Saturday, November 17, 2018

St Augustine, Ormand Beach, Daytona and Wrapping Up Our Stay in Flagler Beach FL…

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We had a few cloudy days while in Flagler Beach but of course the temperatures were mostly warm so we made several more treks to the beach to pick up a bit of trash while strolling to check out shells and birds. We are beginning to see some of the migrant birds heading south as several flocks of ducks and sandhills have been spotted.

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We slipped off to revisit St. Augustine just before we had to leave the area.  St. Augustine is really a nice city to walk around in with all of its history and shops. It is also the” oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States” founded in 1565. With such sights as the Castillo de San Marcos (the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States), the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine, the architecture of Flagler College and interesting smaller unknown buildings such as the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse it is truly a great day trip.

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Just south of St. Augustine is another place we wanted to revisit which was Fort Matanzas National Monument. Amazing this place still provides a free ferry ride from the visitor’s center over to the fort. All that is needied is a quick check in at the visitor's center where a ranger provides tickets for the ferry. It is a short ride over but the reward is Fort Matanzas, a fort built to guard St. Augustine’s southern river approach during the colonial wars. Pretty cool to be able to explore a fort that was originalyl built in 1742.

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During the Spanish occupation of the fort there was a slaughter of French troops on the beach by the fort and apparently Mantanzas is Spanish for slaughter. Anyway the origional cannons have been refurbished and the interior had several windows offering great views of the channel.  The real treat was navigating up a narrow ladder to the rooftop area which offered panoramic views all the way to the ocean. Really a fun tour.

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We also made a few forays out to explore other sites in nearby towns such as Ormand Beach and Daytona. We visited the Casements and Rockefeller Gardens in Ormand Beach which was the wealthy family's former summer retreat which they donated to the city of Ormand Beach who turned it into a great park.  We also played a little disc golf, hiked a few trails and checked out Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and its very interesting buildings.

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We also had to go by the huge Daytona International Speedway which interestingly enough happened to be hosting a large RV show.  We did not attend the show and opted instead to visit Rock Bottom Brewery across the street for some cold beer.  Rock Bottom is always a fun stop and we first discovered them in San Diego.  We like the app they have which offers specials and perks so we look for them in every big city we visit.

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We have really enjoyed our stay so close to the beach to be able to enjoy the fabulous sunrises and the easy access to the beach. Nearly every evening was spent at a fantastic happy hour at the Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill sitting on the upstairs patio watching the surf… Life is good….

NOTE: We are now at Wickham Park outside of Melbourne, Florida…

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What Was That Loud Noise????

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The morning came at Flagler Beach with yet another great  sunrise but it was time to cross the street and move on over to our riverside campground site at Gamble Rogers State Park for four more nights. This morning I was also able to find another site someone had cancelled so we will move to it after our stay at our current site. Score…

That’s where the good luck ended… No sooner had we had stored everything away, fired up the engine and moved over to our new site we heard a loud “CLUNK” as we were lowering our levelers. We couldn’t figure out what it was at first but once I crawled under the RV for a further inspection it became quite clear where the loud noise had come from.

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At first I was looking for a possible broken weld that might had separated under the duress of leveling the rig. But after looking at welds all over the rig I noticed some fresh black paint appeared to have recently flacked off. It was right at the top of the passenger side Atwood Leveler.

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Upon further inspection the level leg was freely going up and down inside the part attached to the chassis of the RV. Something had clearly broken off inside the Atwood Leveler. After pursuing possible causes on the web many people who had problems with the Atwood Leveling Jacks had discovered a broken shear pin inside the motor and most of the remaining group had ended up having to replace the motor. Either way this was not going to be good…

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Then I had a eureka moment when I found one person who had mentioned that a gear had broken between the motor and the leg severing any connection to it allowing to be easily lifted up and down by hand. So I called the maker of the leveler only to discover that any replacement would have to be custom built and would take 3 weeks after I ordered it. Sigh…

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So on a lark I sent Tiffin an email asking what they might think my issue is. One of their techs called me from Tiffin and basically verified my dilemma stating that it required a new leveler. However, he said he thought they still had some in stock!!! After speaking with parts it turned out they had one and would be able to ship it to us in three days which was much better than three weeks! (You can see the broken part in the above left photo and the right photo attached to it)

IMG_20181108_132004So I ordered the part and then crawled back under the RV to remove the old leveler to get ready for the new one. There were just four bolts holding the leveler to the chassis. There was also one plug I unplugged that provides power to the leveler. I borrowed a 1/2 inch breaker bar to remove the bolts and after turning the first one it broke the head off cleanly – CRAP…

After reading the internet again about how to remove a broken bolt one idea resonated with me and I tried it out. It required me to use a punch from my punch set to place it on the broken stub and use a hammer to hit it in the direction it needed to turn to unscrew it. After 5 or ten hard taps the bolt began to turn and I was able to remove it. With three more bolts to take out I was hoping none of the others would break off. Lucky for me they didn’t so taking the old leveler out was fairly easy.

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The only tip I can relay is that I used wood planks to place directly under the bottom of the leveler so when I took off the last bolt it wouldn’t fall down as the wood would support it. It weighs about 37 pounds so it could cause injury if left to free fall.

The new jack came in three days later after we had already moved to our new site. I unpackaged the new leveler and put the leg on by first supporting it and then getting one of the bolts in by hand. Once one bolt was in the other three were pretty easy to get on (including the new one I bought at Ace Hardware). I tightened them all down and plugged back in the electrical plug and was relieved it all went smoothly.

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One thing I failed to mention is once we had the one leveler off and had to move it made quite a lot of noise. The alarms from the leveler controller are loud and can’t be easily turned off plus anytime it was put it in drive or by hitting the brakes the leveler motor would force a full retract and make a loud rattling noise. Not fun. Anyhow with the new leveler in I had to reset the alarm by turning it on then off and then hit AUTO to extract the levelers. SUCCESS! Of course I ran the levelers up and down a few times to ensure all was well.

We are glad I was able to get this part and repair the rig before moving on down the road… RV life is not always adventurous but it certainly is always an adventure.

NOTE: We are now outside of Melbourne Florida at Wickham Park.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Enjoying the Beach at Gamble Rogers State Park in Florida…

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We left the Golden Isles of Georgia and made our way into Florida. Normally we stop for a stay at Hannah Park in Jacksonville Florida to visit the Mayo for our checkups but we both have had everything done this year (except our flu shots which we need to get ASAP) so we drove on through Jacksonville and a short while later pulled into our oceanfront site at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach Florida.

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This is one of our favorite places to camp along the east coast of Florida because of the laid back attitude. There never seems to be any hustle or bustle and everyone always seems to be happy whether they are tourists on vacation, travelers like us or locals who have relocated from colder climates. While we have only four nights booked I will be watching closely for cancellations to extend our stay.

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Being situated waterfront means easily spending some quality beach time and there is a great 1/2 mile stretch of beach within the state park. Before long our beach routine set in involving our daily walks along the beach slowly walking along looking at shells and the birds. Some days while walking in one direction we will pick up plastic trash pieces on the beach and at a boardwalk about 1/2 mile up the beach we will deposit our beach trash then turn around and slowly walk back this time focusing on shells rather than trash.

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If each person who strolled the beach would do this I am pretty sure we wouldn’t be picking up much trash at all. I would encourage all to pitch in if you aren’t already!  It is a good feeling ridding the beach of the seemingly endless water bottle lids, straws and other plastics which are not only an eyesore but are not good for the wildlife.

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On a lighter note, the east coast beaches are also a great place to view sunrises for those of us that are early risers. Of course that means I see them alone because Sharon has never been an early riser as she is the night owl in the family. I have been greeted most mornings to some truly spectacular sunrises which has been a real treat .

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There is also a small nature trail inside the park meandering through what is often described as Old Florida because it is jungle-like with palm trees, red bay and wild coffee growing all along the trail. Ferns abound and we even spotted a small gopher turtle munching on grass along the trailside. Sharon also spotted a black racer snake but it was moving pretty fast so no picture of it this time around. Also on the trail is a humorous totem made from an old dead palm tree that was put in the ground upside down to where it looks as though the totem has a head full of hair… too funny!

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With three days of our stay zipping by we actually were lucky enough to score a riverside camp site in the state park for an additional four nights… perfect.

NOTE: We are now in Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach Florida…

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Golden Isles of the Georgia Coast…

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Leaving Savannah, we moved further south and pulled into a Georgia Visitor’s center for lunch. Upon walking into the lobby we were surprised to find Forrest Gump sitting on his park bench. How could we not seize the opportunity to take a candid photo with the man who said “life is like a box of chocolates.”  After lunch we moved on down the road and pulled into our next location, Golden Isles Vacation Park. which is yet another of our favorite Passport America parks not for its scenery but for its location.

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From Brunswick, Georgia it is only a short 15 minute drive to scenic Jekyll Island. We have always enjoyed visiting Jekyll Island which is located off the coast of Georgia. It is one of the Golden Isles in the Georgia barrier islands. The island is owned by the State of Georgia and run by a self-sustaining, self-governing body who charges $6 to enter the park but once inside all parking is free.

I always wondered why this area was called the “Golden Isles” but can’t find a great answer. The tourism web site says: “One needs only to witness a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean or bask in the beauty of the sun setting westward beyond the mainland to know the namesake of this stretch of Georgia's coast.”

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Another theory says that the area was known as a place of many riches drawing people hoping to make their fortune.. But the one I like the most is that the color gold prevails here. There is gold in the hues of the beaches, in the color of the setting sun and in the marsh grasses in winter time. We also love the glittering gold flecks often seen in the beach sand as the surf retreats.

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Unfortunately the area was devastated by a hurricane last year and we visited shortly after its destruction.. The dead artistically arranged trees along the beach on Jekyll Island were used often as backdrops to many a wedding venue. Last year when we came it was sad to see that many of those beautiful trees we photographed in the past were toppled and destroyed leaving only a few behind.

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This year a lot of rip-rap or rock on the beach has been placed to deter erosion and promote sand deposits to replenish the beach. There are still a few scenic spots that maybe could be used for a wedding but I am sure this area took quite a huge economic hit when the trees fell. As sad as it is, it is nature’s calling and there will be better days ahead for this otherwise scenic area.

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We also drove over to scenic St .Simons Island as it is another place we like to visit along this coast. The iconic lighthouse and “wedding venue” grounds in the town historic area are fun to walk around. The architecture, gardens and Spanish moss draped live oaks lining the sidewalks are always pleasant to walk around.

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In the evening the sunsets have been spectacular and we could often be found at another or our favorite little taverns, Tipsy McSways, for happy hour in Brunswick Georgia before we called our day complete…

NOTE: We are now in Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach Florida…