Monthly Archives: July 2021

Repair Yard Camping

Got through the Friday night in my SUV digs in Harrisonburg, VA. I’m waiting to have a new alternator installed, hopefully on Monday, so I can continue limping towards Florida. The girl at the desk of the Susquehanna Auto Service Center said it was okay to stay in the vehicle while it was out in the yard. Saving me about $70 a night. Three night’s savings might cover a great deal of the labor costs I’m going to incur. The alternator itself is covered under warranty, but not the labor. Theoretically. The office girl told me they’ve ordered one and they should be working on it Monday. Hopefully I’ll be back on the road then or at least by Tuesday.

This is the scenery at the place where my alternator got bumped so bad it quit.


Not much for me to do here. There are no fast food joints nearby and since I’m trying to lay low, setting up my stove doesn’t seen like a great idea. There is a 7/11 next door so there’s a plethora of cold drinks and junk food.

I like the quiet of the place. Sure, there’s road noise but it’s really nothing after dark. Just an occasional truck now and then. It reminds me of when I was living on Nancy Dawson, my Kaiser 26.

Nancy Dawson

I stayed at the Derecktor-Gunnell boat yard in Dania, FL, just short of two years back in ’93/’9. After noon on Friday nobody was around. Here everyone went home at 5 pm and won’t be back ’til Monday. More than 3/4 of the cars that were here yesterday morning are gone. This emptiness gave me a chance to do some work on my window screens. Mainly to make them less visible at night.

I’d bought a couple of 10″-high adjustable screens at a Home Depot near Gettysburg, PA, along with some black insulation used on 1/2-inch water pipes. I’d seen this hack in one of the small vehicle Facebook camping groups I belong to. Good way to get ventilation into the vehicle while keeping bugs out. As you can see, from the start the white just calls attention to the installation. I had a can of black spray paint with me and, since there’s no one around I took them out of the windows and sprayed them on the gravel in front of my SUV. Visually it’s a lot better.



The sun is also shining brightly so I set the 160-watt solar panel out on the hood and hooked it up to charge the Bluetti. Doing a stellar job.


More as it happens.

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Solar Charging

It has been several days since  charged up my Bluetti solar charger and I’ve used it a lot to keep the laptop, tablet, and phone topped off and I’ve run my USB fan all night long for three nights in a row. That doesn’t use hardly any power and shows little drainage of the unit. But today it was showing just a 10% charge. It’s a hot, sunny day here in VA so I pulled out the 160-watt, flexible solar panel and hooked it into the Bluetti for the first time. Well, actually the first time to use it for charging. I’d hooked it up when I was in the swamp to see if it worked. Right now, just before noon, it’s showing the panel pumping 11.8 watts into the Bluetti battery. I’m happy with it.

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Broke Down Again

Well, more bad luck on the road. Stuck at Shenandoah Auto Service Center in Harrisonburg, VA.

After a pleasant visit with friends in New Gretna, NJ, I was headed south towards Florida and decided to take the scenic Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. With the iffy tranny I wanted to take a slow route. I’d done that on the two days I’d traveled away from NJ. Slow and enjoyable. Headed to the Parkway I was routed through some neat places. Under a covered bridge and over a small, single-lane bridge in the woods. No, I wasn’t lost, just following the map with the instructions to avoid highways and tolls. 

After stopping for a lunch I headed to the Parkway. When I turned off into the first scenic outlook it felt like I’d fallen into a deep pothole. After taking a couple of pic I returned to the car and it wouldn’t start. After a little bit it did start and I continued on my not knowing why the car wouldn’t start. A few miles down the road the engine started displaying the symptoms it had when the alternator died in South Carolina. Fortunately there was another scenic overview location nearby and I swung into it. Once again when I turned the key I got the clicking sound on hears with a dead battery. I called AAA.

In less than an hour the tow truck arrived. He looked under the hood and a connection at the back of the alternator had come undone. He plugged it back in but nothing. He then towed me nearly 40 miles to the Shenandoah Auto Service Center 15 minutes after they’d shut their doors for the day. I managed to sleep fairly well in the SUV despite it not being parked on the level. This is a good-size operation with lots of cars waiting to be serviced. A little before the office opened at 8 am I saw a girl going through the lot with a notebook and pen. I talked to her briefly. She was not encouraging. Certainly not going to get back on the road today like I did with Lugnutt’s in South Carolina. Since they don’t work on the weekend it will be AT LEAST Monday before they can work on it. SIGH!

So I’ve booked a room at a local motel for the next four days.

The girl at the desk here at the repair yard said they confirmed that the alternator isn’t charging. She’s going to give Lugnutt’s a call for information on the warranty from O’Reilly’s on the alternator. I explained to her that I did NOT see it as a mechanic’s issue. It was brought on by that horrible drop at the turnoff. An equipment failure. 

I’ll just have to look at the motel stay as being a “vacation” within a vacation. Hey! I’m retired. It’s ALL a vacation. 

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On The Road Again…

Spent a wonderfully relaxing five days at my friend Tom Doherty’s spread in New Gretna, NJ. The spread consists of two houses, one of which is his mother’s “summer place” though she’s currently in Yorktown, VA. Afternoons I spent on either the porch swing or rocking chair. The front porch is screened and I was very comfortable sleeping on the glider out there for the last three nights listening to frogs and insects in the dark. Last night Tom, his wife Simone Ishida and I had a little BBQ on the back porch of his house. Watched a large cotton tail hopping around in the back yard and in a neighbor’s yard on the next block a white tail doe stood looking around at the tranquil neighborhood.

Took off this morning headed to Gettysburg, PA. If I took the Interstate route and paid tolls the trip would only take less than 3-1/2 hours. But I chose the back roads route . Double the time, but a scenic ride through the pine barrens of New Jersey and the Amish farm country of Pennsylvania though I didn’t see any horse and buggies. Lots of twists and turns, sometimes a turn and only go a few hundred yards of less than a mile and turn onto another road. Fifty-five was the top posted speed limit. Sometimes it was only 25 mph. But it was much more enjoyable than the Interstate. Sometimes I’d be the only car on the road in either direction.

Got to where I planned to spend the night, at about 4:30. It’s a big rig rest stop but a section is set off on the side for car parking only. “No Trucks” the signs say. It’s going to be noisy until later tonight since a major highway is only a few yards away.

Since it was so early I decided to try and find an Home Depot and fabricate a window screen hack I saw on Facebook. There was one about a half hour away in Hanover. I got two of the 10″ high adjustable screens, the ONLY TWO in the store, in fact.The were $5.98 each. Then I bought a 4-pack of water pipe insulation for $3.48. This is what it looks like…


There’s not a fraction of an inch around the edges to allow skeeters in. And, when I get the second one installed (getting dark so I only did the one) I’ll get cross ventilation. Neat, huh?

There’s a restaurant here and I had a delicious country fried steak with baked potato and salad. Gas is cher at $3.25 but tomorrow, according to AAA it will be about 26¢ a gallon cheaper. The car ran well today. Haven’t checked the tranny fluid but it ran smooth and accelerated just fine in the steep hills along the route.

Gonna turn in. More tomorrow when I get into the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway.

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Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

One of the hard things about sleeping in an SUV in the south is it’s HOT! And there are skeeters. Blood sucking little vampires dedicated to making your life miserable. I have a small 12-volt fan that runs off my Bluetti eb75 and it runs all night with very little drain. I’d like to be able to open a couple of windows to get some circulation in the vehicle and I’ve seen all kinds of mosquito netting that will fit over doors, etc. But they just don’t appeal to me.

Then, this morning, over my mug of espresso I saw this brilliant hack on a Facebook group. The guy bought An adjustable 10 inch high screen from Lowe’s and the foam insulation stuff that goes around a 1/2 inch water pipe. He puts the window down, fits the insulation on three sides where it’s needed.  Then the screen is set  in and adjusted  to the right length. Slowly the window is raided until it is tight against the top. The foam at the bottom gives some cushion and flex.

I’m traveling on the road right now, but the next time I see a Lowes or Home Depot along the route I’m going to stop in and get the screens.

window 1

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Deep In The Swamp

I’ve written that I live on my small sailboat “Deep in The Swamp” off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida. But trying to describe what that means is too difficult. I’m a little over 3 miles to the nearest paved road. The last section, going and coming from where I’m moored, looks like this…


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Abandon Trip

Major alteration in plans to epic trip…

When I left The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, my plan was to travel up to Lake Ontario, and somehow finagle a ride on a boat there. Wouldn’t have to be long. Just get out on the lake and back. Then I intended on roaming over to Minnesota and do the same thing on Lake Superior so I could brag that I’d been boating on all five of the Great Lakes. 

But as I related earlier, I broke down on my first day out. Alternator quit. Had it replaced in one day at a place called Lugnutt’s in Walterboro, SC. Cost? More than I’d have liked. Less than it could have been if the mechanic wasn’t honest. The mechanic said that the transmission was on shaky ground. There was no fluid on the dipstick when he pulled it and it has been losing fluid as the trip progresses. I’m now in New Gretna, NJ. The friend I’m staying with said he’d had some transmission work done on one of the three cars he owns and the mechanic at that shop was also good and honest. Going to take it in, probably Tuesday, and have it looked at. If the cure isn’t too expensive I’ll get the work done. If it is out of line with what I want to pay then I’ll just buy a bunch of fluid and replace it as I limp along on back roads until I’m in Florida again.

Another crimp in the plans is the price of gasoline. In DeBary I paid $3 (rounding up to omit the point 9)/gal. In South and North Carolina I paid as low as $2.66 but generally around $2.80. It was back up to $3 in Delaware. Here in NJ it’s up to $3.21+!! On the route I’d been planning on gas prices, according to AAA run between $3.13 to $3.38 in Illinois where I was planning on stopping in and visiting an old college friend. It all seems outrageously expensive. Using the AAA Gas Cost Calculator the trip from Nearby Atlantic City to Orlando, which is close to DeBary, should cost around $157. To do the trip from here as envisioned would cost nearly $400. One third of my monthly SS earnings.

I can meander in a southerly direction and use the money I would have spent on gasoline to stay at some actual campgrounds, instead.

“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy.”

— Robert Burns


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Epic Adventure Days 1 & 2

The first day of my newest epic adventure started out great. Ended up getting towed to Walmart Service Center in Walterboro, SC. Had the fridge plugged into cigarette outlet and was working fine for most of the time. Then, after stopping to get gas ($2.65 forget the stupid .9) I was back on the road. Dash lights started to dim and a while later engine died. Was able to pull off the road. When the girl at AAA asked me where I was located I told her, “I’m on I-95 about 18 feet south of the Mile Marker 56 sign.”

Arrived at Wally World around 10 pm. Climbed into my bed. Woke up at 6:30. At 7:15. Found out they can’t replace alternators. When talking to my brother about he told me about AAA Service Center and they’d tow me free. Well, you only get one tow per breakdown. I’ll have to pay cash to get towed to the center which said could do the job. It’s 39 miles. There’s a closer place and I talked to them and they can do job, too. Got towed the 6 miles to Lugnutt’s garage (good online reviews, anyway) and forked over $91.Arrived there about 10 a..m.

Within a half hour the Montero was inside the garage. The mechanic said there wasn’t an alternator available locally. He said he might not be able to get me on the road before Monday. So I started checking on cheap motels. A bit later he stuck his head in the tiny waiting room and said he’d located an alternator in Charleston, SC, and they were sending it to him. Would be about an hour but he wasn’t positive it would be the right one. “But I’m going to go ahead and take everything apart, anyway.An hour later he stuck his head in the door and say, this is the part we need. A half hour later I heard the hood slam. He was done!


I’m not going to say how much it cost: other than more than I’d like it too, far less than I’d feared. Not having to rent a room over the weekend was a blessing. Just over three hours after arriving I was back out on the road!!! The man was a miracle worker as far as I’m concerned.A few hours later I pulled in to my nephew’s spread in Wilkesboro, NC.

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Plan? I don’t need no stinkin’ plan…

Okay, so here’s the plan (Plan? Bwahahahaha I don’t need no stinkin’ plan). It is, of course, subject to change at any moment whether at the drop of a hat, a whim, whatever.

I hope to depart from the swamp here off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, this coming Thursday headed to Wilkesboro, NC where a nephew owns a five-acre menagerie of critters both two and four legged. Nick is a total gearhead and has done some amazing things with vehicles over the years. He has welding equipment, or at least access to same, and we’re going to modify the bed that’s taking up most of the interior of the Montero Sport. My youngest brother, Mark, is driving out from Raliegh for the weekend.

There will be a stop overnight on Thursday. At 79 I’m not inclined to pushing nine or more hours behind the wheel anymore. Did as many as 10 and 12 hour stints at the tiller on my boat cruising along Florida’s Gulf Coast a couple of times but that’s a lot different than being on the highway. It is my contention that EVERY other vehicle on the road has evil intent and is out to kill me, or at least hospitalize me.

I’m inclined to stay off the Interstates and travel the back roads as much as possible. Going that way the trip to NC is over 12 hours. Can chop nearly 4 hours off that going the Interstate way. I may do that for this first leg of the journey.

A FB friend, Tom Doherty, who I’ve spent time with in person, lives in New Jersey, not far from the coast. Tom’s a boater and has come up with some novel craft in his time. He’s offered me a place to camp for a while. At first I was inclined to take a pass because it’s a bit of a diversion from a direct route from my nephew’s farm up to the Lake Ontario region. But I’m going to need a couple of days to further get the Sport in shape for living in the next couple of months. Jersey would be a good place to stop over to do that.

I think I’ll trend over towards the Chesapeake and lay up for the night since the trip to visit Tom isn’t doable, for me at least, in a single day. Interstate routing is the shortest at close to 590 miles and 9 or 10 hours. But I’m much more inclined to take a longer, slower, and more scenic trip up through the Delmarva Peninsula instead. Travel time according to Google maps would be a total of about 13 hours. Back in ’86 when I left Louisiana and was headed up to Cape Cod I visited a friend in Manteo on the Outer Banks and then took that route across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. That’s an experience in itself. I’ve been UNDER the bridge part more than a half dozen times but over it but once.

Then it would be up to Lake Ontario and get on a boat, even very briefly, to add the fourth Great Lake to my list of places I’ve been boating. Maybe there only a couple of days.

Next is headed westward. Trying to get in touch with a friend I’d met in Panama who’s now living somewhere in Ohio. Be nice to visit. Haven’t heard from her yet. I’ll continue down to vist another FB friend I’ve met who lives in Indiana. Rest up a day or so before heading to Minnesota to get on Lake Superior and complete the Great Lakes lineup.

Having completed the boating part of the adventure I need to swing north of Duluth to visit Hibbing, Bob Dylan’s hometown. Then down to Wyoming, Minn. to start down Highway 61. Dylan’s iconic song and album “Highway 61 Revisited” is the inspiration for this segment. As I’ve written before I actually LIVED right on the route when I was going to college in Canton, MO.

I plan to stop off there for a couple of days to visit Culver-Stockton College then swing out for a diversion to Kirksville to visit yet another FB friend, Chris Shelton. Chris used to have a boat tied up in Tampa and we got together about three years ago for a nice visit and lunch. Chris went back to Missouri for the summer but his health issues have kept him there since then and he’s sadly sold his boat.
A day or two there and it’s back to Canton to return to Hwy 61 and about 30 miles down the road I hope to swing off and cross the Mississippi to visit an old college friend, Cecil Williamson, (that’s Cecilia). Haven’t seen Cecil since Chicago back in the mid ’60s.

After that it will be keep on truckin’ down “The Blues Highway” to New Orleans. No particular places I want to stop, but of course I will. I won’t stop off in Hannibal. Been there bunches of times when I was going to college. Here’s the interesting thing about Hannibal. Everything there is Tom Sawyer this, Huck Finn that with an occasional Becky Thatcher or Injun Joe thrown in. But in all the times I visited Twain’s hometown I never could find the “Nigger Jim Mall.”

The goal of this leg is to stand on the corner of Baronne and Gravier streets where I used to wait for the streetcar to go home. There is a marker there indicating that it’s the end of Hwy 61. I used to catch the streetcar (NOT the trolley. The “trolley” is the pole that connects the streetcar to the overhead electric cables) here rather than down on Canal Street for a simple reason…The Canal street stop is usually filled with tourists our of the French Quarter wanting to ride on the historic Saint Charles Streetcar. Passengers unload at Canal Street and then the tourists board and often take up all the seats. Hey, I LIVE HERE. I shouldn’t have to stand up to go home! But by going to the stop BEFORE Canal I get on and may have to stand, but when the crowd disembarks at Canal all the seats empty out and Voilà!

After that it will be a slow meander back to the swamp. I’ll stop at some of the spots I hit, and missed, when I was boating up along the coast 4 years ago…like Apalachicola, Suwannee, Steinhatchee, and maybe Wikee Watchee.

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Got A Name…Elsa

I had a vague departure date for my next adventure of departing the swamp here off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, central Florida shortly after the 4th of July weekend madness. But it’s early in hurricane season and we’re already up to the fifth named storm…Elsa. I have the National Hurricane Center web site pinned to the top of my web browser and this is what I found today…

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