Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring, adventuring and experiencing. Part journal, part travel guide, part history lesson, part stream of consciousness. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!


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Bikey Things

I’ve made up for my lack of cycling this winter with bike buying.  I came here with three bikes.  I’ll be leaving Orlando at the end of the month with two, one and a half of which are new.  Nope, not a mistype.  1.5 of my bikes are now brand new.

How does one purchase Half of a bicycle?  By replacing and upgrading the drivetrain.  For you non-cyclists, the drivetrain is the pedal cranks, chainring, chain, and rear cassette (or the gears).  My 2014 Stumpjumper is a fabulous mountain bike though starting to age a bit.  If you shop for a mountain bike nowadays you’ll find that most have gone away from two chainrings up front in favor of just one, with a wider variety of gears in the back.  This is referred to as a 1x (pronounced “one by”) setup.  Along with this many are now available with a mind boggling, but leg helping, 12 gears.  So I’ve updated my new half of bike by converting my old drivetrain to a 1×12 (“one by 12′).  I’ve ridden it a few times on some of the rare but great single-track trails here in Central Florida and it’s a joy to ride.  Mostly, I wanted to simplify, which I’ve done by this, but it was also time to replace those components.

Speaking of simplifying, there’s no better way to simplify a bike than by getting rid of it.  I only had my gravel bike for a few of years and I enjoyed it while I had it, but I got very few chances since I’ve lived on the road to put it to good use.  I found nearly all of my opportunities to ride it were as well, or better suited by riding my mountain bike instead.  And schlepping around 3 bikes on an RV can be something of a pain, so I decided it was time to send her off to a better owner where she might be ridden more often.

And then there’s my new bike.  BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW!  I didn’t have my Trek road bike very long either, though I definitely got my fair share of rides in. I put somewhere around 5500 miles on that bike in 3 years.  I had no plans whatsoever to buy a new bike this winter.  Pieces just kind of fell in to place.  Orlando, apparently, is not such a good place to sell your immaculately kept high-end bike.  In Washington, D.C., where I’ve sold more than one bike on Craigslist, within an hour of posting I’d always have at least 2 or 3 interested inquiries.  In Orlando, with my gravel bike, I got 8 interested emails, every single one of which was a scammer.  My Trek garnered one.

Wheelworks10thAnniversarylogo_noBackground-Final-smallInstead I utilized Bicycle Bluebook (bicyclebluebook.com) and their Trade-In program.  I took my bikes to Wheel Works , my fantastic local shop here in Winter Garden, got them appraised and traded them in for about 2/3 of the price of the new bike.  It’s a hard deal to beat getting a brand new bike for nearly 70% off.  I couldn’t pass it up.  So now allow me to introduce my favorite new toy….2020 Specialized Roubaix

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Finally, I’ve upgraded my storage and carrying system as well.  For the last two years I’ve had a standard bike rack on the back of the RV and had various bike covers on them. 396T9vg4TJyo6I8mUqZOBgThe covers did a fine job of protecting the bikes from the elements.  The problems were those covers, as all rack covers, are open on the bottom.  They’re not really designed for full time storage on the back of a moving vehicle.  All manner of road-spray and such would still get them filthy.  It was also quite a pain to get the middle and back bike off the rack.  Last year, while at Zion National Park, I saw a small RV with this fully enclosed bike carrier and thought I’d finally found my solution.

They are made by Komo Creations in Quebec, and they are NOT inexpensive, but I think it’ll be worth the price for the added protection and security for my $6000-$7000 worth of bikes.

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Two bikes in the Komo.  I take the front wheel off the mountain bike because it just barely fits and that makes getting it in and out much easier.


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Some DIY

I had me a little project to take care of this winter.  My bathroom vent fan started giving me problems a few months after I bought the motorhome.  Not the fan, actually, but the motor which raises the vent cover.  The screws which attach that motor loosened from their anchors.  Not surprising since they are anchored in to the fan housing assembly which is plastic.

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The offending vent cover motor, although this is the one on the new fan assembly

The first few times I was able to tighten the screws, but that never lasted very long and I was soon forced to hold the motor in place in order to open the vent cover.  I glued it

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New fan assembly and tools all ready to go

once, but that didn’t hold long either.  When I was at the Service Center at Red Bay in September of 2018 this was one of the items I asked them to address.  It seemed fixed, as it was working when I left Red Bay.  That lasted about a week.

Then I tried epoxy.  Surely that will hold.  And it did……for about 2 weeks.  So, since the middle of last summer I’ve been having to stretch up, hold the motor in place and manually crank the cover up and down.  Not really a big deal, but not the most convenient either.

It didn’t take long before I’d had enough of that, but it took until this winter where I would be in a place long enough that I could do anything about it.  I ordered an entire new fan assembly and decided to install it myself.  Because, you can find ANYTHING on the interwebs, including handy YouTube videos on how to replace something on the roof of your RV.

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Out comes the old and

In truth, the process was very simple.  Execution of the process was, as always, far more taxing than the video shows.  1) Getting the old lap sealant off (the rubbery, waterproof stuff glopped around the outside to keep out water) is something of a pain.  At first I had the recommended plastic putty knife.  Yeah, that did NOTHING! One more reason having a fiberglass roof is awesome.  I was able to use a razorblade scraper which cut through that stuff like butter without damaging the roof, UNTIL, I snapped the blade and, of course had no replacement blades.  Off to Lowes.  2) I bought a new cordless drill/driver and some lovely screwdriver heads for it.  Who knew, when I got down to them through the lap sealant, that the factory secured the unit with

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A nice clean hole

hex screws, not flat or Philips-head!  Grrrrr!  Back to Lowes.  3) The wiring was a snap.  Wrestling to get all the wires out of the way when trying to fit the new unit back in to the hole in the roof was infuriating.

But, I managed to get it all in……and the vent cover AND fan work perfectly, which is never a guarantee when I get the DIY bug.  This one better hold because I do not want to have to do THAT again. It’s the same as the vent fan in the kitchen and I’ve had no issues with that one some I’m hopeful it was simply a defective assembly.

 

It’s so nice to just have to hit the button on the wall again.  🙂

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Ta Da!  And it even works properly.


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Showcase Of Citrus!

I love stumbling across wacky roadside America.  Just one more reason to get off the Interstate and ride the secondary roads.  Heh, heh, see what I did there? 🤣  This time I only had to go a couple of miles up the road, that road being Florida Highway 27. 9FHZFlzKSiGqjMb2iLadiA

In fact I’m not back on the road again.  I’ve still got about 6 more weeks here in the outskirts of Orlando, but this is just the type of place I’d stop at if I happened to come

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A giant shark is eating my Honda.  Yikes!

across it on the road.  And this place has all the Florida kitsch you’d expect, not the least of which is oranges.  Central Florida really is the citrus capital, perhaps of the world.  This area has miles and miles of citrus groves.  Mostly orange, but other citrus as well.  Just across the road is Lake Louisa State Park where I’ve done some hiking over the last few weeks. Clearly part of what is now park was once orange grove because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of trees now growing wild and producing fruit.  I sampled one the other day on a hike.  BLEEEEECCCCHHHHH!!!!  It was one of the most bitter,

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Fresh from the groves out back

sour, nastiest things I’ve ever intentionally put in my mouth.  My lips were kinda numb for a half hour or so, as if I’d sprayed DEET on them. But if you get the chance, you should try it.  I wonder why those oranges are so nasty, but these oranges, no more orange or attractive, happen to be edible, and sweetly so.  Of course they don’t LOOK like the oranges you get in the store.  Not even like the ones I get in Walmart.  Ahh, the mysteries of life.

If you’re looking for a more realistic experience than picking your citrus out of a giant bin, you can always sign up and pick them out of a Giant Truck….or really, a MONSTER TRUCK!  Tours available, including picking your own fruit.fullsizeoutput_1cfc

I wonder how migrant workers would feel about that kind of perk.

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Not to be outdone by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they have their own exotic menagerie where you can feed donkeys and pigs and mini-cattle (no, not baby cows, actual full grown mini-cattle), a couple of emu, a rambunctious ostrich who will stick his head through the fence gobbling for food whether you have any or not and of course, because EVERY Florida “zoo” should have one……..fullsizeoutput_1cff

A CHICKEN!!!!   Oh, no wait, I mean……A KANGAROO!  Never mind about that giant milkshake in the background.  Sorry, the baby elephant is fake.

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Beer, wine, honey, chips, dozens of varieties of their own homemade salsas and jams.  It’s a veritable smorgasbord of kitsch! And it just wouldn’t be Florida if there wasn’t any gator…..1SR6bvCARA+MBUuLZ+qsQw

So the next time……or the first time……you sojourn down to the Sunshine State or drag the kids to the Happiest Place On Earth……take a little side trip and stop on in.

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New And Improved

I’ve started off the new year with some changes and updates.  I’ve added a map of the US National Parks and identify which of them I’ve visited.

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You may notice that I had to add White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico.  I visited a few years ago while it was still a National Monument.  On December 20th, 2019 President Trump signed its designation as America’s newest National Park.

You can always find this map, updated as I get to new parks, in the drop down menus at the top of the webpage, under “Bucket Lists.”

Happy 2020 everyone!


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Let’s Review

As 2020 approaches it’s time to take a quick gander back at the year that was.

First off, let’s finish up the year’s monthly trek with my December Florida ramblings.  The month started and is ending near Orlando.  In fact, I’ll be here till the verge of Spring.

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December 2019 RV Trek

I ended up covering quite a bit of the same territory in 2019 as I did in 2018, although that wasn’t really the plan at the start.  It just kind of worked out that way given some commitments I had and how best to meet them from where I would be at the time.

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2019 RV Trek

The stats, in a nutshell:

  • 9665 miles travelled. Those are RV miles.  Some places I drove my car quite a bit, and some places nearly none.
  • 14 States visited.  That is states I stayed in, not just passed through.
  • 9 States new states visited in the Motorhome.  This brings my total up to 25.
  • 1295 gallons of fuel purchased, costing $3552.  That’s an average of 7.4 miles per gallon.
  • 0 state bike rides completed.  Hmm, not so good there for my 50 Rides In 50 States goal.  I had a few planned, actually showed up for a couple, got rained out of one and winded out of the other.  Not giving up though.  
  • 10 National Parks.  That doesn’t include the plethora of other NPS units I visited which have designations other than a National Park, such as Monument, Memorial, Battlefields, Historic place, etc.
  • 3 State High Points. 15 reached, 34 more to go.  Yes, I’m aware that is only 49.  I have no intention of risking my life to climb Denali, in Alaska.

When you add the two years I’ve been living on the road together, it looks like this…

Lifetime RV Trek

Red = 2018 Blue = 2019

and this….

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Looking forward to my 2020 adventures!


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The Everglades

Last week I took a break from my winter-over location near Orlando  and headed back to the heat and humidity of south Florida to spend some time in the Everglades and check another National Park off the list.

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Now I don’t know about you, but for 50 years, whenever I thought of the Everglades, which admittedly has been almost never, I’ve imagined miles upon miles of swamp, stagnant, critter infested waters and Cypress Trees.  Like in that movie Swamp Thing.  So,

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I was way down at the end of the road in the Flamingo area

the water and critter infestation part was correct, but I was way off on the Cypress thing.  In fact I was shocked to find the Everglades has nine distinct ecosystems, none of which are Cypress swamps.  To be fair, I did go through a small section that was labeled Dwarf Cypress Forest, but you’d never have known it without that sign and it was certainly no Swamp Thing kind of place.  Lotsa Mangrove, no real Cypress.  At least not where I was.

 

I was in the Flamingo area, which has the only campground with electrical power and is 40 miles from the park entrance on that only road.  No water at the individual sites, no K2aWSlLGShK8uVsJN+VzRwsewer hookups and you can forget about any connectivity.  I spent the week using my more than adequate onboard fresh water tank, and using water like a Fremen (read Frank Herbert’s Dune and that’ll make sense) to avoid filling my grey tank and having to break camp to go to the dump station.  Not that it was any big deal to do so, but using the campground showers a few times got me through the week.   If you want to be connected to the outside world you’ll have to get nearly out of the park.  The Long Pine Key and Royal Palm areas, about 10 or so miles in, have some cell reception.

 

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A Mahogany tree.  I didn’t know they were tropical.

In truth a week was too long and 5 days would have been sufficient because surprise #2 was not too much to do really, unless you are an avid paddler, or want to spend money on boat trips.  I expected there to me more accessible areas to explore and perhaps some hikes available.  There are two “hiking” trails in the Flamingo area, but one is completely unmaintained.  Read that as mostly overgrown and probably not easy to follow in spots.  The other “trails” are mostly short .2 – .4 mile long boardwalks just to give you a flavor of their environment.  Interesting, but not really a hike.

I did a couple of good rides, including more than half of the park road, spent a half day paddling, one day exploring a good portion of the boardwalk trails and areas and a lot of reading.  If you’re a bird-watcher this is a good place for you.  Tons of birds all over of many, many differing varieties.  And this is supposedly the less populated season for them.  I can’t imagine suffering the heat and humidity of summer here, but apparently the bird population then is far greater, which is hard to believe.  So, not the place for you Jody Bennett.

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9 Mile Pond Canoe Trail.  I know, it looks like land but I assure you it’s all water.

The best thing I did all week was rent a kayak and paddle the 9 Mile Pond Canoe Trail.  The kayak rental itself was reasonable, but if you plan to do real paddling here I highly suggest you bring your own boat as they charged me an additional $35 to transport the boat from the marina to 9 Mile Pond.  But the paddle was fabulous.

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Starting off on 9 Mile Pond

 

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Making my way through mangroves

Once you get across 9 Mile Pond itself you’re off into the mangroves and such.  The trail is marked by white poles which are easy to follow except in one or two spots where you may have to look a bit.

At some points in the mangroves it’s so dense and closed in that you can’t even paddle.  You’re just better off grabbing the mangrove branches and pulling yourself along.  Except for 9 Mile Pond at the start and the two smaller lakes at the end, the water is never more than a couple of feet and usually, at this time of year, only a few inches deep.  I never scraped a solid bottom and as you’ll see, I certainly dragged my way through plenty of reeds and growth, but there was always water under the keel.

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I’ll take my swamp without whipped cream please

And who knew that the Everglades comes with its own whipped cream???  It’s phyto… something or other.  Super nutrient rich, super slimy algae which grows throughout.  Makes perfect breeding and feeding grounds for fish, birds, frogs, turtles, etc.  Also makes for a bit of a slimy, muck-covered paddle in the dry season with water levels so low.  You’ll notice my feet get muckier and muckier as I go. There’s no paddling through this without throwing it around from your paddle blades.

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This wasn’t the easiest place to paddle either

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Nor was this

Ok, I might as well have been paddling across a cow pasture here.  Yeah, there’s water underneath me, but these reeds just act like a brake, and every paddle stroke was throwing gobs of swamp shit and mangrove muck everywhere, but mostly on me.  It was fullsizeoutput_1ceeA LOT of work.  I laughed A LOT.  Do not let this discourage you from adventuring here.  First of all, as I said, it’s winter, so the dry season.  I’m also out in the late morning and early afternoon which happed to be just past low tide.  In fact a Full Moon low tide so the water level was EXTREMELY low.

Despite it being the dry season and the weather looking sunny and beautiful ahead, if I’d taken a picture behind me you’d have thought the world was about to end.  Nasty looking rain bearing down on me with a couple of miles yet to go.  The good news was I had made the turn back toward the west, with the wind (storm winds to boot) and the incoming tide, there was no lightning or thunder and it was quite warm so the shower was quite refreshing.  Actually, there was no bad news.

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Gatorzilla.  15 feet of prehistoric eating machine!

The last mile and a half is back in to mangroves and much more open water so much easier, normal paddling also resumed.  Prior to starting out, the ranger who transported my canoe gave me a heads up to look for Gatorzilla, the local famous denizen of the ponds near the very end of the trail.  As I made my way back through the mangroves approaching the ponds in the subsiding drizzle I came across a 6-8 ft alligator resting in the reeds along the waterway.  It was sort of a stream through mangroves so I passed by within about 10 feet, happy to have come across him.  If you look back to the overhead shot of the trail you’ll notice the two ponds separated by a thin shrub/land-ish barrier.  By then all the rain had stopped and it was completely still and

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Yet another turtle-crossing-the-road rescue

right as I paddled through the very narrow (like maybe 4 ft wide) gap that joins the two ponds I glanced up to see the gargantuan back of a gator not 20 yds in front of me.  I believe I exclaimed “Holy Shit” aloud and threw on the brakes.  More startled that he was actually there than afraid of him I was still quite glad for the heads-up at that point.  He was slowly swimming across the pond in the same direction I needed to go.  Once through the gap I veered a bit off to his port side (see, I still got a bit o’ that Navy jargon in me) to pass him by.  He could not have cared less.  I, on the other hand was all giddy.  What an adventure!

+1zol6k3Ro+bE8FAauYg4AI bet you didn’t know the Everglades was once home to a Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile Battery.  Actually, you may not have even known that the US ever had Air Defense Missile Batteries.  Well, through the 1950’s, ’60s and 70’s we did.  In fact, this was the last Air Defense Missile Battery decommissioned, shockingly, in 1979.  That Cold War thing was real, for you kids out there.

 

 

 

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There’s a tour daily.  They’ll take you in to one of the barns where you can see a missile and launcher, but I wasn’t sticking around.  It was time to be done with my ride and besides it was getting ready to rain, again.  It rained at some point nearly every day.  Dry Season, you knowfullsizeoutput_1cf4

It was a great week, even with the extra days.  But hey, what in the world do I have to rush for???

Back to Orlando till March…………