Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rainy Laundry Day

January 30, 2010.  It was raining with a few rumbles of thunder when we awoke.  If you like the sound that rain makes on a tin roof, then you would like sleeping in an RV.  It’s not as loud as a tin roof inside the RV as its muted but even so I like the sound.
By late morning the rain had let up.  However, with the wind blowing through the tops of the trees, dropping the trapped rain water made it sound and feel like it was raining under the forest canopy.
Some kayakers showed up to brave the Big Shoals.  They were four college boys from Orlando.  The river today was at 65.65 ft. above mean sea level.  At this height the white water is tamer than the optimal class III white water level of 62 ft. Here they are moments after leaving the canoe launch.

We received a call from our friends George and Bonnie and we decided to get together for lunch tomorrow in High Springs, Fl.  Because we are planning to leave Monday, we decided today would be a good day to do laundry one last time before leaving Big Shoals State Park.  Although our fifth wheel is prepped to contain a combination washer/ dryer.  We didn’t purchase the appliance.  We still feel its faster just to go get it all done at once at a laundromat. 
We traveled to Stephan Foster Folk Culture Center State Park to do laundry.  Afterwards, we stopped at Fat Belly’s for a late lunch.

Back at the rig, our rv concrete slab was still wet.  Nothing was drying because of the humid conditions.  I was glad I took care of airing up the tires yesterday as I wouldn’t want to be crawling around on the wet ground today.
I decided to to explore a bit in the forest and took this picture of one of the swollen creeks.

Later I cleaned up the John Deer Gator and Joyce parked it at the Ranger’s house as we would not be needing it anymore.  After sunset, I locked up the park, but not before allowing a father and his young son to stay late and watch the bats flying out of the bat box.  The young boy was really interested in the bats and spoke about them while filming the winged exodus.  The father said that he and his son had canoed earlier today down the Suwannee River from about 20 miles upstream from Big Shoals.  
Tomorrow, Sunday, I’ll need to pack up the satellite dish, the bicycles and whatever else I can so that we can get an early start on our travel day, Monday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

White Springs, Airing up the Rig

January 29, 2010.  Another beautiful, partly cloudy day that started off with an early morning rain shower. 
We got out early and did our usual Friday chores around the park for the last time.  We drove the Gator to Little Shoals on Road 1.  You may recall that Road 1, a dirt road which is often muddy, cuts through the forest paralleling the paved Wood Pecker Trail.  I’ve enjoyed riding through the forest on this 4 mile road and the unexpected sightings of deer and other wildlife.  I couldn’t help but think that as we prepare to leave in the next few days that this may be my last time on Road 1.
Back at our rig, we decided to go into town for lunch.  We went to the Corner Cafe.  We enjoyed our meals.  If you are ever in White Springs, the Corner Cafe and Fat Belly’s are both worth the visit.  
We took some pictures of some older homes in and around White Springs on our way back to Big Shoals State Park.  There is a lot of history in White Springs.  The area used to have a thriving turpentine industry, saw mills, tobacco and cotton plantations.  Many of the early 20th century homes are beautifully maintained and/ or restored. 

There’s also a number of old homes in the area that are in severe disrepair.  Many are abandoned and surprisingly still standing.  However, I find them interesting as I wonder about their history.

When we got back, I set out to inflate the tires on our Carriage Cameo fifth wheel. I wanted to get this done as rain is expected for tomorrow, Saturday.  We have been parked for 3 mos. so I expected the tire pressures to have gone down some.  The recommended tire pressure for our fifth wheel’s four tires is 80 p.s.i. each.  I was surprised that the pressure in the tires was only down 2-3 p.s.i. each.  I use a tire pressure monitoring system on the fifth wheel’s tires when traveling.  It monitors the tire pressures and temperature.  The system monitor flashes and alarms when it senses air loss and has adjustable parameters for the air pressure and temperatures.
I had taken the valve stem transmitters off each wheel when we first arrived at Big Shoals as each transmitter continues to transmit and run down it’s battery unless the transmitter is removed from the valve stems.  So after airing up each of the tires, I checked the lug nuts and installed the transmitters.

I then began work on the truck’s tires.  The rear duals have average sized valve stems that are difficult to reach and work with.  Subsequently, I’ve found it’s much easier to get to them if I take off the chrome inserts.  I had aired down the rear duals to 65 p.s.i. each while we were not towing.  However, I aired the tires up to 75 p.s.i. each in preparation for towing our fifth wheel.  I maintain 65 p.s.i. on the front tires.

I use a pancake compressor that is stored in the front storage compartment of the fifth wheel.  This compartment is often used for an on-board generator.  When we ordered our Carriage, we ordered it without the $5K optional propane generator.  We did order the generator prep package.  I’ve left room for a nice quiet gas powered generator.  A purchase we’ve yet to make.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Final Shopping day in Lake City and Live Oak, Visitors

January 28th, 2010.  We awoke to a beautiful sunny day with temps reaching the upper 60’s.  
Joyce wanted to do some shopping in Lake City.  So, after the usual chores, we drove to the Lake City Mall.  After shopping at the mall, we walked over to Walmart.  
I had been looking at cameras for several months originally wanting a Digital SLR.  However the prices and the bulky size of the cameras was a turn-off.  I ended up talking to a very polite Walmart camera dept. employee who saw me shopping.  She pointed out some of the pros and cons of the models I was looking at.  She then suggested the Cannon Power Shot SX120 IS.  It’s a compact digital camera with 10.0 megapixels and a 10x optical zoom.  It has a large screen and is lightweight yet substantial in your hands.  Anyway it was on sale for $199, previously $249. 
Unfortunately, the Lake City Walmart didn’t have the camera in stock.  However, they had it in Live Oak, 17 miles away.  We went to lunch for the last time at my favorite Lake City Mexican restaurant, Costa Del Sol.  While there we discussed the camera and contacted Joyce’s brother Buddy an amateur photographer.  
We decided to make the purchase and drove to Live Oak. By the time we got home the day was almost gone.  I took a few test shots with the camera.  This house is on C.R 135 near the entrance to Little Shoals built at the turn of the 20th century.

My truck parked in front of the gated hunters’ entrance to the Big Shoals Public Lands.  This is also on C.R. 135 across the road from the house above.

Rico on his pillow outside.

Shortly before the park closed at sunset, we had visitors we met on-line.  We had met them on a RV forum when we posted about our volunteer position availability.  They were staying a few nights at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center and wanted to stop by and introduce themselves.  It was nice to sit and chat with visitors.  Obviously not a common occurrence in our current location.
After our visitors left, I locked up the gates and we turned in for the night.  Only a few more nights till we hitch up and move on!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Perhaps our Last Hike to the Shoals.

January 27, 2010.  Okay, we slept late again today.  We had a late night with Dylan and our trip to Lake City.  How’s that for an excuse!  Temps were in the 40’s in the morning with sunny skies, we reached the mid 60’s by the middle of the day.

We decided it was a good day to use the blower and blow-off the paved Wood Pecker Trail.  So after loading up the blower we accomplished that task and then blew off the Big Shoals loop.  There’s still a stretch of about 30 yards on the Wood Pecker Trail that is under about 4 inches of water.  It’s not pedestrian friendly unless you have waders or tall waterproof boots!

After lunch, we took a hike out to The Big Shoals on the Suwannee River.  Perhaps our last hike to the shoals.

As beautiful as the river and shoals are, it’s time to move on.  I’m running out of things to photograph!  I decided not to include anymore pictures of the shoals.  As it's something you need to see in person.  However, I took a few pictures of the swamp that borders part of the trail out to Big Shoals.

We are making plans to move west researching state parks and other campgrounds in the panhandle.  Our target date for moving out of Big Shoals is the first part of next week depending on the weather.  First, I’ve got a few tasks to accomplish around the rig in preparation.  We've been here for almost 3 mos.  It's going to take some time to pack up!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Laundry Day, and Mountain Bike Ride along the Suwannee River

January 26th, 2010.  We slept in a little today waking to 48 degrees and dry sunny skies.

Today was laundry day so Joyce took the laundry to Stephan Foster Folk Culture Center.  She then drove to Lake City to do some shopping.  I stayed home at Big Shoals State Park with Maggie and Rico, letting them lay outside in the sunshine most of the day.

In the afternoon, I decided to go for a bike ride following the routes that the Ididaride cyclists took this past Saturday through the Big Shoals Public Lands and State Park.  First I rode up and down Road 1 noting that it was still very muddy and had very large water filled gullies.  That just made it more challenging and fun!  When I got back from that ride, I checked on Maggie and Rico who were just fine lying outside by the rig.

Next I took a ride out to The Big Shoals along the river.  This was a much more technical ride with lots of tree roots, dips in elevation and narrow gaps between trees to ride through.  I picked up some Ididaride route arrows that were left out on the trails. 

I rode alone, which is why I took pictures of my bike along the trails.  I’ve had this bike for three years, it’s a Cannondale F3 hard tail with hydraulic disc brakes.  We carry two mountain bike hard tails with us.  One for each of us.  We also carry a tandem road bike with us.  When we are parked, we store all of them under the kingpin area of the fifth wheel where they are kept locked and often covered to further protect our bikes from the elements.

The river was really moving along today and appeared to be higher, although I didn’t know the official height.  I love this shot of the moon rising in the top center of this photo.  This area is known as the beach and a couple weeks ago had sand out past the trees that are now deep in the river.  

Joyce got home about the same time I did at 4:30.  We cleaned up, fed Maggie and Rico and got ready to go back out.  We took Dylan to Brooklyn Pizza in Lake City.  We’ve enjoyed working with/ for Dylan and wanted to treat him.  Dylan advised he’s having difficulty finding someone to fill our volunteer position.  So if any of you are still interested please give him a call at the phone numbers in my earlier post or via Stephan Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.

We called it a night after watching American Idol.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bat House, Rig Cleaning and Brush Fire Truck

January 25, 2010.  This mornings temps were in the low 60’s with a bright sunny sky.  It warmed to the high 60’s.

I met Ranger Dylan Shoemaker around 9:00 in the park.  He had towed a gas powered lift from Stephan Foster.  Dylan wanted to make the bat house more noticeable by fastening a BAT CROSSING sign on the bat house in the Big Shoals loop.  I believe the bat house is occupied by Brazilian Free Tail Bats and possibly Evening Bats. Dylan showed me how to operate the lift and together we got the sign installed.  I then got off the lift and took some photos of Dylan on the lift.

Dylan knew I was planning on cleaning the roof of our Carriage fifth wheel.  He offered the lift to assist with that chore.

Dylan had a guided interpretive tour to give in the park along with a hike to The Big Shoals.   So while he was working on that, Joyce helped me as I cleaned the roof of our rig.  I started by blowing off leaves with a gas blower.  I used a bucket of water and Dawn dish washing soap along with a stiff brush to scrub the roof. 

I forgot to take “before” pictures.  Joyce went up on the lift and took some “after” pictures.  I can tell you the roof was blotchy with dirt/ mildew giving it a greyish hue.  The Dawn Dishwashing Soap did a very good job on our vinyl TPO roof.  Dawn Dishwashing Soap is recommended by Carriage and the roof material manufacturer.

After cleaning the roof, I finished by cleaning the entire outside of the rig.   We both think it looked brand new after we were done.

After cleaning up and loading up the lift.  I traveled to Stephan Foster to pick up the park’s brush fire truck.  Dylan had asked me to take it to Lake City for a 2:30 appointment at a tire shop.  Dylan was expecting to be busy with the park tour.  The brush fire truck needed a spare tire exchanged.

The truck is used by the Park Service for use on controlled forest/ brush burns. It carries 300 gallons of water.   Dylan had used it last week at Oleno State Park when he assisted with their forest burns.  I thought it unfortunate that although the truck only has 15K miles on it, the Park Service has already replaced 4-5 of the 19.5 inch tires as they have been blowing out or suffer side wall cuts.  The tires are expensive and heavy.  It was a chore getting the spare down and then back up on the very top of the truck.

I was back to Stephan Foster by 4:00 and home by 4:30.  I caught up with Dylan when he stopped by our rig.  He will be off for the next 6 days. When he starts back to work we plan on hitching up and moving on.  We are looking forward to moving on and continuing our adventure. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Windy Day, Turtle, White Springs Police Dept.

January 24, 2010.  We awoke to temps in the 60’s.  We had the windows open all night.  The day would prove to be warm and humid with temps in the upper 70's and a strong south wind.

We decided to do our rounds and clean up the park because we had hundreds of visitors from the Ididaride on Saturday.  In the morning several of the cyclists were filtering in to the park with their muddy bikes on racks attached to their vehicles.  We got the chance to talk to some of them.  One group was from Pasco County, Florida close to where we once had a home.  Most were doing the hike out to Big Shoals on the Suwannee River.

On the way back from Little Shoals in the John Deere Gator, we came across this turtle laying eggs.  My limited research indicates it’s a species of Box Turtle.

In the afternoon, I took a ride around White Springs.  I found the City Hall/ Police department. 

It seems the police department is closed on Sunday.  Not exactly a full service agency. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office also has jurisdiction in White Springs.

Like most small towns, I think the White Springs Police Dept. is more of a traffic oriented police agency. 

This small building at one time used to be the police department building.  I've seen a picture when the building was the police office and was painted white.  At that time it had a sign on it that read in black letters; White Springs Police.  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ididaride, Craft Show and Swap Meet

I was up before sun up, and out the door by 07:30 a.m.  It was a cool 54 degrees and overcast. 

I loaded the handheld blower in the Gator and set out to blow the leaves off the 3 small bridges on Woodpecker Trail and the pavilion at Little Shoals.  I had done all of this yesterday, but wanted to make sure it was clean before the Ididaride cyclist and organizers converged on the area.  The organizers were planning to use the large pavilion at Little Shoals to host the lunch.  As I expected the winds from the night before had made a mess of things.

After returning back to Big Shoals, I met up with Ranger Dylan Shoemaker.  He had met with some of the Ididaride organizers and learned that the bulk of the riders would not be in the Big Shoals/ Little Shoals area till noon when they would serve lunch.

Later in the morning, Dylan and I then set out to check the Long Branch Trail.  Yesterday one of the organizers had reported the 2nd bridge on the trail had been washed out in the last storm and part of the trail was under water.  The trail passes by the canoe launch.  We stopped to look at the river and called to get the latest river elevation report form the ranger station.  The river had risen over a foot again since the previous day and was at 61.3 feet above mean sea level!

We continued our hike to the small bridge.  It had been moved off its concrete blocks before we got here in November.  Apparently organizers had moved it back several days ago in preparation for the event.  However, the recent rain had swelled the creek, and knocked if off the foundation again this time washing away the ramps.  You gotta marvel at the power of mother nature. There was nothing we could do to fix it today.

When we got back around 1030 a.m., Dylan offered to take us to the Stephan Foster Folk Culture Center and the Craft Rendezvous event.  There was a small mix of craftsman doing pottery, painting, leather works etc.  It was one of the smallest craft shows we had seen.  Joyce and I are more familiar with the really large organized arts and crafts events that pop up all over the Tampa Bay area.

On the way back to Big Shoals, we stopped at a small swap meet at the local hardware store in White Springs.  Some of the handful of venders that ringed the small parking lot were selling chickens, ducks, guns, hot dogs and miscellaneous stuff.  Again, smaller than any swap meet/ flea market I had ever been too.  However, I need to keep it in perspective as White Springs is a small town!  

Around noon we stopped at the Little Shoals entrance and mingled with the cyclists and organizers of the Ididaride.   Being amongst all those cyclists made me long for the days when Joyce and I would participate in long organized rides throughout Florida with our friends and fellow cyclists.  I gave my road bike to my son in law when we went full time.  Although we have our tandem road bike and our mountain bikes with us, we haven’t ridden them much.  I have a lot of excuses as to why we haven’t been riding much, but they are just excuses!  It’s something we keep telling ourselves we need to get back into.  We miss our cycling friends from the The Suncoast Cycling Club.  The organizers said that 350 cyclist signed up for the event.  The cyclists were being served a spaghetti lunch.  

Some of the cyclists were bailing out of the event after their lunch.  They reported muddy conditions on the trails and most of them looked worn out!   One of the cyclists noticed my UF Gator hat and wanted me to take a picture of his muddy gator socks!

Afterwards, the three of us stopped at Fat Belly’s one of the three restaurants in town,.  Their pulled pork sandwich is one of the best I’ve had!  

Once we got back to our rig at Big Shoals, it was evident that the number of cyclists completing the ride had dwindled substantially.  We saw just a few at the Big Shoals loop which was the 35 mile mark of the 50 mile ride.  I wanted to take pictures of cyclists on the Long Branch Trail.  However, there were so few cyclists at that time, I grew impatient and gave up.

Later in the afternoon, Dylan and I did the 3 mile hike again to Big Shoals to retrieve the signs we had put out yesterday.  On the way back we walked with a father and adult son from Alabama.  We talked about kayaking as they were kayaking enthusiasts.  They were on their way to Orlando and just took a short detour to see the Big Shoals class III rapids.  I invited them back to our rig before they left to look at the pictures I had taken of the shoals at different stages.  

By 6:00 p.m. I was inside for the night and looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Class III Rapids at Big Shoals, Cleaning up after the storm

January 22, 2010.  We awoke to temps in the mid 60’s on a beautifully sunny day.  It quickly warmed to the mid 70’s.

The heavy rains the day before had made a mess of our campsite with fallen leaves and branches.  I got out by 8:00 a.m. and everything was still soaking wet.  I cleaned up around our site, then I took advantage of the water on the car and truck and towel dried both.  Afterwards, I wiped down the sides of the RV.  I still need to tackle the roof pretty soon!   Our concrete slab was still wet, so I rolled up the awning about 2/3 to give the tree filtered sun a chance to dry the slab.

I watched after Maggie and Rico as Joyce began work on the restroom building that was still sweating from the influx of humid air on the cold concrete blocks. I walked down the canoe launch with the leaf blower to clean up.  The water had risen about 1.5 feet from yesterday evening!  Also the river seemed to be moving much faster.  The ranger station reported the water level at 60 ft.  At this level it would make The Big Shoals, just a 1/2 mile down river, a class III white water rapid!  It seemed I could hear the rapids from the canoe launch.  As you may recall, when we kayaked the river a week ago, it was only at 53 feet above mean sea level.

When Joyce was done, I put the dogs in the rig.  She and I then packed up our cleaning supplies in the John Deere Gator and headed down Road 1 on our 4mile journey to Little Shoals park.  We expected to come across mud puddles, however we had not seen so many puddles and gullies before.

On the return trip we took the paved Woodpecker Trail.  We found sections of this trail under 3-4 inches of water in some low lying spots.

After lunch, I wanted to blow the leaves and sticks off the paved Big Shoals Loop and the Woodpecker trail. However the Gator had been running poorly all morning.  I lifted the bed to expose the engine and investigate.  I thought perhaps it needed new spark plugs as the engine sounded like it was missing.  I removed the two spark plugs and cleaned them.  As I removed the second one, it appeared that it may not have been seated tightly.  I put the plugs back in noting that they didn’t appear to be bad.  The Gator ran smooth after that.  So, I’m assuming that the second plug/ cylinder must have been losing compression as the plug was not tight.

I loaded up the blower into the back of the Gator.  I then blew-off the Big Shoals loop and the Woodpecker Trail.  I wanted to get this done today as lots of folks would be in the park early tomorrow for the Suwannee Bicycle Associaton Ididaride .  I finished with the blower at 4:30 p.m.  Some of the organizers for the Ididaride were in the park putting out route signs.  Joyce spoke with them and got some details related to the event.  I then met up with Ranger Dylan Shoemaker.  We put together some signs to warn Big Shoal hikers that cyclists would be on The Big Shoal trail tomorrow, when usually cyclists are not permitted on that trail.

Dylan and I then hiked the 3 mile round trip hike to The Big Shoals to put up the signs.  We marveled at the sound and speed of the river near the shoals.  The sun was setting and the river was in the shadows so the pictures are not impressive.  No photograph can capture the beauty and the speed of the class III rapids rushing over the submerged rocks.  

Dylan and I made it back from our hike just as it was getting dark.  I made it inside by 6:30 p.m. tired from a long day!  Heck, I had flashbacks to working for a living!   Tomorrow morning will come early as we will be doing whatever we can in the park to assist the organizers with the Ididaride.