Monday, September 28, 2015

6-20 September 2015 Bear Problems, Home Repairs, Vehicle Problems, Road Trip

We were home a bit then hit the road again.  My mother is having the auction of my stepfather's stuff and a lot of household stuff as she downsizes.  That will be on the first weekend of October.  We had planned on being here a week early then decided to leave early and just take our time going to Kansas.

We had a few things to do at home before hitting the road but they didn't take too long.

One item was to fix the latch on the north door of the cabin.  The door and logs had shifted enough over the last ten years that the bolt no longer engaged the latch hole in the door frame.

I moved it down a quarter inch and drilled a new hole and it works like new again.

We won a nylon tarp from Survival Resources on one of their giveaways.  We love it but forgot to put some seam sealer on the middle seam.  I remedied that when we had a few sunny days to hang it outside on the line.  

We have one good apple tree left in the garden and it was loaded with apples.  Unfortunately, while we were gone a bear broke through the fence and had an apple feast.

I didn't mind him eating the apples as much as the damage he did to the tree.  Several smaller branches were broken and a couple of major ones like the one shown in the photo here.

And more damage to the same tree.  I hope he makes someone a nice bear rug this winter!

We decided to take our Dodge motorhome to Kansas and leave it at my mother's.  That way we'll be able to just go whenever we want and know we have a place to stay while there.  We could stay in the house but we had an extra motorhome laying around doing nothing so ... we drove it to Kansas to it's new home.
The Problem is that it isn't in that good of condition so we decided that if it broke down on the way we'd call the nearest salvage yard and leave it for them to dispose of.  So when we packed it we didn't put anything in it that we wouldn't mind leaving if it wouldn't fit in the car.  If it made it to Kansas we'd restock it with permanent items there.
We'll, it did come up with a couple of issues on the road but I was able to fix them with little effort or expenditures.

When we pulled into a rest area near Butte I noticed steam coming from the engine compartment.  The upper radiator hose was leaking near where it fastened to the thermostat housing.

It turned out to be a slit in the hose just above where the hose clamp was.  I cut an inch off the hose and reinstalled it and that problem was fixed.  Another hose began leaking the day before we reached my mother's but it made it there okay and there is no need to fix it now.

The reason we pulled into the rest area was because the windshield wiper blade on the right side quit working ... during a rainstorm of course!
There's a story to the W/S wipers too.  We replaced the wiper motor on the motorhome before we left on our cross country trip.  That wiper motor quit while we were on the trip.  We didn't want to buy another one because we didn't know if the motorhome would make it to Kansas or not so I took the wiper motor off my Dodge pickup and put it on the motorhome.  I planned on taking it off the motorhome when we reached Kansas (and I still do!).  So we were a bit leery of the W/S wipers anyway.
But it wasn't a problem with the motor this time.  This time the bushing holding the rod from the motor to the wiper transmission on the right side basically turned to dust.  Old age being the primary culprit.

So ... I cut off a section of wire from the wiring harness that wasn't needed and wired the rod to the rod going to the left side to keep it out of the way while the wiper motor was running.

Then we remembered a roll of duct tape we had laying around (we always have duct tape on hand!!!!).

I added a few wraps of duct tape for extra security then put the cowl back on.

I thought about putting the non-functioning wiper arm back on then decided not to.  We only needed the wipers a couple of more times on the way to KS.

One of our stops this time was at the crazy mountains in central MT.  After seeing the snow on them we debated whether we were crazy to go into them.

But go we did!  Susan did a winter of care taking at a dude ranch in the valley shown here.  They were 4.5 miles one way to their mail box and they walked it most of the time.

This is the cabin they lived in at the time.  There'd been a few changes over time but the cabin remained just as it had been when they lived in it.

Another stop we wanted to make and never seemed to have time was the Custer Battlefield at the Little Bighorn River.  We made time for it!  This is from the monument at the top of the hill looking to where Custer died

This is looking at it from the lower part of the hill.  Looking at it from a modern perspective it's hard to understand why the Indians felt it was such a great victory.  They wiped out those directly under Custer but were stymied by the rest of those under Benteen and Reno who held out until Terry and Gibbon arrived the next day.  Out of the hundreds of soldiers present the Indians only killed those under Custer's command, were unable to overcome those troops under Benteen and Reno and fled when they learned of the approach of Terry and Gibbon.
It was in essence, the beginning of their ultimate defeat.

Our next stop was Fort Laramie in Wyoming.  It's a great place to visit and see how the army of the time lived.  There were outhouses behind every building but this was the only well we found on the place.  Many of the buildings have been restored.  It was one of the better places we found to visit.  Scott's favorite toys there were the cannons and the well pump.

They had a hand cart on display similar to those used by the Mormans in crossing the prairie to Salt Lake City in Utah.  Original accounts state that they contained mostly provisions for the trip and very few personal belongings.  That would have taken some tough and motivated people to make that trip pulling a hand cart!

This was a replica of an 1870 era U-Haul.

The barracks in the background housed the enlisted men in the second story and the support personell in the lower stories (cooks, etc.).

This is where the troopers lived when not out "enjoying" the wide open spaces of the West!

Scott was really disappointed that we couldn't shoot the cannons!  I was too!

Monday, September 14, 2015

1-5 September, 2015 Cliff Dwellings, Lake Mead Wildlife, the Rio Grande, Rocket Tents

This portion covers some of our travels in New Mexico and back home to Montana.  We'd been wanting to spend some time in New Mexico since we usually just breeze through heading west on the interstate so we spent awhile in the southwest corner of the state.

Our first night was spent in a motel in Silver City.  We'd planned on camping north of there in the National Forest but it looked like they were enduring some pretty severe thunderstorms there.  In the morning we headed north to see the cliff dwellings in the Gila National Forest.  The Ranger in charge told us that they'd had a flash flood the night before and the half of the trail was closed.  The boulder in the center of the stream was washed down during the flood.  Witnesses said the water was over ten feet deep and moving fast.

Later in the trip I saw two trees blown down across a wash with a large (about 3 feet long, 18 inches thick and about two feet wide) boulder laying across their trunks like someone with an excavator had carefully lifted it and then set it in place.  It was at least three feet to the stream bed below.  

The walk up to the cliff dwellings was not as bad as Scott's position would make it seem.  He gets into a "tired" act when he wants to be carried and this is part of it as he lays "exhausted" on the boulder.  We took a couple of photos and walked on.  He caught up quickly.

Susan standing in the trail at the cliff dwellings.

The first half of the circular trail was washed out so everyone had to come up the back way.  That meant you had to walk to the top to talk to the ranger in charge and begin the tour.

It was an interesting experience since you can walk through most of the ruins and get a good look at how they used to live.  The black stains on the cliff to the right are from water dripping down over the top.

I did have mercy on Scott on the way down and gave him a ride on my shoulders.

The Gila river.

There was supposed to be a trail along the river to some hot springs.  We followed it about a mile but never found any springs.  It was horribly overgrown and we had numerous scrapes and cuts from the sunflowers and other weeds along the trail.  I gave Scott a ride on my shoulders on the way back and there were places he had to get off and walk because the weeds were too thick and tall and were brushing him off my shoulders.  Here we've stopped along the river for a rest break.  We played in the river awhile then I laid down to let the stream-side rocks give me a good, in-depth back massage.  Scott took the time to bounce around on me and give the rocks a deeper bite.  Now he's examining an "owey" on my knee.

The river's water was comfortably warm (well, warm compared to the rivers in Montana) and we liked wading in it.

Our river walk is over and we're back on the road again.  It's an absolutely beautiful drive back into the ruins with a lot of up and down and some pretty tortuous turns.  In other words, the view is great but plan on extra driving time if you plan to visit!

Another view of the Gila River.

This was at the top of one of the passes we crossed.  Look at it and the photo below and you can pick out some of the landmarks.

The photos do not do the area justice.

This is my first time seeing the Rio Grande river.

I wasn't too impressed because of it's reddish silt but I'm still glad I got to see it.

We headed home through New Mexico then Arizona then back to Lake Mead and Overton before heading north again.  We bought the Indian Blankets at a couple of different places.  The first guy gave us a big sales pitch of how they were made by local Indians and he was asking $15.00 each and that was the best price anywhere..
We bought one then drove on down the road again.  Right inside Arizona was another "trading post" and the guy there was selling them for $5.00 each.  We bought several there.  We figure they were most likely made in Mexico anyway but we still like using them.

Ah, back to Nevada as we near the bridge over the Colorado River below the dam.

Lake Mead has a serious water shortage.

We were going to pass this guy off as a Lake Mead resident but he was actually living in New Mexico.  I've seen then at Lake Mead though!

This was our first time seeing wild horses at Lake Mead.  We are not too far from Echo Bay.

These guys were past Echo Bay (we are heading west).  We couldn't get any donkeys to come out for a photo.

Susan bought Scott a rocket tent which he didn't know about until we got home to the cabin.

Needless to say he loves it.

We cut our trip short because we needed to get back home to take care of some things.  The smoke had cleared out as well so we are getting ready for our next foray which will be down to Kansas to help my mother with the auction of my stepfather's stuff.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

August 2015 - Forest Fires

This is going to be a very long post so I hope you like photos.  It's been a busy month.  We had planned on taking the U-Haul camper on a long trip this fall and got busy preparing it.  I installed an outlet so that we could plug it into grid power from the outside using a regular extension cord.  Susan made some changes inside so that we could install a refrigerator as well.  We'd planned on installing more solar panels to handle the extra load but that's been postponed a bit.

One of the problems it had was the clutch.  It took a couple of tries to get the right clutch but when I got it apart I found out that the clutch was okay.  The pivot for the release bearing arm was at fault. That at least saved us a couple hundred dollars on parts since I just reused the old clutch (it was in almost new condition).

The vacuum brake booster was not working well so we replaced that when we got home.  Another $150.00 down the drain but worth every penny to have good brakes again.

The problem came when I tried replacing a rear seal on the transmission.  The yoke on the output shaft was loose which was causing the fluid leak I sought to fix.  The front input shaft seal was brittle and needed replaced so I did that while I had everything apart.  The rear seal was not too bad but I put a new one on anyway.  The problem was that prior to our purchase of the vehicle the rear yoke assembly had come loose and worn a groove in the bearing surface.  Some one had put a new bushing in the transmission and the bushing was still okay.  I don't trust it for long distance travel though so we parked it until we decide what to do next.  I suspect we'll either put a new motor and transmission in it or just use it for short trips up in the mountains.  Like I said, we're still deciding.

The Expedition was having issues as well and we were looking at putting out a few thousand more dollars to fix it.  So we traded it in for a new (2015) Hyundai Accent.  We opted for a new car because I'm tired of worrying about what's going to break while we're on a road trip.  This one has a 10 year/100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.  (We paid for the extended warranty.)  At least if it breaks it will be someone else's responsibility to fix it!

It gets almost three times as many miles per gallon as our Expedition did and it's great to fill the tank up for $25.00 instead of the $75.00 when we filled the Expedition.  We've had to adapt to the small space but so far we love it.

I'm installing an outlet so that we can plug into grid power when visiting people or when using a generator for power.

After this photo was taken we drove down to Kalispell and stayed at our son's house to do the rest of the work using his shop and tools.

There was a lot of smoke in the air due to numerous forest fires in Montana and Idaho.

While we were in Kalispell our daughter and SIL were in the middle of evicting some renters who had decided to stop making rent payments.  When the deputy sheriff came to evict them so that we could change the locks on the door he found them hiding under the bed.  They were hoping to open the door from the inside since they'd no longer have a key to the door.  I spent the first night inside the house in case they showed up and tried to break in.  About 1:30 am I heard them on the front porch.  I had Odie (our dog) with me and when they tried pushing in the door she growled and began barking.  All I heard then was the sound of fast running feet as they vacated the area.

Since Susan and Scott were alone in the camper that night Scott lined up his robots by the door to keep out any bad guys.  He told grandma that they would keep them safe.  Once she took the picture he turned them back around to face the door.

This is one of Scott's new costumes.  He's now a "fire dog."  It goes with some cartoon character he likes.

Scott loves playing in the water and took full advantage of the wading pool set up at my son's home.

He even got out his face mask and snorkel.

And he put on his "duck feet" too.

Scott and a couple of his cousins at my birthday party.

Scott being funny in the Expedition just before we traded it in.

We like swimming at a small lake near Kalsipell when we're down there in the summer.  These are some of our grandchildren.

Susan cheated by wearing her dry suit!

This is our new car.  We've had it about a month now and have over 5,000 miles on it already.

The smoke never let up all the time we were in the Flathead Valley.  The temperatures stayed high as well!

We drove back home once I got finished with the U-Haul.  This is part of the Mount Marsten fire.  The fire tower lookout at the top of the mountain is one of our favorite places to take visitors.  They managed to save the lookout when the fire rolled over the top.

A truck went off the road and dumped it's load of sawdust.  It took two wreckers to get it upright again.

Scott is holding a small bird that was on the ground after it's nest broke loose from the barn rafter.  There were two small birds in it and both were flying within about fifteen minutes of becoming homeless.

We took a day off to go to the hot springs.  They have four pools.  The hottest will nearly cook you!  The next hottest is will allow you to stay in it for about 15 minutes until you get too hot.  The third pool is like a hot bath and the fourth is a swimming pool that's about the temperature of cool bath water.  Scott can play in that one for hours!

This is the sky on our trip back home in the U-Haul.  As we got closer the smoke got so heavy that we could not see the sun.

The day after our arrival we got a short rain which cleared the air and slowed down the fire.  There were a couple of helicopters from the National Guard that worked tirelessly dumping water on the blazes. After the rain they (and an army of firefighters) got the fire contained but there was still a lot of stuff inside the burned area that was on fire.

These were still burning and putting out a lot of smoke.  The front to this fire is several miles long in extremely rugged, road-less terrain.  Within a couple of days the smoke was thick again at our house.  It was bad enough to cause our eyes to burn and made breathing difficult too so we decided to hit the road and go south for a bit.

A gas stop near Flathead Lake.

This is between Kalispell and Missoula on Highway 93.  You should be able to see several mountain ranges in the photo.  Our son who is a firefighter in Fortine (where we live) reported that the smoke was heavy and ash was accumulating on vehicles back at home.

Our first destination was Overton, Nevada.  We immediately went to Roger's Spring at Lake Mead to cool off.  In the winter the water feels warm.  In the summer it feels cold!

Our first night in the tent was hot.  We were at the Overton Wildlife camp ground and it was in the nineties at night.  We moved on to here for the second night.  It's a little higher and the temperature was cooler. 

Now were camping near friends up in the mountains east of Cedar City, Utah.

There was a knob near where we were camped and we wanted to climb it.  The next few photos were taken from the top of it.  That little speck in the lower center of the photo is our car and camp.

Susan and Scott goofing off at the top of the mountain.

One of the locals.

Another of the locals.

Okay, we started a long downhill coast right after filling the tank so we didn't get 81.6 mpg as an average but we did average around 40 mpg overall which is much better than the 14 mpg the Expedition got.  Note also that the temperature is 105 degrees.

Near Prescott, Arizona.

We brought one RAV 15 portable solar charger on the trip.  Next time we'll have all three of them.  It worked better than using the power ports in the vehicle while driving.  We had two notebook computers, three tablets, two cell phones and three digital cameras to keep charged.  More solar would have helped when we were stopped at a campsite.


Same campsite from a different angle.

It had rained most of the night so no one thought I'd get a fire going but I did.  I found dry pine needles under some trees then used them to keep a small fire going while I slowly fed in small dry twigs.  As the fire gained momentum I added larger wood.

I bought a C02 powered air pistol (a S&W clone) and Scott and I were giving it a workout.  We are shooting at the aluminum can ... not his plastic fox!

We ended up in Overton three times during our travels.  One time we had breakfast there at McDonalds and the manager came out with a bag full of toys from previous promotions that they hadn't given away.  She gave them all to Scott which kept him busy for quite awhile.  Odie doesn't know quite how to handle the array of "warriors" before her.

I guess in a dog's world if it isn't a threat and if you can't eat it the next best action is to take a nap.

At one campsite Scott wanted a fire.  This was an established campground and nearly all of the wood had been burned already but we managed to scour the woods and come up with enough for a short fire.

It was getting late and this was the only camping site available so we took it.  It had electricity so Susan hooked up the power strip and we charged up every electrical gadget we had with us during the night.

This is the view from the mountain top where we were camped.

One of the small towns (Jerome, AZ) we drove through.  Some of the garages literally opened on the street without even a sidewalk between the door and the road.

We stopped to do laundry and parked near the only available shade.

Montezuma's Castle in AZ.

Scott is pounding in tent stakes at an AZ campground.  We camped in free places every chance we got.  AZ had a lot of national forest but most access roads were gated off.  This was one of their "undeveloped" camp grounds.  The outhouse was so filthy it was not even usable. 

The tent is up.

A view from farther away showing the back drop to the campground.

More cliff dwellings in the Tonto National Forest.  Even though you can walk up to see these we decided not to.  The temperature was around 110 degrees.

Tonto National forest.

Saguaro cactus in Southeastern AZ.

Our trip continues in the next blog as we go through parts of New Mexico then back through AZ to Nevada (Overton again!) and then home to Montana.  There are a lot of absolutely beautiful places we've been to so far.  We're looking forward to even more trips this winter using Overton as our "base."