30 Day Oil Change!

I was going to attack the RV to-do list last month so I started with an oil change for the generator. Little did I realize the “easiest” item on the list would take so long.

We have an 8000 watt generator on the RV. It will allow us to stay at places without utility hookups. Toward the end of our last trip the service reminder started flashing. When I got home (where the generator maintenance book was) I looked up what needed  to be done. 50 hours: change oil and filter. Piece of cake!

I grabbed the tools and supplies I needed and headed to the RV. Once there I got set up, oil catch pan, check!  Wrench, check! Tarp, check! Radio blasting tunes out of the jeep, Check! I rolled under the RV and started to remove the drain plug.  No, wait, I TRIED to remove the plug. It was on pretty tight! I have always wondered if the people at the factories actually know how to adjust their tools as to not assemble nuts and bolts too tight.

oil drain
What could be so hard?

After several attempts I started thinking “am I turning it the right way?”  Lefty loosey, righty tighty. Nope, I’m doing it the correct way. I need a bigger wrench for more leverage. So I pack up and go back home, where the rest of the tools are D’oh!

Thankfully the RV is stored about 8 miles from home, not too bad but just a pain to run back and forth. Get the small tool box, throw in an assortment of things and a HAMMER, just in case.

Round two! Back under with the bigger wrench. Nope, still not moving. I’m now thinking that the plug is just rusted in place. Time for the PB Blaster. If you don’t know PB Blaster is a “powerful penetrating catalyst”, “Frees everything faster”, “stuck, rusted, corroded pipe threads”. I give it a good spray and let it soak in. Still not turning. I give it another spray to soak overnight and pack up and go home.

Round three! After giving it an overnight soak I dove back under to give a try. Still nothing! Where’s that hammer? I put the wrench on and give it a few good hits. Nope. At this point I go all in a smack it with the hammer really, really hard. Hey it’s moving! hit it again and again. That should do it.  I turn the wrench by hand a couple times but it doesn’t feel right. I removed the wrench. Oh no, I rounded the corners of the plug and cracked the 10mm socket to boot! Time to rethink this.

Back home I spent the following week researching options for changing the oil by pumping it out the fill tube. Lots on different products ranging from $70 to $200 and varying reviews. I really didn’t like any of them.  How can I fix the rounded corners on the plug and still find a way to remove it? I went with using a Dremel tool with a grinding stone. There was just enough room between the housing and the plug . I ground a little off each side and went from a 10mm plug with rounded corners to a 9mm plug with well defined corners!

dremmel tool and oil drain
Grind away and it’s “just like new”.

Round four! Time for the big guns! This time I went back and bought the impact gun. Nothing like a hammer and wrench combined and powered by air. One of the projects on our last trip was the installation of a small air pump and tank. I had one from the trailer and used it for filling the tires. I was now using it to power the impact gun and remove the drain plug. After 10-15 minutes of trying I packed up and went home. No oil drained today.

Over the next several weeks I would research on the internet for a couple of days, form a plan, go to the RV and get rejected, and go back home to research.

I found an amazing amount of options to try. I didn’t try each mostly because they involved buying a tool of some sort (I’m retired and on a budget!) or heating to insane temps in the hope of expanding the pan around the plug thus, breaking it free and probably burning the RV down. I did come across an interesting idea using cold to shrink the plug.

This one guy used liquid nitrogen to freeze a bolt, shrinking it to break it free. I like it! I did have two problems. How to get some liquid nitrogen and how to pour up. The drain plug is on the bottom and you can’t pour up! I did find a product I could try, not as cool as nitrogen (I knew I could get a pun in somewhere) but comes in a spray can.

Arctic Blast by Chemtronics. It’s used to diagnose electronic circuit boards that are failing due to heat. By spraying and cooling each component, one by one, you can identify the one thats overheating. Chemtronic has several products and I could only source the one called Freeze Spray. It cools down to -60F/-50C. That should cause some shrinkage.

can of freeze spray
chill to -50c and my new best friend

Once it arrive via UPS ground I was off to the RV again. I sprayed the plug and tried. NOPE nothing. I thought, since I got a whole 10 oz can, how cold can I get it? I sprayed for a good 45-60 seconds and then another 20 seconds, maybe half the can. The plug was frosty white! Wrench on and turn. Wooo Whooo it worked!

drain plug
drain plug… my nemesis now defeated!

Now the plug was out and the oil drained. Only took 4 weeks but almost done. Just need to change the filter and add new oil. Little did I know the generator was not done tormenting me yet!

More about that, next time!


Turtle Eggs

Turtle laying eggs
Turtle at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL laying eggs.

Today I went to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine to see what was happening.  I went late in the day hoping to catch some birds coming in to roost for the evening.  Instead, I had the pleasure of watching one of their turtles dig a hole, lay eggs, and cover it up.  There weren’t many people there.  A few stopped to watch briefly, but then left.  I stayed until the turtle almost covered the eggs.  It was getting close to closing time by then anyway.  In my excitement, I forgot to find out what kind of turtle it was.  The first video below shows the turtle laying eggs and the second video shows her covering them.



A Reason for Optimism


Rose in Washington Oaks Gardens, Florida.

I recently started volunteering at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve or GTM Reserve for short.  There are 29 similar reserves in the U.S. with 3 in Florida.  Many agencies are involved in managing the reserve but the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead.  The reserve is set aside for research, education, and stewardship.  I have been helping with education.  Regis and I participated in a beach cleanup recently and next week I start to support some research.  It has been rewarding to be involved in this organization.

A few days ago, I participated in a seining educational opportunity with some high school students from a Jacksonville, Florida high school.  The students participate in real research.  They must follow standard research protocols.  For this effort, they pull a large net through the water and identify, count, and sometimes measure the wildlife that they find.  We did the work in the brackish Guana River.  That means the water is a mixture of fresh and salt water.  The students were smart, enthusiastic, and a joy to be with.  They did a great job with all students participating and respecting each other and the environment.  They caught so many shrimp it was impossible to count.  Since some shrimp fell out of the net onto the shore, students rushed to rescue the little shrimp.  It was very dirty and wet work.  It did not dampen their enthusiasm.  One of the young ladies, after leaving the water after being chest deep holding a seining net, asked what type of  hard science area she should major in to be able to continue doing work like this.  The future is in good hands with young people like this out there.

Brown pelican flying
Brown Pelican at the beach.
Sanderling at the beach.
Sanderling at the beach.


Willet with its head in the sand searching for food.
Willet looking for something to eat at the beach.

I also recently attended a lecture at Marineland about Right Whales.  North Atlantic Right Whales hang out off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia in the summer.  At this time of year, mother’s head down the coast to calve off the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia.  There are less than 500 Right Whales left and they are struggling to make a comeback.  They are slow whales and tend to hang around the surface.  This makes it easy for them to get his by ships and boats.  Fortunately, based on a lot of research and regulations put in place, Right Whales are not getting hit as often.  Right Whales hang around near shore, so they are easy to spot from the shore.  Volunteers spend 10 weeks during prime calving season in Florida looking for the whales.  This helps researchers conduct research and also allows for the information on their location to be sent to ships in the area.  It’s a great way to save a whale!! The biggest problem the whales now have are getting caught in fishing gear.  Fishing gear is now made so well, it doesn’t break.  Once the whales get entangled, they cannot break themselves free.  Work is being done with the rope industry to try to make fishing rope that is strong enough to support the fishery needs while weak enough to allow a whale to eventually break free.  Let’s hope they are successful.  (The first Right Whale of the season has been spotted off the coast of South Carolina.)

I visited some of the Marineland residents:

Tiger Sand Shark at Marineland, Florida.
Tiger Sand Shark at Marineland, Florida.
Dolphin at Marineland, Florida.
Dolphin at Marineland, Florida.
Sleeping Loggerhead sea turtle at Marineland, Florida.
Sleeping Loggerhead sea turtle at Marineland, Florida.

The weather is unbelievable right now.  I can’t get used to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving Day.  After taking Dart for a walk awhile ago, I can see that frying Turkeys is the thing to do here.  There are quite a few turkey fryers located on the sidewalk up and down the street.  I feel like I’m at a street fair.

I hope everyone has a great day with friends and family.  I am grateful for my wonderful friends and family and this beautiful planet we live on.


The Dilemmas

Green-winged Teal
Distressed Green-winged Teal on the beach. The duck is alive in this picture but died shortly after. It appeared to be suffering from a gunshot wound.

I have two dilemmas to speak to in this post.  First, I struggle about whether I should mention “sad” things in our posts.  In our travels, we take lots of pictures of wildlife.  Sometimes, the wildlife have issues.  There are times we don’t notice until we review the pictures later.  That occurs mostly when I use the 400 mm telephoto lens.  I don’t always notice through the viewfinder.  Then, I see it when I load the pictures to my laptop.  We have never posted pictures of animals that have visible medical problems.

I’m wondering whether that is the right thing to do.  Today has brought it forefront to my mind again.  All the lovely pictures we see in magazines, etc. show us the beauty of the world around us.  I think that is good.  But, we don’t often see the other side.

We went for a 5 mile walk along the beach today.  I saw a duck in distress next to the surf.  My first thought was that this poor duck was exhausted from migration.  I picked up the duck to place it above the wrack line to give it a chance to recover.  It is then that I noticed the duck was bleeding and was the apparent victim of a gunshot wound.  The stretch of beach we walk is next to a Wildlife Management Area that is now having hunting season.  This duck was probably shot in the WMA and wound up at the beach.  I was struggling to decide whether to take the duck to a vet (there is a local vet that saves wildlife), but it seemed so near death.  It took a couple minutes and I decided to take off my sweatshirt and wrap the duck in the shirt and take it to the vet.  Who knows, but maybe it would make it.  By the time, I took off the sweatshirt and got back to the duck, it had died.  I cried.  If it had died from exhaustion, I could have handled it better.  Since it had died from being shot, I had a hard time with it.

Later, we encountered a seabird on the beach that was clearly in distress.  We try to stay clear of birds like this.  If they are exhausted, they don’t need two people and a dog to cause them alarm.  From the best I could tell, there was no obvious reason for the bird’s distress (e.g. fishing line).  If the bird was exhausted, the best thing to do was let it be in this somewhat remote section of beach.  If the bird had a man made problem, like being wrapped in fishing line, then I would feel more compelled to try to rescue it.  I could not see any fishing line.  The bird was well enough to avoid us and we were a mile and a half from our car and we had no net.  Logically, we needed to let this bird try to recover on its own.  It was in as good a place as any to do that.

Bird on the beach
Distressed bird (This may be an immature Northern Gannet)
bird on the beach
Distressed bird (this may be an immature Northern Gannet)

Later, I was taking pictures of some seabirds and noticed that one bird was “missing a leg”.  Often, birds hold their leg up while standing, so it isn’t always an issue.  This bird was hopping in the surf with one leg.  I saw that it did have a leg, but it wasn’t using it.  Birds often lose their legs to fishing line.

Willet on left can’t use it’s left leg.
Willet on the right is the same bird above that can’t use it’s left leg.

Anyway, if you spend enough time outside in the natural environment, you will see some disturbing things.  Some of it is life.  Some of it are problems we cause.  I hate to see any of it, but I particularly hate to see problems we cause.

Dead fish on the beach.
Dead fish on beach.

The two dilemmas are:  1) should I post the whole of what we see and 2) when is it appropriate to try to save a distressed animal.

To end on a brighter note, I inserted a picture of Dart running on the beach.  I promise to do a more upbeat post tomorrow for Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

Dog running on the beach
Dart enjoying the beach.



Beach walking and bronze god?

South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR north beach access)

Ok, now that you clicked over here, there are no pictures of me in a speedo, (And this is a post from Regis to landrtravles). The 15 extra pounds are keeping that from happening, but watch this space!

I was recently at a dinner party at a house on the  beach with a bunch of really nice people. I learned about Egypt and a group called Life Makers, check them out. Several of my new friends flattered me to no end about being the handsomest man there!  Ok, I was the ONLY man there, at the end, but lets skip that part. Made me start thinking about the state of my tan. I do spend a fair amount of time outside in shorts and a tank top. So I have a modified farmer tan. I thought I should spend some time to even it out a bit. So, off to the beach I went. Hint, go to the beach during the work week and you get miles of beach to yourself, almost.

Anyway, walking to the beach at the access point I spotted something at the base  of the dune. Turtles? Wait, not this time of year. Sea turtles nest on the beach above high tide, but not this late in the year. I walked up closer (as a side note, ever see a tortoise running?) and  identified them as Gopher Tortoises. They are about the size of a volley ball  and slightly flat.  They look like a huge engorged tick.  They live on land, sometimes in dune areas. I spotted five in ten minutes.

Gopher Tortoise
Gopher Tortoise, South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR)

Next afternoon, I went back with Linda and Dart and a camera.  We saw three tortoises high up on the dune. I had the wrong lens.  Dart was off  leash and had a great time! We met a lady from Colorado, and showed her the Tortoises. She said she had one last Florida animal she wanted to see – an alligator. It just so happens we had seen a fairly large gator in a corner pond not far away. Once we drew directions in the sand, she literally ran off to her car! I don’t think she could have left faster! I hope she found the gator.

Willet at South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR)
Willet at South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR)


Beach debris
Beach debris on South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR)

Back to the beach with a camera and the correct lens.  I went back early with camera to snap some tortoise pictures. I guess I was too early (9am).  I walked for close to 3.5 miles before I saw the first tortoise! Even though this is Florida, it did get down to 53 degrees the  night before. I guess the tortoises needed to get warmed up a bit! Yeah, I can relate!

Anyway, I got some Tortoise pictures and some other shore life pictures as well.

South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
South Ponte Vedra Beach, FL (GTM NERR)








Dart on the Beach

Dog on the beach
Dart on the beach at sunrise.

Yesterday morning we went to the beach to watch the sunrise.  I took Dart so he could pose for beach pictures.  The tripod was in the motor home, so I had to do without.  The clouds and colors were great, but most of my pictures are too blurry.  Shortly after I took the picture above, the rain passed overhead and it began to pour.  We weren’t dressed for it and I didn’t have a cover for the camera, so we had to dash back to the car before the sun rose above the horizon.

Dog on the beach
Dart on the beach at sunrise. There are a couple fishing boats on the horizon.
Dog on the beach
Windblown Dart on the beach.

Tonight, I went to the motor home to get the tripod while Regis made dinner.  As I was entering the storage lot, I realized I forgot the keys.  I headed back home and was blocked by an accident.  Route 1 was shut down.  That meant I either had to go out to 95 and loop around or head to A1A on the ocean and go to St. Augustine and then back up route 1.  The second option would take longer but it would be prettier.  The sun was going down, so I was sure to get good views of the ocean and St. Augustine.  That’s the way I went.  Regis probably thought I had been abducted by aliens because it took me at least an hour to get home this round about way.  The plan was to hit the beach again in the morning for sunrise but we are going to do sunset instead!  I still need the tripod.

This is what I came home to.  Regis knows how to make pretty meals.  They also taste great.  I think this skill runs in his family.

Regis cooked this for dinner based on an old Taste of Home recipe. Yum!

In the evening, Dart and I go for a walk around a local lake.  We almost always see bluebirds.  Here is one of the locals we get to see.

Bluebird in St. Augustine.

Sometimes, the sprinklers are running and there are a lot of bluebirds, as well as other types of birds, that bathe on the sidewalks in the water spray.  It’s great fun to watch.  There is a large fish that hangs out in the lake.  I see the top of the fish sticking out of the water while it is in the shallows, but whenever I get closer to take a look, he flips around and swims away.  He always makes a great splash but I never get to see him.

Saving a Pelican


Rescued Pelican.
Rescued Pelican.

We headed out to go kayaking on the Guana River today.  The Guana River is located between the ocean and the intracoastal waterway (ICW).  After unloading the kayaks onto the boat ramp, I ran off to the rest room.  On my way back, I saw a pelican hobbling up the boat ramp.  He was entangled in fishing line, a hook, and sinker.  It was wrapped around his wing and was affecting one of his feet since he couldn’t walk properly.  Regis and I set out to catch him and disentangle him from the mess.  Fortunately, a volunteer from the Reserve saw us and came to help.  Regis was the lucky guy in front of the pelican and while the pelican was trying to bite Regis’s arms with his long beak, I snuck up from behind and grabbed him.  I was able to hold him still and Regis grabbed his beak and shut it.  The volunteer had a knife so he cut the fishing line off the bird.  But, the hook was still in his wing.

The volunteer told us he could get something to cut the hook but would need about 5 minutes to get it.  I agreed to hold the bird.  At this point, I was stooped down with the bird between my legs and my arms holding him and his beak shut.  I began to feel things crawling on me and noticed that mites were jumping off the bird onto me and climbing all over my arms and legs.  When they started to crawl under my shorts, I became a little worried.  Regis helped by picking them off as best he could until the volunteer returned.  It was not possible to cut the hook and then push it through because it was stuck in too well.  The guys cut the hook as close to the skin as they could and the pelican will have to live with the tip of the hook embedded in his wing.

After releasing him, the pelican ran off into a corner between a fence and small building located on the dam on the Guana River.  We left to kayak.

If you wish to join us, see the videos below.  The first two videos show fish jumping.  In the last video, you can see some houses in the distance at the beginning of the video.  Those houses are located on the ocean.  There is not much land between the Guana River and the ocean at this point on the river.  Toward the end of the video, you will notice the camera fall and be replaced pretty quickly.  Regis learned from his first video adventure with the kayak to tether the camera to the boat.  When it falls in, it is easier to retrieve then to grope around in the muck looking for it (assuming it isn’t too deep to do that).  Anyway, having the tether worked great.



When we got back, we searched for our pelican friend and found him swimming right in front of all the fisherman.  I have a feeling this pelican will need rescuing on a daily basis!

Rescued pelican
Rescued pelican hanging out by the fisherman. We may need to check on him tomorrow and see if he needs to be disentangled from fishing line again.


Living With Dart Part 2

Things Dart Hates:

.  Vultures.  The vultures used to sit on top of the barn and spread their wings at our last house.  Dart barked and barked at them and they ignored him.  He saw some vultures again the other day.  He harbors the same hatred of them.

Vulture tormenting Dart.

.  Noises.  Dart hates lots of noises including storms, motor homes, etc.  He won’t ride in the back of the motor home when it is moving because it makes too many noises.  He hates when we are leveling the motor home and putting out (or in) the slides.

.  Cuddling.  Dart is not a cuddler (except with my friend Kristi, my mom, and Tekoe).  If he lays down next to me, he will leave if I try to pet him.

.  Children.  They scare him!

.  Boisterous dogs.

.  Water and wind.  He likes the sand on the beach but doesn’t like it if it’s windy.  He doesn’t like getting his feet wet.  He looks like a canine sandpiper when we walk in the water because he walks as close as he can without getting wet and runs away when a wave comes.

.  Heat.  It makes it hard to do outdoor activities with him when it is hot and the sun is out.  Even in winter, he will often avoid the sun.

.  Stop Playing.  He hates when you stop playing with him.

.  Riding in the car.  This is unfortunate since we travel so much and we take him with us a lot.  He is tolerant but doesn’t love it like so many dogs do. He also won’t ride in anything else (e.g. tractor, golf cart, canoe).  He will never get to go kayaking with us.

.  Muttluks.  He has a pair for the snow (not that he needs them in Florida).  But, they a helpful to him even if he doesn’t like them.

Things Dart Loves:

.  Liver.

.  Playing.  He especially likes his flying disc and his ball. He prefers if Regis or I throw it.  If someone else throws it when we are around, he will bring it back to one of us.  He also prefers old, decrepit flying discs over new ones.

.   Agility.  He loves to run the agility course and especially loves the tunnels.

.  Homemade food.

.  Walking and hiking, especially off leash.

.  Chasing squirrels.  But, he hates that they cheat by running up trees.

.  Small animals.  He once licked a baby bunny to death.  He also saved a baby squirrel.  After hurricane Irene, he found it lying beneath a tree.  He kept staring at it and me until I came over to see what was going on.  The poor little squirrel was soaked.  Since it had been there for a while and we couldn’t reach the nest, we gave it to a wildlife rehabilitator , who saved it and named it Irene.

Squirrel being fed
Squirrel Dart found after Hurricane Irene. The squirrel was appropriately named Irene.

.  Copper and Tekoe.  Two collies who Dart grew up with.  Tekoe was especially sweet with him and he rewarded her by harassing her all the time.  She was very patient with him and never snapped at him.

Shetland Sheepdog and collie
Dart playing with his buddy Copper.
collie and shetland sheepdog puppy
Dart playing with his buddy Copper.
collie and shetland sheepdog puppy
Dart playing with his buddy Copper.

.  Border collies.  Dart has a soft spot for border collies.  He was once made an honorary border collie at an agility trial.

.  Dog friends.  Dart has several dog friends.

three shetland sheepdogs
A sheltie get together. From left to right, Hershey, Magic, and Dart. Magic and Dart are litter mates. They love each other. You can also tell they are brothers by their unique personalities.

.  Chasing things that move.

.  Drinking out of bird baths.

puppy and shetland sheepdog drinking out of birdbath
Dart and Kira drinking out of a bird bath. Don’t tell them it’s not a dog dish.
collie and bedlington terrier
Tekoe took care of all the puppies she met. Here she is taking care of Coco, my sons dog in several of our blog posts.



RV Heater Fixed Finally

Yes, the heater that has been broken since we purchased our motor home last spring has finally been fixed.  Camping World in St. Augustine made the relatively simple fix that was required.  We are still waiting for the part to come in to Camping World in St. George, Utah that we apparently don’t need.  Go figure.

We went kayaking on the water front of historic St. Augustine and have some video below.  The edge of the fort is on the right in the first video with the Bridge of Lions in the distance.  The second video is at the marina by the Bridge of Lions.  You will notice the pirate ship Black Raven on the right and the demolished Santa Maria restaurant on the left.  It was on my list of places to go to dinner.  Obviously, that’s not happening.  Also, there is a sunk boat in one of the slips and a diver and bunch of guys are in the process of trying to get it up.  It will be a long process, so we didn’t wait to see the end.

We saw two pairs of dolphins swimming through the harbor.  I saw a ray as we paddled back.  It was a beautiful day to kayak.


Beach Homes After Matthew

We walked along South Ponte Vedra Beach yesterday and took the following pictures of some of the damage to the homes.  My friend lives in one these homes and was one of the lucky ones.  Their deck was damaged and much of their property washed away but they can still live in their house.  If they are unable to stop further erosion, it is a matter of time before their house tumbles into the sea.

Damaged house
My friends’ house can’t withstand any more erosion or their house will be damaged.








We took this video of Dart playing with his disc yesterday.  Sometimes he spins so much that nothing in his path is safe.