Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seeing St. Augustine Again

We really like our campground at Naval Station Mayport.  It is just north of Jacksonville and St. Augustine.  We have been to St. Augustine a few times and always love seeing it again.

Since we have been here, we have made the 40 mile drive to there three times and a couple of those times we saw the city again on the Old Town Trolley Tours
We learn a lot and are reminded of things we forgot.  And you can get off and on at any stop along the 22 places on the tour.  The tickets were good for more that one day so that was nice.

The tour took us over by Flagler College that was originally a hotel built by former Standard Oil magnate Henry Flagler.  After he left Standard Oil with his fortune, he went to St Augustine, decided to build a hotel to draw the tourists and then the railroad to get them there.  

He went on to build in Miami and connected it with his Florida East Coast Railroad.  He also built a railroad out to Key West in 1912.

One of the many hotels he owned became Flagler College in 1968.  The Ponce de Leon Hotel became one of the main 15 buildings on campus.

Across the street, the Lightner Museum was once the Alcazar Hotel.
After it fell into disrepair, the hotel and museum became part of the City Hall.  It is now fully restored and a beautiful place.

The most historic place of all is the Castillo de San Marcos that once protected the city.
We found an empty bench on the old seawall next to the fort and had a picnic lunch.

There are a number of historic churches in town including the Cathedral of St Augustine.
And two churches Flagler built:  Grace United Methodist Church
and Memorial Presbyterian Church
It was built in memory of his daughter who died shortly after childbirth.

It was fun to walk around the historic St George Street with all the shops and old Spanish buildings.

A couple of things we learned after coming here again was the size of the conquering Spaniards in 1565.
The life-size statue of Ponce de Leon stands at 4'11".  Pedro Menendez (founder of the city in 1565) was 5'1".

We didn't realize Frederic Douglass gave a speech here in 1899.
And Martin Luther King Jr. was in town during the '60s giving speeches during those turbulent years.

The trip back to St. Augustine was well worth it and the weather was great!

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stephen Foster at the State Park

Besides being a very nice State Park, there are some great things to do here at the Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park.

We like this place and here are some reasons why:

The camp site:
- Plenty of space
- Easy to get into and long enough to actually maneuver a bit so we could get our TV dish pointed in the right direction without trees.  Baseball and NFL game possibilities.
- The campground is clean, tidy and well maintained.  Nothing like having a good first impression that lasts.

Another item about the park is the hiking trails.  There are some service roads/trails in the area that are a good way to get in a little hike.
And down near the Swanee River the trails join up with the Florida Trails

The Trail and Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park is near White Springs
which is about 1/2 between Tallahassee and Jacksonville just north of I-10.

I wanted to see the Swanee River.  The area down near the Florida Trail was also a canoe/kayak boat access area that we checked out first.
There was no real good place to view large sections of the river.  The area had a lot of brush and trees lining it.  But down near a primitive camp site we saw a little bit of an opening.
Like some other rivers in Florida, this is known as a Blackwater River that gets its dark color from the vegetation lining the river which decays and turns the water black.  It did not look too inviting.

The park is also known for the Culture Center which has a quite a few items about Stephen Foster in the museum.
The museum also includes a number of dioramas depicting scenes from his songs.
Interestingly enough, Foster was from Pittsburgh and only visited the South once during a honeymoon cruise down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

Of his more than 200 compositions, some of Foster's famous works include:

  • Oh! Susanna
  • Camptown Races
  • My Old Kentucky Home
  • Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair
  • Old Black Joe
  • Beautiful Dreamer
  • Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)
Among the displays, we learned he only lived to be 37.  Tragically, he fainted in his room during a period of illness and broke his wash basin and gauged his neck.  He lay bleeding for three hours until he was discovered and died a few days later.

He is known as the "Father of American Music" and his works were most popular in the mid 1800's although they continue to generate interest 150 years later.

On the grounds, the State of Florida built a large Memorial Carillon to commemorate.  I didn't even know what a carillon was before we saw this.  It basically is a 200' tower with large tubular bells - the largest of its kind in the world.
Throughout the day in the park, portions of his songs are played from the automatic electric player.  Throughout the day you can here the pleasant tones throughout the campground.

At the base of the structure, there is another large room that has more artifacts.
I think my favorite was a display and model of the inside of the 97 - bell carillon.  It was built in 1958 at a cost of $500,000 by the State of Florida.
The high cost of maintenance of the bells led to silencing them in the 1980's.  They were partially (32 of the 64 bells) turned on again 1993 after funds were raised.

It was a nice visit to another great Florida State Park!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Roadrunner Cleaning Time!

I have wanted to wash and wax/polish the coach for a number of weeks.  But either the weather has not cooperated or we have not been in a good place to get the job done.  But here at the Hurlburt Field Campground, we did.

First order of business was washing the roof and getting a good coat of wax on it.

The roof has been oxidizing and then those while streaks roll off the top down the side of the Roadrunner.

The way I do it is to get both collapsible hoses connected (with a nozzle on one end) and wrap some of the hose around an air conditioner so it doesn't slide off.  Then I get a 5 gallon bucket, a little dish soap and climb up on top.  Next I fill the bucket with some soap, add water and I'm in business.
I always wear my old but good fitting running shoes when I get on top of the roof.  Crocs or sandals seem like a recipe for disaster...

Pam cranks up the digital antenna so I can wash under it and away I go.   It doesn't take too long to do the top.

Next we washed the back, both sides and the front.  By that time (after about an hour and 20 minutes) I had about all the fun I could stand for one day.  The next day I used 'The Solution' which I have used for years.
It puts a shiny gleen on the paint and takes a lot less effort than the standard wax.

Even so, it took me two more 2+ hour episodes to get the whole thing done.
Meanwhile, Pam was having some fun of her own cleaning all the screens.
She systematically removed every window screen in the Roadrunner, and sprayed/wiped them down in the shower.  Then she rinsed it and scrubbed (lightly) each screen with Simple Green.  (Don't know why Simple Green is orange?)

After that, she set them out to dry before the put them back on.
The result:
Its a little hard to tell but you can see the difference in real life.

I also took off the metal grate/screen door protector and Pam cleaned the front screen door too.
So we have a clean coach again and got that job done.
So it wasn't all beach time and golf during our stay.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Golf and Beach Time in FWB!

Fort Walton Beach always brings back some great memories because this is where Pam and I met and got married.  We were both stationed at Hurlburt Field at the time.  We keep coming back and marveling at the changes.  In the mid 1970's special operations in the Air Force almost got absorbed into the Army.  But then the Iranian hostage crisis broke out and the base and units on base have grown ever since.

While some units are drawing down and bases closing, the role of special operations in international conflicts continues to grow.  The base is twice the size it used to be back then.  As we drive around the base it is hard to remember what buildings were where since some many new and larger ones now exist.  My old barracks and work location have been demolished, with the site now used for bigger buildings.  And their seem to be more flying units on base.

In addition to those memories, this is the place where Pam learned to play golf.  And we like the course on base so we managed to get out one afternoon for a round.

Wow - the changes they have made to the course are impressive.  In addition to adding a second nine holes, the course has new carts and signage that is new and it is very well maintained.  And we couldn't beat the after 2 PM rates - $21 each including the cart.

We got there early enough to hit some balls on the range and then did some practice putting.  Have to get the mojo going for what I anticipated was going to be a very good round.
We had the course to ourselves on a very humid 84 degree day.  We were across the runway from the planes which we saw and heard overhead.
It was fun and we both hit some good shots.
And too many of those other kind.  Despite having my high round of the year, we had fun and enjoyed ourselves.

Some folks are beach people, others are not.  We love the beach.  And the weather has been fabulous our whole week here in Fort Walton Beach.  We had a few things to get done while here, but we managed to get some beach time in.

On the first day, we went to Beasly Park on Okaloosa Island
Its a very nice beach with lots of beautiful white sand.  Probably the whitest beaches in the world.  Certainly the whitest we have ever have ever seen.  I remember coming here after work a few times back in the late '70s and just fascinated by it and wading through a beaten up copy of 'Centennial' by James Michener.

The next day we went down a couple of miles toward Destin to the military campground, paid our $3 (which was worth it since the clean facilities were open) and did a repeat -- sat on the beach and read books.
We will be leaving today but we always have a great time in Fort Walton Beach!  Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Our New Interior Lights

This is a story of a 'work in progress'.  We had new interior lights installed behind the trim near the ceiling on the front slide outs.  They worked fine for two days but now the string on the Driver Side (DS) doesn't work.  Ugh oh...

This was a bit of a struggle from the beginning and eventually we will learn enough about wiring it all together.  But this is one of those projects that didn't quite go as expected.

Here's how it all went down.

We contacted a guy who knew a guy that could install interior rope lights.  That's how we have found after duty work projects guys in the past.  Someone knows someone.  In Red Bay it is very common.

Our guy is a pretty busy and hard working fellow. He finished up another job and came over and we finally got started on the install about 7:25 PM Thursday night.

He used the air system from the Roadrunner for his brad gun.

Then he carefully pried off the bottom molding piece of the DS slideout, beginning in the rear.  That exposed the metal screws holding the larger molding which was secured into the metal slideout frame.
My job was to go back with a pair of needle nose pliers and remove the fine brad 'nail's' that were holding the bottom piece.

Next we removed the middle and front pieces, then laid them face side down on the floor.  We then carefully measured the rope lights to precisely the length we wanted.  There are faint scissor marks on the rope light to show you were to cut.
We then stripped the end section exposing the wires and touched them to a 12v battery to make sure the lights were all working.
The speaker wire then was fed through the front end of the metal hollow tubing/frame down to the light over the table.  After shoving it down through the channel, we fished it through the extra hole we drilled, then down through with the other wires to the existing light.

So far so good.  But this is the hardest part of the whole projects.  We have two lights and two switches on the wall.  We are going to add a third light and switch (rope lights) and have them all work together.  All on, all off, some on some off and every combination.
We let that go for a while and got back to mounting the rope lights onto the back of the trim.  Each piece of the trim was butted up to the next one.  Then the rope lights were tacked into place.
At the end of the rope lights he installed a pig-tail the connected to the battery to check the lights one more time.
 We turned our attention to the other side, took off the trim on the other side.  We installed a light switch near the end of the Passenger Side (PS) sofa.  The rope lights were mounted on the inside of the trim near the first overhead light.
 It was a much easier installation and we put the trim back together and called it a day.
 It was past 11:25 PM.  But we wanted the lights up and only had the wiring left on the DS.
 On Friday we got into the Service Center got all the repairs done on our list and went back to our campsite.  He came over after work and hooked up the lights on the DS.

I wish I had watched more closely on what he hooked up to what.  We checked it out and it all worked fine.  Three lights, three switches and every combination of on/off.
But on Saturday morning, we tried it again and the lights did not work!  Ugh!...  We made the decision to trouble shoot it and maybe re-wire things our selves and keep to our departure schedule on Saturday morning.

We are scratching our heads though after taking the light down over the table and looking at all the connections.  We took off each connector and rewire them all but clearly didn't get it right.  More to follow on this...

I share this in part to document the fact that not all our upgrades go smoothly.  Most do, this one did for one set of lights.  Then too, I believe we will eventually figure it out and be able to show you the new lights on both sides.

That's all for now and THANKS for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!