Friday, May 27, 2016

I can hear you!

Well, some of what we had figured out in my earlier post Can You Hear Me Now? worked but some of it did not. The main failure was the whole idea of using the buff head gear to hold the assembly where we needed it. Geoff immediately hated the way it felt and insisted it was too tight. I didn't find it quite so bad but did find that some of the pieces of the communications equipment wouldn't stay in place, most particularly the basic unit and the microphone.

Early on we had gotten a couple of ball caps with a wolf on the front ... what else when you name your coach Timmber Wolf? Since the communications set up was originally designed to be attached to a motorcycle helmet, why not try it on a ball cap? Using a couple of older ball caps as trial runs I finally managed to get it all more or less attached. Once the prototype was functional it was time to do it properly on the wolf hat,  screwing through the hat band to attach the clip for the main unit and using the velcro that came with the set to attach the speakers to a piece of plastic set into the hat band. The microphone finally ended up velcro'd to the brim of the hat.

It probably took about two hours to get the first one put together but I think it actually looks semi-professional! Okay, there are some loose wires wandering around towards the back that we have to figure out how to keep them tucked in and the microphone likes to come unstuck sometimes but it holds it all together!

It was a lot faster putting Geoff's hat together. The hats have been done with mine, the navigator in the passenger seat, being attached on the left side, and Geoff's hat, the driver, being on the right side so that our ears on the road side are clear to hear the honking that we are going to slow or the sirens of the smokey bears wanting to get by.

After recharging the units, we have actually practiced wearing and communicating and it is clear as a bell with Geoff out back by the pond and me out at the street so should work perfectly not only for communicating while traveling but also for backing up instructions and discussions while setting up with one of us outside the coach and one on the inside. At the very least we can now talk to each other on the road without yelling! In case you were wondering, we also got two more wolf hats so we can wear them without dragging the communications gear around with us and I've got some nifty buff headbands for other times

As for the rest of the story ... Timmber Wolf is now sitting at the dealers awaiting parts for some warranty work. We are on pins and needles about getting it back in a timely manner. The remaining rear sway bar has been installed in the meantime and if you get one of these, it is worth every penny to add the sway bars and stabilizers!

Just over a week until departure!! Me, I am ready to get on the road now!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alternative mobility ... getting from here to yonder

Well, the next installment was going to be about navigation and my love/hate affair with parts of that but it has been interrupted by a digression into alternative mobility. Due to arthritis myself and Geoffrey’s being smooshed by a Sebring last year, we both have some problems with getting around a lot. Since there are museums and such on our schedule that won’t let us park Timmber Wolf right at the door and inside are somewhat endless, often with limited seating opportunities, it behooved us to think outside the box a little.
The whole thing started when we found a Pride GoGo EliteTraveler mobility scooter used and on sale and snatched it up. With four wheels it is more stable than the three wheel version and is both relatively lightweight and comes apart for storage. The battery is easily brought inside for charging and protection from the weather.

Of course we quickly decided that although it would fit in the compartments underneath the coach, commonly referred to as the basement, it had to be taken all the way apart and was somewhat awkward sooo … of course we opted for the tow hitch carrier where we can just hoist it up on to the carrier and take just the battery inside. Of course that necessitates a weather cover and I just had to get a back of the seat backpack and a tiller cover (that’s the steering part) in case it rained while I was out joy riding! Like Topsy … it just growed!

For those of you who already know Geoffrey this next bit may come as a bit of a surprise … he rather suddenly announced to me that he thought he ought to have a folding bicycle so he could ride from Timmber Wolf in the back of beyond RV parking to the museum or from the camp site to the offices or where ever he chose to go. Mind you, he has not ridden any bike for over 40 years … 'tis a wonder what retirement, RV travel and perhaps a serious car wreck will do to a fellow!

The bicycle should fit on the carrier with PoGoGo (yeah, the scooter acquired a name) but then it also needed a serious weather cover … and a bicycle lock … and a helmet for Geoffrey which he practices wearing. He is quickly becoming unrecognizable with the fanny pack and all!!! It’s three and a half weeks until we get out of here still but we are having all kinds of fun getting ready!!!

Now if we can just get Timmber back from the RV dealer where it is STILL waiting on various repaitrs so we can put all this stuff in and on it ... PoGoGo is residing in the back of my Subaru and the bicycle takes up part of the garage with asorted covers etc here and there along with other stuff awaiting Timmber's return.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Can you hear me now?

An interim posting … one of the things we discovered early on was that as we drove down the road in Timmber Wolf we often could not hear each other very well. Road noise, engine noise, and some hearing loss in certain ranges for Geoff made for communication problems between driver and navigator … not a good thing.

Pretty quickly we eliminated using our cellphones or walkie talkies or that sort of thing as a possibility. Those generally require pushing the right buttons to say something and lead to hands off the wheel and distracted driving and in the case of walkie talkies when they are too close they tend to just squeal at each other sometimes. I mentioned this communication issue briefly in the second installment, PecanPark, and a couple of you mentioned sources and equipment used by law enforcement, a good thought but frightfully expensive and probably overkill.

What we needed we realized was something more like what motorcyclists use to talk to each other or to their pillion rider. We researched it online and ended up ordering the SharkBluetooth Intercom wireless hands free communication setup from Amazon. Although expandable to 6 riders, it comes with the pieces/parts for two unlike many of these sets where you have to buy each one individually.
We first tried setting this up using the earpiece things people plug into their phones like a headset but we couldn’t seem to either get the two units paired or something else was wrong. Our frustration limit reached we set it aside and made the Pensacola trip without it. Fortunately being a straight shot without a lot of confusing traffic areas I didn’t lose my voice on that trip … we had enough other problems to keep us entertained!

When we got back we decided to get the setup working as it came, using the speakers and microphones that arrived with it. Apparently the alternatives we were using just were not compatible because we had no trouble getting the communication going but now how to actually use it since it is designed to be attached to helmets. Since we have and use ballcaps on the road like sunshades they were a natural first thought and certainly the units themselves can be clipped to them but the speakers and mikes are designed to be stuck with Velcro to the inside of the helmet just opposite the ears and ball caps don’t reach that far!

Time again to set things aside and let them stew in the back of the brain … maybe we could use some sort of headband like the sweatbands athletes etc. use? The next day we had some time to kill in a shopping center waiting on picking up my sister at nearby Jacksonville International Airport and of course people like us have to go wander around in Gander Mountain. When we went in we asked the girls at the cashier desk if they had exercise headbands or anything and they didn’t think so and were sort of clueless about what we wanted but a customer nearby (might have been there to flirt with the girls?) suggested we look at the buffs they had in the fishing department.

Now in case you haven’t a clue what a buff is they are those cloth head thingies popularized on the Survivor show and are similar to the do-rags worn by motorcyclists. They are quite versatile in how they can be worn on the head.
I chose one very like the one here which is UV resistant and treated as an insect shield which will be nice since I can’t put those repellants on my skin. They are from Buff USA. Anyway they can be worn in many ways including like a headband and since getting it I have already tested that they hold the speaker and microphone in position. If it turns out there is any slippage a little ingenuity with the velcro and/or needle and thread should cure it. I think the unit will also clip onto it as well although a ball cap will go over it as an alternative. Geoff chose a plainer version but the principle is the same.

With any luck at all these will resolve the communications issues including working with one of us in and one of us out of Timmber Wolf for coordinating backing up, hooking up and unhooking!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Shakedown to Pensacola on I10

Sure shook down a lot on this three day two night trip. We stopped at a rest area around mile marker 318 about 10:30 a.m. or so but then on exiting we hit a swarm of love bugs … now you non-Floridians may not know about love bugs but they fly all over mating on the wing incessantly (hence the name of course). They are also icky sticky bug guts … now the Wolf is icky (see windshield pic insert) and buggy and our bug scrubber is woefully too short to get rid of much of anything, the windshield becomes a smeary mess. 

I had just been sort of congratulating myself that I could read and do some stuff as we traveled which I have never been able to do without getting rapidly car sick and was putting it down to the huge windshield letting me see the moving road while I did stuff … but I quickly discovered that the smeary windshield was definitely bothering my vision. The arc of smear caused by the wipers seemed to be the worst and at our next stop we got it slightly improved with the remaining up and down smears not being as visually troubling.

We did stop at a BP truck stop at exit 217 for filling up both us and the Wolf. The restaurant was run by a local church group trying hard to do a nice job. Quite southern and I had fried okra and fried gizzards while Ohio boy Geoff went for a burger which he said was excellent, nice to do something different than the chain eateries.

For some reason our gas purchase was limited to $100 so we didn’t quite fill the tank. And stopped again down the road apiece to fill it up the rest of the way and find an extended handle windshield scrubber.

We stayed at the Pensacola RV Park which is a nice helpful family run place. As novices we had some hookup issues which was some straightened out by Friday morning but have also discovered a lot of heat comes off the engine cover area between driver and passenger, the shower leaks (nice puddle in adjacent corner of bedroom) and the toilet likes to stop up … NOT FUN! But then that is what shakedown cruises are for and we’ll email the General RV dealership tonight and call them Monday!!!

The darling man at the RV park came by Friday and helped get our windshield cleaned up and told us that probably one of the biggest problems RV’ers have is stopped up toilets!!!

As planned, on Friday Geoff went off in a rental car to the National Naval Aviation Museum and I hung around the coach to tidy up and organize and such, more fun for me than a stupid museum full of airplanes! That’s part of the whole charm of the trip of course, Geoff can go spend all the time he wants at these museum places I could care less about while I relax, reading my Kindle and puttering around and he doesn’t have to worry about my comfort. Of course I am sure there will be times when the shoe is on the other foot!
He returned mid -afternoon bearing gifts: a sweet little stuffed bear who I am informed is named Butch after Edward ‘Butch’ O’Hare, the Navy’s first flying ace for whom the airport in Chicago is named; some delicious banana bread which we had for dessert and then polished off in the morning for breakfast; and in case you don’t recognize that spiral looking thing behind the bear, a toilet plunger although sad to say we are still having trouble with the potty <sigh>!

We got home safely Saturday evening and promptly started working on the list of “stuff we did not have” and more lists of things to do and take care of.

In case you missed the “announcement” the Wolf’s full name is:
                Timmber Wolf

Pecan Park in North Jacksonville

At first things seemed to be happening in dribs and drabs but all of a sudden it’s like going into overdrive or something! I’ve been trying to learn the Puppy Pad – the Rand McNally RV Tablet GPS thingy. I’m learning to like some things about and frustrated at the learning curve although I have discovered that it really helps to read the manual about whatever it is I am trying to do! But more about the ins and outs of the Puppy Pad as we travel, tis enough to say here that using the Quick Planner we have roughly plotted out the trip and it looks like about two months and ten thousand miles!

Tax season ended Monday, April 18th, so Tuesday the 19th we took off for our first overnight trip heading just an hour away to the north side of Jacksonville to meet up with my RV’ing cousins, Scott and Cindy Pride at Pecan Park RV Park. It’s a nicely laid out park with long pull through slots which make getting in place easy. Scott and Cindy showed up shortly after we did and Geoff was glad to see Scott and his setting up experience, mostly the plugging in to the electricity and hooking up to the water etc. We survived and had a lovely dinner at their terrific Tiffin Allegro RV and got a good few tips about managing on the road since they spend about six months out of the year traveling.

We got ourselves unhooked and unset from being in place in the morning although it was definitely reassuring to know expert help was nearby. It is great finding that our mattress is comfortable and that The Wolf will be comfortable enough. We got back to St Augustine in time for our afternoon appointment and then ran up to WalMart for some of those forgotten odds and ends finally collapsing at home, rather exhausted.

Thursday we delivered The Wolf to Camping World so they could install front and rear sway bars and a steering stabilizer on Friday. Of course when we called Friday afternoon about picking it up they had discovered that the rear sway bar had been mismarked on the box and was the wrong one! Fortunately the three installs are separate items and we were good to go with the front bar and stabilizer done, doomed to wait for the backordered rear sway bar which will show up hopefully in less than the 30 days they mentioned.

I dropped Geoff off to pick The Wolf up and take it to storage* this morning and he took the opportunity for a short run on the Interstate to try out the changes. He reports that it makes a big difference in the handling and steering even without the rear sway bar in yet. But, his adventure wasn’t over yet. On arriving at the storage place he hopped out and entered his code at the gate, getting back in to drive through … but the gate opened and closed before he could drive in! He then maneuvered The Wolf to the other side and put the code in again and rushed back into the beats, managing to get it through before it closed!

He parked Wolf and retrieved his car, returning home so we could head south to Daytona to check out some places for the intercom we are looking for. Just in case any of you have a brilliant idea we’re wanting some way to communicate with each other when we are traveling in The Wolf that will counter any road noise or Geoff’s loss of some hearing. Heading up for Pecan Park I had to raise my voice to help with navigation which was okay for an hour but we have a whole lot of longer stretches than that!

NOTE: no images in this one, just a few links added on the blog

*for those who might be unfamiliar with Florida developments such as the one we live in, not only is there no room to keep an RV but there is a restriction against it.