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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Smack Down

By Gary:

Our humble home is graced by the presence of my younger daughter Cora, visiting from Tacoma to attend a friend's baby shower. Since it's been more than a few months since she's been to Colorado, we toured the town a little and talked about the changes that've taken place here in Longmont, about what her life has been like in Washington state, and about all the upcoming plans on our end.
After enjoying a great Italian lunch at "Pinnochio's", then visiting what is slowly become an empty house, we departed to go visit the new 5th-wheel 'home' and see about grabbing some provisions for dinner later on (you know; Rum, Ice, and ather basic necessities). Our plans got changed at the intersection of Hover St. and 9th Ave.

It's a unique experience, getting hit by another car, and it defies reckoning in that split second between wondering what just happened, to denying that it happened, to wondering why it, whatever it really was, just happened.
I made a normal right turn on a green light, right lane to right lane. and was just accelerating out when "SMACK!" ... a loud slap on the side of the car, and a change in the direction of travel (our vector :) ). I never saw the other car coming. She'd attempted a left turn into the left lane, but was (I am guessing here) traveling too fast for the road condition(s) and the front end simply pushed through the turn and she tagged us just behind the rear wheel on my side.
Thankfully no one was hurt at all and the damage, while ugly, isn't substantial. The other driver is licensed and insured and readily admitted loss of control to the officer. Robin spoke with the insurance folks and I guess we'll be in touch with an adjuster in a day or two.

What shook me up about it was the possibility that I'd ,essed up and puled out in front of someone. I was sure it was all clear, and I was sure we had the green light, and I was sure that I had a clean line to make a routine turn, one I've made hundreds of times before, onto a street I've driven on innumerable times.
I do not recall seeing the oncoming dark-blue Civic as I was preparing to turn. If I did see it, I didn't register it as turning left and being a potential problem. Perhaps she changed her mind at the last minute and tried to make the turn. The intersection itself is descending, off camber, changes types of pavement and was slightly wet from a light rain shower. Who knows what the real cause was... At any rate, as we were rolling out, after we'd ascertained that no on was injured, and looking for a safe spot to get out of traffic I had that moment of doubt that I'd somehow missed something. I haven't had an accident since I can remember (well, actually, I do remember it .. it was nearly 25 years ago) and I dodn;t remember all the shakiness and worry that goes along with it. I'm so very thankful that everything broken or bent was just machinery.. I'm so grateful for our habit of buckling up, for the way it played out, and for the other driver's honesty.

As for my own honesty? I guess I'm grateful that I didn't mess up.


Now we are left with a drive-able but distorted Solara. Can we get it fixed in the two weeks before we leave? Should we ship it Florida and try to find a reputable body shop, or scramble here to get it repaired and make arrangments for shipping?

Thankfully we have a weekend to ponder it ... and think we will.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Whole New World

By Robin:

A new fantastic point of view, if you wish..... Oh how I wish I said I wanted a high rise condo in downtown Miami. Well, truth to tell, not ever! This new and exciting ride we find ourselves on is more than I ever expected and more than I ever wished for. We're actually going to leave our comfortable warm and inviting home in colorful Colorado to live in a 36 foot 5th wheel in less than 3 weeks in sunny Flolrida. Am I crazy? or what?

I never dreamed of going to Florida, let alone live there... with the critters and gators and bugs and other things I haven't even considered to date.

We're actually moving into the RV at the moment. Posessions have sold, clothing and "stuff" is given away and STUFF?" is just STUFF!!!!! What do we do with our STUFF?!!!! The garage is still overwhelming. Brecca (Robin's daughter) will take the couch and love seat, but what about the paintings and table and chairs and rocking chair and well....what about the rest of the "stuff?"
Gary and I have enjoyed Disney to no end. We actually have reservations at an RV park AT Disney!!! on October 19th! SO... the "whole new world" theme has been around for a while. If you remember, "Alladin's" Prince Ali promises the Princess Jasmine during their magic carpet ride, that there's "no one to tell us no or where to go or say we're only dreaming."

WELL, I'M DREAMING! AND IT'S FOR REAL!!!! We have put this plan into action, with God's grace, and we're pulling up the stakes (so to say) and we're moving to Miami to someday SOON live on a sailboat fulltime and sail wherever the wind may take us.

WOW!!!!!..... I say again WOW!!!!! So who does this kind of stuff????? Who gets rid of their "stuff" to be able to do this kind of "stuff" that "stuff"that dreams are made of???????? Disney??????? FOR SURE! --- Robin & Gary????? -- well this seems to be FOR SURE also! Will you pray for us? Will you send us your encouragement? write soon, I say!

SO DO YOU WANT ANY STUFF? ??????

I'm sure I'd like to hear from you and for sure we want your encouragement and prayers.

Robin is signing off of her very first "BLOG" entry. Probably not the last. Keep tuned!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Pop" goes the side-wall

This weekend marked another in the ongoing series of 'adventures' with the new home-on-wheels. Robin had planned to spend an evening, and overnighter, with her daughter in Denver so they could get some quality one-on-one visiting and serious shopping done. I had planned to stay around the house tending to the last of the projsects that needed to be finished before we leave (some finishing trim work, a couple of pieces of laminate flooring for the closet, and some touch-up painting). But ...

I decided on a whim to see whether our local "Camping World" store might have a washer-dryer RV-type combo machine in stock, or whether we'd have to order it, or drive clear to south Denver to get one. Of all things, they had it in stock ... and I decided that while Robin was away, I could get the machine, pick up the 5th-wheel, get it installed, and surprise her when she got home.
Ahhh ... such plans .... It didn't go quite that way.

I successfully picked up the merchandise and it took two employees to hoist it in the truck. I asked them to relocate the big box to in front of the hitch, thinking I'd leave it there, pull the 5th wheel to the house, and unload there.
When I arrived at RV America, I picked up the keys for the coach and began backing in to do the hook up. i got concerned that the box might hit the trailer if I had to make a tight turn, so I decided I'd try to get the washer/dryer into the coach right there in the parking lot. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time ...
I had real trouble moving the box around, it was late in the afternoon, and most everyone was gone from the store, so I new I'd have to manhandle the thing. When I went to move it back over the hitch, it kept trying to slip out of its box so I reasoned I'd just unbox it and make it easier to handle.
As I was unboxing it, the front panel got scratched (dang it!) as it contacted the big tool box in the back of the truck. I eventually got the thing balanced on the siderail of the truck bed, hopped over and carried it, side-stepping under the weight, until I could lay it down on the carpet I'd spread in the entryway of the trailer. Mission accomplished, but it was harder than I'd expected.
Thanks to Mike, our trainer, for the strength training! :)
I hooked up and pulled home, but had to park a half-block away because all the parking spots were filled by neighbors, preventing me from stopping right in front of the house. No big deal, just a little more walking to get everthing done.
I relocated the washer into the bedroom, and found that it would not fit into its cubby unless I dismantled some woodwork and removed the closing hardware from the closet. I wrestled the thing into place, and then discovered that the factory's "Prep for Washer/Dryer" package did not include actually cutting a hole and putting in a vent ...
OK, let's call it a night and worry about it tomorrow.

I pulled down to the county Fairgrounds campsites, which is familiar territory except that it was now quite dark, and managed to take a entry turn a little too short and caught the front trailer tire on a railroad tie they use to mark out the road. I felt the tug, but by the time I saw what was happening I heard the loud hiss of escaping air and knew I'd punctured a sidewall. (dang it!). Well, I firured I'd best get parked right away, since I didn't want to roll on a flat tire and maybe risk the other one blowing out, so I puled right ahead to the first straight-thru spot.
I tried for the better part on 45 minutes get the coach up on the levelers, and secured on it's stabilizers, but the flat tire posed a significant issue so I left the trailer attached to the truck for security and began the process of discovery which would eventually lead to installing the spare tire. It didn;t help that the spare was underinflated, and it was way too late to run a pump, so I settled for a rather severely out of level trailer and decided to call it a night and get some sleep.
I had to sleep backwards on the bed, as the slant was too much for me to consider sleeping head-down, and I got maybe 4 hours of fitful sleep. It was just one of those days when it seemed everything I touched broke, and when I tried to fix it it made it worse. Very, very frustrating, but I am thankful that nothing got truly broken, and no one got hurt.

The next morning I looked for a place to get a replacement tire, but it was Sunday and almost everyone was closed. I relocated to a different spot, as the one I had stopped in was to close to a tree, and it precluded opening up the rooms and I didn't want the wind causing some branches to scrape the finish.
Needless to say, the project didn't go as planned, I was pretty spent and was thankful to see Robin and Brecca again for dinner and a wind-down time.

Got the tire replaced to day and will bolt it up tomorrow, putting the spare back where it should live. I h ave a lot of new knowledge, gained through a bit if hardship, that I hope won't come in handy any time soon. I am thankful that, if I had to bow a tire, it was in a contained space, with plenty of time to figure it all out. SHould this occur in some less favorable spot, I will be better prepared to quickly change it out and get back underway.

It all works to the good, you know :).

Fordzilla Lives!

Back in May (2008) we purchased this truck ... it was the biggest, newest, most expensive vehicle I'd ever been a part of owning, and we did a lot of searching before we finally settled in on this one and took the plunge.

So that you don't have to backtrack, it was a used 2008 Ford F-350 Dually.

Now, I've said that I'm not particulary an adherent to giving names to machines, but this one seemed to warrant a christening.

We thought of "Mongo", after 'Blazing Saddle', and of course we considered simply "Tom" (the dually, you see).

Somehow we finally settled in "FordZilla", just 'cause...

So we've gradually been talking "Fordzilla this, and Fordzilla that, and it has caught on even in the work circle a little bit. We got a copy of Blue Oyster Cult's song 'Godzilla' and enjoy piping up the volume when we pull away with the 5th wheel hooked up. The truck doesn't seem to mind a 13,000+ pound trailer, and it chews up the freeway and climbs up hills just fine. I joked about getting a logo for the truck, or commissioning one of my very talented coworkers to draw us up a vision of what "Fordzilla" would really look like.

Last week Brad (the aforementioned artistically gifted coworker) asked me to show him a picture of our 'rig', that is the truck and 5th wheel together. I obliged, not thinking too much of it.

Here's what I showed him:






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The next morning I saw him as I came to work, and as he was just getting off work after having pulled an all-nighter. He said that he 'had something for us' and gave us this drawing. ... ...






















Absolutely incredible piece of artwork! What a thrill to be handed a caricature that in our opinion perfectly exemplifies what we were thinking. Brad Maston is an artist in every sense of the word, and we are very grateful for the work he did and the gift he gave us. You honor us greatly Brad. This is just too cool!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Goliath Fuse


We've spent the last two weekends aboard the fifth wheel; making changes, adapting and customizing, and claiming the space as our own. We have also learned a lot ... as we will surely keep doing, and as I'm certain so many people do when they embark on a new venture.
Last weekend we learned about electricity and this weekend we learned a tiny bit about relaxing in our new home.

Last weekend we picked up the coach and pulled it out the the St. Vrain State Park at Barbour Ponds. All of 10 miles from home, but still far enough from home to provide a bit more experience for us hooking up and getting set up in a campground. It's a familiar place to us now, and that helps a bit with any apprehension about trying all this new stuff.

So, here's part 1 of the saga:

We set up to meet with our very good friends Roger and Vernelle at the campground to give a tour of the coach and share some lunch. It's likely the last time we'll get to visit with them before we leave, and we were happy that they agreed to meet us at the campground. We arrived at the campground just a few minutes later than anticipated, and pulled past out assigned spot to take on some fresh water for the weekend. They arrived a few minutes early, and finding our spot empty just decided to hang out and wait for us. We were 40 feet away, but on the other side of the coach, they didn't see us, and we didn't see them :).

Finally, Robin noticed them and we had a good laugh over the whole thing. We got pulled back into our spot, and I began to level the coach by retracting the landing gear (the front feet) while Robin went to the rear of the coach to drop the aft stabilizers.
At the exact moment Robin pushed the button to lower the stabilizers, I unexpectedly hit the up-stop on the landing gear and suddenly everything quit. The control panel wouldn't light, the buttons did nothing, and it was inappropriately quiet. Inside, the 12 volt DC lights still worked, but the rooms would not slide out and we couldn't get any action out of the stabilizers front or rear. So much for show-and-tell; we couldn't invite anyone in if we couldn't get the thing opened up.

I remembered being briefed that the coach was protected with self-resetting circuit breakers should something overload, so I reasoned that if we'd overloaded the circuit trying to do two things at once, it'd only be a matter of a couple of minutes until we could continue on. ... ... .ten minutes ... ... fifteen minutes... , ... ? OK, we all started puzzling it out and after searching for several minutes to try to find a breaker to reset, or a fuse to replace, decided we'd go to manual extension if we had to. It'd be good practice for us anyway, and those fancy handles hanging on the wall had to be good for something, no?
So, after some experimenting, we got the front landing gear to work, and got the rear stabilizers down. It really wasn't all that hard to crank those particular gears, and as a side-light I learned how to lower and loosen the spare tire, but we still didn't have a solution to getting the rooms slid out. We crawled all over looking for a handle, socket, or some connect point that we could crank the rooms out with, but nothing was apparent. Alas, it seemed there was nothing left to do ... except to read the owner's manual (ouch!). Now ... you see .. the owner's manual was inside the coach, waaaay up front, and when the coach is closed up there is precious little open space inside it.
I managed to hike myself up on the kitchen counter and scoot under the cabinetry until I could clamber down on the furniture up front and get to the owner's manual. We sat down with some snacks acquired from the fridge ...( it was an incredibly foresighted design that allows us to get to both the fridge and the bathroom while the rooms are slid closed ) ... and began studying the problem.
Everything indicated an electrical failure, but try as we might we couldn't come up with a blown fuse, or a breaker that needed to be reset. Roger and I looked everywhere, pulled all the fuses and looked at them, cycled ll the breakers, disconnectede and re-connected power to the coach, and nothing changed.
Then I read that we could extend the room 'manually' by inserting a special bit into a drill motor and spinning the hydraulic pump with the drill. Well, well ... guess what we just happened to have packed in the tool box :) The corded 3/8" drill is a heavy-duty job, and it took all of the heavy-duty part to get the rooms slid out. The 'special' bit was a 1/4" hex-headed bit .. just happens to be what you get when you turn a phillips head screw bit round the other way (grin) I could barely hold the thing in place as is had to be awkwardly placed and held and offered a lot of resistance against the hydraulic pressure. Nonetheless, we got the rooms extended in less than 5 minutes and finally invited our friends aboard!

The first thing I did (after opening a beer, that is) was to get online and see if anyone on the Montana Owners Club website knew anything about this particular dilemma. My answer was immediate, and I returned to the battery compartment (where we'd looked for several minutes and seen nothing) and finally found, by touch, a small 30 Amp in-line fuse hidden from view along a main power feed wire, way in the back and virtually invisible, but quite blown.
We made the trip to the gas station, got more fuses and were back in business in short order. My thanks to those Montana owners who've been-there-done-that and are willing to share their help online. A tiny little greenish spade-lug automotive fuse brought the 38 foot long, 13 foot high 13,000 pound beast to its knees.

I now have four spares.

The weekend continued wonderfully and we had another pair of visitors the next night. Larry and Pam came out to see us, and during the course of a wonderful visit we consumed a fair amount of the brew (mostly Moose Drool :) ). Well, shortly after said goodnight to our dear friends, Robin and I found ouselves running out of water from the fresh water tank ... maybe something to do with all those flushes by the boys ??? ... It was late, but we didn't want to spend the night without any water, so we gathered every inch of hose we had and it managed to reach to the faucet across the street from where we were parked. We learned to use the gravity-feed fill port this time, as the last link of hose we had to make the distance did not have a connector on it, so we just fed water into the filler port and all worked out quite well considering the improvised set up we were using. We were also thankful that it was late; hence no traffic running over our hoses, and dark .. so not too many people saw us.

We purchased some additional hose this week :)

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

This weekend we pulled the coach in front of the house Friday afternoon and took up our usual 52 feet of curb space. Friday evening and Saturday after work were pretty busy, but we did get the mattress pulled out of the coach and into our bedroom ... not an improvment!
I spent most of the day Sunday drilling and sawing and running wires and routing the pneumatic hoses away from coache's hydraulics and successfully installed our sleep number bed into the new bedroom. Yahoo!! Now we will have a high degree of comfort in the coach while we spend the remaining four work-weeks on the rather over-firm factory RV-quality camping plank .. ermmm .. mattress. It'll make getting the RV and spending time there all the more inviting!
Robin and I completed several other projects this weekend; hanging a picture, installing a Blu-Ray player, mounting a magnetic knife rack, hanging our lovely Ship's Bell, fixing some cabinetry, applying some wall-paper border (with sailboats and airplanes, of course) and arranging kitchen and living spaces.

We also had a lovely dinner with Rob and Sue, our friends and the camp hosts for the park. We saw an amazing Harvest moonrise and slept well in our 'new' bed.

Another great weekend!
Only four more to go.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I knew it would happen ...

Well, I was pretty sure it was going to turn into a busy time as we gradually but inexorably move toward the departure date. I seem to be getting further and further behind in the project list, but I believe it's just because of the added pressure of the time crunch and staring at the number of avilable weekends and the the amount of stuff to do. There really isn't any more to do than there was when we started, it is just that we still have a lot to do and less time available.
I would like one answer though ... we shared in a yard sale about two weeks ago; we carted all kinds of stuff over to the yard sale, we sold a lot of stuff to other people and they now have a mess of stuff we no longer have. How come there's no more room in the garage?!?!? :)

These last two weeks have been pretty full. Starting with the yard sale (a rather demanding project in itself) and finishing with moving a piano later today (here's hoping for healthy backs after this project) we are continuing to work on two fronts; first to move in and claim our new home and second to finish clearing out of our old one.

Last weekend we pulled the fifth wheel down from Loveland (where the dealer has kindly agreed to store it for us at no cost until we leave) and parked it in front of the house. It takes two front yards and a driveway to park it on our curb and our neighbors are graciously putting up with losing a couple of parking spots along the street while we set it there. Dishes, kitchen supplies, new shleves, and other living space items all got hauled into the coach and then I hauled out the sound system (a guy's got to have his surround sound, you know).
We towed out to the St. Vrain State Park at Barbour Ponds and found a nice pull-through spot to set up and began the process of officially moving in to our new home. Robin has done a wonderful job of arranging our kitchen space and I managed to install a water filtration device and hang up some Bose speakers to replace the factory items. We enjoyed the company of friends who just happen to live full-time in a fifth wheel as well and learned a bunch of new stuff about how things work, where things will fit, and what our new life is going to feel like.

We towed back up to Loveland early Tuesday afternoon and parked the coach back at the dealer and our work-week began. It was a difficult week at work, with some additional stress and challenge, so I'm truly looking forward to a couple of days off even if they will be full of activity and pressure trying to get more done toward our moving day.

The coach is currently back at the State Park, and we will be spending most of the weekend working there. I have some kind of weird challenge getting the sound system to play well with the other components, and if it gets much tougher I may have to refer to the instructions (oh no!!) and if that doesn't work, we can still pull to Miami as-is and work on the details of 5.1 Dolby on those long and bitter cold Florida nights.

We've begun planning the route options for the 2,100 mile drive and have settled on taking a less-scenic trip in favor of an expeditious arrival at our new locale. It seems best to allow ourselves the most time available to explore and become familiar with our new stomping grounds prior to digging in to the training process at our new jobs. We are moving here for the beaches and to be near the water so why not spend our first few days searching out some fun spots :) While we are not yet in a position to think about purchasing our cruising boat, Robin suggested we might look into a much smaller, inexpensive motor boat that we use to learn our way around the waterways here. Boy she comes up with some good ideas!