Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall is in the air


A front is trying to push its way through and it’s breezy.  At 7am, before dawn, it was so cool that, for the first time since we got back here, we had our morning coffee inside.  Can you blame us?  It was only 75 degrees!


Yes.  Fall is definitely in the air.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Count the egrets


Those white dots on the trees…..  The trees are not in bloom.  They haven’t been decorated.  Those white spots are egrets come in to roost in the evening.


Mostly they’re cattle egrets with a few great egrets and snowy egrets mixed in.  The black dots are neotropic cormorants.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Along the way


Did I ever send out pictures of the Least Bittern?  He’s a tiny little thing.



He was feeding right next to the boardwalk at the Birding Center.


Here’s the video:



Tuesday, September 27, 2011



I have a thought about religion.


Have you seen those billboards?

“We need to talk.  God.”


There are a whole bunch of them:


"What Part of "Thou Shalt Not..." Didn't You Understand?" - God

“Follow Me”.  God.”

“Tell the kids I love them.  God”

"Big Bang Theory, You've Got To Be Kidding." – God


I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a Southern U.S. thing.


Anyway, here is my thought:  God is the all-knowing, all-powerful being, right?  Isn’t it a little presumptuous when we mere mortals choose to speak for this all-knowing all-powerful being (assuming that someone besides God paid for these billboards)?  Really, if an all powerful, all-knowing being had something to say, would it only tell a few people and have them make up clever billboards?  I’m thinking if it really wanted to be heard, it would take a more direct approach.


I don’t know, maybe it would write a book.  Something unambiguous perhaps?  Knowing our proclivity for screwing things up, it wouldn’t try to communicate with us through riddles, would it?



Monday, September 26, 2011

Engine update


They were getting screwy readouts when they plugged their computers into the outside ports on our motorhome.  Our motorhome kept shutting off their computer.  Today they bypassed all the connectors and plugged their computer directly into the engine.  The got a good reading.  They ran cut-out tests on all the injectors and they passed with flying colors.  That makes them think the problem is electrical.  There is a wire or harness somewhere that is misbehaving and making the engine cut-out.  They’ve gotten to this point by a process of elimination; negative evidence.  They’ve proved what it can’t be so they think they know what it is.  I figure we’ll know for sure when they strike positive evidence; when they pull out the broken smoking part.



Annie finally got her own golf cart today.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's time

It’s time for the annual can you find the Pauraque in this picture poll.

We spent the morning at Estero Llano Grande State Park and spotted this sleeping Common Pauraque on the ground while we there. Can you see him? He’s facing right towards us.

A little closer.


This should do it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The outside of our place

Looks plain.

It needs an awning and a deck…

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cellphone communications


First we got phones so we could talk to each other.  Then we got cellphones so we could talk to each other no matter where we were.  Then we got texting so we could talk to each other without actually talking to each other.  Then we got voice recognition so we don’t have to type our texts, we can just speak them into the phone and the phone types them for us.


Which leaves us with…..a really slow disjointed phone call?



We dropped the motorhome off at Holt Cat this morning.  The mechanic that rode with me on the test drive felt the shudder, but couldn’t tell what was causing it.  Nothing abnormal showed up on the computer screen he was monitoring engine performance with, even while the engine was doing its shudder thing.


We left the motorhome there for further study (and didn’t have to move into a motel).  They’re leaning toward an injector problem.  We put in all new injectors in connection with the engine rebuild, but that doesn’t mean one of the new ones wasn’t bad.


We’ll see.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Moving trees


They’re moving trees here at Sandpipers.  Big trees.


There is a giant digging contraption on the back of a truck.  It splits open to go around the trunk of the tree, then closes.  Four giant spades, alternating, methodically dig into the ground around the tree until a giant root ball can be lifted out.  The contraption continues to hold onto the trunk as the entire tree is lifted, then tilted down for carrying.


Here is what it looks like:



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We've moved on


Now we’re back at Sandpipers, 300 miles south of Bandera.  Palm trees.  Crested Caracaras.  Green Jays and Great Kiskadees.  Way south.


We’ve got an appointment at Holt Caterpillar in Edinburg to get the motorhome motor looked at on Thursday.



Monday, September 19, 2011

The summer that didn't happen


Well, summer itself actually happened, but it sure didn’t happen like we planned.  We spent our summer abandoning plans and pretending we really wanted to do something else instead.  When confronted with certain defeat, change the rules and declare victory.


I added the last few stops to our summer travel map.  It doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s just a jumble.  And I think it ran out of pins.  The last several places on the list, through Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, don’t even get pins on the map, but if you click on them, they get a description pointing to where they are:,-99.492187&spn=22.953946,56.118164



FW: Along the way.

We visited the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I know what's wrong - the answer!

Yesterday I had it all figured out. A wobble in the driveshaft. It hits a resonant frequency and is terrible, but accelerate and it’s gone.

Today I realized that I had it all figured out wrong. I had it as the driveshaft; a bad U-joint perhaps. But today I realize that the driveshaft is related to vehicle speed and my problem is related to engine speed. When I downshift, the problem gets better. It’s engine speed related. The driveshaft is still going the same speed when I downshift, so it’s not the driveshaft. I apologize. I misled you all. Come to think of it, I even misled myself. I don’t have the answer.
It feels like I’m on the right track with something rotational out of balance, but to be engine speed related, the problem has to be in front of the transmission. I don’t like that prospect much. The stuff that rotates in the engine is all connected to the crankshaft which is the guts of the entire engine.

I thought all we had to do was take it to Holt Cat in Edinburg, tell them to check the driveshaft, and it would all get better. We’ll still take it to Holt Cat in a few days, but we don’t get to tell them what’s wrong. We have to hope they can tell us what’s wrong. It could still be a hiccup in the timing. We’ll see.

In the meantime, we’re settled in at Jeff and Carol’s 3 miles outside Bandera in the Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. They bought some acres and carved out a spot in the oak and cedar(juniper) for their 5th wheel. They put in full hookups: water, sewer, and 50 amp electric.

Then they carved out a spot for us too!

Thank you Jeff and Carol. It’s good to be here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I figured it out!


I know what’s wrong with the motorhome.


First the engine blew up.  Then it got fixed.  But on our first test drive, the rig seemed a little bumpy.  It felt like it was running rough at 65mph.  I took it back to Josh at MHC Kenworth.


Josh checked it out and everything seemed fine while it was idling.  He plugged a computer in behind the dash and monitored all the engine and transmission functions while we went on a test drive together.  There were no error messages, no readings out of range, but still it ran rough at 65mph under load.  He reset the transmission.  We drove the motorhome away to see if resetting the transmission helped.  It didn’t.


The motorhome ran terrible at 65mph in 6th gear, there was a shudder, but if I downshifted, it got better.  It hates 1,500rpm.  It hates 60% to 80% load.  It’s fine with 1,800rpm.  We took it back.  Josh plugged a computer into the outside cabinet under the driver’s window and ran a program to reset the timing.  He plugged the computer into a fitting at the right rear of the coach and updated the engine software.  He checked the exhaust brake to make sure it wasn’t sticking.  Nothing helped.  We drove away.


Josh is stumped.  Everyone at MHC Kenworth is stumped.  Caterpillar Tech Support is stumped.  Allison Transmission is stumped.  We’ve driven a thousand miles down the road in 5th gear because it’s too rough in 6th gear.  When it gets too rough in 5th gear on an incline, I downshift to 4th.  Suddenly it comes to me.  I know what the problem is!


I’ve listed every clue.  I’ll leave this as today’s puzzler.  I’ll send the answer tomorrow.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Darn it!


The biopsies came back on our basal cell carcinomas.  We each need to go back to have more tissue removed to make sure we got it all.  John is gone fishing in Montana and Alaska for a couple weeks, so it will be a month or so before he can do the surgery and we’re not supposed to travel for 2 or 3 weeks after.  We mean to be in South Texas now, so we’ve made appointments with a dermatologist in Corpus Christi to see if she can do the follow-up surgery instead.


Meanwhile, we crossed back into Texas on Highway 281 at Wichita Falls.  Highway 281.  That’s our highway in Edinburg.  All we have to do is follow it 565 miles south and we’ll be at Sandpipers!


Stopped for the night at Fort Richardson State Park south of Jacksboro.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011



Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma.  Tomorrow, Texas.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How hard could it be?


We had to decide which road to take south.  We could pop over to Interstate 29 or we could take Highway 75.  Interstate 29 would take us right through Kansas City, Missouri.  Big freeways and interchanges.  Highway 75 goes through Topeka.  We chose Topeka.


Bad choice.  Highway 75 through Eastern Nebraska is rough.  It didn’t take much bouncing along on that before we decided to abandon the original plan and jump over to Interstate 29 in Iowa.  Interstate 29 is on the other side of the Missouri River.  We had to keep driving and wait for a bridge to come along.  Our first opportunity was at Plattsmouth.  There was a sign there that said the road was closed at the state line.  Bridge work we guess.  Next opportunity was at Nebraska City.  That road was closed too.  Must have had some high water that damaged the bridges.


The road got worse.  Old concrete now.  I wish concrete highways had never been invented.  At their absolute best, they’re okay.  When they’re bad though, they’re horrendous.  We ended up driving on the shoulder at 25mph with the blinkers on in an attempt to keep from getting beaten to death by the road.


At Auburn the way east was closed too.  We had to have a break from the pounding so we pulled over at a Pamida.  We found a delivery truck driver and a store owner to talk to about the roads.  They told us the problem is not with the bridges across the Missouri to get to the Interstate.  The problem is with the Interstate.  It’s closed.  It got washed out by high water in the spring and it might be a couple more years before they finish the repairs.  Who knew?  Well, I guess a lot of people knew, but if it was on the news in our neighborhood, it didn’t make our radar.


There wasn’t a better option than the current road.  We puttered on.  The road did get progressively better.  By the time we crossed over into Kansas we were back up to 65mph.  We stopped for the night south of Topeka at Pomona Lake.  Another state park essentially empty except for us.


How hard could it be?  We just wanted to drive south.  If you don’t like the road you’re on you can always just choose another one; right?  If you’re tired of highways you can always take the Interstate; right?


Sometimes you just have to suck it up and take what you get.  Life on the road.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Can't remember a damn thing


We have to write reminder notes.  If we’re going to look something up on the computer, first we have to write down what we’re looking for in case we get distracted in the process and forget what it was we were going to do in the first place.  Last week we needed to remember to take something out of the refrigerator when we went to Becky’s, so we put a yellow sticky above the door.  That worked great.  There didn’t need to be anything written on the sticky; just being there was reminder enough.  On the way out the door, with the sack of cold food in hand, we thought of something else we needed to remember, so we just left the sticky where it was.


The next morning we got up and rediscovered the yellow sticky over the door.  We still can’t remember what it was for…



Sunday, September 11, 2011


Nebraska. Easy driving. Flat. Smooth roads.

Louisville State Recreation Area. The Platte River, forest, grass, and sandpit ponds.

It’s after Labor Day. Got to love the camping density of shoulder season.

When we first got here, there was a large picnic going on. They made us take food. We had an early dinner.

Friday, September 9, 2011

On the road again!

We left St. Vrain State Park and brought the motorhome in to MHC Kenworth for a follow-up. It still does that shudder/flutter thing at 65mph. They were ready for us. They plugged into something in the front and did a timing recalibration with the engine running. They took a look at the exhaust brake to make sure it wasn’t sticking and causing the engine to run rough at speed. They checked the software for the new engine and downloaded the newest version.

That’s it. They can’t think of anything else to do. I can’t think of anything else to do. Caterpillar tech support can’t think of anything else to do. It was 5 o’clock on a Friday when they were done. Not a great time for a test drive on the freeway, so we just drove to the other end of the lot and parked for the night. Spent the evening with Matt and Lindsay at their house. We’ll give the rig a real test drive tomorrow, but driving from the service bay to our parking spot, it felt different. I think it’s running better. So, with that in mind, we’re leaving tomorrow morning. If the motorhome runs better, great. If it runs the same, okay. As long as it doesn’t run worse, that’s good enough for this trip. We’re off.

Our spot for the night:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

That voice


We watched that program on television, The Closer.  There is something about that voice.  Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer.  It’s so familiar.  The accent.  The tone.  The cadence.


I know who it is!




That’s who it sounds like.  Kyra Sedgwick is Dustin Hoffman!



Wednesday, September 7, 2011



My face hurts.


Dr. John (the dermatologist) blasts spots on our faces with liquid nitrogen to combat and correct accumulated sun damage.  He also had to cut a basal cell carcinoma off of each of us.  They’ll run those samples through the lab to make sure he got it all and have results by Monday.  Meanwhile, as the days progress, it will look more and more like we fell off our bicycles and landed on our faces.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Annie the Beaver

Nothing much going on now. I’m catching up on work. Judy is doing all the errands it takes to keep the household running smoothly. Tomorrow, more doctor’s appointments and we have to move the coach to another site. We used up all the time we can reserve here, but by the Campground Ranger’s good graces, they’ll let us shuffle around from place to place until we get our lives in order enough to move on. We see the dermatologist. That means shots of liquid nitrogen at least, and I’m expecting a bit of the knife as well.

Judy has one more doctor’s appointment on Thursday. Friday afternoon, the coach goes back to the repair shop to find that elusive shudder at 65mph. Don’t know how long that will take. But that’s it. When this stuff is done, off we go.

Here is an old favorite picture, Annie having done her work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Along the way

A walk through coastal scrub.


The Wedding.

It went wonderfully.

Seated in the front row, camera in my lap, I could inconspicuously snap a few shots during the ceremony. There will be real wedding pictures later, but in the meantime, I get to tell the story.

A story of beautiful bridesmaids:

Good looking groomsmen:

And a stirring ceremony:

Alex and Austin were included with an exchange of roses.

And yes, Austin did manage to stomp on almost every one of those rose petals that have so captured his attention.

And finally, we present the happy couple: Mr. and Mrs. Taylor.

At the wedding reception, there were the traditional dances with bride and father, groom and mother. There was also a dance for all the married couples. Then all the couples married less than three hours were asked to step aside. Matt and Lindsay sat down. Less than a year. Less than five years. Ten years. Twenty. Thirty. It was getting thin out there. Our friends the McKees sat down at 42 years. That left Judy and I at 45; the longest married couple in the room. How’s that? Our family got shortest married, longest married, and middle; Becky and Brian married for over 20 years.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Friday part 3

And a rehearsal dinner for 30. At the dinner, Judy handed out cards and envelopes with Matt and Lindsay’s names on them and the date September 3rd, 2021. We requested everyone write a note to Matt and Lindsay for them to read on their 10th anniversary. That request was met with great enthusiasm given how quiet the room got as everyone was scribbling.

The notes have been placed in a locked box. Matt and Lindsay even wrote notes to each other to include in the box. I took a snapshot of every person there for them to see ten years later.

Now, tomorrow is the big day.

Friday part 2

Happy people for the rehearsal:

Friday, part 1

It’s September. We turned the furnace on this morning. We sleep with the air conditioning at 66 degrees. In the morning, we just open up the doors and windows to warm up. Not this morning though. It was only 60 degrees outside. We sat outside in a light breeze wearing sweatshirts for morning coffee. Watched a river of 2,500 grackles fly past. That awesome flow of grackles went right though our camp and over our heads. Bird behavior is different now than in the spring. For some species, the individuals and pairs have all banded together into great flocks. The magpies at Chatfield have flocked up. There is a bald eagle perched in the tree on the island in the pond next to us where the cormorants normally roost. There aren’t any cormorants there today.

Another busy day. Plenty of work to do, but our attention is shifting more to the impending wedding each day. Still working out last minute deficiencies in tux deliveries.

Time for the rehearsal. It’s a wonderful wedding facility: