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.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

First Time to Red Bay

Bunkhouse RV, Red Bay, AL         March 2 – 13, 2018

First Trip to Red Bay

And we’re off! On March 2nd, we had finally pulled the plug and said enough is enough. We’ve prepared the best we can and it’s time to just wrap it up and go. We know we’ll forget some things, but we’ll just deal with it when we figure out what they are.

We said goodbye to our good friends Jeanne and John Stratton, turned the keys over to them, hooked up Sunny and hit the road.

We got as far as Waycross, GA, a whole 70 miles from our starting point, when we were notified that our Visa cards had been compromised. They would need to be replaced. And they would only send new replacement cards to our home address. Well that wasn’t going to work! We had made appointmens in Red Bay, AL that could not be broken without causing substantial delays to our trip. We just couldn’t turn around and go back to Orange Park to wait for new cards to show up.

EJ got down to business on the phone and convinced them to send the replacement cards to Dad’s apartment in San Angelo. The new cards should arrive in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, we would just have to limp by on our remaining cards. Whew! Crisis averted!

True to our word, we stopped by Paradise Lake RV Park in Enigma, GA again. If you remember, we were amazed at the hospitality we received here when we were fleeing Hurricane Irma last year. Our second night was spent at the Super Walmart in Prattville, AL.

On Sunday, March 4, we arrived at Chris Berry’s shop, Making Sawdust. Monday morning we were scheduled to have doors made for our shoe cabinet.

It had been raining for several days and had made quite a mess, but Chris had several loads of gravel put down in the driveway to make it all better.


Chris showed up on Monday and he and EJ discussed several options (projects) but in the end decided to just go with new doors for the shoe cabinet. He got those on order, and that afternoon we skedaddled over to Bay Diesel to have the M3 maintenance done on the Phaeton.


We figured we would boondock for the night but Chris McKinney said that at 5 o’clock we were to move over by the rollop doors and they would hook us up to a 30 amp connection for the night. He even had a water hookup if we needed it.

The next day, Tuesday 3-5-18, they did the service and even had time to install a SuperSteer steering damper for us.


Once again, we spent the night, figuring tomorrow we would go hunting for a place to camp while we waited on Tiffin Service to do some warranty work for us. Wednesday morning we took a tour and found that Bunkhouse RV was one of the few places that had space available. So we signed up and they didn’t want any money until we were done with Tiffin.

That same day we went to the Tiffin Service Campground to register for the service work. We knew there was no space in their campground, but we asked if we had to move to their campground to register for service. Thankfully the answer was no. Those folks in the Tiffin Campground were squeezed in like sardines. We were quite pleased with our site over at Bunkhouse. And it was all of 5 minutes away from the service center.

For the next several days we played tourist. Every one that goes to Red Bay has to check out the Coon Dog cemetary.


And of course, one must see the Rattle Snake Saloon.


It is a Saloon/Restaurant built into a cave. But the one thing folks don’t tell you is they don’t serve beer or wine until after 5pm. You see the restaurant is on an equisterian ranch. And they don’t want the riders getting drunk and falling off their horses. The trails close at 5pm and then the bar opens.

While reseaching about Red Bay we had heard how it was an absolute must that you eat at The Mason Jar restaurant. After hearing so many people rave about it, we figured it wad be hard to get a seat.


I guess we got lucky and hit the lull between breakfast and lunch.

Back to the main reason we went to Red Bay. Most folks have these huge lists of items they want fixed by the service center. We try and fix a lot of things ourselves because we are reasonably capable folks. Also because we are generally disappointed in the quality of work performed by so called RV experts. As a rule, we try to go to the “source” ,ie RV manufacturer, chassis manufacturer, etc. Since our motorhome was made in Red Bay, we had a nagging issue we wanted them to take a look at. Actually there were four.


The step recall I could have done myself, but the manufacturer wouldn’t sell the parts to me. Something about a liability issue.

I wanted to learn more about the slides, so I figured why not let the experts show me?

And the night stand fix, we probably could have done ourselves, but we were here so why not?

The ceiling issue was way beyond our comfort level. But the service center handled all of them for us in one day. Wow! is all we could say.

We stuck around a few more days because I wanted Bay Diesel to install a set of Super Steer Motion Control Units(MCUs) on the Phaeton for us. That turned out to be a mistake.

Finally on March 13 the MCUs came in, they had to ordered, and were installed. We spent one last night in Bay Diesels parking lot and headed of to Tupelo, MS the next day. We drove on the Natchez Trace Parkway which is very smooth, and didn’t notice anything was amiss.

The next day was a long one and a good portion of it was spent on very rough roads. It was perhaps the roughest ride we had every encountered in all our years of RVing and it turned out it wasn’t all the roads fault. The MCUs installed on the front air bags had turned our Phaeton into a pogo stick.

But that is a story for another time.

Wednesday, March 7, 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.