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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wilderness Drive



There was a chance of thunderstorms yesterday so my lovely wife and I decided to do a drive. We traveled a 24 mile loop, mostly on dirt and mud.

We took a lot of photos, but my bandwidth is so narrow here that they haven’t been uploading. Eventually I will get them up.

While the mosquitoes and other biting flies aren’t quite as bad here, we’ve been struggling with fire ants. I hate those little beasties. Our poor dog isn’t a fan either.

Sunnier and cooler weather is in the forecast. It’s not going to be the brutal cold of up north, but cool for the Everglades. No complaints from me.

By the way, my lovely wife and I just celebrated 41 years of marriage. I’m going to have to give her better experiences than fire ants, that’s for sure.

-Sixbears

Monday, December 30, 2019

More Everglades



My lovely wife and I have moved to a different campground in the Everglades. We are currently at Midway, which is between Naples and Miami. I had almost no connection to the Internet at Flamingo. If you have AT&T there’s service, but everyone else is out of luck.

On Christmas day my lovely wife and I took the sailboat out into Florida Bay. It was a great day sail. We hadn’t been sailing out of there since before the Hurricane Irma. The channel into the the marina is heavily silted in.

We put the swing keel down in the marina basin then headed out to the channel. Part way down the channel we stopped dead. After lifting the keel we sailed on. Then the rudder started dragging and that had to be kicked up. Once we got to the end of the channel there was enough water to sail in.

One of the tour boat captains told me how he gets the big tour boat out into the bay. Basically he goes through the channel at full speed so the boat’s up on plane. There are places where he has to lift the motors so the props are barely in the water. The Army Corps of Engineers has studied the channel and is thinking about dredging it.

While it’s possible to get my boat out, the marina is useless to most boats. There’s a dismasted cat staying there, but it belongs to one of the workers.

My lovely wife and I enjoyed watching the wildlife. We even got to see a couple of rare baby American Crocodiles. The marina basin had a lot of manatees and that kept folks entertained. You’ve got to watch the vultures and crows as they’ll fly off with anything left at your campsite.

The warm humid weather has been very good for my lungs. I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in over a year. It only took a month.

The big downside on this trip has been the biting bugs, but that’s camping in Florida.

-Sixbears

Friday, December 27, 2019

Not Eaten by Giant Lizards



It’s been a while since my blog readers have head anything from me. Frankly, it’s been a while since most people have heard from me. A few family and friends received text messages by way of an Inreach satellite communications device. Christmas evening we drove the long road into town to get cell signal to wish people a Merry Christmas.

We are currently at Flamingo Florida in the Federal Campground. There’s an ATT&T tower here, but that’s not what my cell phone or hotspot connects too. Only recently have I learned that there’s wifi at the Visitor’s Center. It’s weak and sketchy, but it’s there. I’m hoping this post can go out on it.

Our trip from the Ocala to here was a bitNot Eaten by Giant Lizards

It’s been a while since my blog readers have head anything from me. Frankly, it’s been a while since most people have heard from me. A few family and friends received text messages by way of an Inreach satellite communications device. Christmas evening we drove the long road into town to get cell signal to wish people a Merry Christmas.

We are currently at Flamingo Florida in the Federal Campground. There’s an ATT&T tower here, but that’s not what my cell phone or hotspot connects too. Only recently have I learned that there’s wifi at the Visitor’s Center. It’s weak and sketchy, but it’s there. I’m hoping this post can go out on it.

Our trip from the Ocala to here was a bit of a nightmare. That’s partially my fault. Theoretically it’s possible to drive it in one day. However, that assumes there wouldn’t be accidents that slow traffic down to a crawl.

Just to make it more interesting, after a gas stop we pulled off in a parking lot to assess our situation. Soon after a nice Hispanic gentleman informed me I was in his space. No problem, I tried to start the car and it wouldn’t turn over. Fortunately his non-English speaking drunken friend was able to help me jump start the car. They really were actually very nice about it.

By then we were outside of Miami and decided to take a room for the night. The next day I had a garage check out the Blazer and find out what happened. To my surprise it was just a bad battery. The battery was only a month old so I didn’t think that could be it. My thought was that perhaps the alternator was bad. Nope, turned out to be the battery after all.

We’ve been doing fine here. There’s been some interesting weather, but even when it rains it’s warm, so that’s good. There’s been a lot of small craft advisory days. Christmas day we took the boat out in Florida Bay and had a good sail.

We’ll be here for a couple more days then we are moving to a different park in the Everglades for a three nights. After that we’ve booked ten days in a marina in the Keys.

The good weather and exercise has been doing me a lot of good. Another thing, I’ve almost no idea what’s been going on in the news. That seems to have helped me state of mind some too!

-Sixbears of a nightmare. That’s partially my fault. Theoretically it’s possible to drive it in one day. However, that assumes there wouldn’t be accidents that slow traffic down to a crawl.

Just to make it more interesting, after a gas stop we pulled off in a parking lot to assess our situation. Soon after a nice Hispanic gentleman informed me I was in his space. No problem, I tried to start the car and it wouldn’t turn over. Fortunately his non-English speaking drunken friend was able to help me jump start the car. They really were actually very nice about it.

By then we were outside of Miami and decided to take a room for the night. The next day I had a garage check out the Blazer and find out what happened. To my surprise it was just a bad battery. The battery was only a month old so I didn’t think that could be it. My thought was that perhaps the alternator was bad. Nope, turned out to be the battery after all.

We’ve been doing fine here. There’s been some interesting weather, but even when it rains it’s warm, so that’s good. There’s been a lot of small craft advisory days. Christmas day we took the boat out in Florida Bay and had a good sail.

We’ll be here for a couple more days then we are moving to a different park in the Everglades for a three nights. After that we’ve booked ten days in a marina in the Keys.

The good weather and exercise has been doing me a lot of good. Another thing, I’ve almost no idea what’s been going on in the news. That seems to have helped me state of mind some too!

-Sixbears

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Let History be my Judge



. . . because then I pretty much get off Scott free.

Being judged by History is a pretty weak punishment. It doesn’t much affect the here and now, and that’s when judgment really matters.

History is a funny thing. First of all, it’s written by the winners. Sometimes there is Historical revision years later. It’s a squishy thing.

Saying that History will judge someone is just a way to make yourself feel better. It’s one step removed from saying they’ll be judged in the afterlife. That might make someone feel better, but provides little relief in the present time.

Justice is a fine concept but hard to come by for the average person. It’s been my experience that you get the justice you can afford. What kind of justice is that? We claim to be a nation of laws, but unless you can afford high priced lawyers, it’s not available.

So yeah, I’m in a bit of a mood.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Site prices



It was an interesting day. The weather was cloudy with some rain so we postponed outdoor activities. There was good wifi at the main campground office. The big downside was the constant blaring of daytime TV. That made it hard to concentrate.

We discovered one of the places we planned on staying had more than doubled their prices since were there two years ago. They were already at the top end of what we were willing to pay. Such is life down to the Florida Keys. We did figure out at least one option and we have a good lead on a second. By the time we came across the second we were too burned out to deal with people on the phone in a civilized manner. We can always call them today or tomorrow.

Some of our new friends moved to a campground less than a half hour down the road. It’s one of those little places that almost no one knows about. It’s really cheap, and there’s no full time caretaker. Payment, such as it is, is on the honor system. The place is maintained and has regular bathroom facilities. It’s along a little river with otter and manatees so might make for good kayaking.

So what do you do on a night when thunderstorms come blowing through? Laundry. It’s got to be done sooner or later and this place has both wifi and good music. They’ve upgraded many of the machines since we were here last.

I’ve been using more electric power than expected so have drawn down my solar battery. The days are short and we’ve had some cloudy weather. No problem, as I just temporarily stole one of the solar electric systems out of the boat. It was built to be easily removed for just such a contingency.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Launch Abort



Monday we’d hoped to launch the sailboat, but like so much in life, that did not go to plan. We thought we could anchor it close by and use the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak to dingy back and forth.

Unfortunately, the skeg had come loose. Without the skeg the kayak tends to go around in circles. The glue on its mountain plate failed. My lovely wife found some 5200 adhesive in the boat so I was able to glue it back. That takes time to set, so instead of launching the boat, we did some cleaning and organizing. The winter roads from NH to FL took their toll.

The campground is pretty much emptied out. All our new friends have left, but we’ll meet up with at least some of them down the road. It’s never goodbye, but see you later!

Today is supposed to be a bit ugly in the weather department. Boating will be put off until at least Wednesday. It’s a good thing we are out and about for a number of months. There’s time for things to come together.

Sixbears

Monday, December 16, 2019

Still Here



I suppose it wasn’t very nice of me to mention a big storm was coming and then to go silent for a day.

Yes, the storm did hit. There was lightning, heavy rain and high winds. The inside of the tent stayed dry so I thought we were doing fairly well. When I tried to exit the tent the vestibule had been knocked over. Both pegs that hold it open had been pulled out. All in all, not really much of a problem.

So why no blog last night? It was pretty simple, really. We had a really nice campfire going and it was a good night for watching meteors.

My lovely wife and I had big plans for the day. Instead we met some interesting people and had some fascinating conversations. One of our fellow campers will be staying at our next campground too, so that’s something to look forward to.

While I haven’t launched the boat yet, I’ve done some work on it. Everything is in disarray after bouncing down the road for all those miles. The inflatable kayak is inflated and ready so go, so we’ll at least get something on the water later today.

One of the odd things, for us northerners, about Florida is that it feels like summer to us, but still gets dark early because it’s winter.

I’m feeling better the longer I’m here. It’s all good.

-Sixbears

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Calm Before the Storm



My lovely wife and I had a rainy night in the St. Augustine Florida area. It rained heavily. Our tent held up well and we only had a bit of ground seepage. L. L. Bean makes good tents.

However, it’s going to be put the test sometime during the night and early morning. We’ve been warned that a line of thunderstorms is moving in. 60 mph winds are expected. Currently we are in a Federal campground in the Ocala.

I put down extra stakes and lines. Hopefully that’ll keep the tent on the ground. This is going to be a real test. While the sky is currently clear, the dog is worried. She feels something coming.

We were warned that cell phone connection is pretty bad here. My cell phone isn’t cutting it. However, the hotspot device puts out a stronger single. That’s how I’m able to get this blog post out.

Our plans are to stay here for a week. We stocked up on provisions before coming out to the forest. There is a store not that far away but last time we looked at some bacon that was many months out of datee. We don’t shop there for perishables.

Once the weather clears we hope to launch the sailboat on the St. John and check out Lake George.

My lovely wife and I are really starting to settle in after our stressful trip down.

-Sixbears

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Winging it . . . somewhat



Ah, the joys of on-line camping reservations. Some people plan their camping reservations a year in advance. My lovely wife and I pretty much just plan on having a landing zone when we get to the right area. From there we figure it out as we go.

On the plus side, we are open to new adventures as they present themselves. We also have the flexibility to adjust to changing conditions. For example, right now Southwest Florida is experiencing some issues with red tide. It’s a good thing we don’t have any reservations in that area. With my respiratory issues, the toxins would be very bad news indeed.

Of course, planning at the last minute has some downfalls. As soon as we check out of this campground Friday, we don’t have any place lined up for the next week. However, there are some first come, first served places within reasonable driving distance that should fill the bill. Right now there are enough openings that we should be able to get into one of them. We’ve stayed there before so know what we are getting into.

After that we are booked through the rest of the year. One of the things we are looking for is boat launches near where we will be camping. After all, we did bring our sailboat.

I would like to lock in a week at the start of the year. That’s when my lovely wife will need to do the medication refill dance. It should go better this next time. However, we need both good cell service and a nearby CVS. After that, we hope to so some extended salt water sailing for a bit. Lots of interesting places to take a small sailboat in southern Florida.

One big plus for us is having a 105 watts of solar electric power sitting on top of the Blazer. It’s powerful enough to run our small cooler style fridge and a 440 watt inverter. That takes care of our basic needs. We save a fortune by being able to stay in more basic sites.

The little compressor type fridge has been amazing. While the fridge is small, none of the interior is taken up with ice. I really really really hate using ice. It’s a constant hassle finding it and food is always in danger of getting soggy.

I’m feeling better and better the longer I’m down here in the warmer climate. Life is looking up.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Business on the road


My lovely wife has been trying to sort out her medication supply issues since before we left New Hampshire. She finally succeeded. In fact her full allotment of meds won’t be at the pharmacy in time, but he was able to issue her enough to bridge the gap. We hope this goes more smoothly the next time she needs a refill. Every year it gets more difficult to get prescriptions filled while traveling.

In other news, apparently one of the places we thought we had reservations has no record of it. Things get glitchey on-line sometimes. I’ve no idea how that disappeared. Today we plan on getting our ducks in a row as far as reservations go.

Just to make it interesting, some of the places we occasionally stay don’t take reservations. They also sometimes fill up. You need a solid plan B in place.

We’ve got a couple more days here in St. Augustine to sort things out.

-Sixbears

Monday, December 9, 2019

Still Alive



It was another long strange trip, but we made it to Florida.

We left New Hampshire about a day and a half late due to the Blazer having a broken windshield. The guy at the windshield place did right by us. He put in extra hours to get it done. Once that was in the vehicle was legal for a New Hampshire inspection sticker.

There was light snow in New Hampshire followed up by horrible Massachusetts traffic. We ended up taking a hotel off of rt. 84 in New York.

Bad weather held off, allowing us to get below the predicted storm bands with only a bit of light rain to show for it. Turns out weather was not our main problem. In southern Pennsylvania the boat trailer made a horrible noise as we pulled into a rest area. The lug nuts had loosened, distorting the rim and damaging the lugs.

Since we were in a safe place I decided not to try and move it an inch further. It took some time on the phone, but I found a 24 hour road service that said they could do the job. They pulled the hub to fix the lugs in the shop. The bearings were still good. I had a spare tire, but it was pretty worn. I had them mount the newer tire on the old rim. All in all there was a four hour delay and a three hundred dollar bill. Part of that bill will be offset with my Bloat US towing insurance covering the road service travel time.

By then I was exhausted. My lovely wife and I caught a late dinner and checked into a motel. It was all I could do to have a quick shower and stumble into bed.

Originally we’d booked three nights at a campground in S. Carolina. We lost the first two days of that right off the start of our trip. However, my lovely wife talked to the campground people and they said they kept the gate open. We decided to try and spend a night there. It was paid for and cheaper than another night in a hotel.

We went from southern Pennsylvania to S. Carolina in a day and pulled into the campground around 8:30 p. m.. We have two tents with us so we set up the small one for just one night. By morning we were back on schedule.

Sunday we pulled into our campground near St. Augustine. Monday we went into town to enjoy the massive light display the city puts on. It’s starting to feel more like a vacation.

When we left I was truly struggling with the cold causing me to cough constantly. That wore me out as much as anything. Now that I’m in a climate with warm moist air, my cough has already diminished by at least 70 percent.

While the trip down was a bit of struggle, we survived with fairly minimal issues. The Blazer ran well and even the trailer problem was solved without anyone getting hurt or being in danger.

-Sixbears

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Still trying to get out of Dodge



My lovely wife and I had expected to be ready for the road Wednesday afternoon. Welp, so much for that. The guy who’s changing my windshield had a job go bad. I called him about forty-five minutes before his shop closed and he hadn’t touched it. However, he said he’d work late to get it done. We are picking it up at seven in the morning.

I think I’d better tip the guy. He took the job even though he’s booked solid into next week. The guy’s doing me a solid so I can head to Florida.

The cold has made my cough worse. That really saps the energy out of me and the pain wears me down. Once my lungs get a steady diet of warm moist air they should soon heal up. Hopefully I haven’t done too much damage to them.

I love the North Country, but winter and I no longer get along. It’s a darn shame as I used to really enjoy winter, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice fishing and other activities.

Fortunately, I’m lucky that most years I can get away from the worse of winter. All I have to do is to keep it together for a few days of travel.

The blog might go dark for a few days as I travel south.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Paperwork day



It was a boring day of dealing with paperwork. My local post office held a month’s worth of mail for me. Most of my business was done over the Internet or the phone. However, I knew there was some stuff that would have to be attended to. For example, my new driver’s license was in the mail. I’ve learned from hard experience that the State of New Hampshire will not ship a new driver’s license out of state. Glad that’s been sorted out.

For the next five months my mail will be forwarded to one of my daughter’s. It’s going to be interesting when I collect that pile. Most of it will be duplicates of information of things like bank statements. I access them on-line while on the road. When it comes to financial information I’m more of a belt and suspenders sort of guy. It’s taken me a long time to adjust and I don’t full trust having just electronic records.

It was a good day to deal with that stuff as it snowed all day long. Today the Blazer goes into the shop for a new windshield. My lovely wife and I will make one more pass through the house to see if there’s anything we forgot. If all goes well we should hit the road on Thursday.

Brownie the Sailor Dog is staying will my oldest daughter in Massachusetts. She was pretty upset with us when we headed north without her. We are staying with one of our other daughters and her husband is allergic to dogs. We plan on picking up the dog on the way through. I suspect she’s not going to let us out of her sight for a while.

My lovely wife and I are really looking forward to leaving the snow behind.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Best laid plans



It’s a good thing that there’s a fair amount of slack in our travel schedule. The trip has already been set back a day. Our departure date has slipped from Wednesday to Thursday.

Originally the Blazer was going to get a state inspection done at my mechanic’s on Monday. There was nothing wrong with it when it had been parked. However, while parked, a tiny crack in the windshield spread completely across from one end to the other. The crack was definitely big enough to cause the Blazer to flunk the inspection. The earliest I could get that fixed is sometime Wednesday afternoon.

I kept the appointment at the garage anyway. With the exception of the windshield the Blazer would have passed. Once the windshield is replaced it they’ll slap a sticker on. Since the vehicle had barely started, it seemed like a good idea to load test the battery. It was weak so that got replaced. No sense being stuck on the highway somewhere.

The Blazer was pretty much fully loaded, so I had the mechanic adjust the headlights. With a full load and trailer on, they would have been pointing too high. That’s something a lot of people don’t think about.

Monday my lovely wife and I connected with a couple of friends. We won’t see them again for months so it’s good to have caught up. While the Internet helps us stay connected, it’s just not the same.

We are fortunate our daughter and her family have been putting us up while we sort out our preparations for the trip south. Next year they are moving to Vermont so we’ll have to do it without their support.

-Sixbears

Monday, December 2, 2019

Snow, Ice and a Boat



My son-in-law gave me a hand digging out the sailboat and Blazer. Both of them were encased in about eight inches of a frozen ice/snow mix. The town plow had also left pretty good snowbanks behind. When my lovely wife and I shut the house down at the end of October we hoped the snow would have waited. It didn’t.

Thank goodness my son-in-law has a powerful snowblower. However, even the blower wasn’t fully up to the task. A lot of the ice and snow had to broken up with shovels and pitchfork. It was one degree Fahrenheit. The Blazer wasn’t too interested in starting. I tried to open the hood, but everything was frozen solid. On a whim I tried the starter one more time and the engine cranked over. The Blazer was able to pull the boat out due to new tires and four wheel drive. Now it’s sitting in my daughter’s driveway.

After lunch I went back up to the lake. It took a few more hours to pack up the rest of the gear we need for our southern trip.

Today will be spent running around taking care of business. My mechanic will be checking out the Blazer before my lovely wife and I tow the boat south.

Right now there’s a huge snowstorm hitting New England. We are fortunate in that the storm didn’t quite make it to the northern tip of New Hampshire. We could get some light snow later in the day. With that in mind, I’m going to cover up the boat with a large tarp.

Wednesday could be our departure day, but that hinges on everything going well. I’m not going to tow a boat throw a blizzard.

-Sixbears