is re-installing the cord reel. I'm trying to come up with a way to retain the twist-lock connector and the cord reel but that will require some sort of shut-off switch on the cord reel. Or else the plug will be "hot" if the twist-lock is being used.

Even with the overcast day, the solar charge current topped out at 46 amps. I guess tilting panels are the way to go. I have been resistant due to the effort of climbing up on the roof. 

Saturday - More thunderstorms last night but it looks clear and sunny today. The ladder parts arrived in today’s mail. I completely replaced three of the four rungs on the uppers part of the ladder and salvaged components and replaced the lowest rung on the lower, detachable part of the ladder. I still have one more new rung and may replace the top rung just because it’s old and probably ready to fail anyway. 

Based on our location (latitude, average cloud cover, precipitation, etc.) the NREL estimates that we can harvest about 83 kWh for the month of February or about 3 kWh/day. This is for our modest 0.83 kW of solar at a 30° angle. BTW, if the panels aren’t tilted, the estimate is 65 kWh for February. A loss of about 20%. 

Today’s total of 3.10 kWh is about the most we ever produced. The jury is still out on whether it’s worth the effort to tilt the panels. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Tilting the Solar Panels

Thursday - After figuring out how to install the Renogy tilting mounts, the last two panels went quickly. I was all done around 3pm or so and that included adding Dicor to the screw heads. I still need to do a bit more but need some more hardware from Tractor Supply to add a little more support to one of the plastic mounts. 

Today was kind of cloudy (but warm!) and you can see when I added the second two panels. I don’t remember ever getting over 500 watts from this installation. The charge controller maxes out at 50 amps which is around 600 watts. I may need to upgrade the charge controller if it maxes out...

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Fredericksburg, TX

 - This morning, we drove north to Kerrville and Fredericksburg. We stopped at the Nimitz Museum but it was closed. We tried the Fredericksburg Brewery but it was also closed. Most of the touristy places seemed to be closed on Tuesday. 

We had lunch at a German restaurant and I had the roast beef rouladen over spaetzel. It was different but not a standout dish. The pickles weren’t very sour and the gravy was kind of bland. 

After lunch, we wandered around the downtown some as well as the small town of Bandera on the way back to Hondo. This was a nice “no-project” day. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

This is More Like It!

Thursday - Ahhh! Finally some wonderful temperatures. At least for a while. No rain in the forecast and the overnight temperatures are reasonable. 

We managed to get a couple of projects done. With DomC's help, I replaced the swivel rocker in the RV. It had started to fall apart after only a couple of years. We picked up the replacement from someone else here in the park who wanted to get rid of theirs. They felt that they had too much furniture in their shed. It's in wonderful condition.

Saturday - The next project on the docket was installing tilting mounts for the solar panels. The mounts are made by Renogy and I had ordered two kits to see if it would work. They do work with a bit of modification to the plastic mounts I had used. Two of the mounts, which were not screwed into the roof structure, practically fell off. The Sikaflex held fine to the fiberglass but not to the plastic mounts. I just picked up some steel angle to attach the failed mounts to two other mounts which are fastened into the roof structure. 

It took us 5 hours and a trip to Tractor Supply to get on panel done. The second panel should be done in a fraction of the time. Thank you Dom for all of your help. It is really appreciated. Two more tilt kits have been ordered. We have four panels.

 - The second panel went much faster. Four hours which included additional work on the first panel. Climbing up and down the ladder onto the roof and working on the roof seems to bring out a lot of aches. But half done. The other two should go even quicker. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Back to Normal - SKP

Tuesday - I had brought up a Blu-Ray player from Fairbanks and finally got it installed in the RV. The old DVD player/amplifier got dumped a couple of years ago in Florida. I had put it by the dumpster and it was gone in about 15 minutes. I'm also trying to straighten out the mess of cables in that cabinet as it also has the antenneaDMR hotspot, Apple TV, DNS black hole, WiFi AP, and the HomeAssistant server. The router and the AT&T hotspot are on the other side of the TV.

It is a warm, muggy day with intermittent sprinkles. And this morning we had heavy fog. I think the humidity outside is 90% or something like that. The afternoon temperature was 70°F which is what I had been expecting. 

Yesterday, I was hooking the water back up and the ball valve for the shutoff for our site was leaking. I reported it and the valve was replaced about 15 minutes later.

The AT&T is still working well enough for me to participate in test sessions. The highs for the rest of the week and into next week are all in the low 70s. I hope it stays this way for a while. 

I noticed that the Ural rear turn signal lens was cracked with a small piece missing. I’m not sure when that happened. I used this super strong marine epoxy to put it back together. 

Wednesday - Lots of thunder and lightning last night but not a whole lot of rain. I'm trying a new recipe for beef short rib ragu. Usually, I just make it in the Instant Pot but one recipe said that a slow cooker will have even more flavor. I also used marsala in place of red wine. 

Later - After about six hours, I switched the Instant Pot to pressure cook as the meat was still not the "fall apart" texture that I prefer. I had it pressure cook for 50 minutes followed by natural release for about an hour. It came out delicious. 

The rain, thunder, and lightning returned in the evening. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Back in TX - SKP

Thursday - This afternoon after it warmed up to 71°F, I used this to rinse off the road salt and brine from the Jeep. The wheel wells, fenders, and undercarriage had a lot of white on them. Afterward, it looked much better. It still needs a good washing but all of the white residue is gone. 

Another RV repair is the front furnace. It apparently quit working Sunday afternoon while we were on our way to OK. The blower came on, you can hear it trying to light, and you can smell propane in the exhaust. So it just wasn't lighting. There was an RV mobile tech looking at the neighbor's motorhome and I asked him to stop by. He put his hand over the exhaust port and it lit almost immediately. He said that indicated that the burner was clogged probably by a mud dauber nest. I.e. wasp nest.

This evening, there was a BBQ rib dinner prepared by several of the residents. We were too late to sign up for ribs so we signed up for cheeseburgers. One of the other residents really would prefered a cheeseburger so we switched. The pork ribs were delicious as were the side dishes. Especially the cauliflower "mac and cheese".

Friday - It didn't get too cold last night so the heat pump had no problem keeping up. But it's windy today with gusts up to 35mph. At least it's nice and clear. After the morning test session, I rode the Ural to H-E-B to pick up some parsnips for tonight's dinner. It was a bit windy on the highway but not really an issue. UDF kicked in while in the store parking lot. Sidecars just aren't very common.

Saturday - The furnace must've not like the idea of being poked and dismantled as it worked fine last night when the temperature dropped to 25°F. The system switched from the heat pump to the furnace when the temperature dropped below freezing. I will still pull it out and take it apart when it gets warmer to see if there is anything in the burner that would limit its reliable operation. It also could be that the propane level and pressure had dropped so low since the tank was at 2% when it was refilled.

While we were in Ok, I did turn on the battery heaters but they never came on. The outside air temperature is the lower graph and the air temperature inside the insulated battery box is the upper graph. The batteries do heat up when charging and that seems to be sufficient to not need the heaters. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Heading Back to Hondo

Wednesday - A cold 7°F this morning as we headed south out of OK. Lunch (and fuel) was at a Czech deli/bakery called Slovacek’s just north of Waco. My roast beef/cheese/jalape├▒o sandwich was delicious! The bread was fresh and it was served hot. 

The 511 mile trip took most of the day but by the time we went through Dallas, the temperature was above freezing. The A/C on the Jeep even came on a couple of times. 

It looks like we had one casualty from the big freeze here in Texas. The ice maker valve still had water in it and the shutoff valve wasn’t tightened all the way. When I turned on the pump, it started to leak. The fix was tightening the valve. During the whole time we were gone, we used almost half a tank of propane between the two furnaces and the hot water heater. About 10 gallons. The propane supplier is scheduled to come by tomorrow. Good timing. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Wilburton, OK - AirBnB

Monday - This was the view from the AirBnB that we used for only one night as most of the water pipes and drains were frozen. The heater was running almost continuously but it never warmed up inside above the low 60s (°F). We are now at another AirBnB about 20 miles to the west and it is really nice place. 

We made Spam musubi and a couple of unagi rolls using ingredients I had picked up in Minnesota. The kitchen was very nice for groups. 

 - We drove to Ft. Smith, AK, to the National Cemetery where Bridget’s brother, Robin, is being buried. At 9°F, the outdoor ceremony was brief but it still wiped out my iPhone battery as I recorded it. 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

On the Road Again!

Sunday - Another road trip though this one is much shorter and without cat so there’s more room in the Jeep. This was the temperature just north of Dallas and now it’s 4°F here in Oklahoma. 

Snow flurries but not much accumulation since it is so cold. We are here for several days for a memorial service and staying at an AirBnB with Bridget’s brother and niece. 

The water in the AirBnB is partially frozen. No water in the kitchen or one of the two bathrooms.