Sunday, November 29, 2015

We Can Go Home Toto....At Least for a Visit

Boulder City, NV
No, this is not Boulder City. Rather this is the view from my mom's living room in Florida. Joan and I have just returned from our Thanksgiving tour of the southeastern United States. Technically we were gone 3 weeks and 3 days leaving Vegas at 12:20am on 11/3 and returning at 11:30pm on Black Friday 11/27.During our trip we flew across 9 states; drove through 3 states; stayed at 5 different locations; attended 1 wedding; visited a new house (my step daughter's); found out I'm going to be a grandpa again (my son & his wife, a boy this time); installed 2 jeep bumpers, 1 winch and 2 slide toppers; saw numerous family members and friends; and ate out about a gazillion times (yes that's a real number!). We had so much fun and as much fun as it was, we are so glad to be back at home sleeping in our own bed.

Logan, Cody, Sydney, Mary, Katie, Katie & Jacob,
Matt, Shelby, Carson & Staci (might as well be a niece)
Jacob and Katie; In year's past Joan & I have been planning trips back to Florida around Christmas. This year Joan's nephew Jacob was getting married the first week of November so we decided to travel back for Thanksgiving. Jacob is only the 2nd of Joan's parent's grandchildren to get married (Joan's son Sean is the other). But there are a slew of grandchildren (Joan is the oldest of 7 siblings) ranging from mid teens to early 30's. I suspect we'll start to see more wedding announcements soon.
All but 2 of Joan's nieces and nephews were in attendance and Joan had a great time catching up with them.

Originally we flew into Atlanta and stayed a day or 2 visiting with my sister and oldest son. We borrowed my son's truck and headed out to Alabama for the wedding. From the wedding we headed south to Florida to spend time with my mom and dad. Over the next 2 weeks we visited numerous family and friends.........
My youngest son Chris and his family
Landen, Lindsey, Chris, Jaelyn & Tiana

Joan's dad Tommy
Grandsons Ryan & Bradley

Joan, my dad Jim, me & my mom Sue

April, Sean & Joan
Judy, Lisa, Joan, Judy's husband RV & Susan
Joan got the chance to take several of her girlfriends to lunch. They laughed and had so much fun they missed their exit off the expressway to drop off one of the girls. When they did exit, they got back on the expressway going the wrong direction ending up 20 miles further down the road. So they made the best of a bad situation and drove around visiting other friends near the exit where they finally got off the expressway.

Our friends Jim & Deb are just weeks away from retiring and starting their full time RV adventure. Since we saw them last Christmas they have sold their house; bought and moved into their 40' 2007 Country Coach motorhome, traded their pickup for a 2015 Jeep Rubicon and started prepping their families for their departure. If all goes to plan, they will leave Florida in February headed west to join us for a quick vacation in March. We plan on giving their new jeep a baptism of rock & trail climbing, while at the same time getting both of them used to some of the things they may encounter if they're able to work with us inventorying BLM roads during the summer. We helped them with some of that prep by adding bumbers and a winch to their jeep.

4 Generations
me, my mom, oldest son Doug &
grand daughter Trstyn

After 2 weeks in Florida it was time to head back towards Atlanta for Thanksgiving. Joan, my mom and I left on Monday and avoided most of the 'crazy' holiday traffic. We stayed a couple of nights with my sister before celebrating at my sister's house on Thursday.

Thursday night we stayed with my son and his wife; enjoyed an early hike Friday morning and spent the rest of the day just enjoying our time with Tristyn.

Friday evening Doug dropped us at the airport and we arrived home at Lake Mead around 3 am Saturday morning.

Joan and I return to work tomorrow and I got picked up to play in a softball tournament this coming weekend in Mesquite. We'll be spending Christmas at Lake Mead this year. Several friends have stated they plan to visit Vegas around Christmas so we'll see how it goes; This will be our first Christmas away from family, but we've got lots of friends here with us at Lake Mead, so I'm sure it will be great.

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jeep.....Just Empty Every Pocket!

Lake Mead NRA, Boulder City, NV

So we've been in Lake Mead for 2 weeks, and finished our 1st week of volunteering. We've returned to the same job we've had the last 2 years as Road Monitors. We're only required to work a total of 32 hours a week combined, and for that we're provided a FHU site in a small volunteer campground near Boulder Beach. We use one of the parks 4x4 trucks to drive the 500+ miles of back country roads throughout the park.
We record road conditions such as washouts or hazards, disturbances such as missing or damaged signs; signs of travel off the designated approved roads into or across the desert; we perform light maintenance of signs, roads and removal of disturbance tracks and some litter. And though we don't have to, we enjoy the work so much we usually work at least 3 days a week.

A couple of weeks ago Joan's cousin Theresa called us and told us about a trail ride through Death Valley being held by a local jeep club. Their jeep was unavailable so they decided to ride with us. We left early Saturday morning and drove about 90 miles to Indian Springs just northwest of Vegas to meet up with the club. There were 35 jeeps in all divided into 2 groups.

And even though it was raining (and I mean the heaviest rain we've seen in the Vegas area in the last 3 years) everyone was still eager to go. We drove a 160 mile loop into and out of Death Valley where the rain relented, leaving the temps very comfortable and the dust level very low. The route was mainly desert trail but there were a couple of cool spots; including this one requiring some technical driving as we descended an 8'-10' dry waterfall.

And we rounded one corner to see this unusual sight.

The route home after the trail ride was about 90 miles, and Joan's cousin suggested we take a short cut across country. About 5 miles into the short cut we realized the rain had left more of an impression along this road and ended up slogging our way through numerous gigantic mud puddles. I think it looks as though we had too much fun!

L-R  Theresa, Brian, Joan & I
Recuperating from our long day off-raoding

Driving around Boulder City we see lots of neat sights, including this one......

Wow! Just look at that style.
It's got to be a strike!

And Joan & I got in a little bowling practice before the remainder of our fellow volunteers show up....

Over the last 2 weeks we've made some modifications to the jeep; including adding front and rear bumpers, a winch, CB radio and relocating the license tag and 3rd brake light.

I've done these mods myself, and I must say I've really enjoyed being able to do that. Besides the monetary savings, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment while I'm getting an education about the jeep itself. 

So forgive me if I brag a little with these pictures.....

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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Swinging For the Fence

Boulder City, NV
Lake Mead

Joan and I arrived at Lake Mead Friday, a couple days ahead of schedule. September seemed to fly by so fast as we were wrapping up our summer job driving and inventorying BLM roads in Nephi, UT, about 50 miles south of where we started in Tooele, UT. Between April 13 when we started and October 9 when we returned to Lake Mead we drove almost 21,000 miles; worked in 4 states including Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana; and saw some spectacular scenery that 95% of the population has never seen.

This summer we were a little warmer than usual as we have been working summers at elevations between 5K'-8K'. This year we were working in the lower deserts. In Montana during August we had a couple of 100 degree days. And while we thoroughly enjoyed our summer job, there were days when we didn't see eye to eye on how to get it done. We got upset with one another as co-workers often do; but those disagreements and conflicts were soon forgotten as we enjoyed the scenery around us and the camaraderie of our other co-workers.

We had a final game night with our other teams before we left. L-R...Joan, Jessica, Daniel, Maxine, Dave, Chuck, Claudia and me!

We headed to Moab to meet up with Gay & Joe (Good Times Rollin') and do a little 4 wheeling.

Joe & Gay in Pearl showing us the way

We drove Onion Creek-Thompson Valley  our first day there.....

Driving down Dragon's Tail

and followed up a day later on Hell's Revenge.

The wheel wells look a little fuller with the 35" tires
After a few days in Moab we headed towards St George where I would be meeting my old Florida softball team to play in the Huntsman Games and where our jeep would be getting a little work done...if you know what I mean. Joan and I decided we would like a little more clearance for rocks and things while we're off-roading so we had a Tereflex 2.5" lift and BFG 35" KO2 tires installed. This netted us a total lift of 3.5" measured at the bottom of the drivers door (from 18" to 21.5" of clearance). We're also planning to add different bumpers and a winch while we're staying in Lake Mead this winter.

The Cardiac Kids - 2015 Mesquite
Last Saturday I met up with my old team, The Cardiac Kids just before the first game of a weekend warm up tournament in Mesquite. One of the first things my coach ask was when was the last time I'd played. My answer was "March". Yeppers, a 6 month layoff. I guess he and I were neither one sure what to expect once we were playing. But I think I impressed him during my first at bat when I hit a 3 run home run on my first swing. Yes, it was truly an ESPN moment. We played 7 games in 2 days and won the 2015 Mesquite Can-Am Tournament.

Some times we play...and some times we play!
L-R Gary, Buster, Gary, Frank, Kenny, Stan,
Tommy, me, Steve, Ray, Kooch, Dave & Bobby
On Monday were started the Huntsman seeding games. We went 3-0 in seeding, and were quickly 'bumped' from A to Top Seed in the AAA bracket. Wednesday we started bracket play and came out cold. We lost 2 games and that was the end of our Huntsman Games. All in all we played 12 games in 5 days. And my 6 month layoff is reminding me how out of shape I was every chance it gets. Everything hurts....even typing!

Well, that's about it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sand Dunes and Scenic Drives

Nephi, Utah

Week 1 of working the Little Sahara Recreation area is behind us and we have less than 2 weeks left before we finish our summer job. And it appears as though summer is ending and fall is in the air in this area of Utah.

Nephi is located just south of Provo along I-15. On a recent drive to a nearby Walmart we noticed a sign for Mt Nebo Scenic Loop. Last weekend we decided to check it out and drove the 38 mile route through the mountains between Nephi and Payson. Mt Nebo is the tallest mountain in the Wasatch Mountain Range at 11,928' and the scenic loop rises from the surrounding area almost 4000' to a just a little over 9000'.

There are overlooks into Utah Valley and the colors are really starting to show. There are numerous campgrounds and trail heads along the route, as well as lots of wildlife. The road is closed during the winter, so if you're thinking of taking a drive, you'll have to get here quick or wait till spring to visit.

The area we're working in is home to a huge recreational area for dirt bikes and ATV's. Many of the areas are concentrated use and a majority of the trails are not wide enough for most 4x4 vehicles, including jeeps. This has made our job challenging to say the least, but we're making progress finding ways to "get 'er done!" Joan and I are finding it hard to get depressed as we're short timers and will be finishing our tour next week. Funny how that works, huh!

When we leave we're hoping to spend a few days in Moab, before heading on to St George for the Huntsman Senior Olympics. If you've never heard of the Huntsman Games, check it out online. Last year there were over 11,000 senior athletes competing in over 28 different sports. I will be reuniting with The Cardiac Kids, my old softball team from Florida. We have 2 tournaments scheduled within 7 days, expecting to play somewhere between 8 and 15 games depending on the bracket structure and how well we play. Wish us luck.

Continuing to do some odds and ends around the RV; adding an extra shelf in Joan's closet; needed a storage location for the various pads and blocks used to level the RV, so I found some unused space above the LP tank in the side bay and built a shelf to hold the 8-10 blocks I use. Keeps the dirt out of the regular storage bays and gives me easy access to them when I need them; also I removed, cleaned and painted the windshield wipers before installing new wiper blades.

Several weeks ago we were needing some shade from the sun on the RV windshield. When we bought the RV 5 years ago there was a set of window covers for all the large windows, tires and wipers. Only problem was I could not figure out how to place the large windshield screen on the RV. No snaps or magnets on the RV or with the covers. No instructions either. Fortunately we had not had a problem with direct sunlight until now! And now we really needed shade. So I reached out to one of the smartest guys I knew (in Montana) Dave of the Wandering Wingers. And sure enough, within 10 minutes he had figured it out. One little bracket had fallen off the windshield screen and once we replaced it and attached a strap on the opposite side of the screen it all made sense. Now we have a nice screening shade cover for the large windshield. Thanks Dave! So even after 5 years of ownership and almost 4 years of full-timing I'm still learning about our rig. Let that be a lesson to you. There's always something new to learn.

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Few Miles More Before We Leave

Miles City, MT
We are in our 4th and tentatively final week in Montana. This is a large work area spanning 75 miles northwest of our campground to an area 80 miles south. And because Montana has less than 6 residents per square mile (as opposed to the national average of 87) there are fewer roads; and many of those are unpaved in the areas we work. Last week we had 2 consecutive days where we drove a total of 200 miles each day and Monday we drove a total of 304 miles (120 paved miles to and from the work area; thank you). When we leave Montana this week, we'll be headed back to Utah where we expect to finish up the season near the end of September.

When we're out driving, we're never quite sure what we may encounter; for example....

...fallen trees across tight mountain trails. We used the jeep to pull the tree 'along' the trail's path before trimming off a few branches so we could drive past....

...and sometimes the 'roads' haven't been driven in quite some time. Pair that with the road being located in a wash, and recent rainfall resulting in a foliage growth spurt and sometimes you're quite challenged to find the road, much less drive it!

We've seen coyote, fox, turkey, pheasant, grouse, deer, and lots of cattle & horses. The scenery is spectacular. And some of the locals' sense of humor is special too! I'm not quite sure what Scurrilous Activity he may be referring to....

I've done a couple of mods on the RV...

...taking a bedroom TV cabinet left empty by the replacement of a tube TV with a flat screen and adding shelves to give Joan some additional storage. The original owner changed out the TV...I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to consider doing this as it was quite simple.

...and updating the bathroom counter area...


...after. We found a neat peel & stick faux wall tile at the local hardware store. You can cut it with scissors to fit around receptacles. It has texture, so it feels like a glass tile.

Our job this summer has been exciting and interesting as well as one of the best paying gigs we've encountered. So we're fairly certain we'd like to try it again if we're offered the opportunity. And the compensation has been timely. Joan & I bought our MH 5 years ago and with the warranty expiring at the end of August we shopped around and decided to purchase a new warranty from National Warranty. The old warranty paid for itself and then some over the last few years, so we thought a new one would be cost effective. We've also decided to make some mods to the jeep this fall, and possibly a little remodeling in the MH. New tires for the MH are due as the current tires are 7 years old, and it's time for a tune up and thorough preventative inspection of the MH as well.

Something I am looking for, and maybe some of you can help me find it, are some wall hooks. Here's a picture of one...

If anyone knows what these are called or who makes them, please let me know. We have several in the MH, but I'm not sure if they were added by the original owners or if they are OEM

Parting pic.....last year while in South Dakota our friends led us on a motorcycle ride and made sure to point out an unusual rock formation...almost phallic in nature and commonly referred to as d*ck rock. While out driving a few weeks ago we stumbled across this unusual formation...

...just so you know, SD got nothin' on Montana!

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

PS - Shout out to my oldest Doug...Happy 34th Birthday!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Slide Toppers Ain't Pretty

Miles City, MT

We're starting our 3rd week in Miles City and things are a little different here. The terrain is a little flatter and the weather has fluctuated quite a bit during our time here.

For example today the temps are in the mid 50's with a forecasted high of 71. But let me show you the temps that registered on our car last week while we were out in the field working.....

Mind you the indicated temp cooled down to a measly 104 when we got off the 2-track we were driving and got onto the the highway.

A few days ago we drove up on a herd of longhorn cattle. This one in particular reminded me of the poster child for Mad Cow Disease.

A large portion of the BLM land we're routing is used by cattlemen to graze their herds and our routes are crisscrossed with multiple fence lines. It's our responsibility to ensure that when we pass thru gates that we keep them closed or open as they were when we approached. Usually Joan will help me with gates, opening & closing them as needed. As we approached a gate the other morning, there was a large bull standing on the opposite side, with his head hung over the gate obviously wanting to cross into the pasture area we we attempting to exit. "No way am I opening that gate" stated Joan. So it was up to me to convince the bull he needed to leave the area and allow us to pass thru. I assumed my 'alpha' stance and started my best 'Crocodile Dundee' intimidation......and it worked. Off he went, far enough for me to open the gate and allow Joan to drive thru. That's right folks, Don't mess with the Zohan!

While we were in Wyoming I noticed one of the slide topper awnings on the RV was torn and starting to flap in the breeze. Earlier this year while we were in Lake Mead I had already had to take down the door awning and restitch the seams where the thread was deteriorating. Upon closer examination of the slide toppers I noticed several areas where the thread was starting to fall apart as well. So after a little research and internet price shopping I decided to order new awnings for all 4 slides. Instructional videos also prompted me to attempt to replace them myself...all I would need is a little help from a friend. this point Dave was considering jumping
but Max intervened and convinced him to
wait until she could update their insurance!
So I asked our friend and co-worker Dave (of the Wandering Wingers fame) if he would mind helping. He thought it was a great idea because he needed to replace some of the awnings on his RV as well. So we both ordered awnings from Tough Top Awnings. The awnings were shipped (free) and arrived a few days later. We even managed to save 5% on the cost by using a discount code provided by TheRVgeeks. RVgeeks really do rock! Saturday morning we started replacing the awnings on our RV. We were done in a little less than 4 hours replacing all 4...and that included several breaks to re-hydrate and cool down as the temps were climbing into the 90's. Sunday morning the temps were much cooler and we decided to tackle Dave's main awning. Things were a little more complicated as the slide toppers only required 2 seams to be slipped through channels; 1 on the RV and 1 on the awning bracket. While Dave's main awning had 5 seams; 2 on the awning bracket, 1 on the RV and 2 on the protective cover. We recruited a couple more assistants and completed the main awning in about 2 hours. Next weekend we'll finish Dave's RV by installing his 2 slide toppers.

Dave turned his RV so our front doors and awnings face each other.

That creates a small 'patio' area between our RV's which we took advantage of when Maxine hosted a Taco party. We had 14 team members all show up and a great time was had by all.

We even had time for a game of cards before the afternoon was over.

Sometimes when we're working we stumble across things that make us smile. We had occasion to speak to one of the local ranchers the other day in order to obtain permission to cross his private property. During the discussion he mentioned that he wasn't exceptionally happy with some of the government agencies in the area but that it would be OK for us to drive through his ranch. Once past his house we came to the Tongue River and a crossing bridge the rancher had installed at his own cost, even though several of the local government agencies had promised to help fund. Just before we crossed we noticed this sign...Kinda' speaks for itself!

We crossed several other bridges on private property along the Tongue River, some a little more scary than others. This one wasn't one of Joan's favorites....

We expect a couple more weeks here and then we'll be moving along...not sure where.

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.