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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Progress......

We started working on the final preparations before we could start laying the flooring around 10 am, and pretty much went all day until the phone rang.....it was my sister-in-law, Lori, calling to tell us dinner was ready.....wow 6 pm already?  I have to tell you one thing.......this job is kicking my a$$.  My hands, which were starting to feel normal again after 3 weeks at the sugar beet harvest, are all stiff again.  It's kind of funny.......I worked hard to earn that money at the sugar beet harvest, and now I'm working almost as hard to spend it.....:D

I had a few things left to do before we could start laying the new vinyl flooring......first I had to finish the new wire tunnel for the ROMEX wire that runs alternating current to two of the outlets I installed in the front of the coach, plus two other 12 volt wires....all three used to just run under the couch along the floor.  Below is the new wire tunnel....I re-purposed the trim that was between the couch and the floor.....as you can see it turned out nicely.  My new workstation will go in this corner.


Next I had to install the new gas furnace register, which also came out quite well!


Finally I had to trim the edge around the stairwell so it was level with the new floor.  Since we were using the real wood flooring 5 1/2 years ago we had to raise the area around the stairwell about 3/4 of an inch.  In the picture below you can see that it is now level with the new floor.  That was a tough job, but my brother, Dwyer, had this cool oscillating cutting tool that saved a bunch of time, and did a great job.....I would love one of those, but I would probably only need to use it once every decade, so I'll just be sure to be in the Salt Lake Area the next time the need for one comes up.


We started laying flooring around 4 pm, and got quite a bit done in 2 hours before dinner.....we'll finish up on Thursday and then begin to put everything back together.  Oh, I almost forgot.....Dwyer helped us load the old sofa into his pickup truck and he hauled over to the local Desert Industries.....a large chain of thrift shops operated by the LDS.  We visited it a couple of days ago, and were quite impressed with the quality of the items, and the prices.  Sooooo.....now the sofabed is gone.....there is no turning back now!   On their way back they stopped and picked up TLE's new recliner so it just remains for us to assemble it and start using it once the floors are done!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What on earth are we doing?

I'm mostly content with status quo.....TLE....not so much.  She is always thinking about how to improve something, or re-purpose something.   Usually, if we are making changes to our "home" they are her inspiration.  For a long, long time now TLE has wanted to remove the couch/sofabed from the salon/living area of the coach, redo the wood floors, and add a second recliner similar to mine, only this one would have a "rocking, or gliding" option in addition to the reclining one.....here is what her choice looks like, and sometime Wednesday we will be the proud owners of one just like this.


Bringing these visions to life is our primary reason for being here at my brother's home just south of Salt Lake City.  Dwyer was the one who originally installed the Pergo interlocking wood flooring in our Newell way back in June of 2008 just after we had bought it.  He did a wonderful job, but one thing I insisted on then ended up causing the early demise of that wonderful, expert installation.  The "one thing"?  Well, when he removed the 26 year old carpeting there was a thin carpet pad underneath.  I asked him to leave it as I believed it would deaden the wood floor sound......and it did!  The problem over the past 5.5 years is that the extra flexing at the various joints resulting from the padding cause the joints in the heavily trafficked areas to break.  Of course, in 200 square feet of living space you could say that every square inch is heavily trafficked, right?  Anyway, it was time to redo the flooring.

A number of friends had suggested going with some of the new vinyl "wood" flooring now available.  The vinyl is much better suited to the RV environment.  It doesn't expand, or contract, so you can run it right up to hard surfaces.  It is flexible, obviously, so the flexing of the coach structure will not harm it.  Plus it is easier to install.  Here is what we came up with after visiting the local Lowe's....


It has a wood feel, and looks just like wood........we bought 6 boxes initially good for 180 square feet.....we figure we have somewhere around 160 square feet of floor space to cover, so we'll see if we need another box.

Due to Dwyer's busy schedule right now we agreed to do all the "demo" work...removing the old flooring, removing the couch/sofabed, removing the gas furnace duct work under the sofa, and re-routing some wiring.  Finally we will thoroughly clean the remaining original vinyl moisture barrier installed by Newell so the new vinyl will properly adhere to the old vinyl.  

The first task of the day was to remove the couch, which seemed to me would be the most difficult thing we would do Tuesday......wrong!  The couch came out easily, and we actually got it out the door with little fanfare.  Of course, like all sofabeds, this one is heavy, so we only got it as far as the sidewalk just outside the door.  Rain, however was threatening, so we re-purposed an old skateboard inside Dwyer's garage as an impromptu "dolly" putting one end of the couch on it, and then TLE and I holding the other end as we wheeled the couch back to the trailer where we managed to slide it in out of the weather.


The sofa is gone!

From there we had to remove the old duct work referred to previously, then all the old wood flooring.  Once again that went unexpectedly fast.  As it turned out, the hard task of the day would be removing hundreds of staples used to fasten the old carpet padding to the vinyl flooring....did I say HUNDREDS?  It took TLE and I, in a joint operation, a couple of hours to pry up and remove every one of those staples.  Of course, you know, sitting on a hard, cold floor works wonders for ones 64 year old bones, knees, and joints.  Nevertheless, we ultimately prevailed and here is what it looks like with everything removed.



Since we are still living in our construction zone we had to put everything back together enough so we could live overnight until the next phase begins.....the actual installation of the new vinyl.  We are moving my recliner into the space where the sofa used to be, and my new work station will be just in front of that.  TLE's new recliner will be where mine was on the passenger side of the salon.


We are already blown away by the roomier feeling the salon area has now without the sofa!!

Wednesday morning we will do a thorough cleaning of the vinyl moisture barrier, finish the new wire chase I am building......I think it will look pretty good.....pick up the new recliner, install the new heater register we found at Home Depot, and then start laying the new flooring.   The last part will probably take parts of two days, but we expect to be completely finished by Thursday afternoon!

It was Taco Tuesday at Dwyer and Lori's so we took a few beers from our large beer stash in the Norcold basement "refer" and headed inside.  We finished eating and chatting a little after 8......I never got a nap, and Dwyer had an early morning on Wednesday, so we ended our evening early.  At some point he will help us establish the center line on the floor, and TLE and I will begin to install all the flooring we can without making any cuts.  Dwyer will help us with the trimming and cutting as we get into the corners and edges of the floor, plus do some finish trim work once the flooring is down.

Life is good, and we are excited to see the finished product.....how about you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Home Improvement

For my two sisters-in-law, Phyllis and Lori, we are near Salt Lake City until this coming Sunday at my brother's (Dwyer) home doing some interior remodeling on the coach....no need to read any further if you do not wish to do so.....:D

The overnight low in Ogden Sunday night was 45 degrees....it felt warmer than that.  It didn't get below 71 inside the coach without heaters on all night.  What a sweet change!

We departed Wasatch View Estates around 10:52 am with the wind gusting up to 30 mph.  We only had 57 miles to travel to my brother's home, and fortunately, the wind did not get bad until the last 16 miles when it began to come from the driver's side pretty hard.  As we drove further you could see the whole valley full of blowing dust.  Rain was forecast for sometime in the afternoon, so we wanted to be at our destination and set up before the rain came.

We arrived at my brother's home at exactly Noon time, and within 10 minutes had parked the coach and trailer.  The last time we were here I had to drop the trailer.....it's always a little difficult parking in a cul de sac, but TLE and I talked it over before we arrived and I think that helped because we nailed it the first try, and didn't have to drop the trailer this time.



I think what helped us a lot this time was taking the car out of the trailer first and then backing into the cul de sac.....having 3,000 lbs. less in the trailer makes a big difference in backing up in tight places.

Shortly after we got set up we hopped in the 'Bird and drove up to the local Lowe's store to look at their vinyl wood grain plank style flooring.  As you know from my past blog entries we have had trouble with our interlocking wood flooring that was installed almost 5 1/2 years ago now.  We believe the vinyl flooring will work better in our situation.  We found what we needed within just a few minutes, and bought 180 square feet of it at .98 cents a foot.  



From there we headed down I-15 to Draper, UT and Campingworld to look at their RV furniture for a small compact work station for me.  We plan to remove the sofa bed couch we have and replace it with another European style recliner similar to the one I have, which would leave room for some sort of a work station.  Above is an internet photo of what we bought.  I don't think this is the final solution, but it will be something we try.  Tuesday we will go looking for a new recliner for TLE.  Also, on Tuesday, will see us also begin to remove all the old wood flooring and get ready to install the new vinyl wood flooring.

Around 6 pm we headed into our host's home (my brother Dwyer, and his lovely wife Lori) for dinner.......we sat talking until after 10 pm ending the evening sampling a few single malt scotches my brother has acquired over the past year.

Lori and Dwyer...taken at the wedding of their daughter in August

The Red Sox won game 5 to go up 3 games to 2  over the Cardinals with 2 games remaining in Boston.....thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 28, 2013

U.P. and down

What a delight to wake up Sunday morning and see the temperature at 7 am 20 degrees higher than the day before in Idaho Falls.....what a difference 177 miles make.  

I spent about an hour, once it warmed up enough, cleaning our awning mat, which became quite filthy in the muddy, dusty Richland County Fairgrounds RV ghetto.  I sprayed each side of it with Simple Green, then using a high pressure nozzle, sprayed it down, and actually got it as clean as it has been in over a year.  We hadn't even tried to put it back in its place in the basement storage it was so filthy.....now it can be returned to its proper storage place, instead of under the T-Bird in the trailer.  Once we get to my brother's Monday we'll be doing a lot more deep cleaning of the trailer, and coach.

We didn't get going until late morning, so decided not to do do the 2 hour round trip drive to Antelope Island, but drove up to Willard Bay State Park to check out their Cottonwood Campground for future possibilities, and found a number of sites that would work for us without disconnecting the trailer.

From there we headed back south on I-15 to 21st Street and back to the Ogden Old Town downtown area where we quickly found a parking spot and began our walk up one side of the street and then back down to the old Union Pacific Train Station which is now a museum.  Like most museums we have come across on our journey this one was also closed on Sundays, but there is a large outdoor exhibit of old engines, locomotives, boxcars, and cabooses.    The first one was the one below, built in 1939, belonging to a class of steam engines called "Northerns" which had a reputation for being fast.  This one has 6 foot high driver wheels and could attain a top speed of 110 mph!  Wait, what?  110 mph?  Amazing!  It could carry 23,500 gallons of water.


"All Aboard!"


There were several other diesel engines, but this one really was amazing.  Read the placard I took a picture of below.  It was powered by a "diesel turbine", 8,500 horsepower engine; was 179 feet long; could pull 735 fully loaded cars, and carried over 24,000 gallons of fuel.  It was built in 1969, and there are only a few of them left in existence.  They were called the "big blows" because of the jet engine like sound they made.


From the rear


Saw this one old U.P. boxcar (below) with an interesting advertisement on the side......there were a lot of other great examples of switching engines, cabooses, freight engines, etc.  These were the two that caught our interest.  When you get out of your car and walk around you just never know what you will come across.  We originally walked over to the old station hoping the museum was open, and when it wasn't spent the better part an hour looking at these old trains.


"Be Specific....ship Union Pacific"

The weather continues to feel like early Fall here in northern Utah, and some of the trees are putting out some beautiful colors.


 The old Union Pacific Terminal

 The train exhibit

We walked back to our car and decided to go into this funky coffee shop we were parked right in front of......we had a couple of cups of some of the best French Roast coffee I have ever had.


One mistake we made was not doing this walk Saturday, because like a lot of heavily Mormon areas, this downtown was mostly "CLOSED" on Sunday....there were a couple of cafe's open, and the coffee shop, and that was it.

We got home as the early NFL games were coming to a close....saw a thrilling ending to the Cowboys vs. Lions game with the Lions winning by one point on a last minute drive....by last minute I mean with 1:01 remaining the clock and no timeouts. I feel bad for my Cowboy friends.....like so many other games, they should have won this one, but found a way to loose.  The Bronco vs. Redskins game (tied 7-7 at half time) was pretty good until the the Broncos scored 38 unanswered points to win going away 45-21.

There was also another World Series game......the Red Sox prevailed 4-2....the game ended on a Cardinal player being picked off first base.....two unusual endings in a row!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Guessers

As often as I joke around about the "weather guessers" you would think I would give a little less credibility to them than I do, but every once and a while I get sucked in again, and make a decision based on someone else's "guess".  Normally when I know it's going to be very hot, or very cold we'll find a place to plug in for the day/night.  Especially important when it is very cold, because we need to turn on the block heater in the morning to heat the engine block/coolant up so we can start the 6V92 DD.  These series 92 engines are cold blooded and once it gets below 50 degrees are hard to start unless you have a block heater.  When we make a decision to dry camp on a cold night I will just start up the generator in the morning to provide alternating current and then turn on the block heater.  It usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on how cold it is.  

Had I known the low for Friday night/Saturday morning was going to be 25 degrees, and not the 35 the weather guessers predicted, I would probably have chosen to check in at the local RV park and get plugged in.  I've started the generator down to 32 degrees before, but Saturday morning it would turn over, but not fire.  The batteries were at 89% when I got up, so there was plenty of juice to start the generator, but it just wouldn't start......:-(

Fortunately I have a plan "B" in case this happens.....the only thing is I have never had to try plan "B".  What is plan "B" you query? Plan "B" is to pull out the small Honda 1000 watt portable generator and plug in the block heater directly to it.  The block heater draws just at 10 amps, and that is the maximum output of the Honda, so my plan "B" was standing on shaky legs to say the least.  I got out the Honda around 8:45 and it fired up on the second pull......whew!  I plugged in the block heater hoping the Honda would handle the load, and it did.  You may remember that when we were back in Washington D.C. back in late April we were using the Honda a lot as we were dry camping.  One day it stopped running suddenly and I had to take it in to have it serviced at a cost of around $300.  Well Saturday I was glad I spent the money and fixed it.  About 50 minutes after I plugged in the block heater I was able to crank the DD and it started......YAY!

We pulled out of the Walmart parking lot around 9:50 am with our next destination just a few miles away.....a Maverick fuel station where "Gas Buddy" showed diesel being sold for $3.53/gallon.  Of course, you can't always trust Gas Buddy......remember my fuel mishap in Melbourne, FL (click here to read the story)?  Saturday was another wild goose chase.....the advertised Maverick station does NOT sell diesel.  Oh well, we were only going to buy diesel because of the price.....we had 1/2 a tank left, so we just got on the Interstate and continued our journey south to drive our 177 miles to Ogden, UT.

About 50 miles from the Utah border we stopped for about 20 minutes at a Flying J to take a break.  On a hunch I tried to start the big generator again, and it fired up immediately, so the verdict is in.....25 degrees is too cold to start it.  The other silver lining is I have nothing to fix except my over reliance on Weather.com.  We officially crossed over the border into Utah at precisely 12:33 pm.....this is the first time our coach has been in a state/province other than Alberta, Montana and Idaho since July 2nd.

We have never been to Ogden, UT and there just happens to be a Passport America park there were the daily Passport America rate is $13.50.  We will stay in Ogden for 2 days.  There is a cool old town area about 8 miles from our park, and we are very close to Antelope Island State Park (Great Salt Lake), which we want to visit, too.

We took one final stop at a Utah Rest Area to recheck the info we had on the RV park we were headed for....we only had 19 miles to go after that and arrived at our destination in Ogden around 1:30.  Zach quickly checked us in, and took us to our spot, just a 100 feet away.....a very long and wide site with full hookups, and a clear view of the southern sky......it was NCAA football day, plus there was a World Series game Saturday night so it's imperative that my DirecTV works.




We quickly set up, and while I was hooking up the water TLE found a local micro brewery called "Roosters Brewing and Eatery" in the old town area.......so once we had finished setting everything up, including the satellite TV, we headed into town.



I had the Famous Fish Tacos, and TLE had the Blackened Salmon Sandwich.  We both chose the Junction City Chocolate Stout for our brew of the day.  Yelp gives this establishment 3.5 stars, but we would would give it a solid 4 stars.  The service was fast, and friendly (thank you Aimee).....the ambiance had a cool, funky kind of vibe, the beer and food were excellent.

We will probably ride our bikes back to the old town on Sunday and just take a walk around visiting a few "junk" shops, and enjoying the atmosphere.



After a quick stop at the local state liquor store we headed home where I turned on a football game, and promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half.....:-)

We had a nice travel day, and love our current location for the next two days.  We'll head south Monday morning to my brother's home where we will do some interior remodeling that we have planned for a number of months now.

I watched the Cardinals vs. Red Sox MLB game, and what a game!  The first playoff, or World Series game to end on an obstruction call giving the Cardinals the victory in game 3.  The team that wins game three when the series is tied 1-1 wins the World Series over 71% of the time....wow!  We'll see if that pans out for St. Louis.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's a made up name.....

Since July 23rd our motor coach has only been in two states.....Montana and Idaho.  Friday we entered Idaho again in our coach heading south towards Salt Lake City.  I have always assumed that Idaho was some sort of Indian name.  As it turns out, at least according State Symbols USA and Wikipedia it was a made up name by a man named George M. Willing.  He claimed it was an Indian word whose English meaning was "Gem of the Mountains".   Before the deception was discovered the name caught on, and it is now part of  history.

The temperature at 7 am was 23 degrees.......ugh.....time we were further south for sure!  We departed Fairmont Hot Springs around 9:50 am after dumping our waste tanks, and filling up our fresh water tank.  We merged on to I-90 for 11 miles, then on to I-15 southbound towards Idaho Falls.  Our driving distance for Friday was 210 miles.....a little further than we normally drive, but most, if not all of the campgrounds between Fairmont Hot Springs and Idaho Falls were closed for the season.

We crossed the Continental Divide once again on our way south at 6,873' then we crossed one more pass called Monida Pass at 6, 870' as we entered Idaho.  The skies were clear, and temperatures were warming up as we edged further south.  At about the 100 mile mark we pulled off in a roadside "Parking Area", which was perfect for our purposes.  The only amenity was a single pit toilet, but that's no problem for us....we just wanted to take a break and have some lunch.

From the top of Monida Pass we descended 2,000 feet to Idaho Falls, our destination for the day.  Originally we had planned to stay over night at the Snake River RV Park, but we made a "game time decision" to pull in at the local Super Walmart around 2 pm.  We both needed haircuts.....I hadn't had one since early September, or late August and was getting a little shaggy.  TLE had her last trimmed about the same time.  Right in the parking lot of the Walmart was a "Great Clips" which TLE had used before, so we both walked over and got seated within about 10 minutes.



Once that was accomplished it was closing in on 3 pm so we decided to walk about a mile downtown to a new micro brewery called Idaho Brewing Company to check out their offerings.   Yelp gives them 4.5 stars....I would put it closer to 4 stars, but what is 1/2 a star between friends, right?   TLE had a Black Lager and I a Wolf's Oatmeal Stout.....both were very good, but since they only serve beer (not a bad thing, of course) and we were getting hungry we decided to head back the other direction about a mile to Snow Eagle Brewing and Grill to check out their micro brews and have a couple of appetizers.

Along the way we stopped to take some pictures of the actual Idaho Falls......they are beautiful!  If I was rating them on Yelp, they would get 4 stars at a minimum.




We arrived at Snow Eagle shortly thereafter and found ourselves the only ones there except for two other couples.

My view at Snow Eagle

TLE's view....the falls are across the street....great view!

Yelp only gives Snow Eagle Brewery and Grill 3.5 stars, but our rating would be 4.5.  I had a pint of their seasonal Pumpkin Ale, and so did TLE.  We ordered two appetizers which just blew us away.....the Navajo Nachos and Italian Stuff Grenades (Poblano Peppers).....the portions of both appetizers were very generous, and those stuffed peppers set my mouth on fire.  We found out as we were finishing our first pint of the Pumpkin Ale that the second one was free.....well, who can turn down a free pint?  This is a very nice micro brewery and we both recommend it very highly.....mostly because they serve GREAT food with their great brews, plus the ambiance is superb!

We walked slowly back to our coach enjoying the warmth of the afternoon air.  TLE needed a few food items (tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro) so we went into the Walmart and transferred some money, and then headed back to the coach for the evening.

We watched a few pre-recorded TV shows (Revolution, CSI and Elementary), watched Master Chef Junior live, and then headed off to bed.....yes, we decided to dry camp in the Walmart parking lot as the weather guessers were saying it would only get down to 33 overnight.....they were wrong....it got down to 27 last night!

Friday was a pleasant day, and as we continue further south we are looking even more forward to warmer temperatures.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Almost Heaven....

The overnight low was 22 degrees here in sunny Fairmont Hot Springs......the temperature swings between day and night are about 40 degrees here at this time of year, which is really significant if you think about it.  At 8 am it was still 23 degrees, and yet it got up to 61 today....it felt like a typical Fall day, but by 7 pm it felt like winter.

I slept in until almost 9 am.....feels good to know I can get up at 9 am and still have gotten 10 hours sleep.....a big change from a couple of weeks ago.  We had made appointments for two massages at Noon Thursday so we could sleep in if we chose to, and not have to rush around to get there on time.  We arrived around 5 minutes to Noon to find our masseuses awaiting our arrival.  I have never had a 60 minute full body massage, and frankly I am not sure why not.  I can tell you this affirmatively.....from now on I will be seeking one out on a more regular basis.  I think I fell asleep a couple of times during the hour.  Amy did a wonderful job.  When I emerged from my "almost heaven" experience I found TLE recounting a similar experience.  We had thought about possibly heading right to the hot springs to soak, but we decided to walk home and lay down for an hour to let the massage "soak" in....I'm glad we did.  By the time we returned to the hot springs around 2:30 we were both ready to have a good long soak, and we moved back and forth between the 93 degree pool, and the 103 degree pool several times over an hour+.

I was looking out the windows while sitting in the hot pool thinking about how far away the sugar beet harvest felt at that moment, and so glad we had decided to come here as a reward to ourselves......okay, mostly a reward to myself for the hard work I did over the last three weeks.....but TLE was happy to come along for the ride.




We got back to the coach around 4:30 to rest some more before heading back to Whiskey Joe's Lounge at the resort , which opens its doors each evening at 6 pm, for some draft beer and appetizers.   They only had three beers on tap, but it was our lucky day in that one of the three was Cold Smoke Porter, one of our favorite Montana craft beers, so we ordered two pints to start out, plus a couple of appetizers......Chicken Quesadilla and Egg Roles.  We're sitting at the table finishing our appetizers, and beer when TLE turns to me and says "that's how I saw my day ending"......yeah I would have to agree....we are definitely on the same page.




As we walked home (about a 1/3 of a mile) along the tree lined path I had my arm around TLE and was just enjoying her nearness and the feel of the crisp touch of the early evening air on my face.  Of course the tree leaves are now all golden foretelling the not too distant arrival of winter.  These are the kinds of moments we have together that have made our journey so rewarding.  

Friday we are heading further south toward Idaho Falls, and then on to Salt Lake City to see my brother and his familia......life is good!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

99

We knew we only had 99 miles to drive to Fairmont Hot Springs so we just took our time aiming to get out of town by Noon, plus it was very, very cold Wednesday morning.  I finished up a few chores early such as thoroughly cleaning the boots I had worn for the sugar beet harvest.  In the laundry at the RV park there was a large utility sink that was perfect for the job.  As I used a large bristled brush to scrub the stubborn mud off the soles of the boots I could still smell the sugar beet smell that permeated everything, everywhere in Sidney.  Next I had to finish putting a few things away in the trailer, and then we were ready.

Chris was at work, but Jeanne came over so we could say our "until next times" and we were off.....just shy of Noon....I love it when a plan comes together!

As we merged into the westbound lanes of I-90 TLE says....."you know there is a Walmart at the next exit.....let's stop and see if we can find a flat screen TV to replace the one in the bedroom".....I needed to add a couple of quarts of oil, and it had been too cold to drain the two quarts in from the oil reservoir so I suggested she go inside while I added the oil now that the DD had warmed up sufficiently for the oil to drain freely.   Within a few minutes after I finished with my task TLE returned with the news that they had a 22" VISIO LCD flat screen TV that would fit the space perfectly for $158, so I went inside with her to look at it.....it was perfect, so we snatched one up and headed for the checkout stand, but not before snagging a new Phillips BluRay/DVD player and and HDMI cable to connect it to the new Pillips LCD TV we got a few days ago.

Okay, we had driven a total of 2 miles so far and it was closing in on 1 pm, but WTH.....we're only going 99 miles, right?  So, we merged back on to the Interstate determined to pound out the remaining 97 miles.  

The weather was clear, there was no wind, and the scenery was just spectacular as we cruised westward towards the Continental Divide at 6,393 feet above sea level.  The 6V92 DD performed flawlessly, and the coolant temp never got above 198 degrees.


We crested the summit and slid down the 6 degree slope on the other side toward Butte, MT with the "jake brake" sound reverberating off the "K" rail center divider.  We arrived at Fairmont Hot Springs RV Park around 2:20 to find the park completely empty, filled out our self registration form and headed to the same spot we had when we were here about 5 weeks ago.  

There was no power when we hooked up, but that was because the electrical guys were replacing a transformer. They told us power would be back on within 2 hours so we headed over to the hot springs to make our massage appointments for Thursday, then into the hot pool for 90 minutes to soak away the soreness.  It was heaven.  By the time we returned to the coach a little after 4:30 the power was, indeed, back on.

I installed the BluRay/DVD player, and it worked great.......to test it I watched a Mountain Bike DVD Pat Bonish (Low Key Hideaway) had given me when we were in Cedar Key last January called Seasons (click the link to see a  3 minute YouTube snippet of this 40 minute movie).

I got out the BBQ around 5:30, while TLE prepared a filet for grilling, as well as sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and caramelized onions and mushrooms.  The steak, as always, came out a perfect medium rare, and each bite just melted in your mouth.

To close out the evening we watched a few recorded programs (NCIS, NCIS L.A., and Person of Interest), and while TLE watched one of her cooking shows I installed the new bedroom TV.  I think it came out well.


We are only 5 days removed from Sidney and the sugar beet harvest, and a little over 500 miles, but it seems like a lifetime ago to me already.  We've had three beautiful, crystal clear days.  It's nice to be living in the light again.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Has this every happened to you?

We woke up in Bozeman, MT to low 30's temperatures......not uncommon for Montana, and not uncommon for this time of year in a lot of the northern part of the lower 48.  Our main reason for stopping off in Bozeman was to visit with our nomadic friends Chris Kopp and Jeanne Callahan who own a 1989 Prevost (Marathon) XL-40 coach.  Chris and Jeanne have been here in Bozeman for almost a month now while he does some specialized work for a local guy who is prepping a truck for the Pike's Peak Climb, so he has a regular work schedule during the days.

TLE and I decided to make Tuesday a clean 'er up day.....there was a lot of dust and dirt that had ingressed over the 4 weeks we were in Sidney.  Additionally, the T'Bird was filthy from driving through mud and gunk for a month, and it was time to give her a thorough vacuuming, and then a run through the local car wash.

While TLE handled the car project I started out to diagnose a problem with the 12 volt lights in our overhead storage cabinets in the "salon" area.....they had suddenly quit working a few days before.  Of course, as you know, in my mind it is always a big problem, and will take hours to fix, but I still try to follow the basic troubleshooting 101 steps.....check the fuse bank first to see if there is a bad fuse.

I had already checked the front fuse bank under the dash, because it is easy to get at.  There were no blown fuses up front so I knew I had to get into my closet and check the rear fuse bank, but that involves taking out a couple of plastic storage bins, so I had put it off until I knew I would have time.  As I counted down form the top nine fuses to find the one that covered that part of the coach it appeared that fuse was fine.  Even so I grabbed it with my fingers and kind of spun it a little to be sure the contacts were good.  I really didn't think that was the problem, and then went to empty out the first storage cabinet to get at the wiring in the "wire chase" to see if there was a loose wire, or a bad ground.  When I opened the door I didn't notice the light was now working.  I was so focused on getting deeper into the "weeds" on this problem, and was still assuming it was going to be a complex problem to fix, I didn't realize I had fixed it by twisting the fuse.  TLE says "Clarke, look the light is on".....I looked, and sure enough it was on.  I then began opening the other cabinets and found the lights working there, too.  Cool!!  One project down......and that was what I assumed would be the more involved project.....of course the Jello had a surprise in store for me.

Next I tackled the removal of our 10 year old Panasonic 22" flat screen TV so I could install the new Phillips 30" LCD flat screen TV we had purchased at Walmart the day before.  Amazingly it did not take that long, and within 90 minutes we had our new, larger TV installed.  The new Phillips TV weighs about 1/2 what the old one weighed, and has a sharp, clear, LARGE picture!


Instead of mounting the TV on a fixed wall mount bracket, we bought a $50 articulated wall mount for this new TV.  Why?  Well, the old TV fit perfectly in between the two cabinet doors you can see on either side of the TV in this picture.  With the new wider TV we need to be able to move the TV side to side to get in each cupboard.  As it turns out, this solution works perfectly, and now we have a much bigger TV to watch.

So, now I've gotten two projects out of the way, and I'm thinking it's all down hill now as I start my third project, which was to dump the black tank, and the flush it out 2, or 3 times with fresh water.  Since we were relying, in Sidney, on the pumping company to empty both tanks twice a week we could not flush it out.  On the side of black tank on the passenger side there is a "sight tube" which enables you to see how full the tank is.  It appeared to be filling slowly so I "assumed" the water pressure was low.  Mr. Jello loves people who make assumptions, and he must really be in love with me.  When I thought the black tank was about 1/2 full it was really completely full and now spilling over into the gray tank and filling it up.  Suddenly I hear TLE yelling....."CLARKE!  CLARKE! STOP FILLING THE TANK!" .  I turn off the water quickly while hearing TLE tell me the bathroom sink is overflowing, and the shower is full of, you guessed it, BLACK water.....OMG, what happened?  

The offending "sight tube"

What happened is the lower end of the site tube had become somewhat clogged and was not showing me the true level of the water in the tank.  I went over and opened the gray tank valve and the water gushed out.  I spent, with TLE, the rest of the afternoon cleaning up from that goof.....as it turns out we have exceptional water pressure.  A lot of clorox was used disinfecting the bathroom sink, and shower pan.  

We had planned, after I finished dumping and flushing the black tank, to drive into town and check out a local brew pub called Montana Ale Works for lunch after washing the car, but that went by the wayside with the intervention of Mr. Jello.


Montana Ale Works is located in the old Great Northen Railroad Depot, and it spectacular.


Since we hadn't had a chance to check it out Chris and Jeanne suggested we go there for dinner, and that is exactly what we did at 6:30 pm.  We had a lovely, delicious dinner.....Chris and I had the fish tacos, Jeanne had a steak and TLE had the Grilled Chicken Rissoto....everyone loved their dishes, and we can understand now why Yelp gives them 4.5 stars on 163 reviews.  I had a seasonal Pumpkin Stout that just made my knees weak.  I have to say, it is really great to be back in a town where fine draft micro brewery beer is available.

We headed back to Chris and Jeanne's Prevost for an after dinner single malt scotch, and then said our farewells around 10:30.  We both agreed that it was been great to get to know Chris and Jeanne better, and we look forward to seeing them again when they come to Southern California in early January.  One interesting thing I learned is that Chris builds bike frames, and for a period of time in the past that was his business (Chris Kopp Bicycle Works).  It is indeed a small world.....I had actually seen a couple of his bikes in California, and had not associated him with the bike.....very cool!

That was our day with all the good and the not so good......thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Closed For the Season"

What a difference a couple of naps and 9 hours of sleep do for your mental outlook!  I now have the perfect remedy for changing your sleep pattern back to night time.......work a 12 hour night shift, then don't go to bed until the following night.  I woke up Monday morning feeling like a man who had just been paroled from prison, and had a new lease on life.  

Our jello plan.....I know, I haven't used that term for a long time.....was to drive 141 miles further south and west to Columbus, MT and call it a day.  It was a good, solid plan, but it showed a certain amount of naivete on my part......why? you ask......well, let me tell the story and you will see in good time.

We departed Forsyth around 11:20 am in a slight drizzle after TLE did another wash....we have a lot of laundry after 21 days.  Our first stop of the day was at about the 60 mile mark when we stopped at a Rest Area to take care of the necessaries.  We had a slight tail wind, and the driving was easy....the kind of day that keeps you loving being on the road.  The skies gradually cleared, and pretty soon we were donning our sun glasses and turning off the heater.



At the 100 mile mark we stopped at the Flying J in Billings to pay the rent.....we took on about 129 gallons of rent at a cost of just under $500.  First time we've paid rent in about 5 weeks.

A little Fall color

We drove another 20 miles and stopped at a Walmart Supercenter to see if they had the 29" Phillips LCD TV we had been looking at since before we got to Sidney.  I'm glad we waited, because it was about $30 lower at $248 than we had see it previously.  Our 10 year old Panasonic 22" flat screen is just too small, and now with the new technology the Phillips is a lot thinner, plus this TV is WiFi and Bluetooth capable.  With the Bluetooth I can use it as a computer monitor with my laptop.....pictures to follow as soon as I install it!

Nearing the Continental Divide

From there we only had 25 more miles to Columbus and Moutain View RV Park where we have stayed twice before.  This was when Mr. Jello reared his ugly head......as we exited TLE noticed that the billboard advertising the park had a sign on it reading "Closed for the Season"......I should have checked ahead.....this is Montana after all and winter is fast approaching.  Sooo...we turned left and went into the Pilot truck stop to come up with a plan "B".  Really, plan "B" was easy to come up with......all the parks in between us and our next destination of Bozeman were also closed for the season.  Bozeman was only another 104 miles, so I just sucked it up and got 'er done.  We arrived in Bozeman around 5:20 pm where we will be for 2 days visiting with our friends Jeanne and Chris, who have been here for 3 weeks while Chris finishes up a job.  

It was fun surprising them as we pulled in next to their Prevost a day early.  As it turns out, tonight is their anniversary, so we will go to dinner with them Tuesday night.  Tuesday will be full of the TV project, and a few small fixit things.

We had a nice travel day, and found ourselves giggling at silly things, and just enjoying each other the entire day.  In closing I have an update on my Dodgers, although it is extremely painful to relate....they lost game 6 to St. Louis 9-0.....I'm just starting to get over the disappointment.

Thanks for stopping by!

171 Miles

I left you hanging as I finished writing about Day # 20 of the sugar beet harvest in Sidney, MT.  Day # 20 kind of merged into Sunday.  

Since we had just finished an unexpected 12 hour shift I had considered sleeping for a few hours and then hitting the road, but by the time we got home I was all wound up, and knew I would not be able to fall asleep, so we just set about getting ready to leave.  

The weather had turned bitter cold and windy in just 30, or 40 minutes since we left the factory, so everything seemed to take forever.  Nevertheless, we had the trailer attached, the hard top back on the 'Bird, and the 'Bird inside trailer by 9 am.  

As we edged along out of the Richland Country Fairgrounds I felt a kind of release.....a sense of new found freedom sweeping over my psyche.  We ran the 56 miles south to I-94 and merged into the west bound lanes.  Amazingly, the further south we proceeded the sunnier and warmer it got.

As I often do, I looked over at TLE and said "it's good to be moving again", and she predictably replied "Yeah".  Of course, that is what it is all about......changing our view, and moving down the road.

I have been thinking about our experience the past few days.  I think it is easy for us city dwellers not to think about what goes into putting agricultural products on our tables every day.  We just go to the supermarket and buy what we need, never thinking about, or realizing how much work goes into delivering that product to you.  Farming and ranching is messy, dirty, physically demanding work.  I have a new appreciation for people who have dedicated their lives to this pursuit.  

Working in a sugar beet pile yard was messy, extremely dirty, did I say messy, and sometimes quite disgusting.  It's true......you do adjust to the work, and just put your head down and plow through it.  Could I do this kind of work on a daily basis 365 days a year?  No way......do I have a new found respect for those who do live this life 365 days a year.....you bet.  That is one reason why we took on this job.....for the learning experience.   I had the same reaction last year after we completed our 11 week stint at Amazon.com......and a new found respect for the people who show up for that job 4-5 days a week working 10-12 hour shifts, 52 weeks a year.  I could not be a picker at Amazon.com as a full time job.  

TLE  and I "bop" in to these workamping jobs committed to give our all for a limited period of time knowing it is not a career, just a short term commitment, and then "bop" out to our next adventure.   We are not heroes......the heroes are the farmers and ranchers we met the past 3 weeks who work long hours in miserable conditions, and the guys who show up every day at Amazon to do their job with pride, and to earn their paycheck.  What we are is blessed to have the opportunity to live this lifestyle, and to take an occasional peek at how the rest of our fellow citizens live their lives.


Love the "Big Sky" here in Montana!

In all we drove 171 miles southwest from Sidney, stopping once at a Rest Area, and a second time at the Walmart in Miles City, MT to do some shopping.  We arrived in Forsyth, MT around 2 pm at Wagon Wheel Campground....there are two other RV's here right now.  The owner, Nancy, said they were full until Saturday when the snowbirds began their treks southward to warmer climates.

It rained on and off as we cruised westward on I-94, and rained for about 30 minutes after we arrived in Forsyth.......a good reason we are glad to be here and not showing up at 7 pm to work the night shift piling beets at the Sidney factory yard.  As I was relating to a friend this morning via e-mail, there is something mildly claustrophobic about working outside at night......you can't see the horizon, and have no depth perception....I like the daylight, long views, and sunshine.  TLE says we have been living like moles for the past 3 weeks.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 20 - Ahhhhhhh!

I can feel the relief oozing through every pore of my body as I sit here typing my last Sugar Beet Harvest entry.....there will be no "Day # 21".  I love prep days when we are getting ready to roll our wheels again.  I spent the morning wiping off a month's worth of dirt......love the FireCoat wash/wax system.  All I do is use a microfiber towel and she shines right up.    We put in the awnings, disconnected the water hose, continued getting the trailer ready for travel, and watched NCAA football.  I still feel whipped from last nights piler cleaning episode, so I took a few naps in between all the activity.

It actually got up to over 60 degrees Saturday, which was surprising since the weather guessers had forecast temps in the 40's.  The wind also came up as it is obvious another front is coming our way, and with it much cooler temperatures.

I planned my whole Saturday around the notion that we would working another abbreviated shift of 2-3 hours in duration.  That was part of the reason we decided to leave Sunday morning instead of Monday morning.  When we arrived around 6:45 pm for our 7 pm shift we were informed that we would be working.......come on now, I'm sure you're ahead of me here.....a full 12 hour shift.....wait, what?  Apparently, besides TLE and I, two other night shift folks had given notice that they were also working their last shift, which basically decimated the night shift, so Vanessa, our over all supervisor, decided to do away with the night shift entirely and just work days for what few acres remained to be harvested.  However, they were already committed to working all night Saturday night so there went our well thought out plans.

The day shift was on duty until 8 pm, so we mostly sat talking with the day shift crew on FP2.  At 8 pm Dallas and I took over FP2, and Dallas advised me I would be operating the piler most of the night......cool!  Just what my whipped body needed....an easy night of pushing buttons, and giving hand signals to truck drivers.

There were only four trucks running the overnight shift so we would have a flurry of activity as the four trucks came through, then nothing for 20, or 30 minutes until the trucks returned with new loads of sugar beets.  The wind was blowing, and you could feel the chill in the air as the new front approached.  For the first time I wore my $3 Salvation Army jacket for the entire shift.....it was that cold.

Around midnight we got our usual 3 hour break as this harvester only works 21 hours a day.  They take off from midnight to 3 am, then start running again.  While Dallas and I took our long lunch, which included a nap.  Joe and Casey cleaned FP2.  We arrived back at FP2 around 3:15 to a drizzly rain, and stiff wind out of the north.  FP2 has a canopy over it, but, unfortunately FP2 faces the north, so the wind just blew the rain into the "doghouse" where I was operating the piler.  Thankfully, within an hour the rain had stopped, but not the wind...the icy north wind felt like it was penetrating all the many layers of clothing I was wearing, but the flow of trucks kept my mind off my steadily numbing extremities.

At last I began to see the eastern sky getting lighter around 6:15 am and was thinking "just 45 minutes until I'm out of here".....famous last words.  When each truck finishes dumping its sugar beet load they move forward to separate conveyor system, and I push a button that returns the dirt that was separated from their sugar beets  via that conveyor belt.  Sidney Sugars does not want to buy dirt so they generously insist that the harvesters take their dirt back to their farms.  I pushed the button like I had a few dozen times before, but this time I heard the mechanism clanking, and clunking, and then it just stopped.....before the dirt was returned to the truck.  As it turns out the dirt separator had been slowly clogging since 3 am, and eventually became so clogged it could no longer move the dirt.....or should I say clay like mud....a result of the hour long rain fail earlier.  When we climbed up on the piler to see what the issue was we were greeted by a massive wall of mud.  We began to attack it with shovels hoping that if we moved enough of the mud out to the conveyor belt we would be able to turn it on again, but alas it was not to be.  When I left at 7:15 am there were three strong, young lads toiling to remove the mud......it looked like a multi hour project, and I was not going to stick around to find out how long it would actually take, so I said my farewells, and headed over to the Scale House to pick up TLE and head home.  We had 170 miles to cover before day's end, and I wanted to get to it.

As we drove back to the RV ghetto I began to feel a mild exhilaration sweep through my body.....I had made it to the end......the job did not defeat me.......I finished the course, now it is time to roll the wheels again as we seek new adventures.

Unfortunately, that story is another day, so tune in later for Sunday's adventures......thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 19 - And then there was ONE

The windchill factor on Friday, October 18th, was 17 degrees......we are both so thankful we were not working the day shift.  For the first time in a week the day shift was promised a 12 hour shift, but starting at 8 am instead of 7 am.  Our start time was the normal one at 7 pm.

I spent the better part of the morning organizing the trailer for departure.  To make it more hospitable inside the trailer I ran a couple of extension cords over to one of the power pedestals and plugged into a 20 amp outlet.  I plugged in the heater, turned on the lights and had tunes playing in my sanctuary for the first time in 2 months.  Within a few minutes the heater had the inside of the trailer feeling comfortable, and then I began to put away the bikes, and other stuff that had exploded out of the cabinets over the past two months.  It was enjoyable to spend time in the trailer, which has become my "garage" on the road.  There is always something to do in there, and the time passes quickly.

As you know, we haven't worked a 12 hour shift in over a week, and Thursday was no different, but we were hoping Friday and Saturday nights would be 12 hour shifts so we could close out our stay here with two good money days.

Our plan before we went to work Friday evening was to leave Monday morning after completing our last shift Saturday night/Sunday morning giving me time to finish cleaning off the coach, and getting a good "day's" sleep, however, when we reported for work Friday at 7 pm we found that once again the trucks would not be running all night, but would stop at 8 pm meaning another short night.  We were also informed that this would be the case Saturday evening as well.

Once again there were only two pilers running all day (FP2 and 4), so we (Dallas and I) were assigned the task of cleaning one piler, but with one caveat......they wanted us to clean what they call the "cross belts".  The "cross belts" pick up the sugar beets from the hopper after they are dumped by the trucks and then move them up to what they call the "incline conveyer".  The "cross belts" had become extremely muddy, and as a result were not picking up the beets quickly enough resulting in the hopper overflowing.  The day crew had already stopped once during the day to clean these belts, but by 8 pm they were pretty clogged up again.  Normally Dallas and I can clean the other areas of the piler in about 30-40 minutes.  This added task added about an hour and 40 minutes, and it was hard.  We didn't start cleaning until 8 pm when the day shift finished, and the trucks stopped coming, and finally finished about 10:15, by which time I was soaked with perspiration.  It's amazing how you can sweat so much when it is 35 degrees outside.

Once we were done I retrieved TLE from the warm, well lit, comfortable Scale House where she had spent the early evening reading a good book, and we headed home.  On the way we decided that since we would be working another abbreviated shift Saturday night that we would get a good night's rest, and then leave Sunday before Noon time.  This works out well as we are heading for Bozeman to hook up with our friends Jeanne and Chris Callahan whom we met in Indianapolis.  Jeanne writes a blog called Have Bus, Will Travel which I enjoy reading.  At any rate this will give us three days to drive the 500+ miles to Bozemen instead of the two we had budgeted.  We'll arrive there Tuesday afternoon and spend a day with them before heading the final 99 miles to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.

So, at last, as I sit here depressing the keys on my laptop, and watching mostly coherent thoughts make their way to the "page", I can say with the utmost confidence...... "And then there was ONE".......just one more abbreviated shift tonight and we will, once again, be one our way to new adventures.

I have been asked often over the past 3 weeks by readers, friends, and even co-workers here at Sidney Sugars "will you do this again?".  Right now it's about 50/50 that I will.  Of course, TLE loved this job, and would do it again in a heartbeat, so the question remains for me to answer.

All in all it has been an interesting experience, and that was part of why we chose to work the sugar beet harvest....for the experience.  We have met some interesting people, and learned a lot about agriculture in this little corner of the world.  We have helped process tons of sugar beets into enormous piles where they will be gradually hauled off to the factory where they will become sugar.

Over the next 3 weeks we will gradually wend our way homeward where we have not been in almost 2 years.  Of course that means there are still 3 weeks of adventures before we park for a couple of months, spend time with our kids and grand kids, and then head off again after the first of the year to see new things, and seek new adventures.

Thanks for stopping by!

Moonrise around 7:08 am on our last full day here in Sidney, MT