Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Blog Entries posted by tbutler

  1. tbutler
    Our travel schedule for this summer is taking shape. We have a short trip coming up in two weeks so it is time to get the motor home road-ready. I took it out for a short drive several weeks ago and had it safety inspected for the Texas license renewal. Lights, wipers and horn all work. A brief look a the tires and a check of the current registration and insurance papers, verify the VIN and I'm good to go.

    On that drive I was reminded of a recurrent problem we've had. Our alternator has been slow to kick in, sometimes taking 5 or 10 minutes to start producing current. Once it gets going, it is good and has never failed us completely. I've taken it to a shop and they've checked it and found it working properly. Of course the problem is that it is thoroughly warmed up when I arrive at the shop. The problem shows up when we've been parked for several days or longer.

    I talked to a friend who has the same model and year coach as ours. He had his alternator rebuilt at a local repair shop, Ernie's Service. He is a NASCAR fan and has done some racing so he knows engines and engine service. I'm not a mechanic, I don't even play one on TV. I've done shade tree mechanic things like oil changes and simple replacement of parts of varying kinds. Using his information I tackled the removal of the alternator.

    Our motor home is a diesel pusher. The engine is mounted backward with the "front" of the engine facing the opening at the rear of the coach. With a side radiator arrangement, the engine compartment looks like there is plenty of room to work until you get yourself into that space. I've got a hose clamp strap end poking me in the chest and the oil dip stick digging into my shoulder. My feet are planted on the engine mounting frame and I'm leaning over trying to reach the wires which are located on the back side of the alternator as I'm looking at it. Not only are they on the other side of alternator, they are at the bottom of the alternator.

    So I'm hunched over the engine, my back is against the top of the compartment, I've got a trouble light to illuminate the area but nowhere to place it that will allow it to stay as I struggle with wrenches and stretch to get a better view. With my head now down behind the alternator, my glasses start slipping up onto my forehead. Whenever I tackle a job like this I always develop an appreciation for those who go to work every day to face challenges like this.

    There are five wires, the two main lines and three small sensor lines attached to our Leece-Neville alternator. I had been cautioned that one of the lines was hot even when everything in the coach was shut off. I did unplug, shut off the auto generator start, shut down that inverter/charger and then shut off the battery disconnect switches for both the house batteries and the chassis batteries. I checked voltage on each line and found only one of the sensor lines with an active current. I disconnected all the other wires and then the live sensor line. I had no problem, no spark so that seemed to be the solution. I covered the end of each wire with electrical tape to avoid inadvertent contact and sparking. Each wire had to be labeled to be certain that they were re-attached to the correct terminal. I used colored electrical tape to identify the wires and photographed the terminals on alternator to help me remember exactly where each should go. There were two terminals that had no wires attached.

    The next challenge was removing the serpentine belt. I understood the nature of the tensioner but didn't know exactly how to release the tension. Checking with my friend, I got the low-down on the relatively simple procedure. I hadn't even noticed the square indention in the arm of the tensioner. That indentation serves as an attachment point for a 1/2 inch socket driver. Use the breaker bar as a lever and pull the tensioner just enough to release the tension on the belt and slip if off the alternator. Louise provided the third hand that I needed as an awkward position and ability to release the tensioner required two hands on the breaker bar. Louise was able to easily slip the belt off the pulley on the alternator.

    The final challenge was to remove the mounting bolts. The top one was easy, the nut came off without a fight. The second bolt, on the bottom and more exposed to the spray from the rear wheels was stuck tight. Of course the only place I could get any torque on that bolt was on my back under the motor home. I sprayed a little Liquid Wrench on the bolt and gave it a few minutes and it finally came loose. Once broken loose, I could remove it working from above.
    I slipped the top bolt out of its collar and the alternator was free. Now I had to lift it free of the mounting and out of the coach. I had to stop several times to re-grip, the pulley doesn't make a very good hand grip! An alternator is filled with copper wiring and is quite heavy. Working in an awkward position with limited space to move makes lifting something much more difficult than just picking it up. Getting the alternator around the mounting points and clear of the wires and other obstructions was something like solving one of those puzzles with two pieces of wire linked together. Once out I placed the alternator in a plastic pan lined with cardboard for it's trip to the repair shop. I didn't want it rolling around in the car.

    I couldn't find Ernie's Service on my first try. It is located at the intersection of two interstate highways, I-69 and I-2 in Pharr, Texas. It is difficult to explore the access road in the area so I started to make a second try. As I circled back toward the area where I though the shop was located I spotted an auto repair shop. I stopped and asked directions. The mechanic in the shop knew right away where the shop was and how to get there. I was two minutes away and had been looking in the wrong place.

    Pulling into Ernie's Service, I assessed it to be a pretty simple operation and I was correct. They work on generators, starters and alternators. Walking into the shop I find myself among a sea of scrapped electrical equipment. Ernie is definitely waiting for the price of Copper to rise. I told him I needed an alternator repaired. He asked what kind of vehicle it came from. I replied "a motor home", expecting a groan of some kind from Ernie. But that isn't what I got. He turned to his assistant and said, "probably a 2825." I went to the car to retrieve the alternator and sure enough, there on the label was "Sales No. 2825LC." I thought, "OK, this guy knows this alternator, this is good."

    Re-entering the shop a woman who had been standing next to Ernie met me in front of the counter and took the alternator off my hands. She took it to Ernie, he looked it over commenting on the condition as he turned it over. He was pleased it wasn't corroded, my work with the wire brush had paid off. He said they would put it on the test stand, "no charge." They hooked it up, their electric motor spun the alternator, faster and faster and still the needle on the gauge didn't budge. They hooked up a battery and still no current could be detected.

    Ernie agreed with my assessment of the problem, brushes might be the problem. He would fix it if he could. He muttered something about possible other problems, electronics, etc. He said they would replace the brushes and bushings. The charge would be for parts and labor, labor being $40.00 per hour. Then he said, "11." I'm thinking "11, 11 what, 11 hundred, as in dollars?" He meant 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. I was stunned, it was 4:00 p.m. and he was going to have it done tomorrow morning. Our trip is coming up in two weeks and I was just hoping I'd be able to get it back several days before then. His assistant assured me they had the parts in stock.

    He called about 10:30 the next morning to let me know that the alternator was ready. When I picked up the alternator, Ernie showed me the brushes. They were little stubs about the size of a pencil eraser. New ones are over an inch long. There was hardly anything left of them. Ernie said they were stuck in the channel that holds them, he had to force them out of the holder. That would explain why they weren't making contact until things warmed up. We were lucky they hadn't failed in some remote location like the roads we traveled last fall in Labrador! The bill for the repair was less than $80.00. I was amazed. If I had gone to a shop and had the alternator removed and a rebuilt one installed in it's place, the bill likely would have been more like $800, I know because I've had it done several times. Of course that would have involved someone else doing the removal and re-installation. So I was well paid for my mechanical adventure.

    Re-installing the alternator was easier and faster than the removal process. I didn't even drop any of the tiny nuts or washers. An inventory of tools used and putting everything away finished the process this morning.

    If you are in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and need starter or alternator service, Ernie's Service is the place to go! The shop looks humble but the service is fantastic and prices are really reasonable. Even if you have someone remove the part for you, take it to Ernie, you won't be disappointed.

    Next on my list of things to get road-ready is the water system. Louise wants to do some cleaning and has informed me that she needs to have the water on. Each day will bring another task, loading clothes, food, tools and other supplies. Tires are on the last thing on the list. I'll adjust the pressure when we're ready to leave. The Pressure Pro sensors indicate the tires have held their pressure during the winter. I've got a set of tires waiting at a shop on the way to our destination for this first trip. With the new set of tires we should be ready for a good summer of travel.

  2. tbutler
    As of our last post we had just entered Colorado as the heavy rain and flooding occurred. We stayed for a week and got a first hand look at some of the damage. What we saw in the Denver/Arvada area was minor compared to the real damage which occurred in the mountains and out on the plains as the flood waters continued to disperse. There are towns in the mountains which have no road access to the outside world and likely won't have until sometime next spring or summer. Countless roads washed out and many bridges were destroyed. At the time we left the death toll was still uncertain. Many people lost their lives and huge numbers of people lost their homes.
    Leaving Denver we headed north to I-80 at Cheyenne. The trip was delayed as we ran into stop and go traffic for miles as we approached the bridge over the Big Thompson River. Traffic was slowed, a giant gaper block, everyone wanted to see the rushing waters of the Big Thompson. Once clear of this traffic we were on I-80 westbound in no time at all. We made a stop in Laramie for diesel and then drove on stopping at a rest area near Fort Fred Steele. It was late enough in the day that we decided to stop for the night here.
    In the morning I learned that circumstances would change our planned trip to Olympia, Washington to mid October so we now were headed for a family commitment in California in about a week and a half. That gave us a little time to enjoy exploring some new territory. We talked it over and decided to head into west-central Wyoming and take a look at the area around Lander. We drove a short distance into Rawlings, picked up propane to make sure we would have enough for cold nights at altitude. From there, the road northwest to Lander passes through some very scenic lands in the Great Divide Basin. The Great Divide separates water going to the Atlantic from water going to the Pacific Ocean. Here in central Wyoming, the Great Divide divides into two, then rejoins south of I-80 into a single divide again. Between the two routes of the divide is an area where waters flow into a basin with no exit. It would be similar to the Great Salt Lake basin except that there is little rainfall here and no large lake exists here.
    We decided to stay at Twin Pines Campground south of Lander. This proved to be a good choice and then a bad choice. We were 7 miles from Lander and spent several days in town and exploring Sinks Canyon State Park nearby. In Sinks Canyon State Park, the Middle Popo Agie River disappears underground as it flows into a cave. At high water, some water flows overland but most of the year the river goes underground. Several thousand feet down the canyon, water from the river bubbles back to the surface and then continues to flow on the surface from there on. This is not a terribly uncommon occurrence, it happens in areas with Karst topography, typified by caves and sinkholes. We hiked the north canyon wall to a viewpoint that gave us an overview of the valley. The second day in the canyon we drove up and over the north canyon wall and across the mountains back to our campsite. The scenery was spectacular as the road took us past a number of mountain lakes and over several mountain ridges.
    Once again, we stumbled on a unique event without any prior knowledge or planning. We drove into Lander on Friday morning and saw a banner stretched across the main street, "Welcome to the One Shot Antelope Hunt." The hunt would be Saturday morning, the opening of antelope hunting season. This event started in the late 1930's as a challenge between Wyoming and Colorado. Each state would field a team of three hunters. Each hunter would get one round of ammunition for their antelope hunt. Hunting parties would be made of one hunter from each team accompanied by a guide. The team that bagged the most antelope or in the case of a tie did it in the least amount of time would be declared the winner. Over time, the number of teams increased. This year there would be eight teams. Participants are by invitation only. There is a museum in town, past shooters include astronauts, a who's who of actors, particularly the cowboy genre of actors, politicians (former VP Cheney was in this year's group of participants), and other famous people. We saw several teams touring Sinks Canyon State Park after they sighted in their guns that morning in a remote area of the park. There weren't a lot of events open to the public but we enjoyed learning about this unique event.
    We enjoyed a look at South Pass City on Sunday afternoon. This is a gold rush town that like many turned into ghost town once the gold mine became non-productive. The mine enjoyed several periods of development, starting in 1868 and finally ending in 1954 with the closing of the Carissa Mine. South Pass City was turned over to the State of Wyoming and has been preserved in its early 1900's condition. Returning to our park I prepared the car for our anticipated morning departure.
    Monday morning I was up picking up e-mail, taking care of computer tasks as the coming days may not have internet coverage. I looked up from the computer and out our front window I saw smoke. This was not light gray smoke, it was not a distant cloud of smoke, this was a boiling black cloud of smoke and it was right in front of our motor home! I jumped up and looked out the drivers side window to see a neighboring motor home on fire. The fire was coming from the front engine compartment of a Georgie Boy that was in site 20. We were in site 18 and site 19 between us was empty. I picked up my phone and called 911. The call took 4 minutes. During that time the couple in the coach had bailed out the emergency exit window of the motor home. Both were elderly with obvious limitations in their physical abilities but they did make it out safely. Their pets, a cat and a dog, unfortunately did not escape. The Lander fire department is at least seven miles away and it is a volunteer fire department. It was 22 minutes from the time I made the phone call until I started taking pictures of the fire department at work. Those were the longest 22 minutes I have ever known.
    After my phone call, Louise and I set about getting our slides in and preparing to move from our site. As I went out to pull the electric, water and sewer connections the heat from the fire was so intense that I decided we should abandon our attempt to move for our own safety. I could have driven off with utilities attached and perhaps I should have but we didn't. We got out of our own coach, Considering the propane tank and gas tank on the coach, I didn't want to delay getting away from the area. I have since imagined a number of scenarios which would have allowed us to get out of the way but of course none of that saved us at the time. Louise and I talked this over several days later, could of, should have, would have, is a game that can be played forever and it still haunts me but at least I'm sleeping a little better now.
    I assisted in getting the woman into a fifth wheel on the far end of the park as she was feeling faint and near collapsing. We watched the fire from a distance and worried about our own coach. When the fire department started putting water on the flames their entire coach was involved in flames. The coach was completely destroyed down to the frame. Their Jeep which was parked in front of the coach had nothing left but the metal components. All this took just 22 minutes from the time I noticed the fire. It took another 20 minutes for the fire department to put out the last of the flames, and a few minutes more to pack up and leave. From beginning to end it was less than an hour. It was a truly frightening event for all involved.
    Our coach sustained some secondary damage. Despite the fact that we got our slide-outs in as soon as we could, there were still numerous burn holes in the canvas covers. Embers from the fire rained down on the roof leaving little burn marks like a cigarette left on the sink in a motel room on the roof of the coach. Of greatest concern is heat damage to the entire port side wall of the coach. The fiberglass wall is warped just enough to make every vertical rib in the coach wall visible. We've had all this documented by an adjuster from our insurance company, now the repair work begins.
    So we've now seen flood and fire, what is next? I don't know but I would advise you to leave if you see us coming into a park near you! In the Peanuts comic strip there was a character named Pigpen. Pigpen was always unwashed, grungy looking, and everywhere he went he had this black cloud of dust and dirt following. That is how I'm feeling right now.
  3. tbutler
    I am Tom, my wife is Louise. I'll not spend time on further introductions. If you want more information, please see our Meet a Member feature under Join FMCA on the main menu of the FMCA page. I promise you more information than you could possibly want to know. Even my friend Pipewrenchgrip said he read MOST of it!!!
    I have been very active on the FMCA Community the last few days. We are away from our motor home doing babysitting for my daughter and her husband. Grandson Ryan and granddaughter Kaitlyn are pretty good most of the time so I have time on my hands while they are busy. We are in Foristell, Missouri (Go Tigers!) where the temperatures are 50 degrees right now. Our motor home sits in Edinburg, Texas where the temperature is 100 degrees today! Glad we left the air conditioner set or we'd find the interior melted when we got back.
    Speaking of Tigers, was that a great game last night or what?? I guess that depends on your perspective. From the Missouri bench it was fantastic. Sorry Memphis fans. I'm speaking Elite Eight in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.
    We'll fly Southwest Airlines back to Harlingen (about an hour East of Edinburg) tomorrow and be in our cozy home by evening. Pipewrenchgrip, Bill and Laura, will have dinner for us tomorrow evening. Sure hope I can convince them to tune the NCAA for the Mizzou game. They have been watching our rig while we are gone. This is a duty we've traded off during the winter for the last seven years.
    Harlingen, Edinburg, McAllen are all in extreme southern Texas in an area known as the Rio Gande Valley. You have to look at a map or drive there to really appreciate how far South these cities are. Our latitude is about equal to the southern tip of Florida. We are much further South than Yuma or San Diego. In fact, Amarillo Texas is closer to Fargo, North Dakota than it is to Brownsville, Texas! Mild winters and hot summers rule. We usually arrive about the end of October and depart for cooler climes in mid April. Our community is a close knit "family" and springtime brings the sorrow of parting. Being one of the last winter visitors to leave means saying good bye to everyone one at a time. Most of them will return but there are a few every year who we won't see for some time. We have a directory that lists all who want to be listed and use it to plan visits when we are near our friends.
    Enough for today, got to leave something to say in the future. Look for more information once or twice a week.
  4. tbutler
    In our first year of full-time living in our motor home we enjoyed a number of deserts in California. Since then we have visited deserts in other areas and always enjoyed the experience. Having taught school all my life, I had never had the privilege of traveling extensively in the cooler months of the year. This, it occurred to me, was the reason I had never spent time in any desert.
    Our first real desert experience was Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs. We stayed in Indio, CA, for a week in early March while exploring the southern part of Joshua Tree. We hiked to several oasis and gold mine sites enjoying exploring the unique terrain and identifying various kinds of cactus. Following that week we had a meeting in San Diego and spent a week there. When we left San Diego we decided we had to see the rest of Joshua Tree so we headed north to Twentynine Palms.
    Twentynine Palms is the "home town" of the U.S. Marine Corps Desert Warfare School and a more appropriate place couldn't be found. The Marine Corps Base is just north of Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park. We stayed at Twentynine Palms RV Resort, which offered a free round of golf per person per day at the adjacent golf course. They even had tennis courts, though they weren't well cared for, they were playable. We took advantage of all those resources as well as the national park. We stayed for two weeks before departing there for our next desert.
    While at Twentynine Palms we explored one of the most spectacular oasis I have ever seen. Just west of town is Fortynine Palms Canyon. The hike from the parking lot takes you up and over a ridge and then down into the canyon. Along the way there is a spectacular array of cactus. As you approach the canyon, you see the palm trees around the oasis. They stand as a glaring patch of green against a backdrop of desert brown. There at their base flows a spring that supports a whole living community. In the dead fronds hanging from the palms a world of birds live. There is a constant coming and going and a cacophony of chirping comes from within the dead foliage that most homeowners trim from their palm trees. We rock hopped around the pools of water and enjoyed the view before returning to the car, the setting sun lighting our way.
    Our most extensive hiking experience in Joshua Tree was the seven-mile loop at Lost Horse Mine. We followed the trail from one gold mine to another. There is a large stamping mill at Lost Horse Mine while the rest of the mine sites along the way were mostly holes (deep foreboding holes) in the ground. A few had remnants of the equipment used for mining and at one site we enjoyed the sight of the old rusted box springs of a bed in the corner of the remains of an old mining shack. Most of the miners lived in tents so this was likely the mine owner or superintendent's home. The last mile of the hike was the toughest, slogging our way through the sandy bottom of a dry creek back to the parking lot.
    We also enjoyed climbing over large granite boulders at Jumbo Rocks Campground. This same granite formation provides some excellent rock climbing experiences in the northwestern part of the park. We saw hundreds of climbers out scaling the sheer faces of rock. There are numerous schools that will take you out here so you can learn the skill of rock climbing. We passed on that!
    The Cholla (Teddy Bear) Cactus Garden has a spectacular assemblage of Teddy Bear Cactus. These when viewed at sunset are as beautiful as they are painful! The sun shining through the thousands of slender spines catch sunlight forming a halo around the cactus. From Salton View you can look out on the Salton Sea and the area around Palm Springs, California. You are also looking out at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. This was one of our last stops before leaving Joshua Tree National Park.
  5. tbutler
    It has been a while since my last entry but I have an excuse ...
    Louise and I have just returned from a visit to our 50th state. It was the 50th state we have visited together and also the 50th state for the U.S. Of course, I'm speaking of the only state that is impractical to visit in a motorhome! Hawaii is one long wet drive and the puddle is so deep. We elected to make our trip on a cruise, which, in a way, is a little like living in a motorhome.
    Our ship, the Celebrity Constellation, was to be our home for the next two weeks. Once we were unpacked, our stateroom became home and we just needed to take any materials we needed for day trips. After nine years of living in a motorhome, an inside stateroom on the lower deck of a cruise ship wasn't really a challenge. In fact, we enjoyed the darkness and slept late several mornings!
    Our trip started on the 13th of March in San Diego. After four relaxing days at sea we reached Hilo, Hawaii. Hilo is a wet place being on the windward side of the Big Island as the natives call the island of Hawaii. I've stayed in Hilo several times before (under a previous administration as Louise likes to put it) and always enjoyed the city. My Earth science background has always found the volcanoes, waterfalls and beaches to be very interesting. A cruise really isn't the best way to see Hawaii. We like being on our own schedule and the cruise ship sets a very strict schedule. We took a shore excursion which was a hike on Kilauea in an attempt to see red lava. We had no luck with that but did get a good look at lava trees and many other lava formations. We also had a chance to see the summit features of Kilauea and quick stops at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut plantation/processing center and Akaka Falls before returning to the ship.
    Our second stop was in Honolulu the next day. We had both been to Honolulu before so we decided to spend the day on our own rather than go on a tour. We found the shopping to be relaxing and managed to scoop up souvenirs for most of the family in the shopping center right by the dock. Surprisingly the prices were quite reasonable with most shops offering deep discounts. Apparently the state of the economy has left them hungry for business from cruise ships. Of course we didn't have room in our suitcases for all the gifts so we sent those home via UPS. Then we hiked up to the punchbowl which is the cemetery for the Pacific war veterans. It was my first visit and we took our time walking around reflecting on the tremendous sacrifices made by so many for the benefit of all of us. The climb to the punchbowl was exhausting but I kept thinking it was nothing like what these men and women faced during WWII and other Pacific conflicts including Korea and Viet Nam.
    The third day in Hawaii and the third stop was at Lahaina on Maui. Here we wanted to do some snorkeling and signed up for a tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation. The cruise ship was much too large for the tiny harbor at Lahaina so we had to take tenders ashore. From the tenth deck of the ship we ate breakfast that morning watching whales surfacing and spouting all around us. This promised to be a great time to do some snorkeling. We got lucky and had an extra adventure when the pilot of the tender mistimed the entry into the harbor and attempted to back up just as a wave swept past us. We climbed the face of the wave with the rear of the tender going high up the face of the wave and then the front of the tender did a nosedive into the surf taking on a fair amount of water. We were returned to the ship and then loaded on another tender for a return trip into the harbor. During our day trip we saw numerous whales and had a nice time snorkeling off the island of Lanai.
    So now it is turning into one of those adventures where you say to yourself this is Kailua Kona so it must be Sunday and it was. Four days and four stops, some people were beginning to wear down at this pace. I overheard one gentleman at the guest relations desk inquiring about selling his shore excursion tickets! We went ashore here to walk around the town and do more shopping. After shipping more "stuff" home we had ice cream then browsed through an art gallery. We found a beautiful glass piece that we both like and had it shipped home also! The main drag in Kailua Kona was shut down for the afternoon for a street fair and we enjoyed strolling from booth to booth looking at creations of the many artisans on the Big Island. There were bands playing and there was food for sale. What fun.
    Our final stop, now day 5 in Hawaii, Monday, March 23, was in Nawiliwili on Kauai. We again elected a shore tour package. Louise had never been in a helicopter so I wanted her to experience a helicopter ride. I had taken many a helicopter ride courtesy of Uncle Sam. This one was a little different. Blue Hawaii Helicopters runs a first class operation with safety concerns addressed and wonderful pilots, helicopters and staff. We took off from the airport and circled the island flying through many canyons including the Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. We saw spectacular waterfalls everywhere and enjoyed a close look at the dramatic Napali Coast. We returned to the ship for our late afternoon departure and enjoyed some relaxing time poolside as the ship left harbor.
    The next five days would be at sea as we returned to the US with a short stop in Ensenada, Mexico. The first day out of Hawaii, there were very few people moving around the ship as everyone was catching up on rest. Most of us managed to over schedule our time in Hawaii. The sea time was welcome. The seas were relatively calm and even Louise who experiences motion sickness fairly easily took no medicine after the first two days at sea out of San Diego. This was our first cruise and we enjoyed it greatly. Food on hand most of the time with no dishes to wash were a treat for Louise. Unfortunately, it was too much of a treat for me. It will take me several weeks to shed the additional pounds I packed on during the trip. We arrived back in San Diego one week ago on Sunday, March 28 and flew back to Texas that afternoon.
    It will be a while before we take another cruise but this one certainly set a high standard. For relaxation it would be hard to beat a cruise. We're back in the motorhome and back to our routine. Life goes on and it isn't bad in the motorhome!
  6. tbutler
    Here is how our travel decisions occur. As full timers we don't have a home to return to, so none of those pressures factor in.
    We hadn't set a definite date for our departure from Sandpipers Resort in south Texas until today. Several days ago I picked up a message that mentioned the dates for the Sun 'n Fun Airshow in Lakeland, Florida. We were planning to be in Florida for the launch of STS 125 and STS 127. Those are two Space Shuttle launches scheduled for May 12 and 15. The dates for the Sun 'n Fun are April 21 through 26. So I checked out the RV camping facilities and it looked good. We talked about it, thought about it and today made a decision to go. We'll move our departure date up about a week from what we were initially thinking.
    I scheduled some work at Camping World for Tuesday the 14th. They will install a new sine wave inverter/charger in our 2004 motor home. Our old modified sine wave inverter had a few things that wouldn't work; in fact it destroyed the electronics in several inexpensive items. I tried an infinite number of doorbells but none would work with the modified sine wave inverter. We also like our heated mattress pad and we've ruined several of them, forgetting to unplug them before disconnecting the shore power. With several new TVs and an ever-increasing list of electronics on board, the risk becomes greater. Last year the generator auto start function failed so we decided to replace the old inverter. Camping World had a sale a few weeks ago and that pushed us over the edge. We'll leave the bay with access to the inverter open for the repair work and then do the final packing up when we return to Sandpipers for a final night before departing on the 16th for Florida. We will have 5 days to travel just over 1,600 miles.
    Our original plans were to spend some time exploring along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, but we'll sacrifice that for the chance to walk the flight line and see all the vintage aircraft, warbirds and current military hardware. We'll enjoy some spectacular air shows and just visiting with a multitude of other pilots. With the motor home we'll be able to eat many meals "at home." The camping is dry camping which is no problem with our motor home. We'll watch our water consumption and may have to restrict our generator use depending on where we are parked. Our costs will be less than the motel costs alone for someone staying there for the week. After the airshow we'll spend two weeks exploring Florida before we head for Cape Canaveral and our reserved spot at Jetty Park to watch the launch(s) of the shuttles. Sure hope they go off on schedule!
    So now we begin the final push to get everything in the motor home ready for travel. You can really get settled in when you park somewhere for five months. The motor home needs a good wash. I'll flush the water heater before we go. The water filters in the basement compartment will be changed, batteries and engine fluids checked. The tire pressure will be checked and the Pressure Pro sensors will be tested. There are things to be stored in the shed on our leased lot and things that have been stored in the shed to be loaded into the motor home.
    So when we get an opportunity, we are free to chase the dream! Look out Florida, here we come!
  7. tbutler
    Ok! So I had this great excursion of air and space planned for this spring in Florida. It was so simple, depart south Texas, drive north, keep making right turns until we got to Lakeland, Florida. Then we got a phone call from Louise's sister. Her mother had a heart attack on Friday, April 10. Our plans immediately took a tailspin into the trash can and we shifted gears. After some discussion I canceled my tennis match for Saturday morning. Louise arranged to get us out of the couples water volleyball tournament on Saturday afternoon. Then I made a first pass at getting ready for travel by taking down the external sun screens and wheel covers. They were all rolled and stowed in the dark and quietly too, it was after quiet hours. The fresh water tank is flushed and filled and I start organizing my desk (some call it a nest) area. The GPS is loaded with the maps and waypoints for the route. Louise began packing up all the little decorations that make the RV a home during our winter stay.
    Saturday morning I'm up early taking care of communication details with family and friends. I check the weather forecast for the next few days along our route of travel. The computer, disk drives and printers are stowed. Then I began the serious work of washing off the worst of the south Texas dust that had accumulated over the last few months. Everything comes out of our small shed and it is carefully packed away in the Trailblazer and Windsor. Then our tables, chairs, porch and other gear that will be left behind are stowed in the shed. Meanwhile Louise has systematically organized and secured the interior of the motor home. Nothing is going to rattle or crash when we pull out. A quick shower and we are out the gate at 6:20 p.m.
    Our route now takes us north to San Antonio, then northwest toward Denver. The GPS has plotted a course that I would never have worked out on my own. Leaving I-10 west of San Antonio, we head toward Lubbock, Amarillo, Lamar and Limon on our way to Denver. From I-10 to Limon is completely new territory for both of us and we enjoy the sights as we keep pushing on to the north and left.
    Our first overnight was a parking area north of Alice, Texas. The next day starts with rain, wet roads and light showers give way to cloudy skies, perfect for driving. Traffic is light, this is Easter and most people are with family. The smaller highways have little traffic. As we near Amarillo we encounter more showers including a quick hail storm as we pass through Hale, Texas. The hail is soft and the rain is hard for about three minutes. Then it is all over. After fueling at Flying J, we locate a Sam's Club parking lot. The GPS said it would be a Wal-Mart but the data must be old. The Sam's Club is new! We park at a back fence. A sign on the fence says "no idling, shut off engine" so we comply. We covered over 600 miles on Sunday. It is a nice quiet place for the night.
    Next morning up early again. The temperature is 30 degrees cooler than the previous day and the tires are all low on pressure. I air tires while Louise makes breakfast and tidies the interior. Continuing northward through the Texas Panhandle and through the Oklahoma Panhandle we encounter some of our roughest roads. I watch the LCD TV that I installed to replace the old CRT. I am pleased to see that it is handling the rough roads with no problem. We talk history, here and there we see an old soddy. Contrast that with the immense wind farms we see throughout northern Texas. In places we see new wind generators right next to old windmills pumping water for livestock. Louise catches an occasional nap, I drive. She can drive and does frequently but I am intent on keeping us moving.
    At 4:05 p.m. we pull into Prospect RV in Wheat Ridge, CO. Nancy has arranged for us to park on a space temporarily until she can put us in a better spot. We won't have a sewer connection until we move. They have turned on the water in this part of the park today or we wouldn't have had water either. We are glad to be parked. Hooked up and showered we are off to see Louise's mother. Seventy two hours ago we were going to Florida. Forty eight hours ago we departed Sandpipers. Now we are living in Denver! What great flexibility the motor home gives us.
    Louise's mother had a stent inserted into the offending artery and is doing well. I hope I'll be able to stand such surgery when I am 88 years old. We'll be here for as long as needed to assist with her care. When Louise's sister and family are able resume caring of her with their full work schedules, we'll salvage what we can of our summer plans.
  8. tbutler
    I've been up on the roof washing and cleaning for the last few days. The experience brings to the fore one of the conflicts that plagues me. At heart, I'm a big advocate of trees. They are essential to our existence. Trees are beautiful and useful. Trees are also a nuisance.
    On the good side, trees provide shade and keep our motor home cool. We're in San Andreas, California, and the forecast for the next two days are temperatures in the 100s, so I'll really appreciate the trees around us. I have many favorite memories of trees, but one of the best was in 2003 in northern California, riding my bicycle on the Redwood Highway. To ride along through a forest of these giants was inspiring. It was early morning, there was little traffic, so most of the time it was me and the trees. I've stood in awe looking up at limbs on a Sequoia that are the size of other large trees. Trees anchor the riverbanks on streams I've canoed. Trees and other plants made coal that provides much of our electricity. So what could possibly be wrong with trees?
    A year ago we were parked under the tree from h*ll. It was early spring and the leaves were popping out. With each leaf came a few fragments of the bud packing a very sticky sap. They covered the ground, stuck to our shoes and showed up on the carpet in the motor home. Unfortunately, they also fell on the toad and on the roof of the motor home. A year later, I'm still trying to get the sap off the roof. There are a few spots that won't come off. Fortunately, a year of sunshine had dried most of the sap and it's chipping off a little at a time. I know that the trees contributed only a small amount of the dirt on the roof, but still, I hate to park under trees.
    We stayed at a park in Golden, Colorado, recently. It was a park without trees. I really enjoyed the stay. The sites were side-by-side sites with about 6 feet between us and the neighboring RVs. We had large 5th wheels on either side, so they provided good shade for the morning and afternoon sun. It was life without trees and I enjoyed not worrying about what was dropping on the motor home. One afternoon I helped my brother-in-law clean the leaves and maple seeds out of his gutters.
    At our current park, we cut tree branches to get into our site without scraping the paint off the motor home. Once in place we carefully located so we could put our slides out without having branches in contact with the sides and roof of the motor home. Today on the roof, removing dirt and sap, I'm ducking branches. There are two large oak trees to our west that give us some great shade in the late afternoon. We didn't park under them because we listened to the acorns dropping on the roof of RVs in those spaces last year. Tomorrow I'll tackle the air conditioners. I need to blow the leaves out of the cooling fins.
    I love trees.
  9. tbutler
    We recently made a typical trip that included some sightseeing and maintenance stops. I submit this description as an example of full-timers' travel experiences even though we are no longer full-timers. This trip is like many drives we have made as the final trip of the summer travel season.
    We left south Texas in early May of 2011. We visited family and I had knee replacement surgery during the summer. We left Missouri September 7 and arrived in California on September 16. After a stay of a month we departed our campground about noon on Thursday, October 13. We had an appointment to have our entry door lock repaired at Paul Everett RV in Fresno on Friday morning. They have an adjacent area with water and electric hook-ups. By sunset we were parking and hooking up electric. We had water and empty sewer tanks so no need for any other hook ups. We had been to Paul Everett for service before and they were always willing to take us in even though we have never purchased a motor home from them.
    Friday we lined up for service as the shop was opening. After a brief check in the motor home went into the shop. I browsed the parts store and found a few handy items we needed including a new propane detector. They were happy to install that for us. With the lock repaired we were departing Fresno just after noon.
    Our next destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had Southwest Airlines tickets from there to St. Louis for a 12 week check-up after knee surgery. The doctor appointment was for Wednesday the 19th so we didn't have to push too hard. Still, I'd rather be sitting in a campground than driving an extra day so we didn't let any dust collect on the tires. Friday night was spent at Wal-Mart in Barstow, CA. Saturday night we parked at the Wal-Mart in Winslow, Arizona. Sunday night we were in the Santa Fe Skies RV Park in Santa Fe, NM. We talked over plans as we traveled. When it became apparent that we should be near Albuquerque on Sunday we decided to spend some time in the Santa Fe area. This was not our original intent but it was going to work well on several counts. I could take the car to the airport, leave it overnight and pick it up the next evening. Louise would be fine in camp for a day and a half without a car. We would be better off making one trip to Albuquerque for the plane flight than staying in Albuquerque and making multiple trips to Santa Fe for sightseeing.
    Monday we spent most of the day exploring Santa Fe. Tuesday I left for the airport shortly before noon arriving in St. Louis just after dark. Wednesday morning I saw the doctor and got the OK for six months until the next appointment. I was back in Santa Fe by 9:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. On the drive back to Santa Fe I was listening to the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Texas Rangers in World Series Game 1. Thursday we did more touring in Santa Fe. Friday we decided to drive to Taos. As we drove through the gorge of the Rio Grande on the road to Taos we enjoyed the brilliantly colored leaves so much that we made numerous stops to photograph the scenery. We picnicked along the river in the middle of a grove poplars with bright golden leaves. We barely made it to Taos when we decided to return to Santa Fe. The trip in this case truly was the destination. We would return to Taos another time and explore the area further.
    Saturday we left Santa Fe taking the most direct route toward San Antonio. Saturday night we stayed at the Wal-Mart in Lamesa, TX. By Sunday night we were parked at Cummins Southwest in San Antonio. Monday morning, October 24 the motor home goes into the Cummins shop for an oil change and lube. We're out of the shop before noon. We had a rock hit the windshield during our drive from Santa Fe. I used the waiting time at Cummins to arrange a stop at the glass shop for the afternoon. They were very flexible. We pulled up and parked on the street in front of the shop. Ten minutes later they were at work on the windshield. I called our next service appointment while work on the windshield proceeded. We would be at Iron Horse RV after their lunch hour. They had installed a water pump which had failed. A second had been installed and it was showing the same problems the first pump did. They made some adjustments, I changed water filters, it was working better. Will it last? We'll have to use the pump for a while to see. Now I called ahead to Texas RV which had ordered parts for repairing our toilet. They would accommodate us for the night on their lot with electric hook ups. The next morning, Tuesday, we had a tech at work removing the toilet. Inspection showed that we needed new vacuum breakers. They hadn't ordered them and it could be several days before they could be shipped from the manufacturer. After some checking they found them at another dealer in San Antonio. Now it is 2:00 p.m. and we are leaving San Antonio. We used our passage through San Antonio to take care of several maintenance items so we would be ready to go next spring.
    Tuesday as the last light faded from the sky we were pulling into our winter residence in Edinburg, TX. We park the motor home next to our mobile home which makes the unloading process easier. Still, late in the evening we pretty much settle for just getting a few items into the house before hitting the sack. The next day we would take the motor home out for its annual safety inspection. Once that is done, we can park for the season. By Wednesday evening the motor home is on its wood pads, leveled and we're unpacking and storing the contents in our house. Several days later we close up the slides. We left the campground in California on October 13 and have parked the motor home for the winter on October 26. Thirteen busy days from summer travel to parked for the winter.
  10. tbutler
    A month ago we had the close call with fire (see my previous post, Good News, Bad News) in Lander, WY. Leaving Lander we made a dash for California. A night here, two nights there, and next thing you know we are in Valley Springs, CA. Our son-in-law and his father installed a 50A hookup for us on their home so now we can park next to their driveway. What about the lawn you ask? In this part of California, rock and gravel are a natural ground surface and we found the parking spot just made for us. There is water available and a sewer clean out that I can reach with the macerator hose. It is much more convenient than staying almost 20 miles away and driving to and from each day as we take care of our granddaughters.
    For two weeks we we daytime babysitters for two girls, ages 5 and 7. Their year-round school schedule has a vacation break in early October so this is a regular appointment for us the last few years. A babysitter could do the job but we can save their parents some money and connect with our granddaughters. We use the days to go on adventures. Apple Hill is a favorite for the girls. Located on US 50 just east of Sacramento, there are orchards and wineries in this region that have banded together to market themselves as Apple Hill. In October they have corn and hay mazes for kids, pumpkin patches to explore and pick out a special pumpkin. You can had feed the goats and sheep at one farm, at another you can go on a hay ride. On weekends, vendors open their booths and sell their wares. Lunch is available at most venues and there are some spectacular pies for sale.
    The girls enjoy almost any outing, a day exploring the local reservoir which is far below full allows us to walk on the lake floor and explore rocks. Bowling is a real adventure. Nothing is more fun that knocking down those pins, yippee! Louise and I love to play golf and we decided the girls would enjoy riding along. We got a loaner putter, kid size, so the girls could putt. They took turns dropping their ball next to grandpa or grandma and putting to the hole. Nine holes took care of their interest in golf.
    Leaving on Friday, I took the motor home to Lodi RV Center to have a new slide out cover installed, replacing the one with the burn holes. That done I was off to Sacramento to get two new tires from East Bay Tire Company. Monaco International, a chapter of FMCA has a purchase agreement with Michelin for tires similar to the FMCA program and I was able to get the tires at discount. I had the new tires put on the front and moved the front tires to the right rear replacing the oldest tires on the motor home. There was one more stop to make. Beverages and More, doing business as BevMo, has periodic wine sales, buy one, get another for 5 cents. It's basically a 1/2 price sale. We stock up on wine for our winter retreat at this sale. A ten dollar bottle of wine becomes $5, a forty dollar bottle is now $20. It is a chance to get an interesting variety of wines at reasonable prices.
    Louise meanwhile is finishing the last day with the girls at their house. As soon as their mom arrives home, Louise is off to Sacramento to join me. We meet at the Pilot Travel Center on I-80 just west of I-5, hook up the car and are on our way. We reach Corning, CA just after dark and park at the Rolling Hills Casino just south of town. This has been a favorite stopping spot for us, easy off and easy on with now special parking for RV's and trucks. Off early the next morning we keep the wheels rolling all day long, arriving in Olympia, WA just before dark. We'll spend two nights here and pick up a totem pole that we commissioned last summer when we were in La Push, WA. I fell in love with totems on our trip into British Columbia on our way to Alaska. We found an artist, teaching carving at the school in La Push. David Wilson has done the large totems and also does exquisite smaller works. We met David on Sunday and saw our totem pole for the first time. It is simply put, spectacular. Atop the three foot pole is an eagle perched on the sun. Then a whale with dorsal fin and at the base a bear. Each of the figures has significance for Louise and I so this is our totem pole.
    Monday morning we were on the road once more. I had contacted the Monaco Factory Service Center in Coburg, OR. They agreed to take a look at the damage to the motor home caused by the motor home fire in Lander. We arrived there just before noon. I had a good discussion with the shop foreman, the damage was much less severe than he expected from our phone call and photos that I sent. It could be repaired but the repair wouldn't be as good as the original wall is now and likely wouldn't look much better. The possible damage to the paint doesn't show. He recommended that we ask the insurance company keep the claim open for a year to see how the wall weathers a year of seasonal changes. I left feeling much better.
    From Coburg we headed east, almost directly. We dropped south to Eugene and picked up Oregon Highway 126 for a beautiful scenic drive along the McKenzie River and then through the mountains to US 20 which would take us across eastern Oregon to I-84 in Idaho. The drive on US 20 rivaled our trip on US 50 across Nevada. Both roads are little traveled across desolate areas. We stopped for the night at a roadside rest area near Buchanan, Oregon. The next morning we completed the last 100 miles of US 20, surprised to see corn fields, hay fields and finally the Onion Capitol of the US near Ontario, OR along the eastern Oregon border. We cross Idaho and enter Utah, pulling up for the night at a rest stop in Brigham City, UT. Our next leg took us out of Utah on I-80, across Wyoming and into Nebraska where we stopped for the night at the Cabela's campground in Sidney, NE. We opted for the electric only sites and enjoyed a good nights sleep.
    Leaving Sidney early the next morning we made an unplanned stop. Louise had been complaining of double vision the day before and it was worse this morning so we pulled up in North Platte, NE to visit the hospital there. We spent about six hours there getting excellent care. Louise had a number of tests run in the first 30 minutes that eliminated many of the worst possibilities. A CT scan and an MRI cleared most of the remaining possible causes. The doctor diagnosed a palsy of the sixth cranial nerve which controls eye movement. Her left eye is aimed slightly to the right and its movement isn't coordinated with the right eye, thus double vision. Needless to say, this is not a good condition when you are riding miles and miles in the motor home. The doctor says these often cure themselves. Meanwhile, Louise has an appointment to see an Opthalmologist next week.
    We finished our drive Thursday in central Nebraska at a Wal-Mart in Kearney. We completed the next leg of our trip on Friday as we pulled into 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters, MO. Saturday we joined my son and his wife for a couples baby shower/happy hour. That evening Louise and I went to dinner and a show before turning in for the night. We really enjoyed Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. It was really a spectacular drama and another great performance by Tom Hanks. Sunday we went bowling with my daughter and her family. Monday morning I made a run to my dentist for a cleaning and checkup. Then we were off to Warrenton, MO to meet my two sisters. We had lunch and celebrated the final closing of my mother's estate. Another chapter of life ends. By the end of the day we would be parked at Wal-Mart in Joplin, MO.
    Tuesday we crossed Oklahoma and made our way to McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, TX. Louise attended an executive meeting of the Texas Silver Haired Legislature on Wednesday afternoon. Today, Thursday we drove south to Hill Country RV in New Braunfels, TX where I will attend a weekend state meeting of the Texas Master Naturalist organization. Next Monday we'll stop in San Antonio for routine service for the Cummins engine and the Onan generator before rolling into Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, TX where we will park the motor home for the next eight months! Whew! We will close out a much heavier year of travel than any time in the past, almost 17,000 miles from January to parking on October 28. The trip described above was over 5000 miles in just a month and 5 days. This is not the way I prefer to travel but I'm glad that I have the motor home and am able to do this when necessary.
  11. tbutler
    This summer is our 15th summer on the road.  We've traveled in every state in the US (except Hawaii) and every province in Canada (except Nunavut).  Given that experience, there are still new things to do and see.  We left Scottsbluff, NE on August first headed for Denver.  We have family, a sister and daughter there and we've stopped there at least once every year.  Still, we found something new on this trip.  Louise's sister and her husband have now retired and we had a nice visit with them and their family. 
    We've done dinners out with Elaine and Lou before but this year we had the younger generation making suggestions for places to eat.  We found ourselves in old Arvada, a ten block area in the center of the old town.  The old town area is thriving as an evening hot spot for the younger generation.  Bars, restaurants and parks all with music make it a world of pleasant experiences.  The Grandview Tavern and Grill has a back yard patio and it made for a relaxing meal and conversation.  After enjoying a good meal we spent some time strolling the streets marveling at all the activity.  Lou and Elaine took us on a tour of the old town, pointing out points of interest and places with family connections. 
    Our next stop was the Old Arvada Tavern.  In Lou's memory, it was a rather drab old bar, a place he hung out while waiting to pick up his son from ball practice.  Today it is alive with young people.  Downstairs there is a full menu and the place was packed.  Our social advisors had directed us to take a right inside the entrance and go through the "telephone booth" to the upstairs.  We followed instructions and were welcomed into a world of entertainment.  Like many of the bars, this one featured live entertainment on the weekend.  The band for this evening was a bluegrass band.  They were just warming up and adjusting the sound.  We found a vacant table next to the stage.  I've never been a big fan of bluegrass but a live performance would be a first.  Once the band was warmed up they launched into their performance.  Watching the musicians and listening to the music was a real joy.  We stayed through the first set then retreated to quieter surroundings at their home for the rest of the evening. 
    After a week and a half in Denver we drove to Sheridan, WY to spend time with our daughter and her boyfriend.  Karen works in Westminster near Denver but is dating Brent who is living in Sheridan.  The occasion was the Sheridan Rodeo.  We settled into Peter D's RV Park for the week on Monday evening.  Tuesday morning we explored the town.  If we're going to spend a week here and there is going to be a crowd, we had better know our way around town.  We found the rodeo arena and got an idea of the schedule.  Wednesday evening we purchased tickets to the rodeo and watched the program on our own.  I had been to small town rodeo's years ago but this was a much bigger deal.  For Louise this was all new.  The evening began with the Indian Races.  Teams of Native Americans race around the track surrounding the arena.  Starting standing on the ground they have to mount their horse, no saddle, ride a loop then change to a new horse, off of one, on the next without assistance.  Run one more loop and change to a third horse for the final lap.  Pandemonium reigned at each change of the horses.  The rider had to do this unassisted.  Other team members were charged with managing the horses during the race.  Some horses had their own mind how this was all to work.  More than one horse ran a lap without a rider.  One rider chased the horse all the way around the track then grabbed the next horse and completed the race.  Another rider rand several hundred yards holding on the the horse's tail before giving up.  After four nights of racing, the team with the best time would claim a $10,000 prize.  Other events were pretty much what you can see on TV but far more exciting and amazing when watching it in person. 
    While in Sheridan, waiting for Karen to arrive for the weekend, we played a round of golf at the local golf course.  We also toured King's Ropes downtown.  This is a western store and more.  The Kings have been saddle makers for several generations.  They also stock a whole warehouse of ropes that are made on site.  You can watch the ropes being made by hand.  There are also several workstations for saddle work  You can drop off a saddle for repair or restoration or order your own custom saddle.  Behind the store is an amazing museum with hundreds of saddles of all kinds, photos, books, guns, spurs, cowboy gear of all kinds and old time photos.  You can stand in one place and look from ceiling to floor to see everything on display in that area.  We spent an hour and a half in a quick walk through. 
    Karen arrived late Friday so we met her and Brent at The Silver Spur for breakfast.  From there we were off to watch the bed races.  Teams with specially built beds race down the street for two blocks to a packed house on the sidewalks.  Fun is had by everyone.  To get front row seats, you have to park your lawn chair on main street Friday afternoon.  Following the bed races is the big parade.  This is a major parade with horses, cars, floats of all kinds, and audience participation.  Watchers and float riders battle with water cannons at various locations along the route.  Mars candy magnates live in the area and there is no shortage of Mars candy distributed along the route.  Lunch followed ant then I spent several hours at the Native American Pow Wow on the lawn of the Sheridan Inn.  Native dancers performed a variety of dances with narration to explain the significance of each dance. 
    We had ordered tickets for the Saturday night finals more than a month before the rodeo.  The grandstand was all sold out so we purchased tickets in what we learned was the new stands on the west side of the arena.  The rodeo clown labeled this area as the newbee section!  We had front row seats, just a fence separating us from the horses and livestock.  We were just a few yards from the gates and had a great view of the entire arena.  All the participants were pushing their limits for the final performance of the rodeo and the show was spectacular. 
    Sunday was a day to relax and wrap up visits.  We slept in then joined Brent's family for a birthday celebration for his sister.  We said good bye to Karen then returned to the park for the evening.  We would leave Monday morning to return to Denver for another week and a half.  On the way south we drove over the Bighorn Mountains enjoying the spectacular scenery on US Hwy 14. We stopped for a few days near Thermopolis, WY,  Camping at Boysen State Park.  One of the surprises of the trip was our entrance into Thermopolis.  The hot springs there has a spectacular travertine terrace visible from the road as you enter the northern end of town.  There are several venues offering hot springs for swimming and soaking.  The grounds are pleasant to walk, offering great views of the spring and the mineral shelf.  Just south of Thermopolis is the Wedding of the Waters.  An informational display marks the place where the Wind River changes its name to the Bighorn River.  The river was given different names upriver and at the mouth and when it became apparent that it was the same river a compromise arrangement was to use both names for the same river.  The Wedding of the Waters marks the location where the name changes.  Up stream, the Wind River Canyon is a spectacular sight.  At the upper end of the canyon is Boyson Dam and Reservoir.  There are numerous campgrounds there, above and below the dam.  All campgrounds are dry without electric which made the stay a little uncomfortable with temperatures near 100 during the day.  Fortunately, breezes off the lake made for cooler evening temperatures.  We stopped in Rawlings on Wednesday night and spent Thursday night at Cummins Rocky Mountain in anticipation of scheduled maintenance on Friday.  We were in and out Friday morning and into Dakota Ridge RV Park that afternoon. 
  12. tbutler
    In a previous entry I described the total eclipse of the sun which is happening next month, August 21, 2017.  Total solar eclipses are rare.  How rare?  It has been 26 years (July 11, 1991) and that was only seen in only one state, Hawaii.  The next solar eclipse for the US will be April 8 2024.  This one enters from Mexico into Texas and slices northeastward through New England exiting the US in Maine, continuing on through New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.  There have been many partial eclipses, but the difference between a partial eclipse and a total eclipse of the Sun is night and day if you will pardon the obvious.  The eclipse next month can be seen from the entire US as a partial eclipse but only those who are in a ribbon that is 71 miles wide at it's widest, will be able to see the total eclipse.  That ribbon of totality enters the US near Portland, Oregon and exits on the east coast of South Carolina.  If you are exactly in the center of the ribbon of totality, you will get about 2 minutes of darkness before the Sun reappears.  Standing near the edge of the ribbon the length of the eclipse could be just a matter of a few seconds before the Sun reappears.  It is going to take some planning to see this eclipse.  Millions of Americans will flock to that ribbon.  They will be joined by many thousands of visitors from all over the world. 
    Now some details.  States with larger populations are already issuing travel alerts and making provisions to handle the millions of people who will see the eclipse.  States with smaller populations will have fewer locals to deal with but they also are states that have widely spaced roads which will concentrate crowds on the few roads in those states that cross through the ribbon of totality.  RV parks, motels and hotels along the ribbon of totality are already sold out in many locations.  Those of us with RV's are fortunate, we travel with our motel.  I would not plan to take your motor home into the ribbon of totality unless you have already secured a campground.  My personal planning is to watch the weather as the eclipse approaches.  I'll start watching the weather weeks before the eclipse.  I plan to get close to the area with the greatest probability of clear skies with the motor home and then use the toad to get to the clearest skies with the toad.  I'll try to be at my chosen observing site by sunrise and will watch the entire eclipse from that location.  We'll pack food for the day, liquids and perhaps a celebratory bottle of Champagne.  Once totality passes, many people will start for "home."  This can create tremendous traffic jams so plan to sit tight and watch the whole show before departing your observing site.
    Where do you find specific details?  I gave several references in my entry several months ago.  More are available now as the eclipse approaches.  There are good sites that show details of the ribbon of totality so you can position yourself precisely on its center line.  Many of the sites have eclipse glasses for sale.  These protective glasses, some with aluminized mylar are quite cheap but very effective, are necessary for the partial phases of the eclipse.  Once the sun is completely covered the glasses can be put aside and you will be looking at one of natures most spectacular displays.  The Moon is the dark spot, silhouetted against the light of the corona of the Sun.  You may discern a drop in temperature as totality approaches.  Birds will be singing as though it was sunset coming on.  Listen during totality, can you hear any birds chirping?  At totality, the sky becomes dark enough that planets and bright stars can be seen.  Using binoculars (during totality only) you can get a good look at solar prominence which look like small red "flames" rising from the Sun.  If we are lucky we may even be able to see other features.  Large solar ejections and flares can cause the corona to have strange shapes. 
    Whatever you see, it will be an event you will never forget.  
    Just a few links:
    The Great American Eclipse - Fantastic traffic and crowd information
    Eclipse 2017 - Great video of the shadow sweeping across the US
    NASA - As only NASA can do it.  Great images of the Sun.  What to look for.  A great set of nine regional, detailed maps of the path of totality.  How to photograph.  Weather prospects. Much more...
    Space.com - Great detail, how to photograph, what to look for.
    Each link has it's own special information, most have eclipse glasses for sale, as does Amazon.  Order soon, don't be disappointed.  Your eyes are way too important to take chances with someone's home-made eclipse viewer.  I ordered 50 glasses for less than $1.00 each.
  13. tbutler
    In one week we have traveled from New York through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick and we are now just outside the city of Quebec. We have visited Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. The weather was cloudy and threatening rain but we never got more than a light sprinkle. The view from Cadillac Mountain always amazes me. From Ellsworth to Calais we took a different route than in past trips and this rewarded us with new and interesting scenery.
    In New Brunswick we stayed on Grand Manan, visiting friends and went on several whale watching trips. With very calm seas, we were able to see quite a few North Atlantic Right Whales. The folks at Whales-n-Sails on Grand Manan really know their whales and were able to get us quite close to them without disturbing the whales.
    We traveled north from the ferry landing at Black's Harbor to St. John and then on to Fredericton and Edmundston in New Brunswick. Like the roads in Maine, this was new territory for us. The whole trip is along the St. John River and the scenery is quite spectacular. It is always a pleasant surprise to find wonderful scenery when traveling from one place to another on schedule. It makes the trip so much more interesting.
    From Edmundston we continued north into Quebec Province. Every mile brought more signs of the French culture. When we crossed the border into Quebec, the English language disappeared. Given a little time, I can usually figure out what the French signs say but at highway speeds sometimes that isn't good enough. We managed to stay on the correct route but it took some mental work. Louise helps a lot, she is much stronger with languages than me.
    Reaching the St. Lawrence Bay, we took the smaller highway 132 southwest for a better look at the bay, the wonderful small communities, and rich variety of beautiful and unique homes. Unfortunately, there are very few places to stop with a motor home along this route and if you are looking for space to park two motor homes it is even more difficult. At one stop, we pretty much blocked off the entrance to an ice cream shop. A motorist stopped and walked back to take a picture of our two motor homes at that location. There aren't many motor homes even in the RV parks here. All of Quebec seems to be on vacation, just as the French do in Europe, August is vacation time. We saw numerous garage sales and flea markets. The RV parks were full and there was no indication anyone was going home on Sunday afternoon!
    We've passed up many interesting places on this trip. Our pace doesn't let us delay for long. We'll return to see more of the area in the future. For now, we're just glad to be able to keep the wheels turning!
  14. tbutler
    Friday brought the end of the FMCA International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio. Everyone was up and moving early. Neighbors said good-bye, caravans formed up, a few wise individuals sat in lawn chairs and watched the parade of motor homes. The electric was shut off as I was winding up my cord. We were away a few minutes after that. The parade out of the campus was orderly and didn't take long at all. The police were manning the signal light to ease our way onto the highway.
    Louise and I set out for Fremont, Ohio and the Hayes Presidential Museum and Library. We were the second motor home to arrive at the museum. The RV and bus parking was back in only so we circled through the parking lot and found a spot to park along the road. I checked in the office and they said that would be fine. A little while later motor homes 3 and 4 pulled onto the grounds. Apparently there were four people who wanted to sign up for the tour during the convention but the tour was canceled due to lack of interest. We had a lovely tour of the home. The Hayes home is quite stately. The museum was interesting as are all Presidential Museums. There was a special display of the gowns of the First Ladies which Louise thoroughly enjoyed.
    Leaving there we were headed for an RV park near Bellevue but found the park to be less than expected. We cancelled out of our reservation costing us the fee for a one night stay. It was a misunderstanding. We asked for full hookups with the expectation that included water, electric and sewer. At this campground, full hookups meant water and electric. Somehow that was never conveyed in the conversation. We called ahead to the campground we planned to stay at near Salem, Ohio and they had a site for us so we traveled on. Two and a half hours later we were welcomed into Chaparral Family Campground. It is Christmas in July here. Everyone is wearing Santa hats and decorations are up all over camp. Santa arrived this morning in a fire truck!
    We have just been joined by friends who will be traveling with us for the next few weeks. We will visit a number of our winter Texan friends as we work our way to the northeast. We'll work out our plans as the trip continues. Tonight we're doing dinner out with one of our friends from Berlin Center, Ohio. RVing makes great lasting friends!
  15. tbutler
    Our travels this year have been delayed by family illness, a trip with grandchildren, a broken awning, a Monaco International rally and the FMCA International Convention. So it was almost the end of July when we began our summer travels. We will have to return to Missouri to take care of painting the awning we had replaced. We'll head west to California by the end of September and be in our winter resort by the first of November. So we get about six weeks of travel this summer.
    Like all people, we fall into habits. We're used to traveling at a leisurely pace, doing sightseeing for a day or two and then just spending some time around the campground to do laundry or fix a problem item on the motor home. We've learned to rest once in a while just to catch up on sleep. A good rainy-day do nothing day never upset our schedule in the past. There was always something to do indoors. We never had a definite schedule, just a general agenda for the summer. In a good summer we would even tack on an additional stop or two between family visits.
    We hardly ever play golf in the summer but we've played once a week for the last month. Tennis is a winter sport for me but I've managed several matches in the last month. Louise has had several days of card playing. It has been fun but not our normal pattern. In past summers we visited a few friends for a short while then resumed traveling. This summer we are visiting at least 10 of our friends and relatives. When we travel we seldom visit cities. This summer we'll stop in a string of large cities, we are outside New York City right now. Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa are all on our itinerary.
    So this summer we'll experience travel in a different way. I think of it as vacation mode, travel for those whose time is limited. I know real vacationers would love to have six weeks but we've modified our travel plans several times to fit in as much as we can while keeping the quality of our travel. When we read the blogs of others on this site, we feel extremely lucky to be able to travel at all. We are, after all, among the most fortunate people on earth to be able to live this lifestyle. Carpe Diem
  16. tbutler
    Louise and I were invited to dinner Friday night. The campground owners here at Sandpipers Resort where we have stayed each winter for nine years now invited 14 of us to dinner. It was seven couples who have assisted them in improving the resort in one way or another. Most of them were involved in the construction of a new shower house for the resort this past summer. Louise and I contributed other skills. Louise is writes the publicity materials for the resort and occasionally has articles published in magazines or newsletters. I have been the camp photographer for a number of years providing publicity photos and doing photos for campground documentation and history.
    This was a gourmet dinner for 16 people. The chef for this magnificent meal was our neighbor in the park last year and we got to know him well then. Chef Robert is from Quebec. He and his wife, Lucy, have returned for their second year. Chef Robert worked for a major airlines at their Canadian headquarters, preparing food for the airline executives. He began preparing sauces and other parts of the meal on Wednesday. All day Thursday and Friday he was in the kitchen, chopping, peeling, cooking. When Friday evening came, the community room had been transformed into a fine restaurant. Chef Robert was busy making the final preparations for this nine-course gourmet meal. His assistants, Lucy, and another long-time campground resident, Marijanne, were servers bringing each course of the meal to us in turn.
    The meal started with a little wine and appetizers, an assortment of bitesize crackers, breads, cheese and various additions from peppers to seafood. Then there came Crouton with Camembert Mediterranean, which was listed as each item was on the menu in French with the English translation below. We had Les Antipastos "Sandpipers," Comcombre farci aux crabie et cury (Stuffed cucumber with crab meat curry), soup garnished with pears and carrots, asparagus au gratin. Then came the salade of Padre Pius. The main course was a choice of salmon with side dish, chicken with pink pepper or pork bourguignon. Finally there was desert, a bananas Foster, ice cream, cake combination.
    Just naming these preparations hardly does them justice. Each involved intricate preparations and were presented in a beautiful arrangement on their own plate. Sauces provided flavors that were spectacular. I summed it up at the end of the meal saying, "I have never had such a sophisticated meal." So this is how the other half lives! Wow! We were all satiated. The meal, three days in preparation, had been served over almost three hours and we had ample time for conversation in the meantime.
    I chuckled to myself as we left, thinking that most people would never expect to get such a marvelous meal at a campground. Even more amazing is that the talent for preparing such a meal was right here in the campground with us. But that was the point of the meal. Gary is a retired carpenter and contractor. He has his own wood shop here at the campground. He helped me with my TV remodeling last year. Tony and his wife, Sherry, are in charge of general maintenance, landscaping and mowing, etc. Jamie and Tonya have constructed a wonderful gate and entrance for our park. Jamie did much of the custom metal work, including custom made heavy duty stalls in the shower house. Tonya works on landscaping and grounds maintenance on a regular basis. Bill helped with the carpentry and his wife, Karen, has created a variety of campground logo merchandise. Garland was also a carpentry assistant. Together all the carpenters constructed and shingled the roof of the shower house, built storage shelves, etc. Roy has been the electrician for the project and for other work in the campground. All these amazing talents and more right here in this community of mostly retired people. What a wonderful community we have.
    The owners, Karen and Jay, have plans for more of these dinners for others in the park who have contributed their talents. It is a community where everyone pitches in to help with meals, entertainment, social events, recreation activities and so much more. There is the fudge lady, the blogger, the wine experts, the DJ, the bike ride leader, golf organizer, water volleyball leader, sound technician, plumber, computer expert, welder, truck driver, Spanish teacher, charity organizer, and blood drive organizer. Everyone brings talents and willingly shares them with the community.
  17. tbutler
    This is a shout out to Brett Wolfe. We went in for maintenance at Cummins West in Avondale (Phoenix), AZ today. In a post several months ago, Brett had suggested replacing the belts on the engine and saving the usable used belts as back up in case a belt breaks. I asked the service representative to replace the used belts and save them for me.
    We were having the generator serviced at the same time. In the discussion the service rep asked if I wanted the belt on the generator (7.5 KW Onan) replaced also. I thought, "If it's good for the engine, it has to be good for the generator." So I said to replace it also and save the old belt for me. Actually, I didn't even know the generator had a belt. Who knows what is in that big green box?
    When the job was done, the service rep gave me the belts from the engine and then showed me the belt that came from the generator. It was missing an inch of the inner notched material of the belt. The only thing holding it together was the strong continuous strip on the outside of the belt. Some additional inner material was peeled off the outer belt but still hanging on. It was just a matter of time until the belt derailed and we had generator failure. With temperatures in the low 100's, we really needed the generator to keep the motor home livable while driving.
    So thank you Brett. Your advice saved us a delay or more!
  18. tbutler
    It's been a shocking month and a half since I've written about our motor home and the experiences it brings us. There are many excuses: busy lives, family challenges, etc. Most of all, there has been little activity involving the motor home. We parked the motor home in the driveway next to our new mobile home at Sandpipers on October 13. I buttoned her down with window sun screens, and tire covers. Then we began to unload our gear from the closets and cabinets. This was new territory for us. For the last 9 1/2 years we have been living in a motor home. We unloaded one motor home before this one and that was a direct transfer from the old motor home to the new. I carried drawers from the old motor home out the door of the old, two steps on the ground, and right into the new motor home. Louise unloaded them, packing them away in the new motor home, and I brought the drawers back to the old motor home. Three days and we were on our way in a new home!
    Now we were moving into a house. The half-empty motor home will sit beside our home until spring when we head north to escape the heat of the south Texas summer. The refrigerator was emptied post haste. It was near failing and we were glad to shut it down. Will it ever run again? Only time will tell. Some clothes came out right away, others as the occasion demanded. One of those rare times when I needed a pair of dress slacks I had to hustle into the motor home and dig into the closet to bring several pairs into the house. I reluctantly unpacked my tools as the jobs in the house began to pile up. After a while, my focus is on getting the house in operating condition. I'm spending less and less time in the motor home.
    When we returned home we made a stop at a inspection station to have the motor home inspected. We weighed in at the Flying J as we needed a weight ticket for our license plates. We planned to take it out one more time for our driving test to get our Texas drivers licenses. With that in mind, we didn't refuel on our way home. We would do that after we had completed the driving test. Shortly before Thanksgiving, Louise called the drivers license bureau to get specific details of the testing procedure. She was told we would not need to take a test and could get our license by turning in our South Dakota licenses. So we picked up all the required paperwork and headed off to the license bureau. After waiting in line for two hours, we arrived at the counter. Anna Marie efficiently worked her way through our paperwork and issued us our Texas drivers license. After checking her computer, she apparently found the information that equated our South Dakota operator license with the Texas Class B license. We were able to exchange our South Dakota drivers licenses for a Texas Class B license required to drive a motor home greater than 26,000 pounds without having to take a written or driving test! Louise was visibly relieved. Every time I had mentioned the impending test to her she got this graven look on her face that said she really didn't want to face the test now or later. I was greatly relieved because I was beginning to think that I was going to be the only driver of the motor home.
    So now we didn't have to take the motor home out for the test. But there it sits, with a partial tank of fuel and no fuel preservative. So I pulled the tire covers off and removed the sun screens. Several hours going through the interior to ensure that it was secure and we're ready to make a run to the Flying J. Now that I've done that, I am in the process of parking the motor home for the winter. Unlike my northern neighbors, I don't worry about securing the motor home against freezing temperatures. Here, the sun is a constant worry so the sun screens and tire covers go back on the motor home. Tires are protected from the concrete by parking on a set of boards that also help level the motor home. It will be plugged in to keep all systems live and the leveling system will be kept active. We'll keep the furnace active, set at a low temperature to conserve fuel but warm enough to prevent freezing of the water pipes when temperatures drop low during the winter. I'm working on the routine maintenance items, tire pressure, flushing the water heater, cleaning the furnace, etc. This will continue on and off through the winter with the goal of being ready to hit the road next spring.
    Having a house is nice but it has it's own challenges. I have a whole new set of tasks to keep me busy. I'll keep dreaming of the next trip, the new territory to be explored and new friends to see. The motor home will be there to remind me that there is still a whole world out there to be explored!
  19. tbutler
    I haven't been doing much work around the motor home lately. My left knee replacement is healing well and I'm up to getting out and around more these days. The water filters in the basement needed replacement so I waded into the midsection of our home. As I began removing stored equipment I noticed little chewed bits of the blue shop towels I use. So now my task becomes a project. Sure enough, there are more and more signs of a mouse. We haven't had one for eight years but it has finally happened again.
    As I dig through the stored materials, more signs emerge. Under the sliding drawer in the forward storage area I find bits of acorns. Somebody had a picnic here. There is only one answer here. Everything has to come out and a good cleaning is in order. One compartment after another is emptied and cleaned. Our son-in-law brings the shop vac which speeds the cleaning tremendously. The trash bag of mouse debris keeps growing. I've grown careless over the years, there are rags that should have been secured that now are waste. A used sponge has been gnawed to a nub. The motor home hasn't been cleaned this well in years.
    Did I mention that the temperature is 97 degrees on a clear sunny day. I have the large awning out and some shade on the other side of the motor home. I'm pushing hard to get done before the sun gets to the door of each compartment. Our grandchildren are enjoying the swimming pool and our daughter is supervising. We visit during breaks. I have to stand up and sit down occasionally. My new knee doesn't take well to all the bending and kneeling. I'm drinking water like a fish at every break.
    The mouse or mice have been throughout the basement. We have seen no evidence in the living area but the storage area has evidence in every compartment. It takes me four hours to finish working through the storage areas. I check every access point. The sewer hose has gaps around it so I rearrange my improvised collar to better block the space around the hose. Everything else looks secure, so this must be the access point. I have two old traps from our only other encounter with these critters. These are baited and and placed in the utility compartment. A quick trip to town secures four more new traps. Every compartment has two traps ... now I'm waiting. It's possible that our daughters family cat, Miss Race Car (named by our grandson when he was six years old), a Norwegian Forest Cat, has already caught up with the offending mouse. I had a conversation with Miss Race Car, who sleeps under the motor home regularly. I impressed upon her that I had been counting on her to keep the motor home free of mice. If she hasn't already done so, I'll get the little rascals.
    The water filters are changed and we have a good flow of water for my well deserved shower. Louise fixes me my favorite libation and sends me out the door to fire up the grill. We'll have steak tonight! We enjoy sitting outside even with the heat. One of the really unusual things about this heat wave is that there has been a light breeze constantly. I lived in Missouri for most of my life and my recollection is that when the weather got really hot the air would be deadly calm. This year we have a breeze and it makes the heat almost bearable. I'm glad to be out and about and back to work. There will be only a few more work days before my right knee replacement on Thursday next week.
  20. tbutler
    We have just completed our trek across country from Missouri to California. We've done this trip many times since we have grandchildren in both states. The quickest route is to travel I-70 west to Denver then jog north on I-25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming where we pick up I-80 on to California. This trip we decided to take a different route. We planned to visit friends in Yankton, South Dakota so it seemed that going north into Iowa and then west to Sioux City, Iowa would be a nice change. Interstate 70 across Missouri is always a race track, loaded with trucks and lots of auto traffic. Avoiding the interstate tangle of Kansas City was another plus. So we decided to drive north on US 61 and US 281 and I-380 to Waterloo, Iowa. That was the first leg of our trip.
    US 61 is four lane from I-70 almost all the way to the Iowa border. The road surface is fair to good and traffic is light. US 281 is good surface and four lane most of its distance. The only heavy traffic we encountered was on I-380 from Iowa City to Waterloo. This may not be consistently busy, it was Friday afternoon about 4:00 p.m. when we passed through Iowa City. We arrived at the Wal-Mart just off US 20 in Waterloo about 5:00 p.m.
    I spent an hour or more working on replacing our water pump. When we unhooked and switched to the water pump preparing to leave my daughters home, the water pump wouldn't work. I found a blown fuse, replaced it and it blew again. Calling ShurFlo I found that we would have to send in the old pump to get warranty service. I wasn't ready to do without a pump for a week while we waited for a replacement so picked up another matching pump at a local dealer before we left town. Now I'll return the defective pump for an exchange and have a spare on hand.
    Saturday morning we drove west on US 20 through central Iowa. Traffic was very light and the highway was excellent. About 100 miles from Sioux City the four lane pavement gives way to the old two lane highway which wanders from town to town, up hill and down dale. That part of the trip was slower but still comfortable travel with very light traffic. On our way, our friends from Yankton, South Dakota called to let us know that I-29 was still flooded by the Missouri River and was closed south of Sioux City. We laughed, if we were on our regular route to their home, we would have been searching for a route around the flooding. As it was, we would not be affected at all by that closure. We took I-29 north from Sioux City to US 50. The final ten miles of I-29 was littered with orange barrels and two way traffic which slowed our travel before we arrived at Junction City and US 50.
    We spent two days with our friends, sharing our summer experiences. They took us to the Gavin Point Dam on the Missouri River to see the water being discharged from the dam. We marveled at the 90,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge from the dam which was considerably smaller than the 160,000,000 cubic feet per second discharge that was occurring in May and June of this year. The force of water is a spectacle not to be missed, whether from a dam, waterfall, rapids, or waves on a shore, water is awesome. Of course that force is also threatening as the people downstream from the dam learned this spring.
    We enjoyed dining out at a nearby restaurant overlooking the Missouri River. We went bowling one evening which gave me a chance to try out my new knees. I didn't have my ball or shoes so bowled using a spare ball loaned to me by my friend. By the end of the evening it felt like my own ball! I was back to bowling my average. That was reassuring to everyone as the four of us are a bowling team in the winter in south Texas. By the end of the evening I was ready to get off my feet and ice down my knees.
    With the recommendation of a neighbor we found a welder to fix part of our towing linkage. One of the two brackets that link the car to the tow bar had developed a crack. The welder was able to clean up the crack and put a good weld on the crack. It is holding well and should get us home for the winter. Then I'll have to pursue a replacement.
    Leaving Yankton, we drove south on US 81 to US 20 in Nebraska. This is the same highway we were on in Iowa. Right away we experienced several sections of road repair. We were beginning to question our decision when the repairs stopped and we traveled many miles before encountering more repairs. There is very little traffic on US 20 in Nebraska, the road surface is generally good and travel is surprisingly fast. The towns are small and widely scattered so you travel many miles before the next town. Most of these small towns don't even have a stop sign so you can keep on rolling. After miles of crop and pasture lands we reached western Nebraska which has beautiful scenery of sand hills. These are ancient sand dunes, now supporting grasses and trees. As US 20 continues into Wyoming, there are more rocks and mountains. The scenery is beautiful. We encountered a few showers but arrived in Casper, Wyoming before dark. The Wal-Mart parking lot, our overnight stop, is packed with RV's, many are on the way to or from Yellowstone we suspect.
    US 20 joins I-25 about 50 miles before reaching Casper. Wyoming 220 from Casper south to Rawlins, Wyoming gets us back to I-80 and our normal route west. Rain hit us again on I-80 in western Wyoming and eastern Utah. Louise and I are sharing driving duties. I simply can't sit in the drivers seat for an extended time. I set the timer at 2 hours and when it goes off I look for a spot to pull over so we can change drivers. Louise takes the wheel for an hour then looks for a stopping place. While she drives I have my legs propped up on pillows on the passenger seat leg rest. That coupled with wearing the surgical stockings from the hospital keep my swelling in check.
    Louise drives the approach to Salt Lake City until we reach the Park City area where the slopes become steeper and the curves tighter. I'll get us through the city and to our fuel stop at Lake Point, Utah. From there Louise drives to our next overnight stop. Near Knolls, Utah is a wonderful rest stop which we have used frequently. Most of the truck parking is on a slope but there are a few nearly level spots at the western end of the west bound rest stop. The rest stop is well off the highway and high above the highway so there is no highway noise. A truck pulls in next to us late in the evening and immediately shuts his engine down. We both sleep well tonight.
    Thursday morning we are up and away about 8:00 a.m. We've been making really good time and our scheduled arrival in San Andreas, California is assured. We're stopping for fuel as we travel west because the fuel keeps getting more expensive as we travel. We'll grab some more fuel in Winnemucca, Nevada and then head on to Fernley where we leave I-80 for the short cut to Carson City, Nevada. We find the Wal-Mart posted "No Overnight Parking." This is a change, we have stayed there many times before. We continue on south on US 395 to Hwy 88 which will become California Hwy 88. This will take us over the Sierra Nevada. It is now late and we're not going to tackle that highway at night so we find a wide area along a river and park for the night. We are alone and it is quiet. I bookmark this spot in the GPS for future use.
    Friday morning Louise fixes a fine hot breakfast and we're on our way. Only 90 miles to Gold Strike Village in San Andreas, California. These 90 miles are real mountain driving. We're on two lane roads, plenty of turn-outs and lots of tight turns. The engine brake gets a workout on the down slopes and the engine has lots of exercise on the climbs. We arrive in Jackson, California just before noon. Louise wants a grocery stop so we make our way to the Safeway in Jackson. After shopping and eating lunch we are into our campground by 2:30 p.m.
    Saturday morning we are watching our five year old granddaughter play soccer. It's just too much fun to be missed. It makes the whole trip worthwhile. We'll be here for a month enjoying both the 5 year old and our 3 year old granddaughters. More soccer games, reading books, babysitting, and just being grandparents. The girls want to know what the scars on my knees are. They trace the line of the scar on my right knee and talk about stitches. I laugh and tell them they used staples. Ewww! Wait until I get the x-rays on disk. They should arrive in the mail next week. That will keep the girls entertained for five minutes.
  21. tbutler
    Seattle, the largest city in Washington, is named for an Indian chief. Many other features in this area have Native American names. On our travels, we visited several museums and cultural centers that helped to build our understanding of and respect for the culture.
    Our first museum was in Coulee Dam on the Colville Indian Reservation, in north-central Washington. The Colville Confederated Tribes Museum has a good historical record of the tribes with many old pictures, examples of clothing and accounts of the lives of their ancestors.
    Like all of the Indians in this part of the country, salmon played a key role in the lives of the Colville. Also like other tribes, its whole world changed when it began interacting with societies from other parts of the world. The Colville Indians lost their salmon when the Grand Coulee Dam was built in the 1930s. For the Colville, salmon were not just food; salmon also played a role in their stories and legends, which were the basis of their culture.
    Below Grand Coulee Dam is the Chief Joseph Dam, which is on the border of the Colville Indian Reservation. Chief Joseph was from the Nez Perce Tribe. He was a peacful man, making agreements with the U.S. Government to move his tribe to a reservation.
    When gold was discovered on the reservation, the government wanted to move Chief Joseph to a small part of the original reservation. Young Nez Perce warriors resisted and raided white settlements. This set off a chain of events that had the U.S. Cavalry pursuing the 700-member band for an extended time before Joseph's surrender.
    Chief Joseph surrendered expecting to be able to seek out members of the tribe, which had been lost in the extended fighting. Instead, he and the rest of his tribe were taken to Kansas and then Oklahoma, where they stayed until 1885. Many members of the tribe died in Oklahoma before they were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest. They never were allowed to return to their homelands, ending up on what is now the Colville Reservation.
    Further down the Columbia River, the Wanapum and Chief Joseph Dams were built on the lands of the Wanapum Indian Tribe. Wanapum Dam visitors center hosts a Wanapum Heritage Center with a record of the history and culture of the Wanapum Indians. The Wanapum were moved from their homes so the Priest Rapids Dam could be built. Their historic homelands and homes were flooded by the lake backed up behind Priest Rapids Dam.
    One of the things said by Rex Buck Jr. at the dedication of Priest Rapids Dam, still haunts me. Rex Buck Jr. was awarded the Peace and Friendship Award by the Washington State Historical Society for his efforts to advance the cultural diversity of Washington State. He said to the crowd that day, "What we do to the Earth, the Earth will do to us."
    The Wanapum continue to follow some tribal traditions today, gathering roots and berries and fishing for salmon as permitted by Washington State law. They also operate an outreach program for schools and the community to bring them information about their culture.
    A while later we ventured onto the Olympic Peninsula. Louise wanted to start in Hoodsport and see the eastern side of the peninsula.
    After about three days touring, we learned of a celebration that would happen during the weekend. A gathering of the Pacific coastal tribes would begin with the Paddle to Squaxin. Traveling in their ceremonial and war canoes, the coastal tribes would come to Squaxin Island in the Olympic Peninsula. The Squaxiin tribe would host a meeting and potlatch on their home grounds. The canoes would arrive in the port at Olympia, Washington and the public was invited.
    We arrived shortly before noon and rode the shuttle to the port. A crowd of hundreds were there to welcome the canoes as they came into port. In the stands reserved for tribal members were drummers, chanting to welcome the arriving canoes.
    One by one and in groups of a dozen or more, canoes with three to 30 tribal members paddled their canoes into the port. Some wore ceremonial masks, others wore T-shirts. Most had painted ceremonial canoes and the native form of pointed paddles. Rowing in unison and periodically raising their paddles vertical above their heads in salute, they passed the crowd and then lined up along a roped area for their formal approach and request to land.
    I took many pictures of the first canoes, then learned that 94 canoes were expected. Even with my digital camera I had to re-evaluate the number of pictures I was taking. Besides my main 4GB card, I had an additional three 1GB cards. All but a few MBs remained at the end of the day.
    The procession of canoes was a spectacle to behold. Canoes from up the Canadian coast -- and another canoe was even flying an Alaskan flag -- came into port that day. We talked with some of the participants on the shuttle back to the parking lot. We let them know that how moved we were by the cultural display and that we appreciated being able to observe this pageant.
    We continued to the northern Olympic Peninsula. While visiting friends on Vancouver Island we visited an art gallery in Tofino. Later in an art shop in Duncan, we found several native art pieces, which we purchased for gifts. We also picked out a wall hanging for our home in Texas. Returning to the Olympic Peninsula, we continued to learn more about the tribes of the northern peninsula.
    Moving to the community of Forks on the northwestern side of Olympic National Park, we visited several tribal communities. The Makah reservation is located at Neah Bay and includes Cape Flattery, the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. To the south their original village, Ozette, was buried by mud flows. The tribe relocated to Neah Bay. Years later, beach erosion during a storm exposed the village in Ozette. Excavations of Ozette village has yielded many artifacts from pre-contact days. Those items, which provide a record of the civilization that existed before Europeans arrived around 1790, are housed in the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay.
    Another native village is atLa Push on the Pacific shore west of Forks. In 1889, their homes were burned by a settler seeking to claim their territory for his own. All of their ancient masks and cultural records were lost in the fire. Today the Quileute tribe has a resort and RV park on the coast. With beaches of Olympic National Park to their north and south, the Quileute tribe has the land around the mouth of the Quillayute River.
    The Quileute tribe was the most welcoming of all the tribes we encountered. Each Wednesday night, the tribe has a drum circle and potlatch and the public is invited. Louise and I joined them one night. We were invited into the circle and were welcomed repeatedly. We watched, listened and were invited to join in their drum circle. The men with sacred wolf masks danced in the center of the circle as the ladies danced around the perimeter. The ceremony was very stylized, and by observing, we could detect behaviors of dancers that were part of the ritual dances.
    We left that evening feeling like we had a real connection with the Quileute people and their culture. Several days later we returned to find David Wilson, carving teacher at the Quileute school. Visiting with David and his wife, Anna, we saw some of his works of art. He has carved 20-foot-high totems and ceremonial staffs, canoe paddles and many other fine works of art. We discussed a small totem with him and came up with a design. He is currently working on carving that totem for us.
    Throughout our visit to the northwestern United States, we have encountered the Native American culture and have learned much from and about them. Uniformly they have welcomed us, sometimes personally, at other times through their celebrations, museums and cultural centers. Here are a people who have endured many injustices and have had their culture strongly altered in a relatively short period of time.
    Despite the forces that have thrust them into the modern era, they continue to be friendly and open to the outside world. Perhaps they remain too innocent in their approach to the outside world. I believe they are representing their culture to the rest of the world in the best possible way. To observe their customs and culture, one can not help but come away with admiration and respect for them and their struggle to cope with the changes thrust upon them.
    Since our travels into Canada years ago, Louise and I have used the term First Nations as a better descriptor for those who were here before the rest of us. After all, 350 million of us have moved in on their territory and proceeded to tell them where to live, how to live, what language to speak and what to believe. We owe them a great deal of respect. Perhaps we can even support them in their efforts to recover their native languages, customs and culture.
  22. tbutler
    It is hard for me to add things to my BLOG when we are living in our fixed home. Now that we're back in the motor home for the summer I have dozens of things to write about. At home I've been busy settling in for two years now, kind of like a dog turning around several times before it finds just the right spot to lay down. During this period of settling in I am afraid that I've been pretty much ignoring the motor home through the winter. It's plugged in and we keep minimal heat and air conditioning on to keep the interior in top shape. When we hit the road this spring we found out all the things that had quit during the winter. As I explained to Louise, if we were living in it through the winter these things would have occurred one at a time rather than all in the first week back on the road. The list is long, but not overwhelming. We will be making repair stops as we travel. Our first three stops have been complete wash-outs, 0 for 3. Things will get better, I know it.
    Our first stop out of the blocks was at the Lone Star Chapter of FMCA rally in Rockport, Texas. Being new residents of Texas I want to be involved with a local chapter and Herman Mullins has been inviting us to join for several years so we had to give it a try. We got a royal welcome from the assembled membership. Herman was there to help us get parked! We found lots of friendly people and plenty of good food. We managed to drum up a golf game the first morning of the rally. A happy hour circle, games and other activities gave us plenty of opportunity to get aquainted with the 40+ members at this rally. To top it all off, I was on the championship bean-bag toss baseball game and got a ten dollar signing bonus! That was topped off when we got our official chapter license plate. And then we ran off with the grand prize in the door prize drawing. We actually got our entire registration fee refunded! What-a-deal!
    Leaving the rally we found out that the generator wasn't in a working mood. It gave us overheating errors on two tries to start it. So, just turn on the dash air for some relief - wrong, it blew only warm air. Louise gave the generator another try out of desperation. We planned to drive 500 miles from Rockport to Little Rock, AR and it was going to be blistering hot. Thank goodness, the generator finally gave in and ran. We turned on the roof air and kept our fingers crossed. Thank goodness it has been working ever since. The dash air is out of commission until we can get the compressor replaced. It's on order... The KVH dish has quit so we're back to broadcast TV. I was surprised to find that the number of channels that are available have increased. Our stop to determine the problem revealed a faulty computer card, no replacement available. The company wants the entire antenna unit returned to the factory... I'm thinking about it.
    Arriving at our destination in Missouri the next day, we picked up our two grandsons for a ten day tour of Nebraska and South Dakota. At ages 10 and 11, they are really interested in paleontology so we made the U of N State Muesum in Lincoln, NE our first stop. These are two exceptional 10 and 11 year old boys. They actually stop to read and learn from the displays. Sure, the gift shop is not an optional stop but they really love all those bones! Then we were off to Custer, SD. We made that our base for four days of exploring. We hiked to the outstretched arm of the Crazy Horse Monument with the annual Volksmarch. The boys would get 20 or 30 yards ahead of Louise and I then wait for us to catch up. I have lots of pictures of them standing by the side of the trail waiting! Our next day was a visit to Mount Rushmore followed by a drive through Custer State Park. I've been through the park several times and seen only an occasional bison. Thank goodness this trip was different. We saw many herds of the giant of the plains. Frequently they were only a few feet outside the window of the toad. And there were huge numbers of calves. We arrived back at the campground just before dark.
    Speaking of the campground, we stayed at Beaver Lake Campground and found it to be a great place for the boys. They actually had a collection of bicycles for use in the park, free. The boys would pick their bikes to ride and the next day get a different one. They enjoyed the playground, pool and the rabbits. Our final South Dakota activity was on the way back to Nebraska. We stopped at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD. We had arranged two special experiences for the boys. They learned to throw an atlatl in a hour session with Chelsea. We ate lunch in the motor home parked on the parking lot. Then returned to enjoy the advanced lessons in paleontology. The boys learned to map and record their finds and how to preserve the fossil bones by plaster coating them. Then they were tunred loose on a plot to find bones. With each find they would record the find on the map then continue excavation until they had exposed the bones sufficiently to identify them. As the proceeded they would update the information on the map. Chelsea was our instructor and with the help of several assistants they even got Louise and I through the exercise.
    We then drove on to Nebraska and stayed two nights at Fort Robinson State Park. We explored the reconstructed buildings on the frontier cavalry post. We walked the ground where Crazy Horse died and learned about the life of late 1800's cavalry soldiers in the western prairie. They also have a paleontology museum at Fort Robinson which the boys still found interesting! The boys are cousins and they really enjoy each others company. I told Louise we got double points for this vacation with the boys, one point for the places we took them and one point for their chance to be together for an extended time. Through all this they never tired of each others company.
    Our final stop with the boys was at the Ashfall site in northeastern Nebraska. Here there are rhinocerocus bones that were buried in a volcanic ashfall. The rhinos had clustered at a waterhole along with camels and horses and other animals, trying to cope with a smothering ash cloud. Four feet of ash fell and the animals suffocated and were buried. The site was discovered about 40 years ago and has been preserved inside a large building that protects the unfossilized bones. There are dozens of skeletons and excellent information about the nature of the animals. Both this site and the museum at Fort Robinson are extensions of the U of N State Museum in Lincoln.
    We returned the boys to their parents and picked up their sisters. Two girls ages 7 and 8 are a world apart from the two boys. We planned an eight day trip to Indiana and Kentucky. We visited the zoo in Evansville, Indiana. The youngest was disappointed that there was no elephant. They managed to make friends with a jaguar. Both girls got to hand feed a pair of giraffes and they enjoyed the many play items on the grounds of the zoo. Then drove on to Palmyra to stay in the county park there. Our first day we toured the Schimpff's Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana. This is a great place to take kids and adults. The tour covers the history of the business which has been in continuous operation by the same family line for over 100 years and they have the equipment to show for it. We got to watch them make their signature red hots and then got a sample that was still warm. We got a special treat at the county park has a swimming lake with a sand beach. The girls enjoyed several hours of play in the water and on the beach.
    The next day we drove the toad to Lexingtion, KY to vist the Kentucky Horse Park. The girls weren't ready to leave when the park closed. The horseback ride around the park was followed by several visits to the Children's Barn where they learned all about horses in hands on activities including a brush and shine lesson with a real horse. Thomas, a large black Frisian, stood absolutely still as a dozen children brushed and combed him to be show ready! We saw several shows and rode the horse drawn trolly around the park. After all that it was Pizza Hut, a break for Louise, and a long drive home. Their final experience was at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. This museum is a wonder for young children. We've visited this museum a number of times and it never disappoints. They seem to find ways to make it more interesting every time we visit. The girls loved the carousel and then spotted the play houses. They even enjoyed the Lego's and Hot Wheels exhibits. Taking after their brothers they even enjoyed the dinosaurs.
    After returning the girls we attended a baseball game for the 11 year old boy and then celebrated fathers day with my son and the 10 year old boy and the 6 year old girl. Today we rested. Louise caught up with the laundry and gave the entire motor home a thorough cleaning. I was off to spend the afternoon working at my mothers home, helping to get the house ready for sale. We buried my mother in late April followed by Louise's mother in mid-May. Both were near/in their 90's and had been in failing health over the last few years. We are parked at my daughters home and they are leaving on vacation tomorrow. I'm looking forward to some quiet days ahead. We'll leave Missouri mid-week next week and be pretty much on our own for the rest of the summer.
    Dozens of things to write about... more soon.
  23. tbutler
    We have traveled 6500 miles so far this summer. One of the things we have noticed while on the road is that there seem to be many more motor homes on the road this year than in years past. I can recall the days when we considered purchasing a motor home and then first hit the road. We would drive down any road and see lots of RV's of all kinds. Then the industry fell on hard times. Fuel prices went up and motor homes pretty quickly disappeared from the roads and highways. We traveled through New England in 2005 and saw many RV's sitting by the roadside with for sale signs everywhere we went. We saw very few motor homes on the road. That has been the case ever since. I'm sure other FMCA members have noticed the same thing.
    Based on our informal observations, this year is different. Everywhere we have traveled we have seen other motor homes on the road. Noticeably more people are out and traveling this summer. We attended a Lone Star Chapter rally in late May and the turnout was considerably larger than in the past. I wonder if this will be reflected in the turnout for the FMCA gathering in Indianapolis this month.
    We're moving on to a new park tomorrow. We've been in Sequim, WA for two weeks. We'll move to Elwa Dam just west of Port Angeles. A week, maybe more there will give us a chance to explore other areas of Olympic National Park. Most of the park is wilderness so there are only a few roads that provide access to the park. Our days of backpacking are past so we don't get far into the interior. Still each road is an adventure. We drove to the Deer Park Campground and Blue Mountain viewpoint on Saturday. Deer Park Road is 18 miles long from Hwy 101 to the peak of Blue Mountain with the last 8 miles being a narrow gravel road. It is winding, steep and quite scenic. Louise was quite tense as many of the views were out her window on the way up the mountain. She was frequently looking down a very steep slope extending hundreds of feet down the mountainside. I was busy looking for oncoming traffic because the narrow road required negotiating with other drivers to find a place to pass. Fortunately, all drivers were taking their driving very seriously and they were watching for us as much as we were watching for them.
    Once we got to the top, the view was well worth the drive. We had the mountaintop experience without making the climb ourselves. We did walk a short trail up to the peak. To the south we could see the interior mountains of the park. Even now in August, these peaks up to 7980 foot high are holding significant amounts of snow. To the east we were looking down the steep slopes of Blue Mountain to the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. Off to the north was the town of Sequim where we are staying. Beyond that we could see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across the strait we could see the southern shore of Vancouver Island. On the horizon to the northeast the snow capped volcano, Mount Baker, stood out above the surrounding terrain. All around us the view was spectacular. The trail guide highlighted the role of rain or in this case lack of it in shaping the flora and fauna in this area. Blue Mountain and Sequim are in the rain shadow of the higher mountains to the west. Those mountains take all the moisture from the Pacific air as it is lifted over them. As the air descends the eastern side of the mountains it is too dry to drop much precipitation, this forms a rain shadow.
    One of the other delights we've found here on the Olympic Peninsula is the Olympic Discovery Trail. This bicycle and walking trail extends 130 miles from Port Townsend in the east to La Push on the Pacific Coast. Much of the trail in the area where we are is paved. In other areas the trail is unpaved and in many places to the west it still uses the shoulder of roads. We've ridden two sections of the trail here at Sequim. To the east the trail crosses two wooden railroad trestles. One is 410 feet long and stands 86 feet above the stream below. The section passes through Sequim Bay State Park and goes on the Blyn, a community of Pacific Coastal Indians. We ate a snack at the Hwy 101 rest stop next to the trail then went on to the native art shop to browse the work of some local artists. Our return trip was easier than we expected and we enjoyed a happy hour beverage sitting in the shade when we got back to the motor home.
    Just as we are seeing more RV's on the road, we are seeing parks closer to full capacity. There have been a few no vacancy signs at parks so we are making reservations as we move. This is something we have seldom done in the past. If this is a sign of the times it is a good sign.
  24. tbutler
    Louise’s mother, Irene, lived in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, for many years. When we visited her one of the things she would always talk about was the production of her fruit trees. She kept count of the number of oranges, lemons and grapefruit that each of her three trees produced. We used to laugh about her recordkeeping tendencies. She did serve as the chief accountant for the Denver airport for many years, so she came by the recordkeeping honestly.
    Tonight as I was recording our mileage for the day, it occurred to me that I’m just like Irene, keeping records of all our travels. The records help me time and again as I write comments on a forum discussion or when I want to know what we were doing in any given year of our travels. Each time we park, on the road or in a campground, I record the town, the mileage and the distance traveled for the day. There is an entry for every fuel stop and maintenance stop with the date and mileage of each occurrence.
    I have another record where I list all the states we visit each year. I can tell you how many times we’ve taken the motor home to Nebraska (6) or Georgia (1). I started this listing later on when it occurred to me that I didn’t have a brief descriptive record of our travels. It all helps me recall all of our travels.
    Sorry Georgia, I’ve had better intentions, but interestingly, both of our planned trips were canceled by health emergencies Irene experienced. Shortly after purchasing our new motor home at a Monaco International rally in Louisiana, we planned to take our time making our way along the Gulf coast and then up the Atlantic coast to Kitty Hawk for the 100th anniversary of flight. We got a call from Louis’s sister, Carol, who had been staying with her mother. Irene had been in the hospital and was recovering but needed someone at home with her during the recovery. Carol wanted to get back to her family, so we were off to Lake Havasu City. We drove from Louisiana to Lake Havasu City in a matter of four days. We left after several weeks and rushed back across country, stopping only to fuel up and sleep. We got to Kitty Hawk in time to enjoy the celebration.
    Several years later we planned to get to Florida to see a launch of the NASA Space Shuttle. We had reservations along the Florida coast for the launch and also made reservations for the flying celebration, Fun N Sun, in Florida. From there we would journey north up the Atlantic coast. Again, Irene was in need. We got a call, heart attack, in the hospital, it sounded grave. We packed up our winter camp in 24 hours and 48 hours later we were in Denver at Irene’s bedside. To this day I have not seen a shuttle launch and of course we know how that story ends.
    We buried Irene this spring, shortly after her 91st birthday. She leaves behind many memories stored in our minds and hearts. Her fruit trees became an important part of her life and the records she kept were evidence of her dedication to them and her success. Many of her friends and acquaintances remember her for all the fruit she shared with them. She would load up sacks of fruit in the trunk of her car and share them with anyone who wanted them each Sunday after church.
    Over our ten years of full-timing, we spent many days parked at Irene’s home. She had a 30-amp outlet on the outside of the garage and water available from the spigot in the backyard. We could come and live next door to her as needed. Our motor home has given us the freedom to be there for our families. Those times are even more valuable to us today.
  25. tbutler
    Two years ago studies came out that identified one of the most dangerous items we use daily. It is an item that we all enjoy and doesn’t seem that dangerous at all. It isn’t cigarettes or liquor. It isn’t fast cars or fast women! One of the most dangerous things for people is the chair you are sitting in right now as you read this. Yes, I too am sitting in a chair as I write this. We all love to sit in chairs. Chairs are in front of TV’s and that is a glorious reason for sitting in a chair. Chairs and couches turn us into potatoes and there lies the danger. Overweight and inactivity are sure paths to an early end.
    Today as I was sitting on the couch watching football, I saw the NFL logo and the slogan, “Play 60” on every field. One of the NFL adopted causes is Play 60, a program to encourage at least 60 minutes of activity for children in school. When I was in school, I didn’t need an advocate to promote 60 minutes of activity in a day. I didn’t have the distractions that face our children and grandchildren today. I rode my bike to my friend’s house. We played sandlot ball. We climbed trees and played at various games. I remember spending many days exploring the mystery of the woods behind our home, following a little trickle of a stream for great distances to see where it went.
    Young people today have many forms of entertainment which do not involve physical activity. The variety of electronic devices that entertain our children today competes directly with physical activity. Once you fall into the trap of sitting, physical activity becomes more difficult. Muscles atrophy and weight increases. This all makes moving more difficult, if not painful. It is a disaster for our children to start out so early in life with this challenge. It is an unfortunate truth for those of us who are now retiring to find out that what we have dreamed of all our lives will end our lives before our time.
    I don’t know about you, but my idea of retirement always involved a picture of relaxing in a rocking chair. I am guessing that came from seeing my grandparents sitting in their rocking chairs. It sounds like a great life to sit and watch the world go by, but it really isn’t that great. That rocking chair will kill you.
    It doesn’t matter what you do to exercise. If you can manage any motion at all, you should engage yourself daily in some activity. Walk, swim, garden, bowl, golf, yoga, Wii, Pilates, or Zumba, it all counts. It all raises your metabolism, burns calories and helps to keep your muscles, heart and lungs in good working condition.
    Cold weather is settling in across the country. I love our Wii Fit program. The exercises are not exceedingly strenuous but do work on basic challenges for older adults. As you and I get older, the small muscles in our legs lose their strength and flexibility. Our ability to balance ourselves slowly deteriorates. We don’t notice it until our ability to maneuver and balance becomes a serious hindrance to our movement. Doing yoga or playing the balance games on the Wii helps to restore the strength and control of these muscles. The Wii gives good feedback, indicating the level of your success at each activity. We take the Wii with us in the motor home and try to use it as often as possible. Even if you can’t be outdoors, you can benefit by using the Wii or other exercise programs indoors. The point is, don’t just sit there.
    Now the disclaimer: Before starting any exercise program, consult a physician. The New Year is coming and many people put exercise programs into their list of resolutions. Often this results in a brief period of activity which results in abandoned equipment and a feeling of failure when the program is abandoned. Start small with your exercise program and fit it into your regular daily routine where it fits best. Ten minutes of activity on a regular basis is better 30 minutes a day for several weeks which ends when your schedule no longer fits that much activity. All exercise programs wax and wane. Schedules change, injuries occur, enthusiasm lags. The important thing is to stay with it as best you can for as long as you are able. Live long and prosper. Have a happy New Year!
  • Create New...