This was our 2013 Jayco Flight Swift 198 RD


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Small World

Florida is a popular place in the winter months especially with us folks from cold and snowy Canada. So it is of no surprise that we run into people down here from back home.  In the Cliftwood Mobile home and RV park we’ve met two couples from Canada and while we were talking it turned out that one couple used to live right around our neighborhood and the other couple resides a few miles away, but they are also friends with the family of our neighbors across the street which we went to see last Sunday at their winter place down here in Florida. It’s a small world, isn’t it?

 Our neighbours home in Canada

We had arranged to meet for lunch at our neighbours winter home. Benno figured it would take us about an hour from our RV Park to drive north, past Gainesville and then into the rural area of Lake City.  In preparation for our get-together I had packed a picnic, beverages and some frozen food items for the BBQ and we left at 9:30 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to visit before lunch.  The weather was gorgeous and we were on the I-75 in no time at all.  I think we hadn’t even driven half a mile, when we came to a full stop and traffic on all three lanes started to back up.  We couldn’t see what was going on but figured there must be an accident ahead of us, which turned out to be a heavily damaged travel trailer, awning and debris strewn all over the highway when we came to it an hour and a half later!  So much for extra time, but we arrived just before noon.

Our Canadian neighbours had family visiting with a travel trailer and tent, which they had parked right beside the house on this spacious 10 acres property. Teresa, our friend and neighbor, had prepared several yummy dishes and soon was flipping delicious Angus burgers on the BBQ.  There sure was plenty of food and no one left hungry. Thanks guys!

After lunch we went for a long walk through their property but the two little doggies got a ride. What a dog life that is!

While driving through the country roads I spotted longhorn cattle.  That is something we don’t get to see very often in Ontario Canada and I include a few pictures for our grandchildren to look at.

That rounds up another nice day down here in Florida.

Friday, 19 February 2016

More about our neighbourhood

Our neighborhood is fancy, I noticed this a while ago. Almost next-door are racehorses grazing and plenty of large and luxurious horse trailers are being pulled on the road to our campground. For a few days now I’ve been traipsing around our campground with my camera chasing all kinds of birds. Mostly they elude my viewfinder or they play hide and seek in the trees, so I looked for something else to photograph.

Right across the street from the Cliftwood RV Park is the Adena Golf and Country Club. It is a huge area bordered by a tall hedge with impressive gates and gatehouses.  There are great looking gates all over the area here in Ocala and I thought those made good objects to photograph.  At least they don’t get away from my viewfinder. :-)

After our morning shopping trip Benno and I took a little tour in the truck around our neighborhood in search of nice gates.  As I stood outside of the west entrance to the Adena Golf and Country Club clicking away on my camera, a golf cart pulled up next to me with two gentlemen in it. Thinking they must we wondering what I was doing, I explained my fascination with impressive gates.  “Well,” the man said, “Why don’t you and your husband follow me inside all the way to the clubhouse. I invite you to take as many pictures as you like and have a look around.  My name is John Reger, and I am the General Manager.”  He didn’t have to ask me again, of course we would come and so we slowly followed their golf cart through the winding paths all the way up. 

Once we were in the Adena clubhouse, a 40,000 sq. ft. impressive building with all kinds of amenities, Mr. Reger handed us his business card and led us to the upstairs very elegant dining room and out to the large balcony where the view overlooking this 18 hole quarry-lined golf course with waterfall and tennis courts took our breaths away. 

Mr. Reger explained that they were just returning from a visit with John Travolta, the movie star, who lives opposite the street in the gated community of the Jumbolair Estates.  We knew the Travolta's have their main residence here and we had driven by the gated community in hopes of getting a glimpse of one of his airplanes on the runway, but no luck in spotting anything exciting. 

Entrance to the Jumbolair Estate

  “So,” Mr. Reger asked, do you know  Frank Stronach? He’s a Canadian and the Adena course designer.”  Unfortunately we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Frank Stronach personally, but our Canadian readers know him as the founder of Magna Int’l, the automotive parts company and being famous for his thoroughbred horses, which won the Queen’s Plate. He also is the owner of several prominent horse racetracks in the USA.  Nevertheless, Mr. Reger said we could have lunch or dinner anytime at the Adena Club and that they served beef from their own all-natural, hormone-free, grass-fed beef cattle and to feel free to take as many pictures, as we wanted.  That just made our day!  Later I looked up the Adena Springs Ranch It is only 30,000 acres in size. That is thirty thousand!! acres also owned by Frank Stronach. (By the way, Frank Stronach and Arnold Schwarzenegger both come from the same neighbourhood of Graz in Austria. Amazing, isn't it?)

 Part of the Adena dining room

I took Google Map shots of our immediate area so you can see our campground, the Cliftwood RV Park in reference to the Adena Golf and Country Club and the Jumbolair Estates with Travolta’s house and some of his plains parked next to it.

The square in the middle is the Adena Golf and Country Club
and at the right bottom is the Cliftwood RV Park

The Cliftwood RV Park to the left bottom and
right top corner are the Jumbolair Estates with Travolta's property

The Travolta's property

Friday, 12 February 2016

Boosting your wifi reception at the RV Park

Haven’t we all experienced getting a weak wifi signal to access the Internet in a RV park, truck stop or marina or public hotspot? The signal drop is so slow, far worse than the old telephone line system or for many reasons as indicated in the previous write-up from January 15th in this blog.
Over the years I developed knowledge in pulling in a weak wifi signal while living on and cruising with the boat, sailing to distant places and trying hooking up the laptop to a wifi hot spot, to get weather reports, email or browsing the Internet. After we moved onboard our boat in the summer of 2005, we started to schlepp the laptop to Internet cafes to access the Internet and do Skype in tropical places like Nassau or St. Thomas, St. Martin, Martinique or Mustique.  You like these names, don’t you? Haha! In Tyrrell Bay under anchor off Carriacou Island (Grenada) we got free wifi access from shore provided by a generous member of the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association), who beamed out an boosted up wifi signal over the bay. Thank you Rick and Sue of the sailing yacht “Panacea”.
Their signal was boosted up enough that our laptop picked up the signal with ease, at the comfort of our boat.
Only less than a handful of marinas down in the Caribbean Islands up to 2010 had gotten around to provide wifi. They were far behind in technology and not as advanced as they were in the United States where wifi had made huge steps.
In this anchorage in Tyrrell Bay, Cariacou my mind set itself to get some kind of a wifi signal booster, which could cover a mile or more to the antenna of a wifi access point, which beams out the non secured wifi signal from a restaurant, villa on the beach or a sports bar with wifi.
Just a few months later I got lucky in the Porlamar anchorage of the Margarita Island (Venezuela), where Jimmy Buffett must have slurped his first Margarita. One of the more than 160 boats under anchor there, the sloop “Pinocchio” with a computer geek on board, had a good business going in selling his doctored together wifi booster to the many boats around him for $120. This permitted every boating Internet junky (haha) to boost the weak incoming wifi signal from the busy Rum Bar on the beach a good mile away or a little stronger signal from a high-rise apartment building, where somebody else was selling a secured access for $30/month. But the Rum Bar wifi was free.
Pinocchio’s booster looked like the picture below plus an additional little circuit board (no picture of that), which plugged into a slot on the laptop. From the pc-board a cable ran to the unit with the rubber duck antenna. The 120v power adapter cable plugged into the antenna unit too. This toy boosted the wifi signal with 200 mW.

This “Pinocchio” wifi booster worked well, made things happen from July 2006 to Feb 2009 all the way from Venezuela thru the Panama Canal, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and to the city of Ushuaia, Argentina on the most southern tip of South America.
In Patagonia, Chile, there are no villages for a thousand or so miles to get wifi; we used our Iridium Phone with Ocean Software to get onto the Internet for important weather reports, at an extreme cost.
In Ushuaia a French charter boat captain pointed out another wifi booster, which worked miracles even better, a D-Link DWA-110 and was avaible in town for a pile of Pesos. I got one, see picture below!

This  D-Link DWA-110 wifi unit plugged into a USB outlet on the laptop and worked very well. It was powered by the USB outlet and was configured by a CD-ROM, included in the package. This unit improved the wifi reception all the way from Argentina’s city of Ushuaia up the coast of Atlantic South America past Uruguay, Brazil and French Guiana up to the US Virgin Islands and St.Martin. In the Simpson Bay Lagoon of St.Martin Dutch side, now called Sint Maarten, every boat owner was buying a wifi booster called “The Wirie” This was the hottest toy on the market, apparently the best thing since sliced bread. It would be mounted on top of the boat, had 500 mW boosting power and would work with a USB cable run thru the roof of the boat to the laptop. A sailing catamaran owner anchored in the lagoon would sell, install and configure the US made unit for $250. The chap was a part owner of  “The Wirie” Company as well. We got one and this unit worked very good and improved our desire for Internet bytes. The D-Link unit we mothballed. Picture below of the mounted “The Wirie” on our boat “Diesel Duck”.

“The Wirie” stayed with the boat and was sold with the boat. It is a good unit, nothing negative to report, but the router is in the blue box on the outside and when a RV is made out of aluminum, like an Airstream travel trailer or trailer with metal roof this could present a problem. The aluminum could prevent the signal to come into a trailer to the laptop, iPad or smart phone or shield the RV like a Faraday Cage.

While searching for a wifi booster for our RV travel trailer, I checked out many leads on the Internet. My criteria was: marine quality, weatherproofed, easy mounting, easy configuration, router on the inside, antenna outside, powered by 12 volt and 120 volt and affordable, not breaking the bank.
Here is the winner, the “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender” from Global Marine Networks. It was easy to install and works like a charm, has plenty of power, pulls in a weak signal, covers a range up to 7 miles, works wonderful on Skype and gives us freedom to work simultaneously on multiple devices like a laptop and iPad and was not breaking the bank with a price tag of $350. Below picture is the “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender”

Benno's tool bag and the s/s tube are not included ;`)

I liked what I saw, this unit was the top of the bunch for Marine and RV application, weatherproofed with o-rings and silicon rubber seal, carrying tube machined out of stainless steel with incorporated 1”-14 thread to accept the Standard Marine Antenna Mount, included was a neat “Optimizer” router which could handle Cell Networks, Satellite Phone for Satellite Internet beside the “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender”. Included too was a 32 ft coiled up Antenna/Power Cable, a bag with assorted Hardware and an easy to follow Qickstart Guide and Setup Manual.
A truly professionally, nicely put together package by someone, who must have done a lot of research. 
The installation was extremely easy, all I had to do was to drill a ½” hole thru the roof of the trailer. I used a ½” step drill bit to do this, easily purchased by Harbor Freight in the USA or Canadian Tire in Canada. Picture below!

From West Marine I purchased a Nylon Dual Axis Ratchet Antenna Mount #1986645 and a Blue Sea Systems Small Cable Clam #540740 and a small tube of 3M Marine Grade Silicon Sealant #190241, picture below!

I mounted the cable clam right over the drilled ½” hole in the trailer’s roof and used a small amount of quality 3M Marine Grade Silicon Sealant between roof and cable clam to weatherproof this installation. 2” in front of the cable clam I mounted the Nylon Dual Axis Ratchet Antenna Mount with 4 stainless steel screws and weatherproofed it to the roof with the 3M silicon too. A leaking roof as you know could be a pain in the neck.
A fishing wire made from a wire coat hanger permitted me to pull the supplied antenna cable secured with electrical tape thru the ½” hole of the trailer’s roof from the inside. The cable got plugged into the bottom of the on the Dual Axis Ratchet Mount attached “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender”. The cable clam with the rubber seal weatherproofed the antenna cable. See picture below!

Inside the travel trailer in an overhead cabinet, right above the manufacturer supplied entertainment center, an open shelf offered itself to house the supplied “Optimizer” Router. The cable hole in the roof was right above it, nice planning by my girl “Marlene”. It worked out perfectly. The “Optimizer” Router got mounted to the rear wall of the shelf and the antenna cable then plugged into it.
The supplied 120 volt power adaptor found a place in a 120 volt double outlet nearby which as well feed the TV. The cable end from the power adaptor cable got plugged into the “Optimizer” Router and powers “”Optimizer and “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender”. Look at picture below!

Marlene configured the “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender” using the supplied Quickstart Guide and Setup Manual. The programming was easy and straightforward. The system works great, our wifi reception has improved dramatically.
Marlene does not have to wave the iPad in front of the settees window anymore in trying to catch the parks wifi signal, neighboring folks use to say “Look at she, she is waving at us again, are an she is friendly”, Haha! Now we have a strong wifi signal everywhere in the RV and even outside sitting in the chair and bathing in the sun. The “Red Port Halo WiFi Extender”, the Nylon Ratchet Antenna Mount, the Cable Clam and the 3M Silicon Sealant amounted to $ 397 plus a few dollars for the ½” step drill bit maybe. The money was well spend. We are very happy campers. Look at the picture below!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

A day watching manatees

This is a copy of a screen shot from the Accuweather website

When the weather turns colder, we think how nice it would be to soak a while in a hot tub. Well, not just us humans, but the Florida Manatees were thinking the same thing this week with our almost freezing temperatures down here in Florida and because of a recent cold front in the Gulf of Mexico, the manatees were coming to warm up, we heard on the news. 

We have seen manatees before, but only sporadically and one at a time in mostly murky waters, which doesn’t let you see them in their grandiose size.  From our RV Park in Ocala the ride to the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River is 75km/47miles and since today the sun was shining bright again just perfect for another excursion, we hopped into the truck to take a look.

 The Three Sisters Springs is a complex of three spring areas with vents and sand boils. The water remains at a constant temperature of 72 degrees and is crystal clear.  Just imagine this area looking like a swimming pool or gigantic hot tub!
And boy did they come to warm up. Several hundred manatees gathered at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River in a spectacular scene and the largest congregation in recent history.

Manatees are Florida’s state marine mammals.  Some people call them sea cows, but they are relatives of the elephant.  Their skin is thick and wrinkled in a grayish brown color.  They are slow-moving animals that must breathe air at intervals of less than 20 minutes. They have paddle like flippers, measure up to 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1300 pounds. They spend about 50% of their day sleeping submerged and the rest grazing in shallow waters.
As per Wikipedia the manatees prefer warmer temperatures and are known to congregate in shallow waters. They frequently migrate through brackish water estuaries to freshwater springs and they cannot survive below 15C (60F)

If you haven't seen enough manatee pictures by now, watch a You Tube clip from the same area done by divers swimming with the manatees.