Saturday, October 29, 2005


We are enjoying a nice mini vacation away from South Florida while the power is being restored there. Interestingly, we are close enough to home that our DirectTV system in the Mothership is picking up the local tv stations from home. We are able to watch the local stations to get all of the latest updates on the situation back home. We are staying at the Dunedin RV Resort, a very nice campground. It is one of the nicest that we have been in with very reasonable prices. If you would like to see more info on our present home click here. This part of Florida is unique for us South Floridians. There are rolling hills and large live oak trees every where. It is really beautiful. This is also an area that has a much higher RV population than South Florida which also means a lot of service for RVs is available. Our only damage, a torn awning over one of our slide outs is going to be repaired by an experienced RV repair guy who will come to our site. Our generator is going to be serviced on Tuesday at an Onan Generator site 25 miles from here. The service will probably be completed on that day but if not the shop has RV hookups and we will just spend the night there and then come back to Dunedin.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


After the storm we all worked hard at getting our debris out to the street. My neighbor's boys went through the neighborhood helping people clean out their yards. We all burned off our nervous energy by getting everything picked up. Our fence sections are all out on the street now along with a big pile of limbs and broken down banana trees.

I then hooked up our refrigerators, a small tv, and a light to the generator in the Mothership. Since that went so well we also added my neighbor's refrigerators. At one point we even briefly fired up our PCs to check and send a few emails. That worked well for a number of hours. The next morning however, the generator began to act the same way it did just before I took it into the shop. It would start, then run for about five minutes and stop. We checked the fuel filter and the oil. All those simple checks found nothing amiss. One of my neighbors is pretty handy with engines and electrical things so he came over and was able to get it to run briefly by manually manipulating the choke and throttle. We gave up after trying that for a while. Then the phones went dead. That really spooked us because we had phone service the entire time, even through the storm. Also, while watching TV during the period when the generator was on we quickly learned that in spite of our light damage, the South Florida infra structure was badly crippled. As darkness approached the day after the storm we made the decision to use the Mothership for an impromptu roadtrip. We called our daughter who just moved to a new house in Dunedin and she found a very nice campground near their house and made reservations for us. I put the few shutters I had taken down back up with my neighbor and friend's help and we moved into the camper for the night anticipating an early departure.

Night fell quickly and with no moon our world became darker than dark. With all of our remaining food and clothes in the camper we settled in for the night. It felt like home to us having just returned from a our trip out west. We had no trouble adapting back to life in the Mothership after the 7,000 miles of travel back in August and September. We had no moon and no city light lume in the sky. A cold front had passed through and it was cool and clear. We could see the night sky like never before but it was not a time to relax and enjoy it. We knew from watching tv that the entire South Florida infrastructure was down. We felt very vulnerable. During the night we heard a car or cars racing down our small residential street at what sounded like 80 mph. Not knowing if they were good guys or bad guys made us very uneasy.

We arose at 6am and hooked the car to the tow bars and started out of town. Proceding slowly down our street we were suddenly startled when a large cable or power line popped into view right in front of us. It draped down across the road and it took some careful maneuvering to get past it. Our adrenalin was up not knowing what else we would encounter. Exiting our neighborhood we began to get a sense of the damage. Power lines were down everywhere. There was a surprising amount of traffic on the road for 7am. We proceded very cautiously the short distance to I95 passing our local gas station where we saw the typical tall metal roof structure that covers the pumps twisted and leaning at a strange angle. The one traffic light that we had to pass was completely missing and the traffic treated it light a four way stop. Experience from the last two storms, Frances and Jean, have made locals pros at dealing with this stuff.

I-95 north was almost normal with moderate traffic. We proceded north to PGA Boulevard where it is only a short hop to the Florida Turnpike, the most direct route to Orlando and then Tampa. There were no tolls so entrance to the turnpike was free. Again, traffic was fairly light. The eery thing was seeing cars along the side of the road abandoned. We could only guess that during the mass exodus people had run out of fuel and just abandoned them on the side of the road. We even saw some that looked as though they had been in in accidents and left on the roadside. Traffic flowed well and we set the cruise control at just over 60.

The Turnpike has rest areas with restaurants and gas pumps that are located about 60 or so miles apart. The first one we came to had lines of cars trying to get in. We could only figure that they were the only gas stations pumping gas and with the free tolls local people were traveling there to get gasoline.

The further we traveled the more normal things began to get. We finally came to a rest area that appeared to have no more than normal traffic so we stopped in the parking lot and went inside for a cup of coffee. Inside we found lines of people waiting for coffee at the Starbucks but lighter lines at Burger King and Nathans. There is a quick survey for you in terms of coffee preference. After standing in the Starbucks line for what seemed an eternity we switched over to Nathan's where they had just brewed a fresh batch of decaf. We grabbed our coffee, went back out to the Mothership and cooked a normal breakfast since neither of us had eaten yet. The coffee and breakfast gave us a much needed boost. It was really cool and we were both cold and hungry.

The rest of the trip was a typical trip to Tampa with heavy traffic between Orlando and Tampa. The Tampa, Orlando, Daytona strip is a major corridor with the three cities hurtling towards becoming a megalopilis. For our trip out west we had purchased a Florida Sunpass which is a device that is attached to your windshield with suction cups. It uses a radio frequency sensor at the toll booths to detect your id and deducts the tolls from a prepaid account. After we got up near Orlando the tolls were back in force but with the Sunpass device we were able to breeze right through the toll gates without stopping. That really was a time saver and a new experience for us.

So, here we are in Dunedin, Florida. I have already located a factory authorized shop that will check our generator. I told them we were living in the RV and they said they had power hookups if we had to stay overnight. I have to call this morning and make further arrangements with them for repairs.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Posting this under generator power from The Mothership. She is truly functioning that way providing power to the house from the generator. We are able to run our refrigerators, some lighting, the computer (off and on), and a small tv. We cook with gas so we have that. Our water is city water and that is fine too. Cool weather followed the hurricane so we have no need for air conditioning but if we do the Mothership will provide that.

Yesterday was quite an experience. We went throught the eye of a Cat 2 hurricane. Winds were 101 mph recorded about three miles from our house. The winds increased steadily through the night and became pretty intense throughout the morning. We lost power at about 6am so the fact that the storm came in the daylight hours made it more bearable. With all windows and doors shuttered we could see very little. While we felt very secure in our strong concrete home with metal shutters over every window and door both Barbara and I were a bit anxious and nervous as anyone would be. The wind was the most intense and powerful I have ever witnessed. It built all morning into a powerful crescendo and then eerily subsided to almost nothing as the eye passed directly over us. I went out to take a quick look around and found all of my neighbors in the street in front of my house doing the same thing. We had a quick conference checking that everyone was ok and then went back inside as the west eyewall started approaching. Since a big part of the storm had moved over the gulf stream it had begun to instensify making the west eye wall worse than the east eye wall.

After it passed over we went outside and started our cleanup with all neighbors pitching in to drag debris out to the street. Our board fence was completely blown down with some sections blown across the street into my neighbor's yard. We had moved the Mothership into the shelter of the L shape of our house so she survived ok. She is now truly functioning as the Mothership providing power to the house for our refrigerators, this computer, some light, and a small tv. We cook with gas and the water supply is fine. Our little town did pretty well and we feel almost guilty, but not quite, because we are living quite well since we have the power being supplied by the Mothership.

There is much damage throughout the county and millions are without power. Our son and daughter-in-law who live a few miles away came through ok too but many others did not. We watched the news to see serious damage reports coming in. Many mobile homes were totally destroyed. We heard that the local general aviation airport was completely destroyed. That is KLNA, Palm Beach County Air Park. So, all in all, through careful planning and preparation we came through ok. This storm slightly exceeded our criteria for staying in place. We still will evacuate if another one approaches that is in that intensity range. We learned that our house is very strong and if prepared properly can survive at least a Cat 2 hurricane.

Monday, October 24, 2005

WILMA_N0Z_members.gif (GIF Image, 600x600 pixels)

Wilma has not yet made landfall on the SW coast but we are already experiencing winds of around 25 to 30 mph. We have also had several small power outages. This is going to be quite a ride I fear. The storm is still holding winds of around 120 mph. The shearing that was forecast to weaken her somewhat has not begun. The power went off and on a couple of times while I was typing this post.

The house is like a fortress with the shutters in place. We can see outside only through small holes in the shutters or out of the view lens in our garage door. It is 4:30 AM and dark outside anyway.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

FlightSim.Com Review: FREEflow Florida

Nice to get recognized for your hobby work. This review written by Victor Knight sure is complimentary. We had a lot of fun creating this scenery for Microsoft's Flight Simulator.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


This is an interesting photo. I like the patterns in the roof tiles. Took this vertical shot down onto my neighbor's new roof using my kite aerial photography rig. Maybe this could be a tool for doing roof inspections. Posted by Picasa

Moved to New Hosting Service

Even though you didn't see anything change, I have been moving my web site to a new hosting service over the last few days. I have not been satisfied with the support and service of my exising web hosting service so I searched the web and found an interesting site. It is called Web Hosting Jury. The site turned out to be very useful because it contains rankings by users of web hosting services. People place their reviews on the site and give their service a ranking. I found that the service I had been using, name withheld since I only like to post postive recommendations, was ranked terribly. This is in spite of being recommended by a well known figure from the old TechTV days. I selected a top rated site from Web Hosting Jury and moved my files over to it. The new web hosting service is and you can read their review on Web Hosting Jury here. I can honestly say that my first few days with them have been an extremely positive experience. They answer trouble tickets within minutes usually and their support staff are articulate and very friendly in their responses. I am not used to a support ticket being responded to almost like an instant messenger chat. I have tickets I filed with my old hosting service a week ago that have still not been answered. This site as you read it now is running at InMotionHosting. I don't think it is my imagination but the site seems much faster than it did at the old hosting service.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Only in South Florida

We just got our town newsletter. I have to share a notice that was in it. Only in South Florida would one get a notice like this. Dave Barry, are you reading this?

"Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Williams is warning residents to be aware of the growing iguana nuisance. Residents are warned not to feed or touch them because they can carry the Salmonella virus. If you find an iguana on your property, you are alowed to trap it, but then call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to have them remove it from your yard."

A storm to watch.

A couple of days ago Dr. Jeff Masters in his blog at discussed the fact that some of the prediction models at the National Hurricane Center showed the unlikely possibility of a tropical system forming east of the Bahamas. He said, "Several of the global computer models continue to forecast that a tropical storm may form near the Bahama Islands on Monday or Tuesday." Well, this morning's Tropical Weather Outlook from the NHC states:


After the pulse of activity that produced Katrina and Rita we relaxed a bit here in South Florida because the outlook for the next couple of weeks seemed to give us a break. Now it looks like things are heating up again. That disturbance east of the Bahamas has me worried as it does show some possibility of intensifying.