Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Of Ballet and the Borg


I am not sure how many times I have gone to see "The Nutcracker" ballet over the course of the holiday seasons, but I would be willing to wager that it has been more than just 'a few'. Almost everyone knows the story, almost every town has it's own production and from grade schools to dance studios to professional companies it get interpreted and performed around this time every year.

Having said that, I was a bit ambivelent when I first heard the radio announcement of the Miami City Ballet performing the staple of the holiday season here. But...I knew that both Robin and I were struggling just a bit with the idea that lit-up palm trees constituded Christmas and I figured it might be a treat to get us into the spirit better while safely checking out the Miami downtown performing arts area. Boy was it a winner. :)

The performing arts center (Adrienne Arsht center) is a wonderful complex reminiscent of the Buelle theatre are in Denver. It consists of a performing arts area and an opera house with several parking areas surrounding the complex. We arrived early and found an easy parking spot (for $15, that is) only a short walk to the complex.

Since I purchased tickets late in the game, we ended up in a second level balcony overlooking the stage. I did manage front row seats at this level (it was not quite sold out) and the view actually ended up being quite good for the price of the tickets. The show started about 10 minutes late (good by Miami standards, I understand) and the performance wsa absolutely excellent. At first we were disappointed that they were not using live orchestra, but after a while it didn't matter. The staging and dancing were top-notch and at one point late in the second act a ballerina stunned all of us with an amazing dance maneuver I'd never seen before. I will try to describe it, but without video it is hard to envision.

En Pointe, on one toe actually, with her body straight up and down and her hand extended toward her male partner she leaned forward slightly and extended a leg backward, making a 90 degree angle between her extended leg and her standing toe. A beautiful pose in itself (I am sure it has a proper name) after a short pause while the music built up for her, she began to move, very slowly, forward ... as if the floor were moving slowly beneath her, but it wasn't. Without any sign of flexing, she was being pulled forward on her one toe by her partner, ever so magically and it just took ones breath away. I can't imagine the strenght involved to hold that position and be pulled across the stage. I don't suspect any trickery, it was just an amazing and unexpected feat. She continued the scene and the rest of the ballet was very enjoyable.

All in all, it was a very welcome change fro the daily routine, and we talked about it for a few days afterward. It did indeed help us greatly in our pursuit if Christmas this year!


On another note, it was moving day here at the old park. We had to change sites to accommodate a 'regular' who is arriving soon. There are a lot of 'snowbirds' who come for the 'season' from everywhere. We se license plaes fro Quebec, Maryland and Texas all right here in the same 'pod' that we are in.

The park has 12 of these 'pods' each holding 15 to 20 RVs plus a pretty good size are for tent-camping. Pods are numbered and spaces are numbered. We were previously located in Pod number 6, space number 9. So naturally we referred to ourselves as "nine of six" ... (if you don't get that it's time to tune in Star Trek Voyager reruns ... and don't tell me you won't :) )

So this week, we had to relocate to pod number 9 and guess what site we got ??? ... nope ... we came close, but ended up in space 6 ... so the best we can do is "six of nine". We will, however, be able request specific spots and pods over the next couple of years and we'll just have to see what we can get :).

resistance is futile...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Trial Separation


Robin just returned home from a week away. We have tried this sort of thing before, and I can tell you that I don't like it ... not one bit :)

Last Friday a about 2 PM we came across an e-mail that stated that a last minute cancellation had opened up one spot in an "Operations Supervisor Workshop". This is a specialized class experience attended and facilitated by first level supervisors from all aspects of the FAA and includes powerful and detailed learning opportunities from many different offices (Human Resources, Quality Assurance, etc) as well as training in Labor/Management relations and perfomance and conduct management. There is usually a wealth of operational and administrative experience attending these seminars and we decided on the spur of the moment that it'd be a great experience for Robin to attend this if we could make it work.
Well, we started out trying to get all the pieces of the travel arrangements put together and it was a very trying experience, but in the end Robin got on the airplane Sunday morning and was whisked away to Atlanta, GA.
There she was met with the government MAstercard she had been assured would be working was in fact being declined (booo). So, she had to front the money for the hotel and rental car until it all got sorted out the next day. It all ended well, but it was a pretty stressful arrival and beginning to the class week.
The class days were full, and she called me from a couple of restaurants and music spots just to make me a bit jealous :). I'd have loved to attend the workshop, but there was only one slot available. So...I got to be a bachelor for a week and it reminded me that I like having her around (a lot). I had a few days to rattle around the fifth wheel (which isn't really all that hard with all of 530 square feet) and accomplished some work on archiving more photos that ended up being tossed into boxes before we headed down here.

I celebrated (well, remembered) that I crossed a milestone of 24 years with the FAA on December 7th this year. It's only coincidental that I was hired on Pearl Harbor day, but it does make it easy to remeber my work anniversary. In March of 2009 I will cross another milestone in having 30 years of government service, which includes time in the U. S. Postal Service and also my service time in the USAF. Wow ... it all kinds of sinks in when you look back on those kinds of markers. I'll be looking foward to my commemorative pin here before too long.

Study continued on the learning of the detail maps required for the job, and I got to attend a meeting and meet all my new peer supervisors (a cople of which I actually remember their names now). It's all still new, but it's beginning to feel less foreign as we start to learn names and faces and offices there, and streets and businesses and a couple of service folks out in town.

Hope you have an awesome Christmas season!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Only 20 more days till Christmas

I'm pleased to report a pretty boring week :) Everything is going along well, and after nearly two months, we almost have the mailing problems sorted out. We still haven't seen hide nor hair of the Colorado absentee ballots, nor a couple of other pieces of mail that we were expecting, but if they are lost it's not that big of a problem right now.
The car is due for an oil change and we are scheduled for haircuts next week. (On that note, we did change the oil on the truck before we left Colorado. Since this is our first experience with a big diesel, we did get a bit of 'sticker-shock' when we found out that this truck's engine holds 25 quarts of!)

The humidity is everything we were told, and it's still the deep part of fall. The sun shines some part of every day and it's been as "cold" as 49 degrees here so far. We still haven't found a snow blower in any Home Depot yet. :) So far I've spotted exactly one cockroach, a Black Widow, several fruit flies and a stealthy little Scorpion in all our home life and local travels but the issue with bug infestations hasn't shown up yet. I am certain that summer, with all the rain and longer, hotter days will change my thinking about these things. For right now, it's still safe to leave the screen door open for a while and lounge around under the awning for an afternoon and not worry about being carried off by the mosquitos. There are a lot of squirrels in the park, and it's fun to watch them run around chasing each other and searching for something to eat smaller than an avacado. (As an aside, Robin planted basil and spearmint several weeks ago and somebody -- i.e. the squirrel -- is digging in the potted planters. Fortunately the herbs have survived the "cold" weather and are thriving in spite of lost soil!)
The long standing and well advertised plan to buy a big saiboat as soon as some mortgages went away may be changing. Recently Robin and I were exploring south and east of our homestead and we found our way to the Black Point Marina and park in the south part of Biscayne Bay. We enjoyed a great lunch at an outdoor cafe and wandered around looking at the boats and facilities. We met and spoke with the harbormaster and came away with the idea that we may delay purchasing the larger sailboat and instead look for a small powerboat to use for the next year or maybe two so that we can better learn some of the ways of the water. It would be an affordable way for us to get out on the water, learn the lay of the immediate vicinity and get involved in the boating community without having a full-time and demanding committment to a large vessel.
The down side is that we will likely not be able to acquire Spring Fever as we had hoped (she's still alive and well in Galveston, having survived hurricane Ike) and will have to start from scratch hunting for our cruising vessel. I suppose there are worse things than having to go boat shopping again.
At any rate, the next few months will still be dedicated to getting settled in and trained at work. This necessarily requires the number one spot on the to-do list and once we are on regular shifts and get established in our posts we can beging to pursue to plan again will full fervor. Maybe we will discover our perfect cruising boat while we're out marina-hopping or maybe perhaps we will find we like power-boating enough to stay with it a bit longer (or perhaps fuel costs will convince us that sail-power is truly the way to go :) ) ... We will keep our options open.
So; the weekend is upon us. Time for some house cleaning (inside and out) and maybe some time at the pool this weekend. After all, it's been a rigorous week of memorization and testing (kind of like most college students go through for four straight years). Time for some planning and exploring and relaxation (oh darn!)

Please remember that this Sunday marks the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

So please accept my deepest thanks to all who've served and sacrificed. My world is a better placed because of the belief in, and the dedication to preserving freedom. I am humbled to know that there are those that fight and die for my safety and I never want to forget what they did and what they are doing.

Coincidentally it's also the day I hired on to the FAA some 24 years ago, so it's pretty easy for me to remember my anniversary.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tis the Season!

OK, it means different things to different folks, and to me it now has an additional meaning as an employee of the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center.

On Thanksgiving day, it has been traditional to ensure that there are some lights put up on the house before going to bed. While a lot of folks have been sleeping off their l-Triptophan overdoses, or have sat glued to the big holiday games, I have tried faithfully to usher in the Christmas season by putting up some lights, regardless of the weather. This year there were a couple of unique challenges; the first being that we I can't drive nails or screws into the coach in order to mount any lights and the second being I be careful about amperage and load management (after all, I no longer have a 200 Amp service panel).

Not to be daunted, I did get 400 lights strung on the coach and to an adjacent tree using those 3-M Command tabs. The lights were burning brightly by sundown, and I did it in shorts and a t-shirt this year. That's a first ... ever.

But what really rang in the 'season' was the sound of Robin playing "Sleigh Ride" on her keyboard. The evening was graced by the music of Christmas and carols filled the coach and spilled out the door into the park. We're thinking of having a caroling time and inviting the neighboring campers to the place for some sing-along action. It's going to be quite a different feeling of the Christmas season, as we adjust to warm air and palm trees. Maybe not much of an issue for Californians and natives of frequent visitors to Florida, but quite different to those of us accustomed to snow shovels and deicing fluid in the windshield washers. We will adapt.
Robin and I are also learning that there is a new meaning to the word "season" here in FLorida. It's a term used in the air traffic control circle defining the time of year when the state's population increases dramatically with the influx of 'snowbirds' from around North America. The traffic count (number of airplanes handled each day) will rise dramatically fro just after Thanksgiving ti just after Easter. This is the high season for tourism, hotel rates go up and everything coss a little more because the population is cmprised of a higher percentage of seasonal tourists.
We've been told that we will even see temporary help from other air traffic control facilities come in to the Center to help the full-time controller staff cope with the increased traffic loads for the next few months. Today Robin and I spent about four straight hours observing the phenomenon first hand, and the traffic density was markedly higher as airline schedules change and private and charter flights increase to bring the folks escaping the cold weather.
So, we are coming in to the 'season'. Hang on :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Genuine Thankfulness

I'm not real sure where to begin...

This Thanksgiving was unlike any that Robin and I have ever experienced. Thanksgiving is marked by reflection and gratefulness, and by traditions and family times. This one was different, as it marked the first time we've not been able to trek to Washington state to be with family and to share the good times and warmth of the gathering. The travel to Florida and the schedule for our training has put us in aspot where we can't really get away for more than a weekend, so we were able to plan a first for us; Thanksgiving for two.

Thanksgiving day started at 5:15 A.M. with a trip to Fort Lauderdale to deliver two fine young ladies to the airport. These two guests had spent a week with us exploring the territory, scouting out South Beach and setting out for the Keys on their own adventures while we had our normal work week and managed to spend as much precious time together as we could squeeze out of the days.

Last week Brecca arrived on Thursday evening after an adventurous trip and Friday evening Nichelle arrived to complete the package. We stayed two nights in Fort Lauderdale and got as much beach time as we could stand given the reather chilly, windy weekend (there...I said it ... it got 'chilly' here in Florida :) ).

We shared a great meal and after dinner visit time with Robin's uncle Tommy and thoroughly relished exploring, hiking, dining and visiting in the Fort Lauderdale area. The Yankee Clipper hotel is a nice place to stay with walk-out access to the beach and the gracious folks a couple of hotels down the road allowed Robin and I to have breakfast in their cafe even though it was for guests only and the only payment method they would accept was the room key (which we didn't have). ... After a visit to the front desk it was all squared away, and when we asked if we could come back tomorrow they said 'no'. :)

Ah well, it's all about adventure, no?

After the weekend we returned to the fifth-wheel and spent the next three days in the work routine while the girls went driving, beaching, and exploring. It sure sounded like the had a grand time, which was the ultimate goal of the visit.

Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) we all met up a Joe's Stone Crab in South Miami Beach. It is an acclaimed restaurant and we weren't disappointed. A fine meal with an amazing atmosphere. Good food, good service, and best of all great company.

Thanksgiving morning dawned early, as we needed to make the FLL airport by about 7:00 A.M. and it is about 45 miles north of us. There was very little traffic (I never get to set the cruise control on Miami expressways) and we made it in plenty of time to drop them off. I truly hope they had a great trip and know that they are welcome any time.

The rest of Thanksgiving day was spent in a non-traditional non-traditional as I have ever done. We did laundry and I washed the exteior of the fifth-wheel ... well .. most of it ... umm ... ok ... about half of it, but it was the hardest part! I still had Colorado bugs on the front of the coach that were tenaciously hanging on to their ride. Since you can't use abrasives on gel-coat, it took a good while, a lot of elbow grease and a few paper towels to get them cleaned off.

OK, so there were some traditions being kept up after all ... I did indeed manage to get some Christmas light hung up and turned on, we did sit down and share a meal, although turkey sausage on the grill is as close as that came to being traditional. We did send some time chatting about our fortunes and that of those around us. And we played the older Christmas videos (Miracle on 34th Street, The Bells of St. Mary, It's a Wonderful Life) all day on the TV. I also got to make a couple of phone calls to stay in touch with family. All in all, a great day and a great week.

So, here's my speech: I'm thankful for what I have, for who I have around me and for the gifts that God almighty has given me. These gifts include love and freedom, friendship, health, family my job and my history. I look back on the blessings that have been given me with true awe. The path has been strewn with joy and pain, and like so many of us I've made good and bad decisions along the way.
Well, I wouldn't be here if I hadn't been there so as the song goes; "God bless the broken road ..."

I'm most thankful for a second chance.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fire in the Sky

A unique oportunity presented itself on Nove 14th and Robin and I decided at the last minute to try to give it a go. So; throwing together an overnight satchel we jumped in the car immedaitely after work determined to drive as far north as we could practically get and see if we could spot the Space Shuttle Endeavour We drove a expeditiously as conditions would allow and made it approximately 175 miles north of our home, but about 35 miles south of the launch site. Even in our position, some 19 miles south of Cocoa Beach, the traffic was harsh and roads were getting close to clogged up. We opted to pull over at a beach access and set up the lawn chairs with about 20 minutes to spare.

At liftoff time, the northern sky lit up as if an impossibly brilliant sunrise were occurring. Then the fireball that could only be the shuttle cleared the horizon and began racing up into the sky. It was bright enough, even from our vantage nearly 30 mile away, to be hard to look at directly. The speed at which it leaves the earth and careens heavenward is absolutely astounding. The bright light of the shuttle's engines showed us where the smoke trail lay as the vehicle pushed toward, then through, a thin layer of clouds. A nearly full moon graced the partly cloudy sky and the on-shore breeze was fresh enough to prevent us from hearing any sound except the surf and the cheering of those people around us.

I tried to video the launch, but the camera was overwhelmed trying to focus on the fireball and get any sort of light-balance. The picture up top is not mine, and is shot from north of the launch site, but I like it :)

It was a long drive, over 3 hours and our reward was about five minutes of spectacle. We could see the red-hot boosters fall away from the orbiter as the shuttle climbed down-range and we watched as the giant fireball turned away and graudually diminished into a very bright pinpoint of light.

This was my second, and Robin's first viewing. Was it worth the drive? ... oh yeah!!
We're already planning to see the next one in February. Perhaps we can get more than a four-hour head start and we will be able to get to a proper up-close and personal vantage point.

Still, 30 miles away, ... it was awesome. Simply awesome.

=== === === ===

After the launch, we meandered back along Florida's highway A1A, heading for Vero Beach and a hotel reservation. It's been a pretty demanding couple of weeks and the thought of spending a relaxing morning sounded very nice, so we found a vacancy at a Holiday Inn Express and had a late evening meal and sat on the lawn chairs just up from the beach. It's very pleasant to slow down from a hectic pace and take some time to just zone out and relax.

We spent most of Saturday driving and stopping, driving and stopping as we worked our way back home. We visited a couple of other beaches, stopped and toured some state parks and gawked at the marinas, drawbridges and expensive homes along the way back. We discovered a couple of places we'd like to visit again, and had a very enjoyable afternnon trip back home.

A fun Friday and Saturday to be sure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning the Ropes

This week has been relatively consumed with study and practice drawing the new maps we are faced with. For those of you not experienced in the Air Traffic Control field, let me just say that the learning curve is pretty steep. Even though Robin and I are experienced at what we do, the real 'meat' of the job is that every place that does ATC has its own set of challenges, procedures, traffic flows and nuances. Each and every flight is subject to procedures based on its route of flight and destination, and even what type of airlplane it is. This is even more pronounced along the coasts, where international overwater and trans-oceanic flights are routine.

To begin our learning process we are handed maps of the airspace. We pretty much have to learn the equivalent of a road map, including all the exit numbers, miles between the exits, the speed limits along the way and what each gas station expects from the drivers along each route. .. ok .. bad analogy, but it is a detailed level of study and it's time consuming and, I'm discovering, a little more difficult now that I have aged .. ermm .. I mean .. matured a bit.

The part about sending airplanes out over the ocean is new as well, and it involves detailed rules and strict procedures for interfacing with other oceaninc facilities and even different countries.

We will diligently pursue this learning because it matters greatly that we become as expert as possible in our jobs. There's precious little margin for error and we need to have a lot of information on tap quickly. It's tiring, and it's fun.

OK, in the other half our world (the non-employment half) Robin and I have been pursuing a couple of endeavours to keep us moving. We spent some time chasing lost paperwork and disposed of a bunch of old (and I mean old) records from the past. We are still actively downsizing where possible and we are finding that some of the 'stuff' that we brought along as 'essential' isn't really all that necessary.

We are learning about doing battle with the humidity. We came from very dry air to wet air, and aside from the fact that every cold drink you have drips on you when you pick it up, the high humidity presents a real danger of mold or mildew forming in the closets and elsewhere. We've tried a few of the commercial moisture-absorbers and to their credit they work well, but we will need a better long-term solution so we are going to have to make room for a de-humidifier somewhere in the living room or dining area.

The fifth-wheel was built with an 'arctic insulation package', and it is actually pretty tight and well insulated. This is good and bad, as the only real airflow comes from the Air conditioners or powered vents so moisture is trapped inside with us. On the good side, it keeps the bugs out and once we get the inside air dry, it'll stay dry longer. It's a quest. I love quests :)

We joined a fitness place. We've worked out twice ... I'm sore. We will be stepping out of our boxes big time with this venture, as it will involve both fitness exercises and a look at beginning self-defense classes. We've talked about this a lot over the last few months and have decided that it might be prudent to learn about self-defense from an expert. If we plan on traveling around in a sailbot, we may indeed be exposing ourselves to a slightly higher risk of some idiot trying to steal something from us and it will be good to know how to defuse or protect ourselves in such a situation. It's a new stretch in a series of eye-openers that we are in the middle of as we draw closer to setting sail someday.
Still no word on the repairs on the Solara. We've had a couple of phone calls indicating that they 'expect' the car to be back to us, but as of today no word on setting up an appointment to retrieve it. Hopefully this means that they've taken extra care to see to all the details that we mentioned when we checked it in. We will see. It will be nice to be back in our own wheels, and have the option of putting the top down when the time is right.
That's just about any time it isn't raining.

Friday, November 7, 2008


TGIF ... we haven't had much chance to have that saying relate its true meaning to us in a long time. Shift work, and varying days off all tend to mess up your idea of what a 'normal' working week ought to look like. So far at least the next several weeks, we will be 'out amongst them' as we keep reguilar working days and weekends off while we train. It will be unusual, but we will make the adjustment. Sometimes having weekdays off from work has its advantages, like missing the bulk of a crowd, but it also has its inherent difficulties like having to work weekends and not being able to partake of activities which are invariable scheduled for the masses. Oh well, it's why we have the big office and all.

Yesterday we stopped in and interviewed with a fitmess facility and soon we will be scheduled for classes and training again. It will be good to get back in to a program that will hopefully lead to a better us and I am looking forward to stretching our horizons as we try out some very new things here in the next few weeks.

We also discovered a couple of new (to us) shopping centers with both familiar and new-sounding stores and restaurants. Someday I might stop commenting on this, but traffic still astounds me after only to weeks here. Where are all these people going???

Robin and I will likely spend the weekend being domestic and working around the 'house'; continuing to settle in. We have also looked into a day's worth of exploration as well, perhaps to scope out different campsites/rv parks or look for marinas and beaches. How can you go wrong with that?

On a much-further-in-the-future note; I received an email from a former co-worker (thanks Brad) with suggestions and thoughts on being a full-time sailor and the problem with piracy in unfreindly (or sometimes friendly) areas of the world. While Robin and I still have years ahead before we actually cast off and leave the sight of land for weeks at a time, it still bears serious consideration for us.
Many hundreds of people sail freely around the world and enjoy the awe and wonder of exploration as we hope to do. Planning, preparations and precautions always lead to a safer venture in any category of activity and noother sport exemplifies this principle like long journey sailing. Our goal is to be trained, prepared and careful. Robin and I will be spending the next four years getting ready for this adventure and we will learn as much as we can along the way.
Already it is easy to see that avoiding hot-spots is the easiest way to avoid trouble. I would not invite trouble by walking alone at night on a street populated by gangs, nor would I sail alone, close to shore and within a pirate's radar coverage along the coast of Croatia right now. Our sail planning will necessarilty consider areas that are know the be troublesome and we will avoid them. Another option it so team up with other sailors and form a flotilla of boats to cross worrisome spots. This happens all the time and there is even a radio network where such crossings are organized. A proper amount of concern, and proper planning will minimize risks and push the fun-factor up where it ought to be.
Am I worried about pirates? ... hmmm .. maybe I ~am~ a pirate! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Conspiring ?


There are no doubt a million plus blog entries about the election, and I have no interest in discussing results. I just know thatRobin and I didn't get to vote, and it took a lot of concerted planning and effort to get me in that spot. Everything came together just wrong, and it was quite a chain of events that led to our being unable to participate in the election. Bear with me a bit...

Back in July we began to make firm plans for our move to Florida. This included applying for a residence address, even though we would be mobile in the fifth-wheel. Florida has a lot of people that do this kind of stuff, in RVs and on boats so there is a application procedure that you go through to declare and verify your residence and that you are indeed domiciled in Florida. It involves forms and phone calls and I knew it'd take some time.
We successfuly met the requirements to establish residency and made application to declare Florida as our domicile. We also made application to register to vote in Florida since we figured we'd be there a couple of weeks prior to election day.
The Domicile papers came back approved, but the Voter's Registration came back to us not approved because we'd submitted the wrong version of the form. (We downloaded and printed the form from their website...) OK, so now it's September and I start thinking that this is getting to be tight timing after all. So ... to cover our bases, I applied for mail-in voting in Colorado. The rationale was that even if the paperwork for Florida didn't get back in time we could still vote absentee in Colorado. I would feel really good about that anyway because I was familiar with the ballot (of course, if we're leaving the state I wouldn't really feel right in voting on local issues).

Now, let me explain mail forwarding :) ... we have a physical address in Florida, but we don't actaully park there. We'll be switching RV parks and eventually boat docks relatively frequently and a properly validated mail forwarding address allows us to get our mail anywhere, any time we like. You mail it to our 'street' address and the company forwards it to us wherever we tell them to, either on-the-spot or on scheduled intervals (ours is twice a week). They will screen out junk mail if we ask them to, they will even open our mail and scan it and we can have access to it on line immediately. Great services for folks who travel full time. Not too expensive for what they do and nice when you go to apply for a driver's license :).
So; theoretically you'd mail to our Longmont address, the Post Office forwards it on our forwarding order to the 'residence' address here in FL and the mail forwarding service sends it to our RV or boat location, wherever that is. Sure there'll be some delay, but oh well.

Well, the voter's registration cards from Florda arrived a couple of days before we left on the trip, but we still did not have our mail-in ballots from Colorado, and it was time to put the forward order in to the Post Office. No big deal, I thought, it'll be waiting for us when we get there and we'll take care of it then.
I sat down at the laptop to put the forwarding order in (you can do all kinds of stuff on the Postal Service's website) and after I'd filled in all the information I discovered that the Post Office did not want to forward mail to the new address for me at all. It rejected my request based on the fact that the address I gave them was a business address, not a residence. Uh Oh ...

Well, all was not lost ... Robin and I had taken the precaution of securing a Post Office box near to where we'd be working, just as a hedge of safety should we need to have stuff delivered quickly to us rather than through the mail service. I tried to put the forward order in to the P. O. Box ... ... nope, no go. hmmm

The next day was Friday, and we were hoping to leave on Sunday so it was becoming apparent that this last little detail could unravel a lot of planning. I called the Postmaster and explained the situation, she said that it was the the computer safeguarding unauthorized activities and that filling out the paper form, with signatures, and mailing it in would serve the purpose and make the forwarding go.
OK, got the forms package but did not get it mailed out until we were underway (maybe from Kansas or Missouri). No worries, I figured, we'd be a couple of weeks in transit so it should all happen as planned after all. I put together a package with our mailbox keys and a note of thanks to our carrier and another request to change our address and dropped it the mailbox outside our house and off we went on our cross-country venture.

Well, it all pretty much fizzled, I guess. Two weeks later, we still are missing a bunch of mail and we did not get our Colorado ballots. I have no idea what happened, and the Postmaster just assured us that the forwards 'sometimes take a couple of weeks to kick in :(

The downside of 'residing' through a domiciled address also became apparent, because in order for us to vote in Florida we would have to appear in person at our polling place, necessarily in our 'home' county, which is actually about a 6 hour drive north of here. We could not manage to get time off work to make a 12 hour round trip trek and we had to go home Tuesday night having not voted for the first time in ... well, for as long as I've been registered, I guess.

While I was very disappointed, I and while I'm still a little frustrated that the 'system' let me down, I can see how it all came together in a series of little things that all went their own way a little bit. I think that Robin and I planned well and did a lot of things right, and there were some unexpected twists that added up to the eventually missing our voting opportunity.

What you learn along the way is that plans are just that ... plans. The difference between our plans and our experiences is what make life interesting and challenging.

We won't miss the next one...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Easing in.

We found a couple of nice restaurants this week, and I'd like to thank the folks at Garmin, Inc. for providing us with relatively flawless driving directions whenever we ask the little GPS to find some new place for us.

We're doing map study, both at work and on the streets here in the area, and we are gradually becoming familiar with some of our immediate surroundings. Running into several familiar businesses makes it far less disorienting when you are in new surroundings. It does seems as though the Starbucks around here are much harder to access than in Colorado, but I believe that is a testimony to the general 'tightness' of everything around town. It's not only the streets that are crammed, so are all the strip-malls, corner businesses, and parking lots. It's crowded here.

We tried to drive north to hook up with our good friend Pam who was in the area for a visit but fell about 20 miles short of the destination when it became apparent that the traffic congestion would prevent us from accomplishing our goal in a reasonable amount of time. Ah well, we'll plan it better next time and get to visit properly some day.

We did find our way to North Beach and worked our way back home through some pretty cool areas of the city. After dark, we stopped alongside a beach access and walked out to listen to the ocean. We were still in our work clothes so we didn't get to go very far into the sand but it was still a pleasant few minutes while we stopped and watched the surf and felt the cool breeze coming on shore. About an hour later we were back home and is rained off and on for a while.

We learned that the really cool, automated, variable speed, programmable vent fans we have in the kitchen and bathroom have counter-intuitive switches on them. The fans ("Fan-tastic" vents) are supposed to sense rain and close down on their own. This is easily overriden by the 'Rain Sensor' switch adjacent to the fan itself. It has a two position switch, red and black. Somehow I figured red must mean 'on' and black would be 'off' but noooooo! We did get a little wet in there during a late night rain shower:) It's all part of the learning curve.

Yesterday Robin potted a couple of herbs, mint and basil. The basil will make great caprese and the mint .. well .. it's an essential ingredient in Mojito's, no?

The Solara is at the shop, and the repairs will take a couple of weeks. The insurance company provided a Jetta for us to use in the meantime and it will get us around just fine now that I've figured out how to lower the seat (only took 4 days) so my head doesn't touch the headliner all the time. It has a turn signal lever on it, but I think I might be the first person to ever use it. It seems that freeway/turnpike driving is a lot like a video game and folks are far too concerned with their next 'Frogger" like lane-hop to take time to locate and throw that annoying lever. I'll get used to it I suppose.

Robin and I will be getting our own Driver's Licenses here shortly and then we will register vehicles as soon as we have the tax-law limitations satisfied.

We asked for and received permission to pick a few avacados from the nearby trees in the campground (they are everywhere!). We'll just have to be careful, as they are high in cholestrol and fat, and we like them ... a lot ... and they're free .. and abundant .. and tasty :)

It's a beautiful day here. Think we'll go explore a little bit more.

Oh .. and be sure to get out and vote. It really matters.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Week one ... oh my.

To say that things are different would be one those amazing understatements that comes around from time to time. We have a lot to learn...a lot.

So far we've reported for duty, met our bosses (most of them anyway) and taken care of a lot of administrative process surrounding getting installed in a new facility. We found new lockers and filing cabinets, learned our way around the building (mostly) and set up shop in a meeting area where we can spread our training materials out all over a conference table.
The airspace, the procedures, and the technical aspects of this operation are all very foreign to both of us and we are going to be very busy getting a good grasp on how things work and why. Dealing with oceanic traffic, a north-to-south traffic flow, and dealing with several sovereign nations that lie adjacent to us will be intriguing and challenging.
We knew we had that coming, but when the stack of study materials hit the desk, it still makes you go 'wow'. we go!

This week we have firmed up or plans for a place to stay, as far as March of 2009. We are set to change campgrounds in January and we will work further along in the next few days. We still want to explore different areas and learn more about where we can go and what we can see. It's a big city with a lot to offer, and we have some time to find it out and experience as much as we can before we head back into shift-work in a few more weeks.
We found the post office, tried a couple of alternative ways home, and looked for an Olive Garden restaurant that doesn't exist .. I'm sure of it ...
This afternoon we will drop the car off at a repair place so they can go to work on fixing up the damage that occurred just before we left Longmont. This weekend we will likely be spending some time changing our address with companies that need us for their financial survival and all. We might explore the park, or take a drive east to see the waterfront down on this side of Miami.
Now, I guess I'll practice learning some new three-letter identifiers :)

Finding our way.

Well, we're here.

We found Walgreens, a grocery store, and a Starbucks. The turnpike and freeways are amazingly crowded and I feel somewhat like a new driver out amongst the throng. Oh I remember California.. it was like this.

We are checked in and credentialled for our stay at the campground, which is a nicely arranged, secure, and fairly scenic park located next to the west side of the Miami Metrozoo. No, there are no noises or smells from the zoo :~). All the pads are paved, and there is a pool, laundry, and plenty of space to explore.
We had to locate and RV parts place and were lucky enough to find a $100 extension cord that would allow us to push 15 feet further on to the pad thus allowing us to hide the car under the front of the fifth-wheel. It is all fitting nicely.
We took a test run up to where we'll be working just to see how long a commute it will be, and how lost we might get. Turns out not to be difficult at all, and we plan a 45 minute commute window for our first day just to be on the safe side. There is one $1.00 toll each way so we got a window-sticker pass that will let us go through the booth without stopping each time (like the C-470 transponder only about 1/4 the size).
We took a couple of exploratory tours, including a drive to the town of Key Largo (arriving just before dusk) and I think it'll be easier to get around here than I'd initially feared. You just have to get the lay of the land first, which will come with time and experience. We did find a Hone Depot, and right across the freeway was Best Buy, but it was about 2 miles to get there because of the way the streets are laid out. Ah, the big city.

All is well, and we are looking forward to showing up at work and digging in to the training process.

Epcot and the Zoo.

I will be brief on this post and will try to catch up with what's turned out to be another busy and exciting 10 days now.
We arrived at Walt Disney's Fort Wilderness and got in a line of RVs three abreat to check-in. It all went well, as is Disney's tyle, and we found our way to the camp site.
Now this turned out to be a pretty close fit... well ... really close. I have some, but not extensive, practice backing trailers and this space was the toughest to date. It took a while, and we ended up using part of the neighbor's space, and (oops) slightly 'modified' a light post but eventually got the rig in place with about an inch to spare against the water stanchion. The space itself was big enough for the rig, but the back-in approach was very limited. Ah well, it's in ... let's go!

We learned our way around the bus, monorail, and boat-taxi system and spent the next three days enjoying Disney's best. We spent most of the time we were there in a very leisurely fashion, not worried about cramming as much as we could into any day. We saw great fireworks, enjoyed wonderful food, and were completely entertained and relaxed when we fell asleep each night. It was a wonderful getaway from the months of pressure and preparation for this trip and the last days of on-the-road stress. I am thankful that we got to be kids for a while again; it fits for us :)

We pulled out on Thursday morning, had a nice road trip along Florida's Turnpike, took a detour to Jon's house to fetch up the Toyota which had just been delivered about an hour earlier (saving us an 80 mile round trip to pick it up) and made it to Miami just after the office to the campground had closed.
After a brief discussion with the campground's security person we backed in to our spot and spent the night satisfied with our whole trip.

It has been an amazing 'ride' since January 27th, 2008 when we first sent in the applications for the new jobs. Since then things have been happening pretty much non-stop, far away from the hope of this blog to be a 'walking speed' experience. But a major step has been taken and we are now removed from life as it once was for us. Our comfort zone and familiarity factors are all gone and we are starting fresh at a new job in a new location. We are looking at each other and pretty much going 'this is awesome ... what have we done??' :)

It was a great trip.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Million Dollar View

Hopefully you will see that title again, as it is one of the primary reasons we chose the particular fifth-wheel that we did. It has a nice big back window and we thought that we would love to be able to back our home into a parking spot and throw open the curtains to a view of the ocean, or the countryside, or the city, or whatever. The idea that the view can change when you're mobile is appealing to us and so far it has proven to be very cool.

We decided on St. Augustine for a couple of nights as our "now-where-do-we-go" first stop in Florida. Both Robin and I have been there before, but this would be a chance to do some hand-in-hand street exploring and act as tourists for a while. I drove I-10 eastbound and Robin navigated and researched places to put the 5'er (now you're getting into the lingo) in for the night. Found a place just south of St. Augustine call 'Bryn Mawr" RV resort. Sounded good, the 'view rating' was high and they had a spot we could back into facing ocean-side. OK, cool. :)

Well, it was indeed an idyllic spot, and we got to park with a view of .. umm .. the sand dunes (they had to build them for hurricane protection) but we could sneak a small peak at the surf from our window and it was 50 feet from our door to the boardwalk that ran out the the beach. OK... it'll do :)

This was probably my tightest parking spot to date, and took a while to wiggle the trailer into place without relocating the neighbor's car or the electric post and water stanchion or the gazebo next to the pad. Robin is a great spotter and it all worked well (and helped prepare for the next challenge which I will mention in the next post). So... off to the beach; we got a little rain but we made it to the ocean.

This is why we are moving to Florida in the first place: to get to the water ... and we made it! We checked some data and then headed back to the beach to see if we could see the moon rise for us, but alas it was cloudy out to the east and all we could see was a cream colored glow spilling through the tops of the clouds. Good enough ... we'll take it!

Happily installed in our camping spot, we took the truck into St. Augustine the next day (Saturday 10/18) and spent most of day poking around the Estes-Park-tourist-zone-like setting. We explored back streets and shops and walked along the waterfront and had lunch at a great little cafe. Then we walked some more, wandered around the old Fort (built in like 1565, if I remember) and milled among the other tourists, eventually taking the long way back to the campsite and stopping for some repair parts at Home Depot along the way.

Sunnday morning we awoke, stowed away what we'd drug out and hooked up to the truck. We pulled out (guess when) and began the not-so-long trip to Orlando and our next stop; the rugged back country camp ground called Fort Wilderness. It was time to take a break from our travels and spend a few days unwinding and escaping. Last year we had bid for a week of vacation time around this time, and now we were going to spend some of it running around with Mickey and being goofy.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


It's just a bit of a blur, but I'll see if I can recap a bit.

Wednesday (10/15) we woke up bright and early and decided we would try to recapture the original schedule, only a day late now. It meant a rather long pull, about 80 miles longer than we'd planned, but we could make it to our next planned stop and get the leg-lengths back on track. The first few miles were pensive as we wondered if the problem would recur but Fodzilla rocked right along all day.
Now, pulling the fifth-wheel at 65 mph through Kansas is one thing, but getting through a couple of major metro areas is a bit more challenging so setting a long (480 mile) day involving two big cities (St. Louis and Nashville) was ambitious. Traffic was fairly good, but there were still sop-and-go periods in both cities and we saw more construction that slowed us down as well. At the end of the day we stopped at a KOA about 25 miles short of our original plan and spent the night in Manchester, TN. It was pretty dark when we got in, and the folks at the campground led us around in a golf cart and made sure we were on place. We set up and decided we'd run off to dinner and found a wonderful local spot called O'Charley's for a great dinner. Not a bad day.

Thursday (10/16) Up and at 'em again and on the road by 9:30 (grin). This is getting to be a routine and Robin and I are starting to gel as a team to get us rolling again.
We found our way through Chattanooga and into Georgia. Rolling hills and lots of greenery set the traveling stage and Robin remarked that it looks similar to the hills around her native upstate New York.
Typically, we have been lucky to see wildlife along our trips. Pretty much wherever we travel we've seen different animals and Robin is especially keen at spotting big birds (hawks and eagles and recently a tree full of Cormorants in Colorado) but these last few days have been pretty sparse. A few road kills and some crows have been the lot of it ... until, that is, the camel...
OK, so we saw a camel alongside the road in Geogia. I suppose that's good enough for this leg :)
We pulled into a very nice park near Valdosta, GA and spent a peaceful night. Next stop? Florida!

Friday (10/17) ... Guess what time we pulled out? Right to the minute almost :) (9:30). We crossed into Florida and turned east on I-10 still undecided on exactly where we were heading. We had several options and we were pretty excited to be in our destination state so after a little discussion we settled on St. Augustine as a destination for the day. It ended up being 2 days, and we got parked and set up, and hiked out to the beach right away. It is, after all, why we are moving to Florida to begin with. It was breezy and cool and even rained on us a little, but we got out and about and did some foot-touring of old-town St. Augustine and had a great lunch at the Conch House overlooking the marina.
We also learned that the rough road caused a bit of damage inside the coach. The clothes rod in the forward (main) closet broke under the load of all my heavy winter clothes (not) so we had to make a side trip to Home Depot and find a replacement. We'll rebuild it .. better .. faster .. stronger.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 2 (and 3...)

All was well as we pulled out of the campsite at the Sundowner West RV park near Salina, KS. The first leg went well, and after covering the first hundred miles or so we ran through the same silly cold front, complete with the rapid warming, an instantly fogged windshield and shifty winds. It rained again for most of the morning but cleard out about 1:00 P.M. and we thought we night even get some sunshine.
We took a short break at a rest stop and Robin drove the next leg. About 70 miles later we both jumped hard when we heard this huge "BANG!" from under the hood and the truck (Fordzilla) lost pretty much all power. We pulled off to the side of the freeay and I gave a quick look under the hood but couldn't see any obvious damage or leaks. None of the tires had blown, and there wasn't any debris on the freeway that we might've either hit or left behind so we deemed it best to try to drive off the freeway to a safer place.
The truck was making almost no power, and the boost gague would not budge off of zero, so I presumed we'd blown a turbocharger. There was no rattling and the engine sounded OK, so we began to move. Fortunately there was an off-ramp less than a mile away and a motel parking lot allowed us to pull out of any traffic.

I googled on my phone (oh, the benefits of geekdom) and called a local Ford dealership. After speaking with the service manager we concurred that the turbo may have blown and we shouldn't drive it any more. He gave me the Ford Roadside Assistance number, they called a towing company and we were handled well at every step of the way.
Ford paid for a towing company to come get us, take us and the fifth-wheel to a nearby campground and haul the truck off to the dealer. By the time it was all said and done it was after 7:00 P.M. but nonetheless we were safe and sound, and everything was in order and under warranty. now all we had to do was wait for a diagnosis and estimate on the repair time.

So...find Jonesburg, Missouri on your map :) .. (hint ... it's just down the road from High Hill). We had no idea how long we'd be stranded here, or exactly what the damage would be, but we were content that we were safe and that we had enough extra time built in to the schedule to be ok if we got delayed a few days. Robin had also stocked us up with provisions and we would be fine with the food we had on board for the stay.

The next morning (Wednesday now) I called the dealer and they said that they were just pulling it in to the shop. I gave them the contact numbers and we waited for them to call. We spent the day waiting for a call, and went through some boxes of 'stuff' we had thrown in during the last moments of packing. Finally we got a call late in the afternoon and (of course) told me that they'd called about 3 hours earlier and left a message (which I never received).
he good news was that it was simply a matter of a rather large (and very important) hose blowing off it's fitting (Charged Air Cooling hose) and it'd be a simple matter to put it back together. If I wanted a replacement item it'd be another day for parts.
I asked if this was a field-replaceable item and was told yes, so we opted to have them replace and re-torque the original one and I will have to come up with a new one as soon as I can get to a big-city dealership.
Kudos to Ford, Zweiser Ford of Warrenton, MO, Skyline Towing, and the Jonesburg Gardens RV Park (thanks, Bob!) for all the help and the up-front manner with which this was all handled.
It could've been much, much worse, but with this level of help it went very well indeed.

We got the truck back, and it works fine. We fueled up and took a short tour of downton Jonesburg then settled in for the evening.

If you ever pass just east of St. Louis, do stop at that campground. It was as friendly and helpful as they get; and the camp ducks were just ... fun :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Day One

The first leg (457 miles) can be simply summed up in one word: RAIN.

We got up at 7:30, and pulled out less than a half hour late. We had the fortune to say a final goodbye with Rob and Sue (we will miss you!) and went to fill Propane. OK, so the gas station had no one there that knew how to run the Propane pumps, and .. oh .. OK, the huge propane tank in the lot ended up being empty .. but OK, we got on the road anyway and here we go.
It was 39 degrees when we left and we paid for the E470 route and turned in our transponders along the way.
It started to rain just before Limon, CO and at Kanorado the wind was strong and gusting out of the north. Then the wind shifted dramatically and the temperature rose over 20 degrees in less than three miles. ... wow! ... I've never expereinced a weather shift like this before; ever.
The temperature changed so fast that the cold glass of the windshield fogged up on the outside when the moist warmer air condensed onit. I had to turn the wipers up all the way so we could see.
Then it rained .. and rained and blew, and rained some more. Simply awesome.

We found the RV park, set up quickly and had dinner (thanks Robin!!).
Tomorrow we head for Missouri. Hopefully it will dry out a bit.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to kill a few mosquitos :)

10/11/08 (late)

It's late .. we're trying to get out early tomorrow morning.

It's cold .. and raining. We're finally at the campground and staged for departure for our first leg of the journey. We worked .. straight from 7 A.M till 10:45 P.M. non-stop. We had a lot to do, a lot to finalize and a lot to plan. But it's well as 'done' can be.

Now, I need a nap ... there's quite a day ahead of us tomorrow; about 470 miles of it.

Here we go. We are actually going.

This is amazing.

The Final Countdown

10/11/08 (By Gary)

Work is done. We have done what is likely to be the most tangible step of or plans ... we walked out of work for the last time.
The facility that Robin and I have called 'our work' for over 23 years will not admit us back in after today. We turned in our badges, cancelled our security and medical clearances, handed over our keys and headsets and shook hands, got hugs, and said goodbye to coworkers and friends.
Our original plans called for a Saturday (10/11) departure, but we will likely spend the day doing final packing and cleaning (we're still pretty far behind our hoped-for schedule) but it only means that we will have to maintain a stricter schedule for the next five days. The fifth-wheel has been parked in front of the house for a few days now, and we are actively setting it up as our new home. There is still a lot to be done and our thanks go out to Brecca and Brandon and Nichelle for their help scanning, shredding and stacking and sorting the last of the material 'wealth' that is left i the house. We appreciate the time and effort that all our friends have put in. We are grateful for the support we have received and for all the work that everyone's done to help us along the way.

It is the most important blessing a person can have, the friendship of caring people.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Pressure's On!

10/09/2008 (Gary)

"The bell would ring loudly over the end of the short but busy bar and the bartender would shout at the top of his lungs; "The Pressure's ON!!!".

That would mean the best and the worst to us in the confines of the old smoke-filled NCO Club deep in the heart of eastern Turkey. As part of the experience of being 8,000 mile away from home, the parties at the NCO club would be a great escape, a roudy and irreverent time of drinking, card playing, and bonding with your peers as we wiled away the nights on a small air base from which there was no 'shore leave'.

Every so often the barkeep, a senior NCO with a watchful eye toward his clientele, would put "the pressure" on everyone in the bar. This would usually happen a couple of hours into the evening's festivities when the bar was crowded and rowdy.

Now .. when the 'pressure' was put on, it meant free drinks for everyone in the bar; for as long as it took for someone, somewhere in the bar to have to call 'uncle' and go to the bathroom which was conveniently monitored by the barkeep himself. Then everyone went back to paying for their drinks (and forming a line to the restroom door) So ... who wanted to give up and end the spree of free drinks? No one, of course .. hence the 'pressure' was really on :)

As often as not, the event did not last very long (timing is everything) and it was all in good fun. The next day there would be some good hearted ribbing, and the whole thing would surely start again the next weekend if not sooner.

I feel somewhat that way now :) ... we are heading down to the wire on preparations to leave Longmont and the world we have known for the past 24 years. There is a pressure on both of us to continue packing up, storing and organizing. We are still finding things that puzzle us; momentos, valuables, trinkets and knick-knacks that we just haven't figured out what to do with. We really have four options when we come across anything left to pack. We can pitch it, or donate it (either to family or a friend or to a charitable organization), we can leave it behind in the house, or we can find a way to pack it along.

We still have a couple of items on Craig's List, and will have to impose on our friends to handle any callers, but mostly we're just trying to get organized and make tough dowsizing decisions.

If you've never really done this before, I must tell you that it is harder than you think.

We are pulling away in less than three days. We have this evening and tomorrow evening some of Saturday and then we're heading east for a couple of days and turning right for three or four more. I'm not nearly as prepared as I want to be, but I have to recognize that it's all part of the plan, the adventure and ultimately the fun. I think part of me is scared to actually start this trip because if how much change it represents. Our new home has a license plate on it, and we are pulling pretty much our whole (condensed) world behind us.
I think the correlation between the "pressure" of years ago and now is pretty slim actually, but I do not want to be the one to call 'uncle' and just leave a big mess behind for someone else to have to handle. At work, at the places we frequent, or at home. We are trying to clean up all the loose ends and there are many.
We are both working very hard to make a clean break. I'm hoping it'll be handled and we will not be taking a lot of tailings with us on the trip, but we will need to roll regardless of where we are when the 12th comes along.

Please pray for us that there is a safe trip in our future.

We have the route loosely planned, we have enough money to feed Fordzila along the way, and we are in the process of stuffing the fifth-wheel with clothes and foodstuffs to make it an easy trip for us. The schedule, while not excrutiating, is tight and we will need tomake a certain number of miles per day to make our goals. We did build in some margin should we have a flat tire or other delay, but we did build and intend to stick to a schedule as best we can.

OK, I need to pack... :) (and close out end-of-year ratings for my employees, and sell stuff, and clean the garage .. and .. umm .. well, you get it :)

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!


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:




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!

Monday, August 25, 2008


I sent some folks notice last week that our college student daughter had suffered a rather severe break of her left forearm. The process of breaking an arm is relatively simple, just let gravity win and leverage have its way and there you have it. Repairing the break was considerably more involved and will have some long term effects on our young lady's life.

First and foremost, I am truly grateful that nothing more severe than a broken arm occurred. When you get a phone call at 1:30 in the morning from your kid's phone, it is almost never good and I am so very thankful that this call came in the manner that it did, and that the news it bore was as it was.
Brecca is surrounded by wonderful friends, and while she is only 45 minutes away from us in college, it was good to know that in the immediacy of her trauma she had good and caring frinds close by to care for her and help her get to the treatment she needed. May she always be so richly blessed with caring friends.

We got the status updates and knew that she was headed into surgery the next day so we kept contact with her friends and headed up to the hospital to greet her after the procedure. When we first arrived at the hospital, and asked for her room number, we were informed that she was still in recovery and would be headed to I.C.U. after getting out. ICU?!?! what exactly had happened here?? How does a broken arm lead to ICU? .. Well, we came to learn that the hospital was so completely filled up that the only bed available for her was in ICU and for her 'routine' stay it would serve.

We all saw the xrays and got a good look at the two new titanium plates and 14 screws that now bonded both her forearm bones together. They would serve as stabilizers until the bones mend, and will most likely stay there for her lifetime.
I'm glad the surgery went well, I'm thankful we live in a time where this type of injury will not lead to disfigurment and loss of use of the limb, and I'm glad she came through it with such flying colors! (well, despite some pretty serious post-operative pain).

She will no doubt be troubled by occasional aches or pain, and if the metal stays there, it will preclude MRIs who knows exactly what else, it's still pretty cool that it worked the way it did, that she was surrounded by supportive friends and that in the end it likely won't slow her down one bit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guess what we did Monday ...

On Monday morning we went to the RV America place and spent over two hours walking through the new Fifth-wheel with a very knowledgeable fellow named Levi. He had this down to a science and we got all our questions answered. I was advised to, and so I did, video the 'briefing' and when I ran out of tape I hoped I could retain what was left of our education.
Wow, there's a lot to this thing .. systems, balances, procedures. It's going to be like runinng ... umm ... a sailboat???

Well, we couldn't just do all that and not try to pull the thing around, so we hooked up and put Fordzilla through it's first paces with 36 plus feet of trailer behind it. The first place we went was non-stop to Johnson's Corner for lunch ... a distance all of about 6 blocks ... still, it was a 'first' so I felt accomplished to some degree. After luch we drove the whole rig onto the truck scales there and got weighed in, just so we had a feel for what we were pulling, and the truck and coach weighed in at (gulp) 21,580 pounds! Wow !! I'd not considered that there are bridges out there that will have to be circumnavigated if they can handle more than 10 ton of RV :)

We drove straight back to the house, circled the block and parked blocking two yards and a driveway and a half. We had to cut some tree branches down in order to get the front door open and before we even had things cleared out the neighbors came out to see the new house on wheels.
Now, this is a beautiful rig. It's impressive from the standpoint of live-ability and it is deceptively roomy inside for a pull-behind trailer.
I heard, without fail, "Oh my God" from each person that climbed aboard. It was cool.

After we did show-and-tell, Robin and I whimsically decided to spend the night aboard the coach and threw in some overnight stuff and pulled it down to a campground near the county fairgrounds. We found a spot and I managed to get us parked relatively parallel in our space. We got unhitched, hooked up, connected up, powered up and water-pressurized in about 30 or 40 minutes. Not bad for a first effort and the coach behaved nicely for us in all aspects. Later that evening we shared a little time with family and slept in our new bedroom.
I got chiily early in the morning so I set out to figure out how to light the furnace up. It came right on, but the odor of a brand-new furnace was overwhelming to Robin and just as I shut it down it set the smoke detector off. We let that one lie for the rest of the morning and will run it again later; longer to burn off the dust and packing goops and make it into a normal furnace some time later this week.

Tuesday morning we broke camp, buttoned up and had our first experience hitching up, draining and flushing various holding tanks into the dump pipe at the campground. All went pretty well for a first effort and we met some experienced campers from North Carolina who were readily sharing their own techniques with us.
It all worked great and we dropped the unit back up at the dealership for them to take a look at some stuff we noticed or had questions about.

I can't wait to get back up there and hook up again. We are thinking of spending a couple more night aboard locally, to keep learning and searching for things that might not be perfect. Then we hope to take off and travel for at least a few days. Better to shake it down here than to have something break while way far down the road.

This is going to be fun!

Friday, August 15, 2008

About that date...

Robin and I received official notification that our new reporting date to Miami is now (**drumroll**) October 26th, 2008.

This is significantly sooner that we'd originally been offered, and a great thing for us in the scheme of reporting to a new facility in time to bid for days off and vacation time.

While we are excited, very excited in fact, that we get to go earlier than the first date (in January '09) and enjoy the winter in Florida amongst the snowbirds we also now have a shorter deadline to accomplish the myriad of things required of us before we pull the plug on nearly 25 years of residency in the same town. Oh boy, there's a lot to get done! I was planning on a full month just to clean the garage! Now I have to schedule a weekend for it.

Well, stay tuned .. I gotta get to work! :)