Preparations for a Land Cruise, Green Cove Springs, Florida
15th - 26th May 2008
Harvey in his first campground of the trip.
After retrieving Harvey-the-RV from the secure storage area at the marina, our first priority was to head to the Department of Driver Licensing to renew our Florida Driving Licenses. As visitors to the USA, licenses could only be issued for the period we were legally admitted to the country, in our case six months. Each time we returned to the USA, we'd had to be issued with new licenses, once the authorities in the state capital of Tallahassee had double checked our immigration status.
Our friends at the DDL were delighted to see us again but explained that 30 day temporary licenses could be issued immediately, but the proper ones would again have to come from Tallahassee, this would take up to 28 days. In our experience, this meant it would take approximately 27 and a half days!
Back at the marina, we set to work on getting organised aboard Harvey. Luckily we were only a couple of hundred feet from Anju's location in the storage yard, as we frequent trips home were needed for items we'd forgotten! Although used to living in a confined area aboard Anju, in the beginning Harvey felt pretty cramped. In no time at all, however, we got organised and accustomed ourselves to our new living area.
We'd had our suspicions after buying Harvey that our propane and electric fridge may not be working. Now we'd tried everything we could think of to encourage it to spring back into life. We spent several days trying to live without a fridge, by moving ice blocks from our Engel freezer (now installed in the wardrobe aboard Harvey) to a cool box in which we kept our chilled goods. It wasn't long before the whole thing became pretty tiresome. We'd forget to replace the melted ice-blocks with new frozen ones, leaving us to eat food of dubious quality, not to mention the constant tripping over the cool box in the narrow aisle. It was time to bite the bullet and seek out a new fridge.
We headed to the local RV dealership to enquire about costs. On being quoted around $1100 for the fridge plus "time-consuming" installation labour costs, we decided to give the matter more thought. We resorted to the internet, tracking down an identical fridge, brand new for only $580. The new fridge was soon speeding its way to Florida from Texas.
When the fridge arrived we discovered, as we'd feared, that the it was wider than the door on the camper. With a little ingenuity, the fridge was persuaded aboard via the passenger door in the cab, with the passenger seat fully reclined, the crew spending the rest of the day walking like Quasimodo! Next came the "time-consuming" installation, which took around 20 minutes, including removal of the old fridge by the same route. Yippee, we could now stop eating spoiled food!
Harvey was fully equipped with a bathroom but on trying the shower, we discovered that instead of reaching the shower head, the water mostly sprayed out of the tap fittings at waist level. Super Phil set to work and at a cost of only $3 for a new valve, our shower was fixed.
Next Harvey developed another surprise water feature. Christine put her head into a cupboard to retrieve something and got an unexpected shower. It seemed when the last owner paid a lot of money to have a new water heater installed, the solid PVC pipe was secured to the plastic fittings on the tank with hose clamps. Needless to say a little jiggling on the road and the result was the unexpected shower. Accustomed to such minor dramas from a life afloat, the crew soon had it fixed again.
Whereas the navigator was normally perfectly happy with the free maps picked up at the state welcome centres, the Captain felt a handheld GPS would be essential, to assist not only with road and hiking navigation, but also for use as a back up to our marine navigation systems. The new GPS duly arrived and the fun began. Our first discovery was that the handheld GPS couldn't pick up satellite data in Harvey's cockpit, due to the big cab overhang where our bed was located. Our immediate thought was to fit an external antenna, however there was no input on the new GPS for an external antenna. Hmm.
Finally online we tracked down a special re-radiating antenna, where an external antenna would be fixed on the roof of the camper and send data down a cable to another transmitter in the cab, which would retransmit to the GPS. This and the topographical hiking and road maps of the USA were duly ordered. Finally it was all operational and we hoped we wouldn't get lost too often. The Navigator hid the free welcome centre maps in a handy location, just in case!
We decided to stay put in the marina until after the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when the roads would be busy. During the weekend we had the last-minute thought that it might be a good idea to take our bikes along for the trip. We sought out a bike rack suitable to mount on Harvey's rear. A spare-wheel-mounted bike rack was located at a shop in the Jacksonville area and we set forth to pick it up. The helpful guy in the bike shop offered to fit it for us and promptly broke the rack whilst trying to tighten it up. It was OK, he volunteered, he had another in stock. That one we decided to leave in the box and fit ourselves!
On returning to the marina and starting work, we noticed that the spare wheel on the back of Harvey didn't seem to be too secure and on further investigation discovered that it was secured by three bolts. Whilst the top bolt had a lovely large washer to spread the load on the camper's skin, the bottom two bolts had no washers and had been tightened until they penetrated right through the wooden frame of the camper and were being held on only by the thin outside fibreglass skin. It wouldn't have taken much for us to lose the spare wheel and make a big hole in the back of the camper.
Team Anju set to work again, reinforcing both
inside and outside of the camper's frame with plates of stainless steel,
which would increase strength and spread the load. The
spare wheel was re-attached. Next we tried to tighten the
bike rack and found that even when tightened to its smallest size, it was
loose on our spare wheel. It was obviously designed for much
fatter tyres. We had to disassemble the whole rack
and cut several inches off the tightening bolts before the rack would
work. After a long day of modifications we were
finally able to load up our bikes and hit the road..................
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