Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sweating the small stuff!

Well, it is hot here so just loading Timmber Wolf and putting stuff away in there is hot and sweaty work. We did get some help cleaning and loading the Wolf and still have a ways to go tomorrow before we leave the next day. My house sitter's son and his wife came by to help and good thing they did.

We had him clean the windshield and since it had rained earlier in the day he found where it leaked from when they had to replace it! We decided it is no where significant enough to turn the whole trip inside out by not leaving as planned on Monday but made sure we have the phone number for the people who did the replacement so we can call and let them know that we will be in to see them when we get back!

We'll have to pay attention to the leak whenever it rains on our trip and make sure anything is cleaned up. Maybe the windshield is lonely or something, it seems to be trying to keep our attention!

As much as we may complain about how much there is to load, it is no where near what it was for our first trip last year but then a lot of that stuff just stayed aboard.

Picking up Wolf at the generator place went okay but then as I was following Geoff home, him in the Wolf and me in the car, I spotted one of the 'basement' doors swinging open and shut! Not a good thing. And now I discovered the definite drawback to not having our communication hats in action.

Usually we have them set up and on for something like this but we had not bothered for this short run but just try running down the interstate trying to tell someone in a big ol' RV that a door is swinging open and they need to pull over! Horn blaring, lights flashing, nothing seemed to get his attention although admittedly the Outback horn isn't real loud and it was daylight so flashing lights were not so noticeable. I finally pulled around in front of him and put my turn signal on and finally he pulled over.

Seems that the latch on the 'basement' compartment just in front of the entry door had gotten misaligned and although we could still pull it open even when it was locked it seemed like it held a bit better. We headed straight for our local Camping World and they realigned it so hopefully it will behave itself on the trip.

Anyway, we are mostly loaded down to the small and last minute stuff. After we finish loading and putting stuff away tomorrow morning we are going to head a couple of exits south to the Flying J aka Pilot station down there at the CR206 at Exit 305 on I-95 and fill up on gas and propane and check to make sure everything stays in place ... a literal shake down cruise.

And the answer to "Are we getting excited yet?" the answer is a resounding "YES!" ... I am ready to leave right now. Geoff maybe not and certainly Wolf isn't quite ready but I am!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Now What?

2017 started off with Geoff having the second of his cataract surgeries and once he healed a little bit he was astounded by how much better he can see. Seems the world had had a yellowish cast before the surgeries!

Tax Season started and I work six days a week so time slipped by quickly but it was also time to start thinking about whether we were going to travel this year and if so where. But first Timmber Wolf decided to have some additional issues with his batteries. Geoff would go down to visit him and he wouldn't start ... sooo we found out about kill switches, something no one had mentioned previously.

Apparently, if you are leaving your RV or trailer unused for any length of time you need a kill switch to totally disconnect your batteries or all those little things that suck power all the time will drain your battery dry! During normal traveling just going down the road or being plugged in to shore power take care of your power needs but not in storage! It all gets very confusing between the engine battery and the coach batteries and the generator. Glad that is Geoff's department!!!

Anyway, after getting that all sorted out and having things serviced and an appointment set up to have the generator serviced we started talking about where we were going. Last year's trip was humungous and all in all a bit much so we have trimmed down a bit. We're going to take I-10 out to Tucson and up to Phoenix where we get I-17 north to Flagstaff and there we catch I-40 and head back east.

Around Memphis, I-40 heads too far north and east so we'll head south on I-22 down through Tupelo, Birmingham, and then I-65 to Montgomery and then cutting down US84 through Dothan to get back to I-10 and home. Various stops are planned along the way of course and a nice week in Arizona to see my oldest son and my sister. Of course first we have to actually get out of town!

Departure is set for Monday, May 22nd, and this is already Wednesday, the 17th! Timmber Wolf is sitting up at the Cummins Onan generator service place and has been promised us for tomorrow. Of course it has been sitting up there for over a week, we better get it tomorrow. It was there so that the Generator could be serviced and apparently there was some warranty work that needed doing on it as well which caused the delays.

Of course on top of picking it up tomorrow, I have a doctors appointment and a lunch date (with my house sitter) and need to stop at the optometrist to have something fixed on my glasses and some how we have to get the windshield cleaned inside and out and the inside of the coach cleaned, all before getting everything loaded and put away! I think it is going to be relaxing to actually get on the road!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Life Just Never Slows Down!

We got back home Friday, July 22nd, about a week early having had to eliminate Mount Rushmore from our plans, driving straight through for three days of hot worried travel. By the time we got home not only were we exhausted but I was sick and needed to get well quick to prepare for my hip replacement surgery a month away.

In the meantime, Timmber Wolf spent several weeks in our driveway waiting on the insurance adjuster and then went to Camping World for another outfit to do the windshield and Camping World to do the body work from the rock damage. It is a very good thing we did not wait on a windshield in Wyoming or Colorado as the first one that was ordered arrived broken in transit.

Once the damage was repaired, Timmber Wolf had to go to the Ford commercial dealership up in Jacksonville for repair/replacement of the A/C unit that had failed us. Wolf was delivered there the end of September and spent Hurricane Matthew in their parking area.

On October 3rd, Hurricane Matthew arrived in the vicinity. We live enough inland that we did not have many concerns about damage for us personally but we have many friends who were in the evacuation  area. Fortunately, no one we knew suffered any significant damage. We were without power for a couple of days and the whole house power generator we had decided to fail us in our hour of need. Seems a power board in the model we have failed and there were a lot of unhappy people in the area, not just us.

Between rehab and recovery from the hip replacement and the start of Income Tax course of training that I lead every year where I work, we definitely stayed busy.  Wolf finally left the Ford dealer and went over to General RV for additional warranty repairs. Good Thing we weren't planning any trips! Wolf finally got back to storage sometime in late November or early December.

In November we finally got the fence for the side and backyard put in and made arrangements and decisions about house painting for December. We settled on having the popcorn ceilings removed. They are impossible to clean or paint and after ten years were starting to show where the heat ducts and kitchen added to the atmosphere. In addition we had most of the interior walls painted as well as the exterior stucco finish.

The colors are from Sherwin-Williams. The Trusty Tan was used on the exterior with white trim. The lightest color, Champagne was used on most of the interior walls and the Interactive Cream was used in the master bedroom and bath and white ceilings and trim. We used Straight Edge Painting of Jacksonville to do the job.

Now popcorn ceiling removal is a nasty messy event. First we moved what we could out of the house getting rid of our old bookcases which lined the living room. Of course this necessitated buying new bookcases and dumping the old tv stand for a nice credenza, bought from Sauder. While they did the popcorn removal we had to vacate the house for a motel for a few days which coincided with Geoffrey having the first of two cataract surgeries. We stopped by the house midweek to see how they were doing and the boss painter told us he managed to break the bookcase I used for a nightstand by my side of the bed so guess what??? a great excuse for new bedroom furniture! We got more of the Salt Oak finish line from Sauder, a couple of wardrobes, a dresser and a chest of drawers! So nice to replace all that 20 year old stuff.

Just in time for New Year's we were back in the house with fresh paint and new furniture, the latter being delivered on the 31st!!! And Wolf was safe and sound back in his storage space.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

What did I say about adventures?

Aaahhh yes, they are not all good although the bad ones often make great stories later on. Geoffrey says "An adventure is something you realize you have had once you get back to the place you were swearing you would never leave again while you were having it." Of course, one of the first things we tell anyone about our trip is what happened after we left Encampment ...

Having spent a great morning in Encampment we headed back north on Wyoming 130 towards Interstate 80. Although only one lane each way and with very narrow shoulders, it is basically straight with little traffic so easy to drive. But then ... about 7-8 miles south of the interstate a large truck went by the other way and wham, it was like someone stood in the road and hurled hands full of rocks at us!

With no where to pull over we continued on up to the interstate but went under and over to this little rinky dink Shell station with a closed cafe and checked out the damage. Couldn't get a good picture of the whole windshield but the photo shows two of the two dozen dings and cracks in our windshield. (The thing on the lower right is a big bug splat, ignore it.) Further investigation found another ding in the driver's side headlight and later on we found dings in the body work on the front and down the driver's side.

Made various calls to the state police and the insurance company and whoever else seemed appropriate. A nice lady trooper showed up after a while and took the report saying something about someone reporting in down at the next town south on that road which would be Saratoga. Turns out apparently the truck driver reported the event saying that a bag of rocks on his truck had split open and spilled the rocks at us. The insurance company tried calling all sorts of people but no one had the right windshield, not surprising with a new RV, sigh!

They held out some hope for Lazydays RV in Loveland, Colorado, so off we headed. The state trooped had reassured us that we could probably drive all the way home just to keep an eye on it so we headed off for Loveland. Lazydays was very nice and helpful including taking pictures of the damage and making calls to see if there was any way they could get us a windshield in a reasonable amount of time. We will always appreciate that they were straight up front with us even though it meant no business for them. They said at best it would be 5-7 days to get one, maybe, and it could take a lot longer. They repeated the reassurances of the state trooper that as long as we kept an eye on it we should be able to make it home.

One of the things we had not mentioned to anyone was that the air conditioning in the front part of the coach had quit. A warranty issue, probably Ford, possibly Fleetwood, there was no likelihood of a fast fix for that.

So we headed home, scratch the planned foray to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for sure. Instead Geoff drove dawn to dusk and sometimes after and I watched the windshield. As you can see in the photo to the left the temperature where I sat was 100 degrees or more, foot level was worse. The driver's side wasn't much better. 

We stopped for meals and other necessary breaks. One night we stayed at a motel and even that didn't go smoothly as we had to change rooms as the shower did not work at all! Not a drop!

Another night we simply got too tired and just stopped at a truck stop, a noisy place but tired and in the dark we were in no shape to hunt for better.

We kept the air conditioning on in the back portion of the coach with fans pushing it up front which helped a little. We drank lots of water and I tried coping with the heat by using cold packs on my feet propped up on poor Wolfie ... hmmm, just realized that I never included Wolfie in my blogs.

This is Wolfie ... some how, before we even got the RV I decided I needed Wolfie, ordered from Amazon. He's nice and big and made a great footrest for me from the start.

He pretty much lived on the floor on the passenger side of Timmber Wolf and kept watch out the little side window which I understand is actually there so the driver can see the edge of the road. Anyway, if you look carefully you can see Wolfie under the towel there to keep him dry and to help prop up my feet from the hot floorboards. I have no idea how hot it got down there, don't think I want to know. Since we came home Wolfie lives on the living room floor watching out the back at the birds and occasional cat and waiting on our next foray into the big world out there.

We made it home finally just in time to plunk down in our recliners and watch Wheel of Fortune. We had a great trip but I still like home the best.

Where grandma was born ...

Grand Encampment, Wyoming, known now as just Encampment. Somewhere I had never heard of a few years ago. In fact, A few years ago I had no clue as to my father's natural family. As most of you readers know, I did find that information and found a whole bunch of great family. The piece that is pertinent to this journey though is that my father's natural mother, Willa Haggarty was born in 1902 in Grand Encampment, Wyoming and that's where we headed next.

From Interstate 80 across southern Wyoming one gets off at exit 235, near Walcott, and heads south on Wyoming 130 through Carbon County. A lot of maps won't show Encampment but you ought to be able to spot Saratoga and then further south Riverside where the route becomes 230, angling southeast towards the Colorado border.

A little ways outside of Riverside is the sign for the town of Encampment, population 450, elevation 7323. By the population you can tell it is a tiny little town but it does boast a museum, the Grand Encampment Museum, and is rightfully proud of it's early history in which Willa's father played a significant part.

There is not much to see in Encampment and we headed straight for the museum.I'd had some correspondence with the museum before we came and knew they had some material about my family.

One of the first things you see when you pull up to the museum is part of the original tramway, the longest in the world when it was built in 1902 and 1903. It was used to haul the ore from the Ferris Haggarty mine to the smelter, replacing the old freight wagon road over Battle Pass.

It operated until the smelter went out of business in 1908, bringing ore in the buckets suspended by cables from the mine, up over the Continental Divide to the smelter in Grand Encampment. They would be emptied into the little cars on the tracks to go into the smelter.

As Agnes Wright wrote in Rocky Mountain Life in May of 1947, "Up in the far reaches of the Sierra Mountains of Wyoming, near the foot of Bridger Peak, huddles the ghost of the once famous Ferris-Haggarty copper mine. Fragments of cable whine in the wind on rickety towers of the one-time longest aerial tramway in the world.There on a windswept mountainside, almost 10,000 feet above the sea, Ed Haggarty, a penniless young Englishman, found an outcropping of spongy 'gossan' that later sold for $1,000,000."

A bit of hyperbole perhaps but it is certain that in 1898, Ed Haggarty, then not yet 32 years old found the outcropping of copper that proved to become one of the richest and most valuable copper mines in the state. Ed had immigrated around 1885 or so, perhaps age twenty, and supported himself by herding sheep whilst looking for copper in the mountains.

If the identification is correct he is the man on foot at left on a pack trip to Battle, a nearby town. This is said to be in 1897, a year before he found the copper.

In January of 1901, he married Edith Crow who had been staying with her brother Arthur in nearby Battle Lake.

They promptly went on their honeymoon which included a visit to his parents at Bonny Farm in Moresby, Cumberland, England, where they are found staying with his parents in the 1901 English census:

In 1902, their daughter Willa is born and in 1903, they are divorced, Ed filing in August of 1903 that she had absented herself from his home without just cause and refuses to return. She appears to be living with her family in Nebraska. Edith remarried in 1913, Ed appears to have never remarried.

It was fascinating to see my father's natural roots, so different from my mother's in Buffalo, New York, or my father's adopted lines in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Ed and Edith both died in 1944, the year I was born, Ed in January and Edith in October. I was born in December.

Lions and Tigers and Bears ... Oh My!!!

Okay, there weren't any lions or tigers and although there probably were some live bears at Yellowstone, we didn't see any. When last heard from we were about to leave Portland, Oregon, after some maintenance was done to Timmber Wolf. It was just one of those regularly scheduled things and we were soon on our way eastwards towards our next stop, Yellowstone National Park.

Much of this leg of the trip was a repeat of the route headed into Portland but we did spot some mystery railroad cars on our way. We simply could not fathom what these structures on the cars were intended to hold but we sure saw lots of them being trundled along the tracks.

Further down the road we finally solved the mystery when we spotted this not quite fully loaded car where we could see some of the structure ... lumber, lots of lumber! A few months later after we were home we even saw one at a lumberyard unloading. No camera was readily available so I'm stuck with this one taken through a fence.

The long straight stretches of Interstate 90 in Idaho and Montana lend themselves to speed although I don't know if that was a contributing factor to either of the accidents we saw that day. The one pictured was a nasty rollover and there appear to have been some young children in the car as a couple of young ones were being tended to by some of those who stopped. There were already people helping so we did what was best and simply got out of their way.

Further down the road we turned south towards Yellowstone. Although the park itself occupies the northwest corner of Wyoming, the northern approach is through Montana. The countryside is beautiful, running along the Yellowstone River where we stopped at a nice roadside rest area and had a couple of Cinnabons bought at a truck stop earlier and simply enjoyed not moving for a few.

Traffic seemed sparse until we got close and then it got crowded! Winding our way through the town of Gardiner and the approach to Yellowstone itself was tricky in a 27 foot motor home but we saw bigger ones so persevered!  I think the line to enter the park was close to a mile long, two lanes wide, although admittedly it was a summer weekend.It was a good thing we had NOT planned on staying in any of the campgrounds as most were full and the ones that were not were not the sort that take RV's.

Now came Geoffrey's real driving test. The roads in Yellowstone were built years ago and although well maintained are still the older narrower one lane each way with practically no shoulder! Some of them such as the turn for Firehole Lake are clearly marked, prohibiting any RV's or buses from taking them. I wonder if perhaps a Jeep would be better here!

We did see some wildlife: buffalo, moose and elk in several places including some rather tame ones at the Albright Visitor Center a few miles into the park. At one point a coyote was brazenly strolling down the middle of the road definitely disrupting traffic until it finally veered off into the brush and trees along the roadway.

We pulled aside into some of the geyser areas and caught glimpses of vistas and waterfalls but learned that pulling an RV to the side of the road especially when the area is crowded just doesn't work.

We eventually arrived at Old Faithful which although not the largest of the geysers is more frequent, erupting every 90 minutes or so. Of course we apparently arrived not long after it had erupted so had a wait of over an hour. This is a large area entailing a lot of walking or, better yet, out came our PoGoGo so I could trundle around to my heart's content.

To maintain our communications we left our commo hats on so we could keep track of each other which worked excellently including giving me time to peruse the gift shop and find an appropriate souvenir, a bison!

Which now puts me to wondering what is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?

Geoffrey mostly just sat in one place and relaxed after all that tension filled driving but PoGoGo and I zipped all over the place including down the walkways where you could see other geysers going off or at least thinking about it with little poofs and bits of steam rising into the air. I kept an eye on the time being predicted for Old Faithful at the ranger's desk and kept Geoffrey advised.

Eventually the appointed moment arrived. It doesn't go off in one big explosion but starts out gradually, increasing the size and height of the geysers until it is done. Even then sometimes there is one more and then one more!

I am sure there are many better shots of Old Faithful than the ones I took but what is special is that I was there for these! Like the Grand Canyon, it is different being there than any movies or pictures you see somewhere else.

We continued towards the south entrance out of the park through an area where the road is, like many of the park roads, closed from early November to mid-April or May. After a bit the road at least straightens out some but was still a narrow challenge to Geoff's driving abilities.

The south end of the park runs into Grand Teton National Park, running alongside Jackson Lake. Although we had planned to spend some time there, it was late afternoon and we were getting tired. We did get some splendid views right from the road across the lake towards the Tetons, possibly as good or better than if we had gone into the main area of the park especially since the main activities there are hiking and biking and other outdoorsy stuff that is not exactly our strong point.

We continued south through Jackson, a smallish town full of tourist stuff and headed for a fork in the road about 15-20 miles south of Jackson. Route 191 headed southeast towards Interstate 80 and Route 89 headed southwest also eventually to Interstate 80. Unfortunately as we headed for Route 191 we came up to a turnaround and a sign saying that the road was closed due to forest fire!

Back to the fork in the road and 89 was closed for the night due to construction! The choices were backtrack for many miles and maybe get around it, go hunting a motel room back in Jackson which would have been tedious and quite possibly unsuccessful with the road closures or simply pull into a small parking area and get a night's sleep, which we did.

At the start I did warn Geoffrey that although we were going to have adventures for sure, not all of them were going to be good!