Monday, July 30, 2012

Sun of a Beach


We’re still up here in Pensacola, enjoying the sun, the beach, and more. A few days ago we took a ride on the Ferris wheel at Pensacola Beach. When I say “we”, I mean Helen, Keaton, and Kyle. I DO NOT DO HIGH!!!


And, this Ferris wheel is 200 feet high.


There are 42 cars and each one is air conditioned, seating six to eight people. I’m only guessing because I wasn’t in one.


That’s me in the Jeep, far enough off the ground.


Pensacola Beach from the air.


This shot makes me dizzy.

They got 5 revolutions of the wheel and it certainly seemed that they were safe and secure, glass enclosed and air conditioned. They all claimed to enjoy it.


In the afternoon we visited Fort Pickens, which was actively used to defend Pensacola Bay from the enemy. The cannons evolved with the times, from huge, smooth-bore cast iron cannons to rifle barreled modern artillery of sophisticated steel using modern gun powder and capable of reaching out 17 miles with accuracy. Oddly, the only time the Fort was actually under siege was during the Civil War when the North controlled the fort and kept supplies from getting to the rebels. The Army engineer who worked on building parts of the fort switched to the Confederacy during the war. Born in Massachusetts, he became a slave and plantation owner and actually led a force against the fort. His effort failed and the US Army controlled all the forts along the gulf coast.


We found and easy way to control the boys, but the Park Rangers made us let them out.


Checking out one of the older guns.

The next day, Helen got her day at the beach. Kyle and Keaton seemed to enjoy themselves as much as they tried not to.


Kyle waiting for the perfect wave.


Setting up the beach site.


AAAHHHHH, the water is SOOOO good.


If your timing is off, you’ll get swallowed by the wave.

After the beach, we went back to the campground for showers and a change of clothes. Then we went to “Peg Leg Pete’s” for a late lunch. It has a phenomenal reputation. People line up before they open at 11:00 AM and there is a line all day and all night. There was a line when we got there, but we wanted a table for 4 and one was available.


She atmosphere was pretty good, our table overlooking LaFitte Marina, but the bar with music was right below us and it was not to my liking. The service by Ashley was excellent. The sode and lemonade was very good. The food???? Well, we will not return and we wonder why there is always a line.

In the afternoon, we made another trip to the dog park. You don’t have to wonder if they’re having a good time. It’s all too obvious that they, and all the dogs, are having a great time. This time, Keaton and Kyle wore their bathing suits and finally swam out to the raft, after the two girls who were out there finally left.




Coco is always up for a good time and nothing is off limits. The raft had a ladder and she scurried up with the boys with a ball. They would throw the ball and Coco would leap off the raft, get the ball, and return.


Jodie and Sandy were happy enough enjoying a slower pace in shallow water. All too soon, it was time to wash them off and leave. The dark sky and the distant rumble of thunder made that necessary. We took dog shampoo with us and Helen gave the three dogs a great bath. Again, I took one at a time to the car and towel dried them. It was a very good day.





One of the major attractions at Pensacola is the Air Museum at the air base. This is also the home of the world famous BLUE ANGELS, the Navy precision air team.


This is the F something at the entrance. This is an awesome museum and anyone who has been in Naval Aviation (like you, Sam) should visit this for sure. There were a lot of veterans taking pictures of the rosters of their ship or flight squadron. The condition of the planes is amazing, everyone polished to a fare-thee-well.


There is too much to see that I can do it justice in a blog. As I said, the planes are in awesome condition, truly spectacular!!


Kyle Tempesta…..future pilot????


Me, standing in front of a Navy T-2, very similar to the Air Force T-33 that I flew from Maxwell AFB on July 19, 1995. A major high poing in my life.


Keaton and Kyle standing in front of the Blue Angels formation. When Helen and I were last here, the museum was a shell of what it is now and this display was under construction.


Two future aeronauts in a flight simulator. Apparently, the loops, rolls, and inverted flight didn’t set well with Keaton. In fact, with one couple in the simulator we could hear the woman screaming and she looked a little worse for wear when they were through.

There was an IMAX theater and we elected to see thye show called “RESCUE”.  Having a friend who was “hands-on” rescue I expected to see some rescue of downed pilots and planes that missed the carrier. Instead, the movie was about the rescue mission to Haiti after the awful earthquake there. It was interesting and all, but not what I expected. We had lunch at the cafĂ© inside the museum and we were surprised at the quality of the food. Helen and I opted for a “Pacific Salad” that was delicious. Keaton had the “Barrel Roll” sandwich and said it was the best sandwich he ever had.

After lunch, the boys wanted to continue to see more of the exhibits and that was fine with us. The fact was that I also wanted to take another tour myself.

Helen had some interest in one restored plane. The Navy was searching for a downed helicopter when they found an airframe with a yellow strip with “MARINE” on it. During WW II, the pilot was unable to switch to another fuel tank and the plane went down the pilot was saved. The remains of the plane were taken to San Diego where the young pilot was now a Brigadier General and I’m sure he had some clout in having the plane restored. Sixty percent of the aluminum had to be replaced and a replacement new engine was obtained from Pratt and Whitney. However, the rubber tires and other rubbed parts are original. Instruments had to be newly fabricated and all this took four years to restore.

All the restorations in the museum are magnificent. The T-2, looks like the plane I flew in 1965, but you can be sure that the planes at Maxwell AFB did not shine like the one on display.

Just one more thing, when we were here many years ago, some fellow was giving us an unofficial tour. He pointed to one plane that had just arrived, telling us that he had no idea what it was. It was an F-4 Phantom which was widely used in Viet Nam, but this Navy bloke didn’t have a clue. I know that the F-4 was a twin engine, very heavy plane and think that perhaps it was used only by the Air Force. I don’y know for sure right now, but I’ll check later. I do know that I looked all over the museum and did not see it.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens National Park


We had a pleasant and uneventful trip to Pensacola. It has undergone a quantum change since we used to come here when our son, Scott, was stationed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Our first surprise was the new bridge to Gulf Breeze that cuts a lot of miles off the trip. The second surprise was the toll over a relatively short bridge, $3.75 for the first two axles and $3.75 for each additional axle. Our toll was $11.25. The third surprise was the toll bridge from Gulf Breeze to Santa Rosa Island and Pensacola Beach. The sign said $1.00 per car. I got to the booth and the woman said “$1:00 please.” I replied that I was towing a car, expecting to pay two more dollars. The lady said “It’s still just $1.00. “ That was a very pleasant surprise.

We got into Fort Pickens National Park where I have a pass, so my entrances are free and the campground rate is only $10.00 per night, with water and real 50 amp service. The campground has changed a lot since we were here over 20 years ago. Hurricane Katrina did quite a job on the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas and there are a lot of trees that have disappeared. Our campsite was chosen based on length of the motorhome, overhead clearance, and availability. Hence we are in full sunlight with no shade at all. Thankfully the electric feed keeps up with our power needs for the A/C.


This is the $11.25 bridge. It makes the ride shorter, but a lot of pesos for a short bridge.



And here you can see that we are at Pepsi-cola…er…Pensacola Beach.

When we came here many years ago, we did not have a tow car, and drove the motorhome to the local restaurants. In fact, '”FLOUNDER’S” was our favorite. Today, it would be hard to get in a local restaurant with a pickup truck, never mind a motorhome. There are souvenir shops everywhere, restaurants, jet-ski rentals, and a 200 foot Ferris wheel. It’s a real beach mecca for the young and not so young. The adjacent roads are wall to wall condos or time shares and there4 is not a vacancy in sight.



When you get on the National Park property, the buildings cease and what you have left is a long stretch of beautiful white sand beach, blue water and nothing to spoil the atmosphere.

When I checked in at the campground I asked if there was anyplace to take the dogs in the water. I read that dogs were not allowed on any beach, but years ago our dogs were allowed on the bayside beach. That policy has changed as the dogs’ presence on the beach is “toxic to all marine life”. It’s a good thing that the whales and porpoises don’t use the ocean as a bathroom or the seas might be polluted. I’m sorry, but I can’t see the dogs’ doing all that much damage. I walked the dogs over TOWARD the back beach, stopping before the beach. I didn’t have to clean up after either dog, but I did come back with a bag full of soda cans and plastic bottles.



Grandsons Keaton and Kyle did well on the trip up, keeping the dogs company and no creating any problem. I don’t recall hearing “are we there yet?”



This morning I went to “Peg Leg Pete’s”, the closest restaurant and also the closest wifi spot. I checked my email and did a search for “off leash dog parks”. I found 6 listed, including Bayview Dog Park, right in Pensacola. since it was too hot to go to the beach, we decided to tak the dogs to the dog beach. It was a great plan since there was plenty of shade and drinking water and a lot of dogs to play with. In addition, there was the water. For our dogs, the other dogs were not a distraction as the three nuts ran straight for the water. We all enjoyed their day at the beach. The dogs were all well behaved for the most part and there were a couple of puppies that were precious. There were even two washing stations and Helen took her time washing down the dogs really well. Then we took them outside the park and towel dried them under a tree. I moved the car near the tree and left it running with the A/C on so we all had a cool car to ride back to the campground.



After a while, we had a major thunderstorm. It poured buckets and the lightning was terrible. I was on the bed reading with Sandy and Jody at my side. One major strike hit very close to us and everyone jumped. Sandy started shaking life a leaf and would not stop. I walked out to the living area and she followed me only to crawl under the table with Coco. She is a timid dog and often jumps at any noise, so we’re no surprised. In fact, thunder at home has the same effect on her.

Later on the boys and I headed to “Peg Leg Pete’s” for supper, but there was a waiting line of more than 50 people and I’m not a patient person. We went to '”FLOUNDER’S”, where we were seated immediately. The service was excellent and the portions so large that we all came home with boxes of food.

Now we’re watching a movie about saving whales. Seeing all that ice and snow makes it feel more comfortable here, though it’s all in my head.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting Ready to Move Tomorrow


Today was a hectic day, again as we try to perpare to motor over to Fort Pickens National Park in  Pensacola.


Fullscreen capture 7222012 70604 PM.bmp


In past years we were frequent visitors to Fort Pickens as our  son, Scott, was stationed at the Naval Air Station there. The area is very beautiful and I often said that if we saw Pensacola first, we would never have come to Inverness. The water is what you’d expect at some south sea island. The sand is very white because of the quartz in the sand. Fishing, in the past, was very good and I hope to cash in on some good fishing this week.

I’m signing off quickly as I still have a lot to do before we head out in the morning.



Friday, July 20, 2012

SUCCESS!! SUCCESS!! well mostly success


I had a mixture of successes and problems today. As I left off yesterday, I had the rebuilt jacks in the garage and today I worked on getting them installed. Knowing how much room that’s needed to be able to work on these, I first removed the front right wheel. No problem! I wanted to mount the front right jack and again no problem. Attaching the pressure hose and switch connection was no problem and putting on the return springs was a breeze.

Before I went any further I wanted to see if the front jacks worked, so I turned the leveler system on and making sure that I didn’t touch anything to do with the rear, I lowered the front jacks. I worked well. I tried to retract and the rebuilt jack returned faster that the old one on the left side. I put the jacks down again and took out the jack stand and bottle jack and replaced the front wheel. Two more cycles on the jacks and success each time. GREAT!!!

Then I moved to the left rear, meaning I had to remove the rear dual wheels. The outer wheel was a little hard to get off the last time and when it finally came off. the aluminum wheel cracked me in the head and drew some blood. It also left me with a lump. Aware of the danger, I rested my head on the tire as it came free and there was no additional injury. The inner tire came off easily. Getting the rear jack in place was very easy also, but I could NOT connect the pressure hose. I tried and tried and finally disconnected the jack, rotated it a bit and pushed it further up, so I could see the connection.


This is the top of the jack as seen through some steel that I cut away for access. I cannot get my hand in from this side and have to get there from underneath, reaching up between a compartment and the chassis.


This shows how the connection has to be made. I need one hand to turn the nut and another to bend the stiff hose so the fittings align. Several dozens of times I tried and failed. :(

Finally, shortly before 9:00 PM I got the connection made and took a couple of turns on the connection. Then something fell on my face and got between my face and my eyeglasses. I was haunted by mosquitoes, but this was bigger and fuzzy. Enough is enough! I had made the connection and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow I’ll tighten it up, attach the return springs and replace the tires and I’m not anticipating any problems. I hope any rain and lightning holds off until the afternoon.

When I downloaded the last pictures I found some turkey pics that Helen took while was having my siesta. It was SOOOOO hot and I stopped working to take a cool shower and relax. Apparently I relaxed to the max. The turkeys were heading to the water that sprays from the outlet of our water cooled air conditioners.


Helen said that there were a whole bunch of the turkeys and we’ve seen them before. Sometime there’s a hen turkey with ten or more poults (I just grabbed that off Google).

That’s it for today. I’m working safe, Sam, jacks, jack stands, and wood behind the wheels.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jacks or Better to Open


Today I was supposed to pick up the jacks I was having rebuilt. Well, actually, they were supposed to be ready last Friday, then Monday, then Tuesday, etc. I called at noon and the owner told me that they would be ready to pick up at 3:00 PM. Of course they were not ready. “There’s been a slight problem, the magnetic switch got broke”. No, the switch didn’t get broke, it had to be broken by the ass-sistant (sic). When I went down there the other day to see what the problem was I could see that there was absolutely NO WAY that part of the mechanism could be jammed down at the bottom of the inner cylinder. It HAD to be jammed down by someone.

Today I saw the ass-sistant trying to work on the other jack and I could see how the other one was broken.


Here you can see how close the switch (with the wires) was to the inlet fitting (blue cap).


He was trying to tighten up the inlet fitting with a Crescent wrench larger than the one in the picture. As the fitting is tightened, the wrench would swing around and would leverage against the fitting and bam, broken switch. I told him to leave it alone as I would do it at home. I also told him that he should use a socket to tighten the fitting so as not to ruin another switch.


These are the two switches. Good one on the top and broken one on the bottom. It’s brass and not very thick as there is a switch and wires inside.

The way this is supposed to work is that there is a harness that rides on the top of the inner cylinder. In the harness is a magnet and at the top of cylinder travel it opens, shutting off the indicator lamp and power to the “jacks down” alarm. While I had to juggle fittings around I took a look inside to see what’s what. Well, what’s what is that there is no magnet in the harness. I put some air into the cylinder to make the jack extend a little to have another look. More distress! The harness that is supposed to ride on the inner cylinder stayed at the top, so with the jack down, it would still indicate that the jack was fully up.

Of course I am disappointed to the extreme, but cannot get solace anywhere. HWH has not returned my call or email. The replacement switch is $84.99 and THAT does not make me happy. On line, I read the stories of RV owners waiting more than 12 weeks for a part or jack from HWH, and the parts are not cheap.  Why are so many people having so much trouble with HWH equipment? Also, keep away from Suncoast Hydraulics in Crystal River.

My next course of action is to install the jacks as they are and see if they will actually work, though I will have to be aware of the problem and assure that the jacks are all the way up by visual inspection. Once up, the springs will keep them from dropping. Then, I will check a number of RV salvage yards to see if anyone has a replacement.

That’s all for today in the land of sunshine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Life never seems to get easier!

Some of you may know that I was having problems with the leveling system in my motorhome. Last year, I had two jacks that were reluctant to retract and I ended up calling HWH technical support. Their directions were to put the jacks down and then try to retract them. On those that will not retract, loosen the fitting on top of the jack. If the jack then retracts, the problem is in the solenoid or someplace else, but not in the jack. I did as directed, putting all the jacks down. When I went to retract them, they all retracted very well! We spent much of the winter in Mexico and never had a problem. However, I would always retract the jacks the afternoon before we were to travel, just in case I had a problem.

Last month in Massachusetts I used the leveling system several times and had no problem. On the afternoon of our last day, I tried to retract the jacks and the two problem ones would not come up. The rear DID retract with a little help from me, prying up with a bar. The front right would not budge at all. I had to dig a hole under the jack and use the car jack from my Jeep and I finally got it up, but it was very difficult.

At home, I called HWH to see about ordering replacements, but all of their agents were tied up and they took my name and number to call me later. When I called the next day, they wouldn’t take my name as they were still working on the old call list. I made arrangements to have the jacks repaired at a hydraulic shop in Crystal River. Yesterday the owner called to tell me they were having a problem with one jack and I decided to run right over to see what was going on. On the 24 mile trip to the shop, I encountered some of the heaviest rain I’ve seen in years.

When I got there the owner showed me the problem and though it’s difficult to describe, the system that monitored when the jack is all the way up was badly broken. It’s a magnetic switch and the magnet and housing was jammed all the way down the inside of the jack. Absolutely could not be done by the action of the hydraulic system. I think the guy working on it got confused on all the cylinders in front of him and jammed something down inside.  At any rate, I took the magnet and housing home to work on it myself. It was still raining hard and a number of streets and parking lots were flooded, but I had no problem driving home.

I moved the motorhome to the paved driveway and found that there was no alarm from the missing jacks. When the switch is disconnected the system doesn’t register jack down. I took the crumpled magnet housing and gently tapped it back into shape, and I wanted to run it back to the shop. By now the rain had completely stopped and it was very nice out. The trip was intended to be quick, but that was hoping for too much. As I approached Crystal River I ran over something and put a good hole in the back right tire. It went flat almost instantly and I had to drive on the flat tire a short way. Luckily, all the things needed for a tire change were handy and worked well and I had the spare on in only a few minutes. I think I did a real quick job for a 68 year old. When I got home, I tried to pressurize the tire to see where the hole was and found a hole that you could stick a pen in. The tire was a goner.

I’ve been debating whether to replace the tires before our winter trip  or not. This morning I solved the dilemma by having four new Goodyears put on.  This may not seem like a spell of good luck, but it could have happened on my first trip when it was pouring so hard. As it was, the rain had cooled the air and I didn’t even work up a sweat changing the tire.

The jacks are supposed to be ready this afternoon and I already have the motorhome raised and ready to work on. Tomorrow, I’ll be under the shade of the motorhome and I’m hoping the rain holds off for a while.

That’s it for today.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Getting Back to a Blog

OK, I’m trying a new system for posting to my blogs. After chatting with Sam Weibel, I downloaded Windows Live Writer and I’m going to give it a try. We’ll have to see how it works out with adding pictures, etc. DSC08714

So far, so good! This is a picture of the Wellfleet Drive-in Theater. Drive-ins were where we saw ALL the movies when I was a kid and also when Helen and I had kids of our own. Times were tough and you could get into the drive-in cheap and bring your own refreshments, saving even more money. The drive-in that we used to frequent most often is now a shopping center, as are most of the rest. There are very few drive-in theaters still in business.

My project right now is to get the levelers replaced on our motorhome as we will be leaving for a weeks vacation with two more grandchildren a week from today. Our destination is Fort Pickens National Park in Pensacola, Florida. It’s a campground that we have visited often in the past. Our younger son, Scott, was stationed there for a few years when he was in the Navy, so we’d drive up and spend the weekend at the campground and Scott would come over and spend some time with us. The water was always tropical in appearance and the fishing was pretty good. The beaches of the area are some of the best in the world due to the large percentage of quartz in the sand. If you need a rock to throw at something, you’re out of luck because when I was there last, there was not a stone of any size on the beach.

I guess this is enough for now to see if I can upload this to my blog. I hope it works because I’ve been frustrated since Google changed Picasa on me.