Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I used to attend a church in South Florida which had a very dynamic preacher. Every year, around Thanksgiving, the church held a service where the congregation was asked to share what they were grateful for. Whatever a person's reason for attending that service or no matter what they may have thought of it, it still made you reflect and appreciate what you had.
I have travelled and lived in some remote locales. It gave me a perspective on life that the average person never gets. I have seen people living in a dilapidated shack no bigger than your average closet. I have seen those same people dread the annual rainy season for fear that their hovel might not remain attached to the hillside it was perched on. Their day to day existence was a struggle, yet they somehow remained upbeat in a literal sewer of crime, with hunger their constant companion. The army had to accompany the cops if and when they ever penetrated the warrens and narrow streets. Despite all this, the people of these slums lived for and looked forward to the annual Carnival celebration. A great chunk of  their annual earnings went into the purchase and fabrication of their costumes. Makes you think; doesn't it?
While I am not living in anything remotely resembling a hovel, I still very much appreciate what I have. I am in the autumn of my years (hell it might be the winter), suffering from heart disease. Although there are mornings where I don't act like it, I cherish every day that I am above ground and breathing. I had even hoped to spend my final years in an RV. Health and other circumstances accelerated my schedule and I would prefer to be travelling a bit more; but, all in all, I am happy with my life.
I keep a wary eye on those folks in their hovels and have a deep concern as to where this world is going. However, I am grateful for what I have, especially the ability to travel a bit now. I am grateful for simple things; like not having to count my pennies every day to get by. Every time I see change in the coin holder (or our little Tupperware bowl) and dollars in our ceramic "retirement" jar I smile. When we started this adventure, it wasn't even remotely like that. My wish and suggestion for you this Thanksgiving is that you take stock of your situation. Surely you can find something to be grateful for. If not, just reread the part of this dealing with those folks living in a hovel on a mountainside.  Then start working on your costume...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I Warned You

If you've read my blog for any length of time you know I have written many posts about South Texas weather. If you haven't taken it to heart or just joined the rest of my dear readers; last night should have been a wake up call. Learning to adapt to these wild variations of temperatures, wind and rain are an integral part of surviving in South Texas. Last night deserves mentioning; if for no other reason, because of the wild winds. We have brought the slideouts in only once in the time we have worked in the patch. Last night came very close to being the second time. Despite the wholesale assault on the traditional American family structure, I still consider myself to be the De facto head of the household. As such, I feel it necessary to remain stoic and calm during storms. This even while our 5ver is rocking and rolling and the slideout toppers are stretched to their limits (and yo yowing in and out); all the while flapping horrendously. Truth be told, I am kind of fatalistic about the whole deal. After all, I have nowhere that I can go. It is also the reason we insure everything to the max. If the rocking and rolling are too much for you to bear, you may have to look elsewhere for work. By the way, did I mention it is going to be around 80 degrees today and near freezing tomorrow morning? At least we don't live in Buffalo!

Friday, November 21, 2014

News from the Author

If you are on Facebook I have started a page titled Gate Guard Info and RV Maintenance Tips, which coincides with a lot of what I write about here. Simply shoot me a request (via Facebook) to join and you can use the page to ask questions, start discussions or just peruse the entries that hopefully will eventually fill it. Unlike so many other administrators; I have started the page for every one's benefit and promise to rarely, if ever, censor entries.
I was very pleased this morning to find out that Steve Kroft (one of my favorite reporters) will file a report this Sunday on 60 Minutes concerning the condition and degradation of our countries infrastructure. I'm sure some of my dear readers have grown tired of my crusade to increase awareness of this problem. Of course, politics rears its ugly head in the story. Somehow, the federal gas tax has become the primary resource for funding to attack this cancer. Unfortunately, the mere mention of raising said tax spells defeat for any politician. Surely we are better than this and can come together with some sort of a solution. I personally look forward to the report.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Necessity Makes Strange Bedfellows

There is never an opportune moment for a refrigerator to break down. When it does a wholesale scramble begins to find a cool place to store all of your chilled goods. We are fortunate in that we have a small auxiliary freezer, so the frozen goods were stuffed in there. We also had, earlier this year, also bought the high dollar Igloo equivalent of the Yeti cooler. That gave us a place to put the refrigerated goods. We also used the opportunity to thin out the refrigerator. The technician that came over to diagnose the fridge, did not engender a lot of confidence. However, the evidence of ammonia leakage was readily apparent and the unit was declared unrepairable. We managed to get the technicians fee cut in half-he wasn't there long enough to merit any more-and got a rough quote of $1200 plus installation. Before he was out the door I had a business on the phone willing to sell me a refrigerator for $300. It turns out the salesman that sold us our 5th wheel was willing to help us out. I didn't care for him as a salesperson and my judgment was right on; he now runs the parts department for them. Missy and others have made fun of my hours spent poring over the internet. Let me tell you something folks, I have saved thousands of dollars (if not more) and learned a PhD's worth of free information doing it. Part of our problem with RV techs (besides the trouble of finding a knowledgeable one that will come out) is that we possess more than enough knowledge to tell when the guy knows what he is doing; or doesn't. It's frustrating; pure and simple. Another thing that I refuse to do is to pay the original quote; unless it is reasonable and fair. Anyway, every deal comes at a cost, and the cost of this one involved a trip to Houston to pick it up. Even so, with a quote of $1200 for the refrigerator and another $300 to install it, I believe we are money ahead. We had to get a little help manhandling the fridge; but then it was simply four wires, a propane line and a few screws. Add a tank of diesel for the truck and a few hours of our time and the $1500 fridge was in at less than half the quoted price.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Salute to Those that Served

I have mixed feelings about the theaters our military have (and are) being deployed to.  Some of my dear readers have read some of my rants viv a vis this very subject. I am a military brat and a proud, former Marine; so I don't say this lightly. In fact, never doubt my support for our troops, wherever they may be deployed.
Besides the obvious nod that I wanted to give my fellow veterans, I especially wanted to salute my father. Other than his immense joy for regaling others about his many exploits, he was not given to boasting about his accomplishments. He enlisted as a private in the Air Force, as low a rank you could enlist as in those days. My father had an intense "curiosity bug" in him ; something I inherited. He also had a mechanical aptitude (something else I inherited) second to none. Those qualities and a bright mind got him into the "Bootstrap" program as it was winding down. The "Bootstrap" program basically allowed enlisted men to test and qualify to become commissioned officers. A commission was also a prerequisite to being able to earn your "wings" and qualify to serve as a pilot; something my father dearly wanted to do. My father was one of those that transitioned through the end of the prop days into the jet fighters of today. He flew jet fighters in the days when just piloting one was taking your life in your own hands. You know, the guys with parachutes on their back and a white scarf around their necks. He married his high school sweetheart; had us kids and drug us all over the world. In the meantime he finished his education and rose to the rank of Colonel. Though it irritated him till the end, I oft times referred to him as Colonel out of respect. My time in service to this country doesn't even merit a comment when compared to his service. In the autumn of his life, my father continued to travel. He was a member of the Explorers Club, a fellow in the Royal Geographic Society and his name can be found in many publications. He now rests in Arlington National Cemetery where he was interred with full military honors.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Warding Off the Chill

It looks like a Polar Vortex is getting its act together and should affect folks as far south as South Florida. Most of us should see temperatures in the forties, if not lower. Sometime ago I advised my dear readers to get out the heaters and check them out. If you didn't do that, DO IT NOW! I also recommended that you run your on board propane gas; we call it our big ass, heater. However; we also recommend that gate guards use the free electricity we enjoy due to the high consumption of most propane heaters. Unfortunately, most RV's are not wired for that kind of amp draw, so gate guards should get creative in that regard. If you are fortunate enough to have both a 30 and 50 amp plug on your support trailer or generator you can buy an adaptor from Amazon to plug extension cords into. Then run a heavy duty extension cord through the slideout seal for the heater(s).
RV's are generally not built or suited for extended periods of cold weather. We suffered through a winter once (with some days at or below zero) in our Class A and will never do it again. If you have slideouts, they are notorious for leaking. Sometimes it as simple as ensuring that they are fully extended. For some reason it seems easier to note the leakage in cooler weather. I can feel it seeping in, particularly on one slideout. Everyone's situation will vary, but strips of foam placed in the opening may help. Finally, get your "long handles" and other winter apparel out, or bought. If you're like me you'll resist getting out of shorts and clogs for as long as possible. The other morning I had a hoodie and shorts on. Unfortunately, the cold will win out so prepare now.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Shocking Story, Building an Ark and The World's Longest Vehicle Purchase

The temperatures have moderated and we have even occasionally been going without air conditioning. While closing up the house a couple of evenings ago, I attempted to close the main door. Like many RV's the main door is held open by a gust lock to prevent the wind from slamming it closed. When my hand touched the gust lock I received a substantial electrical shock. We called the folks from Progressive Industries; they built the surge protector, and they ran me through some troubleshooting procedures. They admonished us to be very careful and to call an electrician. Our service person promised to be out first thing the next morning. That morning I took the hounds for a walk. When I returned with the Beagle and she hit the metal entrance steps with her wet feet, she wailed and cried like nobodies business. Getting the eighty plus pound Husky up the steps proved nigh impossible till I shut the power off. At that point, I decided to remove and check the surge protector out. I should have done that earlier as it smelled distinctly like burnt electrical wiring and components. The folks from Progressive Industries are first class and stand behind their products. Their equipment has a lifetime warranty, provided gratis for the original owner. We are sending the surge protector in for them to repair. The service person showed up as promised and checked things out; even though the RV was not showing any voltage on its externals. We moved on and I had him check out my security lights. One had fallen during the last storm and he replaced the bulb. He began to check out the other light and finally plugged it in. Meanwhile, I was on the other side of the RV and reaching to open a basement access door. When I made contact, a strong shock flowed through my body and they say I wailed like the Beagle had earlier. I remain unconvinced that that was the problem, as the folks at Progressive Industries think it has something to do with the generator. The RV is no longer "hot" and I eagerly await news from Progressive Industries. Meantime, we are looking at purchasing an upgraded surge protector that is supposed to "kill" power to the RV before these types of anomalies occur. The phenomenon is apparently known as "hot skin" and fairly common. Even though we have a grounding rod connected to the generator, I plan to put one in for the RV.
Occasionally in the fall, in South Texas, we get flows of moisture laden atmosphere emanating out of the Mexican Pacific coast. When they stall out they can produce epic amounts of rain. This time the air was fueled by a hurricane in the Pacific, but the front is moving. We have had copious amounts of rain, ranging from an inch to a half a foot or more in the last forty eight hours. Work is proceeding on our Ark as I feel this event may not be the only reason we 'll need it. Seriously, getting anything done outside is problematic as there is standing water and ankle deep soft mud everywhere.
On August 22nd, I took delivery of a 2005 Jeep Wrangler Sport. It was plagued by a "check engine" light, seemingly impossible to extinguish by the dealership's mechanics. Although I had had a satisfactory previous buying experience with them, the deal was soured by a wide variety of factors. You can read about it in previous blog entries, but it was an epic journey. I made the purchase at a new branch of the dealership that was woefully unprepared to sell vehicles, mush less repair them. My salesperson was either ill, hung over and/or suffering from some malady. He was eventually let go. Management seemed uncaring and they were unresponsive. The manager and several sales people were transferred during the process. An epic amount of contracts were signed and the Jeep made many trips to and from the shop in San Antonio. When the Jeep was delivered for the final time and the light illuminated yet again, I said no mas! I had noticed a 2010 Ford F-250 4x4 on the dealerships website. It was a four by four, which is what we had primarily wanted, and it had less than 50,000 miles on it. During the odyssey of the Jeep purchase I was told that EVERY vehicle goes through a thorough intake check and any anomalies are repaired before it goes up for sale. Not! At least not in my experience. The F-250 ran well but had a panel conspicuously missing from the dash and several trouble lights illuminated. Not again, I thought. This time; even though it took about a week and involved some teeth gnashing, we got everything we wanted and the vehicle was delivered with everything replaced and/or working. Since we took delivery in New Braunfels, in the late afternoon, and had to navigate through San Antonio in pouring rain, the truck got a thorough shake down cruise.  After getting management involved (even though they refused to communicate with me) and using my experience with the Jeep for leverage, we got a pretty good deal. Believe it or not, I still like and recommend H&R Auto Motors. There are a few good souls that work there.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I have suffered through an amazing amount of weather phenomenon while working in South Texas. The closest I ever came to throwing in the towel was a cold, sleety night near the border. Boy, that was miserable. I rarely, if ever, complain about the weather in this blog. Yesterday was an exception. I conservatively figure we received two inches of rain, with most of it falling within an hours time.
In the middle of the deluge the area surrounding our huge, heavy 240 volt Halogen bulb washed out and it crashed into the trailer; scaring the bejeebers out of me. Fortunately, the damage was minor, especially considering the noise it made. Shortly after that, our service person showed up, hoping to provide us with water and fuel. After several tries (the support trailer is about 100 feet off the road, in a corn field), we finally had to give up. Both of us were soaked and the truck and trailer had almost gotten stuck several times. I had water and mud marks just below my knees that bore witness to the deluge. To add insult to injury, the service trailer blew a tire in the process. I can count the times on one hand that I have not been able to receive fuel and water out here. I desperately need to get some lights going, but I can't get through the soupy mud surrounding the trailer. Now I am facing the dilemma of how to get at least enough fuel to last a few days, or until things dry out enough to get a truck in. Talk about stymied!

Breaking News!

If our government has made an effort to secure a release for Sgt. Tahmooressi, it certainly has not been publicized much. I'm sure there are a wide variety of stories, if not more excuses, as to why this Marine had guns and ammunition in his possession at a border crossing with Mexico. He said he was confused and unable to turn around in time to avoid crossing into Mexico. I don't know if the signage has improved, but I can say that I suffered through the same confusion near a border crossing. Fortunately, I was able to get turned around before finding myself committed to cross. Today word came that this Marine was finally released. As far as I am concerned, Mexico should never have held him any longer that it took to verify his story.

Have you read the story of Boyd Bushman, a scientist formerly employed by Lockheed Martin? In a near death video he purports to not only have proof of alien life, he also has photos. More is surely coming out of this story.

Finally; and this is truly scary, a reporter investigating the Benghazi incident has video of her computer seemingly being acted upon by an outside force. Sharyl Attkisson  is a reporter, formerly working for CBS. If the allegations and video are indeed factual, the perpetrator(s) need to be found and punished. If it was an act by our government, it is outrageous and should have all Americans up in arms.