Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hiking Sticks

While traveling, I have always explored the area by foot as well as by vehicle. In the islands, this included hikes in rain forests as well as trails around the islands or just walking through town. I traveled with a partner at that time and on hiking trails, made him lead the way to catch all the spider webs and on rare occasions, flip a snake out of the path - or at least to scare them away.

Now that I'm traveling alone, I still go on hikes. But now I don't have a "front" man to lead the way and catch the nasties. I was pretty lucky through Florida, somehow I never got caught in a web. Mississippi is a different story - first hike here the other day and I spent the time dodging spider webs and catching them across my face. Yuck! It was about halfway through the trail that I saw a sign telling me that I was 3/4 of a mile through the trail. That sign also had the universal icon of a hiker - an outline of someone walking with a hiking stick. In a flash, I knew why people carry hiking sticks! It's to carry in front of them to catch all the webs!

You can bet I'll be on the lookout for some type of hiking stick for my future hikes through the woods. Sooner or later, my hikes will be in the desert and maybe I'll still carry one for the rattlers!

Monday, April 28, 2014

RVillage Works!!

RVillage is a new website for RVers - you join, add your profile and then check in at different RV Parks, State Parks or National Parks as you move around the country. If you enter the park you're in, another RVer can view that park's information and see RV subscribers who are also registered in that same park.

I joined a few weeks ago, when the Beta version was first announced. Yesterday, I found out that it really does work - I was being lazy after a long day of sightseeing the day before, sitting outside reading a book and I looked up to see a man coming across the street with his laptop. His first words were about RVillage and that he was surprised to find another member already registered in the park That would be me. He had clicked on my profile, found a picture of my truck and 5th wheel, and that's the picture he had showing on his computer. So, it really does work! As long as people check in as they arrive and are open to meeting others. And why would you not - it's part of the fun of RVing and it's great to exchange important information.

His wife came over with their sweet little dog and we sat down and discussed where we had been and where we were headed. They were headed to Florida and then north, and I was coming from Florida, headed west. We traded information on places we had been and what was worth seeing as well as parks that were worth staying in, as well as other RV related issues. He also had information on websites I hadn't known about, but could be handy for the future.

It's nice to know this works as intended and I'll be looking forward to meeting other RVers along the way, thanks to this site as well as the Facebook pages devoted to get togethers. Thanks to Technomadia for the extensive work that made this website viable!


Just so everyone will understand that the life of a nomadic RVer is not all fun and games, I guess you should hear some of the bad parts....   As you can see by the above picture, I didn't have much fun on this day. But,  I guess we have to take the good with the bad. About a week ago, Murphy joined my crew. Sure wish the cat had chased him out before he decided to do his special mischief. The first inkling I got was a funny noise under the hood of the truck one day when I hooking up. Sounded like a fan belt type noise, but it couldn't be, the serpentine belt had been replaced a few thousand miles ago. After I got hooked up and pulled out of my campsite, the noise stopped and I figured it was OK - for now.

The next morning, I started the truck again and the noise seemed louder. The general consensus from my conversation with a couple guys in my new camping area was that it was probably the pulleys that made the belt work. OK, sounded logical to me. I called a repair shop and the guy told me to bring it in and he could check it. It was a little way down the road and I figured it shouldn't take too long to do the job. Sure wish I had taken a book with me.

The mechanic opened the hood and listened to the noise - yeah, at least it made the same noise when the mechanic was around. Murphy must have been sleeping. He said it had nothing to do with the belt or pulleys, it was coming from the back of the engine. Sounded ominous, there are only expensive things back there. He finally decided it was a broken flywheel. HUH? They break? All by themselves? Not that I'm skeptical (yeah, right!), but I really didn't believe it. I told him that I wanted to see it for myself, I just didn't believe it.

He was pretty adamant it was the flywheel, so he started tearing into it to uncover the problem. Well, when he got it partially apart, the diagnosis changed - the starter gear that meshes with the flywheel wasn't retracting after the engine was started, it just sat there and pinged along the flywheel teeth. OK, I'll buy that, especially when I saw the little teeth on the starter had some new shiny spots. The flywheel teeth didn't look damaged at all.

A new starter was ordered and a few hours later he was putting things back together and I was on the road back to the campground, a few hundred dollars lighter.

A couple days later, I hooked up again and left that park. I was about 60 miles away when my brakes started pulling to the side. And I thought Murphy had jumped ship. A few more miles down the road, I smelled the dreaded hot, burning smell that demanded immediate attention. I pulled over the first chance I safely could and got out of the truck. The driver's side front tire was smoking! I grabbed my phone, got in the middle of the wide median strip and called Coach Net. While I was talking to them, a Sheriff pulled up. He helped give me information on the areas and roads I had just passed through since I wasn't paying that much attention and she needed more information than what my GPS was telling me. After that, she asked me where I wanted it towed to. Well, of course, a fix-it shop. She said I had to give her the name of one. OK, I don't understand, I told her that this is an RV specific service and since most RV people don't know what's available in the area they're traveling in, so I didn't understand why she thought I'd know what was around me. Even the Sheriff's guys (by now I had 2 of them with me) didn't know, but one checked on his computer and found a place about 25 miles down the road.

After about 25 minutes on the phone with this non-helpful person, she told me I should see two trucks in about 75 minutes - one for the 5th wheel and one for my truck. A Sheriff's volunteer spent the next hour and a half with me waiting for these guys, the first time I've been in the back of a police car!

The guys loaded up my truck and trailer in record time and we set off to the fix-it shop. Unfortunately, there was no room at the shop to park both the truck, which would be taken care of first thing the next morning, and my trailer. The tow truck guy called the local Walmart and got permission to park the trailer in their lot.

The next day, I got new calipers and brake lines for the front wheels. And I sure hope Murphy left with the calipers that went back for the core charge!

I've decided that if Murphy shows up again, I'll try an exorcism - 2 major problems in the space of a couple days means he was having way too much fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

State Park Week

For the past week, I have stayed in two Florida State Parks and visited a Wildlife Refuge Center.

St Marks Wildlife Refuge Center and Lighthouse is along the Gulf Coast of Florida in the Big Bend area. I spent a few hours there, hiking the trails and photographing the lighthouse and other wildlife in the area, including the cute critter below, who refused to sit and pose for me.


The next day I was settled in at Florida Caverns State Park. As soon as I learned this park had cavern tours, I knew I wanted to see them, so I reserved a spot for a few nights. I love caves and caverns and Florida has so very few of them, this was a real treat. For the tour, I was fortunate to be one of a group of three, so I was able to take lots of photos without people being in them. After the tour, I spent a few hours hiking the trails and watching the wildlife, including one squirrel who wanted to have a conversation.


I left after a couple days and headed a few miles west to see Falling Waters State Park, so named for an actual waterfall in the park - in Florida - very rare, since this state is so flat! The park itself has a high elevation of 324 feet above sea level, but that's not where the waterfall is. The waterfall is a short hike to a sinkhole in the woods where the water comes off the edge of the sinkhole to disappear further into the sinkhole 73 feet down. There is a wooden platform built down into the sinkhole so you can get closer to the waterfall and see it hit bottom and disappear into a cave. I visited the waterfall the first day and then the second day after a heavy rainstorm. The second day, there was about twice as much water (and noise) with mist rising from the force of the water falling.

From there, I went to a more populated area at Mexico Beach, still on the Florida Panhandle coast. There is a get together here of several solo RVers, most of them seem to be women. It will be fun to compare notes with other women who have the same wanderlust as I do.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Moving Along

The past two days have been pleasant traveling through unpopulated areas and small communities. I've been traveling on a divided 4 lane highway that's been sometimes as straight to the horizon as Alligator Alley.

I did have a bit of panic yesterday morning when I realized that my brake controller wasn't working. I was leaving Holiday, Florida on Route 19 in heavy traffic and pulled over in an empty parking lot to assess the situation. I had checked everything that morning and it seemed to be working then. I took the power connector from the trailer to the truck and gave it a good squirt of Boeshield T9 - plugged it back in and wiggled it in an out a couple times. Then I tested the brake controller and - YES! - it's working again. I can only hope that all my future problems will be taken care of with a spray can of magic.

I spent last night parked in a WalMart parking lot, in the company of at least 4 other RVs and a couple tractor trailers. Tonight, I'm in another WalMart lot further up the road, with a couple more RVs. Nice of WalMart to let us come in and park for the night along the way. Of course, I ended up buying some good looking strawberries for breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'll head to St Marks Lighthouse for the tour, photos and hikes along the trails. Then it's up to Marianna, Florida to see the caverns in one of the State parks. Florida is not known for caverns, except for the underwater variety, so this is unusual for this area.

After that, I'll head for the Panhandle coast and points west.