Saturday, November 23, 2013

We're Down to 3 Oreos and a Grape Soda........I'm Not Sure We Can Make It!

One of our lunch overlooks on the east side of Lake Mead
Another couple of weeks have gone by and we're still having a great time in our volunteer position at Lake Mead. The opportunity to use the park's vehicle and fuel to visit all of the back country roads and see sights that most of the Vegas tourists will never see has been very satisfying. We actually look forward to going to 'work' on Mondays.

And the adventures we encounter are always interesting. Many of the roads we drive end after turning into small box canyons or near old mining sites. We've explored several small slot canyons and several dozen abandoned mines during our time here. And we've driven some roads that I would definitely not have taken our jeep down; sometimes because their so rough; other times because the 4x4 we use at work has much better clearance than our jeep. Last week we drove about 50 miles south of Vegas to check out the 'Approved Roads' near Laughlin.
Lake Mojave
One of the roads ended at the shoreline of Lake Mojave so we decided that was a good place for lunch. The view of the lake was great; weather temps were very comfortable and the company was fun to be with. When we finished lunch we packed everything up and went to start the truck when..........nothing. Nothing but a slow clicking noise. The kind you don't like to hear anytime....much less when you're 6-7 miles off the paved road. We shut everything off and waited a few minutes before trying the truck again...alas with the same result. Dead battery. Not to worry, we have a 2-way radio so we can call for help. "700 Victor Lima 62" (Dispatch, this is Volunteer 62) click, click, click. Guess works off the same dead battery that won't start the truck. Uh oh! Dun Dun Dun!
At least we found a place to stay for the night!
What now! We're down to 1/2 bag of carrots, 3 oreos and a grape soda! I'm not sure we can make it! Let's see if we have a cell signal. Yes sir we do! So we call our supervisor and eventually get in touch with a park service maintenance tech that works out of Laughlin. He's there within about an hour and we're on our way. We were lucky this time, because once we were on our way out we attempted to call our supervisor to let her know we were OK. No cell signal. Once we were away from the lake shore and into the tall washes we could not use the phones. Like I said, we do enjoy our adventures.
Devil's Cove
Wednesday our trainer Kelly went out with us to drive AR115 on the north side of the Colorado River. We drove about 2 hours on the interstate north to Mesquite, then turned off onto a small broken pavement road to the east towards Gold Butte. The rough pavement lasted about 10 miles before turning into a rough rocky dirt road which we drove for another 30 miles alongside the Virgin Mountains before heading down into an extremely steep and challenging rocky wash towards Devils Cove. There were a couple of spots where we had to back up and take a different track around large rocks that the truck could not clear (on the park maps this road indicates Experienced 4x4 only). Once we got to the lake shore we had been traveling for almost 6 hours. Many times when the park crews have to work in this area they plan to camp overnight so they can be more productive. I know it's not for everyone, but Joan and I really enjoy getting to go different places and especially when they are far out and off the beaten path.

View from the Bridge
On one of our days off we decided to take the hike out onto the 'new' Hoover Dam Bridge. Technically it's called Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and was completed in 2010. It spans the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada and offers a great view of the dam from above. 

The bridge was the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge built in the United States and it incorporates the widest concrete arch in the Western hemishpere. At 1900+ feet in length and 840 feet in height above the Colorado River, it is the second-highest bridge in the US, following the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. It is also the world's highest concrete arch bridge. In the middle of the walkway across the bridge is a marker for the state line.

Thursday morning we packed an overnight bag and headed north towards Utah. We were hoping to see snow and that we did. We thought we might be able to drive Kolob Terrace road from Cedar City back into Zion NP, but once we started up the mountain in Cedar Canyon there was so much snow on the road we were fairly sure we would not be able to make the entire 35+ mile drive across the unpaved mountain roads back to Zion. So we turned northeast and drove towards Cedar Breaks where we found more snow, but snow we could handle. The drive was beautiful and we made a loop around and back down into Zion for the night. Friday morning we drove back into St George, Utah for a meal at Chik-Fil-A and a wet but scenic drive through Snow Canyon State Park.

It's so hard to portray the actual beauty of the land around us. We try and try, but even as good as some of our pictures turn out, it doesn't really do it justice.

You just have to see it with your own eyes to really get a feel for how spectacular it really is.

Less than 3 weeks before we head back towards Florida for Christmas. Along the way we'll stop in Alabama to see Joan's brother Jimmy and his family. And we'll stop in Atlanta to see my new grand daughter Tristyn.......and her family(almost forgot about them). This year has really flown by. Joan and I are really glad we made the decision to go full time. And we got to go early. Our original plan was to go full time on 9/10/11/12/13 (November 12, 2013; 9:10am). But we went early. Look what we would have missed if we'd waited!

That's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"It just goes to show you, it's always something--if it ain't one thing, it's another."

Just like Roseanne Roseannadanna would say.......It's always something! So the time changes Saturday night/Sunday morning and now it's light when we wake up and dark by 5pm. Joan and I like being up and out early....better chance that we might see some wildlife and we will get home before dark from our volunteer jobs. So we decide that we'll start getting up an hour earlier at 5am so we can make it to work by 6. It's Sunday night and I'm already snuggled into bed; Joan's brushing her teeth and all of a sudden we hear an audible 'click' and the overhead light in the bathroom goes out. And it's really dark....darker than usual when the lights are out. As I look around I notice all the small LED lights throughout the MH are dark. HHMMMMMMM....wonder what that's about. So I slip on some clothes and start checking things out. All of our 110v outlets work, but none of our 12v lights or 'cigarette' outlets work. I go outside and check the inverter/ appears OK and the remote says it's charging the batteries like it should. I check the surge protector and it shows 'E 0" No Errors. Well it's late and I'm since the 110 works, we can survive until I figure it out. I'll just sleep on it. I slept well; even had a dream that the problem was fixed....felt good when I woke up and then remembered the 12v was still not working. I checked the 12v fuse panel and none of the fuses were blown. I read through the owners manual and got nothin'. I check the inverter again and it's fine as is the surge protector. I check the fuse panel itself and there is no 12v coming into the panel.

In the great words of the Bard...."O, woe is me, T'have seen what I have seen, see what I see!"(William Shakespeare, Hamlet). What to do, what to do. So I fall back on the tried and true......IRV2. Before we leave for work I fire off a quick note asking if anyone has any ideas on what may be causing my 12v to fail while leaving my 110v alone. It doesn't take long and within a couple of hours I've got 2 responses, both of which indicate I should check the Battery Disconnect Solenoid. Oh yeah! I've read about this several times before. As soon as we're home from work I start checking. 
Front Compartment
I Don't See Nothin' But Fuse Covers
OK, where is it located? Let's try the battery compartment. OK, there's a solenoid....let's see if this is it. Check it with a VOM and I've got 12v on both that's not it. Check the inverter solenoid in there. There were some fuses in the front driver's side compartment, so I check there and no luck. Nothing that looks like a solenoid. Now what? It's starting to get dark and I've run out of ideas. We'd be OK without the 12v for a few days except that the switches that turn on the hot water heaters are all we've got is cold water. Well I better make a service appointment to have it checked out. I call a local RV dealership and speak with Al in their service department. They close in 5 minutes and the earliest appointment available is almost 2 weeks away.....that won't work. Al help me out you happen to know where the battery disconnect solenoid is located on my model? No, that's not one of the models I'm familiar with....Hold on a minute.........I hear him speaking with someone in the background......try the drivers side compartment; it should be in there. OK I'll look again. So out I go, looking everywhere in the compartment when I see a black cover with 3 wingnuts...spin off the wingnuts and 
Behind Door #1.....There It Is...
The Little Yellow Thingy Bottom Left

HALLELUJAH! in and amongst all the wires and connections is a solenoid....the solenoid....and there's a small slot on one side with a 5A fuse. I pull the fuse and sure enough it's blown. I pull out a spare fuse...plug it in.....and all the new LED lights and 12v outlets come to life. Thank You AL! You're the MAN!

It's always something. If you're an RVer....especially a will find out it's always something. Kinda like will definitely encounter obstacles along the way. What's important is how you handle them. When you run into that brick wall...don't beat your head against it...look for a way around it. If you haven't already, check out IRV2. Bookmark it as it is a wealth of information and members who are more than willing to help you when you encounter trouble. 

And Kudos to Al at Johnny Walker RV in Las Vegas. With a little help from Al and IRV2 I managed to fix a problem with a $.50 fuse instead of a $50 (or more) service call.

Stay Tuned. More to Come

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November!?! What Happened to October?

One of our training days with Kelly
Repairing a barricade
Well it's the 1st weekend in November and we're back to work. We started our volunteer position the last day of September, then the closure started October 1st. We were allowed to stay in the volunteer campground within Lake Mead NRA during the closure, but all access to the rest of the park was restricted. We couldn't walk or hike the trails; couldn't drive through the park; didn't have access to the lake; nothing! All of the park entrances were barricaded and Rangers were stationed at each entrance to keep unauthorized visitors out.
Yes that's snow at the Las Vegas Ski Resort
near Mt Charleston

Joan and I tried several different things to stay busy. We took a weekend trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah where we saw lots of fall color. We took a day trip to Mt Charleston on the northwest side of Vegas; even saw snow on the roadside from a light dusting earlier in the week. Did you know there is a ski resort in Vegas? We didn't until we drove to the top of Mt Charleston.

I did lots of little maintenance jobs around the MH; adjusted the drivers and passenger captain's chairs that had started to loosen up on their floor mounts; replaced a couple of door latches that had broken; took down the cabinet doors in the bathroom, re-stained them to cover some scratches and polished the hinges that were starting to show some rust. But my biggest project was to change out several of the fluorescent overhead lights with LEDs. I found a thread on IRV2 from a guy who had changed out his lights and decided that would be a great project since I had 2 lights that appeared to have ballast problems. I ordered the parts online from EBay for $46; which included 30+ feet of LED strip and enough connectors to replace 10 or 11 lights. I opened the light fixtures, removed the fluorescent tubes and ballast cover, then cut the +/- wires from the ballast. I replaced the ballast covers and began working on the LED strips. I cut sections of the LED strip to the same length as the fluorescent tubes, attached the connectors, then used the backing tape to stick 3 LED strips into each fixture. Then I connected the +/- wires in the light fixture to the LED connector wires. Voila...we have light...a clear white light that turns on immediately and doesn't flicker. And the LEDs are rated at 100,000 hours of usage, quite a bit longer than the old tubes...and quite a bit cheaper too. All in all I replaced 20 tubes (@ $4-$6 ea), got better and brighter light and still have materials left over for less than half of normal bulb replacement would cost. And that's not counting the cost of any ballast I would have had to replace.

Temple Bar - Arizona

We've been back to work for 2 weeks. We took 2 days of additional training and we've been on our own since. So far it's been fun. We've seen places in the park that very few folks get to see.

Cottonwood East - Lake Mojave
Some days we drive 50 miles just to get to the area where we're working; then another 10 miles on secondary roads just to get to the back country roads. Then it's 30-40 miles of back country roads looking for disturbances that we record and attempt to restore if possible. The shortest day was 80+ miles total round trip; the longest was 180 miles.

Some of the wildlife we see 

And what's really great is that driving these back country roads is what we used to do on our days off; using our jeep and our fuel. Now we get to use the park's 4-wheel drive vehicle and gas. It just doesn't get much better than that!

Joan's BFF from Seattle, Teri came into Vegas for a couple of nights and Joan took advantage of that time to show her some of the sights we've been enjoying during our stays in Lake Mead. Joan and I started the day by getting up early and driving across town to see the Vegas Balloonfest.

There were 15 different hot air balloons and they coordinated their launch so they were all up at the same time.

Can You See the Moon?

We got some great pics.

Southwest Diner
A Triple D in Boulder City

Then we picked up Teri and took her to one of our favorite Diners, Drive ins and Dives eateries Southwest Diner for breakfast. Then the girls took off to visit Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam and a tour of Lake Mead. Last week we went out to lunch with friends we worked with in Oregon. Terri and Mel were in town on their way to Arizona so we joined them at Arizona Charlies for lunch. A couple of days later Allan and Sylvana came into town after closing their campgrounds in California and we met them at Sam's Town to catch up. Joan and I know that our families back in Florida worry that we're out west all alone, but it's not like that at all. We've made so many new friends in the last 18 months that we never have to be alone unless we want to.

That's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.