Our first break down, the joy of roadside assistance insurance, a long tow, and hopefully a serendipitous repair experience

Breaking Down: We have been radio silent the last several days due to complete lack of cell coverage while in Big Bend National Park, complicated by the RV center shutting down their WiFi sometime before our arrival for reasons only hinted at by the employees. We were looking forward to catching up the blog, Facebook, Instagram and all other methods of modern communication about our stops in the Amistad National Recreation Area and Big Bend as soon as we left the park. We got what is, for us, a relatively early start on our way towards Balmorhea State Park when, as they say, disaster struck. We were about half way down the 47 mile road that takes you out of Big Bend, coasting down a moderate hill when I noticed that the gas pedal seemed to have no effect on the engine.  After barely cresting the next hill we found ourselves restricted to a fast idle, with a top speed of 14 mph on a level grade.

I spent some time, and pardon the technical language here, “fiddling with the engine,” before coming to the conclusion that our throttle linkage was broken, but I could not see where.  Lacking cell service, we flagged down a passing vehicle and asked them to notify the rangers of our situation.  We idled forward another 25 miles, reaching the park’s entry point visitor center and ranger station, but we could not quite crest the hill leading out of the park, dashing our hopes of just idling all the way to the nearest town, Marathon, to get mechanical assistance.

The Insurance: We borrowed the land line at the station (thanks Ranger Doug) to call Progressive, and let it be said that their commercials have definitely stuck in the consciousness of many Americans, because at least two people in the visitor center were able to tell me the phone number was obviously 1-800-PROGRESSIVE.  We had some initial difficulty getting sorted out due to the lack of an easy call back number, but I eventually received assistance from one of the supervisors in Progressive’s roadside assistance division, and, as the kids used to say, OMG totally awesome!  This woman spent hours working our case, and after exhausting all possible mobile mechanic options (plenty of mechanics, just none that were both willing to travel that far and willing to work on our old diesel) she arranged a wrecker from Fort Stockton, about 100 miles away, since no tow companies in Marathon could handle our large vehicle.

We agreed to stay the night on the side of the road and get picked up first thing in the morning rather than have the wrecker arrive at sunset and tow us in the dark for four hours.  She then spent hours trying to find a repair shop since the insurance clause apparently mandates that the tow must be to the nearest suitable facility capable of making the repairs, or words to that effect.  Based at least in part on the advice of the wrecker driver, she authorized a tow all the way to Odessa, 195 miles.  The tow bill was over $2000, and Progressive covered it all.  The lesson for us is that a roadside assistance rider is a must have, especially for large motorhomes. I suspect if our bus were a lot newer, then Progressive might have been able to convince a mobile mechanic to come out and look at the throttle linkage.  Of course then we might not have found out about our bad U-joint until the drive shaft dropped out.DSC_0083 Overnight, Roadside: You could say the break down occurred in the worst possible place: no cell service and 50 miles from the nearest town, and you would not be wrong. But we were stopped right next to a ranger station, on solid ground, in a beautiful national park with excellent scenery, holding plenty of gas for the generator, and experiencing one of the clearest and mildest weather nights of the week.  We cooked steaks, had cocktails, went for a stroll among the hills, woke up at 5 AM to admire the extraordinary star-filled night sky, returned to bed and slept in until the wrecker arrived shortly after 8 AM.

Repairs?: Robert, from Barbee Wrecker Service, spent a couple of hours hooking us up. If that sounds a bit long, consider that in addition to lifting and securing our more than 10 ton bus, he also had to disconnect the drive train and remove the drive shaft, which, on our 52-year-old bus, turned out to be a bit tougher than he expected.  After a four-hour tow we arrived in the mid afternoon at 5 Star Diesel Repair.  We informed the service manager that we wanted him to look at four issues, in priority: throttle linkage, U-joint, reverse gear solenoid relay, and top gear “reluctance.”  You might remember that we had hoped to get the latter two long-standing issues addressed in San Antonio, but when that plan fell through we rejiggered our schedule to allow for a full week stop in either Albuquerque or El Paso so that Stewart & Stevenson or Freightliner could take a swing at them.

Since we are in the shop now, but one that, unlike Iron Horse RV, does not let us stay overnight in their lot, much less have electrical and water hook ups, our best case scenario goes something like this: We stay two nights in a local hotel while 5 Star Diesel fixes both the throttle linkage and u-joint, then we take the bus to a state or private RV park for the weekend, returning to 5 Star on Monday for them to fix the transmission related issues during the week.

What we woke up to

What we woke up to

Yeah, that is probably too much to hope for given that as of 11 AM today, Friday, they had not yet taken a look at our bus, promising only that they would start some time in the afternoon.  I don’t blame them; when we pulled in yesterday they were warned that the Big Kahuna would probably not get any attention until sometime today, the temperature was 19 degrees this morning and it snowed last night thus aggravating their ability to tow vehicles from the lot into their facility. Honestly, if we can get the two primary repairs done and at least some progress on the transmission related ones by the end of next week, then we will feel a sense of victory.

For now we are safe and snug in a the Odessa Residence Inn, having spent part of yesterday’s ride in the wrecker pulling up all of our hotel loyalty program accounts and comparing rates for all the options. Usually the major chains are pretty competitive, but in this case the Marriott properties offered far and away the best deals.  We have asuite with full kitchen, free WiFi, complementary breakfast and, most importantly, an excellent heating system given what we woke up to this morning.

A good night to be in a hotel

A good night to be in a hotel

Iron Horse RV, San Antonio, TX: Fantastic! Three planned repairs and a new one

We left Miami Beach with quite a bit of planned work undone, including repairs, upgrades, and renovations.  Thus we are carrying around a pretty lengthy punch list of items we hope to get taken care of along the way during short stops in various places, just as we did with the tires in Apopka, FL  And as one might expect when you take a 52 year old vehicle that has not seen much recent use on a multi-thousand mile journey, new issues crop up.  We have had some difficulty getting recommendations for reliable shops that are marginally on our route and are comfortable working on our old bus, or at least on any engine and transmission related issues.  Fortunately the RV blogger network can usually provide guidance if not outright answers, and last month Eric and Brittany from RVWanderlust posted their immense satisfaction with work they had done at Iron Horse RV in San Antonio.

So followed a series of emails and phone calls, a slight adjustment to our schedule, and we pulled into their shop on the outskirts of the city this last Wednesday, and to our surprise happened to catch Eric from RVWanderlust at the shop getting some additional work done as well.  We met the owner, Daryl, and as expected, he took a pass on the transmission work, strongly advising me to go to a specialist for that, such as Stewart & Stevenson.  But despite their slam packed schedule they were able to fit us in for a couple of days of work, asking for my top three items and number four if they could get to it:

  1. A new development, a slow dieself fuel leak pointed out last month by the mechanics that changed our tires, and that I feared was actually seeping from a weakened weld or seam on the tank itself.
  2. Air leak on a braided metal compressed air hose near the transmission, very slow, but needed to be addressed.
  3. Install our custom vanity and faucet, thus upgrading the bathroom and resolving a slow water leak in the old fixture
  4. Replace all the reinforced rubber hinges on the under bus storage compartments, one of which had already completely seperated, and the others were not that far from it.

To our relief our assigned mechanic found the diesel fuel leak right away, and it was merely the rubber portion of the fuel line and connection point, not the tank itself.  He also found the air leak and got a new one manufactured by the next day.  The vanity top install took a while since it involved removal of the old stuff, removal of door trim to get the new vanity into the bathroom, installation all new plumbing fixtures under the vanity, and caulking the edges.  They progressed faster than expected and were able to move to my number four request, knocking out all but two of the storage door hinges using the special hinge material I had found in the parts bins that came with the bus.

To make this an even better stop, Iron Horse had an open spot in their on-site RV hook up lot, so we were able to stay with power, water, cable TV, and limited wifi for no extra charge, offsetting the repair costs somewhat.  We stayed two nights, and Carlos finished up the last of the door hinges first thing Friday morning, allowing us to get on our way with a full day ahead of us.

All in all I can say this was a great experience, especially how fast Iron Horse was able to get us in and out despite their full garage.  It was a bonus to meet Eric as well.  We headed over to Steward & Stevenson but unsurprisingly they could not fit us in on a Friday, so we will head on down the road and pick up work earlier in the week at a shop in El Paso or maybe Albuquerque.  We celebrated a succesful stop by giving the Big Kahuna a bath at a truck wash center.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Galveston Island and long unmet cousins

My maternal grandmother, Lottie, had a good number of siblings, which inevitably means a large number of cousins (first, once removed) that I probably met and certainly heard plenty of stories about growing up.  But as best I can recall I had never actually met one of my mother’s and aunt’s favorite cousins, Geoff.  Uncles Harold, Dickie and Leonard? Yes. A dozen other aunts and cousins on that side of the family? Sure, met them all during annual trips to my grandparents in Lexington or the great grandparents place in Martinsville, VA.  Cousin Geoff? Surprisingly, no, best I can figure.  P2150147

Cool little places on Galveston Island

Cool little places on Galveston Island

So encouraged by mère and tante, while in route west we detoured south and remedied that family gap with a stop in Galveston, TX.  We parked at Galveston Island State Park, a lovely place when the weather cooperates, backed up on salt marshes. Day 1 was fantastic, day 2 we hunkered down all day since it rained near continuously, and day 3 we were able to get together with cousins Geoff and Missy. They took us to a fantastic restaurant, Monument Inn, and we feasted on a couple of dozen raw Gulf oysters (yes, I know, I can’t get enough) and various fish including a delicious blackened catfish with crab and crawfish sauce.  I also had my first Hopidillo IPA from Karbach Brewery in Houston, the best local IPA I have had since we started this venture.

Our parking spot, fantastic!

Our parking spot, fantastic!

Cousins Geoff and Missy

Cousins Geoff and Missy

Galveston Island State Park is quite nice, with electric and water hook ups, a nearby dump station, a reasonable price (thought with a caveat about the Texas State Park fee structure), and the option of parking either gulf ocean side or bay side.  We elected bay side and do not regret it: honestly I think we had way better views and a bit of protection from the wind on day 2.  The RV camping loop is quite well organized: its like a traditional wagon wheel layout but with all the spokes slanted at a severe angle, making it very easy to back into with only a minimal amount of turning.  Given how many times I have had to brush up against tree branches and whatnot while trying to cut an acute angle into a tight spot, this was a real blessing.


The Texas State Park “Gotcha” Fee: Turning $20 a night into $30

One of the minor surprises we experienced at Everglades National Park was that, unlike at the Florida State Parks, the entry fee was not included in the campground fee.  Sure it was only $10 and good for six days, but it was unexpected and could change the cost equation when comparing options down the road.  I suspect part of the thought process is to provide an incentive for Rvers to buy an annual pass, which we probably will at our next National Park stay.

The National Park’s unexpected fee pales in comparison to the Texas State Park fee system, though.  As we discovered at Galveston Island State Park, in addition to the campground fee you also have to pay a $5 entry fee, per person, not per vehicle, and it must be paid for each day.  Our three night stay would cost, in addition to the $60 camping fee ($20 per night), an additional $30 in entry fees.  Thus our stay would average out to $30 a night; not horrible sure, and at least there are not taxes added, but not what we expected.  So of course they offer an annual pass: For $70 you get free entry for you and everyone in your vehicle, and four coupons for a 50% discount on the second night of this and future stays.  Thus they have created a two-part incentive: buy the park pass and go to another Texas State Park during the year.

We did the math and figured that as long as we have one more stay of at least two nights then it will have “paid for itself,” but our nightly average cost in Texas will turn out to be somewhat higher than we expected.  If we do a two-day stay at Seminole Canyon State Park for $20 a night, then without the annual pass we would have spent a total of $150 between Galveston Island and there ($100 camping fees, $50 entry fees).  With the purchase of the annual pass, and using the discount coupons for the second nights, we break even ($80 in camping fees, no entry fee, $70 for the pass), and we will have the ability to go in to any state park in Texas for a day visit for free.

Bottom line: if we had done our research better and recognized this fee structure, we might have opted to stay in private parks rather than state parks on Galveston Island and during our stopping point in route to Big Bend National Park.  Now that we have the pass, we will almost certainly use it at least one more time for a two night stay, and will seek to take advantage of it for day use at other state parks along the way.

Valentines Day at the Isle of Capri Casino, LA

Ok, admittedly not the most romantic location, but it was not intended to be a V-Day stay, it just worked out that way.  We needed a half way stopping point in between New Orleans and Galveston, TX, and Lake Charles fit the bill.   As experienced RVers can attest, casinos usually provide free overnight dry camping, and some have affordable partial or full hook up sites as well.  Isle of Capri offers a very tight spot with electricity (no water or sewage for $20 + tax.  At that price I would normally take a pass and go with the free parking lot, but they through in access to the hotel amenities, gym, sauna, showers (and pool during most of the year), so it seemed a reasonable deal.

Casino parking spot, I-10 Bridge overhead and neighboring RVs cozy close.

Casino parking spot, I-10 bridge overhead and neighboring RVs cozy close.

Not so much.  We knew going in that there would be a lot of noise through the night from the I-10 bridge over our heads, the active train tracks nearby, and the employee entrance right next door.  No problem, we have ear plugs.  We also didn’t mind the tight spots so much; it wasn’t that hard to get in our out, and we don’t have slide outs anyway.  But the hotel amenities were rather disappointing; small and a bit unkempt, a dearth of towels and no bath products beyond the liquid hand soap at the sink.

As for the casino, it was your typical slot dominated electronic hell with a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging over the facility, and our hopes for a solid and affordable casino meal were dashed when we saw the lines at the two decent restaurants.

Only slightly daunted, we made the best of it!  They offered complimentary beer, wine and well drinks in the casino bar and had an ample no smoking slot section.  With some maneuvering we even managed to avoid the two hour waiting line at the higher end of the two restaurants through vulture like hovering near the bar.  The meal was decent if nothing to rave about: one last oyster poor boy in Louisiana.

The draw of this casino spot for RVers is that it is directly off I-10, less than 5 minutes from exit to parking spot, and thus it can compete with full service RV sites in casinos further off the interstate even when the price is comparable.  If we ever pass through here again and need to stop for the night, I will either take the free parking rather than the powered spot, or drive 20 miles out of our way to stay at the full service and well rated Coushatta Casino Resort’s Red Shoes RV Park.  They offer full hook ups, wi-fi, cable, lodge amenities, pool, game room, etc for $25 a night.

Davis Bayou, Gulf Islands National Seashore, MS & Bayou Segnette State Park, LA

A few days back we left the wonderful Bay Breeze RV park in Alabama, with more than one of the seasonal residents taking the time to come say good-bye, though they had known us less than three days.  One couple even brought us a departing gift of local gouda cheese Sweet Home Farm.  This gesture reinforced our belief that Bay Breeze is one of those truly special RV parks that we simply must come back to when our travels take us to the region.  We swung north towards Mobile in order to cross the bay and then west a couple of hours into Mississippi for a two night stop.

Davis Bayou, Gulf Islands National Seashore, MS:  $22 night for a spacious site with 50 amp electric and water hook ups, clean bath houses, fire pits, a very nice welcome/nature center and walking paths.  The ride in on wide well paved roads is quite easy, even for the big rigs, and all of the sites were paved.  That said, a number of the RV spots were oddly uneven, particularly in front to back pitch if not side to side roll.  We saw one motorhome that had gone through a bit of difficulty to achieve a level floor, having had to put their front leveling jacks up on a series of 4″x4″ blocks and then extend them all out.  While biking and easy trail hiking was nice, this was little more than a stopover for us, particularly since without a tow vehicle nothing was close enough to visit outside of the park.

Our spacious site, fire pit and picnic table below and behind, near the trail to the water

Our spacious site, fire pit and picnic table below and behind, near the trail to the water

Marsh gator pond, sans visible gators

Marsh gator pond, sans visible gators

A bit less foliage in the winter, but still beautiful

A bit less foliage in the winter, but still beautiful

Bayou Segnette State Park, LA:  Simply fantastic.  Just like the Mississippi park above, this one was only $22 a night, but also included free laundry machines (very rare) and sometimes sorta working park wide wifi.  If you have transport, this is an ideal location to visit NOLA, as you can take your ride up to Algiers Point, park in public transportation there, and for $2 a person take the ferry across right to the French Quarter landing.  This will save you untold misery trying to drive and park in downtown New Orleans.  If you don’t have a tow vehicle or friends to drive you around, this is still a very nice park and one of the best values we have come across, and in the summer includes a pool and water park as well.

Our very large spot

Our very large spot

Nice short boardwalk trails

Nice short boardwalk trails

We didn't see a lot of wildlife, just evidence of their stay

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, just evidence of their stay

Bad Kitty Sold!

I mentioned some months back that we had made great initial progress in selling off our major items (condo, reef aquarium, etc) but had been stymied in our ability to sell our cars. My white hatchback Saab sold in December, but Bad Kitty, Rosie’s electric blue convertible Saab 9-3 Aero was getting lots of queries but no legit buyer.  After months of slowly lowering the price, week by week, we were forced to dump off the car and all paperwork with Xavier, who agreed to show it and act as our selling agent.  Through January and part of February we had plenty of flirtations, including three potential buyers maintaining frequent contact after they had taken it for a test drive, but we still had no actual offers.  I had just made arrangements for my son Jackson to come down to Miami and bring Bad Kitty back to Central Florida, which would alleviate the burden on Xavier and expose the car to a new market, when it sold a day before he was scheduled to pick her up. Top down driver

Hard lesson learned: You may get a great price on a salvage/rebuilt title car, as I feel we did, but when it is time to resell it you have a very narrow market of people willing to purchase a rebuilt titled car.  It’s a bit of shame that Bad Kitty is not a suitable tow vehicle, as she would require a tow dolly to get the drive wheels off the ground.  Ah well… time to hunt down a Jeep!  Any advice on that appreciated…

The Food! The Music! The Parades! Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans

We are just finishing three days of self-imposed internet blackout in order to keep from incurring data use overage charges.  We are back up now, and hope to put out several catch up posts over the next 48 hours. 

Yesterday we concluded a fantastic three-day stay in Bayou Segnette State Park on the outskirts of New Orleans.  We had the very good fortune of catching Fred, one of our old friends from Miami Beach during the aughts, working the last two weeks of his contract job in Boutte, also on the outskirts of New Orleans.  He picked us up on our second night in town and took us out for our first authentic Louisiana meal: three pounds of boiled crawfish plus boudin and char broiled oysters at Perinos Boiling Pot on the west bank of the Mississippi just south of NOLA.  Good god that was damn good eating.  Have you had boudin?  I refer you to the wiki page; we probably had the boudin blanc variety common in Cajun cooking.  Pork liver, heart meat, rice, what more could you ask? As for the crawfish, all I can say is pinch the tail, suck the head, and don’t think about it too hard.

Crawfish and more

Crawfish and more

The next day Fred picked us up again and we headed into the heart of New Orleans, parking on the outskirts of the French Quarter, where we spent the afternoon among the Mardi Gras revelers, street performers, musicians, bead tossers, and paraders.  Daylight hours allow for something closer to a kid friendly, or at least PG rated, party atmosphere, with beads flying from the balconies for everyone regardless of their willingness to, er, expose.

No exposure required for the cute ones...

No exposure required for the cute ones…

... some of us had to resort to the traditional method...

… some of us had to resort to the traditional method…

We warmed up with coffee and beignets, though we took them from the very cool Cafe Beignet rather than suffer the ludicrous lines at the famous Cafe du Monde.  Covered in powdered sugar, we enjoyed a parade and then one of the coolest street bands I have seen, St Cinder, a six piece ensemble band with a style difficult to describe.  Clear Louisiana bayou with funk, folk, and blue grass influences?  Sure, why not.  Their EP.  I think they could benefit from a good sound studio, but man they are a joy to watch live.

St Cinder performing on Bourban Street

St Cinder performing on Bourban Street

After a tour of Jackson Square and local beer from the Jackson Brewery Bar (yes, for me an IPA of course, Hopitoulas) we headed back across the river for a true Cajun meal without the New Orleans price tag.  Fred took us up the road to Zydeco’s in Boutte, a fantastic choice.   Rosie went with the seafood buffet with unlimited crab (snow, king, Dungeness, boiled, stuffed, fried) while I opted for an alligator sausage poor-boy and a ludicrously large beer.  Thanks to Jade, our top-notch waitress, for the service and recommendations.   We headed back to the Big Kahuna, stopping along the way for a drive-through daiquiri. Yes, a drive-through daiquiri.

At Zydeco's

At Zydeco’s

Simply put, this was a great stop.  Rosie had her first taste of New Orleans, and after some initial reluctance she embraced it fully, finally getting what all the fuss is about.  We had fantastic food, a wonderful RV site, and great guide to show us the way.  We only wish Fred’s wife, Donna, had been up to the trip west to join us.  Perhaps next time!

Mardi Gras: A wonderful time... though some wankers would disagree.

Mardi Gras: A wonderful time… though some wankers would disagree.

Coconut in the Water: Overcoming inertia to make the toys worth more than the trouble of setting them up

We put our yacht in the water yesterday.  Affectionately christened “The Coconut,” our vessel is a four person inflatable dinghy sputteringly powered by a cheap electric trolling motor paired to a ludicrously expensive Optima Blue Top deep cycle battery. I purchased the whole package off Craigslist Miami from someone who had only used it once, so I scored the boat, manual pump, paddles, trolling motor and battery at about 50% of Amazon or retail prices.  While we have been near water most of our journey, this is the first time since we started full-timing that we got around to using her.  Feeling the pressure to use what we paid for, and seeing as how the conditions at Bay Breeze were strikingly calm, and further that our site was located about 50 feet from the boat ramp, we hauled out The Coconut and went through the somewhat painful process of getting her ready for sea.

The Coconut, sans motor and battery, on the boat ramp at Bay Breeze.

The Coconut, sans motor and battery, on the boat ramp at Bay Breeze.

This is the problem with having toys that are designed to fold up, deflate, collapse or otherwise shrink down to minimize storage space in an RV: Getting them unfolded, inflated, prolapsed, and otherwise ready for use can seem more trouble than it is worth. The boat is a prime example, but even our folding bikes are a real PITA to manhandle in and out of lower storage without entangling the folded handlebars into the spokes while avoiding the plumbing, wiring, insulation, and everything else down below.  Like all difficult tasks, I find swearing at them helps the process quite a bit.

The foldable bikes, unfolded

The foldable bikes, unfolded

The Coconut is deceptively stored in a compact soft sided bag about 3’x1.5’x1.5′.  It weighs somewhere around 77 pounds, and requires pulling it out, manually inflating the four pontoon side compartments, the keel compartment, and the three seat inserts.  Oh wait, did you forget to put in the roll up slat flooring before you inflated the sides?  Deflate at least two of those, then put in the floor, and re-inflate.  Now attach the removable transom to the back and the paddles to their holders.  Haul the whole thing down to the water, and separately carry down the deep cycle battery, the trolling motor, and the cooler of beer, all the while knowing you will have to do this whole process, with the exception of the beer, in reverse after your done playing on the water.

On the water at Gulg Shores, AL

On the water at Gulf Shores, AL

But man is it worth it once you are on the water, especially when conditions are as near perfectly glassy as they were for two days on the Gulf Shores.  Sure, we encountered another problem while on the water, in that the incredibly cheap little electric trolling motor cut off every time tried to put it in more than the lowest forward speed setting, but with no wind and minimal current we made do.

I am coming to realize two critical aspects of the foldable toy game:

  1. To reduce your butt-pain, you must make a serious assessment of the value of the collapsibility of the item is vs. the difficulty of prepping it for use.
  2. If you go for the foldable option you need to experiment with different techniques and storage options to find the one that is the least painful.

For instance, our bikes are not the traditional folding bikes you usually see among RVers. We opted for the Colomba brand from 2KSilver because they offered products that, frankly, looked less dinky and more like “real” bikes.  We were able to get a 26″ wheel version for me and 20″ wheel for Rosemarie.  And they work great!  Particularly since they are our primary means of transportation once in an RV park. But we very rapidly found that the set up and fold up process is rather awkward, immediately abandoning the use of the storage bags since it was so difficult to get the bikes into them.  Getting the bikes into the 29″ tall storage compartment, with pipes and wires reducing that height in key areas, was particularly challenging, especially for my bike.  Pulling them out was perhaps even more difficult.  So at the conclusion to our recent stay in Alabama I resolved to find a better method, and through trial and error discovered that my bike was much easier to manuever in and out of storage longitudinally parallel to the bus rather than athwart ship, and with a bit of reorganizing I could store the bikes apart from each other so that they would not become entangled during the process.  Bingo, SO much easier, but it was not intuitively obvious; rather, it took some painful experimentation, just as our numerous storage compartment reorganizations have gradually moved us closer to efficiency.

The "B" Compartment, from left to right: Bike, Bike, Boat, Battery, outBoard.  Looks efficient, but isn't.

The “B” Compartment, left to right: Bike, Bike, Boat, Battery, outBoard. Looks efficient, but isn’t.

So too, I hope, with The Coconut.   If we had it to do over again I might have purchased an inflatable two person kayak instead, but then I would have to paddle alone while Rosemarie took pictures.  Our longer term plan is to replace the whole boating package with a sturdy but light weight inflatible with a built-in transom paired with a Honda 2.3 HP outboard, one of the highest rated light weight four stroke motors.   But for now we will work on perfecting the process by which we prep and stow The Coconut, and hopefully you will all be seeing more pictures of us lounging on her spacious decks.