Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shake Rattle & Roll and Heat Control

Some odds and ends tonight…
(Warning…  more reading & less pictures today)

First - My truck developed the dreaded
Ford Death Wobble  (Google it)
It happened a couple of times before we left home, then
a few more out here…

Its a violent and unexpected shaking of the front end that is caused by
a myriad of possible culprits.
When I say it is violent it is not an exaggeration.
It is scary...  It feels like the truck is ripping itself apart.

So today I took it to Ford and picked up a rental car.
I figure if they can't fix the problem we can use the rental to
tow the Monty.
Here is a picture of the rental hitched up to the monty.

Yikes…  my trucks fuel tank weighs more than this car!

The long and short of it is that the after analyzing my truck, the local 
Ford dealer here in Tucson said it is my front tires.   
They have plenty of tread but have a strange wear pattern  
(most 4x4's have odd wear patterns IMO but anyway...
tomorrow I'm headed off to a tire dealer to have way to many $$'s worth
of 6 tires installed.

After that hopefully my truck will stop trying to shake itself apart.

Meanwhile I started another RV home improvement project.

All of this gorgeous Arizona sunshine pouring into the windows is sometimes
a blessing and sometimes a curse.

The windows in the Monty have something like a -10 R value.
I think that they actually multiply the cold or the heat by a factor of 10.

Sitting near the back window (where my office is located) on a sunny afternoon
and the heat starts to bake me.  I can actually smell my skin cooking..
(smells like chicken)
Even with the curtains closed - you can feel the heat radiating.

So I started to research solar screens for RV's and almost choked at the price.
Companies are selling them for $400-$600 for a large window.
Some folks have spent over $2k for a full set of solar shades
for their RV.
Way out of this boys price range.

Then the light bulb went off…
A trip to Home Depot for some supplies..

A little bit of snipping and installing grommets…

and Voila…
The Prototype Monty Shade.
Here is a shot when it was still being fit and installed

Its amazing but these solar shades (big out here in Az)
do an unbelievable job of cutting down the radiant heat that travels thru the
window.  It cuts down only slightly on the visible light and you can see 
the world outside just fine - but the cooling effect is amazing.

I shot my infrared temp gun at the window without the shade and it
registered 95 - 105 degrees.   The window was hot to the touch.

After I put the shade on and let it sit for a while the window was 
a cool 70 degrees and cool to the touch.
Pretty sweet!

So… now I'm in the process of putting them on all the windows 
and replacing the existing window/door screens with solar screens.

So…. the money I save by doing my own solar screens
gets blown on new skins for the truck.

And the world remains in balance.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ho Ho Ho

Well here we are again…
Another Christmas is upon us and we are back at
Catalina State Park north of Tucson.

We had a bit of work to get here.
First was the Big Switcheroo….

Last Saturday,
We went back to Casa Grande where the Monty was in storage, and
moved the contents of the fridge, and some misc items into the Monty.

We then took some things that we being stored in the monty
like the heavy tailgate from the pickup with must be removed for the Dog House
and moved those things into the dog house.

We took the DH off of the truck, reinstalled the 5th wheel hitch in the
bed of the pickup and hooked up to the monty.

By then it was almost sundown and we were tired.
Fortunately we had made reservations at an RV Park about 3 miles from
the Storage Yard…  so we headed off to the park and proceeded to get used
to living large in our big second home away from home.

We met some friends in Casa Grande for breakfast on Sunday,
then back to the Monty to complete housekeeping items.
Kate had laundry to do.  I had to set up my office.

I had to watch the Broncos kick some Houston Butt!!

Then on monday we made the 1 hour drive down here to Catalina 
with a stop at the Blue Beacon Truck wash to give the truck
and trailer a well deserved bath and hand rubdown.

This leads up to today…  Christmas Eve.

For Christmas..  what do I want???

Well for starters how about this:

A cure for Cancer
A cure for ALS
A functioning government.
Worldwide religious tolerance.

(and a winning lotto ticket for me)

So to everyone from the 4 of us…

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Happy Kwanza

and a Festive Festivus for the rest of us.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag Kate (Happy Birthday Kate)

Today is Kates Birthday.
Just like last year we celebrated the day with dinner at
The German Cafe in Sierra Vista.

What a great place.
If you love German food like we do…
and find yourself almost in Mexico…
Stop in for Mittagessen or Abendessen.
(lunch or dinner)

We started the evening by toasting surviving another year
 with a Warsteiner Dunkelbier.

When dinner arrive Kate was like…
"hurry with the pictures… I wanna eat!"

Our self portrait.
(not easy with the iPhone)

Kate had Jagerschnitzel with Red Cabbage and Potato Pancakes

I had Zigeunerschnitzel also with Red Cabbage & Potato Pancakes

Both Schnitzels are thin pounded pork, breaded and fried.

The Jager has a "Hunter Style" brown gravy with mushrooms.
The Zigeuner has "Gypsy Style" spicy gravy with red peppers and onions.

Both were delicious.  The only way to get better Schnitzel is to
have a German friend like we do - come to your house and make it for you.

We both tried to eat slowly and savor the moment but alas it was soon finished.
I was sorry to see my empty plate.

Kate thoroughly enjoyed her Birthday dinner.

We took our desert to go….
Kate has a slice of German Chocolate Cake.
I have a slice of Rum Cake.
I have to finish this blog so that I can have an expresso and my cake.

With luck we be enjoying our third year next December at
The German Cafe.

Guten Appitit
Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag Kate.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Begun

Our first Arizona Morning…

Our first Arizona Sunrise!

We are back at Kartchner Caverns State Park.
Last year on this exact date we were here and it was 23 degrees and snowing.

Yesterday it was mid 70's and delightful.

Today is supposed to be close to 80.

We have ended "Travel Mode" and now have slowed down for the winter.

The dog house was taken off the truck, lowered to the ground,
 and now the doodles can get in and out under their own paw power.

Our path the past 5 days to where we are now.

We'll stay here till Saturday, tour the caverns & celebrate Kates birthday.

The colors of the rising sun paints everything it touches...

The dog house

The mountains behind us.

Not a bad backyard eh??

A pretty nice front yard too!

Just the start of many great sunrises & sunsets to come.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oatmeal powered Doodle Express

Its now Monday Night.
We've reached escape velocity once again and have broken free from Texas.
Tonight finds us sitting comfortably in
City of Rocks State Park 30 miles north of Deming, New Mexico

Our Weekend travels.

The Doodles Command post in the back of the truck

City of Rocks is a very cool place.
Unfortunately - again my schedule dictates that tomorrow am
we need to move a bit further west so that I can get
situated with better broadband and get to work.

So - tomorrow we drive an easy 3 hrs west to Kartchner Caverns State Park
in Arizona where we will chill till Saturday.

Our home for tonight.

We took a walk around the campground loop - a couple of miles

We have the campground almost to ourselves.
I really need to come back here when we can spend some time.

We met a retired couple who live in Switzerland… Zurich.
Very close to our friends Marcel & Michaela.
They keep a small airstream trailer in storage in Los Angeles and
come back every fall for a couple of months and travel around in the airstream.

The return of the selfie...

A super big shout out to our hero of the westbound trip….

Margie - our neighbor and home watch person when we are traveling made
us a tin full of Oatmeal Raison Cookies.
Not just a few mind you…
There has to be 4 dozen or more of those delicious little morsels.
Kate and I have cookie hour around 2pm each day while motoring down the interstate.

Every day religiously we dig into the cookies…  Kate passing them over to me.
I thought by now they had to be gone so when we got here today I checked the tin
and sure enough it must be bottomless…

There are enough cookies to make it to the west coast if need be.


These babies were delicious.   there is a secret ingredient in them that we can't place.
Is it a slight touch of nutmeg…?  Or ginger??   We can't tell, but we have been loving every
single bite.

Margie did not just make us a couple of cookies…  she sent us off with a whole bakery.
Yum Yum Yum.

Well we have over 2,000 miles under the tires so far this trip and are looking forward
to slowing down a bit tomorrow.

While Kate was away last week I stuffed and roasted a Turkey
then carved, vacuum packed, and froze it.

So…  we have Christmas and New Years Dinner in the freezer.

See you down the road.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

On the road again

We are back on the road headed west.
We left NC yesterday morning and tonight are in Longview, Texas.
Yesterday was also Lucys Birthday…
The Old Girl is 5 years old already.
Boy time flies!

The map below shows our start point,
And last night and tonights stops.

I'm always amazed at how well the Doodles travel.

Yesterday was an 11 hour day and today we did
about 9 hours and never a peep from the back seat.
Those two doggies just roll with it.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is Midland, Tx.  About 7 hrs.
Then Deming, NM on Monday  About 5 hrs more.

Then Kartchner Caverns State Park in Arizona is Tuesday.
where we are going to park it for 4 days thru Friday and allow us
to catch our breath and let me get caught up a bit with
some work issues and also do the second cave tour.

Of course the 19th is Kates Birthday and we have
Dinner Planned at the German Cafe in Sierra Vista.

From there we will head up to Casa Grande on the Weekend and swap the
Dog House for the Monty.

Then Back down to Catalina State Park near Tucson where we'll spend
a week - Christmas thru New Years.

I sense a lot of great sun sets and sun rises are about to start.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Doodles geta New Do

I put it off for as long as I could…
When I could wait no longer it was time to break out the scissors, clippers,
slicker brushes and combs.

It was Haircut Weekend in Doodletown!

Yes I said "Weekend"
For a non-pro like myself this is a job best tackled in stages over two days.

The before pictures:

Gracies hair is fleece.  
It's very curly and tends to matt and tangle easily.
She has the hardest hair to groom.

Lucys hair is finer and straighter…  much easier to groom
but still no day in the park.
Plus - Lucy is bigger - more real estate to attend to.

To cut them - first I must brush and detangle them.   
Brush out any matts then
get them combed out down to the skin.
That is 80% of the work.

The clipping is easy but there cannot be any tangles or the
feet of the clipper will not pass thru the jungle of hair.

I do them in Sections.
Gracie first since she is tougher.
I start with the back and top of head.

Then Lucy second since by then I'm getting tired so the work is easier.

Gracie mid way after about 3 hours.
(notice the pile of hair starting to grow)

Next is Lucy.

After about 6 hours (my whole Saturday)
I called it a day.

Sunday around 11 we were back at it.
Another couple of hours (and pile of hair later) and by the second
round of NFL Sunday games they were both done.

The new Doodles

With their new haircuts they are "desert ready"

Less hair means less burrs, twigs, sticks, critters, dust etc…

While I have the clippers out….
Where is Kate?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Home Again

After leaving Charleston Friday morning we had a 5 hr drive back
to the shack.  It was a nice sunny day and the drive went quickly.

It's hard to believe that this quick trip started in September and included
visits with friends in Williamsburg, then the Rally in Goshen (which
Kate and I prefer to forget) and then almost a month of traveling
with Jim & Kristi thru Ohio, Gettysburg, the Blue Ridge followed
by a dash west to Phoenix - the purchase of the Dog House - a week in Tucson
and then 10 nights in the Dog House.

The Dog house house turned out to be an excellent addition to the RV Fleet.
Kate and I both find it a great travel vehicle - very comfortable - and we
are looking forward to further adventures in it and the Monty.

This morning was clean out the dog house day and give it and the truck a quick bath.
Ahh...  they are both clean again.

Soon we'll be hauling the boat behind but that is for another day...

After the wash it was time to take the dog house off of the truck.

First I lower the jacks and lift the camper up a couple of inches off of the truck bed.
Once the camper is clear of the truck bed I disconnect the power supply
that runs from the truck to the camper
(See it hanging just behind the cab)

I then pull forward very carefully till I am clear of the camper.

I'm now clear of the camper and can lower it down closer to the ground
in the storage position.

Here it is lowered.
This is the same configuration that it would be in if we were camping in
it but wanted to leave it at a campsite.

We would of course level it with the jacks....
Here the driveway slopes away from the house and I did not worry
about leveling it.   Each jack works independently so I have
full adjustment capabilities.

I am now in clean out the garage mode.
We want to consolidate and throw stuff out to get a head start in
case the house sells in the near future.

In any event - we are home till mid-December at which point we will turn
around and head back out to Tucson, pick up the Monty
and spend the winter like last year camping in the desert.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Festival of Lights - Charleston

Another 500 miles today and we are about 6 hours from home.
We stopped tonight at James Island County Park outside of
Charleston, SC.

Its a nice park and at this time of year it is decorated for the holidays with
the most amazing collection of lights.

It is hundreds of acres - with miles of roads and pathways.
Kate and I walked around for an hour or so and enjoyed
the cool night and the beautiful lights.

We decided to walk and see less up close rather than drive and see lots
from afar but experience less.

The reflections in the numerous ponds were really neat.

Here is a short video that we took

Tomorrow we drive about 6 hours and park it for a month or so.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Big Chill

We continue eastward.
Yesterday we departed Houston early due to a cold front that was moving
southward with high winds.  I wanted to get as far east as possible before the high
winds from the north created a cross wind and make driving more difficult.

We made it into Fountainebleu State Park about an hour before the cold
front and the winds hit in earnest.

We stayed here last spring when we visited New Orleans and found it was a
convenient stop along our eastward route.

The campsites were decorated with this whole Halloween thing.

Our main reason for the stop however was to make a return to Saia's Meat Market to pick
up more Boudin.
The link above will explain what it is, but not how delicious it is.
Our freezer in the Dog House is now filled with 18lbs that we purchased yesterday and
asked them to put into their freezer for us.
We stopped by this am at 0800 just as they opened...  I filled up our
freezer with these frozen yummies and we hit the road.

Kate gives the thumbs up of a mission accomplished.

Last night the winds howled and the temps dropped below freezing.
We were snug and comfy in the Dog House.
This morning dawned cold and frosty and I had only packed shorts for the trip
home so while everyone was bundled up in winter clothes I'm running
around in shorts and t shirts....  I must have been a sight!

We fought the cross winds today and moved another 350 miles east and now
are on the shore of Lake Seminole near Chattahoochie, Fl.

This is a great Army Corp Campground - we stayed here last spring and
have added it to our go to list for a great place to overnight.

Kate made a nice campfire and we warmed by the fire and had a couple of brews.
Then just as the sun was getting low in the sky it was time to take the doods for a walk
before dinner.

The view of our camper from across the campground.

There are only a few other campers here so its nice and peaceful.

The view out the back door.

Tomorrow we head to Charleston, SC.
We are going to stay at James Island County Park.
We stayed there when we traded the old Cougar for the Monty.
They are having their annual festival of lights right now so it should be an
interesting and beautiful evening.
I've also found what is supposed to be one of the best barbecue places in
the US that is located in Charleston so we are planning on stopping and getting some
carryout on the way to our park. 

I'll let you know our culinary opinion once consumed.