Monthly Archives: August 2021

Walking The Plank

When I arrived at my mooring in The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in DeBary, Central Florida, I tied up to a bunch of bamboo and a couple of small trees. There was/is no formal “landing” or dock. My friend/neighbor/landlord here has a ton of old stuff he accumulated over the years and dug out a 1″X6″X10′ “gangplank.” It was a bit “springy” and quite narrow, but it served me well. Until a couple of days ago…

I recently returned from a 3,500+ mile land cruising expedition. The boat is a mess! I’ve got a ton of work to do cleaning it up so it’s livable again, but as I was walking up the gangplank there was a scary, very ominous CRACK. It didn’t break or throw me in the alligator-infested water, but it was definitely a message.

I’ve been mentally exploring ideas of how to replace the thing with something lighter, wider, and ultimately safer while I’ve been driving the back roads of southeastern America. My brightest idea was to use metal drywall studs as a frame I could pop rivet together and cover with, say, 1/2-inch ply wood. Then, the other day as I was sitting at the picnic table drinking my morning mug of espresso I thought it would be easier if I just got one of those, say, 16-foot extension ladders and laid plywood over it.

Very leery of using the old plank I went looking around at Lee’s collection of old planks to see if there was something I could use temporarily until I could get to Home Depot and buy a ladder. The Swamp Gods must have been looking down on me with favor because lying, partially hidden under some rotting 2x4s and 2x6s was an aluminum extension ladder!

I went down and asked Lee if he was going to be needing it and he said he had no plans for it. It spanned the gap perfectly. I’ve never really liked the plank being located forward like it was. Awkward getting up from the cockpit seat to the cabin top and then, having to climb over the spreader bar I use when I bring the canvas cover forward to keep rain out. Back aft it spanned the gap, the space between the top rung of the ladder and the one below fit just right over the sheet winch to keep it from being pulled off into the water.

A quick run out to Home Depot was in order. I priced out the 8-foot 1x6s. They would fit in the space between the sides of the ladder. That width, though, like what I had been using was minimal at best. I discovered that two pre-cut 2×4 foot 1/2-inch plywood pieces were almost $5 less than the 1x6s. A four-foot piece of 2×2 @ $1.57 could be cut down into smaller pieces and glued and screwed in such a way that the two pieces would be joined together (I KNOW, I could have had a 4×8 sheet cut in half, but the difference in price isn’t worth talking about. This morning I put it all together “et voilà. Parfait.”

It’s a bit bouncy but much easier getting on and off the boat.

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Window Screens For Camping

At the end of the day, when the engine’s shut down and the a/c with it, it can get pretty stuffy inside the SUV with the windows closed as they have to be in mosquito infested areas. There are all kinds of netting devices that can be purchased on Amazon and other venues. But I saw a neat hack on one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of.

The poster bought a couple of those 10″-high sliding screens, and used foam pipe insulation around the edges. I thought it was brilliant and did the same thing when I was in Gettysburg on what was supposed to be my epic adventure. At night I set my small USB fan that runs off the Bluetti power pack in front of one of the screens. It sucks in the air from outside and cools the interior of the vehicle.

The sliding metal parts of the screen are white and the insulation is black.

Makes the setup stand out like a neon sign. While holed up for the weekend at the Susquehanna Auto Service yard waiting for my second alternator to be installed I painted the screens black with some Krylon spray paint I had with me. In the dark they are nearly invisible.

Works great! EXCEPT when it rains. Then you have to take the screens out and close the windows until the rain stops. Now you’re all stuffy again. My solution for that was the use of large, plastic garbage bags. I trap the top of the bag in the top of the door with the screen and let the bag drape down.You need to have weight on the bottom of the bag to keep the wind from blowing it around and letting rain hit the screen. 

At first I used whatever was available…my rain boots, small bottles of water, canned goods. But that really wasn’t satisfactory. So, after getting my THIRD alternator of the trip installed in Lake City, FL, I went to Home Depot and purchased four magnets. They’re small; 3/8 in. x 1/2 x 1-7/8 in. They come two to a pack and, of course I bought two packs for a total of about $5.

One goes in the bottom corner of each bag. Rain comes, it only takes a second of two to drop the bag and bam! the magnets grab the side of the door and the wind is NOT going to move them. Doesn’t look sleek but it does the job.

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Back IN The Swamp

I struck my campsite at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in Warm Springs, FL, Monday morning, 8/23/2201, getting ready to head back to what serves as “Home” these days. Does anything really qualify as “Home” when you’re living either on a boat, vehicle, or tent? Took about three hours to do it.

Fold up the cot. Sit, rest, catch breath.

Lug the Alpicool 12V/110V fridge freezer to the SUV and plug it into the Bluetti Portable Power Station . Sit, rest, catch breath.

Strike Coleman portable table and bag it and put it in the SUV. Sit, rest, catch breath.

Pull up all the stakes and remove rain fly. It’s wet from previous night’s rain so I spread it over the picnic table to dry off. Sit, rest, catch breath.

Collapse tent, roll it up and stuff it in its sack. Shove it under the bed in the SUV and store camp folding camp cot on top. Plenty of room. Sit, rest, catch breath several times.

Fold up rain fly which is mostly dry by now, put it in its bag and toss in bin on trailer hitch carrier that serves as my basement/attic for stuff.

Super sweaty now because it’s hot, muggy and the start of an enervating heat index day. Gather up soap, shampoo, and towel, fold up Coleman camp chair (a wonderful, comfortable thing, by the way) and store it in SUV. Sit, rest, catch breath on the picnic bench before heading off to the showers.

Reading this you should get the idea that being a 79 year old with COPD is a bit of a pain in the pooper.

As I’m heading over to the showers it starts to rain. When I get to the shower building it’s POURING! Back at the SUV I find that where the tent had been is now covered by at least three inches of water!

It rained most of the three and a half hours it took me to drive the back roads to DeBary. Quite glad that I had new wiper blade installed at Jim’s when they replaced the faulty alternator. Oddly, looking at Google Maps, taking the Interstate, macadamized rivers of death, would only have saved me about 20 minutes overall.

Back in the swamp the river’s really up. The gangplank is on an upward incline to the boat where most of the winter it was just the opposite. Went on board, scooped leaves out of the cockpit drain, pushed back the hatch into the cabin. What a mess! A lot of work to be done so I’ve spent the first two nights back in the SUV and probably will for quite a while yet until I get the boat scrubbed up and knock back the mildew that’s formed.

Now I need to get a few things straightened out on the Montero. Get the hitch carrier off and situated. The box will still be a great place to keep extra stuff, though.

It may be a while before there are any more adventures. I have a doctor’s appointment in two weeks. I’ve been having some adverse effects from the new med put me on for the COPD. So there won’t be any “adventures” for the next month and the posts here will be slight. But I’ve gotten a taste for this camping thing again. There are some state parks fairly near by so I think I’ll be visiting them from time to time and will let you know about them.


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Male Bovine Excrement

“Get a tent,” they said.

“Go camping,” they said.

“Commune with nature,” they said.

“Get close to the wildlife,” they said. “You’ll love it.”

YAH? Well guess what? You were WRONG!

At least about loving the wildlife…This morning I heard some noise on the side of the tent and there was an effin’ squirrel clinging to the netting window. Little bastard left over a dozen holes that I’ve now got to try and fix.

Because it’s in a state park you’re not allowed to kill the tick-carrying rodent, more’s the pity.

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Back To The Swamp

As reluctant as I am to do it I have to return to the swamp when I strike camp this coming Monday. The grand tour of the eastern U.S. and boating on Lakes Superior and Ontario remain a dream. I’m only a three and a half hour drive away.

Bette Davis is attributed with saying: “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Man, did she hit it on the head. You all know about my COPD and how it led me from living on a small, anchored boat off of Anna Maria Island a bit south of Tampa Bay a while back. My new physician prescribed a new medication for my COPD and I’ve been taking it for about two and a half months. Yesterday, 8/20/2021 I got a refill at the Wally World in Lake City, FL. It came with a thick sheaf of papers about the med and, unlike most men, I read it this time and it seems a couple of the serious side effect are being exacerbated by the Trelogy Ellipta.

One is cataracts. I’ve been told at the last few eye exams that I had “mini cataracts” and that if they got to be more of a problem I would need to deal with them. Probably surgically. Well, my left eye has been getting fuzzy the last six months or so. Noticeably so. But I figured I’d just do the trip and worry about it later. I still feel that way, but the information I received says: “long-term use of ICS may increase the risk of some eye problems (cataracts or glaucoma”. As a point of information I self-medicated against the possibility of glaucoma for many years using herbal substances from Mexico, Jamaica, and Colombia.

The side effect that worries me the most is urological. The sheets say: “People who take Trelogy Ellipta may develop new or worse urinary retention. Symptoms of urinary retention may include difficulty urinating (check), painful urination (check), urinating frequently (check, but this is kind of subjective, isn’t it? I mean I’m living in Florida in the middle of summer and easily drink more than a gallon of water and tea each day. So wouldn’t YOU piss a lot if you were drinking that much?) urination in a weak stream or drips (check). Right down the list.

Some back ground. I’ve gone through three major kidney stone episodes. One down in Panama resulted in a couple of stones nearly a quarter of an inch long being deposited in the commode. That big I DID have to fish them out and measure them.

When I was brought to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital four plus years ago they told me I was lugging around two fairly good size stones in my left kidney (I can feel a twinge every now and then confirming that, but not enough to put me on the floor like when I had major movements of the stones.

I was also told that I had a large bladder stone as well. Over the last few years it did bother me a bit. It would apparently shift around and block off the urethra. The symptoms were painful urination, and when I DID urinate it would only be a tiny bit. A few tablespoons full at most. Then it would happen in another few minutes. For a day or two. But generally if I slept on my side it would shift away during the night and I’d be okay for a couple of months or more. Not this time. For the past week and a half, at least, I’ve been going through this. Everything seems fine and then, when that little voice says “You’ve gotta go,” it means RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!! There’s no holding it back and it’s just a few drops at a time.

I have a large mouth bottle with a screw lid that I was using for those times when I’d have to get up in the middle of the night to do old man things. Recently I’ve taken to carrying it with me every time I’ve had to go some place. The other day after doing some shopping at Publix as I got to the car WHAM! Had to do RIGHT NOW! Got the bottle out and the cap off JUST IN TIME. I didn’t care that there was a sheriff’s car facing me just to the right of the passenger side headlight facing me. And there was someone in it! At that moment I really didn’t give a damn.

I also have a problem with one of my few remaining teeth so I’m looking at eyes, urology, and dental along with the usual COPD crap. So going “home” to the swamp seems like the reasonable thing to do.

I’m sure you’re all glad I let you in on this…

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Camp Thoughts

Nothing is a bigger incentive to putting the rainfly over the top of the tent than the sound of loud, approaching thunder.

After having the THIRD alternator installed in the last couple of months but the good people at Jim’s Auto Repairs in Lake City, Florida, I returned to the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park. I got to Jim’s just as they opened at 8 a.m. When I explained that I was traveling they put me on “urgent” status, apparently, and I was back on the road before noon. If you have to break down in north Florida, try and arrange it so you’re near Lake City and Jim’s. They did me right.

Not being sure of when the repairs would be finished I didn’t look for any parks closer to home and decided to return here. I like the place and at $10 a night with water and electricity at the site it’s an unbeatable deal. Will be here through the weekend.

My most important breathing med, Trilogy, was on its last hit, though I still have some of the Breo Ellipta left, I called the Lake City Wally World Pharmacy and renewed the prescription which will be ready this afternoon, Fri.

It was sweltering when I got back to the park. Willy Weather says the heat index was between 106F to 108F! It took forever to get the tent pitched. Do a little, stop, sit and catch breath, repeat. Of course it finally got done but it was a real battle. I didn’t put the rain fly on since it was bright and sunny. But a couple of hours later what had been distant thunder became a lot louder, and a lot closer. I went out and struggled getting the rain fly over the tent. Only the second time I’ve done it but I think I’ve figured out how to do it a little easier next time. Practice makes perfect, they say.

About a half hour later it started to pour. Lightning all around. This lasted for well over an hour and the rain continued on into the night. I slept well, though, on my new Osage River Camping Cot…

Except for a couple of old man moments in the middle of the night I got almost eleven hours of shut eye. Didn’t sleep well at the motel the other night. People back and forth all night. Noisy. Even worse in a lot of ways then the constant drone of traffic I encountered when overnighting at Cracker Barrels.

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Waiting For Repairs

I can’t believe it but I’m having problems with the alternator again. This would be the FOURTH ONE! The original died because of a leaky valve cover gasket. Car’s fault. My nephew and I solved that problem. Then the new alternator that had been installed in South Carolina bit the dust when I hit a huge bump on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. It was replaced and the warranty covered the alternator. Everything was working fine for about a thousand miles.

My brakes are feeling kinda sponge, so a opened the brake fluid reservoir to check the level. It was fine. A few hours later, on my way to the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park the red battery/brake warning light started flashing on the dash. The other warning lights, which I ignore stay on constantly. But this one flashes on and off. I made it to the park and called a nearby Lake City, FL, AAA repair center. They said they couldn’t do anything until Thursday. That was okay since my reservation carried through til then.

I’d checked the battery with my multi meter. 12.1 volts. When I turned the car on the voltage dropped to 11.5. Indicates to me that the alternator isn’t charging.

I decided to check out of the park and went down to the car repair facility 15 miles away. I expected the car to die at any moment. It didn’t. I stopped at the Warm Springs post office and picked up my 110 chord for the fridge and the folding cot I’d ordered from Amazon.

I did a preliminary checkin at the repair shop They wouldn’t let me stay in my SUV overnight. Had to rent a room at Motel 8 or some such place. With the red light flashing slowly off and on I made it down there and back in the morning.

Checking in just as soon as the repair center opened I was told they might not be able to do it today. I told the girl (I’m 79 so women in their 40s are still girls to me) I was in a real bind. Traveling and spending $100/night for a motel was a real problem for me. She said she’d see what she could do.

A little before 9 I heard a guy at the parts window talking about O’Reilly alternator and warranty so I have to assume he’s working on my car. Came in a bit later and I heard him talking about a battery. I told the girl I was not opposed to them installing a new battery. And while they’re at it they can replace the windshield wiper blades which are in a display behind the sofa I’m sitting on. The ones I have now are pretty rigid.

Oh, yes, there is a sign on the door as you come in that says AAA customers get a 10% discount on labor fees to a total of $50. Every little bit helps

Judging from past experience it will only take a couple of hours to replace the alternator so I should be able to get on the road later today. Not knowing how late in the day I made a reservation back at the state park for four days at the same camp site. That’s good since it’s only a short trip to the latrine which is good for the COPD.

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Campers I DON’T Want To Meet…

There’s a certain type of person/camper I absolutely don’t want to have anything to do with. These “Sunshine Patriots.” I’m a Navy vet but far from being a flag waver. I can’t stomach the kind of people who have to fly the flag wherever they are. Semper fuck you and all that! This nearby rig is owned by a retired couple I definitely DON’T want to meet. There’s not a doubt in my mind that these people are hard-core Trump supporters.

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Another Gloomy, Overcast Day…

It’s gloomy and overcast here in the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in Warm Springs, FL. I’m just passing time. Alternator problems, AGAIN and they can’t get to me before Thursday. That’s okay since my reservation at the park lasts until Thursday. I’m comfortable here despite the fact the weather looks like it may start raining any minute.

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Alternator Problems…AGAIN

Shortly before I made it to the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park in White Springs, FL the combination Battery/Brake light warning on the dash started flashing. I made it into my campsite fine, but checking things out with the multimeter indicated that the alternator wasn’t charging…AGAIN!!!

I looked on line and found an AAA repair facility in nearby Lake City and called them. They were able to schedule me in on Thursday, which is fine since that’s the day I’m supposed to check out of the state park. One problem, though, is I have a couple of things waiting for me at the local post office. Have to see if I can get a ride there with someone on Monday.

Weather forecast is gloomy for the week. Looks like Fred is drifting further to the west and going to miss us here, but Gladys is on a track that could be a real problem come Thursday. Ugh!

Had a strong thunderstorm pass over yesterday afternoon. Knocked out the electricity. My Bluetti kept the fridge going and in the morning still had 60% charge. However, wasn’t getting any power. Thought perhaps the “brick” that charges things had died. Then checked the power box. Breakers were fine, but even when plugging in my corded drill I got no power. A bit later I asked a passerby if he had electricity at his site. He said it had come on about 5 a.m. Went back to the outlet and, now with better light, I discovered that the ground fault had tripped. Pressed the button and power restored.

Haven’t set up the tent. When I arrived it still looked like Fred could be a real threat and then, with yesterday’s heavy rain the area where I would have set up had a couple of inches of water. Drained of quickly, but the tent floor would have been under if it had been set up.

This is a lovely spot, but heavily overcast. Going to rain today, no doubt about that.

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