Monday, January 29, 2018

Found a nice hike while waiting for our slide toppers…


There has been a delay in our order of slide toppers. I was really hoping to finish them up so I could publish  part two blog about installing them but that will have to wait till I get them. Such is life.

Although it has been a bit cooler in Bonita Springs and a lot windier than in the past 3 winters we spent here,we are still finding new things to do.One of those new things was a park with hiking trails just a stones throw away from where we are staying. How this little gem of a place evaded us during our other winter stays remain a mystery. But, alas, we finally did find the Bonita Nature Place just east of Interstate 75 along the Imperial River.


We drove the short 2 miles distance over to the park and found a small parking area where we could park to walk into Nature Place. Parking is free (and believe me, there isn’t a lot of free parking around here) which was great. We parked and found a trail map .After a look at the map we decided to hike all the trails since none were very long.


No sooner we had parked I spotted a Gopher Tortoise as I exited the car. It was in the sand right beside us so of course we had to snap some photos. I am not sure but I think it may have been a female about to lay eggs as she was still perched partially in a hole just where we left her.. After taking her pictures we found that the trailhead near some buildings but beside the buildings we found a fairly nice butterfly garden. Of course again we had to stop to admire and photograph the monarchs, viceroys and yellow sulfur butterflies skitting from one orange butterfly weed to another. It was so nice to see for sure…


We passed by a bat house designed to provide shelter for the indigenous bats but what caught my eye was the pileated woodpecker beating the heck out of the back of it. They better come up with a plan or they will surely need to have to replace the bat house real soon! We also found a working bee hive and another visitor center but both were closed this day.


The trails themselves meandered through typical riparian southern Florida vegetation and there were significant amounts of trees down and stacked nearby due to Hurricane Irma.It was sad to see so much damage and erosion by the river but actually the park was in great shape with the trails mostly cleared and lots of repaired boardwalks cross low spots alongside the Imperial River. We hiked the trails all of which were probably less than two miles but what a great respite it was for us and I feel sure we will visit again when the other buildings are open on Tuesdays and Thursdays especially since it is so close to our park. I look forward to another stroll in the Nature Place…our new find in Florida! 


With news of the flu epidemic we are sure hoping all of you are well. We avoided the flu but Sharon is battling bronchitis and I caught a cold. Ugh. However we are thankful we had the flu shot as so far we have avoided the epidemic. Our grandson was not so lucky. For two days our chats were sad because he felt really, really bad. Luckily the Tamiflu combined with bed rest kicked in and he called us the 3rd day saying he felt "almost like a normal kid again". What a relief. Stay well, everybody!

NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

DIY Replacing Dometic or A&E Slide Out Awning (Part 1)…

With our RV closing in on being 11 years old it was time to replace our Slide Out Awning Covers. Two of them had started separating along the seam and while here in Bonita one of them finally tore through on a particularly windy day. After pricing replacement material and reading reviews there was one company that stood out – Tough Top Awnings.

After reading the product information I decided to buy the 15 oz. fabric.Next I needed to figure out what brand of slide toppers I currently had. I was told by Tiffin I could find a label on the covers but the type I had were covered on the outside by a metal casing. So I hit the web to search photos of slide toppers and at last determined that mine were Dometic or A&E Slide Toppers.


However, I wanted to be sure so I searched the web for how to take off the old toppers. On each end of the metal casing are two hex head screws that needed to be removed. Then I had to remove three screws from the center bracing. The center bracing actually is what holds down the casing and once the center bracing was removed I was able to twist and lift upward the casing to take it off.


With the casing off the slide topper was exposed and I finally found a label which verified I indeed had Dometic or A&E Slide Toppers. Now all I had to do was take the measurements as Tough Top Awnings instructed on their web page. Then I ordered the new fabric. Since it would be a while before I would receive the new fabric I went ahead and took off all the old fabric so I would be ready to install the new fabric when it arrives.MVIMG_20180122_122903

With the black casing removed I used a pair of vise grip pliers designed for removing oil filters I ordered from Amazon. By turning the roller tube I was able to release the tension on the old fabric. After each turn I inserted a nail or ice pick through the end of the roller tube to keep the tube in place as I released more tension. I continued doing this until I released all of the rolled up fabric and exposed the end of it.

Before I could remove the old fabric I needed to remove the screws in the ends or channel on the side of the RV which held the fabric in place so it couldn’t slide about. Then I cut the tape that was on each end which held the fabric inside the groove on the roller tube. Now the old fabric was ready to be pulled off. I slid out the old awning fabric. It did take a mighty tug to initially get it to move but once freed I was able to slide it off relatively easily.

Image may contain: outdoor, water and nature

Now all I have to do is wait for the new awing material to arrive and I can finish the write up on installing new slide topper awnings on an RV. In the meantime we have been enjoying ourselves here in Bonita Springs Florida and were particularly happy to see the Manatees come back up the Imperial River. After all of the tree damage caused by Hurricane Irma many wondered if they would be able to make it back of the river. We are glad they did and I will end this blog with a few pictures of these manatees…

NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Visiting the Alligators in Everglades National Park…


After our cruise our next outing would be to Everglades National Park, a place we often visit when we are in southern Florida.Not far from our resort is our very favorite place to visit there which is Shark Valley. We didn’t bring our bikes this time around to ride the nearly 17 miles of trail but instead opted to hike several miles into the park.


The park is always crowded this time of year and the day we chose to go was no exception. A sign outside the front of the park entrance indicated the parking lot was full. Of course we realized this well before our arrival as there were rows of cars parked all alongside route 41 outside the entrance.


We found a spot not too far from the entrance and walked to the main gate where the ranger requested to see our National Parks Pass which granted us free admission.  Another short walk and we were at the Tram Station where some chose to pay for a tram ride around the park but we decided we would rather walk this day.


Immediately after entering the trail we began seeing  American Alligators. Even though it was a bit cooler than when we normally visit this park there were still an abundance of Alligators.Each alligator had marked his spot to leisurely warm up in the sun. Unfortunately the other thing we always see among the alligators are some tourist “IDIOTS” in the park. The trail we walk takes visitors very close to a drainage area which is is frequented by these Alligators. The Alligators will often be partly on the paved trail and of course IDIOTS wanting selfies will often cozy up right next to one of them. We even saw one IDIOT touch the tail of an Alligator…. Sigh…Yet another was walking by each alligator snapping his fingers and yelling, "wake up". Sharon had enough of that and told him to cut it out. People amaze us sometimes.


We also were excited to watch many of the birds endemic to the area. We loved how close we could get to the birds without disturbing them. We spent a good deal of time watching a Tri-colored Heron spearing small fish along the water’s edge. An Anhinga nearby was gulping down a fairly large sized fish which also kept us entertained for a while.

We really enjoyed our stroll in Shark Valley and were glad to have the chance to see so much wildlife. Hopefully we will find time to return once more before we head out of Florida in March…

NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Man… We needed a vacation!!! So we took a cruise…


After nearly seven full years on the road, what did we decide we needed? A Carribean Vacation!!! We booked a cruise after finding a screaming deal offered by a discount cruise travel agency. With the ultra cheap package which included all tips, we also received a  $150 dollar onboard credit to spend on anything we wanted!. Even more amazing was a last minute swell offer to upgrade from our guaranteed inside cabin to a balcony ocean view cabin. Sweet!!!


Sunday, January 7th rolled around and we drove the approximately 2 hours from our park over to Fort Lauderdale. We secured parking at Park and Fly and were astonished when we pulled into the parking lot to see a large band of monkeys feeding on the side of the road. These “wild” monkeys reside in the wooded area adjacent to the parking lot.It sure was a cool way to start our trip.


We unloaded our bags and took the shuttle over the Holland American pier to our ship, the Holland America Eurodam. Boarding was delayed slightly but was relatively painless and before we knew it we were aboard the ship eating a nice lunch in the main dining room. The first day at sea was  pretty rough with many cruisers feeling a bit ill due to the rocking ship. I have never had an issue with sea sickness and Sharon used the prescription patches so she also suffered no ill effects.


The ship stopped at four ports; Grand Turk, Sint Martin, San Juan Puerto Rico and Half Moon Cay. We had been to San Juan and Sint Martin before but were amazed at the devastation from Hurricane Irma. We felt sad for those whose lives were disrupted by this viscous storm. However, the spirit of the people in each of the parts was strong and positive. We could definitely see progress being made one nail at a time.


We did a little snorkeling in Grand Turk seeing a few fish but at Half Moon Cay we saw some coral and many brightly colored fish. We also really enjoyed our walkabouts in the other three ports. San Juan’s Old Town appears to be well on its way to recovery even though most of the rest of the island is still suffering from the havoc created by Irma. We did our best to spread a little of our wealth around at each port to assist a little in their recovery. These ports heavily depend on tourism and it was plain to see they took extra effort to ensure the ports were ready to receive ships. At nearly every port we saw two to three other ships docked so hopefully this season will be a big boost to their economies.


It has been 7 years since we have cruised and some things have changed! There was no big sail away band or party and no more elaborate fruit or ice carvings.  However the TVs in the rooms had many more offerings of movies, news channels and ESPN.  Because of the improved TV and of course our awesome balcony, we spent a little more time in the room than we had on past cruises.  One beautiful sunny day we were fully entertained watching a Ganet bird diving into the waves for fish.  The flying fish shimmered in the sunlight while soaring out of harms way. We also enjoyed the views from the balcony at each port so it in itself was really one of the highlights of the trip!


After seven nights we returned to Fort Lauderdale Florida and disembarked without any issue. We loved our seven night hiatus from our normal RV lifestyle coming back energized to continue our repairs and modifications as planned for this long winter stay.  The trip was fun but it was nice to see our beautiful ten year old home on wheels...


NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Bringing in the New Year and Replacing a Slide Out Seal…

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling

We have been relaxing and simply enjoying our extended stay for the winter in Bonita Springs Florida. Morning coffee and breakfast is usually followed by a three mile walk around the park. Imperial Bonita Estates is still in a slow recovery stage as there are still about 20 older hurricane damaged park models yet to be removed. Of course watching the “crunching” of these units is part of the park entertainment. The process is pretty amazing.

Image may contain: people sitting, table and foodImage may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting, table, outdoor and food

With the end of the year we enjoyed a fun New Year’s Eve bash at the park. Since we happen to be here every other year (our third time here now) we have come to know a number of people we hang out with. One particular group hosts a big end of the year bash and we always attend it. This year was no different than past years as it was a fun time with some great eats as everyone brings a dish to share.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, wedding and outdoorImage may contain: one or more people

Although we didn’t quite make it to midnight we still had a blast. The New Year brought some much cooler weather down to southern Florida so many of us had to break out our blue jeans and jackets. This unseasonably cooler weather is making Sharon and I really look forward to our cruise to the Caribbean this coming Sunday.

With the cooler weather I tackled another big repair job on the RV. We had a slide out seal that started to fail on us this year. The metal teeth which hold the slide out seal to the flange on the RV began to rust causing the seal to slide off of the flange when we put the slide in and out. I  called Tiffin parts to verify I ordered the right part before tackling the job.


The worst part of this job was removing the slide topper over the slide out so I could access all of the slide seal. Removing the old seal was easy as I simply pulled on it and it came off very easily with little effort.  However placement of the new seal was a bit tougher as there was very little room to get  my fingers in between the new seal and the frame of the RV. Slowly but surely I was able to push the new seal on the flange using mostly my fingers.


I did find that using a small piece of wood cut into a wedge and twisting it would help me get the seal on in tougher spots. Also before making the turn I used a razor blade to cut the flap part of the seal so turning the corners became much simpler. This was a fairly easy do-it-yourself job that saved us several hundred dollars of installation charges even if it was a bit tedious.


We leave Sunday for a week long cruise to the south… Next time I blog won’t be until we return the following week. Until then…we hope this new year will bring many blessings to you all!

NOTE: We are now in our winter home for the next several months in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop. However, we will be on a mini-vacay for a weeklong cruise starting Jan 7th…