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Report 17: Orlando FL to Charlo NB

Highlights

Our rather circuitous route from Florida back to Canada was predicated by the need to get some repairs done to the RV. While at the Winnebago Rally in Orlando (see last report) we encountered Bryan, of Bryan's collision. He gave us a decent estimate on getting the growing list of repairs paired down to something manageable. We stayed much longer then we anticipated. They are a good, honest repair shop. We had intended to have Bryan's install MCD roller shades to replace our ageing pleated day/night shades. Alas, due to the high demand, they could not get product delivery. So, we decided to go to the factory.

At the MCD factory we were given a tour...very interesting. These roller blinds are certainly an improvement over the old fashioned roller shades that zoom up and make a loud flapping noise if one inadvertently lets them go. MCD shades have adjustable dampers that make them run up slowly and smoothly. We had both day and night shades installed on all windows. The two big ones on our dining room widow and windscreen are electric; way cool! The day shades block a lot of heat from the outside, making it much easier to cool the coach on hot days. During the day, one cannot see into the coach, while we can see out. The night shades render total darkness; it would have been great to have had these when we were in Alaska last summer. The only negative thing about MCD is that the demand is so great they over-book the work at their facility. It was a bit of a fire-drill for the few installers to work on a dozen coaches simultaneously and get us all out before closing time on Friday.

We went to Forest City IA specifically to tour the Winnebago factory, not to get work done. The tour itself was reasonably well done, but not great, as we were not shown all the processes. In fairness, there are probably insurance considerations that limit the things that they can demonstrate. Still, it is a huge and impressive place to visit.

Weather-wise, we stayed too long in Florida. Towards the end, it was getting very hot and humid. Tornado season started early and we had several near misses. One passed close by while we were in a restaurant. The sky suddenly turned black, the rain turned sideways and the wind howled like an banshee. The lights briefly went out. As quick as it came, it went. High winds and storms affected our trip until we got well north of Texas.

The drive was interesting most of the time, as the buds, tree flowers and new leaves in many areas were very pretty. We especially like the deep colour of the redbud trees when the buds first present themselves. However, the weather changed from spring back to winter in less than a day's drive as we drove farther north near Forest City. They must have had a very wet spring, as the fields had not been planted, yet alone cultivated. The trees still displayed the stark look of winter.

We've just installed a wonderful water filter on the coach. It takes the water from the RV park, which is often very hard, smelly or both, and converts it to very soft, odourless water. Basically, it is a reverse osmosis drinking water filtration system for a house, which we've adapted to use for all of our water. As we use so little water, it has adequate capacity. Here is where we got ours (http://www.rvwaterfilterstore.com/WCRO.htm). Service was excellent and shipping to Canada reasonable and fairly quick. Hot lemon water in the morning is phenomenally good, tea no longer has a scum and it tastes like tea, and even the coffee is greatly improved. Best of all, unlike water from a water softener, our filtered water does not leave a slimy feeling when bathing. It feels more like washing in natural rain water. It leaves our hair manageable without conditioner. The extremely hard well water at the RV park on Ottawa had almost 500 parts per million (PPM) of total dissolved solids (TDS) in it. The filter reduced this to about 12 PPM. The water where we are as we write this has about 150 PPM of TDS and the filter takes it down to about 5 PPM, which is nearly as good as distilled water. Along the way, we tested some bottled water that the neighbours were drinking and found it had 450 PPM of TDS!

Route

From Orlando we drove to Lake Wales FL on I-4 and US-27. From Lake Wales, we drove to McKinney TX via I-4, I-75 and I-10, turning up towards McKinney on secondary highways near Baton Rouge LA. From there we drove up to Forest City IA mostly on I-35, turning onto secondary highways for the scenery. From Forest City we turned east on secondary highways, eventually taking I-380 and I-80 to US-20, along the south shore of the Great Lakes, then I-81 and NY-37, before crossing into Canada at Ogdensburg NY. From there, it was a straight run up to Greely (Ottawa) ON on secondary highways. From Ottawa, we drove to Martintown ON on secondary highways, then to Montreal via ON-401 and PQ-40, where we crossed under the St. Lawrence via the tunnel to PQ-20 on the south shore. We followed this to Riviere du Loup, where we turned east to New Brunswick. Just before Grand Falls we took NB-17 north-east to Campbellton, so that we could follow NB-134 along the south shore of the Bay of Chaleur.