Friday, February 20, 2004

The perfect storm

It snows on everything but the sidewalks and the streets.


I took the day off work today. For my eyes.

I've noticed my vision deteriorating. I figured out that it was only in my right eye. I got an appointment with the optometrist.

Turns out I'm going farsighted in my right eye. Two clicks in two years. The optometrist put it in perspective. She says most people wouldn't have noticed the difference and would love to have my vision. I'm so used to "hawk" vision, it seems like a big deal to me.

Whew! Nice to get that evaluation. No signs of glaucoma. No signs of cataracts. I even got a prescription to restore my vision to its previous condition, with glasses, if I want.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Winged migration

I'm having trouble with arctic terns.

I've been watching winged migration. I understand bird migrations.... kind of. You winter where it's warm. Then you fly north, for some reason, to breed. Then you fly back down south to get warm again for the winter.

Why not just stay where it's warm? Predators? Food? I don't know.

Birds fly thousands of miles. Really energetic ones fly six or seven thousand miles. But the arctic tern? It migrates twelve thousand miles. Twelve thousand miles!

The circumference of the earth is twenty-five thousand miles. That means pole-to-pole, it's twelve and a half thousand miles.

The arctic tern. It summers in the Arctic, then flies to the Antarctic for the winter?

I don't get it.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Winter's grip weakens.

After sub-zero temperatures, we woke to warm forty degree weather. Perhaps the spell is broken.

I'd better get those seeds ordered.

Thursday, February 12, 2004


I winterized the motorhome.

It had to happen. It's going to freeze solid. Temperatures are dropping below zero.

I did the usual stuff. Holding tanks. Water lines.

There is more to do though. The water goes other places. There is a washing machine. There is an ice maker. I did it all. There is pink stuff everywhere. I shut the heat off.

For a day and a night.

Then I went out to touch it. It was too cold. It just wasn't right. I turned the heat back on. We'll pay the propane bill.

Sunday, February 8, 2004


I'm a mope. I'm a horrible mope.

I'm not glad at all to be home. I'd rather be on the road.

I haven't yet figured out how to concentrate at work.

Racquetball doesn't even seem that important.

I remember now that this happens after every extended January trip.

We've been home a week. I forget how long this lasts.

Friday, February 6, 2004


The appropriate hitch cover makes the Jeep complete.

Monday, February 2, 2004


Chuckie and Sherman.


A crackling-cold 19 degree pre-dawn start. We’ve gotten considerably better at leaving quietly in the morning. There is a lot we can do before we fire up the engine. If we need to do an extended idle to warm up, we can idle off to somewhere away from the rest of the campground to do that. The night before, I expressed my concern to Judy about bothering our nearest neighbors. They came in after we did last night, and were assigned the spot right next to us. Judy explained that they were all shut up tight with heater fans running, and probably wouldn’t even hear us if we sat right there and ran it. Her point was well taken when I opened the drapes, looked outside, and found our neighbors were already gone. So much for bothering the neighbors with an early startup. In the winter time anyway.

We crept out of Raton and popped over the pass into Colorado. A clear-sky spectacular vista greeted us. Snowy mountains to our left. Endless plains to our right. We slid through a sleepy Saturday mooring in Trinidad before anyone even began to stir. Right after, we were greeted by the painfully brilliant sunrise over the plains. Good thing for us we were not headed southeast this morning.

I’ve adjusted to this engine/transmission combination. It used to bother me to see the engine rpm drop below two thousand, so I would override and manage the shifting to keep the rpm up. Up, at least over two thousand. But know what? It doesn’t really matter. It might drop to 1700 rpm before it hits the shift point on a hill, but you don’t really gain anything by shifting early and popping it up to 2,500 rpm. It all pulls about the same. And above 2,500 rpm, it doesn’t pull as hard. By then we’ve passed the torque peak.

I still manage our speed with the engine brake. When we’re in hilly terrain, I leave the transmission alone, but leave a finger on the engine brake button. The engine brake doesn’t do much at high speeds. You need to be going slower before the transmission can do any constructive downshifting. Approaching an extended downgrade, I need to slow it down to 45 mph, to catch the first big downshift. Then I can ride a 6% downgrade without applying the wheel brakes at all. For 7%, I have to brake occasionally to hold it at forty-five.

I love the cruise control. I’ve never had cruise work so directly and so smoothly. On hills, with every gas engine I’ve had, the cruise always disconnects after a given decrease in speed, about ten miles per hour. That happens a lot while driving around Colorado. Lots of long hills to get up. Lots of managing the cruise control. That’s not just a characteristic of motorhomes, it happens on all the cars too. But this cruise control doesn’t do that. Hook it once and you’re done. No lag. Just immediate and solid. It doesn’t overshoot the speed much coming off the top of a hill, or wait to long to accelerate at the start of a hill either. I think they got it just right.

Back when we were in cold foggy weather, the windows and outside mirrors got a little hard to see through. Then I remembered! Heated mirrors! I have heated mirrors! Maybe this is what they’re for! It could be that they’re just for melting snow and ice, but maybe they will clear condensation too. I flipped the switch. It worked! The mirrors dried right off. My rear view cleared right up.

We’re home. The Bounder has landed.

The snow hit when we were three miles from home. Nice timing. Cold and snowy. Colorado. The heaviest weather is projected for the I-25 corridor we just came through.

Final bird count: 292.

Along the way

When we got home, we discovered that somewhere along the line, we had picked up a hippopotamus!


This sucks!

We only have one more night on the road.

We had a comfortable night and a good dawn start. It was good start, after I got the hose disconnected. We’re back to freezing weather. 27 degrees last night. Judy gave me hot water to pour on the faucet so I could unscrew the hose. Two long sections of hose to reach the water hookup on the other side of the other camper here, a short section, and a water filter. The motorhome water lines are all fine, the heaters ran all night. It was that fifty foot white anaconda we had to deal with. Reluctantly, the hoses all submitted to disconnection, curling up in frozen coils, and stuffing into outside bins, to slowly thaw and dribble down the highway.

We drove north. We drove down off the hill, and north from Big Spring to Lubbock and beyond. North to Plainview. There is a town directly west of Plainview called Levelland. We were tempted to divert to Levelland to admire the scenery, but we resisted and continued north to Amarillo, two hundred fifty miles into our day. North from Amarillo to Dumas. Hang a left past the Krispy Kreme donuts, and head west to New Mexico, then northwest, right to the Colorado Border, but still in New Mexico. Raton, New Mexico. An easy two hundred mile day home tomorrow morning, pacing the impending storm. We’ll be home eating lunch, waiting for it to arrive.

We finally got out of Texas. Once you get into it, it takes a whole lot of leaving to get back out. Ooh. That could be the tag line of a country song. The hook. “It takes a whole lot of leaving to leave Texas.”

We’ve seen a lot of Bounders. We may have picked the most popular motorhome on the road to be our favorite. We may have picked the most popular Class A/tow car combination as well. There are an awful lot of motorhomes towing Jeeps. It’s a little unsettling, this “joining the majority”.

The people next to us last night were interesting. They’re in a pickup truck pulling a travel trailer, with two Harleys in the back of the truck. They’re from Michigan, headed for Arizona to ride for “a month or so.” Then they’re going to go to South Padre. Guess it’s true. When you ride a Harley you “live to ride”.

What is it with motorhome showers? When you shower in a motorhome, you take a “marine” shower. It’s efficient. You start the water, get the temperature adjusted just right, get all wet, then turn the water off at the shower head. You do all the soaping and scrubbing you want, then turn the water back on at the shower head to rinse off. IT’S COLD! It’s always cold. It always returns to the correct balance, but if the temperature is right when you shut it off, no hot water can flow, no cold water can flow, what changes the balance so it blows cold every time you turn it back on? Huh? Can anybody answer me that? Even if you just bump the switch inadvertently and switch it right back on in a second, it does it.

Nice sensible dinner. Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee for dessert. Okay. We didn’t actually drive right past the donut shop in Dumas without stopping.

A 450 mile day.

Got the dishes done, the showers over with, the water disconnected, and hoses put away. Tonight’s low is expected to be ten degrees. Tomorrow morning all we have to do is stuff one stiff cold cord back into its bin, and drive away.

Along the way

Annie has her favorite places to ride. She spends a lot of time curled up in the corner by Judy's feet. The occasional lap will suffice as well.

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Big Spring State Park

7am. Uppenattum.

It was a warm foggy morning. A friendly fog, that held us and hugged us, but didn't constrain us. It was close and thick while we were getting ready to roll, but lifted just enough to let us drive seventy on the highway. A nice early start, headed for Caprock Canyon State Park, in North Texas.

That didn't last long. Fifty miles into the day, we decided we'd rather detour to San Angelo, find the Wal-Mart, unhook, get some barbeque from our favorite barbeque place, check out the San Angelo River Walk, look at some jewelry made out of those neat pink and purple freshwater pearls they get out of mussels in the Concho River, then head north to Big Spring State Park. So we did.

Driving fast on the highway, birds crossing close in front of us, I'm surprised by how little bird-thunking we do with this thing. We push a big block of air out of our way. So far, none of it has had any birds in it.

The sleep monster never struck this trip. Ten hours a night always took care of it. We can get up early and get by with eight hours on driving days.

My mind rambled to running. I ran every day, but didn't really cover that much ground: fifty or sixty miles. In perspective, over the course of an entire month, I ran the distance of one of Stephanie's training runs.

Every January, on vacation, I stay active. I exercise every day. And when I get home I'm surprised by how poorly prepared I am for the demands of racquetball. I attribute it to being in "running shape", but not "racquetball shape". My mind continued to wander, and arrived at another possibility. Altitude! I forgot about the altitude. I'm not immune to altitude. After a month at sea level, no wonder I get winded during racquetball bursts at five thousand feet. I have to reacclimatize.

Getting this close to home, Judy is feeling pleased that we have made it an entire month on the road without stopping at a Laundromat. Practicing life on the road. Life without Laundromats. Didn't seem like such a problem to me. I didn't mind dropping Judy off, then coming back for her when the laundry was done.

Nice early stop for the night. Time to walk around and explore before dark. Big Spring State Park. Two, count 'em, two campsites. We got the last one available. I haven't figured out yet whether we got the best one or not. From up on top of this hill, we can look down over the lake where the sandhill cranes hang out every evening. There are some here now. Thousands will pass through on the spring migration.

We're spending the night at 2,500 feet. Based on elevation, we're half way home.

A 250 mile day.

Tomorrow, we'll cover a lot of ground.

Goose Island

It's not my fault. The sunsets at Goose Island just wouldn't stop.


We did it. We left. Had a quiet restful night. Got up nice and early. Went birding with Dennis. Then got ready to leave. It's funny how much longer it takes to leave after you've been there for a week than it does for an overnight stop. Judy got her hair washed, we got the barbeque put away, the bag of oranges in the cabinet, the chairs back in the bin, the boats back up on the car and tied down, the utilities all unhooked, the slides in, the jacks up, the suspension back up, and backed out. Judy stood outside and made sure I missed the car, the shelter, and the tree. Said goodbye to Rick and Angie. Then we drove a quarter mile to the dump station so we could start out empty. Then we drove a mile to the gas station so we could start out full. Then we drove twenty miles to the propane station so we could start out with that full too. Drove twenty miles to make one more stop. Then it was time for lunch. The first day out never covers much ground. And besides that, Judy is moody. She doesn't like the trip back home as much as she likes the trip down. I sure don't want to drive late today, until one of us gets tired and cranky.

The propane tank still read half full, but we want to be sure to have enough heat for that Colorado snow.

I was crawling around under the Freightliner a few days ago, and I noticed that there are no springs under there at all. There are air bags holding the whole thing up, but how can you do that with no metal at all? Leafs? Coils? Looks empty.

The reason I was crawling around under there is a longer story. Maybe it won't take longer to tell, but it has gone on for months. It has to do with fueling. There is a notice beside the fuel fill hole. It says "drain water from the water/fuel separator after each fill up. See owner's manual" I've never had a diesel before. What does that mean? I could look it up, but I had an easier solution. I asked the guy I was buying it from what that meant. He said he didn't know but he didn't think it mattered. I thought it probably did matter, but if it hadn't been done for two years anyway, it probably wasn't urgent. I looked around for something that looked like a water/fuel separator, but couldn't find anything. After a few weeks of keeping an eye out for it, I decided to make a careful search. Nothing. I was desperate, so I looked it up in the owner's manual. It said: "drain water from the water/fuel separator after each fill up." See operator's manual." That took care of that for a while. Next effort, I dug through all the paper we got with this thing and found the operators manual for the Freightliner. It said: "drain water from the water/fuel separator after each fill up." It went on to describe the water/fuel separator as a doohickey that had a glass bowl on it with a screw fitting on the bottom. If there is water in the bowl, you open the fitting to drain the water out. It said they couldn't tell me where it was because the final manufacturer, that would be Fleetwood, got to locate it wherever they wanted. I searched the vehicle again. Nothing. This trip, I decided to get serious. Judy called Fleetwood for me. They have incredible customer service. You call them and tell them your vehicle number. They call your vehicle up on the computer and tell you anything you want to know about your unit. We called. Roland answered. He looked us up. He said it was located under the vehicle. I looked under it. He said no. Way under. Attached to the frame. I crawled under. Cell phone in hand, I crawled while he described. It's on the outside of the frame, passenger side, two feet behind the front wheel. It's not there. No. Not the front wheel, the rear axle. Two feet behind the rear axle. It's not there. What's it look like? It's a doohickey with a glass bowl. From under the motorhome, on my back, on the cell phone I asked him, "Are you sure I'm supposed to be on my back under the motorhome in the gas station every time I fill up to do this?" He mumbled.

I never found it. I gave up. Again.

Then I met the guy next to us at Goose Island, from Ohio, towing a travel trailer with a diesel pickup. We talked about lots of stuff. We talked about the separator. I described it to him. He said sure, it probably looked like that. But it could be inside a plastic housing. Judy looked in the engine compartment in the back and found something neither one of us recognized. He identified it as the separator. It doesn't have a glass bowl showing. It doesn't have a screw on the bottom. It is enclosed in a black plastic canister with a black lever on one side, and a short drain hose attached. He showed us how to use it. We don't have to get under the motorhome to get at it. We don't even have to lean over. A perfect solution, even if it did take a long time to get to. Now the Bounder has been properly burped. Wonder if I should call Fleetwood and tell them where it is?

I was wrong. It did take longer to tell.

Bill is about ready to leave on his Spring Training Trip. He'll leave just before I get back from my trip. Let's go for the record. How long can we keep at least one brother in the air at all times?

Stopped for the night at a private RV park we like. If you're ever passing through the Texas Hill Country and are looking for a full hookup private RV park convenient to the freeway, we recommend Buckhorn Lake Resort. Stream. Lake. Ponds. Swans. Stocked with fish. No fishing license required. Perfectly level, well separated sites. Very nice. It's at exit 501 on Interstate 10.

Oh no. I didn't get to the showerhead, hot mirrors, Buddy at Tackle town, GPS rest stops, or the Lazy Daze. Ok, I'll do the Lazy Daze. There's a thirty-footer here. He was towing. I watched it from a distance and was struck by how small the wheels look. It's hard to imagine those wheels supporting enough brakes to provide a lot of stopping power. Especially towing. They're regular Class C size wheels. Class A wheels are a little larger. Diesel wheels are larger still. Guess they're all proportional to the weight of the vehicle. I looked again. I think what else makes the wheels look small is that it was wearing fender skirts. I never noticed that before. The Lazy Daze has fender skirts. How about that? A flashback to the fifties.

A 250 mile day.