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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Magic.....

Just when I think 'amazing' and 'glorious' cannot be topped I am once again proved the fool. During a long afternoon of repose in my recliner I began to notice a large cloud bank rolling in from the northwest.  As I commented to TLE, the weather cannot sneek up on you out here where you can see 12 miles in any direction.  You can see rain falling miles and miles away, and you can usually tell whether you are in its path long before it arrives.  Yesterday was such a day, but the way the sun hit the rock formations just across the lake, and the vivid colors in the clouds as they skidded across the southern sky far exceeded my poor ability to describe, so I'm going to let a few chosen pictures try and convey how magical it seemed and felt late first Saturday afternoon....

 Rain falling just a few miles to the south

 Just before sunset the clouds parted just enough to give us this indescribable light show

This picture is a good example of my thesis'....if you take enough pictures you'll get one, or two that are real keepers....these two really did capture what I was seeing.
Layer upon layer of clouds

The rest of first Saturday was what we have come to expect......balmy air, crystal clear views, a long walk, reading (by the way I started reading a new author recommended by my good friend, and brother-in-law Glenn......James Lee Burke), and early evening fire.  

One sort of big piece of news for us is they finally de-winerized the dump station (the water was turned off when we arrived two weeks ago to avoid freezing) so when we dump, which we will need to do soon, we will have water to flush the tank, plus fresh water to replenish our fresh water tank.  The black tank is at about 90% of full right now.  On the fresh water front we have only used about 1/2 of the 140 gallons we arrived with, so since we only have three days left before lift off we treated ourselves to 'semi-long' showers last night.....5 minutes of blissful, uninterrupted hot water each!

Our solar panels once again topped off our house batteries reaching 100% about 3 pm, so that is the 6th time in 13 days we have reached 100%.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lone Rock Living

 I hear from friends who are a few hundred miles south of our current position talking about temperatures in the 90's already, while here at Lone Rock we have only gotten into the 80's three times in the 12 days we have been stationary here.....mostly it's the high 60's to mid 70's here and that means no A/C, and a little 'heater' when I first awake, otherwise it's short pants, t-shirts and flip flops weather.

Lone Rock attire & adult beverages

As the days pass we are mostly alone up here on the 'overlook', but we do get neighbors for a day, or two here and there.  Usually I'm out introducing myself to the new arrivals, but not so much this time around.  We have really been enjoying being by ourselves, and are trying to soak up every minute of solitude we can absorb before we find ourselves back in social situations for the next six months, or more.  Sometimes you don't realize how far down your 'social batteries' have drawn until you suddenly find yourself away from people for an extended period of time.

As we recharge the days seem to blend one into another.......pretty much all the same.....long views, big horizon, amazing sunsets, reading, napping, walking and just 'being' with my lovely Elaine.

We did manage to leave camp for about 2 hours to drive into Page to the local Safeway grocery store to do what I thought was a 'small shopping', but ended up being a 'BIG' shopping.  On the way there we drove into 'Glen Canyon National Recreation Area' to take a look at Wahweap Campground.....there is an entrance fee, but that is waived for Golden Age Passport holders such as we.   As we suspected, it (Wahweap) is quite pricey at $48/day, but it is a very nice campground....frankly, we have the same great view, and water access here at Lone Rock for $5/day.  On the way back out to HWY 89 we stopped at a scenic overlook to take a few pictures of Glen Canyon Dam.




The pictures really don't do the view justice, but you get the idea.......we were back a little after noon time, and then it was time for March Madness once again.  First up was Michigan State vs. Louisville with MSU coming out on top in a very close game. Then it was Gonzaga vs. Duke, which was a close game until Duke pulled away with 3 minutes to go.  So, the Final Four is now set, and those games will be played next weekend.

We had our evening fire a little later than normal at 7:30, but enjoyed sitting by the fire as the evening stars and moon revealed themselves in the darkening skies.  The sunset was beyond description......


Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 11

We've now been here at Lone Rock for 11 days, and with the exception of our drive up to Kanab a few days ago we have pretty much spent most every day just sitting outside, taking walks, and reading.  The surroundings, the climate, the views, the clarity of the air are all just captivating, and it just seems so timeless.  There are times, like this morning, when I wonder why we are moving on later in the week.  Of course, our next two stops also have the 'it factor', and no doubt when it is time to move on from them I will wonder the same thing.

We only got our house batteries back to 97% on Saturday, but that was due to me watching a lot of 'March Madness' basketball off the inverter.  All things being equal I am elated that we are still getting the batteries back into the high 90's into our 12th day (today).

We still have close to 90 gallons of fresh water left in our tank, so we could go, seemingly, three weeks.  Our biggest limiting factor is the black tank, and right now it's a close call if we will make it to Thursday, which would mean 16 days without dumping.  We may have to dump in the next couple of days, but it's all good......the dump station is not that far from our camp, so it would just be a matter of driving the coach up there (sans trailer), dumping, and then returning to our camp.

The daytime highs have now reached the low 80's, and the night time lows are in the low 50's......ideal conditions!

That's pretty much it....oh, Notre Dame came oh so close to unseating #1 Kentucky last night, but ended up losing by 2 points as the clock expired.  So, now Kentucky is 38-0 this season.....if they win the next two games they will be National Champions, and be 40-0.

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are you Nü?

Our first year on the road we joined a online group called Nü Rvers.  Why, you might ask?  After all we were not 'new' RVers, we had been RVing for about 7 years by that time.  It seems a lot of people see the  RVers Facebook page and join (without reading the 'about' section) thinking it is a place for 'New Rvers' to learn about, and ask their 101 questions about RVing, when it really has nothing to do with that at all.   refers to more of a state of mind.....young at heart, living life outside the conventional norms, not typically 'retired', but living and earning a living while traveling around the country in an RV.  You will see  Nü RVers home schooling their young children while living on the road full time.  In fact the term Nü RVers encompasses the whole range of age groups, ideals, lifestyles, interests, political and religious views available in our world today.  They are typically not a group of gray haired, retired folk that congregate in 'Over 55' RV parks in the southern latitudes of our country.  You will find them, more often than not, living 'off the grid' as much as possible.  Around a typical campfire of Nü RVers you will find all age groups socializing as peers.......as equals.  Many of my best Nü RVer friends are as young, or younger as my own children, and yet I do not think of them in that way.  They are just good friends who form the backbone of our nomadic community.  

The first Nü RVer gathering we attended was in March of 2012 in Cedar Key, FL.  We had been meandering eastward along the I-10 corridor for about 6 weeks when one morning while we were in DeFuniak Springs, FL I was reading Chris and Cherie's blog which mentioned they were heading for Cedar Key, FL for some decompression time.  I had been following their blog for several years at that point and really wanted to meet them......Cedar Key was a two day drive from our location, so I sent them a message asking if it would be okay if we stopped in for a few days at Sunset Isle RV Park to meet and visit with them.  They quickly replied that it was okay, so we headed south.  What we didn't know was this would become the focal point of a Nü RVer convergence.  It was there we met so many like minded people that have become good friends over time.  We all reconvened back in Cedar Key again that December and spent weeks getting to know each other even better.

Often we, or they, will go out of their way to meet up anywhere our paths may be crossing at any given point in our travels back and forth across the USA.  There is this continual sharing of ideas, and information.  If one of us has a breakdown, or an illness we are all there to help in anyway we can.  Two summers ago are very good nomadic friends (Chris and Cherie of Technomadia) posted on Facebook that their Detroit Diesel in their vintage 1961 GM bus conversion had bit the dust in the middle of no where in Montana.  Within minutes they were getting phone calls, and messages from all around the country from other nomads, as well as the larger online bus community offering help.  Within a few hours some from the Nü RVers community, and primarily the broader 'bus' community had located a reputable repair facility where they had their bus towed.  Over the course of the several weeks they were in Billings, MT having their engine rebuilt a dozen, or more nomads, friends, blog readers, etc. stopped through and spent time with them, including ourselves.  This, to me, typifies the most important thing about who and what Nü RVers are......they are good friends who always have your back.

When we had our 'diesel fuel' incident in Melbourne, FL Chris and Cherie dropped what they were doing (they are young, and still must work for a living) and spent the afternoon, and early evening with us until we had resolved the problem.  We were so grateful for their support.   

For me this group has broadened my world view beyond belief, as well as taught me the value of acceptance.......and for that I will be eternally grateful.....

Now, what happened Friday?  Not much.....just another day living off the grid.....just another day when our batteries reached a 100% charge for the 5th time in 10 days with no generator humming in the background.....just the wonderful quiet of the high desert.  



I made the 2.6 mile run over to the local Union 76 station to fuel up the VW and buy 4 more bundles of wood for our eventide fires........



The rest of the time I spent reading a very good book on my Kindle.....and that was our 10th day of boondocking at Lone Rock.......


Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Always sunny in Lone Rock..."

The perfect days are kind of coming one right after another.......perfect temperature, perfect weather, perfect location, perfect company, perfect view.....I'm not trying to make you jealous, although that may be a byproduct, I am trying to convey how happy I am to be where I am at this juncture in time.  Being able to find a boondock site with the 'it' factor, and being able to remain there for an extended period of time is what I have been aiming for since the day we had the solar panels installed back in February of 2012.  Now that we have finally arrived at the point in our journey where we are in the perfect part of the country at the most ideal time of year where boondocking 'it' sites are available by the droves we are beginning to find spots we love to return to year after year.  We have really just begun to explore to find these sites......last winter we found 3 where we stayed briefly, but this year we have been able to spend more time at each enabling us to get to know our coach's electrical needs much better, and how to manage those needs within the confines of our current setup.

What is our setup?  Before you even think about going 'solar', you must first have a place to store the energy converted by your solar panels.....we have on board two Interstate flooded cell 8D batteries which each provide just over 250 amp hours of 12 volt electricity (combined they provide just over 500 amps hours).  To avoid damaging flooded cell batteries you should not discharge them below 50%, so, in effect, we must divide the total amp hours available (500) by 2 to get the actual amp hours to which we have access when they are both fully charged.  Essentially if we have 250 amp hours (half of the total 500 amp hours) of 12 volt electricity available and we use 10 amps per hour we can, theoretically, power our coach with 10 amps of power for 25 hours before we have discharged our batteries 50%.

 Two Interstate 8D batteries providing around 500+ amp hours combined

Next you must have a way to convert that direct current (12 volt) electricity to alternating current (110) to power those systems/appliances in your RV that require alternating current to operate.  To do this you need what is called an 'inverter'....an inverter converts 12 volt (direct current) to 110 volt (alternating current).  We have a Heart Interface 2000 watt inverter that came with the coach, and is probably well over 20 years old, but it still works quite well.  Most late model coaches have the inverter/charger/converter all combined together, but ours is not.  Our charger/converter is in a different location near the rear of the coach.  The inverter is located in the front storage bin on the driver's side just below the cockpit area.  The batteries are located in the front storage bin on the passenger side just below the cockpit area, so they are only a few feet apart.

 Heart Interface 2000 watt inverter (Now owned by Xantrex)

Without solar panels the only way to replenish the 12 volt electricity we draw out of the batteries is via an on board generator.....we have a 7.5 kw Kohler generator fueled with propane, which uses about 1/2 gallon of propane per hour when in operation.  We also have a portable Honda 1000 watt generator (used about 1/2 gallon every 3 hours) that we use when we are not in need of air conditioning, or any other system/appliance that uses more than 10 amps of power.  Of course, fueling either of these electrical generators can become costly, and the whole point of going solar is to eliminate, or mostly eliminate those fuel costs.  The other thing you are trying to eliminate is the noise which results from the operation of generators.  Solar generators are silent, and require no fuel except the rays of the sun, which are free.

 Two 150 watt solar panels from AM Solar

To replenish the batteries without the use of a noisy generator we had two 150 watt solar panels installed by AM Solar.  These panels convert the suns rays to 12 volt electricity which is sent via cables to our Blue Sky charge controller, which then uses that electricity to recharge our 8D batteries.

Blue Sky charge controller

While not totally necessary, we also had a Blue Sky monitor installed so we could more precisely monitor our usage, the status of the batteries, and how many amps of power are being generated by the solar panels at any given time.  This is an invaluable tool, and if you decide to install a solar system I highly recommend you have one....maybe not Blue Sky, but some type of monitor.

 Blue Sky monitor

So, that is our setup.   Our cost to install this basic system was just under $3,000, and that includes labor.  The actual 'part's (two solar panels, cabling, charge controller, monitor and other associated materials) cost about $1,400.  For most late model RV's the labor would probably not be as high as for ours, but we have a vintage coach and running the cables effectively took longer than normal.

So, on Thursday by 3 pm our batteries once again reached 100%, which is the fourth time we have reached that plateau in 9 days.....all other days we have gotten into the high 90's.  We typically lose about 7% of our charge overnight while we are sleeping.....there are things in the coach that draw 12 volt all the time (refrigerator display, our radio, the ionization system for our black tank, the door bell button, the Blue Sky monitor, the various analog gauges throughout the coach), but account for less than 1% of our power draw each day.  When it is much colder than it is now overnight (now it's in the mid 40's at night) such as when we were boondocking near Cottonwood we can lose up to 12-13% overnight.  This is not because we run heaters at night.....the only time we might run heaters is when we are plugged in and it is really cold at night, like in the 20's, or 30's.  Very low temperatures increase the rate of discharge for flooded cell batteries.

Our Thursday, like virtually all the other days here at Lone Rock, was composed of a little exercise (I rode my mountain bike around the local hills, and we took our usual 3.4 mile hike out to HWY 89), a lot of reading, and another fire to welcome in the evening.  As I said earlier, it was another perfect day! 


Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's all nuts and bolts......

Strange things begin to happen to your mind when you spend extended periods of time in the desert away from most human contact....you begin to see things as you take your mostly daily walk, which you never noticed before.  Within a few days you begin to pick up the things you're seeing and stick them in your pockets thinking...."I'm sure I can find a use for that...I'm sure....".  You begin to realize that if you just keep walking the same road day after day it won't be long until you will have collected enough material to build your own car.....seriously!  Now, you are probably wondering "...what the hell is he doing to do with that popsicle stick?"  I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to tell you, but I will be able to put that micro fiber towel to good use for sure.  And who doesn't need a few extra washers, nuts and bolts?  I am, however, still thinking about what I can do with that stainless steel ring on the left, and the tire weight right next to it......


TLE and I have discussed the possibility (just last evening) about starting a new charitable foundation called "Bolt Rescue"......we could solicit donations (tax deductible of course), and sign up volunteers to walk the highways and biways of America rescuing nuts, bolts and washers from an untimely demise, then clean them up and put them back into circulation.  This motley collection was acquired in just a 3 day span whilst walking the 1.6 mile stretch of the Lone Rock Road up to Highway 89 and back.  I think we have the beginnings of a vintage VW Beetle, what do you think?

And while I am feeling somewhat whimsical today please watch the following YouTube video on "Daylight Saving Time"......it is hilarious (thank you Kirsty for sharing it on Facebook this morning....).....I laughed so hard while watching this first thing this morning I think I woke TLE up......:-)



So, as you might be imagining right now there is not a lot to report about 3rd Saturday (Wednesday for the un-initiate)......just more serenity, bliss and laziness at Lone Rock National Park.  I spent the better part of the day sitting outside in my zero gravity lounger reading a good book by Nick Russell called "Big Lake Burning", the sixth book in his popular "Big Lake" series.  Nick is a fulltimer like TLE and I (he's been at it much longer than we), and writes interesting mysteries.  Another favorite "fulltimer" author I read whenever a new book comes out is Brian Gore......just recently I finished reading his latest book called "The Horsemen", the 3rd book in his Jeb Taylor western series, which I also highly recommend.

Around 4 we took another walk up Lone Rock Road to HWY 89 and back which is where the first part of today's blog was conceived.  The wind calmed down enough for us to have another sunset fire......3rd Saturday's beverage of choice, courtesy TLE, was wine spritzers.....an excellent choice my dear!

By the way, I left off yesterday's offering advising we began the day at 84% on our house batteries.......I ran the big genset (7.5 kilowatts) for one hour which brought them back to 90%, and then the solar panels took over from there and brought them all the way back to 98% by sundown.  We have hit the point now where the sun is high enough in the sky by 8:30 am to stop the discharge, and begin to recharge the batteries......cool.

Thanks for stopping by.......

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Day tripper"

Even though we are only half way through our two week stay here at Lone Rock we have been going back and forth about where we will head next.  Ever since we stopped by Goosenecks State Park in April of last year and saw that we could camp there free for up to 2 weeks I have wanted to go back.  Until recently that was the plan, then TLE began to suggest we may want to explore boondocking options up in the Kanab, UT area.



We left home base about 10:30 (actually 11:30 Utah time) and just as last year, we thoroughly enjoyed the 60+ mile drive northwest to Kanab.  This small town is sort of a 'jumping off' point for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef, and Bryce National Park as you can see from the map above.  Our sole purpose this day was to check out two possible BLM sites where we might 'boondock' for a couple of weeks while we did some site seeing of these well known National Parks.



The first, and preferred BLM area we checked out was Ponderosa Campground located right on the northern edge of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park about 14 miles northwest of Kanab.

We arrived on the eastern outskirts of Kanab around 11:30  (Arizona Standard Time) and continued right on through two to northbound HWY 89.  Seven miles later we turned off on Hancock Road for another 7.4 miles on a nicely paved road to the campground. Regrettably the information on the BLM site did not specify that the campground was not compatible with any RV over 22'.....:-(  As we drove through the campground it was very obvious the sign was not exagerating.That's too bad, because I could have seen us spending 2 weeks there.  Nevertheless, the drive in was very scenic.

We were back in Kanab by 12:45 and decided to stop in at the "Rocking V" for lunch.  Yelp gives them 4.5 stars on over 200 reviews.  I ordered the "Kanab-A-Dabba-Doo" burger and TLE ordered the "Jalapeno Lime Chicken".  We both loved our entrees and the side (black been salad).  The ambiance, food presentation, and service were all worthy of a 4.5 star rating.  It is a little pricey, however.  The burger was $14, and the chicken was $12.....after drinks (ice tea) and tax the total bill was just over $31.  The portions were so large that we each only ate half, and took the remainder home for dinner.  We both enjoyed eating our entrees for the second time around....:-)



The second BLM site we wanted to check out was White House Campground located to the east of Kanab just 2 miles off HWY 89.  Once again, this time before we actually drove the 2 miles in on the dirt road, we saw a sign that said any RV over 22' was not compatible with the facilities, or the road to reach them.  So that is that.  We'll have to do more research for our next foray up to this area, but for now it looks like we'll be heading towards Goosenecks in another week!


Goosenecks State Park

We got home about 2:30 to find that while we were gone our house batteries had once again reached 100%.....wow, that's the 3rd time in a week.  We picked up our individual 'shopping lists' and headed into Page......I needed some hardware type stuff, so we stopped off at Page Hardware and Lumber first, but I didn't find what I was looking for, so we headed over to the Walmart to fill TLE's list and I actually found all four items I was looking for at Walmart.....remarkable!

We watched five hours of TV in four hours (Justified, NCIS, Hell's Kitchen, NCIS N.O., and Person of Interest) off our inverter Tuesday night, and when we shut things down (we turn off the inverter when we don't need it) we were at 91%.  Based on our observations the past week I figured we would wake up 8 hours later at 84%....tune in for tomorrow's blog to see what happens!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

And on we go....

I finally got off my duff Monday and called A.M. Solar to make an appointment for early October to add a couple more solar panels, and upgrade my charge controller to a model that can handle more than 400 watts of solar panels.  Right now I have 300 watts on my roof (two 150 watt panels) and it was my intent to just add two more of the  same, but was advised by the nice gentleman on the phone (Dan, or Dave.....I'm bad with names) that my current charge controller would be maxed out by one more 100 watt panel.  I'm grateful they keep good records at A.M. Solar because now I can budget the extra money for the upgrade on the charge controller in addition to the two 160 watt panels they recommend. We are supposed to arrive in Springfield, OR the afternoon of September 30th, so they can begin the upgrade the next morning, which will require us to leave Cape Blanco that morning.

Why is this important to us?  Well, under perfect conditions (temperature, location, time of year, etc.) our 300 watts of panels do a pretty good job of keeping us supplied with power, but if we want to boondock in less than ideal conditions they have a difficult time meeting our daily demands, which to start with are not that great.  By more than doubling our wattage we will have a little more flexibility in when and where we opt to boondock, or dry camp.  Where we are right now provides conditions that are near ideal for our current setup.  For example, Monday we began the day with our battery bank at 89% of a full charge.  Using only the solar panels, and with partly cloudy conditions, they got us back to 98%.  There was no sound of a generator running in the background......just passive solar energy being absorbed by our two 8D batteries.

As we hit the middle point of our two week boondock stay here at Lone Rock we are continuing to learn more about our solar system, and how to manage our power consumption without it becoming burdensome, and in a way that allows us to live  a somewhat normal daily routine.

So what did our normal routine look like on First Saturday?  We took our usual 3.4 mile walk out to HWY 89 and back, we spent time outside reading until the wind picked up early afternoon chasing us inside for the rest of the day.  I spent some time working on my mountain bike......the rear derailleur has not been shifting properly for a while now, including the ride I took with friends up in Sedona.  I was able to diagnose and fix the problem, so now all is well again in MTB land.

We were treated to a windblown sunset.....there was no fire to bring in the evening.....too much wind!  As I told TLE this morning.....if you stay in one place long enough you will experience a big range of weather conditions.  We are, after all, in the high desert where I would expect it would get windy from time to time.  Our first 5 days here were idyllic.


Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 23, 2015

'Mad Men'

I realized this morning as I sat down at the computer that while I have been a rather prolific blogger this past weekend, I really didn't write about anything we did Saturday, and now, of course, there is Sunday.  There isn't really much to report about the weekend except that it was idyllic, wonderful, relaxing, inspiring, serene, energizing.....it was just the kind of weekend we had ordered.

Fortunately here in northern Arizona/southern Utah we do not really have to deal with the 'Spring Breakers' as they all seem to be drawn to warmer latitudes.....there are no flotillas of drunken, youthful revelers on the lake.....just us old fogies....we may get a little tipsy on occasion, but there is not much reveling....:-)

I spent big portions of Saturday and Sunday watching 'March Madness', which is the only kind of madness I'm looking for this time of year.  I have found that once the sun is high enough in the sky to blanket the solar panels I can turn on the inverter to watch TV most all day long and still get the batteries back to 100% as we did for the second time on Sunday.  In fact, we've only been below 90% once since we arrived 6 days ago.  The conditions here at Lone Rock are approaching perfect for us.  When we were down in Cottonwood boondocking the overnight temps were getting into the low 30's, and on occasion into the high 20's.  Cold temps like those really suck the amp hours out of flooded cell batteries.  Typically we would lose over 1% per hour while were sleeping, and would typically see losses of 11-12% overnight.  In contrast, here at Lone Rock the overnight temps are ranging from the low 40's to the high 40's and we are typically seeing an overnight loss of just 7-8%.  When you don't have to dig out of a deep hole every day it makes it much easier to get back into the high 90's if not all the way to 100% on occasion.  That I can accomplish that and still watch NCAA basketball almost all day is amazing.

We've been seeing in the eventide each of the last four days with a fire, and whatever adult beverage TLE deems appropriate at the time.  As the sun dips into the western horizon the colors of the rock formations to the east just light up with golds, pinks, reds, purples, etc....the perfect backdrop for relaxing conversation and reflection.  We originally bought two bundles of firewood at the local Union 76 station (about 2 miles from our location) to burn, but is is mostly soft wood, and burns fast, however, TLE noticed a large, abandoned wooden pallet on the shoulder of the access road we walk almost every day, so we drove up there in the VW Saturday with the appropriate tools to take that baby apart, then hauled it back to camp.....that will be good for 3, or 4 fires at least!

The weather continues to be just what we were seeking......high 60's to mid 70's everyday, and moderate low temps at night......no rain so far, and mostly clear skies with only a couple of days of partly cloudy conditions.


Thanks for stopping by!



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Timeless

"...one should never expect too much of time.   No man who begins a journey knows how it will end.  Nor when." -- from the book entitled Callaghen by Louis L'Amour

One of the best things, and there are many, about being retired, and being a nomad is time has a little less influence on your life.  By virtue of the lifestyle you have chosen you tend to find yourself disconnected from people, places and things that tend to make you more conscious of what day it is, or what time of day it is.  You tend to think of your days as being proscribed by each sunrise and sunset.....everything in between is occupied only by things which have importance to you that particular day.  The quote shown above from a book by Louis L'Amour which I am currently reading really brought that home to me last night.  It reminded me to focus more on the now, and less on tomorrow, or the next day.  Why waste time thinking, let alone worrying, about a point in time you haven't yet reached, and for that matter, may never reach.  

My days are numbered like those of every other human being on earth......I don't know when my 'day' will come, but it is out there as assuredly as the next sunset, or sunrise, and is approaching.....how fast, or how slow no one knows.  The only thing I know for sure right now as I write this short post is what is important to me today......telling Elaine I love her......treating her kindly......kissing her again......enjoying each minute of each day I have left with her......wondering what small, or big thing I can do for her today to make her life better.  Yesterday, and tomorrow have no place in my thoughts today.....only today matters....why?  Because today I woke up to another sunrise....I was able to step outside to feel the warm sunshine of a new day on my face one more time.  I feel blessed to gaze one more time upon the long view to the southeast which just instills a sense of serenity and peace in me that is hard to verbalize.



Today is called Sunday, but to me it is one more day I have been granted to live well.......a day full of hope and promise....another day where time is unimportant, and only "now" has any significance.


Another day lived well....

Thanks for stopping by!

WHEN, not IF, things go sideways

I was inspired the other day by fellow blogger Nina of 'Wheeling It' fame who wrote a recent blog post about their 'Top 6 Road Incidents' and how they survived.  I know one of the things foremost in my mind as we were preparing to live on the road was what would I do if something went wrong.  What I learned was the correct word here is not 'if', but 'when'.....things, indeed, will go wrong.  It is my hope that by relating in one place most, but not all of the things that have gone wrong, and how we dealt with them that it will help those who aspire to live as we do to not let the worry of 'what can go wrong' be the reason they do not try.

1) Air level valve failure

When we first began our full time journey I knew we had a leak in the six pack of air valves that controls the rear air bags for leveling, and for what is known as 'ride height', or driving mode.  At the time I was still in the 'learning curve' on my Newell, and had no idea how to troubleshoot an air leak, or even what to do if I found the leak.  Well, we had been on the road just about a week when we arrived in Mesa, AZ at the home of Tom and Darlene, fellow Newell owners, when the rear air valves failed completely, so I had no choice but to confront the problem and fix it, or we could not level, or drive another inch.  Tom, prior to retirement, was an electrical engineer by trade, so something as basic as my air valve system was not intimidating to him.  

Initially he brought out a spray bottle of soapy water to spray on each valve to find the ones leaking.  As it turned out there were two, so he found a local source for my MAC air valves up in North Phoenix, and I drove up there to buy two valves.  The next night we replaced those two valves, then turned on the engine to air up the coach, and for about 10 minutes it worked as it should......then the remaining 4 valves began to leak.  So, it was back up to North Phoenix to buy the remaining 4 valves.  The next night we took the hole assembly off the wall of the engine bay after taking a picture of it (see first picture below) and making notes, then disassembled it, and added in the 4 additional new valves, then remounted the entire assembly back on the wall, and the picture below is of the new valves installed and working just as they should.  Each valve only cost about $40, so the total coast to replace all six was $240, plus some elbow grease.  Having Tom help me diagnose the problem, and then fix it really boosted my self confidence to tackle things as they arose in the future.

Take a picture FIRST before taking stuff apart!!


 The new 'six pack'

2) No trailer lights

Another issue facing me head on when I arrived in Mesa, AZ at Tom and Darlene's home was I was having serious electrical issues with my trailer lights, as well as the rear brake and turn lights on the coach.  

A couple of years previously I was having some issues with the tail lights on the coach after I had my mechanic install a 7 pin connector for the trailer lights.   I took the coach back in a couple of times, but finally it seemed they were fixed, and they worked fine until the day we were leaving Ranch Jurupa Regional Park, where we had been camp hosts for a year, to begin our journey.  TLE was following me in the T-Bird and called me on the phone to tell me the brake lights were not working on the trailer, or the coach.  That was weird, because I had just checked everything out the night before and everything worked as it should.  Well, I was on my way to my mechanic's to have the oil changed, and a few other maintenance things done before we drove down to Temecula to have our solar system installed.  The guy who had fixed my lights before was no longer working there, and the guy he assigned to fix my problem could not figure it out.  I didn't want to stay there over night so I had TLE follow me in the T-Bird down to Temecula where I figured I would solve the problem myself.

We were in Temecula about 4 days, and I thought I had fixed the problem, and everything seemed to work fine until I turned on the running lights as we headed east on I-10 into the night.  I noticed that none of the trailer lights were working, including, once again, the turn and brake lights......uggghhh!

So, when we arrived in Mesa that night with failing air valves I also was dealing with NO brake lights, or turn signals and running lights that did not work all the time......I had pulled off the Interstate when I discovered there were no lights on the trailer and fiddled around enough to get them to come on so we could continue driving to Mesa, but still had no brake, or turning lights.  Tom was still working then and had to go into the office, but gave me a few ideas to pursue.  I took me the better part of two days working by myself to fix the problem, but I did, and they have worked fine until I had that minor problem I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, which I again fixed on my own.

3) Bent trailer jack


We had been on the road for about 6 weeks when we arrived in Thibodaux, LA to courtesy park at the home of Forrest and Cyndy (also fellow Newell owners) who had offered a 50 amp hookup while we toured the local area, and drove into New Orleans.  When I exited the coach to unhook the trailer after we had parked I noticed the bottom of the tongue jack was bent back pretty badly (see the removed broken jack on the ground in the picture below).  Apparently, when we were getting ready to leave Galveston Island a few days prior I had neglected to retract the jack all the way up after I had dropped the trailer on the hitch, and had caught the still extended jack on the Galveston Ferry as we were driving on.....I hadn't realized it was damaged until I was unhooking the trailer in Thibodaux.  I immediately called Forrest, who was not home at the time, to ask for a referral to a good local trailer supply place, and he gave me a name of a place not too far down the road from his house.  I drove over there with my broken jack, found the one that matched it ($25) and headed back to fix the trailer.  It took me under an hour to install the replacement.  I know looking back in retrospect that this was not as big a deal as I felt it was back then, but back then when anything broke it felt catastrophic to me.

I found that each time I was able to fix something on my own that my confidence to tackle the next problem, when it arose, grew significantly.


4) Trailer pinch 1

I have always been pretty good at backing the coach with the trailer attached, but I met my match when I was attempting to back my trailer into a piece of property near Heflin, Alabama about 3 months into our travels.  There were a couple of tricky turns I had to negotiate to get into the property.  I had chosen to back in so it would be easier to get out, and it was a good theory.  TLE was outside with one of the walkie-talkies guiding me in when suddenly I heard her say "....you pinched the trailer..."....I was hoping nothing had been serious damaged, and just pulled forward and finished parking.  When I exited the coach to inspect the damage I found that I had crushed the driver's side front corner of the large aluminum tool box mounted on the tongue.....I loved that big tool box as I used it to store a lot of stuff I had no room for in the trailer....now it was damaged.  I was able to straighten the box out well enough that I could still close the lid.  While I was disappointed that I had damaged the box, I was soooo grateful I had not damaged the coach....only the bumper on the coach has a few scrapes, but nothing too noticeable.  Later, while at my sister's home in Michigan I borrowed some "metal dolleys" from her husband (Elliott) and was able to reshape the damaged pieces and unless you looked closely you could hardly tell it had been damaged.



5) Trailer pinch 2

I had been a long day driving through the 'American Alps' in northern Washington  in mid July of 2012, and we were fast approaching an RV park near Marblemount, WA on the Skagit River where we planned to overnight.  I had asked TLE to be on the lookout for a park (can't remember the name I gave her, but it was wrong)......just a minute or so after I asked her to be watching I saw the sign for the park (Alpine), but had missed the entrance.....it was a two way road, and there were cars behind me otherwise I would have just stopped and backed up 30 feet.....no problem, right?  Well, it was 10 more miles into Marblemount where I would be able to run around, but I didn't want to drive another 20 miles round trip, so I slowed down letting the cars behind me pass, then spied a large dirt road with a big apron that I thought I could back into making a 3 point turn, and head back.  TLE asked me if I wanted her to get out with the walkie-talkie to talk me through it and I replied, rather arrogantly, "No, I've got this"...famous last words (I wrote about that experience here).  Well, as you can be sure, those words were still hanging in the air when she says "Clarkey, you just pinched the trailer!".  At that point I was too irritated with myself, and what had happened to get out and check to see what the damage was, so I just straightened out the trailer by pulling forward, then finished backing up to complete the 3 point turn, which had now become a 5 point turn.  We arrived back at Alpine RV Park in just a few minutes where I parked to go inside to pay for a site......I first went back to inspect the damage, and was sickened by what I saw.....now the passenger side of the tool box was smashed in to such an extent that it was now a total loss.  Even worse there was a large puncture hole in the aluminum skin on the right rear corner of the coach just above the bumper.


This is the right rear corner of the coach after I had pounded out the big dent, and covered the tear in the aluminum with 'foil tape'.....it looked much worse before my efforts.  Also, the bumper was bent by the impact....this picture does not do the damaged area justice. Ultimately I lived with the damage to the coach for almost 2 years before a friend of mine (Todd, another Newell owner who lives in South Dakota) found an N.O.S. Newell bumper on ebay.....actually it was a complete set....he needed the front bumper, and I needed the back bumper so I bid, won the auction, and Todd drove down to Nebraska to pick up the bumpers....total cost for my rear bumper...$62.50.  We drove up to Sioux Falls last April where I picked up the bumper, and installed it.  In addition, I covered up the damage to the right rear corner with diamond plate....I think it came out pretty well!



I did not, however, wait almost two years to replace the tool box.......I found this slightly smaller tool box on eBay and installed in while visiting with friends on Whidbey Island (Washington) that same July.



6) Blowout


In May of 2008, just a couple of months after we had purchased our Newell we decided to drive it to Arizona to see our daughter, Sharon, graduate from Arizona State.  This was our first long trip in the Newell, so I studiously checked everything over (oil, coolant, tire pressure, etc) before departure.  All went well until on our return trip about 90 minutes from the California border, and about 90 minutes west of Mesa, AZ I heard this loud 'BANG'....at first I thought I had hit some road debris, but then quickly realized the left fron tire had blown.  The coach swerved to the left (fortunately there were no vehicles to my left at the time) about half way into the #1 lane.......I wrestled the steering wheel back to the right slowly regaining control and had the coach on shoulder of I-10 within 100 feet.  Avoiding an accident, or flipping the coach over were avoided.....as I shut down the engine, sat there shaking from the adrenaline rush I heard one of my daughters (two of our daughters had made the trip with us) say....."Good job Dad!"....that kind of snapped me out of it.  Then I began to worry about how much damage to the coach that exploding tire had caused....often the damage caused by a blowout can be more expensive than the actual tire replacement.  As I walked around the front the coach, this is what greeted me....


....as you can see the rim had just barely begun to scrape the ground when I brought the coach to a stop, but no damage to the coach.

I went back in the coach to give everyone the 'good news' and then got on the phone with Good Sam ERS.  The lady asked me if I knew what mile marker I was near, and, of course I did not, but went outside......the odds of walking the wrong direction to find the nearest mile marker are 1 in 2.....I chose to turn east (right) and walked just 100 feet to find the nearest mile marker.....I still had my phone in my hand and reported this to the lady.  She advised me she would find someone to come out with a new tire and install it there.  Within 20 minutes she called back saying she had a mobile service coming out of Mesa, AZ with a tire, and that they would be calling me to verify the tire size, and to take payment.  Within 10 minutes they called.....I gave them my AmEx number to pay for tire and they said they would be there in 90 minutes.

In the mean time I turned on the generator, then the A/C (it was getting hot), then cranked up the satellite dish (it was the middle of the NBA playoffs at the time), tuned in the Laker game.....I think they were playing the Detroit Pistons and sat down to watch the game.  While I was doing that TLE prepared a plate of cold cuts, and got out some beer and we sat there watching the game with the girls until the mobile guy arrived almost exactly 90 minutes later.

Within 30 minutes he had the new tire installed, and we were on our way.....all I had to pay for was the tire...$375....Good Sam ERS paid the labor and drive time.  The lesson here is subscribe to an emergency road service for your RV (Good Sam and Coach.net are the only ones I am aware of) and keep it up to date.  You are buying peace of mind and a solution to most problems that will arise from a breakdown on the road.  I actually cover myself 3 ways for emergency roadside service....Good Sam, AAA and through my auto policy.  Why?  In all the situations I have been in over the years one of them has come through quickly.  Why put all your eggs in one basket?  

7) Black water tank failure

In July of 2013 we had been camping in, and around Glacier National Park for about 10 days and were planning to take another hike in the park, but first I needed to dump the black tank, which I have done successfully dozens and dozens of times.  As was my custom, I began to 'fish' my green hose from the driver's side in between the black tank and the fresh water tank to the passenger side to hook up to the hose bib that allows me to flush the black tank.  The end of the hose, apparently, strikes one of the three sensor plugs located along the bottom of the black tank knocking it lose resulting in a torrent of black effluent which quickly engulfs the area where I am standing....it takes me a few seconds to realize what has happened before I quickly pull the lever on the black tank to dump its contents into the sewer and stop the ecological disaster that is occurring.  Once that is done TLE and I begin to figure out how to fix this problem....of course our hike has now been scrubbed from the calendar, and our only purpose in life is to fix our black tank.

Not much room in there....

I need to re-insert that plug,  and reseal it, but there is not enough space in between the two tanks to get my arm, and even if there was my arm is not long enough to reach it.  We are going to have to remove the black tank to fix it, and that will be a major chore.  It is at this time that TLE suggests we remove the fresh water tank as there are fewer connections to be unhooked....I look at it, and have to agree she is correct, so we begin to drain the fresh water tank of 120 gallons of water, which takes quite a while, but in an hour, or so it is empty.  Within another hour we are removing the tank.


Once the tank was out we sprayed out the entire water bay with fresh water to get rid of the residual 'black water', use bleach to sanitize the area, and then begin the process of drying everything out, and then re-installing the plug, and sealing it.  We allow everything to dry, and cure overnight, and then were able to re-install the fresh water tank the next day.

 Plug re-installed and sealed


The re-installation of the fresh water tank took less than two hours, and we were as good as new once again, and did not have to run to the RV park restroom anymore!

8) Water pump

After we left Mesa, AZ we made a mad 3 day dash to Tyler, TX covering over 1,200 miles in less than 3 days....I will never do that again!  Just after we had finished parking the coach and trailer on my sister-in-law's property I exited the coach to walk back to the trailer to back out the car.  As I approached the rear of the coach I smelled coolant.....not good.....I looked down and saw coolant pouring on to the ground in a torrent.  I opened up the engine compartment and saw it was coming from the water pump.  I quickly got a 5 gallon bucket out, put it under the radiator and began draining the coolant down to get it below the level of the water pump so I would stop losing coolant.  Within a few minutes the coolant stopped pouring out of the water pump and it was time for me to begin figuring out how to fix this problem.

So here we are just a few weeks into our travels and here I am facing a third major issue with the coach, and this one, to me anyway, was MAJOR!  I called my friend, Tom, who was still at work in Mesa, AZ when I called, and told him what had happened.  He told me he was on another call, but would get back to me in a few minutes.  By the time he called back he had located my exact gear driven water pump on eBay, and had sent me the link to the auction.  I checked the pictures on the eBay item with my pump and agreed it was the same one and chose the "BUY IT NOW" option for $89.  The pump was delivered by UPS about 4 days later and I then began the process of first removing the bad pump, transferring some parts to the new pump, then installing the new pump......all by myself.  To aid myself in transferring the various fittings I took a picture (see below) of how there were positioned on the old pump, before removing them and re-installing them on the new pump.  It was not as hard as I thought it would be, and after finding and stopping a couple of leaks around a couple of hose clamps it was done.

The old gear driven water pump


9) Won't start

Back in October of 2010 we were taking our first major trip pulling our American Trailer with the T-Bird inside to Santa Fe, NM to meet up with our aforementioned Newell friends, Forrest and Cyndy for 5, or 6 days of site seeing.  We got a late start from our home...I mean a late start.....around 1 am we got off the Interstate in Needles, CA, right on the Arizona border, to take a break.  I parked on the street next to a Comfort Inn, and we got out and took a short walk around the coach to stretch our legs.  When we got back in I turned the key to start the 6V92 and nothing!  By nothing I mean no sound, no clicking sound......just silence.  I did some basic checking of the rear electric panel and could find nothing obvious....no lose wires, nothing.  

I got on the phone with Good Sam ERS to see if we could get a mobile mechanic to come out at what by this time was 1:30 am.  They called back in about 20 minutes saying they had a guy coming from Bullhead City (about 90 minutes away) who should be there around 4 am.  As promised he arrived just after 4 in the morning.....he asked a few questions, then checked to see if the starter was getting any power, and immediately discovered that the 'trigger wire' had shorted out.  Within 10 minutes he had run a new wire, and she fired right up!  We were back on the road before 4:30 am having lost about 3.5 hours, but we were on our way, nevertheless.

10) The diesel affair

This tenth and final example of what can go wrong when you are not paying close attention to details.....like what fuel pump you are using to put 'diesel' in your tank.  It was March of 2013.....we had been nomads for about 14 months now, and having faced a few trials on the road were pretty confident.  We were northbound on I-95 out of Stuart, FL to visit friends Chris and Cherie (Technomadia) in Melbourne, FL.  We needed to take on some diesel fuel, and using Gas Buddy had found a 7-11 station in that town with a pretty good diesel price.  We exited the Interstate and headed for the station.  I put in a call to Chris and Cherie that we would be there for lunch in about 30 minutes.  We pulled into the 7-11 station to the 'green' pump where I got out and began to pump in 50 gallons of what I thought was diesel fuel.....not so much.  After putting in 50 gallons we had a little over 100 gallons in our tank, and began driving to the local Lowe's where we planned to park for a few hours while we had lunch and visited with Chris and Cherie.  About a mile down the road the 6V92 stalled out....hmmm, that had never happened before.  It started right up and we continued on our way to the Lowe's....about two signals down the road the coach stalled again.....this time was harder to start, but it did and as we were making our right hand turn into the Lowe's parking lot the engine stalled again and would not restart.....I coasted into a parking spot and stopped. I'm thinking at this point that I have gotten some bad fuel and it had clogged my fuel filters. 

I call Chris and Cherie and they agree to meet us at the Lowe's with a few gallons of diesel so we can prime the new filters I am going to install.  They arrive about 30 minutes later with the promised diesel, we change out the filters after priming the new ones, and the coach starts right up.  I am relieved, but the relief is short lived....within 5 minutes the now idling 6V92 stalls again.  Now I am going into panic mode.....Chris suggests I call the 7-11 to tell them we think they have bad fuel.....the girl who answers politely listens to what I have to say, then drops this bombshell...."Sir, we don't sell diesel at this station and never have.  Our green handled pumps are for our medium grade unleaded gas".....I sit there stunned, say "thank you", and then hang up the phone.  The realization of what I have inadvertently done begins to crystallize in my brain....I have just put 50 gallons of medium grade unleaded into my diesel fuel tank, and now have 100 gallons of worthless fuel.  I have to get that fuel out and refill it with diesel.....at $4/gallon I have just flushed $400 down the proverbial toilet!

Chris suggests I call a local marina to see if I can get a referral to a pumping service to come remove my bad fuel.  After a few calls we find a guy who will come out the next morning to remove the fuel, and the rest is history.....no damage to the 6V92, but counting the $400 of bad fuel removed, plus completely filling the tank with 180 gallons of good diesel we have just spent almost $1,200 on fuel in less than 24 hours, plus the $150 to pump out the bad fuel.  Lesson learned.....always verify you are pumping diesel.....TLE is more than happy to provide that verification service now when ever we stop to take on fuel....:-)

So, what is the point of rehashing all of the above?  I guess the point is, as I stated to begin with, is that 'stuff' will happen....it is not a matter of 'if' stuff will go wrong, but 'when'.  When things break, or you make a mistake it is just a matter of taking your time to examine the problem, consult with more knowledgeable people if needed, and then come up with a course of action to fix whatever it is that needs fixing.  Naturally, some things will be 'above your pay grade' and you will need to call your ERS, but many things can be fixed by you.  

Too many people encounter these kinds of issues on the road, and give up saying it's too hard and go back to their 'sticks and bricks' lives.  Things go wrong in a 'sticks and bricks' home too, but you don't give up and sell the house, right?  The difference is you are home in your comfort zone.  You either fix it yourself, or call a tradesman to come out and fix it.  On the road, you are often in unfamiliar surroundings, and perhaps unfamiliar with your RV systems. Sure, it is uncomfortable when your black water tank springs an unexpected leak, or your tire explodes, but you learn to deal with it and then get on with your life.  As my friend Tom says......"Most everything can be fixed with a credit card, and a little time, and patience".

So, how do you prepare for the inevitable?  The same as at home.....you carry the appropriate tools with you to work on your coach.....you subscribe to an emergency roadside service.....you carry extra fuel filters, water hoses, fan belts, etc., and, hopefully, cultivate relationships with a few good people who can advise, or help you when 'stuff goes wrong'.

Thanks for stopping by!