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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fun With Verizon

Yes, I’m one who has been caught up in the Millenicom demise.  We enjoyed using our MiFi when it was $69/month for 20 GB.  We still enjoyed it (with slightly clenched teeth) when the price increased to $89/month.  Internet access is important to us as fulltime RVers.

So it came as a surprise when I found out Millenicom had gone out of business and if I wanted to continue to use my MiFi, I had to switch to Verizon.

Pouring over RV  blogs and forums to see what was going to happen to former Millenicom subscribers, I decided to bite the bullet and hang on to the bitter end to see what was going to be the final result, fully expecting to get it in the shorts.

Thanks to Al from the Bayfield Bunch, I became aware that Verizon sent out a text message on my MiFi device listing a phone number to call.  I called it and after being on hold for almost two hours, I gave up.

I recalled today with plenty of time and after being on hold for more than two hours, I got a real live person.  I was told that Verizon was not offering an $89/month one year deal for Millenicom subscribers, but would offer a $99.99/month (plus tax) deal for 20GB with no contract.

Okay, so I said I’d take it.  I was given a Verizon account number and the link to the Verizon website where I had to go to register my device and set up payment.

After logging on and trying to register my account, I was instructed that I needed a pin number for the account and it would be sent via mail to my billing address in Sioux Falls, SD.  Not an option!

I called the customer service number and after about 20 minutes of getting nowhere, I was transferred to another rep at a higher level, who couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get registered.  After several deletions and  reapplications of my account over the next hour with no result, I had to terminate the call because I had an appointment I had to go to.  I asked if I could get a direct number to call back this department, but was told no, I’d have to go back to the customer service number again.

I’ll be trying again tomorrow, steeling myself for more waiting on hold for the next representative and get this worked out. Hopefully this is not indicative of the service I’ll get from Verizon.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Finally!  After a morning meeting with our Ranger Dave, we headed out for a full day of our favorite job here at J. Strom Thurmond COE…Pin Hunting.

We have a special bag we carry with all the tools we need to find the elusive boundary line pins, a hand rake, a garden trowel, rags, rolls of pink marking tape, a wire brush and tissues.  Tissues, you ask?  Use your imagination, sometimes when you’re deep in the woods and nature calls…

It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny.  We set off to tackle the boundary lines around a couple of yacht clubs on Thurmond Lake.  We took with us fellow volunteer Laura, who wanted to learn how to pin hunt.  It was great to have her along, she picked up the technique very quickly and was a great help to us.  We wish we had someone to teach us when we headed out on our first pin hunt.

On that first pin hunt, we were sent out to an area and spent several frustrating hours looking for pins along the side of the road, never finding any.  When we returned, very frustrated and reported our lack of results, we were told that they don’t worry too much about roadside pins, because the are usually destroyed by the large tractors that cut the grass.  Besides, no one in their right mind would build from the road onto Corps property.

But we stuck to it, learned by doing and got addicted to the hunt.

With Laura along yesterday, we were able to cover more ground and find and mark the pins faster.  We were glad that she was along because she was quite the “Eagle Eye” and spotted tree markings and even some pins before we did.  :c)

Part of one area took us into some very deep woods.  Because it was such a warm day, I shed my long sleeve shirt and worked in a t-shirt.  Big mistake.

We completed one entire area around one yacht club, finding several encroachments onto Corps property.  We moved on to the next area, which was much larger and competed half of the area which we’ll complete later in the week.

We were quite pleased with the work we got done when we called it a day.  The shower in the Journey never felt better.

This morning, I got the reward for our hard work.  I woke up with a poison ivy  rash on both of my forearms.  I haven’t had any since I was a little boy and am not too pleased to have a new bout of it.  I’m being careful, trying not to scratch.  I have some anti-itch cream handy in case it gets too bad.  I know, I know, Leaves of three-let them be.  But I didn’t see any of that sneaky foliage.

Just goes to prove one of two things:  No good deed goes unpunished, or I’m not as smart as I thought I was by ditching my long sleeve shirt!  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Done. Finally!

We were vey thankful for a number of the COE volunteers to step up and help us finish the very last of the gatehouse mulching projects.

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With all these folks pitching in, the work went fast.

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The final tally is 11 gate houses and surrounding areas weeded and mulched.  To get an idea of how big the total area covered is, think of half a football field.

While we were working in the Modoc campground, I was able to get a picture of the Journey in the adjacent campground where all the volunteers stay (Volunteer Village Campground).

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Thankfully, we have a great time after work with weekly get togethers and pot luck suppers.

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After all, we do have to keep our energy levels up for the next job!  ;c)

An answer to the questions about how does the Corps follow up on boundary line violations: the rangers take them very seriously, first verifying what we’ve discovered, then notifying the violator of the issue, often meeting with them in person to discuss what corrective actions are necessary.  A time frame is set to have the violation corrected and most often the issue is quickly resolved.  There have been cases, however that have resulted in fines, lawsuits and in at least one case I was told about, the person had to purchase from the Corps a small piece of property after constructing his house four feet over the boundary line.  Big Oops!  ;c)

The rangers do keep on top of this and protect this beautiful area to keep its pristine beauty for all of us to enjoy.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

What More Can We Pack Into One Day?

An early morning start to help Ranger Andrew.  The “Iron Ranger” fee boxes all around J. Strom Thurmond Lake boat ramps and day use areas have money boxes that need to be collected.  A team of volunteers heads out weekly to collect the boxes, exchanging an empty box for a full one.  To keep everything honest and ensure integrity, sample boxes at different areas are audited, then the audit is later compared to the box when it is brought in for counting the fee money that is later deposited. 

The audit took only an hour, three fee boxes were sampled, then we headed back for our next adventure, one we’ve been waiting a long time to do.

Pin Hunting!  The first pin of our tour.

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This pin led to finding another encroachment on Corps land.  We ran a tape line from one pin to another and the encroachment was revealed.

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There was some new construction and a pile of debris and a electrical pole (to the right of the yellow line) has to be moved.  Oops!

A littler further another problem.  Double Oops!  Looks like some rebuilding of a wall needs to be done.

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What did the day bring next?  Here’s a hint:

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We had a bunch of dock inspections to do.  The Corps leases dock space on the lake to people, with the regulation that the docks are kept in good working order.  Instead of doing the inspections from the land side, it was quicker to do by boat.

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Marti and I, with Ranger Pepper, launched one of the Corps boats,

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and spent a couple of hours on Thurmond Lake inspecting the docks in one area.

Lots of sun, fresh air and smiles.  Perfect day for a boat.

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And yes, we were wearing our life jackets.  These are inflatable life jackets, very light to wear, giving lots of freedom of movement, while keeping you safe.  It made me sort of pine for my Coast Guard boat driving days.  It came right back.

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Always something interesting to do here in our workamping jobs.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Here We Go Again

Nope.  No Pin Hunting, no mulching, no painting (thank heavens!).  Something different, but something very familiar.

We had to be to the J. Strom Thurmond COE Visitor Center at 8:30 this morning, a little earlier than we usually start, but we were rewarded with a beautiful sight, fog rolling over the Thurmond dam.

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We were at the Visitor Center to present to two classes of homeschoolers the Corps Water Safety Program.

Last winter when we were here, we worked with several other volunteer couples to design and write a Water Safety Program to present to many local schools in towns and counties surrounding Thurmond Lake.  It was a necessary undertaking because there have been at least three drownings each summer at the lake, mostly of young children.  The target audience was to be grade school age kids.

We left Thurmond COE last April and personally only participated in one school presentation, but other volunteer couples carried on the program and by the end of summer had reached over 6000 children with the Water Safety Program.

It was a tremendous success, and the wonderful result was there were no drownings last summer. 

As word of mouth passed from person to person about the program, more and more schools and organizations contacted the Corps requesting the Water Safety Program presentation.

This morning, Marti and I jumped right in and presented the Water Safety Program to the two home school organizations, with about 70 kids and teachers.  The program came right back to us, we had a blast teaching about life jackets, proper fits, how to don them properly and all aspects of safety around the Thurmond Lake swim areas.

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We even demonstrated toys, like this inflatable ring, that are not life jackets.

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Yep, we even sank a few oranges to hammer home the need to wear a life jacket, and wear it correctly.

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We had two new volunteer couples observing the presentations as they will soon be involved and participating, too.

We have as our traveling motto:  “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible) and it works for us whether we’re driving on the road or volunteering here at Thurmond COE.  We never know quite what we’ll be doing next but we’re always happy to step in and do our best at whatever the need. 

Plus, it’s a lot of fun!  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It’s Not Always Glamorous

Although there are lots of fun jobs to do here at J. Strom Thurmond COE, some projects are downright dirty jobs, but important, nonetheless.

After finishing painting all the picnic tables and shelters,

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we took on the heavy job to finish all the mulching projects around the Corp’s gatehouses, located all around Thurmond Lake.  We dug right in and loaded up several truckloads of wood chips.  Thankfully we had Laura along to help us, she’s a very hard worker.

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It started out as a very hot, muggy day, with threatening rain clouds.  We very shortly were soaked from sweating in the humidity.  Then the rain started, just a soft falling as we worked, which actually made us cool down as we worked.  We decided to push on and keep working.

Some of the gate houses already had loads of mulch dumped next to them so we didn’t have to load the truck up again.  It made the job go quicker.

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A few gatehouse areas were overgrown with weeds, so we had to pull them first before we spread the mulch.  With the three of us, it went pretty quickly.

It was some hard work, but the results looked great and we had the satisfaction of a job well done.

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At some of the gate houses the areas to be mulched were quite small, others were quite large.  So far, between our work and the work the Girl Scouts did on National Parks Lands Day, seven gate house areas have been completed, leaving us just two more  to finish up next week.

We took a day off today, letting our tired muscles and achy bones rest up.  Tomorrow, if the weather cooperates should be a more interesting day, with a completely different project.  We do love the variety of the jobs here, always something to do, even without any pin hunting.  Pin hunting is also on our agenda, but these other higher priorities need to be completed first.

I should point out that there are all types of tasks here for volunteers, and no job is a required job.  You get to pick the type of work you’d like to do, or are able to do.  Marti and I choose to do the more physical work (I do what I can with my limitations and have to be careful not to overdo it) and be outdoors, we let other folks handle the inside jobs that they enjoy, from staffing the Visitor Center, to filing and doing other office related projects.

Who would ever have thought after retiring from our careers and hitting the road fulltime, that we’d be looking forward to and enjoying working again?  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Double Good News From The VA

After a three year struggle with the Veterans Administration (VA) over disability issues and compensation, everything has finally been resolved correctly and to my satisfaction.  As to why it took so long, I have no idea, but I’m glad it’s over.

I’ve been questioned as to why I choose to use the VA for medical appointments over the Tricare military health care I’m eligible for.  I have had great success using Tricare and when I’m on the road traveling, if the need arises, I can use it at any medical facility that accepts it, and there are plenty.  I do have a 20% co-pay and an annual $300 family deductible.

With the VA, my medical is 100% covered, so when we are in the South Carolina area, it is my first choice.  Why pay the 20% if I don’t have to?  I have been very pleased with the medical treatment I’ve received from the VA, it was the administrative side that was bogging down my disability claim and causing all the delays and aggravation.

So this week I had my annual physical at the VA and they have pronounced me fully alive and good to go for another year.  A second dose of good news.  :c)

I have one more appointment in November for an eye exam, I may be having another cataract issue in my other eye, so I want that checked out.  Hopefully, it may just be a simple need for a stronger prescription in my glasses.  I want everything taken care of before we start our travels after New Years.

And what a start it will be, we are booked to head out on a Disney cruise, our first cruise ever.  We’ve been wanting to take a cruise for years, so we decided this was the time, we’ll be taking a seven day eastern Caribbean sailing to St. Maarten and Puerto Rico (one of my old stomping grounds during my Coast Guard career).

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We’ve got some new workamping adventures coming up at J. Strom Thurmond COE, things we’ve never done before and a chance to use some of my old Coast Guard skills, so stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

No Pin Hunting Yet

As much as we’d love to get out and hunt for boundary line survey pins here at J. Strom Thurmond COE project, there are jobs that have a higher priority.  With winter and colder, wetter weather in the near future, we have to make use of every sunny day the comes along.

One top priority job that needs to be done is repainting picnic tables and shelters at the West Dam recreation area.  As much as I love painting (not!), we’re here to help and we’ll do anything that needs our abilities.

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We got a group of several volunteers together and armed with paint, brushes and rollers, we jumped right in.

Bob and Laura also painted a nearby life jacket loner kiosk that needed some attention, too.

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I have an extendable pole I use to wash the Journey.  It came in handy to reach the high inside roof boards with a roller screwed on the end.

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Marti was all decked out in her very best Sunday-go-to-meeting painting clothes.

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We hope to finish all the shelters and tables this week.  It is a tiring job for us old fogies, but thankfully, Advil for the sore muscles and pot luck dinners we share here will see us through.  ;c)

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Looks like the mulching project will be next on our agenda, so those pins will have to wait just a little longer to be hunted.  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Settled In

We’ve now moved to our site (#8) at the J. Strom Thurmond COE Volunteer Village.  When we initially arrived, there were no sites available, all were taken by serving volunteers, so we were put temporarily in the nearby public Modoc COE campground until a volunteer left.

The Modoc campground was excellent and for the last several days we were there, we had the entire place to ourselves because it was closed for the season.  Talk about peace and quiet.

The only downside was the Modoc site is just water and electric.  After a little over a week, the Journey needed to dump.  Bad.  But we were able to hang on using water carefully until we got to our FHU site at the Volunteer Village.

We’re now all settled in for the next three months.  A beautiful site right on the lake.

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Complete with fantastic sunsets, at no extra charge.  ;c)

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We’ve been putting in our volunteer hours and thoroughly enjoying every task we’ve been given.  We even had a great laugh the other day.  We were driving through a campground on an errand in a COE truck with “Park Ranger” lettering on both sides.  We came across a car deep in the campground that obviously didn’t pay the self serve entry fee of $4.00 because there was no “Paid” tag hanging from the mirror.

They took one look at us and stepped on the gas, flying out of the campground, with all the people in the car looking back at us to see if we were going to stop them.  We have no authority to do any such thing, but they didn’t know it and were in a panic to avoid a ticket.

It was a great laugh for us.  Now if it had been an actual park ranger, the story would have ended differently for them.  :c)

We’re going to go pin hunting (checking boundary line survey pins) in a couple of weeks, but we have a major job to get done, weeding and mulching at the rest of the COE park gate houses that didn’t get finished on National Public Lands Day.

Funny how much I disliked doing that when we owned a house and now I look forward to it.  Perspectives change a bit when you’re a fulltime RV traveler.  ;c)

Since the area around Thurmond Lake is so vast, I decided to get another GPS for use in the COE trucks as we travel around.  We carry a bunch of road maps for both South Carolina and Georgia since the lake is between the two states.  I figured the GPS would come in handy.

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It looks like it will work fine for us, but it was a bit of a struggle to get set up since it didn’t have any maps preloaded.  I had to first download the maps to my computer and then download them onto the unit.  It was a little frustrating with the slow WiFi connection here at the Volunteer Village that sometimes dropped off and then the automatic Windows update that disconnected the download when it did a restart of my computer.  I had to keep monitoring it until it finally was finished.

However, I persevered and got it done, even if it did take to 2 am.  Sleep is overrated, I guess…  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

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