Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gabby Bot

Elk’s Lodge #2456, Monte Vista, CO, June 13, 2018

Remember the movie "Alien", you know the one where the creature explodes out of the chest of actor John Hurt scaring the living daylights out of everybody? Well we had our own version of that scenario yesterday.


For the last week we have been treating what we thought was a cyst on the side of Gabby's (our younger cat) chest. Twice a day we would clean it with warm water, then apply peroxide and an antiseptic ointment. But after a week of treatment, the "cyst" was not going away. And there was a small opening, smaller than the head of a straight pin, that would not close. You would think that eventually that little hole would close up as part of the healing process. Plus we thought we could see movement through that little hole, but we thought it was her breathing causing that .

After a week with no improvement, we decide that it's time to seek the help of an expert. Of course we are in a campground in the Rio Grande National Forest and the nearest vet is over 30 miles away. EJ goes to the Web looking for reviews of the few veterinarians nearest to us. We found one in Monte Vista, Colorado that had the best reviews and she called and made Gabby an appointment, at 8:45 the next morning.

Not wanting to subject Gabby to a 30 or 45 minute car ride as she gets very vocal expressing her displeasure of that method of convayance, we decide to leave our idylic spot in the woods and move the RV to Monte Vista(she has no problems with traveling in the RV).

Unhappy Gabby

Only problem is, there are no campgrounds in Monte Vista. But there is an Elks Lodge right downtown. So I call the lodge. No answer. But I leave a message, telling of our plight, and hoping it is OK to spend a few nights in their parking lot while we get Gabby tended to.

We move over to the Monte Vista Elks Lodge and get set up. No hookups, so we are on our own. Pretty soon this fella wearing a tie wanders over. We think "Uh-ho, the moment of truth"! Turns out this lawyer, bar tender, head of the local Elks Lodge (his name is Ben Gibbons) wanted to see if we were OK and welcomed us to stay as long we needed.

Monte Vista Elks

The morning of the appointment everything is going great. Gabby is being her normal rambunctious self tearing around the RV. Then a garbage truck shows up next door and makes a great deal of noise clanging and banging a dumpster to show the neighborhood how deligent he is ensuring the dumpster is truly empty. Gabby panics at the noise and disappears up under the RV's dashboard which is a mass of wires and cables totally inaccessable by humans. By this time it is about 20 minutes before we have to leave to make the vet appointment on time. Cajoling and threatening have no effect in convincing Gabby to emerge from her cave. Finally we put some dry food in her bowl and shake it to make sure she hear the delicious morsels rattling around in her dish.

It works! She squirms out of her sanctuary and we let her have a few bites as a reward before whisking her off to the vet in the car, listening to her caterwauling the whole way. Fortunately it was less than a 10 minute drive.

At the vets, they take us right in. We explain what we think the problem is and a veterinary assistant shows us to one of the patient rooms.

Gabby at the Monte Vista Vet

He examines what we think is a cyst and proceeds to shave the area around the site.

Bot Hole

He squeezes the "cyst" and nothing happens. He puts some vaseline over the hole in the "cyst" and almost immediately this "thing" begins to poke out of the "cyst". Using a pair of forceps he tries to grab this "thing". Finally he decides that he needs to get the veterinarian involved.

She puts a really big glob of vaseline on the "cyst" and the "thing" starts getting more active. She too, tries to grab it using forceps. Pretty soon we're seeing some blood and vaseline every where. But, the "thing" is evading capture. Next she places her fingers on either side of the "cyst" and squeezes it like a giant pimple. (We had to borrow this picture, because we forgot to take one)

Squeezing the pimple

What happened next must have resulted in expressions of incredulity and revulsion on EJ's and my faces. This "worm" squirts out of the "cyst" and lands in Gabby's fur.

Gabby Bot

As it turns out, this happens to animals and humans fairly often. What popped out of Gabby was the larvae of a Bot Fly. It lays an egg and attaches it to another insect such as a mosquito which then bites an animal or human and deposits the egg. The egg turns into a larvae which thrives just beneath the skin using the hole created by the bite to breathe trough. That's why when you seal the hole with vaseline the larvae gets agitated and tries to reopen the hole.

Gabby is fine now. There is no disease or permanent damage associated with this unfortunate incident. Only the temporary indignity of patch of skin devoid of any fur.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hitting the Road After an Eventful Year

Location: Bunk House RV Park, Red Bay, Alabama

It’s been a year since we slowed down for a temporary hiatus in Florida. Little did we know it would take so long to get back on the road. But life continues at it’s own pace and we don’t move as fast as we used to.

We cut our last adventure short because Frank had ignored the pain in his left hip long enough that it was now inteferring with having fun. That just wasn’t going to do. So the first order of business was a new hip.

FP's Metal Hip

Of course that meant lots of this.

FP Recuperating

Then while he was recuperating, he was also searching the internet for a newer RV. And we found this.

Phaeton in Itasca out

Under the roof is our new to us 2012 Tiffin Phaeton 36 QSH. Outside in the rain is our 2005 Itasca Meridian 34H which was going to be for sale.


EJ says goodbye to Big Guy after we move him to Rick Baker’s RV in Green Cove Springs, FL to let him handle the sale. And sure enough, 6 months later he found a buyer and got us our asking price.

in the mean time, we had a load of projects we wanted to do on the Phaeton. Even though it is 2 foot longer, the storage space is not as usable as it was in the Itasca. So we set about to change that.

Bathroon Kleenex Holder and Shelf

We added trim to the window valance to turn it into a shelf. Also added was a kleenex box holder to free up precious counter space. In the dark by the toilet is a wooden bracket that holds the scales. We also added a towel rod with pieces from the Tiffin parts store.

Litter Box Cabinet

The previous owners had opted to not have a TV at this location. We turned the cabinet into a spot to contain the litter box. EJ installed the tile backsplash to give it some pizazz!

Litter Box Cabinet Pulled Out

The litter box is also accessible if the slide is closed. An important feature appreciated by the kitties. This required extending the cabinet by 4 inches which is concealed by trim and a place to hold spices and napkins.

New Pantry

Also a missing feature our Itasca had, was a pantry. EJ said we had to remedy that. So we took one of the overhead cabinets and turned it into a mini-pantry contating 3 pullouts. Much deliberation and mockups went into determining the proper heights for the shelves in the individual pullouts. Syrups, soups, and canned vegetables all have their own spots now.

Removed TV made storage added doors

This location used to hold a TV. Since we don’t watch TV in bed, it was kinda a waste for us. So instead we decided to make a shoe cabinet out of it. When we visited Red Bay, Al we had Chris Berry of Making Sawdust add a pair of doors to cover the opening. Now it looks like it came from the factory that way.

Bedroom Kleenex Holder

EJ wanted a place for kleenex tissues that didn’t involve the nightstands since they are pretty small. So we built a box to hang them overhead. That way the tissues can be easily reached while we’re in bed.

Another idiosyncrasy of the Phaeton is the use of vertical uprights on the shade valances. They take a lot of valuable counter space.


Here is an example. The nightstand on EJ’s side with the wooden covers.


Here is the same nightstand without the wooden covers. They look pretty, but they are really cover up a lot of valuable counter space. EJ also has a place to store her Kindle.

New Faucet, filtered water system, soap dispenser, Paper towel holder

The previous owners had the spray for the sink coiled up and stored under the kitchen counter. We kinda like a spray so we took the opportunity to replace the faucet with one that has a built in sprayer plus added a soap dispenser and a filtered water dispenser.

Old window treatment

EJ thought the old window treatments could use a little jazzing up. We like brighter colors, somehow they just make us happier.b(Even tho the picture shows the upright of the shade valance, all were removed to open up more counter space.)

New window treatment

The result really does make for a more interesting look. Subdued, but colorful.

While all this was going on, there was maintenance that needed attention too.

New Tires and Shocks

The tires were five years old and minor cracks in the sidewall were starting to show up. So new tires were installed and while the wheels were off, we had new Bilstien shocks installed also.

While all these mods and upgrades were taking place we had a couple of failures too.

Step Motor

One morning the steps stopped working. We had noticed they made an interesting noise when retracting ending with a “thunk”. Eventually they ending up just hanging there uselessly. We diagnosed the problem as a failed step motor. A quick replacement and we were back in business.

CO2 Alarm replacement

We got a  call one afternoon from the storage yard where we keep the RV that it was beeping loudly. We went to investigate and found the propane alarm going off. The propane tank was shut off and no leaks were detected. The alarm was 5 years old which is about the maximum life for for a propane detector. A new one was installed.

We wanted to protect our investment against electric faults so we added a SurgeGaurd, hardwired into our shorepower wiring. But installation uncovered a potentially disastrous problem.

Bad wiring

Bad Wiring2

And this was the wiring that supplies power to the whole coach. Needless to say, we remedied this very quickly and got the new SurgeGuard installed.

Our batteries were also 5 years old and we agonized for months over which batteries to buy. We finally developed a spreadsheet containing charging scenarios, battery types, solar controllers and panels. It highlighted a few issues we’d been mulling over and gave us a couple of options to pursue.

So these

Old flooded batteries

got replaced with these.


Yep, 400 amps of lithium batteries in an insulated box to help protect from freezing. In the process we lightened our load by about 240 pounds. I won’t go into the many advantages of lithium batteries, but we think they will serve us well.

Lithium buttoned up

The lithiums are installed and all buttoned up. The wiring, fuses and solenoids are all items to protect the batteries.

960 watts of power

And of course to power those lithium batteries we had to add some solar panels. We have a total of 960 watts which may be a little overkill, but that way we won’t have to tilt the panels so often.

Making some power

Finally, it’s all together, pumping some serious amps into the batteries.

EJ installing Spritzer

Soon EJ is putting the final touches on the motorhome and we get ready to roll.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Little Disturbance Named Irma

Joe Davies Air Park, Evergreen, AL

Irma Bug Out Trip

We had just returned from our Iceland/Greenland trip to find a hurricane looming, poised to pounce on our home base. Having just purchased the Phaeton in July and having not really taken it on a shakedown cruise, we were feeling very anxious about exposing our new baby to a direct hit hurricane.

Ist Irma forecast

No doubt about it, Jacksonville, FL (northeast Florida) was squarely in the crosshairs. We immediately started throwing whatever we thought we would need into the motorhome. I think it was the fastest we have ever packed. By the second day we were on the road.


And we immediately run into this. Looks like everyone is leaving town. Just about dark we pull into Paradise Lake RV Park. They meet us and guide us into a spot. We ask how much and they ask back if we are running from the hurricane. We say yes and they say we are welcome to stay as long as we need to.

We make a note to stop by here again.

The next morning we’re off and running again. Our next stop is Eufala, AL at the White Oak Creek Corp of Engineers campground.


We have a lovely sunset by the lake. We think we have safely escaped the wrath of IRMA. Sunday morning Frank wakes up early and checks the weather. Oh Crap!!

2nd Irma Forecast

Now Irma is heading straight for Eufala which is where we are. We go into high gear and put everything away and hit the road. Again.

This time we have no distination in mind. Our goal is to simply travel far enough west until we outrun Irma. We stop to fill up with fuel and another RVer asks where we are headed. All we can tell them is west until are too tired to go any further.

In Evergreen, AL we are worn out from the anixiety and the driving so we stop in a grocery store parking lot to take a walk break. A policeman pulls up next to us and I think he is going to run us of or tell us we can’t spend the night there.

Instead, he tells us that the city of Evergreen has opened up the airport grounds to all RVers that need a place to stay to wait out Irma. Wow!


Boy were we glad to see this sign announcing our refuge for the next few days.

It seems like most of the town officials were on hand to great us, the fleeing masses, with open arms. The mayor was there, the city maintenance director and his staff were making sure we all had working electric and water hookups.


There were a bunch of us there and we all just layed low and waited for IRMA to hit us with whatever she had left.


The cats were fine, handling the situation much better than we were.

On our second day there, the rains came and it was just a generally nasty day. To our surprise, one of the local churches came by with hot meals for anyone who needed them and even delivered them to your front door, in the rain! Wow again!

Over the next few days, the weather cleared, the sun came out and so did the folks. We weren’t real anxious to hit the road along with everyone else so we thought we’d stick around for another few days. Word came down from the mayor that whomever needed to stay a little longer was welcome. The Florida news was filled with stories of flooding, wind damage and blocked roads. More good reasons to stay put for a few more days.

Since we are at an airport, we thought we would wander around and see if anyone was in the flight shack. We found a real talkative young woman who told us that the Air Force was sending up some pilots from Elgin AFB to do some flight training and we ought to watch. And so we did.


It was fun watching them fly around doing “touch and go” landings.

But finally it was time to head back to Florida and see if there was anything left of our house. Actually that was an overly dramatic statement as our good neighbors, the Strattons, had been keeping an eye on our place and kept us informed about the minor damage we received.

But Murphy wasn’t done with us yet.


Our normal procedure is to pull into the neighborhood to unhook the car before proceeding to our house. But, the car battery was dead and Sunny would not start. Once again the Strattons came to our rescue and brought a set of heavy duty battery cables that got us started. In the picture above, I tried hooking two light weight sets together and it just wasn’t doing the job.

With the car started , we eased on up to the house to end our hurried, frantic maiden voyage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reality and RVs

Wincehester Bay to Coburg/Eugene to Grants Pass, OR – October 4 to 11, 2016

Winchester to Coburg to Grant's Pass

It has been an interesting 2 weeks at Salmon Harbor in Winchester Bay, OR. Our first Boomer gathering is now under our belts and we’ll digest the results as we travel along.

It was a little foggy as we bid farewell to the Harbor.


And “C” Dock is practically deserted now that Crab-a-Rang is over.


The fall colors are just beginning to show up as we get further away from the coast.


There was a light rain which immediately messed up Big Guy and Sunny (the tow car). Keeping a rig clean and sparkly is a never ending job.


One of the things that has been in the back of our minds is to get some front suspension problems fixed. Right after our annual service at the Gaffney, SC Freightliner Chassis Service Center we noticed that the front end would shimmy when the brakes were applied and Big Guy would dive to the right.

We were already well on our way and didn’t want to turn back. I called Freightliner and they told me what they thought the cause was and offered to help defray the costs. Well we have had such bad luck with companies that have preformed work for us on Big Guy that I’ve gotten really reluctant to just blindly go to anyone to get problems fixed. As a result it wasn’t until now that I finally pulled the trigger and decided to let Pacific Truck, a large Oregon outfit work on our baby. After all, research had shown that they were referred to as an Oasis dealer which is Freightliners way of saying they are qualified to work on motorhomes.

We made an appointment for Wednesday morning, October 5. We showed up the afternoon before and checked in, filled out the paperwork and so on.

Wednesday morning, I walk over to give them the keys and wait and wait while some other RVer is expaining to the service writer why his insurance is going to cover everything that needs to be done to his motorhome. I can see the service guy grinding his teeth. He finally tells the RVer that not only will his insurance not cover what needs to be done he would be surprised if it payed a tenth of the bill.

For some reason they took this guy in first, even though I had arleady checked in. But in our ignorant bliss, we took off for breakfast. Later, we cruise back by and our RV hasn’t moved. So I stop and ask whats going on? Well the guy that didn’t have an appointment was taking longer than expected but they would start on us right after they were done with him. So again we take off confident that Coburg Freightliner would take care of us. About 3 o’clock we get a call saying they can’t get to it today, can we stay over?

Well I want to get this problem fixed and we don’t have a schedule right now, so I say yes. In the meantime they had moved our RV over to a very noisy part of the lot. When we got back we moved back to where we had spent the previous night which was marginally quieter. I check in once more ( I had to get the keys back to move the RV) and asked about the protocol for tomorrow morning. The service writer said the guy that works on it doesn’t come in until 8:30 or 9:00. I said OK, I’ll be here with the keys at 8:30.

The next morning I show up with the keys and get told we’ll have to wait because the lift they need to work on Big Guy is blocked by another RV and they’ll get to us when they are done with that one. And, oh by the way, we were ready for you at 7:30 this morning but we didn’t want to wake you. By this time the steam was beginning to shoot out of my ears.


We decided this morning that we would camp out in the customer lounge and see if we couldn’t nudge this ordeal along. And as if the day couldn’t get any worse, it did. We immediately encouter another person waiting in the lounge with his pit bull. This volume of this persons voice was such that he would have not needed the sound system at the super bowl to be easily heard by fans sitting in the upper bleachers.

I went back out to Big Guy and got my earplugs. That helped some.

And in the midst of all this, Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Florida coast. The Weather Channel was making all kinds of dire predictions of 11 foot tidal surges and 12 to 18 inches of rain for our home base. I really had to crank up the volume to hear it over Mr. Megaphone.


We were worried for all our friends that lived there. Our place is way up on the hill that is the highest in Clay County, and we had just had the roof reshingled so we felt our place would be pretty secure. So when we weren’t fuming at the lousy service at Freightliner we were worrying about the hurricane.

Late in the afternoon, they finally put Big Guy up on the lift to adjust the aligment.


They adjusted it as far within the limits as they could (including the use of shims) to try to get it to track more left. So I paid up and went for a test drive. It still shimmied, pulled right and dove to the right when I put the brakes on. They did not fix what I originally asked them too.

We turned right around and went back. I read them the riot act this time demanding to know why they didn’t address the problems I came in here for. Well they didn’t know what else they could do, but for $135 they would swap front tire positions and hope that would cure the problem. But they couldn’t get to it untill tomorrow.

So we stewed about it overnight. We discussed options. We did more research. Then I discovered that Paul and Nina over at Wheelingit had service done by Henderson’s Lineup a couple of years ago and were very happy with the process. More research revealed nothing but glowing reviews for this place. And, to top it off, it was only 150 miles away. So, the decision was made, we were going to Grant’s Pass Oregon to get it done right.

On Friday, the third day at Coburg Freightliner, EJ was in favor of driving off, but I wanted to get one last word in. So I went back in and talked to the service folks and vented on them about what I though of the way they had treated me as a customer. They had no excuse other than if I wanted to continue to throw money at them, they would continue to guess about what was wrong and hope they got lucky. I told them what I thought of their strategy and headed back to EJ and the RV.

I had already called Hendersen’s and made an appointment for Tuesday, October 11. But I was still so mad, I didn’t want to drive far. We needed a place to chill for a few days.

There are two Elks Lodges in Eugene, and one of them had electric, water and a dump site for RVers. I made a call and they welcomed us to come on over and spend a few days. It was only about 20 minutes away, and after getting Big Guy ready to travel we headed over with EJ driving the Explorer. It didn’t make any sense to tow it as we were only going about 12 miles.

We got set up and went inside to pay our respects. The bar keep gave us a menu and invited us back for dinner tonight.


On another note, our senior cat, Maggie, has gotten very picky about what she eats. When Maggie had her initial physical after she joined our roving family the vet pronounced her teeth healthy. But she continues to confound us with her eating habits. She’ll devour dry food, but we know from past exerience that an exclusive diet of dry food can cause bowel movement problems for a cat. So we want a major part of her diet to be wet food to make sure she is getting plenty of moisture to aid help the digestive process.

EJ has been  on a mission to find something that Maggie will eat on a consistent basis. And it has been a battle. Maggie is very particular about the consistency of her food. EJ found some canned food that was like a pate’ and Maggie ate it. So we stocked up it. Then after about 3 days, she wouldn’t touch the stuff. So then EJ found some Sheba tender beef pate’. Maggie devoured it. So we stocked up on that. Maggie stopped eating it. EJ perserved through several more iterations of this scenario until the solution, we think, was found. Gerbers baby food and a hard to find liquid food in a pouch for seniors. So she now gets a combination of food for a baby and food for a senior. The irony is not lost on us. For several weeks now this combination has been a winner. So, while we are in Eugene we stock up, again. Fingers crossed!


Eugene did have a respectable farmers market. It was set on for 4 corners of an intersection. One corner was reserved for produce, one for the arts, one corner had all the old hippies and their handicrafts and the final corner was reserved for the drug culture.


We caught a glimpse of this bay window VW Westfalia camper van.  A Westfalia this same color was the beginning of our RVing adventures. We named it the Lizard.


While hanging out at the Elks Lodge in Eugene, I tackled a pesky wiring problem that was preventing the indicator lights in the Exlorer from working properly when connected to Big Guy. This problem reared its ugly head in Winchester Bay. We spent about an hour and a half working on it there and at least got the brake lights working. Now nothing is working. I was just about ready to buy some trailer lights and cobble together an external lighting system when I suddenly realized I was dealing with a bad ground. I added a ground wire and all of a sudden everything was working the way it was supposed to.


On our way to Grants Pass we stopped in Canyonville, OR to dry camp at Seven Feathers Casino. EJ found a slot machine she liked and walked away with a pretty healthy chunk of change.


On October 10 we arrived at Henderson’s Lineup and took care of all the paper work for our appointment tomorrow morning. We had to wait until 5pm to snag one of the spots with a 30amp connection.


On the morning of our appointment Curtis, our tech, took us for an evaluation ride in Big Guy. This is where they check for steering issues, handling issues and braking issues. He verified it pulled to the right and when the brake was applied it dove to the right.

Once back, he pulled us into the bay over the pit. He invited us to go down into the pit and watch him as he checked for loose connections and other problems.

Once he had written his report, the shop manager went over the list of recommended fixes. We identified those things that would help our immediate problems, but the list also had some pretty pricey suggestions to make things even better. And oh yeah, even though our Bilstien shocks were brand new, Konis would be even better. So we chewed on that for a while, then wrote up a list of items we approved for them to work on.

After the work was complete, they still weren’t happy with how Big Guy handled. So they swapped the passenger side front tire with the drivers side outside rear tire. While they had the front tire off, they pulled the brake drum and discovered both the drum and brake shoes were cracked. That, they suspected, was the root of the braking issues we were experiencing.



Of course, they didn’t have new drums or shoes in stock, so they ordered them from Medford, OR. So EJ and I went downtown and meandered around. This mural really caught our eye. It looks like two buildings but it’s not.


Finally the new drums and shoes arrive and are installed. We all pile into Big Guy and go for another test drive. All I can say is WOW! What a difference. All of the handling problems are resolved and the motorhome handles better than it ever has. We are good to go.