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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and....

Another two and a half weeks have passed. It seems as if you get up in the morning, and *poof* the day is gone!

The Good

We had an enjoyable week with Al's cousins Bill and Denise. After our family reunion in Disney, they come up to Homosassa and stay for a week at Chassa Oaks RV Resort. Its a very small, quiet campground only ten minutes from our house. The lots there are owned by individual people, and recent changes in the company's business have now made it necessary to book through the individual owners. Most, if not all, owners are looking to rent for a month as the shortest time period, and preferably for the whole season it seems like. So we're not sure they will make it here next winter for a week, but something may pop up. We had several dinners together, including the entire Florida family branch getting together at the China Buffet in Brooksville, Al fixing his extraordinary grilled lamb chop dinner, and Denise "borrowed" our kitchen to fix us a spaghetti and meatball dinner. We played a card game, Phase 10, that ended up taking two sessions to finish. It was a fun time, and they departed for their home in Bluffton South Carolina on the 13th. Al's sister Sue left for Melissa TX on the 15th, and our guest room is free for a couple of weeks :-).

Feb. 16 we got together with RV friends Pat and Diana Brown, and Bonnie and Richard Waltman, and went kayaking on the Rainbow River in Dunnellon. We've been on the river before, when we've stayed at Rainbow Springs State Park's campground. I thought we'd be able to launch from the campground, but was told by the ranger that this launch site was strictly for use of campground guests. She gave us a map to the public launch at KP Hole County Park on the other side of the river, and headed over there.

Bonnie and Richard had never kayak'ed before, and did not have a vessel. Since we have the hard side kayaks here in Florida and had planned on using them, I offered the use of our tandem SeaEagle to them. Richard was a bit apprehensive about using an inflatable kayak in waters where there may be alligators, but we assured him, if an alligator really wanted you it wouldn't matter what kind of watercraft he had LOL. So they put on their game faces, and off we went.

Bonnie and Richard getting instructions and a "shove off" from Al.

Looking good!

The day was partly cloudy, so we didn't get much of the shimmering clarity the water has here. Our plan was to paddle up the river to the headsprings, then easily float back down to the launch spot. It was getting pretty windy, however, so they did really good as the wind was pushing us around quite a bit.

The cloudy, cooler weather kept a few people away, I think, as it wasn't really too crowded on the river. 

It wasn't quite an "easy" float back down river, but we all made it with some healthy paddling at times. It was an enjoyable afternoon, and we made plans for the six of us to get together and have pizza the following Saturday night at Michael Anthony's in Homosassa Springs. We had a lot of talk about the upcoming summer plans ( Pat and Diana are headed to Alaska, and Bonnie and Richard are headed up to Michigan, then out west to Colorado and ending up at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival). and I do believe the staff at Michael Anthony's will remember us the next time we go back :-). It was really fun, folks and we'll see you all down the road!!

Wednesday the 18th we had late lunch plans with our Amazon pals Larry and Sue Hatton. We were to meet them at the China Buffet for a late lunch after Sue's doctor appointment. It was one of our rare (for this winter) beautiful sunny days, so in the morning we took a ride over to Fort Cooper State Park for a little walking with the dogs and find a couple of geocaches. 

There's s little over 5 miles of walking trails, divided among three trails. We walked on two of them, for about four miles total. 

I thought people would enjoy seeing the familiar view of the back of Al and the dogs as they hike down a trail! Fort Cooper was a very nice park, well groomed trails, easily followed, and not too many people walking them. We did see a very quiet wedding taking place, down on the shores of the lake. Looked like the bride and groom, their dog, someone's mom and the minister. Was all over in 10 minutes!

After dropping the dogs back home, we headed down to meet Larry and Sue. All in all, it was a short lunch for us; we only spent three hours there! They are great fun to talk to, and we always have a good time when we get together. They'll be heading up to Michigan the end of March to work their camphost job again. Hopefully, we'll meet at Amazon again :-)

Friday the 20th was a highlight of the winter. While back in Kentucky, we had been talking with our friends Kenny and Jodi (who were visiting our area just after Christmas) and Jodi wanted to swim with the manatees while here. We had a tour booked with Nature Coast Manatee Tours for the end of December, but Rose (one of the owners) called to ask if we would like to rebook as there weren't any manatees in the springs at that time. We had found them through a Groupon ad, and when they told us we could still use the Groupon voucher later in the winter, we rebooked the tour for February. Jody and Kenny were down in Tampa at the time, and Kenny was involved with the RV Inspectors course and unable to come. But Jodi came up and joined us, and we had a great time.

It was really cold, highs only in the 50's after a wicked cold front came through earlier in the week, dropping night time temperatures into the twenties on night. This actually worked to our advantage, though, in that we were pretty much the only people out on the water, except for a couple of kayakers, and no other swimmers at all!

Jody with a manatee. I neglected to get any pictures of our boat, but it was actually a houseboat, with a heated cabin. I was very happy we had booked this tour, rather than a tour on an open pontoon boat! 

Myself, Al and Jody hovering on the top, waiting to be approached by the manatees. We were given strict instruction by Rose and Jake about the interaction with the manatees. No harassing, chasing, poking, prodding, grabbing, riding, standing on of the manatees. If they elect to approach you, you should be still, and put out just one hand in front of you. It's the manatee's choice if they wish to come close enough for you to touch. 

This one came right up to Jodi, and then cruised along, allowing her to stroke him right down his side.

I had someone ask me about this when I posted it to Facebook, that the FWS regulations do not permit this. I talked to the Ranger in charge of the Manatee Watch volunteers at the Homosassa Wildlife Park, asking about the regulations. ( While we were there swimming we were being kept under close watch by the volunteers; as soon as we went in the water they came over in their kayaks to monitor the situation and make sure we were acting responsibly). She said they walk a fine line here in Citrus County. The letter of the law is just that, no harassing of the manatees. However, here, where the manatees are such a huge draw for visitors, and where they congregate in such large groups in the winter, they strictly monitor the activities of the tour groups and individuals, but feel as long as it is manatee-initiated contact, gentle touching is not a harassment, with one, out-stretched hand. It is felt that roping off the areas, not allowing any contact, denying the boat tours access, would eventually dry up interest in the manatees and the support they receive from the public for their conservation. The tour operators have strict rules they must adhere to, and are held liable for any infractions their guests may commit. So that's the story I got, from a Ranger. 

Al, face to face with a manatee.

That's me, with TWO noodles to help me float :-). I'm not a good swimmer, and needed the reassurance I wasn't going to sink, although honestly, we could stand on the bottom almost anywhere in the area. 

We had a great time, and would definitely recommend Nature Coast Manatee Tours for anyone looking for this great experience. 

The Bad

I'm starting to call the first three months of the year our "maintenance" period. Everything has appointments: car, truck, fifth wheel, dogs and us! 

Truck: Its been five thousand miles since the new engine was put in, and it was time for it to go in and be checked over, and the oil changed. Everything is fine with that, thank goodness! We were pretty sure we needed new front tires, which we did, but the surprise was when they removed the tires and checked the brakes, we also needed new front brakes! Brakes do come in handy, :-), so on they went. 

Car: time for an oil change in the TB as well. we try to be very meticulous with the oil changes, as it is a 2007 and has over 110,000 miles on her now. On the road she usually goes to Jiffylube or a Chevy dealer if there's one in the area, and always to Crystal Chevrolet while here in Florida. There was a recall about a door mechanism to be done, and they also found something with the differential seals that needed to be done, and replaced all the spark plugs. We like the flexibility having a car gives us, so fix 'er up!

Dogs: both Casey and Honey passed their annual exams with flying colors, except for Casey having a slight ear infection which is easy to fix up for him. However, on our walk yesterday morning, Honey decided it would be a wonderful thing to start chowing down on a pile of guts she found on the side of the road. I know, Eeewww!! She started acting poorly by lunchtime, not eating her breakfast, panting and restless, so rather than take any chances with anything, off to the vet I went with her. We had a slightly scary moment when initial x-rays looked as if her stomach was starting to flip ("bloat") but after monitoring and subsequent x-rays (and confirmation from a radiologist specialist) it was probably gas distending her stomach and she's much better now. She is on a bland diet, nausea meds and antibiotics (in case there was any nasty bacteria on the guts) but she's much perkier today. I told her in no uncertain terms: no more guts!
We also have an elderly cat. He doesn't travel with us, but is retired in Florida with his aunties. Sadly, at age 18, he is in kidney failure. We have been trying some treatments, but I think his time with us is limited and that is making us very sad. We adore our animals, and making the decision to let them go is always SO difficult. 

Us: finally, our colds/upper respiratory infections are on the downswing. After four weeks, we are so happy to not be feeling tired and aching from coughing. Al's initial visit to the cardiologist shows everything fine there. We've both had our annual physicals and are just waiting for the bloodwork to come back. I have a mammogram to do, dentist to still see (Al is done with the dentist) and we both have eye exams coming up next month. Al does have an upcoming procedure to be done, removing a pre-cancerous mole on his back, which is annoyingly scheduled during a visit from a good friend of ours back in NY. They love playing golf together, and at least the procedure is scheduled towards the end of his visit. It just seems as if the older we get, the more doctors there are to go see...I don't like it!

Lastly, the fifth wheel. I hate to write about this, but it is always good to put out there the problems just so everyone knows your "road life" isn't all sunshine and roses. Thank goodness, before some of you think the worst (Sherry :-)), the trailer is fine, just small irritating problems everyone has. My issue now lies with dealers and service. My rig was at Lazydays for 18 days in January. Warranty work was not finished, so after our Disney reunion we had to take it back, on Feb. 9. It's still there.  But its not even the warranty work and delay that has me most irritated. I can understand it takes time to get approvals and then get things shipped from the manufacturer. So be it. What was annoying is that we had emails back and forth with Grand Design about some of the issues and it was like they were completely ignored by the warranty department at Lazydays, and they started from scratch. At this point we wish we had told GD that were weren't taking it in for service and to ship the stuff to us directly!

What really has me upset and feeling like an idiot is that I fell for their "service package" deal hook line and sinker. We had already decided to have them check over the rig, propane system etc. Wanted them to check the brakes and see if they needed adjusting. Then I had read that some units were having problems with leaking seals and gaskets so I figured we would have them check the axles, wheels, bearings, etc. And then we fell for why not take the entire service package and they'll check and reseal the roof. Its a lot of money, but we were thinking if there's not a record of maintenance, we could have issues with the extended warranty down the road. Now I'm just feeling like a goof. When we picked it up to take to Disney, it was right at closing, the weather was drizzly, and we were kind of rushed to get it done, hitched and back on the road. The next two days as we were packing it up to go to Disney, Al was finding things that should have been done, NOT done. Simple things. Like they said they couldn't find a problem with the light fixtures. Well as soon as we turned them on, there's FIVE lights completely out. Did they turn on the light switch?? He was doing something with the water heater, and found the anode hadn't been checked, or if it had, they hadn't put new teflon tape on it. The battery got low after one day in the storage lot, and he took the battery out to bring home and put on the charger. He looked in the wells and found very low water in them...wouldn't you think the "battery service" would involve refilling the water wells? So now we feel like, did they do the big things in the service that should have been done? Of course, you tell all this to your "service representative" and he apologizes, but I don't want apologies, I want the work I paid for done right.  Its very frustrating, and we will not be taking it back to Lazydays unless its the only alternative for warranty work. He's started watching "how-to" videos from the RV Doctor, and researching how to do maintenance items himself.

So my big question for you all out there, and I really want to know: what maintenance do you do yourself? What do you feel needs to be done by a dealer? Where have you had good service? How often do you do things? Inquiring minds wish to know!

I think that's enough for now. Hopefully, my next post will show the trailer is back, everyone healthy, and more fun stuff going on. And thanks for all comments about the maintenance, it will be appreciated. 

7 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear that you are having issues with the service you paid for from your RV dealer. Although it's not uncommon!! It seems that the bigger the RV dealer the worse the service they provide to their customers. Bigger is not always better.

    I like to do as much maintenance myself as possible. Anything that I am comfortable handling I do it. There are many things the RV owner can do themselves better and save money. I do things like cleaning the roof, caulking seams, flushing the water heater and minor plumbing and electrical issues. Each manufacturer has an owners club/forum and I find Heartland's to be a wealth of information on how to do things. It is one of the first places I go to learn about and get ideas about how to repair my rig.

    But for maintenance and repair issues I do not feel comfortable doing, I like to use a small family owned RV repair facility. In my experience, a small/family owned repair facility is much more customer focused and completes repairs more quickly. I have things like annual packing of wheel bearings and major system repairs (ex. frig, furnace, etc) done by a small repair shop I like. Although I even replaced the control board on my furnace this past fall after a phone consultation with the repair shop back home.

    For me, the bottom line is do what you can and what you don't feel comfortable with find a small reliable repair shop you can trust for the rest.

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  2. Every time we have an RV dealership do something, we leave feeling robbed. How Much??? But you said….
    We try to diy nowadays.
    Love those manatee photos…
    mark

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  3. Well, good to hear from you two and glad you manage some fun around the appointments!!! We are sitting at Lazydays as I type. We come here mainly because it is possible to stay in our rig while we get it worked on. But we are taking our rig to Gaffney in SC to have regular maintenance done. At Lazydays everything seems to take longer than it should, but we have been happy with the results. So we probably will continue to come to Lazydays for any future warranty work. We do think that rigs that have owners present don't get forgotten;o( Sorry your haven't gotten things done!!! Hope it get resolves soon.

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  4. You two have been busy, busy. Love the manatee swim and appreciate the information on how people are monitored.. Glad this rig is working ou better. David too does anything he feels comfortable doing which is a lot especially with phone advice from Winnebago. We will have to go to Lazy Days and they are too big. We try only to have them do one thing at a time and we stay with the coach.

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  5. Good to hear from you! Love the Florida pictures. Regarding mtce: fortunately, Bill is very handy and does most mtce himself. However, we do take the 5th wheel in annually to have the bearings repacked and the brakes checked/adjusted. We use our selling dealer, LaMesa, in Tucson and have been very pleased. Being on the road for 10+ years, we've also dealt with dealers/service depts we were not happy with. Hang in there...

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  6. well, you guys know that I do a lot of my own maintenance, thank goodness for the Internet because that is where I get a lot of my "how to" information. One thing I wouldn't recommend is working on the electrical system if you're not comfortable. I tried it and it wasn't pretty LOL http://workinrvers.blogspot.com/2014/04/where-not-to-stick-your-finger.html

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  7. I do as much of the maintenance as I can…and for the rest use a small family owned repair guy here in Fort Myers. The only time we needed service on the road I asked the campground for a recommendation in Jasper BC and they pointed me to a good local mechanic who quickly and easily fixed our problem.

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