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.
...at 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.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Just a Few Miles North to .........

Miles City, MT

Yeppers, we've finished up in Wyoming and headed further up the road to Montana. We enjoyed working in and around Lander and may be back there for a few days in September to inventory a few more roads that BLM plans to add to their planning area. The last week in Lander we routed some mountain areas near an old settlement called Miners Delight.

Gold was discovered here in 1868 and miners rushed into the area already bypassed during the Gold Rush to California years earlier. By 1868 the town's population was 75, 40 of which were miners. The gold boom busted in 1874, but boomed again in the 1880's with 'newer' technology. Another short lived boom before the city was abandoned. Then during the Great Depression desperate men moved into the area attempting to eek out a living. The community was populated as late as the 1960's. Now it sits in the middle of BLM land and BLM is working to preserve the area.

We stumbled across this large group of elk as we were routing along a mountain stream.

And Joan found another souvenir.

This is what we saw.....
Our last work day in Lander we ended one of our routes at the edge of a pristine meadow. We had driven down a heavily treed downhill slope and stopped 20' from a luxurious carpet of green grass. Needing to turn around, I could either back up the hill or turn around in the meadow.......hmm, which one looks easiest.....Oh! I know, turn
around in the soft green grass. So down I went....and down I stayed! As soon as all 4 tires touched the grass they sank in the mud. Not sank as in frame on the ground, but sank enough that the treads filled with mud and all of a sudden all I had for traction on that downhill slope were 4 wet racing slicks! Even 4 wheel low with lockers wouldn't help as we had no traction. I spent about an hour & a half cutting limbs and attempting to fill the mud tracks with something the tires would be able to grip. I managed to turn the jeep 180 degrees so it was facing the uphill slope, but could not climb up the slope.

This is what we got!
We had no cell service so we activated our SPOT, pinging the network with our exact GPS location and notifying our company office that we were in need of non-emergency assistance. We broke out our lunch, sat down in the shade for a few minutes and began our wait for one of our team mates to be notified to assist.

We thought we might have to wait several hours depending on when our co-workers would be in cellular service so the office could contact them. Luckily we only had to wait about 30 minutes before Dave & Maxine drove up. Lucky us! It took us longer to hook up the tow rope than it took to pull us out and we were on our way in minutes. Thanks Dave!

And you'll never guess where we were......we checked out GPS as we were leaving and discovered we had been stuck in ......Crows Nest Gulch....you can't make this stuff up!

Just like our old sticks & bricks home, our motorhome requires a few home repairs every once in a while. Our refrigerator broke and we had to have it repaired before we left Lander. About $1600 for a new cooling unit, plus labor (luckily we have a warranty and only have to pay the deductible!). A 'check engine light' required a quick trip to the jeep dealer for a new oil pressure sensor and oil cooling unit replacement. And we've ordered new slide topper awnings for the RV which I'll attempt to replace with the help of our neighbor Dave. That works well because Dave ordered new awnings too and we'll work on both units together.

We've only been in Miles City for a week and believe we'll be here close to a month. There's a county fair next weekend and we've already been to the Chamber of Commerce to check out activities while we're here. We don't think we'll get bored. The area is similar to Wyoming, but a little flatter and not quite so 'green'. Montana has not had the rain that Wyoming has had this year. We did see something quite unusual already.....a dam made up of cars! Look closely at the pic below and you'll see 50-60 cars placed end to end used to form a retention dike for a watering pond.

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