Monday, January 28, 2013

R and R

R and R, otherwise known as rest and relaxation, is a term I first heard used from military types. Now a days I use it to describe the time off we occasionally get from gate guarding. We do all sorts of things when we get settled in and wound down. You can get some exercise and have fun cheaply by attending any one of quite a few flea markets scattered about the San Antonio area. We are also busy trying to find tires for our beloved Santa Fe. Seems the caliche roads are just too rough for the Bridgestones we currently run. I pulled into a store and went in to shop and when I came out the front right tire was flat. A quick inspection revealed that the tread had split open; first time I'd seen that! Also, we had a mechanic thoroughly go over our RV's engine in hopes that we can actually run 100 miles without a major incident. While he was here I pointed out the odd wear pattern on the right front tire. I thought we had an alignment or shock problem, but he said a bead had separated in the tire. So we're looking for a pair of steer tires too. Today we are going to work on the never ending task of dust and dirt removal from the coach and the car, It seems the phone rings with the call asking us to take a gate when we are in the middle of something, or we haven't gotten everything done that we intended. It seems contrary to the whole rest and relaxation thing to have an agenda to follow, but we reluctantly have made a list and are trying to get everything done this time. So we have plenty to do; just not sure how motivated we'll be. I'll call it a victory if we check something off of the list. After all, we are on R and R.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kudos to Y'all

Periodically I check the stats section of my blog. Google provides a breakdown of your audience, including what area they're in. Don't worry, it doesn't tell me your exact location, just the country. I am always amazed that I have readers from all parts of the globe. I am also pleased that at least 25 of you have subscribed to my drivel. So; either you're very bored or perhaps you actually find a nugget or two of useful information. I have promised to always tell the truth; as best I can, and will continue doing that. It may disturb some of you, but to me it's the best policy. Anyway; when I write on this subject it is primarily to thank all of my readers. I might still publish without the benefit of the stats, but you definitely motivate me, Hopefully to bigger and better things. THANK YOU!

BTW-we just got news we were released! Off to the RV park!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keeping your Cool

I am amazed at how much I learn about recreational vehicles on a regular basis. I'm a car guy and I consider myself to be a pretty good mechanic. I spent years cranking wrenches on aircraft as a licensed airframe and power plant mechanic. RV's are a whole different animal though and require a different skill set to keep them running. Most frustrating to me are the systems that require a trained technician to repair and service them. I could have saved thousands if I just knew something about air conditioning and electronics. On top of that, getting a trained service person to work on a RV is difficult, at best. Recently we had an engine overheat and   burn up when a radiator hose blew; most likely due to age. I have owned a ton of vehicles and never replaced a radiator hose. As I have painfully learned and repeatedly stated in this blog; do yourself a favor and have your hoses inspected and/or replaced regularly. That includes you folks with tow vehicles. Now we are again experiencing overheating and I have revisited the whole rear engine motorhome cooling system. Most pushers are diesel and turbocharged. That means they have both a radiator and a charge air cooler-the radiator cools the engine and the charge air cooler cools the turbo. Two main things conspire to destroy the efficiency of both those coolers. Until recently diesels ventilated their crankcase via a tube, called a slobber tube. Gasoline and newer diesel engines use a PCV valve that recirculates this oily mixture. That oily mixture emanating from the slobber tube blows right into the radiator and the fan loves to help embed it. Additionally dust, mud and road grime find their way up there, also with the fan's help. The cure for the first problem is to lengthen the slobber tube by adding a little length with some durable, high temp hose. To help with both problems, Freightliner recommends spraying down the radiator with Simple Green and then washing it down thoroughly. We have also used Dawn mixed with water with a lot of success-we use a small garden sprayer to apply it, You should gain access to the unexposed side of the radiator and do that side also. How often depends on the conditions you are encountering. By the way, every source I looked at says stay away from pressure washers as it can damage the radiator. I also have been told the pros at most Freightliner facilities have a purpose built pit where they can get to the radiator and steam clean it. It's supposed to do wonders. By the way, the industries solution to rear radiator clogging was to put the radiators in the side(s) of the motorhome. Early models had difficulty getting proper airflow and engine overheating was prevalent, so keep that in mind if you're contemplating buying one. Finally, I hope I raised some awareness about keeping your radiator clean so you (and your engine) can keep it cool.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Since less folks are attending the inaugural today the press is crowing about the possibility of a record crowd for a second inaugural. Always looking for some light (that no one else sees) at the end of the tunnel, I guess. I couldn't care less; even if you had sent me a hotel and flight package-and you can keep the rental car and tour of Washington, too. The press is crowing about Michelle's bangs and what she will wear to the Hip Hop Ball; I mean REALLY? Here I politely submit the peoples address.

My fellow Americans, including those of you dumb enough to come out and fight the mobs in Washington.  By the end of this speech our national debt will have risen enough to pay off the personal debt of several thousand American households. Several million dollars of that debt will have been wasted on a sham inaugural-the President was officially sworn in yesterday  Congress will have again spent another day doing absolutely nothing. Chicago will again be in mourning over the loss of yet more of their youth, as more people die there annually than in any combat theater we are currently embroiled in. Speaking of combat, the indeterminable war in Afghanistan continues indeterminably while the Taliban counts the days down till we call it quits and again leave another unfinished conflict. And the combat between the President, Congress and his cabinet continues. A divided country will celebrate a fractious national holiday, celebrating a civil rights icon while discontent and hatred simmers just below the surface.of a still divided America. Until we get control of immigration the America of our forefathers will continue its erosion into oblivion. The proud, flag waving, nationalistic citizen is a rarity anymore; replaced by a melting pot of both documented and undocumented immigrants  Immigrants who seem to have little desire to embrace the customs, freedoms and privileges we have long cherished.. As this cauldron bubbles our infrastructure deteriorates, little gets done in congress, violence permeates our society, moral boundaries are stretched to their limits and a discontent populace sees no escape from it all. We now have a fractured electorate with the election results to show for it. History will judge us by the measures we take within the second term of this president. Our country surely cannot continue without a course correction. Perhaps in the upcoming mid term elections?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What to Believe

Missy and I have started down the road to try to lose some weight. We have been down this road before; but she seems determined and has enrolled in a doctor monitored weight loss regimen. As most of my dear readers know, obesity has become the scourge of our country. I make no excuses; but since I quit smoking I have been unable to shed the weight that followed  Now I am suffering from heart disease and exercise is a dicey thing. One of the ways we are going about this is to limit our intake. I know that sounds simple; but getting down around or under our recommended 2000 calories a day is tough. And Missy is on a 500 calorie a day diet! What makes this especially difficult is that a lot of items labeled as low fat or low calorie really aren't. And to further confuse you, labels like to state calories per serving and you have to figure out what a serving is. Or the amount that they call a serving wouldn't fill a bird. One thing we have done is remove soda from the house. I have long advocated drinking tea and we have been keeping diet green tea in the house. Even so I do like to consume a soda or two and diet soda supposedly has chemicals that will do all kinds of bad things to you. What to do? Well, we bought one of those carbonating machines from Soda Stream and quit buying soda pop. The benefits are lower cost and less sugar. Also; even though it is easy to make a soda, the steps required to do so seem to cut our consumption. My credo has always been everything in moderation and; even though I am overweight, I have stayed at the same weight (or close to it) for some time. I hope to drop twenty pounds or so which will make me happy. If nothing else we will have become more aware of our caloric consumption.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Recourse?

Time after time we have had bad experiences with mechanics and technicians here in South Texas. Eighty percenters is what my friend Andy calls them. We limped through the summer, going through three or four air conditioning technicians and thousands of dollars, and neither one of our heat pumps work. We thought we had the rear heat pump working, albeit without the heat since the technician ruined the reversing valve. So we tore into the front heat pump to replace a burned out fan motor. After removing and re installing the front unit we found it didn't cool. Another technician stepped in and said he'd get it running for $500. I got the unit back and re installed it. It ran for about twenty minutes and stopped cooling. Meanwhile the back unit started blowing the breaker and I shut it down. Two eighty percent jobs coming to fruition at the same time-wow. We recently had the coach in the shop for about three months because the engine overheated and burned up. It was a constant battle with the mechanic to get anything done. The coach has not run right since we got it back. Now we are again fighting overheating and a mechanic that has looked at it says that the mechanic who replaced the engine failed to clean and flush the radiator. Additionally all of the hoses appear to be rotten and need replacing, All of that should have been accomplished during the engine replacement. We have also had fuel and other fluid leaks since the engine replacement. Another eighty percent job. We had the floor under our toilet rot out from water that came from a valve that failed. The bathroom floor is tile so it was impossible to know the under floor structure was rotting till the toilet came loose. We hired a mechanic to rip up the tile and repair/replace the underfloor structure. The toilet is still loose and some of the tile has not been replaced. Yep, another eighty percent job. When we were trying to sell our Jeep we finally had to take it back from the mechanic after waiting weeks to get it repaired. Turns out the biggest problem we were concerned about was a ten minute fix, The mechanic said the rear seal was leaking on the engine and that the transmission had to be ripped out. All it was was a oil sensor leak; a simple fix. I'm not sure what percent that job was. We even ran into this problem trying to get our laptops repaired. One of them (mine) is rotting in its carry bag because the repairman finally returned it without a hard drive after three months of constant harassment. That wasn't even close to an eighty percent job. We are now going to concentrate on getting the cooling problem addressed, as getting down the road is the most important thing. The main problem we have is we are terrified that we again are going to find ourselves holding the bag on another eighty per cent job. We don't have the money to hire legal counsel and persecute these idiots. It appears that there is no recourse for us and others that have suffered from incompetence. More and more it appears that I'm going to have to get involved in order to get things done properly.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Aroma Therapy

Chili Verde is a southwest tradition and really not that complicated. It is a cousin to the traditional red chili with the main ingredient being pork versus beef. Missy and I used to cook chili competitively and won or placed in a many cook offs. I feel qualified to share some info on this wonderful dish as I won several championships cooking chili verde. A bonus is that it is also a healthy dish and; just like red chili, it can be used on a wide variety of dishes. For instance, if you have had juevos rancheros you have more than likely had chili verde. You can look up a wide variety of chili verde recipes; but it is hard to go wrong. You'll need tomatillos, onions, jalapenos, serranos, some mild chilies like a poblano or an anaheim, some garlic, cilantro, chicken broth and some pork. Basically cut and deseed your chilis, clean and quarter your tomatillos and add them and the rest of your veggies into a pot and simmer them in chicken broth. Fry your pork in a separate pan and add it to the veggie mix once it has broke down into a sauce like consistency. Season to taste and you've got it!

Okay! A week has almost gone by since we cooked the chili and we have had no internet. We got a call late last Thursday (the 3rd of Jan) and were told that a gate was available. We were told to be there at 0630 the following morning. The aforementioned chili verde had not even been started at this point and the house needed to be broken down. All in chilly, wet weather and at night. We performed our usual ritual; Missy breaks down the interior and I disconnect and take care of the outside. To make it to the job site near Fall City by 0630 required us to wake up at 0330-Yikes! We had run the motor home the night before and knew we needed power steering fluid. So we left the campground, went to a truck stop, and bought the fluid. We left the motor home idling and, when we came out of the store, diesel fuel was spraying everywhere from somewhere in the engine compartment. We executed a panicked shut down and began exploring. We believe that our problems all stem from the sh*tty engine replacement job. This was no exception as we found and secured a loose fuel line. Already late, we again headed out. Some twenty miles or so later, steam began to emanate from the engine compartment. The engine had overheated from a combination of a clogged radiator and loose connections...AGAIN. I had specifically asked that the radiator be removed and cleaned during the engine change, but that never occurred. As you can imagine we were freaked out because the last overheat problem cost us an engine. Good Sam EVRS again saved us and located a wonderful mechanic after we limped into Poteet. I had to wait about six hours; but he finally repaired some leaks and got me down the road. As a bonus he also tightened a sensor on the transmission and our shifting problems magically disappeared. You don't suppose someone missed that during the engine change, do you?

We are now ensconced on a gate and the internet is up and ginning. I have mixed feelings about Wild Blue/Exceed internet. They have stuck by us and been very helpful though. However, tuning it in has been a challenge and the installer told us that the dish itself and the connecting wires are much more sensitive that the satellite television gear. It remains to be seen if it can stand up to the rigors of oil field life. I have been told several of you have asked what happened to the blog and I am very appreciative. Apparently some of my dear readers get some enjoyment from this blog.

A footnote or two. We again were treated exceedingly well by Hidden Valley RV park. I will not disclose what they charge us; but they take us in even though we never know how long our stay will last or what time we'll be coming-or going. Mark and Teri are wonderful hosts and "get" the whole oil field mentality. I'm just paying it forward, so check them out if you get a chance. Finally; we went to a movie at the Alamo Draft House and had a bang up time. The concept is that you can eat and drink while catching a flick. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

R and R

R and R stands for rest and relaxation. We have been rotating off of gate duty about every three to four months. Some folks can stand a longer stretch; but we find this conveniently fits our endurance. I could last longer; but Missy would be hard to deal with ( -: The rigors of gate guarding aren't extremely physical, but do wear you down. Mentally it's a constant challenge. Long hours, endless dust, monotony, the requirement of a constant presence, etc. all wear on you. It's curious how the things most folks take for granted become a novelty to be appreciated after a stint on a gate. Things like travelling together in the same car, shopping together, sleeping in the same bed-at the same time, going out to dinner or on a date. All the things you basically can't do when working a gate. Our agenda is pretty loose, but we have a bucket list we'd like to check off. For those of you wondering or who'd like an idea or two of what to do in the area, here's our plan. (We aren't big on downtown San Antonio, but everyone should see the Alamo and the river walk.) We plan to hit one of the Alamo Draft Houses where you can see a movie, have an adult beverage and eat. Why didn't I find out about this sooner! Also planned is a trip to the RV show where we always learn a thing or two and ogle over rigs we can ill afford. If the weather holds, a jaunt to a local open air market is in the works. And we plan to eat at one the many excellent restaurants in the area. Finally, we plan to rest and relax and rejoice in not hearing and responding to the gate alarm!

BTW-Happy New Year!!