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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Upon the Suwannee River

Don’t know how far down it I am. Can’t see it from my camp site at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park. Arrived here a little after 3 p.m. Couple of big rigs came in after me.

This is a LOT different than Three Rivers. Shade in spades.

Suwannee Camp Site
Heavily wooded
See the difference?

Undecided about putting up the tent. Would hate to do it and then have to strike it in a couple of days because of Fred. Willy Weather is predicting 90% chance of rain on Saturday. Eighty percent on Sunday, dropping to 70% on Monday. The storm center is expected to be well north of us by Monday morning. Heat index here is outrageous. Upper 90s to 103F.Just going to sleep in the SUV ’til the storm is past.

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Plan B For Storm

Right now, 4 pm on Tuesday, August 10, there’s a strong thunder storm passing through Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, FL. Tent walls flexing in and out in the gusty wind, but I’ve got the tent staked down on the corners of the base and guy ropes higher up. Glad I’ve got the “optional” rain fly installed over the top of the tent. I’m comfortable and dry, though. Love the sound of the rain. People who live in sticks and bricks don’t appreciate it like we who have lived in houses with tin roofs like in Panama, or spent time in tents and boats.

Nothing has changed much in the forecast of the tropical “disturbance” raining all over the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico right now. While it’s expected to become a tropical storm within the next 24 hours I’m unsure about what’s going to happen with my reservation at the Suwannee River State Park. Will they cancel everyone? How would be get refunds if they did? Would they give us credit for staying at a later date? I haven’t the slightest idea. But the way the predictions are now. it will just be a lot of rain and some wind for us there on the river. I sure wouldn’t want to ride it out in this tent, though. Glad I’ve got the bed in the SUV. Kind of cramped if I had to spend a couple of days in it full time, I admit. But, hey!

If, for some reason I have to abandon the park I’ve thought about an alternative. Seeing as how the projected path, for now, anyway, is thought to be out in the Gulf a bit there shouldn’t be too much effect back up around Savannah, Georgia and I’d go camp out at the Houlihan Boat Ramp as I did a week or so ago. Was a nice place and it’s only about a four hour drive away from the Stephen Foster State Park. Easy Peasy. That’s my Plan B for now.

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Storm Watch

It’s that time of year…Hurricane season. And there’s trouble brewing in the tropics as I write this. The National Hurricane Center is calling it “PotentialTropical Cyclone Six” right now since it hasn’t formed a circular pattern and reached minimum sustained winds of 39 mph of 1 minute duration to be officially categorized as a tropical storm and given a name. YET! 

Florida falls within the “Cone of Uncertainty.” It looks, now, as though the area most impacted will be to the east of the current predicted track as it moves along the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The bad news is that the worst area of winds and rain in tropical storms and hurricanes is on the north east quadrant of the system. Where I am!

I have reservations for a week at the Stephen Foster State Park on the Suwannee River starting on Thursday. According to the Hurricane Center the earliest expected arrival of tropical storm force winds around that area might be Friday night to Saturday morning. I have no idea what effect this might have on my being able to stay at the park. In any case, it certainly won’t be tent weather, that’s for sure. But I’ll have everything packed and stowed from being on the road and am able to sleep in the SUV. Cooking isn’t going to happen in the vehicle, but I’ll just get sandwich stuff and survive well enough for a couple of days.

Just have to wait and see. 

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Camping Life

I quite like this camping thing. But, like everything else in life it has its good and bad sides. The bad for me here at Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, FL, is that I seem to have chosen a site that offers very little shade. On Saturday and Sunday ,many of the campers departed. I’m writing this at the picnic table two sites away towards the water. It is gloriously shady. There’s also a slight breeze, and over by my tent it’s becoming stifling. 

I’ve been living small for quite a few years. Twenty-two foot sailboat with just sitting headroom. Now SUV, but can stand up in the tent, Then I look across the street at a guy, all by his lonesome, getting ready to hit the road in his 5th-wheel camper with slide outs. Makes no sense to me. Same as when I was driving for the airport pickups in southeast Florida. I’d take withered, elderly people to mini-mansions and it was like dropping a couple of BBs into a 55 gallon barrel.

Then he spotted me and came over and started chatting. Telling me about how the FBI, the DOJ and others were trading him. Blocking his internet service. Placing tracking devices on his truck. He wasn’t going to let anybody stick a needle in his arm with “no vaccine.” I just sat silently nodding my head and “tsk tsking” along. When I told him I’d been invaded by an army of tiny ants that bit like crazy he went over to his rig and brought me some spray as well as a six pack of Miller Lites.

Got food and drink to last me the rest of my stay here.

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Tenting

Delayed two days since there was no internet connection in the woods at the Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL.

Today, August 5, is the first time in about 68 years that I’ve spent a night in a tent. I LIKE it. 

I spent a very peaceful night at the Houlihan Boat Ramp on the Savannah River as noted in the previous blog post. I had arrive there in the middle of the afternoon and simply hung around reading a Kindle book. I went into the nearby town of Wentworth, South Carolina, and found a Chinese restaurant. Wanted something bland for supper because my duodenal ulcer has been acting up giving me heartburn in the middle of the night. I returned to the boat ramp after dark. No one else was around. talked to a new acquaintance of the female persuasion for about an hour on the phone and then turned in. Didn’t wake up until almost 7 which is unusual for me.

Threw a lot of stuff in the trash. When I’m on the road and munching on junk food I simply throw the wrappers on the floor between where the Bluetti lives and the fridge. I DON’T throw crap out the window. One of the things that distressed me when I lived in Panama, and there were only a couple, but the worst is that the people treat their beautiful country with it’s glorious mountains and sea coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean like one gigantic trash can. You absolutely don’t want to see how much trash, like pop bottles and those sacs that you stick straws into, cover the area around casettas…covered bus stops.

When you mention it to them, Panamanians agree it’s horrible and then get quite defensive. “Is it better in the United States?” they’ll ask. And my answer alway was, “Yes it it. But once upon a time, when I was a kid, we had a similar problem. The President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, got on a big tear and things changed. It didn’t happen over night. It took an entire generation to change their way of thinking about the environment they lived in. One thing that helped was there is a deposit of 5 to 10 cents on every soda bottle. You don’t see them lying around on the ground in the states. To poor people and kids they’re like money found in the street. The same thing needs to happen here. But it will be your grandchildren who benefit.”

Anyway, I left the ramp and headed in a westerly direction looking for a McDoo Doo’s. I won’t eat their meat, but I do like their pancakes and coffee for breakfast. And it gives me time to look at maps and figure out where to go next. I try and keep the distances down to a couple of hundred miles a day. About five hours driving time on the back roads. I’m not into the marathon road trips any more. I’ve been thinking about going and visiting some of the places I stopped at when I was taking my boat trip four years back. Like Panacea where I was brought in by Coast Guard-dispatch when I had total kidney shut down caused by severe dehydration. Or Suwannee. Maybe go over to Apalachicola famous for oysters and spend a couple of days pigging out on seafood. While my coffee was cooling down to a drinkable temperature, I perused an app called iOverlander. I specified both established campsites as well as free places like Cracker Barrels and Walmarts. Not having has a shower since New Jersey I’m getting a little rank so I searched for an “established” site and settled on Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL. Made a reservation on line for Thursday but since the site is reserved for Friday I grabbed the spot just across the street for the second night. The sites are $20/night with electricity and water, but with taxes and “fees” it rounds out to a hair over $25 which is still a bargain considering that a cheap, gungy motel will set you back close to $70.

While I was getting things set up for camping in the SUV I also bought camping gear, too. I bought an Coleman “Instant Tent.” It’s a “six-person” tent. Well, sitting in it as I write this they’d be six very little persons. My brother says it takes him about two minutes to set it up. This was my very first try and it took me six or seven minutes and left me seriously panting for breath. Never the less, it IS easy to set up and I’m sure with a little practice I can cut the time in half. 

I also bought a Coleman folding table at my brother Marks suggestion and a Coleman camp chair. I slept for several years on an Intex twin size air mattress and sprung for one of those, too. They’re under $10 at Wally World. I have the electric air pump to inflate it and the Bluetti takes care of the power. I have two pumps, actually. One is a 110-volter and the other is a 12 volt cigarette adapter power source. The Bluetti handles either one.

Just after throwing stuff in the dumpster and a quart of transmission fluid in the beast it started to rain. It rained from light drizzle to downpour all day long. Just as I pulled into the state park I caught a break and the rain stopped for a short time. Time for me to get mostly settled, that is. While my brother says he can get the tent erected in about two minutes, this was my first try. It took me, maybe, five minutes.

I managed to get the table, chair, Bluetti, and the USB fan into the tent just as it started to rain again. This time it poured for about an hour.

As I was sitting, looking out the tent door at the woods around me I spotted this deer, just as she spotted me.

So far I’ve avoided paying for places to sleep what with Cracker Barrels, Boat Ramps, Family and Friends. But I think I’m going to be doing more of this camping thing at places with showers. Try and do it once every 10 days or so.

Slept ’til almost 7 then dug out the Gas One single-burner stove and the 11 lb tank and made myself a steaming mug of espresso. The sun is out this morning but it sounds like there’s thunder off in the distance. Without a wifi signal I can’t check the weather. 

I have to re-register at 10. Check-out time is 1 and check-in time is 3. So I’ll use those two hours to hang around down by the manatee food concession where the map they gave me shows there’s wifi. 

Manatee Springs State Park

I have to change campsites later in the day. Right now I’m watching the couple who are occupying it break their camp down. They have a small trailer pulled by a Jeep. Not looking forward to breaking this mess down and setting it up again in a few hours and then striking it tomorrow. Will make Saturday’s run a short one. Look for a Cracker Barrel over around Apalachicola perhaps.

Heavy rain most of day. Had struck tent and decided to just sleep in the SUV instead.

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Meandering Back Roads

Spent the night at “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina. Place has fallen on really hard times. First visit was back in 1964 driving to Miami from Orleans, Cape Cod. No Interstate then, just US1. Very shabby and tacky now. One lonely waitress in the restaurant serving mediocre, overpriced food.Many letters on various neon signs over the “attractions” not working giving the place an even more forlorn look. Checked with a Security dude and he said there wasn’t any problem staying overnight. There were quite a few of us doing that. At least a half dozen others that I could tell. The one thing I’ll give them is that the toilets in the stand alone building were very clean despite being very old. There was am older, black man who was the attendant overseeing the operation. Good thing I can sleep under adverse conditions because big rigs blasted by on I-95, a hundred yards away all night.

Cleared out about 7 am. Stopped at a McDooDoo’s down the road. An all black crew and the best soul music was playing in the restaurant. They all laughed and hooted when I told them the music was making it hard for me to leave.

South Carolina roads are pretty rough. You notice it the moment you cross over the state line from North Carolina. But the back roads, except when passing through a couple of small towns, had speed limits of from 45 to 60 mph which is relaxing where Interstate driving, for me, anyway, is white knuckle time. Most of the time in the five hours I drove today I saw very few cars either coming at me or behind me. A couple of times I drove through tunnels created by the boughs of live oaks meeting over the road. South Carolina, at least when driving down the back roads, seems to be a state filled with single and double-wide mobile homes.

I’m spending the night at a place called Houlihan’s Boat Ramp by the Savannah River. Look to the right and you can see the cranes in the Savannah container port. Overall the place is well tended with a couple of picnic tables and a bench seat for contemplation. Off to the side there are three Port-A-Potties. Roamed around the whole place and there are no signs prohibiting overnight parking. It’s going to be noisy here, though. There’s a draw bridge over the river with 18 wheelers humming over the grated section of the bridge. Probably quiet down later tonight, though.

Not sure where I’m going to go tomorrow. Will scope that out later.

This is what the place looks like…

ramp4

ramp1

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