"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Birthday Boy

Sunday was John's birthday. We had a very easy going quiet day - he got to sit and read most of the day since it was so rainy and any excuse to sit and read is a good thing by him. In the evening we went to a local pizza joint with family, great pizza and great company. This was the first year that we put out our request for no gifts and we were thankful that everyone respected that request. When you are living in 300 sq. ft. it becomes a no gift zone. We have spent a year and a half purging our stuff so this policy is a must. Our favorite gift is just spending time with those we love.

Happy birthday John! As the card you once gave me says.

" Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bye Bye Saturn

In 1996 we purchased a new green 4 door SL2 Saturn. John hates the haggling over price that the dealers play so their one price system was a big plus for him. It was a great car. It even survived Mitchell learning to drive a manual and Gabe trying to learn (he gave up on it and learned later from a friend). It also survived Mitchell's teen years though it has a broken bumper to prove it. The skylight leaked and so the fabric inside on the roof decided to come loose, the frame was starting to rust, needed new shocks and new rear brakes and had 168,000 miles on it. It was a good car but obviously had seen better days.

We decided to donate it to Iowa Public Radio. I think this is a great program and since we listen to IPR almost everyday we felt it was the way to go. Last Monday a tow truck showed up at the apartment parking lot to take it away. I never thought I'd get nostalgic about a car but it was hard to watch it leave. It's like an era has passed and I can never get it back. Sometimes this getting old thing stinks but since I can't stop the progress of time, I wave goodbye and look ahead to the next adventure.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Moving day.

Stardate whatever: I’m losing track already, and it’s only been a couple of weeks since we took delivery of the starship.Moving day today. I’m nervous and just want to get it over with. We have water and a 50 amp service where we’re at, so I’m not sure I even want to move. Coward. We know the drill and are veterans of two moves. We’ve busted a slide, and survived it so what else could go wrong?
This move went smoothly right up to when I slammed my finger in the tailgate. The truck was already hitched to the rig (is the rig the truck and the 5th wheel or just the 5th wheel?) so I had to stand off to the side to close the tailgate. The rails that hold the cover of the truck bed don’t allow enough room for a finger between the end of the rail and the tailgate. The tailgate will actually close though, if you slam it hard enough. Good thing we store the first aid kit where you can get to it with the slides in.We had planned on going to Palisades, a local state park, but the state parks don’t have water service at their sites so we opted for another county park. Not listening to the water pump constantly cycling is nice. What wimps. Being close to a Walmart was nice also. I’m starting to like that store. They had the water pressure regulator I needed when I decided the plastic one the dealer gave us was worthless. They also had some screws to replace a couple I sheared off on the utility access cover on the side of the coach (what’s with that?). I had to buy a bag of 100, but now I have plenty.
Dumping the tanks went without a hitch, just like before. This is turning out to be the most routine part of moving. This time we had water for back flushing the sewage tank, so I encouraged Janie to do that (I was injured, so I got to supervise). We couldn’t actually see the drainage from the black water tank, so next time I think I’ll just pull the hose out a little and look. Maybe I’ll see something interesting.We also dumped our fresh water tank this time, since I knew we would have water hook-up where we were going. I also wanted to see if the rig handled any different with empty tanks.Turned out, handling was about the same. The rig tends to porpoise a little around 50 – 55 mph, but it hauls nicely around 65 mph. The truck was up to it, so let ‘er rip.
This new park is sweet. Quieter than our last site since we’re not close to any major roads. Very scenic. I might have to get a pair of hand shears to cut some branches over hanging our site. Should be easy from the top of the rig; anything I can reach.This is our first back-in site. We would have opted for a pull-through, but while we were deciding another rig came in and took the only pull-through left. Must’ve been some newbies who couldn’t handle their rig. Not us though. Janie picked out a site she liked and I backed it over the grass and recovered in time to put it right in the middle of the gravel part. Just like I meant to.
I could get used to living like this. Since we’ve been in our new home, we’ve only stayed in the apartment one night, when we had tornado warnings and the park’s shower building wasn’t open yet. I think we have most of what we plan on keeping in the 5th wheel. The apartment still has lots of stuff in it, and we knew it would, but it’s still sobering to see how much stuff we’re leaving behind; again. It’s awesome.The captain has turned the seat belt sign off: you’re free to move about the country.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lessons learned the hard way

The adventure continues, but the latest one wasn’t the fun kind. Sometimes you just learn things the hard way.This is only the second time we’ve setup, and we both follow check lists, although I find myself making edits as I go along. When it came time to put the slides out, we crunched the living room slide against an open computer drawer that is part of the entertainment center at the back of the coach. It was entirely preventable by us (mostly), by PI, and by the dealer.
When we accepted delivery of the coach last November, we went over the drill for putting the slides out and in. Our check lists made sure that everything was stowed and all the cabinets closed before we pulled the slides in. But when we put them back out again, we just ran them out. In my mind, I think I made the connection of closing everything up before pulling the slides in, but if they were already in, then everything was good to go. Adding to this misconception was the cabinets we needed to be careful with were not visible (from the slide switches) with the slides fully in. You would have to walk to the end of the coach and peek around the slides to see if everything was clear.
But that’s not what we did, and everything wasn’t clear. During the trip to our new site, the computer door had fallen down and the tray had slid into the “keep clear” zone behind the slide. Crunch time.
Of course, I reconstructed the crime from the available evidence. During our last stay, we installed the laptop in its new home in the computer drawer made especially for it. But with the added weight of the laptop, the magnets for the door to the slide out computer tray and the single friction latch for the computer tray itself were not strong enough to prevent the heavier tray from sliding forward when the rig slowed down or stopped. And I drive this rig like an old lady. (When we hauled the coach home from the dealer, we didn’t see this problem with the empty tray.)
So we were remiss in not checking, and I can accept that., but I’ll also deal out some of the blame to the dealer for not suggesting we walk down and peek around the end of the slides before we put them out, and I’ll fault PI some for under designing the latches on the computer drawer, especially for a drawer in the critical slide zone that wouldn’t be visible with the slides in. This is the only drawer we have that uses magnets for the latch, and it just about falls open. Every other cabinet in the coach uses very stiff friction latches. A drawer that short that swings down would be hard to open with those friction latches, but maybe a latch would work. And the handle needs some more thought because it blocks opening the cabinet doors under the computer tray when the tray’s out. (It made taking the damaged tray out interesting since I couldn’t open the cabinet below it.)
The computer tray slides are totaled but easily fixed. No damage to the front swing down door (amazingly). The slide took a hit. It doesn’t seal tightly on the inside seal (against the coach wall) when fully out There’s a gap I can stick four fingers into (where the slide sealing surface was bowed out) and you can see where the seam behind the trim has pulled loose. The slide’s trim is also loose, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it. The outer seal should keep us dry, so I don’t think it’s an emergency, but I’ll have to get it fixed.
Sorry this took so long, but it’s kind of therapeutic to get this out there.
And finally, one of my favorite quotes: “Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” Although I don’t think we’ll be making this mistake again for awhile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Squaw Creek Walk

We have moved our rig to Squaw Creek park in Marion IA. We changed our plans when we found out the county parks were open and the water is turned on. The Linn county parks are beautiful and very well kept. This one has a new shower house and the sites are large. There is a little noise from the highway but I can deal with that. We bought an 80 day coupon book for the Linn County parks which brings our daily rate down to $13.00 and we have water and electricity. We will probably move about once a week as that is when we will have to dump our tanks (at least that is what we are shooting for.)It is an absolutely beautiful day and I knew a morning walk was a must. Walking out the door into this park was a wonderful reminder of why we want to do this. I just walk out my door to incredible trails. I walked on the road to the trail head as I didn't have a map and when I checked the map out there realized I could take the trail right back to the campground. So off I went for about a 3-4 mile hike. The sun was shinning, the birds were singing what more could I ask for. When I followed the trail back to the campground I found it entered just two sites away from where we are parked. You might not see it from the road as it is a grass path just over the downhill edge of the road. Now that I know I won't need to take the road at all.We've had some stressful moments as we learn about our rig but I am going to let John write about that. I think he needs to recover a little first. Until then I hope everyone has a sunny day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pleasant Creek State Park - view from our yard

We have been mainly living in our new home for almost a week. Many trips have been made to the condo for showers, sorting and hauling, laundry and a one night stay due to tornado warnings. It is definitely an adventure but the view from my yard makes it all worthwhile.
The weather true to an Iowa spring has been a bit volatile. We had a lot of rain a little hail, and a tornado warning. The tornado warning is the only one that sent us in town to sleep. The storm shelter here at the park are the shower houses and they are still locked up until they turn the water on at the end of this week. So we pulled the slides in locked up and went to the condo. Half way into town I asked John if he had turned the ceiling fan in the living room off before we pulled the slides in. His answer was "I didn't know it was on". Oops that is my fault it was hot when I got to the rig so turned it on to move some air. I didn't hear a crunch when we pulled the slides in so hopefully the fan was all right. Sure enough when we got back Wednesday night the fan was running over the top of the slides. Stupid me but at least it turned out OK - I'll remember to check that next time.
Sunday afternoon we are going to move to Palisades Kepler State park near Mt. Vernon Iowa. It is closer for me to work and about the same distance for John. Palo adds half an hour to my commute to Iowa City. Palisades is the park where John and I got married and has always been a favorite. We won't have the lake view but there are wonderful hiking trails along the river. We need the hitching up practice and a friend Mike is going to meet us there for some lessons on backing this thing up. Luckily if something happens and he doesn't make it they also have some pull-thrus.
The trailer is filling up and we are trying to really evaluate what we need and what we don't, the biggest part of this adventure is truly the simplifying. How many clothes do you need anyway?? Well that is a big question for me, John doesn't seem to have a problem with that one. I've added some photos of where we are now. If you are in the area and want to join us please stop by.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bringing it "home"

We go to Dubuque tomorrow to get the rig out of storage. We may stay there one night to make sure everything is ready but with the forecast for rain on Friday night and Saturday we may change our minds and bring it "home" tomorrow. Our first backyard will be Pleasant Creek State Park in Palo.