Thursday, February 29, 2024

Heading Back to TX

Wednesday - We managed to get on the road around 9:30 and went through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and into Louisiana. A bit over halfway at 632 miles according to Google. Tomorrow we have 579 miles. Quite a lot of driving. And, not a single picture taken as I was feeling pretty exhausted. I need some time to recuperate from our vacation. 

Thursday - Leaving Louisiana, we went on an 18 mile long bridge over swamps and other wetlands. Lots of traffic through Baton Rouge but the condition of I-10 is way better than I was led to believe. I’ve seen much worse. 

Traffic was heavy with lots of truck traffic and road construction. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Universal Studios

Tuesday - We went to the other half of the theme park today known simply as Universal Studios. It opened at 9am and we arrived shortly after and there was a long line to get in. Their system is less efficient than Disney World. 

The first ride was a Minion shooting thing. We then wandered through the different “cities” or areas and into the Harry Potter area known as Diagon Alley. The only ride was Escape From Gringots. 

Like many other rides in Universal, it is not recommended if you get motion sick. So we just went through the queue. It was pretty impressive including a weird lift. We exited right before getting on the ride vehicle. 

After exiting Diagon Alley, we were in Simpson land. Home of the huge pink donut and Duff beer. 

We wandered around the “cities” and watched several shows, looked into shops. We looked into a couple of other rides but they were all 3D and screen based so motion sick inducing. 

We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and had a shared cheese and salad board. I also tried the hot butter beer (sweet, hot, butterscotch flavored drink) and later had the strawberry-peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sauce. It’s a good combo. Better than it sounds. 

After ice cream, we wandered around some more, went on the E.T. ride and called it around 4pm or so. We enjoyed this park more than the Islands of Adventure as its roomier, more shows, and its less about the roller coasters. 

One odd thing I did was visiting the money exchange and picking up some Gringott’s currency. No fee for the exchange and I picked up a free souvenir. The sleeve the money came in. I used it to purchase my dessert. A strawberry-peanut butter sundae from Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and shortbread crumbles. The odd combination was very tasty. And my change was in USD. 

It was ~80°F today but the breeze made it very pleasant…

Monday, February 26, 2024

Islands of Adventure

Monday - Since we are staying at a Universal hotel, we used early entry to get into the park an hour early. 7am bus, 8am admission. Lines for both. When we got to the sidecar ride in the Harry Potter section, it was delayed. But we waited in line until 8:45. 

Breakfast was at Green Eggs and Ham. Tater tots with chorizo, jalape├▒os, and salsa. Pretty good. We also went on a Dr Seuss ride. 

We waited in the queue for the Hogwarts ride but bailed at the end due to all the motion sickness warnings. The queue was worth the wait. 

Around 11, the sidecar roller coaster was open and we almost walked on. Not that long of a wait. It was fast, lots of high-G turns, and some reverse. Pretty wild. It’s said that this is the best roller coaster ride in FL. 

We watched the “frog choir”. Then headed back to Seuss land to re-ride a nice, calm ride before heading back to the hotel. It was a good day!

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Disney Springs and City Walk

Saturday - We checked out of the AirBnB this morning and headed south. We won’t be able to check in for our motel until later this afternoon. Just a Motel 6 in Kissimmee for one night. We stopped at Disney Springs to spend the afternoon. Free covered parking and it’s a nice place to wander around. 

Using the Disney app, I made a lunch reservation at Morimoto Asia. We had tried to get a reservation there a couple of years ago but it was always booked. We hear that it’s a pretty good place.

I had the Morimoto “buri-bop”. Kind of play on the Korean dish bibimbop. It was pretty good. The yellowtail was cooked at the table on the sides of the very hot bowl. 

 - We met up with some RV friends Kevin and Charla for breakfast in Winter Haven at an egg restaurant. Pretty good food and good company. 

After checking into our hotel, we took the shuttle bus to City Walk, the shopping/restaurant area associated with Universal Studios theme park. Lots of restaurants very few shops. 

Afterwards, I walked to a shoe store about a mile from the hotel and picked up some insoles for my shoes. Hopefully, they will make walking a little easier. Especially the next couple of days. 

Tomorrow, Islands of Adventure.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Crystal River - AirBnB


Friday - We walked to the Crystal River Preserve and Archaeological State Park in the morning. It was sunny when we left the AirBnB but we got rained on during the walk back. This is the view from the top of Mound A (51 stair steps) looking southwest over Crystal River. 

This is the mound. It is smaller than it started out as locals took from the mound to fill in low spots. This is before it was managed by the state. 

Later in the day, we drove around the area and noticed that many houses along the canals were closed due to water damage from the storm last August. Even today, the water level seemed really high.

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.