Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What a Year it Has Been!

As I started to write this post earlier this week I realized that it will be the last one I write in 2019. And what a year it has been. I can’t think of a year we have been so busy, it seemed like all we did was work on the house day after day after day....... Despite this when I look back at our travel map we did get quite a bit of traveling in. 
Our 2019 travel adventures
We started out 2019 in New Brunswick Georgia making our way south to Florida where we visited, gorged ourselves with seafood and ran across lots of friends and my sister Judy.  Kayaking among the manatees, catching up with Jim and Brenda and Dan and Jeanie. Near Tampa we caught up with Jim and Diane, Dino and Lisa, and David and Sharon, even Farmer Bob and DeAnne came down for a visit! We also finally met Steve and Mona Liza, as well as getting to know Mike and Liz better since our brief meeting in Alaska in 2016. Mike is the one who has a brother who owns a couple shrimp boats and was nice enough to let me tag along for one night on the water! A week in Fort Myers with my sister Judy, husband Mike and all their friends was a whirlwind of activity! Just writing about it now makes us want to go back there!

Of course most of our year was spent in South Dakota working on ours and Kevin's houses, memories we will never forget. We are still in awe when we look at where we started in March...… 
to where we are now......
We cannot thank everyone who stopped to help enough. Especially Kevin and Cheryl but also Jim and Diane, Guy and Sue, Doug and Jan, Dan and Bonnie, Dave and Leslie, Doug and Lisa, Tom, Earl, Richard and Cheryl, Steve and Deb, Al and Ingrid, Dino and Lisa (Well, Lisa anyway....) and of course, our son Forrest! Wow, we cannot help but feel blessed with so many great friends who stopped by, visited and lent a helping hand....

We did manage to get up to Pasha Lake for a month and even over to Oregon to see Forrest, Somer and Lily. The bonus of that trip was Jessica and Shane flying in with their kids as well. 
The Nelson/Mowen clan
Our biggest regret was not getting up to the farm for an extended stay. I did manage to get up there for a day on my way to Pasha while Barb was in California helping out with her stepmothers estate. What a long and busy year!

So what have we been up to down in the desert? The week since Christmas has been wet and cool. Two days of rain meant we had to break out the generators to maintain the batteries. The rest of the week has been sunny but cool  with lows in the 30's and highs in the 50's and low 60's which is not horrible but the winds make it feel a lot chillier. 

We did escape to Parker one day with Dino and Lisa and saw the movie Jumanji. Another day I just sat inside and read while Barb and Lisa ran to Phoenix to do some shopping. I actually don't mind these down days, it is nice to just have a "do nothing day" once in a while. 

Daisy spent her day watching the National Dog Show.....
Friends Ray and Deb arrived on the 27th. They parked a little way down the wash so their dog Freya would have a better area to run. Deb invited us over for ham dinner on the 29th. Deb's cooking is world renowned and this is the first time she has invited us over for dinner. 
The gang is ready for dinner!

Ray bought a number of beers to taste!

Ray and Deb's rig in a beautiful sunset

Freya took over the captains chair!
 It was everything we thought it would be and more! For the first time ever I had cooked carrots and liked them! The ham and scalloped potatoes were out of this world as well!
Dianne and Barb getting cozy
Red and Pam arrived on the 28th and are parked right next to us. We have not seen them since December of '17 when we stayed at Red's brothers place in Texas and went deer hunting. Since then they lost Dominic and have a new addition to their family in their pup Sadie. 

Sunday was cool but calm so I got the drone out to take a few pictures of the area....

To the west

Monday was another a dreary but special day as it was my birthday! The winds were brisk and it did not get out of the 40's but we managed to have a happy hour thanks to Steve bringing his truck over as a wind block. Deb once again outdid herself with her tater tot appetizers! If you have never had bacon wrapped tater tots you have to give it a try. 

2020 looks like it will be very similar to '19. Working on the house, some travel and more working on the house. Although this year we are going to Alaska! 

Our year will look something like this.....
2020 Travel Plans
This is just our tentative plans, we know we want to stop in Klamath Falls, Vancouver Island, Haines, Homer, Kenai and Fairbanks. We still need to iron out timelines and additional stops but that is where we are at so far. 

Looks like it is going to be another busy year!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Quartzsite Christmas

We have been down in Quartzsite a little over a week and have gotten settled in and are enjoying the warmer weather here in Arizona. The spot we are in is the same one we occupied during our first full winter down here. Dino and Lisa are about 100' to one side of us and Steve and Dianne are about 200' to the other side. No getting lost wandering home after happy hours in the dark!

We opted for the $40/2 week LTVA permit rather than the $180/6 month permit. We just don't know how long we are going to stay, all depends on whether or not we sell our rig. So for now we are going to take it 2 weeks at a time. 

This week was filled with getting the rig ready to sell and catching up with friends we have not seen in quite a while. Our first order of business was to get the rig washed. We called Roberts Mobile RV Wash to see when they could fit us in. They quoted us a price of $90 for a 40' 5th wheel and an additional $25 for the truck. Both were absolutely filthy from our drive down. The bonus was that they said they would be there in 30 minutes!

While the rig was getting wash we settled in to our first happy hour around the community fire pit.
Dianne giving the dogs treats, Steve next to her, Marilyn, Jim, Cec, and Earl
(l-r)Colin, Dino, Lisa, Barb and Dianne still feeding the dogs treats
First sunset with the clean rig!
The next day Barb and I went into town to see about buying a new toilet. Why a new toilet you ask? Well, even though we winterized the rig when we were in Salt Lake Barb went to use the foot flush and it broke right off! Bummer, but not a big deal, we will just get a new foot pedal. Until after doing a little research we found that they do not sell just the foot pedal and had to buy an entire new toilet for $249.00! Luckily RV Lifestyles had one in stock and we had it installed 20 minutes after getting it home. 

So what do we do out in the desert all day? I have a list of other things I want to fix as well. One of our push button overhead reading lights went out, a thumb turn latch on the belly is not working right. Nothing serious, just some things that we did not have time to work on while we were in South Dakota. Finding a match of the reading light was a pain. We went to a few stores and no one had any. We looked on line and found what we thought was it for about $30 but were not 100% sure. Then when we were at K&B Tools in town Barb found the exact same light on the shelf. It was marked down from $25 to $12.50 to $9.00 to $6.00! They actually had about 6 of them so we bought 2. They also had the thumb turn we needed to $5.00. Two more items checked off the list!  

Dino and Lisa brought their small camper and 4 wheeler down on this trip. They have been out 4 wheeling a few times otherwise I see Dino outside playing with his balls. 
Another day we went into town with Steve, Dianne, Dino and Lisa and walked more of  the flea markets, we found a few treasures and ended at Beer Belly's for an adult beverage! 
Our first Beer Belly's trip of the year!
The next day we were working in the rig and discovered that the tv in the bedroom was not working! I plugged it into other outlets and nope, did not work. Luckily we were going to Phoenix the next day and were able to pick one up at Costco. The real reason for our Phoenix trip was to see Kevin and Cheryl who were in town visiting their parents who are both in the area. A nice bonus visit with them! We were so caught up in talking that none of us took any pictures. 

Christmas Eve day was pretty mellow. There are a number of us getting together for Christmas dinner and we needed to make a wind block for the big event. Borrowing some piping from another neighbor Steve, Jim, Earl, Dino and I made a wind block for the big event! (thanks for the pictures Dianne!)

After that we got our chairs and tested it out.....
Christmas Day was a little cooler and windy but at least the sun came out and we were able to get some solar. The two days previous to that we had to run the generator for a little bit to maintain the batteries. We have been here a week today (Wednesday). So I thought it would be good to dump our waste water tanks and fill up with fresh water. Steve was nice enough to let us borrow his barrel wagon for the job!
Thanks Steve!
I have said it each year we have been on the road and I will say it again, we just cannot get used to Christmas on the road where it is warm and there is no snow. We are fortunate to be able to spend it with such good friends but Barb and I have already talked, next year we think we will stay in South Dakota until after Christmas. We did get to video chat with all the grandkids which made our day!

10 of us got together for Christmas dinner Steve and Dianne as well as Earl and Allison each cooked 1/2 a turkey and brought a salad. Jim and Cec brought veggies, Dino and Lisa brought potatoes and of course Barb brought the dessert. It was a great dinner with only one mishap when a particularly strong wind knocked over the table with the salad and potatoes on it. Luckily we all had gotten one serving prior to this mishap. 
It was a great event starting at 2:00 and going well into the night. Well, it felt like it was well into the night but in all actuality we were back in the rig and ready to crash about 7:30.

Week 1 is in the books, we have had some interest in the rig but not the right person yet. The real crowds start showing up after Christmas so we think things will pick up in the next week or two. Until then our goal is to just keep whittling away at my "to do" list and keep healthy. With all the people walking around the flea markets coughing and hacking that might be a chore in itself!
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

These Snowbirds Flew South!

Sunday morning we pulled the 5th wheel out of the garage, backed it up to the ATV trailer and our train was ready to was ready to hit the road!
We did not know how long we were with both trailers so we measured it up at a whopping 76' 6"s. A little longer than anticipated. A quick check of the state laws in South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Arizona found we would be legal in only 1 of those 5 states. In some of the others we would be over 12' over the legal length. Oops!

We had originally planned on spending our first Christmas here in South Dakota but a couple things are driving us to leave earlier than anticipated. Surprisingly the weather is not one of them as the 10 day forecast showed highs in the 50's and lows in the upper 20's. Very bearable for this time of the year.

Our progress here far exceeded where we thought we would be at this point. When we started with a blank concrete slate in March our goal for the year was to get the building enclosed and water tight before heading south for the winter.

For example, we wanted to have the windows in but did not expect to have the roof on. Even with the progress we made prior to our break to go to Oregon for a month when we returned we only plans to insulate with no thoughts of the fireplace or heat! But we even got more than that done. The day before we left, our neighbor Doug came over to inspect my waterlines and plumbing downstairs.
Waterlines and plumbing in the kitchen and downstairs bath
He also finished the plumbing, waterlines and the showerhead, and drain in the upstairs bathroom. Something I would have never been able to figure out by myself. 
Tub/shower unit done, waterlines and plumbing done!
We also received and accepted a bid from a sheetrock crew who could do some work while we are down south over the next couple months so when we come back we will have two bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry room ready for painting!

Our last act prior to leaving was to installed the double barn doors that Guy and I had built in May.
Guy helping with the shed doors

The problem with meeting all those goals is that you always move the goal line further and further out. As tempting as it is to stay and continue working we are ready to head south. What is driving us is the fact that we want to get our rig down to Arizona so we can start advertising it down there, several of our friends are already down there and we are just plain ready for a break. 

After saying good bye to our people and animal friends and making arrangements for the neighbors to check on the house several times a week we hit the road. 
We left the birds several suet blocks to eat....

Good bye deer friends, see you in a couple months!
So how did our trip south go? We could not even tell that the extra trailer was even back there! That is because it wasn't..... After talking it over Monday morning before we left we decided it just was not worth bringing the ATV trailer with us being 12' over the legal limit. What if we got in a accident, would we be covered? What if we hurt someone? Just not worth it. So we backed the ATV trailer into the garage, locked it up and headed out.

I would love to tell you that we were graced with perfect travel weather and no problems for making such a smart decision but.... it was the trip from hell. Actually, a trip through hell would have been a lot warmer! We had winterized the rig before leaving as we knew the single digit temps we were going to be traveling through combined with the wind chills would freeze us up for sure.  Our plan for the first day was to travel 7 hours to Rock Springs, WY. The overnight low was forecasted to be -2F for the night but we figured we could handle it. Well, we got a late start so we only made it to Rawlins, WY by 6:00pm. It was dark and still below 0F. What we were not prepared for was how bitterly cold it was in the rig. When we stopped we went into the rig and everything was frosted and froze up. The dog's water dish was froze. The water, beer and pop in the fridge was froze. We turned on the heat for an hour and it did not even start to thaw out the frost on the cabinets.

So we decided to jump back in the truck and keep driving. There is no way we were going to get any sleep or be comfortable so we may as well keep driving. We drove until about 11:00 pm where we stopped in Evanston, WY right on the Wyoming/Utah border. On this route segment of our trip we hit temps as low as -10 F. This time we decided to try and sleep in the truck for a few hours with the truck running but after 20 minutes of tossing and turning we knew that was not going to work either and we were back on the road. Our goal was to drive two more hours to the Cabela's in Salt Lake where it was only going to get as low as 20. Easy peasy right?  On this leg it got as low as -18F and we hit a couple spots of black ice where the back of the truck slipped a couple of times. Keeping it in 4WD and off the icy spots we arrived at Cabela's at 2:30am but at least it was 19! We turned on the heat, climbed under every blanket we had fully clothed and tried to get to sleep. We did manage to get about 4 hours of sleep but it must have not been very good because somehow I knew the furnace never turned off.

I would love to say the rest of the trip went without a problem but what fun would that be? Our goal for that leg was to make it to Lake Mead where we planned on surprising friends Steve and Joan who are in the area. When we started the truck at Cabela's and hit the road hitting the peak of Salt Lake's rush hour traffic. Well, at least we were 1/2 way through the city at that point. Then the dash dinged and displayed "Change Fuel Filter". No problem, I will do that when we get to Q. About 2 hours later ….ding, ding, ding "Reduced Engine Speed" Ugh! The truck slowed down to 45mph. We limped along for a few miles to the next exit where we stopped, fueled up and cycled the key on and off 10 times. A trick we learned a couple of years ago that us supposed to clear the reduced speed. Back on the road we were going 60 again! An hour later just north of Beaver...ding, ding, ding "Reduced Engine Speed". This time it reduced to a whopping 10 mph. We could not limp along at 10 mph to the next exit so we pulled over and started cycling the key again. Truck and trailer swaying to the air of the semis that were passing us at 70 mph. It was at that point we changed our goal for the day to try to get to St. George where it would be in the 40's and I would try and change the fuel filter.

We called ahead to a campground to see if they would let us work on our truck if we stayed there. No problem they said. Easy for them to say, we were still 80 miles away with a truck that was acting up. Luckily we made it there without any more issues, got set up and went to find a fuel filter. Two hours later I had the filter changed. Barb went shopping and reported that the engine light went off on her return trip! Maybe, just maybe, we would make it to Quartzsite after all!

The next day we completed our last 6 hour leg the next day waving to Steve, Joan, John and Pam as we drove through the Boulder City area.

We pulled into the La Posa South BLM area just outside of Quartzsite where Steve (of Steve and Dianne) and Dino and Lisa greeted us at the water station. It has been a couple years since we have seen Steve and Dianne, way too long. As for Dino and Lisa, maybe it is too soon, time will tell! (Just kidding guys... really...)

Once we were full of water Steve guided us to a spot they had save for us and we were all set up within an hour. Although we don't have our ATV, we are looking forward to several weeks of relaxing, visiting and happy hours here in the sun!

The girls are enjoying the warmer weather already!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Week of Firsts!

Last week of course was our first Thanksgiving at the J-B, now this week we had several more firsts. Our most surprising was our first Christmas card received at our South Dakota address! We have not received a Christmas card in years so when we got the mail this past Tuesday we were thrilled to have gotten a Christmas card from our good friends and neighbors Jim and Brenda who are wintering in Florida this winter. Thanks guys!
Rather than go into detail about our next first I will just post this picture…..
Our first fire! Actually, we had our 2nd, 3rd and 4th fires as well but the first fire was a very special moment. 

After having it set in place late last week we were anxious to actually get it operational. The biggest challenge to accomplishing this goal was punching the 10” pipe through the roof. Scary! But fear not, we have Kevin here! We started it late one afternoon. We put the firerock in place, stacked the pipe from the fireplace up and punched a hole through the vapor barrier and insulation. This is where we received our first stroke of good luck. The pipe went directly between two trusses so there was no need for an offset or any other adjustments. The next step was to install the insulation shield which is quite a bit bigger than the actual pipe and offers air space between the pipe and the insulation or anything else that might come close to the pipe. Once that was done, Barb lifted Kevin up to the roof with the basket on the skidsteer. Good news/bad news up there. The bad news was that the roof was covered with about 2"'s of ice and snow. The good news was that the penetration point was only about 3’ up the edge of the roof. So for that day we just cleared off as much snow and ice as we could and called it a day. The next afternoon we went back up there and as we had hoped the sun had cleared off any remnants of ice on the area we had cleared. Kevin laid down a section of rubber-backed carpet, jumped up on roof and started cutting. An hour later we had the pipe through the roof and we were ready for our first fire!
Next step, build the frame up to the ceiling
Another first was the first time (and hopefully the last) I was in our cistern. For the past year or two our cistern pump was temporarily hooked up to an outlet out by the RV parking area. But over the past couple weeks I had been building the parts around the pressure tank showing our neighbor Doug (who is a licensed plumber) how I was building it. 
Ready for water!
Once that was done it was time for me to jump down into the cistern and hook the well pump into the pipe going underground into the house and eventually into the pressure tank. I had been waiting until the cistern was almost empty as I did not feel like jumping in a 2500 gallon tank that was half full!

I wrapped the legs of our ladder in clean plastic, put on my waders and scrubbed them with a water/bleach solution and was ready to head down into the depths of the cistern! One problem. I did not fit! Between the ladder and me donned in waders there was not enough room to get my fat @ss down the hole. After thinking about it for a few minutes I came up with the perfect solution and pulled the ranger up as close to the hole as I could, made a loop with the winch rope stuck my foot, through it and had Barb lower me down into the cistern Batman style! It worked like a charm. The only problem is that Barb was thinking of putting the lid back on and having me "take a timeout". Luckily she could not lift the concrete lid and the only thing I had to worry about is whether she was going to lift me back up. She must love me as she brought be back up and a few minutes later we had water in the house! We had a few drips on some of the connections around the pressure tank. It started out with about 8 areas that were dripping, but one by one I eliminated each one. 
Down I go!

Help me!

Barb thinking of putting the cover back on!
Speaking of Doug our neighbor, he has spent two days over here running water lines and sewer pipes. He has the entire upstairs bathroom plumbing done and just need the waterlines tied off up there and we will have an operational bathroom! No sheetrock on the walls, but it will be operational. It is called an open concept bathroom.

With less than two weeks left we have a checklist of things we would like to get done before we leave. Most of it is around finishing off walls as we hope to have a sheetrocker come in while we are down south. I needed to do the ½ wall in the bathroom...….
1/2 Wall in the downstairs bathroom
The ½ wall for the dog wash. This wall also serves as the water supply and drain area for the washing machine as well. 

Still need add a stud and run waterlines 
 Soffits around the boiler venting and plumbing pipes.
Soffited and ready for sheetrock

And last but not least finish the closet in the upstairs bedroom.
Bedroom closet, done!
We just need to finish the rest of the waterlines and we will be ready for sheetrock!

The turkeys and deer visit us daily. In fact it has gotten so the turkeys don't leave at all spending most of their day under the birdfeeder waiting for the other birds to drop seeds down to them. 

In the meantime we have also been busy getting ready to leave. High on our list is emptying as much as we can out of the 5th wheel so it is ready to sell once we get down to Arizona. Here is a link to our ad if you know anyone who might be interested.

We have not picked a departure date yet, it depends on when we get everything done here and are all packed up. We are thinking by the 16th at the latest. Looking forward to the warmer weather and happy hours with our Quartzsite friends!