Friday, May 19, 2017

Spring in New Jersey

Well, it looks like we will be here until June 7-ish.  One of our priorities for our visit was getting eye exams and new glasses.  Once I order my glasses this week it could be up to 14 days until they're ready.  

What else?  The new-to-us Tundra has had a touchy accelerator and thanks to Michael's research and a call to a local Toyota dealership, we learned there's an open recall for the accelerator.  So, the truck goes into their service department this week, plus back to the original Kia dealership for installation of a part that went bad related to the fuel system.  After this, the truck will be 100%.

We had a great day recently visiting with close friends, Billie and Allen.  Allen is a nationally known mentor of purple martin landlords, individuals who monitor these beautiful birds at their colonial nesting sites.  As well he works on a national level for bluebird conservation.  He is a certified bird bander, and had a career with US Fish and Wildlife.  He's such a knowledgeable naturalist, and not only does the aforementioned, but he designs nature trails, and works for conservation of other bird species.

Billie and Allen's backyard looks over a beautiful farm and ranch.

Bluebird nestlings in a nest box on their property.

Part of the day was spent at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center.  It was founded in 1968 to engage artists and audiences in the exploration of creativity.  Located in Millville, NJ, it features a museum of American glass which houses a comprehensive collection of glass produced in America.  The nation's earliest successful glass factory was founded in 1739 by Caspar Wistar in Millville.  In 1888, Dr. Theodore Corson Wheaton, a pharmacist, began making his own pharmaceutical bottles in a Millville glass factory.  From these early beginnings, today's giant glass manufacturer called Wheaton USA evolved.

We walked through the glass blowing studio, watching glass being blown.  We visited an old glassblowing studio and saw literally huge glass blown objects.  There are also craft shops to visit, a nature trail to walk, and a visitors center.

Billie and Allen at the entrance of Wheaton Village.

A purple martin colony at the village with birds perched.  These birds prefer gourd shaped nesting cavities, and nest in colonies.

Chimney swifts use this tower for roosting and nesting.



Visiting the glassblowing studio:




What forms glass!

Giant glass blown light bulbs!  The base was a beautiful iridescent glass.

The molten glass is twirled on the end of a long pole in the furnace.

The furnace chimney goes up and through the roof.


Continuing with the glass blowing process.

Glass vases designed as pitcher plants.

After the glass blowing tour, we walked the mile long nature trail that Allen designed:



Pink lady slippers, typically not easily found!




A wood duck nesting box, over the pond.

Other beautiful signs of spring:



Even though a little rainy, this was a great way to spend the day!  Will catch up again soon!


























Monday, May 15, 2017

Hangin' in New Jersey

We've taken a hiatus in our traveling and have been staying with family for an extended visit in New Jersey.  We've been here for about four weeks and will depart at the end of the month.  It has been a month of visiting with friends and family, dealing with a death in the family, celebrating Mother's Day, buying a truck, doing trailer chores, etc.

Let's talk truck!  We have loved our 2004 Toyota 4Runner as an everyday vehicle since we bought it used several years ago.  Mechanically, it was outstanding.  Except for routine maintenance, this car performed really well and presented no major issues.  Thankfully!  As a TV ("tow vehicle" in RV parlance) we ran into issues when driving hills and mountain roads.  The transmission would overheat, even when we were towing our tiny teardrop before our current Rpod travel trailer.  And from time to time we think of upgrading to a larger trailer, so a truck capable of towing heavier trailers is necessary.  We were lucky to find a Toyota Tundra (2007) with a tow package (7 pin plug receptacle for charging the trailer's battery, wiring for the trailer electric brakes, and a towing capacity of over 10,000 lbs.)

The truck tires were rather small and worn, so Michael researched new all terrain tires and we decided on Cooper tires.  The Kia dealership where we bought the truck ordered them for us at no charge to us.  We ordered the new steel rims and delivered them to the dealership for installation.

We had a good laugh when we first discovered the truck on the lot.  The previous owner had Hello Kitty decals all around the truck's exterior!  Much happier with all of them gone!

We love this truck!  It has a smooth and comfortable ride, a second row of seats perfect for the cats, and a good sized bed for our stuff!  We had to drive to a dump station to empty our black and gray water tanks in the trailer - our first experience towing the trailer with the truck.  Both truck and trailer handled perfectly!  A real test for handling, though, happened when a car pulled out onto the roadway right in front of us and I had to brake hard to avoid hitting the car.  The brakes handled fabulously, and the trailer did not sway thanks to anti-sway bars, part of the trailer's hitch set-up.  Luck was on our side, too, this day in that an accident didn't occur.


 We ordered a tonneau cover for the bed which came in recently so we are all set!

Since Texas is our domicile, we need license plates from there which we are waiting for.  The truck passed NJ inspection, but we are looking into whether we have to return to Texas for an inspection there.  If yes, our plans to head into New England fall by the wayside.

Being with family was invaluable when a death in the family occurred.  If we were on the road at this time, the experience would have been more difficult.  What cheered us was being able to celebrate Mothers Day with our mom.  The highlight was surprising her with a hammock for the backyard! 

Michael with his mom.  And the amazing strawberry shortcake Michael made!

Planning on a visit to Wheaton Village here in southern NJ with long-time friends.  This spot is a historic center for glass making.  We're looking forward to seeing glass-blowing!





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

South to North Part III

On Monday, April 3, we were sitting out tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings in Santee, South Carolina at the Santee state park, in our travel trailer.  Watching radar on our cell phones showed where tornadoes might appear.  For a brief moment, our county was pictured, and then thankfully it disappeared.  Even earlier that evening the ranger came around to alert campers about the possibility of a tornado; directions were to head to the brick and concrete restrooms if a tornado was imminent.  We were prepared to book it!  Although we did experience thunderstorms, predicted hail and damaging winds didn't materialize.  Our only issue is that we lost electricity for just a short time.  Overall, we were quite lucky as severe storms were happening in the areas around us.

We picked the state park off the map as it looked like a nice area and decided to stay two nights.  Electric and water hook-ups were available and the fee was not very high, although the cost eludes me now!  The loop we camped in was called Lakeshore, right on the shoreline on Lake Marion, off of the Santee River.

Heading down the road to the Santee state park.



This is part of the sinkhole the trail is named for!

We requested a campsite on the perimeter of the loop, and though we were close to the woods, we had a slight view of the lake.  Later we went down to the lake just to take it all in.

Lake Marion.




On the 3rd, before the storm warnings, we noticed a piece of something was loose in the center of the tire rim, ultimately discovered to the the bearing buddy, a cover that goes over your wheel's bearings.  A silver disc-like cover goes over the assembly and that was missing.


Two of the greatest resources we refer to for trailer answers is the Rpod owners forum and the Rpod Facebook group.  Both of these groups are very active, and everyone is free with their advice to help you solve your Rpod related problems.  Lots of folks chimed in with their comments, everything from "uh oh, your are in trouble", down the line to identifying what this loose part was.  Michael took off the wheel and rim and discovered it was an easy fix (thankfully!).  He re-installed the bearing buddy tightly, and that was that!  Once the wheel was reassembled, Michael covered the opening with duct tape, silver of course for a match, until we order a new cover to go over the bearing buddy.  Luck was on our side with this one!

A great zebra swallowtail butterfly!

One beautiful spot we visited was the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Bluff Unit, not too far from the state park. It is bordered by Lake Marion on the west and Cantey Bay to the east. It has been called one of the best inland birding areas in the southeast.  There are forests, ponds, fields, and freshwater marsh.  After stopping at the small visitors center, we drove on the refuge road to the Santee Indian Mound that dates back to 1200 to 1450.  This one mound rose about 30' and was part of a ceremonial mound complex.  European settlers encountered the Santee Indians in the 1700's and  shipped many to the West Indies as slaves.  British troops erected Ft. Watson on the abandoned mound.  General Francis Marion, for whom the national forest is named, took it in 1781.  This remaining Santee Indian Mound was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  It was a moving experience to be there thinking about the history of this special place.  We climbed up to the observation deck allowing us to view the mound from above.





We then took a walk one the one mile Wright's Bluff Nature Trail.  It was an easy walk through the woods and overlooking Cantey Bay.




Cypress trees.

Hitching a ride!

Heading deeper into Francis Marion National Forest.


Two of our three cats traveling comfortably!

Bought great tomatoes and boiled peanuts.  I couldn't handle the smell of hose peanuts!  Michael liked them!

Now we are in NJ, visiting relatives.  I'll update soon!