Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Our catch of the day

November 6, 2019—Fishing is fun, even if you don’t catch anything. That’s a good thing, because on this trip, we fed a lot of fish, but we couldn’t lure any onto our hooks. We hooked two or three tiny fingerlings, but the big ones were evasive. Our freezer is empty.

We aren’t going home entirely empty-handed, however. We “caught” some delicious chocolate at the candy factory in Daytona Beach, which is less than 10 miles from our campground. The fudges and the chocolate-covered bacon are not as nutritious as fish, but we will savor their taste nonetheless. Everyone deserves some a good chocolate treat every once in a while.
Our catch of the day was chocolate, purchased from Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory in Daytona Beach. Chew praline, rocky road, and chocolate caramel fudge, plus chocolate-covered bacon. Who needs fish when you can catch chocolate?

On another subject…

We continue to “shake down” our new truck camper. Like any new vehicle, we have found several things that need to be corrected. What has proved disappointing, however, is the dealer prep from Ocean Grove RV, where we purchased our truck camper. Just like when you buy a car, we had to pay a dealer-prep charge for the camper. We found that essentially nothing had been checked; we did not even get all the manuals for all appliances, such as the TV/radio/dvd sets. The TV and radio/dvd are supposed to be connected via HTMI, and share the six built-in speakers in the camper.

When we made our maiden voyage two weeks ago, we discovered that the sound on the TV was not loud enough. With the air conditioner on, we could barely hear the news. Because we had no instructions, I downloaded the manual for the Jensen devices. We followed directions, but still no good sound and no TV sound out of the speakers. I emailed the company; they suggested calling when we were in the camper.

Jim called today. After talking with the technician, he discovered that an HDMI cord had not been plugged into the radio/dvd appliance. This should have been done at the factory. Since it wasn’t, it should have been discovered and corrected during the dealer prep. It is fixed now, thanks to my husband, not Lance or Ocean Grove.

Despite small annoyances, we are enjoying our experience immensely in our new truck camper.

Tomorrow we return home. Our next camping trip, which will be to a state park on the west coast of Florida, is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Until then,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Not crabby about the weather

November 5, 2019—Cloudy, overcast, rainy skies. We are at Tomoka State Park, 60 miles from Jacksonville, south of St. Augustine, just outside the town of Ormond Beach. This is our second visit to Tomoka; we were here last year when it was cold, really cold. So we welcome the overcast skies with temperatures in the 70s.
We like this state park. The roads are sand, but they are smooth and well marked. The wash houses are large and very clean. The sites are private and not too close together. It has several spots on the shore of the Halifax River from which you can fish. And the state park has wifi! That in itself makes it a "keeper."
We dropped our lines at one of Ormand Beach’s public fishing piers on the Halifax River. It is a large pier that makes a complete circuit back to a nice, clean public restroom, and it offers a place to take a leisurely walk or a jog or (of course) to fish. This particular pier is built under a bridge, a natural place to fish. Many species lurk in the tannic water to seek out crustaceans that adhere to the bridge pilings.

Jim is talking to another angler who is fishing off one leg of the pier.

I'm guessing that the total span of this pier is at least a quarter mile. The far leg was under construction when we were here last year. 

Jacksonville has seven—count them, seven—bridges that span its rivers. How many fishing piers does it have like this one? Zero. Nada. Nil. None. If you want to fish under a bridge, you have to risk climbing rocks.
Jacksonville has the largest park system in the country. Many of these parks are on or near water. How many fishing piers does it have? You can count on one hand.
If a small town can have a great fishing pier, why can’t the biggest geographic city in the United States? Because Jacksonville’s government is cheap.
Okay. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Last year when we came here to fish, it was very cold, but the fish were not biting. This time, they were biting—enjoying our bait—but we weren’t catching. I fed a lot of shrimp to hungry fish, probably catfish. I caught the tiniest catfish I’ve ever seen—about three inches long! Later I caught another species that was just too small to keep. Jim didn’t have any better luck, except he pulled in a surprise: a crab!
Although we have a crab trap, we haven’t used it recently. This crab latched onto Jim’s bait and didn’t let go when he hauled in the line. We kept it; it will be part of our dinner tonight, despite the fact that the crab only has one claw.

Poor little guy only has one claw. Nevertheless, he will supplement our differ tonight.
What’s on our agenda for tomorrow? Perhaps some surf fishing. We also may go down to Daytona Beach (about 30 minutes away) to visit a candy factory, which we toured last year. Some of the factory’s specialties include chocolate-covered bacon and chocolate-covered potato chips. Yum.
Fish in our freezer or not, we are having a great time on this short vacation.
Until later,
Your Reluctant RoVer,

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Shark feast!

October 23, 2019—We returned home today from a great three-day shake-down “cruise” at Little Talbot Island State Park. Our dinner? The shark fillets I had soaking in milk overnight.

A milk marinade takes away any fishy taste and smell, and is especially necessary with shark. We learned that shark must be killed and bled immediately after being caught, to avoid tainting the meat with uremic acid. (Sharks urinate through their skin.) Jim did this on the beach and cleaned the fillets when we got back to the campground. I put them in a milk bath, where they stayed until I was ready to cook them.

How to cook shark? Google answered that. I found several recipes, which served as a basis for our evening meal.

I took one shark fillet and cut it into small one-inch chunks. After arranging the chunks on a plate, I placed a small pat of butter on each, sprinkled them with a creole seasoning, and topped them with shredded parmesan cheese. To cook them, I popped them into the microwave and zapped them for about 90 seconds. They came our juicy, tender, and delicious!

The second fillet I decided to coat in fine gluten-free panko crumbs, mixed with parmesan and the same creole seasoning. I then pan-fried the fillet.

The verdict? Succulent. The meat was tender, juicy, and not at all fishy tasting. In fact, if I were to serve it to someone without telling them what it was, they wouldn’t even know it was fish!
We have caught several sharks when we have gone surf fishing. Some species are protected, but many are not. In the future, we will keep whatever we can.

Until next time (which should be the week of November 4),

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rain, fishing, and shark

October 22, 2019, Little Talbot Island—Rain, rain, go away.
Actually, we are happy to have rain; we have been in a flash draught. However…does it have to rain when we are on vacation?

(Yes, retirees—at least Jim and I—go on vacation. We need to do so; too many things needing attention at home never seem to leave us time to go fishing!)

We went down to Simpson’s Creek (a couple miles from this state park) yesterday. Not even a nibble. We came home and tried the fishing pier. Again, nothing. About 4 p.m., when the tide was receding, I decided to go back to the pier again. Tide change is the time to fish.

As I was standing on the fishing pier, I could see feeding activity in the far-off weeds, a sure sign of big fish, probably reds or trout. Given some time and a bit of luck, I was hoping to catch at least one of them. It was not meant to be. Just as Jim was to join me, he looked to the west and saw the encroaching rain clouds. About 10 minutes later, it started to rain. That put an end to my fishing; I am a fair-weather angler.

The fish are out there. Our camping neighbors went out in their kayaks and pulled in 21 trout. Having a water vehicle, of course, helps in fishing: You go where the fish are. As landlubbers, we have to wait for them to come to us.

Today, we decided to go surf fishing or fish near the inlet (where the neighbors caught the trout). We discovered that we forgot to bring our pole holders (pvc pipe with a contoured lip, which are stuck in the sand). Surf fishing is a lot easier when you have those holders, otherwise, you have to sit and hold the pole. (You are also obviously limited on how many poles you can fish at a time.)

I caught two ladyfish and a catfish. Jim finally caught a catfish and…(ta-ta!) a bonnethead shark, about two feet long. We decided to toss the ladyfish and catfish back, although they (like any other fish) are edible. The bonnethead is a different story.

We did not take a photo of the bonnethead shark Jim caught during this vacation. However, he caught one last year at New Smyrna Beach in Central Florida could be a twin to the one he caught today. Had we known how tasty shark is we would have kept this one! 

Bonnetheads are legal to keep. A new regulation in Florida requires anglers who intend to fish for shark to take an online course. Although we don’t intend to fish for shark, we took the course and learned which sharks are legal to keep and which are protected. We also learned through videos that shark is good to eat, provided it is cleaned correctly. That starts with dispatching it and bleeding it out immediately. Sharks urinate through their skin; bleeding them out helps avoid tainting the meat with uric acid from the urine.

Jim filleted the bonnet head, and I have it soaking in milk (also recommended). I don’t have all the ingredients I would like to use to cook it tonight, so the shark will be our dinner tomorrow evening, when we are at home. I’ll post if it was good eating—or not.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


P.S. The reason why you are seeing these posts after the dateline is because we have only sporadic LTE. When I say sporadic, I mean 10 seconds or so at a time, a few times a week. State parks should put up wifi towers. Today’s campers need them. At least we have good TV coverage, all Jacksonville channels. Yes, although we are about 30 miles from our home, we are still in the city, which reportedly is the largest (geographically speaking) city in the continental in the United States.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Shake-down 'cruise'

October 21, 2019—We are at Little Talbot Island State Park, about 30 miles north of home. We arrived last night, and we slept well, our first night in our new truck camper.

Although we purchased the camper last month, this is the first opportunity we have had for a “shake-down” cruise. The reason? On the way home from picking up the camper, we had a small accident. The door to the microwave, set in a lower cabinet under the stove (not overhead as microwaves generally are placed) shattered. The drawer under banquette, opposite (but on the same level as) the microwave/convection oven was not latched. It swung out and broke the door. Poor design, and the manufacturer did not have a warning to latch all doors before driving.

This camper has a side door.

The accident was covered under the warranty, but we had to wait for the part. (I think they installed a new appliance.)

The new camper is slowly becoming our second home: Jim put up a magnetic knife holder over the sink. Very handy, especially since kitchen-cabinet drawer space is limited. He also built and installed a paper-towel holder. (Why don’t they come installed?)
The magnetic knife holder frees up drawer space, which is sparse.

Jim made this paper towel holder, which matches the cabinetry almost perfectly.

The camper came with a spice rack and magazine racks under the TV (who takes magazines camping?). It also has another magazine rack near the couch. Jim installed a power strip with high-speed USB ports on the side of the rack, which is the ideal size to hold my laptop when not in use. When we get home he will install another small spice rack (which was by the sink) on the back of the banquette near the power strip, to hold our phones and tablets while they are charging. (FYI: This camper comes with several USB outlets, but I suspect they are only 1 amp, not 2.4, which is needed to charge tablets and fast-charge phones.)
This magazine rack is the ideal size to hold my laptop. Jim installed the outlet strip, which has USB plugs.  
We also purchased an ice maker, a real godsend. We had one several years ago in our first RV, but it died over time. This one has a smaller footprint and works pretty fast. Sure beats filling ice trays several times a day, especially since we need ice when we go fishing.

Although the refrigerator (6 cubic feet) is the same size that we had in the old truck camper (and I think, also, in our very first RV, back in 2010), its design is much improved, with a capacity to hold more food.

The new camper also has a good-sized bathroom. Still a bit crowded, but it has a full counter top and more storage than in the other camper. The camper also has larger water and sewer (grey and black) tanks than the other camper. We don’t have sewer hookup here at Little Talbot Island, so we are taking showers at the wash house (very nice). If our tanks are not full Tuesday night (our last night here), we will try our own shower.

The nicest thing in this camper (and the reason why we bought it) is the couch. It is a jack-knife couch (turns into a sleeper), and as such is not the most comfortable to sit on. However…it has two built-in footrests. With a small pillow behind your back, you can sit back, stretch out, and relax. We had no place to do that in either our last truck camper or in our last “big” RV, Thor (27-footer). Thor had a couch, but we could not stretch out well, and the couch was uncomfortable. (It was also a jack-knife sleeper.) The footrest also allows me to use the laptop as a laptop!
We can stretch out on the couch and relax, reading or watching TV.
This camper doesn’t have quite as much storage for clothing as the other did, but I think it will be adequate. Outside, it has plenty of storage.

Last night, we met our camping neighbors, who have a small teardrop type of travel trailer. We invited them in to see the truck camper. They were in awe of all the space we have. We are too.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Friday, September 20, 2019

Ta-da! Introducing...

September 20, 2019—Update. When we sold our 27-foot Class A Thor Axis a couple of weeks ago, I hinted we would have an update concerning our preferred mode of motel-on-wheels.

In May, as you know, we purchased a combination package from a private seller: a 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 “dually” long-bed truck with a 2003 Lance truck camper, with one slide. The seller, a rabbi, had purchased both the truck and the camper new, and had taken good care of them. At the time of purchase, the truck only had 90,000 miles on its odometer!

Despite the rabbi’s good care, however, the truck camper was beginning to show its age. Jim recently replaced the floor with tile planks (inexpensive), and we also installed a new flat-screened TV (inexpensive). His honey-do list of things to do on the camper included building and replacing the kitchen countertop, replacing the kitchen and bathroom faucets, and recaulking all exterior seams. 

We really like the truck camper. It gives us freedom to travel without towing a car, and when we aren't traveling, we have a truck available as a second vehicle or to use to carry our Porta-Bote. Eventually we want to get a boat trailer be able to tow the boat behind our camper--something we could not do in a Class A RV. 

Although the camper is small, it feels like it has more room than Thor, mainly because there is more room in the cabin area, where we spend most of our time relaxing. Our only complaint is that it lacks a comfortable way to stretch out—no room for easy chairs with leg rests as we had in the first two big RVs we owned. After dinner, Jim generally reads at the kitchen table, while I resort to lying in bed to read, or we sit outside in the tented canopy we purchased. On the rare occasions we watch TV, each of us sprawls across the dining table banquette. We can see the TV, but we aren't super-comfortable.

When the sale of our 27-foot Thor Axis was confirmed, we decided to see about remedying our discomfort situation: We looked at truck campers with two slides. (We actually found some brands that had three slides, but they were way out of our price range.) We found a 2019 Lance 1171 that met our needs. And fortunately, we were able to make a deal.

So here it is—our new home-away-from-home.

The “footprint” of our new Lance is essentially the same as the old one—just a tad longer. But its design is much better. It has a side entrance, which must be extended to get into the camper. This extension accommodates a jack-knife sleeper sofa that has built-in footrests. So now we can stretch out and watch TV or read.
Looking from the bed to the end of the extended cabin. The couch opens into a sleeper. 

The couch actually becomes two chairs with footrests. There is a coffee table, which is stored when the slide comes in. On the left side of the couch are two cabinets. The upper is a pull-out pantry; the slower has shelves for storage. There is also storage under the couch/bed.

The kitchen area has more counter space, with the addition of a drop-down counter. Alas, it does not have a real oven as our old Lance did, but it does have a combination microwave/convection oven, like our other RVs did.
The upper cabinets on the left have additional storage  toward the wall, which admittedly is difficult to access but can accommodate rarely used items. The microwave/convection oven is below the range. You can see a flip-top countertop to the left of the sink.

The banquette is not as high as in the other Lance, nor is the bed. (We will sleep well, because we had them swap out the manufacturer’s uncomfortable mattress with the memory-foam mattress we had purchased.)
The banquette turns into additional sleeping accommodations when the table is lowered. Two full-length drawers are available for storage under the bench seats. Also note that above the table is one additional bunk that is available for a child. We won't be using that and may decide to add additional shelving for storage.

We swapped out the manufacturer's mattress for the one we recently purchased. There is a closet behind the wall to the right, and some additional storage to the left, as well as a hamper-like bin. 

The bathroom is a huge improvement, too. Like the old Lance, it is a “wet bath,” meaning that it has a separate shower. (A “dry bath” means that the whole bathroom becomes a shower stall.) It has more storage and more legroom on the john.

The shower has a seat, as well as an adjustable shower head. This bathroom has much more room than the one in our previous Lance.

The camper also has larger water and waste tanks, all LED lighting, outdoor electrical plugs and shower, and good “basement” storage. We haven’t yet loaded it with our goods, but we think we will have plenty of storage inside.

We are eager to try out our new camper, but this will have to wait a couple of weeks. Right now we are dog-sitting Molly, while her “parents” are out of town. Molly is getting on in years, and although we have taken her camping with us before, she is now totally blind with cataracts, has bad arthritis, and doesn’t get around easily, so we don’t want to take her out in a new “home” environment.

Besides that, we had an unwelcomed surprise this morning: We arrived home from the dealer last night in the rain, so I waited until this morning to open it up. That's when I discovered that the drawer under the banquette seat had not been latched prior to our departure from the dealer. It had flown open during our trip home and smashed into the microwave door across from it. (The microwave is under the stove top, not above it.) The damage will be covered by warranty, but waiting for it to be fixed will delay our next camping trip. In the meantime, we are not allowing that to deter from the good feelings we have about purchasing this truck camper. We anticipate many good fishing trips in it.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


P.S. Should you be interested, here are photos of our previous RVs. This truck camper--I swear!--is our last!
We are standing in front of our first RV--a 38-foot, 1998 Dutch Star that had one slide.

This is our second RV--a 40-foot, 2005 Country Coach that had three slides. It was as big as a New York apartment!

In September 2017, we downsized from the 40-footer to this petite 2016 27-foot Thor Axis. The size itself was not a problem, but its configuration was. We just were not comfortable. We decided to sell it and get a truck camper, which we could use to tow a boat, if we wanted to.

Even before Thor was sold, we found this truck and truck camper combination for sale by a private party, a local rabbi in Jacksonville. This 2003 truck camper affirmed that we liked this type of camping, especially if we could get just a little more comfortable...
And this is our 2019 Lance. It has two slides--one on the side (banquette) and one in the back (the couch). It is just slightly longer than the previous Lance, but offers a lot more space with its ingenious interior design. I believe we will be very happy with it. And yes...this is the last RV we are buying. I promise!

Monday, September 16, 2019

A two-day trip home: 1,232 miles

September 16, 2019—It was a L-O-N-G day. Actually, two long days. We drove 1,232 miles in two days, starting in Warwick, R.I. We passed through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina before we hit the Florida border. That’s a lot of states!

On the way up to the reunion, we pretty much adhered to I95, only altering the course when “Garmina” (our GPS lady) told us to go a different way. I think we had programmed her to avoid as many tolls as possible, so she took us off the interstate through some areas we hadn’t planned on traveling—such as through Jersey City, the Bronx, and the Hutchinson River Parkway in New York and the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. We were very glad that we were not driving our truck camper; manipulating it through the city would have been challenging enough, but on the parkways, we discovered that some of the underpasses were only about nine feet! (The truck camper is about 12 feet tall.)

One evening, Jim was talking about our trip to another reunion attendee. He said he never goes down I95, and he proceeded to tell us the route he takes when he drives south. When we got back to our room, Jim took out our atlas and planned a more scenic and less stressful (albeit a bit longer) route. We were glad we took it.

As a born-and-raised flatlander, I love to look at mountains—from a distance. (I have no desire to live in them. The closest I came to living in mountains was in the early 1970s when I lived in Connecticut, which has the Berkshire Mountains.) The route we drove home took us through the Appalachians, including the Blue Ridge Mountains. (See photos below).

Our first day of driving was overcast and a bit rainy. The second day, however, was clear. As we started out in the morning, we could see mist in the valleys. The vistas were outstanding. Lest we forget that we were, indeed, in mountainous country, we occasionally would see signs warning trucks to brake and if their brakes were to fail, to use the runaway truck ramp plowed into the mountain side.
The orange sign indicates a runaway truck ramp, which can be seen in the distance as a cut through the forest.
Two days on the road in a car traveling more than 1,200 miles is a test of relationships, but we survived it. We also survived some road rage: A woman entering the interstate pulled into our lane and almost sideswiped us. Jim blasted the horn and fortunately was able to pull out of the way. The woman then gave him “the finger” through her sunroof. She pulled ahead of us and slowed down. Jim tried to pass, but as he signaled, she pulled into the passing lane to stop us. This in-and-out went on for a while. And during it all, she smirked and kept giving us the finger. It could have been worse.

We both agree that we prefer traveling in our RV and taking our sleeping and eating accommodations with us.

We pulled into our driveway at 6 p.m. last night, after a 6 hour and 25 minute drive. We slept well in our own comfortable bed.

Until our next adventure,

Your Reluctant RoVer,