The variety of wildlife that inhabits the swamp on the Saint Johns River here in DeBary, Florida, is outrageous. There are ospreys and wading birds like the great blue herons fish the still, barely moving waters of the Saint Johns. Owls hoot away in the night. Bullfrogs croak after the sunsets. My neighbor Capt’n Natural Lee scatters corn around his yard and the wild hen and tom turkeys come to feast along with squirrels and racoons. Manatees mosey serenely along the canal from time to time. Mosquitoes thrive here.
But there are bigger, more sinister things lurking in the depths and shadows. There are two of these signs on the routes I travel here in DeBary and vicinity…
About a month ago my neighbor snapped this pic of a beast not 20 feet from my boat. Thankfully I didn’t see it…
Then there are the ubiquitous alligators swimming close by.
Turtles climb up on the remnants of a nearby fallen tree to soak in the sun.
The other day as I was headed to the nearest paved road, three miles away from my boat, I cam across this guy. Gal? It’s a Florida softshell turtle. About 20 inches long. They come out of the water to bask and lay eggs. This one was just hanging out in the sunshine. Love its snorkel nose.
And from time to time my neighbor’s dogs come by to see that I’m all right. Polly is the black pittie and Sarah is the Jack Russell mix. Good company.
Followers of these pages know I suffer from severe COPD. To combat the breathing problems when I was living in Panama I used a Ventolin Inhaler which is an Over The Counter purchase. I also had another prescription for something I can’t remember the name of now. It gave me horrible leg cramps. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with my calf muscles in a painful knot. I discontinued taking whatever that was.
When I returned to the states I was still using the Ventolin. A LOT. More than I felt comfortable doing, but simple tasks left me gasping for air. When I landed a physician on Anna Maria Island he prescribed a once-a-day med called Breo Ellipta. It changed my life. Before the Breo I couldn’t walk 100 yards without spending 10 minutes afterwards truing to catch my breath again. My Ventolin use went from a couple of inhalers a month to one about every month and a half to two months. A great improvement.
The last few months, though, haven’t been so good on the respiration front. I get terribly winded when I’ve been shopping. I get back to my car and sometimes if takes me more than 5 minutes to get my breathing back to what passes for normal these days. Nearly every time I’m out in public and gasping someone asks me, “Are you all right” My stock answer is “Sixty years of smoking wasn’t a real good idea.” In case you’re wondering, I went cold turkey about 7 years ago and haven’t smoked anything since then.
I have to say that being in Panama helped. Those first couple of weeks were rough. I’d head out to the Romero or Rey Supermarkets to do my regular shopping and tell myself that I didn’t care, I was going to buy some cigarettes while I was there. Next thing I’d know I’d be outside waiting for the bus and no cigarettes. Not a conscious decision. But in Panama they are not allowed to display cigarettes. Used to when I first arrived. They had racks right over the cash registers. But that was discontinued. Out of sight out of mind. Then I return to the “Land of the Free” and you go into Walgreens, Circle K, CVS, 7/11 and behind the cash registers there’s thirty feet of nicotine delivery devices on display. (Yes,, I KNOW, it’s not like that at Walgreens and CVS anymore, but it was when I repatriated.)
Moving over here to the swamp in the central part of the state of Florida put me in another “network” as far as my insurance was concerned. They cancelled my policy without notifying me. Without the insurance the price of the Breo jumped from a co-pay of $45 to a flat out $385! I didn’t buy it. I had to wait nearly a month for the new insurance to kick in and I could buy the Breo at a reasonable price. Man was it ever rough not having the stuff. Just the Albuterol in the Ventolin. I was glad when I could start my daily dose again.
While the new insurance kicked in on the first of June I had to wait nearly three weeks before I got to see my new doctor. Christ it was like an oriental Doogie Howser walked into the exam room. Either that of being just a couple weeks shy of hitting the 79th anniversary of my birth makes things seem odd.
The new doc questioned me about my Ventolin use and said he was going to put me on something different…Trelegy. Where Breo has two different meds in each puff Trelegy has three. He gave me two, two-week samples and phoned in the scrip to the pharmacy. With the insurance this stuff is $2 more expensive than the Breo…$47 instead of $45.
I took my first hit of the Trelegy on the morning of the 19th. A while later I walked down to visit with my neighbor. His table and chair setup is about 75 yards or so away. Normally when I get down there I have to sit for a while and take a hit or two off the Ventolin until I’m “normal” again. This time, though,, the Ventolin stayed in the pocket of my jeans. I said I hoped it wasn’t some kind of “placebo” effect.
This morning I went down again. My neighbor wasn’t around and I returned to my boat without sitting in one of his chairs for a rest. Now, when I got back to my boat I was puffing. But I wasn’t gasping if you catch the subtle difference. I didn’t use the Ventolin. Using my breathing exercises I was fine in a couple of minutes
Once more “Better Living Through Chemistry” has changed the way I’m able to go about my daily life.
I live DEEP in the swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, central Florida. When I say DEEP I mean my boat is tied to the bank of a canal more than three miles to the nearest paved road. There are, needless to say, LOTS of critters wandering around out here. My neighbor tosses dried corn around his area and wild turkeys, both hens and toms, wander by my boat every day to go scratch out a meal at Lee’s place. Of course there are racoons and white tail deer are in no danger of being labeled an “endangered species” here. When I go to civilization I see them all the time. Last Friday I saw three of them on the way out of the swamp and four on my way back home. Granted, some of those could have been among the first I saw that day, but I saw seven does nonetheless.
THIS guy was within 20 feet of my boat about a month ago…
There are also tons of alligators swimming nearby.
One of the features on the Bluetti EB70 that I recently acquired is its wireless charging feature. Put your smartphone on the top of the unit and voilà, it will charge without plugging it into anything.
This is a feature the ubiquitous Jackery 500 lacks. You can buy a special pad for those that plugs into the unit and then lay your phone on THAT to get wireless charging. Sort of, no? Wireless charging played no part in my decision to purchase the Bluetti. Price, size and other features did, though. I DON’T HAVE a smartphone and I’m not running out and plunking down a grand’s worth of greenbacks to get one, either. No, I have a plain old dumbphone. When I went to Verizon I asked for the least expensive phone they had. I use it primarily for the mobile hotspot so I can stay connected to the virtual world. My phone contact list is very small.
This morning I discovered there are special doo hickies you can purchase that plug into your phone to allow it to charge wirelessly.
You plug this into your phone and then just lay the whole thing on the top of the Bluetti. This jobber doo cost a whopping $19.99 so I saved hundreds of dollars by not buying an iPhone.
Lately as I’m driving I plug the phone into the SUV’s cigarette lighter socket and get a charge going as I listen to my latest Audible download. I’ll use this when I’m spending a few sedentary days camped somewhere during my upcoming trek.
This is kinda cool. I found this while looking for something else about the Bluetti. Here are the guts of the device…
Even with the most casual scanning of the van living/camping groups on Facebook you’ll soon see someone gushing about how much they love their Jackery portable power station.
What are those, you might ask? Basically they’re just a Lithium battery with a built-in dc to ac inverter and some 12 volt USB outlets all wrapped up in a small, portable package. I hated them and the people who sang their praises to the sky almost instantly. The things are also outrageously expensive. About a buck a watt. In other words a 500-watt unit will set you back $500 and the 1000-watter a grand! I swore I’d never get one. Instead, I’d move the set up I’ve been using on the boat for the past three years to the van…
I already own a pair of deep-cycle batteries, a 2000 watt dc to ac inverter, and three Renogy solar panels. I started out with a 50-watt rigid panel.
That wasn’t quite enough. Then I added a 100-watt panel.
This setup kept my stuff running while I was anchored off of Anna Maria Island, FL, a bit south of Tampa Bay. It was a bit iffy when there were two or three days of heavy overcast skies. You still get some energy from the ambient light but by the end of the second day I had to keep a close eye on the battery power of my notebook computer, my iPad and phone which has a mobile hotspot to keep me connected to the internet.
In order to compensate for that I added a Renogy 160-watt flexible panel to the array. I chose this panel because there is limited deck space on a 22-foot boat and I needed to leave a clear passage from the cockpit to the bow so I could tend to my anchors. The rigid panels are quite heavy. The 50-watt panel weighs nearly 9 pounds. The 100-watt tips the scales at almost 20 pounds. The only place where I could possibly mount a panel would be on my flimsy Bimini top…
So I coughed up the dough to purchase a Renogy 160-watt flexible panel. It only weighs just a hair over 6 pounds.
With everything hooked up I haven’t had a bit of worry. And I’ve even added a 12-volt refrigerator/freezer to the mix.
I got to pondering how I’d transfer a system from the boat to the SUV. I’d need to lug at least one of the batteries off the boat and find a place to secure it in the SUV. Then remove at least the 160-watt panel, the solar charge controller, the attendant wiring, the inverter, et al and then build up a panel with electric wiring bus, blah, blah, blah. Ya know, I just didn’t feel like doing that.
So I began looking further into the portable power stations, especially alternatives to the ubiquitous Jackery. There are quite a few, and they’re all fairly expensive. One brand that caught my attention was the Bluetti. They make a 750-watt unit which is, obviously, 250 watts larger than the Jackery.
Amazon was offering a $100 off coupon so I could get one for the same price as the 500-watt Jackery. Gulp, only $495.
Here, look at what Bob Wells has to say about this unit. If you don’t know, Bob runs a website called “Cheap RV Living” and is the guru of mobile living and the inspiration of much of the recent Academy Award-winning film “Nomadland.”
I DO have two generators. One is a 2 stroke the other a 4 stroke that smokes pretty heavily. Both as quite loud, especially the two stroke which would make either one fairly irritating in a camp setting. They are only marginally more powerful than the Bluetti…1,000 watts vs 750. In addition they also need gasoline to work which cost money I’m not willing to spend.
I brought my unit back to the boat about an hour ago. It had an 80% battery charge in it and right now it’s set up on shore power to top it off. I plugged it into the 160-watt solar panel and even though it’s heavily overcast right now the digital display showed it was receiving limited power from the panel. Plugged a couple of things that need charging into the unit and it works just fine.
Though I’d like the red one and was delivered the puke green I’m happy having it never the less.
If you’ve been reading along you know that the delivery of the Rubbermaid cargo bin I ordered from Amazon has been a colossal cluster coitus with the USPS handling things. I now believe that if you want to be a driver for FedEx (another recent bad experience) or the postal service you’re required to take an intelligence test. If you fail, you’re hired.
It was scheduled to be delivered last Thursday. In fact, at 9 a.m. it was at a postal facility in Orange City that was only 3.5 miles away from the delivery address. But it didn’t make it to my mail drop and 9.5 hours later, according to the USPS package tracking app, it was in Stuart, FL which is about 175 miles away from the delivery address. From there it went to Orlando and Orlando shipped it off to Jacksonville. It languished there for a bit before being trekked off to a place called Lady Lake.
On Sunday, the 13th of June, Amazon offered me the option of getting a refund. I did because there was no telling how many more places the bin might visit. I got a message from Amazon saying that the refund was being processed and would be in my account in about 5 working days.
Monday, I went to the local Lowes and purchased a Commander 40 gallon bin…
It’s not as sturdy as the Rubbermaid. I’ve seen a smaller version of the Rubbermaid chest which is well constructed and that’s why I wanted it. But I figured this will do. Then, as I was driving near the maildrop on the way back to the swamp I stopped in. And THERE IT WAS! Well, I ordered it, I want it, and I put it in the back of the SUV. No sense trying to send it back via USPS, who knows WHAT would happen to it? I then spent two hours on line trying to get in touch with someone at Amazon to see how we can rectify the situation. Of course it isn’t easy and I’ll just blame, for now, the extremely ugly weather situation as being responsible for the poor internet connection. There’s thunder and lightning all around.
Finally got through to a, believe it or not, competent customer service rep, and I got the bin paid for. I know there are lots of people who wouldn’t have done that and just said they made a huge “score.” But I’m not like that. Shame on me, huh?
So now I have to go back to Lowes and return that bin I just bought. Like with Home Depot I’ll have it reimbursed to me as store credit that I can use anywhere in the country. I don’t like to go out in traffic until rush hour’s over. Hopefully the rain will have stopped by then. This is the third day in a row or liquid sunshine but we’ve needed it here, deep in the swamp/
I thought the bin might be a bit oversized reading the description on Amazon and looking at the dimensions listed on the carrier itself. Ya just never know how accurate those things are, but there’s room to spare. I put the carrier in the hitch and as you can see it’s not so big that it obscures the license plate which could cause me to get pulled over. And it’s far enough from the back of the SUV that it doesn’t interfere with opening the tailgate. It’s all going to work out just fine.
I have a locking hitch pin to keep the carrier from being removed by bad guys, and the bin itself can be locked. I have ratchet tie-downs to keep the bin from bouncing and sliding around. I also have a Yeti lock set up that I used when I had my Yeti living in the cockpit of my boat.
The biggest constraint with living/traveling/camping in an SUV is where do you keep everything you need/want? You can take minimalism only so far. I met a guy back in ’92 on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala who was an extremist like that. He was a pretty famous multi-hull designer. You know catamarans and trimarans. They attribute a lot of their speed to keeping weight low. To that end Peter kept his interiors bare. He used bean bag furniture to reduce weight. He was so dedicated to keeping everything light that used to remove the covers of his paperback books. He even cut his toothbrush handles down to stubs! Keeping weight down in an SUV isn’t that extreme but the more payload in the vehicle the more fuel it takes to lug it around. And volume of gear is important.
My bed frame is 14″ off the deck in most places and another 4″ to that in the forward part of the bed. So there’s plenty of room to stuff stuff under there. That’s where the tent will live, for one. Clothes, food stuffs and the like will also fit in containers beneath the bed. But there are other things that need additional storage space…like the 11 lb. propane tank for one.
There are several ways of gaining extra storage space. One is to drag along a small trailer. I’m not going to do that. Trailers restrict where you can go to park overnight or longer. The next alternative is a rooftop carrier. We’ve all seen them.
Some of them can cost over $1,500! Price and the fact that my Mitsubishi doesn’t have roof rails on which to mount such a thing save me from going that route. There are some real downsides to these things, too. They can restrict where you can go because of the added height. You’d hit certain drive-thru signs in many cases and have problems with multi-storied parking garages. People who have them admit they do have “drag” through the air which has a negative effect on gas mileage. In some cases rather significant, and with petrol prices on the rise this summer that certainly has to be considered.
Since the Mitsubishi has a trailer hitch I decided to get a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. I bought a MaxxHaul 49″ x 22.5″ Hitch Mount Aluminum Cargo Carrier With High Side Rails. I went with aluminum for the no-rust feature. I saw similar, and less expensive at Harbor Freight, but the one they had at the store nearby was just a floor model and I would have to have one delivered. Looking at YouTube vids the assembly of those is a piece of cake.
This thing, on the other hand, should have said “Some Assembly Required.” It didn’t, but I got up and at ’em before it started to get hot here deep in the swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, central Florida.
This thing came in a ton of parts.
Putting it together was really simple. Overall it took me about an hour to put the frame together.
A few more nuts and bolts secured the frame to the tongue and this is how it looks attached to the SUV…
These kinds of carriers don’t have any air drag to mess with mileage.
Tomorrow, Monday, I’ll go to Lowes to buy a bin to fit in the carrier. The one I ordered from Amazon
was handed over to morons at the USPS and after days and days of them screwing around I just cancelled the order and asked for a refund. Amazon customer service said I’ll have it in about three days.
It has been a total cluster coitus since the end of the week. It was delivered to the post office in Orange City. That facility is 3.6 miles from my shipping address. They didn’t get there before 5 p.m. when the maildrop closes for the day but instead of returning it to Orange City they sent it to effin’ Stuart! Over 160 miles away! Well, next it went to Orlando and, again the driver didn’t get there while the store was open so they sent this box to effin’ Jacksonville! Next it went to Lady Lake and who the hell knows where it is now? Oh, well. I can get something similar to this at Lowes and for about a third the price, too.
I was just looking back over the past couple of days worth of posts about my no-build SUV camper buildout and an idea hit me as I was looking at this picture…
My original idea was to put the bed frame over the wheel hump on the passenger side. Well, former passenger side since I took the passenger seat out the other day. The bed frame takes up the entire space in the back of the vehicle with the forward end butted up against the seat back. I’ve had to move the driver’s seat one click forward to obtain the space needed. It’s a bit close to the steering wheel but shouldn’t be to terrible for a few hundred miles until I can get to my nephew’s place in western North Carolina. As you can see in the picture the curvature of the tailgate opening won’t allow the frame to be moved to the starboard wall (salty talk makes my winkie tingle…) So there it sits. I’m able to close the tailgate without any problem. Also, the middle leg on the outboard side sticks right down in the middle of the well arc. So that keeps the frame from being moved, too.
I contacted my nephew by email and asked if he had welding equipment. I was thinking if I cut two inches off the side rails between the slats it would give me enough room so the frame doesn’t rub up against the back of the seat. THEN, looking at the picture above I’m thinking why not cut out one entire section between the slats and rewelding there? It would reduce the length by about five inches. It makes the frame shorter than the mattress, but if that overhang is at what will be the foot of the bed it shouldn’t be noticeable when I’m sleeping. Shortening it that much would also bring those aft legs inside the curvature of the tailgate opening.
Then, I could cut the outboard middle leg down enough so it sits on the top of the wheel hump and the whole unit can move over nearly a foot and a half! That will create a nice open area between the seat back, the door, and the wheel hump. More easily accessible stowage space becomes instantly available.
It would be nice if I could move it over to the driver’s side, but the hump is totally different. If it could sit comfortably over on that side, with the passenger seat gone it would open up a HUGE space on the starboard side of the SUV. It wouldn’t be a problem to flip the frame end-for-end and see which side works best. I have a feeling it will be the passenger side though. We’ll see.
Up and at ’em before it gets oppressively hot here in the swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, FL.
Start off with the good news. I was able to remove the passenger seat in the Mitsubishi Montero Sport SUV. The new bed, as shown in the previous post, takes up most of the interior of the vehicle behind the seats to the tailgate. It left no room to put the 12-volt fridge I have. And I’m NOT going on a multi-month expedition without it!
Removing the back seat was easy. THIS was a challenge. The seat is on a tracks so it can be moved forwards and backwards. There are four bolts holding the tracks, two to a side. The outboard side was simple and easy to get to.
So was the forward bolt on the inboard track, but the aft bolt was partially blocked by the center console cowling. Apparently no way to get a wrench on it.
So I dismantled the back of the seat first and then got the bottom off after taking out four bolts there. The outboard track just lifted off. I couldn’t remove the center console but then discovered that the plastic obscuring the bolt was reasonably pliable. I was able to bend it back and get a socket down on the bolt and, voila, out came the track. Now I’ve got plenty of room for the fridge.
ON TO MORONS..
You’ve read about how stupid the driver from FedEx was about handing my package to some unknown who apparently disappeared with it. Well, now the USPS is giving FedEx a run for their money.
I ordered a large container to store a lot of stuff on my journey.
It was SUPPOSED to arrive at my maildrop yesterday, Thursday, June 10. It didn’t. I got a message saying the delivery had been delayed. Here’s how things went…
Thursday, June 10 – 5:00 PM Delivery Delay
7:20 AM – Package transferred to another carrier for delivery. Orange City, FL
5:41 AM Package departed an Amazon facility Davenport, FL
3:00 AM Package has left the carrier facility. Davenport, FL US
Okay. Now Orange City abuts DeBary where the mail drop is. The Orange City Post office is 3.6 miles from the drop box location. But do they return it there for delivery on Friday? HELL, NO! They effin send it to Stuart, FL :
8:51 AM Package arrived at a carrier facility. Stuart, FL
That’s a round trip of 356 effin’ miles!!!
Ten to one all these idiots believe the five deferment draft dodger Donald Trump is a patriot and undoubtedly voted for the Giant Orange Wart.
People sometimes ask me what it was I liked so much about Panama. Well, for one thing, it isn’t HERE!!! (And before any rightwing moron reading this says “Then why don’t you go back?” I say, “Get Medicare to pay when I’m not living in this country and I’ll be gone.” In the meantime…
Well, it’s amazing how much one can accomplish when one’s in Facebook Prison and free from that trap…
If you’re new to this blog then go back three of four days and you’ll get the back story of this post.
I made my way out to Home Depot and traded in the 3″ PVC pipes I’d gotten yesterday that weren’t the ticket for getting the bed level. As I’ve written, the legs of the bed frame I bought are too large to fit into a 2″ PVC pipe cut to even everything out as shown on a Bob Wells video. The legs are square steel channel. There was a rubber cap on the bottom end. It was easy to remove and I figured “If you can’t fit the leg into a decent PVC pipe then why not insert a PVC pipe inside the leg?” I took the refund in store credit. Have a nice orange card in my wallet I can use at any Home Depot in the country. Since there’s not going to be much weight on the pipe and it’s all downwards without any torque, I sprung for 3/4″ pipe in 2-foot sections at $1.19 each.
Simple as can be.
I got back to the swamp before it got too oppressively hot and humid and finished assembling the bed frame. It takes up almost the entire back of the SUV. It presses up against the back of the seats but the tailgate closes easily. At least I’m not going to have to worry about it moving around back there.
I’m going to have to remove the passenger seat so I’ll have room for the fridge. I’d hoped to be able to place the outboard side of the bed flush against the side of the vehicle by removing the middle leg on that side, (1) but I’d have to get some kind of metal strapping and drill holes in it to hold the side together since it’s made out in two sections. Then, as I’m looking at this, I realize that the curvature at the base of the tailgate opening (2) wouldn’t allow that to happen unless I cut at least that one leg down. I have the tools, but…..
I wanted the platform of the bed to be that high so I could store things beneath it. As you can see the Coleman Instant Tent and the folding table fit easily beneath the bed.
But I’m most likely going to keep the table in the storage box