Just north of Des Moines, Iowa is a Corps of Engineers lake and several campgrounds…….we stayed at one of them, Cherry Glen Campground on Saylorville Lake. Now, we have lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area for most of our lives and are familiar with the Iowa weather: winds blow across most of the time, it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and winter ice and snow are frequent problems. This week was no different; but we had good strong electrical hookups and our A/C’s work well. They issued an Extreme Heat Warning for this part of Iowa as the temperatures were always in the 95º range for the week……at nights only cooling off to the upper 70º’s.
But while we were here, we discovered the neighboring town…. well not really anything for us to discover but this:
We also made time to visit with some of our eldest son’s friend and family while we were here. They have 2 boys, one is 8 and the other is 2; it was fun to see them and meet the boys. We haven’t seen them since the 8 year old was about 3 years old! Sadly, I forgot to take a photo with them……too hot for my brain I guess!
As you may recall, I was having a fit about not having working windshield wipers in the RV and made an appointment at a Newmar dealer for service in Ft. Myers. So let’s talk about that. Every time we drive south on Int. 75 on the “West Coast” of Florida, we pass many signs for North Trail RV in Ft. Myers, a Newmar dealer and service center, one of the few such places in Florida. The wipers have been a problem for many months and it seemed to me a dealer repair was in order. I made an appointment about 10 days in advance and explained the needed repairs to the scheduler. As I planned our trip from Ft. Lauderdale north, we built time in for this appointment, two days in a campground in Ft. Myers and a day for service. I explained this to the scheduler when I spoke to her two days before the appointment and stressed that we did not have any time to wait for parts to be ordered; she suggested we priories our repairs. Our priorities for repairs were as follows: 1) Wipers, 2) Front A/C, 3) Fresh Water pump, and 4) Awning bracket.
So we drove north and west from Markham Park along FL Hwy. 27 through the heart of the Everglades and along the edge of Lake Okeechobee. I hoped to avoid the Turnpike and the tolls and the traffic and maybe see some sights along the way. Sure enough, we could see the “River of Grass” that is the Everglades. Birds of every type waded in the water or flew overhead. Several alligators lay in the water alongside the highway; but more “gators” lay along the roadway……those parts of tires that come off big trucks. Florida highways have more pieces of tires than any where else we have been.
We parked at Orange Harbor Mobile Home and RV Park on FL Hwy. 80. A nice park with full hookups and good WiFi, but mostly row after row of mobile homes for SnowBirds. The RV park was near the back of the community and we were the only people in the area; most of the other places were closed up for the summer. The campground hosts came and lead us back to our site; we had a pull-through site that was all gravel with a concrete patio right on the end of the parking row. This should have been the easiest parking ever; but it was a fiasco. The hosts (a husband and wife in their 70’s) and Barry tried to direct me into the site by maneuvering around a palm tree on the passenger side. They had parked their golf cart and our car on the end of the street on the driver’s side. It was just too tight to get the coach to make that right hand turn and squeeze into the spot so we decided that I should back out, go around the block and return a street over and pull through another site and directly into our site. As I tried to maneuver the coach around the golf cart and car, a street sign on the passenger side went unnoticed and I clipped it. It left a scratch on the side of the coach, then caught on the back awning arm and the bracket on the arm broke apart. The three of them were all standing on the driver’s side and could not warn me that it was there. Add that to the list of repairs at the dealer…….
Barry left after I got parked and headed north to Tampa for a sales call the next day and I settled down to clean the coach. I got out the ladder (in the basement!) and washed the huge windshield and front of the coach. Florida has love bugs that stick to everything as you drive and will leave a mark on the paint if not cleaned off soon. I applied a thick coat of RainX to the windshield (again) and polished the nose of the coach also. I washed the entire lower panel all the way around the coach and then cleaned the wheels and tires and the Newmar mud flap until the chrome shone. All the while, it became more cloudy and thunder rolled in the distance. I just had time to ride my bike over to the pool and back before it started to rain……again and continued for the next 24 hours with lots of distant lightning and rolling thunder. The sun peeked out under the clouds the next evening for a pretty sunset.
The next morning we got up early (6:45!!) and made our way to North Trail RV Service center. Our appointment was a 9:00 am and we arrived by 8:30 but had to wait for our scheduler (Jonathan) to check us in after 9:00. Hmmmm. They had a nice waiting room with sofas and recliners and a big screen TV and free water and was dog-friendly. We had a Cracker Barrel breakfast and returned to wait. At 12:40 another customer approached the receptionist and inquired about his wait and she explained that all the service employees take an hour lunch at noon. Hmmmmmm. About 1:15 Jonathan came and went over the issues. Wipers: they do not carry the motor in stock and needed to order one, it could get there in 3 days. WHAT??? We declined to wait — I had explained on all those previous phone calls that we needed that part to repair our wipers!!! GRRRRR. They could repair the water pump, it needed to be replaced, was in stock and could be completed this afternoon at a cost of $250….okay. The dash A/C needed a tune-up and some parts and could also be completed this afternoon for about $900…..okay. They had the broken awning bracket and could also repair it for about $100…..okay. We settled back down to wait as a storm broke overhead and the rain began, again. A little after 4:00, Jonathan came and was ready to check us out. The total came to $1,566 and our first priority was not fixed…… GRRRRRR. We paid and a porter brought the coach up to us.
As I got in, I noticed some bugs on the dash, lots of bugs on the dash, and also on the floor under the driver’s seat, lot of bugs, maybe ants? I started whacking them with my hands as fast as I could. The dogs got excited and started barking and barking at me. After I killed about 50 ants, I wiped a handful into my hand and went back inside to the receptionist and asked for Jonathan. He was already helping someone else and I would have to wait. I handed the ants over to her and said, “He needs to come out to my coach IMMEDIATELY!!!”, and returned to the coach to kill more ants. He did not come out soon and after 10 minutes I sent Barry in to bring him out which he did. I had a dustpan full of ants and, of course, he could not imagine how that had happened. I brushed all the ants into his hand as he offered to have a crew come vacuum the coach. The slides were all in and vacuuming would have been wasted; I was not about to wait any longer and declined his apologetic offer. I was fuming out my ears and wanted no more of this place. My wipers were not fixed, I was out over $1,500, and now we had ants in the coach. I drove off the lot and then noticed that the wipers were not in the down position but were stuck in the vertical position right in front of me on the windshield. We continued to drive north and away, looking through the wipers like goalposts on the windshield. Goodbye Florida!
In previous posts, I have told you about the rain that seems to follow us everywhere we go: Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Mobile, and now, southern Florida. If you follow the weather, most of Florida has been very dry for the last year or more and is classified as in some level of drought ( www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu ). Fortunately, this does not include the Miami / South-Eastern Coast. Unfortunately, we brought them rain.
About June 5, the rain started. We are used to this southern Florida weather; sunny one minute, 2 minutes of rain, sun back out with humidity about 97%……repeat every afternoon….. this rain just seemed “normal”.
When we returned from snorkeling, we moved to a different RV site, back in the back of Markham Park nearer the Gun Range, a site with shade. We had a variety of Umbrella trees, Sea Grapes, Live Oak, and Palms growing around our site and had nice afternoon shade. As the rain continued, these trees dropped lots of debris onto the roof, along with ants. The sandy soil around the site became a watery mess. The rain continued, constantly for several days; we ended up with over 12″ of rain in my old gauge in 6 days.
The water rose all around us in the park. The park was closed to everyone, except campers. We spoke to the park staff about moving to a site without trees and with pavement, but they were all “full” although no new campers moved in during the deluge. The roads to the campground were underwater, the canal behind the campgrounds and the lakes rose out of their banks. I expected to see alligators at the RV site as the water rose. Nearby shopping centers were closed as the water overflowed the drains and filled the parking lots. Manufactured home communities became islands at each site. It was a mess.
Finally after almost a week, the rain stopped, the clouds became lighter, and the humidity, well it is Southern Florida, so it became even more unbearable. But the water did not subside for another week. We continued to drive through water to get to the coach, wade through water to go to the store, and dry off the dogs every time they went out. By the way, there is nothing like that wet dog smell to make an RV feel like home!