Saturday, January 30, 2016

Diamond Mines And Other Southern Things

We spent our weekend at The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, trying our hands at prospecting...We didn't find any diamonds but we had a great time digging around and talking with people!

The crater is the site of an ancient volcanic eruption which spewed lava and diamonds all over the place, but now it just looks like a typical farm field, plowed and maybe 30 or 40 acres.  Visitors are allowed to bring in buckets and shovels and any other non-motorized tools to search for diamonds, and they can bring home anything they find!  People find diamonds just about every day--some are huge, but most are pretty small. Still, a diamond is a diamond!

We arrived on Friday afternoon, so we took a look around the diamond field for about an hour before it closed.  Mostly, we walked around and looked at shiny spots (there are LOTS of shiny things in that soil!), and did a little digging.  It was enough time to get us inspired to do some intensive hunting!

On Saturday morning we arrived early, buckets and screens in hand.  Dale and the kids had put together some screening tools on Friday afternoon to help us with our quest.  We spent more time digging up soil from different spots around the field, and then we went to the washing tables to remove the dirt.  It was a lot of work!  Fortunately, we met a guy from Tennessee who is a regular visitor, and he gave us a lot of tips, as well as a lesson on how to properly wash the gravel.  There's a trick to it--if the gravel is sifted first, then swished around in the water in just the right way, all of the heavy bits end up on the bottom and in the center of the screen.  If you have a diamond, that's where it will be!  We all got good at the swishing around and flipping over the screens part, but alas, no diamonds.

On Sunday, we found a few really good spots that were full of the "right" kind of gravel, so we spent pretty much the whole day digging and swishing.  It was tiring, but also really fun since we were all working on the same thing, and there were terrific people near us at the washing tables.  We met a man from Arkansas who was full of diamond stories (very entertaining), and a couple on a first date, as well as a pair from Texas.  A couple people showed us actual diamonds that they had found previously, in little glass tubes.  Listening to their stories made the time fly!  We ended up finding a lot of pretty little stones, mostly jasper and quartz.  It was a fun way to spend a weekend, and we all got good and dirty and a little rosy from the sun.

The other thing I have noticed while travelling here in the south is that southerners have a real knack for great names for their roads and towns.  We have passed "Goodgoin Road," as well as "Okay Landing Road."  Some of the towns are "Delight,"  "Enjoy," "Chunky," (along with the "Chunky River") and my favorite, "Hot Coffee."  I did not make any of those up!

Next stop, Texas!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mississippi Whirlwind

Whoop, there we're almost through Mississippi already! Even going slow, I-20 is sure faster than the typical back roads.

We arrived at my uncle Galen's house yesterday afternoon, we only swiped the mailbox gently with the truck mirror as we pulled up. It was fun talking, we think it was close to 20 years ago since we visited.

Glenn and Galen resemble each other if you ask me. We had a good time talking, and we had great Mississippi shrimp gumbo for dinner too.

We camped in the cul-de-sac comfortably overnight and pulled out this morning, and we gave the mailbox another good shove with the trailer for good luck ....

Glenn you'll like this : Galen mentioned a collapse of a big local culvert, and it was on the way past. A parking lot next to an IHOP fell in, and took about 15 cars down. We didn't fall in, but we made several IHOP employees nervous turning the trailer around next to their cars, having already had recent car trouble. The kids though it was neat, and I heard some genuine excitement looking at it.

And then we finished off our Mississippi tour with a typical lunch stop (and tentative propane fill) at Tractor Supply. PB & J, pickles, etc.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Living in a Trailer, Down by the River...

We're staying in a Florida Water Management Area, on the Escambia River for a few nights.  There's a couple of free, primitive sites that you can use for free, as long as you reserve them online.

It's pretty quiet around here, we haven't seen too many people.  There's an Airstream Club and some houses up the road from here, but not too many people come down here.  There is another family camping here though -- there's five of them in a really cool converted shuttle bus.  They're also from Michigan, and they're on the road for a few months.

We haven't seen any big animals around here, but the mosquitoes are pretty vicious!  Some of the signs around here mention hunting wild hogs and bobcats though!

We took a walk up the road a ways, and picked up some trash and cans -- there are a bunch around here!

There's not much around here, just a boat ramp, the campsites...  and a pot of gold!

We've got the solar panels turned on, but they haven't been putting out much -- we're kinda in the shade, and it's pretty cloudy.  We're heading out tomorrow though, so we should be fine.

We're pretty sure it's our 150th day living out of the RV, so we made cookies!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Grayton Beach state park

Yesterday we left St Joseph's Peninsula state park and went a little farther west to Grayton.

The campsite here is great, the back looks out over a small lake and the dunes. Paddling would be great from here. We could not have picked a better one, it was recommended after someone cancelled. Site 10 if you can get it.

Just a mile back east on the beach is Seaside, where the Truman Show movie was filmed. Can you tell? We rode our bikes into town and looked around, and planned where to go next.

We rode our bikes back on the beach. Today the wind has died back down, and it is a little warmer.

Not a bad sunset tonight either.....

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Ocean is Angry Indeed.

As some Floridians may have heard, we had a horrible storm last night, (1/21/16) with up to 60 mph wind gusts. We learned this morning from some other campers that we had a tornado warning last night, and that pretty much sums it up. Lots of rain, wind, sea spray and flying sand. This morning one of the first things I did was go over to the beach, look around an run home for a camera. Now remember this is the Gulf of Mexico, and they don't get waves. These were averaging 6-9 feet. with a maximum of 13 feet. And one last thing, there isn't foam, and they don't get red flags.
 The Red Flag, with ocean in the background.
 The ocean, again.
 Pile of sea foam, about six inches to a foot thick.
 The beach.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Captain, we can nay get out the hedge, we must repair the Transporter!

Scotty has been looking in the rear view mirror for several thousand miles, fretting as the front corners of the camper sag and bounce down over the frame.  And running out of magic sheetrock screws and baling wire with which to hold the corner trim and siding onto the moldering wood frame.

Well, maybe it's not all that dramatic. 
         This is from our second trip with the camper, last winter, and it is starting to sink down.  At this point it didn't seem too serious, and I wasn't watching that closely in the mirror.  It got a little worse during the summer trip, and the corner trim kept coming loose at the bottom.

Now, close to 10,000 miles later, it's down more in the front.  Or really, the frame is coming up at the front.
The main frame rails are about 15 inches in from the outer wall, with ears on the frame sticking out to support the walls.   The old caulk along the corner trim was hard and inelastic, allowing some water to get in to the wood, and down to the base of the corner.

Laying on the frame are:  plastic tarp 'weather proof' sheet, 2x2 lumber and 3/4 plywood decking, then the 2x2 frame walls.   The 2x2 floor and plywood decking were rotted just in the first foot or two, a little more so on the left side where the water pump is located.

Note the divot on the front kneewall hitting the front of the frame, and notching out the siding.   The front kneewall does not sit on the floor or carry any weight, it more hangs between the side walls.  So the notch shows how much the corners are bouncing down over the frame, as much as 2 inches.

Elliot scraping off the old corner trim caulk.
Fixing it was not too difficult between Christmas and New Year's.  We did suffer in this miserable 70 degree Florida weather though.

Some will say that traditional construction el-cheapo wood framed with aluminum siding camper construction is not classy or solid enough.  But being able to fix it easily is a great feature, even if we can't get into one of those high dollar campgrounds that require a late model class A's.  There we go, we're riff-raff, keep us out!

Remove the corner trim strips.  Remove the front lower section of siding on each side, cutting it inconspicuously below a door or hatch.  Remove the lowest front section, and roll up the next higher front section too.

We supported the frame on blocks a little further back from the front of the trailer, where the next frame ear sticks out.  Once supported there, releasing the tongue jack and front leveling jacks,  the front of the frame dropped back down to it's original location relative to the wooden camper body.

Remove the rotted wood framing back to solid wood.  Weave and stich in new framing.

Inboard of the outer floor frame 2x2, I inserted a 7 foot long 2x2 all the way back to the next frame ear, sistered to the original with big screws.  Now this wood frame construction does have one limitation;  the half dozen 2x2's and some 1x2's did set me back a substantial almost 15 bucks.

The finishing washers are worth using with the deck screws to avoid splitting, and I did get to use those nice 4 inch roofing screws from home. (Thanks Dad).

 Where the floor deck plywood was gone, I used 1x2 pieces slid in between the new 2x2 floor frame and the wall framing. 

A 5/16" bolt from the bottom and a tee nut in the frame, similar to the original carriage bolt at each ear on the frame, holding the floor to the frame.

Just about ready for insulation and closing back up.
The paneling in the corners is not so good structurally, but the inner plasticized layer is fine cosmetically,  so I insulated the corners with spray foam to support it, and make it nicely airtight.  There is fiberglass insulation between the black plastic sheet and the plywood floor,  but it is out of place or deteriorated, so I filled that with foam also.   When filling under the floor, I wedged a board under the plastic to keep it from bulging as the foam expanded.

Put back the fiberglass insulation, close up the siding, re-install and caulk the corner J-strip trim.

And here's the finished product.   Don't go zooming in too close, this is an arms length job.  But it looks reasonably clean and straight. 
hey, where did the battery go?  that's another story.....
Now there is no bouncing and sagging in the rear view mirror, and we'll see how she holds up. 

Full-time RVing with Cats

In the RV, there's four of us people, and then we brought our two cats!  It's definitely a different experience than RVing without animals, but it's nice to have animals along.

While we're driving, we load the cats into the front, where we have their carriers stacked up between Alice and I.  (Naturally, “Pudgycat” goes on the bottom.) 
Hello, I'm Tiny Cat (Tuxedo), I'm ready to go, and I don't like it!

 For the first few days of our test trip out West, we had the carriers strapped down on the bathtub, in the back of the RV.  The second day in, it was pretty hot, and we did a super long day in the car.  When we got there, neither of the cats looked good, so we reconsidered, and keeping them in the front has been a pretty great solution for everyone.  So, don't try that.  Keep the pets where you would like to ride.

For water and food, we have their litterbox in the bathtub/shower, and their food and water is in the bathroom too.  It's really great having a fan and a vent back there, I dunno what we'd do without it.
Keep it real kids, this is where we go!    (Those PBRs are good, and the bag is the windsurfer bag)
We found after a while that the cheaper nonclumping little works best, we had always used clumping before.  The solids can be scooped out and put down the toilet, without really getting any clay with it.  And then do a total changeout when the wet is significant, which goes straight to the bottom anyway.  Try it both ways, and see what you like...

Actually,  take that back, just go with the cheapest nonclumping nonscented you can get.   The biggest reason we switched was that the cats do not track it around the camper at all.   The non clumping has larger pebbles of clay, not the finer almost sandgrain size particles with used to tracked out of the litterbox all the time.

One thing that's kinda a challenge about having (old) cats is that they throw up.  In a small space like the RV, that's just a pain, especially when someone pukes on a bed right before it's time for bed (or while someone's sleeping on that bed!) One thing that has worked for containment is covering up the beds/couch.  We have semi waterproof fabric picnic table covers that we stick on my bed and the couch.  (It also doubles as a curtain for my bed.). For the parent's bed, we use a 'neet sheet' picnic blanket that we've had for a while.

So yeah, it is nice having the cats in the RV.  There are some challenges, but they're a great source of entertainment, and it's fun just having them around.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Out of the Hedge!

We're back on the road!  My dad and I got up earlyish and rode our bikes over to a little mountain bike setup in a public park a little ways away.  It was a little chilly, but it was pretty fun anyway.When we got back there was this pretty crazy spider in the house!Then we pulled the trailer out of the hedge, and hit the road again!We stopped at Skycraft (hardware store on steroids!) on our way out, and got a bunch of stuff -- you can find anything at Skycraft -- lug butt shrink, mom on/off switches...*

We only got on the road sometime after noon, and our Skycraft stop took a while, so we ended up getting to our campground in the dark.  A boondocker host mentioned Cedar Key to us a while back, so we thought we'd stop by.  It's a tiny island on the west coast, and we're staying a few miles outside.  We tooled around the island a bit, then came over to a nice little county campground.  It's really pretty around here, the sunset was really awesome, I'm excited to explore around a bit.  It's great to be back on the road -- except, of course, for the lack of internet...☺

*The switches don't work though, we tried them