Sunday, April 9, 2017

An annoying beep

If you have followed this blog throughout the years, you know that most of my travel journals lament the woes of something going wrong in our RV, especially our second (and current) RV, "Junior." Many of the woes I have written about concern electrical problems, which can be particularly nagging in a motorhome because manufacturers do not conform to a standard method of running wires. Each motorhome is laid out differently.

I am happy to report that on this trip, we had no unexpected problems. (We did have one, which Jim will fix, that occurred whenever we started the engine after its being idle for several days. But, we knew about that one, so it doesn't count!)

Well, my statement about no unexpected problems isn't exactly accurate. We had one--an annoying one--which we eventually solved.

The annoyance was a very quiet, intermittent beeping, similar to the sound a microwave makes when it announces your food is done. The sound was three beeps, often (but not always) followed by five short beeps.

I Googled this type of beeping. Articles on the web said that it could be caused by a detector's batteries that are dying--or it could be caused if the detector was ending its life cycle, generally five years. Those theories sounded reasonable. So we started listening.

We stood under the carbon monoxide detector attached to the overhead cabinets in the kitchen. Nope, not that one. We listened at the smoke detector. Not that one either. We put our ears down near the floorside LP gas detector. It wasn't  that detector either. And we had run out of detectors.

What could it be?

Jim thought it sounded like it was coming from under the refrigerator, so he went outside, opened the basement door, and listened. And he heard it.

It turns out the beeping was from dying batteries--in the safe he had installed when we bought Junior four years ago. Actually, the safe with its original batteries predated Junior; Jim had originally installed it in our first RV, "Baby."

Jim changed the batteries, but that, unfortunately, was not the end of the beeping. Finally, after another 24 hours of this annoyance, he looked at the safe again and decided to reprogram the entry code to the one he had originally inputted. That solved the problem. It turned out that the fresh batteries were needed, but the safe did not like the new longer code Jim had programmed.

Problem solved.

We are home again, after a great vacation in south central Florida. And we did not have any real problems to plague us.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Friday, April 7, 2017

Cool parks and Echo Farm

We moved from our Arcadia, Fl., "residence" Thursday, after our week's free stay was up. Our next (and last) stop for this vacation is in North Fort Myers, at another winter "haven" for snowbirds. Like the Arcadia RV park, this one is also very big. A co-op type of "resort," it also has a combination of park trailers and RVs, along with a heated pool, a library, and a multi-purpose building. No billiards, though, which is too bad. I was starting to get the hang of putting those ceramic balls into their holes.

The "cool parks" in my headline does not refer to this RV park. (Like the one in Arcadia, it is, to us, just a safe and inexpensive place to stay.) No, the cool parks refer to the parks around Fort Myers.

Because our move to this RV park took less than an hour, we had plenty of time yesterday afternoon to explore. Much better than Arcadia, which was really inconvenient to everything. Here we are minutes away from restaurants and "civilization."

We had asked the local tourist information center attendant where we could fish. She told us to go across the bridge and we would find fishing piers. The piers, it turns out, are local, on the river which exits to the gulf. And unlike the fishing piers in the Jacksonville area, these piers are free and open to the public. Nice.

No one was catching anything, though, so we continued our explorations.

We found another park, named after the conquistador Hernando DeSoto. It had two piers, as well as a boat dock. We dipped our lines for a bit (no bites) before visiting a local tourist attraction, Fisherman's Village, a marina offering restaurants and local shops.

Personal flotation devices are available free to keep kids safe on the water.

What struck both of us was how Fort Myers has taken advantage of its waterways with offerings for both locals and tourists. It even had a kiosk of children's life jackets, free for the lending, to encourage safe boating!

Why can't Jacksonville make its waterfronts this friendly to its residences?
Now on to today...

Jim follows a natural gardener on YouTube. This fellow recently visited Echo Farms in North Fort Myer.

What is so special about this farm? Well, it is about 55 acres of sustainable farming, featuring all edible plants that can feed the world. Echo is actual a Christian ministry, which has as its mission to reduce hunger and improve lives worldwide. Instead of donating food to starving people, Echo teaches these people how to farm, using the resources available to them. It uses creative methods to get more out of the soil. In its own words:

"ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. We provide agricultural and appropriate technology training and resources to development workers in more than 165 countries.  ECHO resources include a large knowledge base of specialized information, technical support based on years of experience, and an extensive seed bank focused on highly beneficial, underutilized plants.  We work to identify, validate, document and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. ECHO creates opportunities for community leaders to network with one another to share experiences, ideas and solutions."

We took two tours: The Echo Global Farm Tour, which showed us how the organization makes the most out of small-scale farming, by growing appropriate edibles and raising the right livestock for the climate of an area (tropical, monsoon, rain forest, etc.). The second tour featured using appropriate technology. Echo teaches farmers how to use resources at hand to make the most of their efforts."

Jim wanted to tour Echo because in the videos he had seen he discovered there were a number of plants we can raise that are nutrient heavy. We bought moringa seeds, which will grow into a hedge. The moringa tree is a miracle tree. Virtually every part of it is edible. We intend to find out.

We also bought a katuk plant, chaya, and papaya. Katuk can be planted as a hedge. Its leaves have a peanut-like flavor when eaten raw, but are usually cooked like any other green.

Chaya is known as tree spinach. It can be harvested continuosly, as long as 50% of the leaves remain on the plant. It should be cooked, however, because its leaves contain cyanide. 

So, we will be experimenting with new greens. 

Tomorrow, our last day here, I hope we can catch our dinner,.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The greatest show on earth!

I can't remember ever going to the circus when I was a little girl. I don't think my parents could afford to take us. But I remember taking my kids to the circus at least once. There was no big top; the three rings were performed indoors in an arena. Even as an adult, I recall the exhilaration and excitement of the costumes, the music, and the daring performances.

Sarasota, Florida, is the winter headquarters of the soon-to-be defunct Ringling Brothers Circus. In the 1920s, the founder of the circus, John Ringling, adopted Sarasota as his hometown and brought the circus headquarters to Sarasota, after previous winter headquarters in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Peru, Indiana. (I had forgotten that factoid!)

He and his wife Mable became art connoisseurs after they were married in 1905.  They showed off their collections in their mansion, built on the waters of Sarasota Bay. In 1925, he commissioned the building of  an art museum on the grounds of their Sarasota mansion.

Ringling lost his fortune during the Great Depression, and had only $311 to his name when he died. He refused to sell off his art collection. Instead, he  bequeathed the mansion as well as the art museum to the State of Florida, owned today by Florida State University.

The art museum is free to visitors on Mondays, we discovered. The circus museum, however, is never free, and the cost of admission ($23 for seniors) is the same on Mondays as it is any other day.

I have never studied art, and I admit that given a choice between visiting a circus museum and an art museum, I would opt for the circus. I only appreciate art museums for the historical aspects of the arts, and I like to see how art technique has changed over the centuries (the artist's development of perspective, for example). But, I did not have to choose between visiting one museum over the other, and we were able to tour both museums.

Probably the most interesting exhibit at the art museum was one consisting of thousands of thin, colored ribbons hanging from the ceiling in a dark room. In this interactive exhibit, visitors were invited to walk through the forest of ribbons. It was an amazing experience.
Riding bareback!

The greatest show on miniature

In addition to the art museum, the estate also has a circus museum, which houses the world's largest miniature circus, as well as circus memorabilia, including circus cars, a calliope, and the luxurious private train car used by Ringling and his wife.

The miniature circus is a work that has taken its creator more than 50 years to put together. It contains thousands of pieces, and gives viewers insight into the behind the scenes operations of the circus. When you see the miniatures, you can appreciate the logistics of moving a circus around the country. About 1,500 people were involved in the circus operations. In addition to the performers, there were cooks, servers, tailors, metal workers, mechanics, animal trainers, and more. The circus was a traveling city that stayed in one place usually only one night at a time.

Back in its day, the circus was the only place most people were able to see exotic animals. Giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers, zebras, apes...they were all part of the menagerie. Back then, keeping animals in cages and training them to do unnatural tricks were not considered inhuman. Today, such activity is considered cruel, and that is a contributing reason why Ringling Brothers Circus is going out of business. No animals, no business.

The circus has changed. Today, Cirque du Soleil is much more to my liking, but I am glad that I was able to take my kids to the "real" circus many years ago. And I am glad I was able to visit the Ringling Museums in Sarasota.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Horses and hiking near Arcadia, Florida

When we went to the Tampa RV Supershow in January, we were given several free stays at RV parks. The longest was one week at Cross Creek RV Resort in Arcadia, Fl.

Depending on your definition of "nice," this is a nice RV resort. It is huge--around 600 spots, a combination of park model homes and RV spots. It has a beautiful office, workout facility (haven't seen it yet), billiards room (haven't seen it either), huge swimming pool, activity courts (tennis, pickle ball, shuffleboard), and a big community room. It is very clean and neat. It is not, however, my ideal of a place to stay. Not many trees, though. This was most likely farmland. No picnic table, either, although there is ample room on the concrete patio.

"Junior" at Cross Creek RV Resort.

Arcadia is a small southwestern central Florida town, about an hour to two hours to everything--the gulf coast, Orlando, Tampa, etc. It is essentially a farming-turned-RV community, one of many around here. Snowbirds flock to this area during the winter, probably because it is pretty inexpensive, much less expensive than, say, renting in The Villages or nearer to prime tourist areas.

That said, it is a free week (can't beat the price!), and it will serve our purpose fine, which is to get away for a week and relax from household chores.

Jim did some research into area attractions. Yesterday, we went to see the Royal Lippizzan Stallions at Ottomar Hermann Training facility. These are the famous dancing horses from Austria. These horses are so beautiful!

The training facility opens its doors to the public three days a week during the winter. For a $5 donation, you can watch the horses and their riders/trainers practice their performances. On April 29 they will have a full dress rehearsal. Too bad we won't be here then.

Here is a link to one of the videos I took of the prancing horses. (I hope you will be able to view it.)

Today, we ventured out to another area attraction, the Crowley Museum and Nature Center. This is a little-known Florida cracker museum and buildings, with cracker cattle, nature trails, organic garden, and various other animals. We had a pleasant afternoon walking the trails.

Afterward, we wanted to see a nearby Indian mound. On the map, it appeared to be just outside a nearby state park, but when we inquired at the park, the attendant did not know anything about the Indian mound. We drove about 20 miles to the main entrance and asked another attendant. Same answer. So, we went home without seeing an Indian mound.

Both Indiana and Illinois are famous for their Indian mounds. I, however, have never seen them. Apparently the Coloosa Indians (also Colusa) built mounds around here and at the west coast of Florida. We will see them at another time.

I believe we will drive over to Sarasota tomorrow or the next day and tour the circus attractions there.

In the meantime, it feels nice just to relax.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...