Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1-15 April, 2014 - Hiking, Rock Climbing, Kayaking, Swimming, Campfires, Visitors, and Moonlit Nghts

We've managed to get some outdoor time in the last couple of weeks despite days of high winds and blowing sand.  The tax forms are completed (have been for awhile) and in the mail but since we owed them (lots!) of money we waited until the 14th to send them in.

 
The local Dollar General Store had some small wading pools at a decent price so we got one for Scott. Needless to say it was an immediate hit on these hot spring days.

 
And what do you do with water if you're an enterprising three-year-old?  You make mud pies!  Sorry Odie, we'll find another bowl for your dog food.

 
Calm nights call for campfires.  Scott had a long day and soon conked out on Susan's lap.

 
We went to the Clark County Fair on Saturday and Scott decided he "needed" another gun.  I'd say that he has his "war face" on but he's mostly peeved at having his picture taken.

 
When we went to the library he couldn't wait to show me his "monster and robot" book.  It's about the characters in Star Wars.

 
This is one of the photos of the eclipse. We learned that automatic focusing cameras are not the best to use when taking photos of the moon.

 
These guys showed up one morning.  The dog was on the other side of the camper and the wind was blowing their scent away from us so she never did spot them.

 
This is another visitor.  The wind was blowing sand and dirt around making it seem darker than it was.

 
On windless days we had outside fun.  Here we launched kayaks at Echo Bay and explored some new territory.

 
We went hiking up a draw near Rogers Spring.  There were three hawks that took off from a ridge.  They took turns coming back to look us over.  I got a lot of photos of them taking turns standing watch.  The hawk is below the arrow.

 
Here's the same hawk with the telephoto at maximum extension.  I need to start packing a tripod.

 
Some of the many boulders we climbed over on our way to the top of the draw.  Scott absolutely loves climbing up.  He's not so thrilled about the trip back and we end up carrying him most of the way. By then he's pretty well worn out. ...

 
at least until it was time to cool the feet off after the hike back.

 
 
 
Well, okay, maybe cool the legs off as well.

 
The boys in green were out for awhile this morning.

 
We've had some beautiful sunsets as well.
 
As usual, lots of good photos that didn't make it due to space and time limitations.  The weather is getting pretty hot so we'll probably be heading home before too long.  We have lots of plans for the upcoming summer.  More about that later.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

January - March, 2014 - No Snow!

Would saying it's been awhile be too much of an understatement?

 
We've been a little busier than usual this year.  We hit the road on January 2 to head south for the winter (once more).  We gave the Cherokee to a daughter and SIL because it had so many miles on it and we wanted something larger for our road trips so we bought a Ford Expedition from one of our sons.  He purchases them (usually not in running condition), gets them running and sells them again.  This one was too good to pass up.  It's definitely a dream to travel in with electric everything, comfortable (heated or cooled) leather seats and individual climate control for each seat.  It has a built in DVD player which Scott adores. 

 
But despite the comfort it's still nice to be "home" again.  Scott was so tired of travelling he began asking to go "home" several hours  before we reached our destination in Overton.  As soon as he saw the motorhome he relaxed and simply said "home."  Here he's curled up on the couch with the cat beside him.  We spent a few days at the Overton Wildlife Management Area before heading farther south to the Boulder Beach Campground.
 
We volunteered to work for the Park Service for awhile and in return for 20 hours a week of labor they paid the fees for the camping site.  We spent a few weeks at the campground, doing volunteer work then headed for Stewart's Point.  We liked the work but were tired of living in a "parking lot."

 
Scott appears to be quite comfortable sitting on the ball while watching a DVD on the television.
 
The trip to Stewart's Point was uneventful but once we got here the transmission went out on the car.  We were without transportation for a few weeks until our son and DIL brought down another vehicle for us to drive and trailered the Expedition back home with them.  They spent about a week with us before going back home. 
 
In the meantime another daughter and SIL came down with their camper to spend a few weeks here vacationing. 

 
We needed some boards to level the motorhome so I bought a couple of long 2X8's and Scott and I cut them down to size.  This is at the Boulder Beach Campground.  Note the bare feet, short sleeves, sunshine, and NO SNOW!

 
We took the Expedition on a road trip to visit a friend in AZ then went up to the Grand Canyon.  On the way we made some side trips.  We're working on a prepper book to counteract some of the nonsense from televised shows like Doomsday Preppers and wanted to do some research and take some photos of ancient Indian dwellings.  This is Montezuma's Castle.
 

 
Scott was in charge of security so he brought his rocket along.

 
This is at Walnut Canyon with dwellings built into the mountainside caves.  It was really impressive.  You have to wonder what kind of leg muscles those people had after climbing up and down all day long.

 
This is Wapatki and another example of ancient life on high mountain plateaus.

 
Now we're at the Grand Canyon.  It was an overcast day so the colors are washed out a bunch.  Photos do not do justice to what you see.  The canyon is so deep, wide and colorful that film can't begin to capture it's grandeur.
 
It too has some great American Indian history.  The Havasu lived in the bottom of the canyon during the hot summers, growing their gardens.  In the winter they lived on the plateau on top, hunting and supplementing their summer crops with meat.

 
This is back At Stewart's Point.  Scott is enjoying a little "splash time" in the lake.  If you stay in the shallow water it's nice and warm!  His "boat" has leg holes in it so he's basically wading in the water.

 
As usual we're using our solar cooker for everything from food preparation to heating hot water for washing dishes.

 
Another side trip to do some rock climbing/exploring.

 
Scott loves playing in the caves of all sizes.

 
While our daughter and her children were here we spent a Saturday at the atlatl competition.  The park service had extra atlatls and darts for use by visitors so we got to try out several different types of throwers and different types/lengths of darts.  As usual there was a pretty stiff wind that day but we all had a great time.  Afterwards we drove over to see Moose's Tank and let the kids do some climbing around.

 
We put up the wind generator this year.  We bought 20 feet of steel pipe then sawed off a six foot section of one.  That will put the generator about six feet above the motorhome roof.
 

 
I ran the wires through the pipe then installed the wind turbine.  This is a Whisper Quiet 400 watt unit.  We brought two, 165 watt panels with us.  I'll permanently install them on the roof next year.  We thought about making mounts to keep them on the ground so we could turn them to the sun easier but after cleaning them off several times after Scott rubbed mud on them (he was making mud while playing in the water and clay) we decided that the roof would be the best place for them!

 
There was a Navy plane landing and taking off on the water so Susan and Scott got on the roof for a better look.

 
This is the charge controller for the solar panels and the inverter to power the 110 volt electricity in the camper.  We're running an electric refrigerator since the propane unit didn't work and it's cheaper to replace it with an electric one.  We don't have to buy as much propane either when we're away from electric hookups (which is most of the time!).  There's a 25 amp "smart charger" at the left of the charge controller.  In the lower shelf there are four golf cart batteries which are connected to another 12 volt deep cycle battery in the original battery compartment.  We've never even come close to running out of power this winter.  We are going to upgrade to a larger inverter next winter.  This one is only a thousand watts.  We want two thousand watts minimum.

 
The battery went dead on the Expedition while it was sitting so I took it out and wired it to the output on the wind generator.  That was in the afternoon on a windy day.  By morning it was fully charged and ready to go again.

 
While we were between visits from our kids and without motorized transportation we made several trip into Overton on our bicycles.  Susan usually had Scott on the bike seat and I took along the trailer behind my bike.  It's 34 miles round trip with a couple of very steep, long grades and is quite a workout.  We ordered some gas motors for the bicycles but I can't put it on hers (bike frame is too small).  This is my bike with the motor.  We've used it for trash runs and short trips but haven't taken it to Overton yet.
 
I've been using some of my VA medical benefits while in Nevada.  It's easier here than in Montana because it's over 300 miles to the nearest VA hospital in MT.  It's my first time using the VA and while the service I get is good the wait times are unbelievably long.  Most of it will just have to wait until we're back next winter.
 
 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 2013 - Busy

We headed south for Overton, Nevada right after Thanksgiving day.  We'd planned on heading south after Thanksgiving and then the weather report showed a serious week of cold weather heading across Montana so we put the spurs to the Cherokee and pointed it south!  We managed to stay ahead of the front and missed the snow and most of the biting, sub-zero cold that accompanied it.  Even then we weren't out of the woods completely.  It's still winter in southern Nevada and we had some cold nights to contend with.  This is our shakedown time with the motorhome.  We had no way to try out the amenities it had while it was parked at home because we couldn't fill the propane tank or water tanks.  We'd bought it on the assurances from the seller that "everything worked the last time that they used it."  That's the last time I'll ever do that again.  We learned that the refrigerator didn't work nor did the furnace and while the stove top burners worked well the oven did not.  The microwave works great which was good since we ended up using it when we needed an "oven" (even though a microwave is a poor substitute for a real oven).

Then came the water ... it has some leaks in the water lines that will need fixed.  Of course I'll have to disassemble part of the motorhome to get at them and like many water leaks I'll have to fix the obvious leaks first then try it with water again to find the next place(s) it leaks.  In the meantime I'm short on tools and getting even shorter on patience.

Meanwhile we have no furnace and the nights were dipping into the 20's.  We bundled up for sleeping.  We all sleep in the same bedroom and by closing the door on it we kept it about ten degrees warmer than the outside temperature.  It was a lot like camping out with a hard sided tent.

We purchased a couple of electric heaters to keep warm in the evenings and ran the generator to power them.  I had to put new fuses in most of the 12 volt circuits but overall the wiring seems to be mostly good in the motorhome.  We did learn that it will trip the main breaker if you try to run two, 1500 watt, electric heaters so we ran one through the wiring system and the other through an extension cord directly to the generator.  Gasoline was getting expensive so we purchased a portable propane heater.  It's not recommended for indoor use but we cracked a nearby window, put new batteries in the smoke/CO2 alarm and ran it indoors anyway.  That cut our gasoline bill in half
but now we were burning propane.  At least the propane was relatively quiet! 

We didn't have room to bring any solar panels with us this trip so we used a small battery charger to keep the auxiliary batteries charged up.  That way we could get power from them using an inverter so that we could run our notebook computers and Scott could watch his DVD's. 

Motorhomes evidently have very little insulation.  We decided that they were great as long as it didn't get too cold and you were parked where you could hook up to water, sewer and electricity.   We were spoiled by our "U-Haul converted to camper" with it's heavy insulation and wood heating stove!  We plan on keeping this one but we also plan on doing some modifications to make it a little more self-sustaining.  We'll keep you posted as we do.

In the meantime we still had time for some fun stuff during the relatively warm and sunny days.

 
Note the short sleeves and clear skies!  A welcome change from our Montana winter!

 
Sunrise from our camping spot.

 
Scott is mobile!  We bought him a small electric car to play with.  Charging it is a challenge we meet by taking it with us as we drive around.  We plug an inverter into the cigarette lighter socket then charge the his toy car's battery while driving.

 
The sights on one of our drives in the backcountry.

 
Ice along a small stream.

 
Lake Mead, Scott and Odie

 
We watched a parade in Boulder City with a friend that lives there.  It was a frosty evening!

 
Our power plant!  We wore it out on this trip.  It was taken in trade and had a lot of hours on it when we got it but it worked pretty hard powering the electric heaters and the motor was making some bad sounds when we headed back for Montana.

 
Quail that congregated near the motorhome.

 
They weren't happy about the two roadrunners showing up!
 
We had to cut our time there short for some things happening back in Montana so we headed back north in early December.  The main item on our docket was a court date concerning Scott.  Last spring his parents asked if we'd adopt him so we began the paperwork in early November.  (We wanted them to be absolutely sure this is what they wanted so we waited a few months to get things started.)  The court date was in December so we went north once more.  Everything went well.  The judge waived the 6 month waiting/trial period since we'd already had him over two years and we'd had legal guardianship most of that time as well.  He also waived the social services evaluations and counseling since it was a family adoption and we'd already had him so long.  Now, with about a thousand dollars less in our pocket, we have a new son.  We've been joking about making a country western song about the whole situation since (legally) his mom is now his sister and his dad is now his brother-in-law and his grandparents are his parents and his cousins are now nieces and nephews and his aunts and uncles are now his brothers and sisters ...!
 
Since we were already back we stayed for Christmas and beyond.  Christmas was good.  We couldn't get everyone together at once (there's 24 when you count everyone related by blood or marriage) but we did manage to spend time with everyone over a two day period.
 
Now we have an appointment with an accountant to talk about taxes.  We had a very good year financially so after consulting with our son who's had a successful business for several years now he talked us into going to his accountant for tax advice.  The appointment's tomorrow and involves terms I'm not the least familiar with but if it will save us from paying a few thousand dollars in taxes I'm all ears.
 
After that is finished we plan on heading back to Nevada for the rest of the winter.
 
Of course we've also been writing during this time.  Susan just published another one and I'm getting closer to finishing my next one.  I needed more photos so my camera has been a bit busy as well.  One of the neat things about writing is that you get to buy lots of new toys then write them off as a business expense.   
 
We'll keep you posted!
 
 We wish you all the best in the coming year!
 
 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 1-10, 2013 - Wood cutting, winches and snow.

I need to begin taking more photos!  Winter is finally upon us in earnest.  We've had snow off and on for the last week.  The temperature hasn't been that low so it's kept melting away until yesterday.  We went into Kalispell on the 7th to visit the new Cabelas store there.  It's grand opening began at 11:00 am and the traffic was backed up for a quarter mile on the highway.  We did a drive by and the line was about 200 yards long so we went shopping other places for awhile.  We revisited the store later that day and made a few purchases.  They had begun with lots of ammo but almost half had been sold by the time we got there.  It wasn't a big deal since I don't really need any but other shelves were emptying at a rapid pace as well.  We spent a C-note plus but $25.00 of it was ammo for a neighbor.  We had other stops to make and by the time we left town it had been an expensive day.

Scott has a new toddler bed complete with Cars (the movie) blankets and pillow case.  Obviously he knows what its purpose is!

He did a test walk in the snow and spent some time getting used to it.

He finally figured out that the white stuff was cold!

I took out another small tree that was blocking the solar panels.  Scott's checking out the stump while I had been busy cutting it into stove length pieces.  It's green wood so I set it aside to dry.  I'll burn it next year.

Here he's showing his new movie before putting it in the Blue Ray player.

He still wants to be in the center of whatever is going on.  Here he's helping grandma make some rolls.

I bought a winch for my pickup.  It's primary duty is dragging trees I've dropped for firewood to the road to be bucked into firewood length pieces and loaded on the truck.  I thought about ordering the mounting kit but that cost more than the winch so I did some scrounging in the heavy scrap metal pile and came up with the ingredients to make a mount for the winch.  First, I took the bumper off and did some measuring.  I use three inch angle iron for most of the project.  I used a metal cutting wheel in a circular saw for most of the cutting.  Then I used my wire welder for the welding and assembly of the pieces.

I clamped it to the frame and marked the holes I needed to drill then took the mount off and drilled the holes.  I'll be purchasing some more bits next time we're in town.

More checking before drilling the holes just to be sure that the winch has enough clearance.  At this point the brackets are clamped to the frame with Vise Grips.  I set the winch on the platform then maneuvered the platform to the place it provided enough clearance.  I then clamped the  platform to the brackets, removed it from the vehicle and did some more welding.

Tada!  I still need to finish the wings on the bumper but that'll have to come later.  I needed to cut wood the day after the this photo was taken!  The winch performed flawlessly and pulled several downed trees to the truck.  It saved us a lot of work cutting up the trees in the woods then carrying the pieces to the truck.  It worked well especially considering that it was purchased for $299.00 from Harbor Freight Sales.  Before purchasing it I read the reviews on it and it was rated high.  Mine performed very well.

The big one!  We'd had several snows before this one but they all melted within hours the next day.

This one however spelled the beginning of winter!

The wood shed is full enough to make it until we head south to Nevada (our winter home) sometime in December.

This is the time of year for the Bolete mushrooms to be appearing.  This one had a piece broken off after having been stepped on by an animal.

We put new struts on the rear of our daughter's Subaru.  The old ones (especially the passenger side) were completely worn out.

Scott is surveying the job to see that we're doing it right.

The view from the corner of our property.  This is the most colorful time of year!

Scott entertaining himself on the way to Kalispell.

I bought a smaller chain to use when cutting firewood.  I have several chains but they're all big and heavy.  I purchased this one because it's smaller, hence it's easier to carry through the woods.  It weighs about half of what my other chains weigh.

The door handle clip broke on the driver's side door on the pickup.  That meant I had to roll down the window and open the door from the outside when I wanted out.  We purchased a new plastic clip which I'll put on in the next couple if days.  Sometime in the past the inner plastic barrio under the door panel got wound up around the window crank.  Guess I'll have to fix that too while I have it apart.

We've been so busy we got behind on the wash so we spent the afternoon in the laundry mat.   We were somewhat amused by the sign.  Just where are you supposed to keep your pets and why are they sorry you can't keep them in your shoes or shirt?