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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What? A Snow Day?

Marti and I were out and about again, trucking through areas around Thurmond Lake, inspecting another area’s boat docks.  Even though there were quite a bit of woods we had to hike in, there were no ravines to stumble in and out of, very nice, for a change. :c)

Property owners near the lake’s shoreline can lease a spot to put a boat dock, but the dock itself has to be maintained in good condition at all times and the access through the COE’s wooded property cannot be disturbed too much, to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Most of the docks we’ve inspected have been neat and well maintained.  We document the condition with a photograph for the lessor's file.


Occasionally, we find some docks in flagrant violation of the requirements, like this one, broken from its moorings and washed up on shore, left to rack and ruin.


Then there are people that also violate the rules concerning the pathways to the docks, instead of leaving thing as undisturbed and natural, they cut down trees and use the logs to line the pathways.



Once again, our job is not to police the problems, but to identify them to the rangers, who will deal with them.  I can see why the COE needs volunteers to do these tasks, the area around Thurmond Lake is so vast that without the volunteers, many places wouldn’t be inspected for years.  Makes you wonder what kind of abuses would take place on COE government property then! 


I should stress that most residents around the lake are very careful and fully abide by and agree with the rules.  But there is always that one percent that think the rules don’t apply to them.

We’d be doing more of the dock inspections, we have a total of twenty to inspect, photograph and document in one area, but we had to cut our work short, for the incoming winter storm.

We came South to miss winter storms, but for some reason, one has followed us here.  The ice came first, then the snow.  A predicted four to six inch snowfall.


We were snug as the proverbial bugs in a rug in the Journey and enjoyed a nice night together reading and listening to soothing music on our radio. 

This morning we got up to this:




Hardly a blizzard, just about two inches.  Nothing like the blizzards we’re used to, having grown up in the North. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the folks from Northern states would look at this snowfall, proclaim a beach day and go out to get a suntan.

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  But hey, if the COE wants to give us a snow day, who are we to complain?  ;c)

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Slow Drain And A New Task

We may be living in a motorhome, but we still have issues that crop up that we’d have even in a sitx-n-brix, but have to be solved differently.

Our bathroom sink had become a slow draining nightmare, a common problem.  Since the plumbing under the sink is all plastic, I was very hesitant to try and disconnect the sink trap and try to clean it out.  My worry was that I’d end up with a leak.

In a house, you wouldn’t have that issue, those parts are almost always made of metal and would come apart and go back together tightly.

The next thought was to use a drain cleaner, like Draino.  In a house, a no brainer, but in an RV?  Along with the plastic pipes, another issue popped up in my mind:  What about the rubber seals on the gray tank valve?  Would the drain cleaner damage those and create another problem? 

I decided not to chance that and resigned myself to take the sink trap apart and hope (really hope) for the best since the nearest Lowe’s is about a 40 mile round trip.  With my usual repair projects I need at least two or three visits to Lowe’s before I finish.

Then, low and behold, my bonnie bride came up with a great solution!


Marti found via a link on Facebook, a number of uses for baking soda.  One was to use one half cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar to unclog drains.

I liked that idea, because neither of the items would damage any plastic parts or rubber seals.  Since we already had those items in the Journey, we went ahead and tried it.

I’m pleased to report it worked amazingly well.  First we dumped in the baking soda, and then the vinegar.  A rapid foaming ensued.  After the foaming stopped, we simply turned on the water and the sink drained just like new.  A cheap and easy fix, with no nasty chemicals!  Happy, happy…well you know how that goes.

On the work front, we’ve be given a new task. We are part of a group of volunteers putting together a water safety program to present to the 38 elementary and middle schools that surround Thurmond Lake this spring. 

Sadly, Thurmond Lake experiences an average of three drowning's every year, even though the COE provides free loaner life jackets at many of the swimming areas.


  The rangers have to deal with these tragedies and are hoping this new program will be successful.  We are, too and are giving it our best effort.

We sure are enjoying our workamping time here at J. Strom Thurmond COE, lots to do and lots of variety.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ants In The Pants

Being a long, holiday weekend, we were fortunate to have a visit from our grandsons, Andrew and Owie here at J. Strom Thurmond COE.  We had many activities planned, but we were somewhat stymied by some really cold weather.

That didn’t slow down the boys, they wanted to go pin hunting!  Almost better than geo-caching.  We bundled up and headed out to do some more boundary line verifications around Thurmond Lake.


We find it is much easier when we have helpers along with us.  The boys were so handy in locating pins, digging, cleaning off the pin heads with a wire brush,


tying a pink ribbon on the pin and marking it as “Found” on our map.


With all the energy these guys burn, Mimi Marti wisely packed some snacks.


The boys were quite excited when we found a couple of encroachments by homeowners onto COE property.  Here a homeowner pulled up the pin marker pole and tossed it aside to construct a porch.


I picked up the pole an tied it with the pink ribbon to a nearby tree for the park rangers to come out and deal with the situation.


Also, in the above picture, in the background, someone is setting  up a 45 foot long house trailer about 40 feet over the COE property.  The park rangers are going to have fun at this location.

After a busy morning walking through the woods, it was time for a lunch break.  What do boys love to eat (besides candy)?  Pizza, of course!


With a side of mozzarella cheese sticks.


After lunch, we were back out in the field, on to a new section of boundary lines.  While walking, Andrew got something in his shoe, so he sat on a nearby tree stump to take off his shoe.  Little did he know the stump was loaded with ants, but he found out quick!  He started jumping around scratching like crazy. 

Despite the cold air, we stripped him down and brushed off all the ants we could find.  Then we bundled him up in our own coats and hustled off to the car. A shower and fresh clothes were in order.  That finished our pin hunting for the day.

Because it was so cold out, we moved our evening campfire up to the Volunteer Village rec house, where we lit a fire in the fireplace and the boys roasted their hotdogs and made s’mores.


Over the rest of the weekend, we made good use of the rec house, it has plenty of room.  Marti gave the boys their weekly piano lessons on her portable piano we have set up in the rec house.


Andrew and I worked on building his model car engine he got for his birthday.



He was quite proud of the finished product.


And what better way to pass some time than playing Mexican Train dominoes?  Along with snacks, lots of snacks!


We wish we could have the boys more often, they sure make wandering around in the woods a lot easier…and more fun!

Some folks have asked about how we find boundary pins and how do we know the pins haven’t been moved.  Here’s a quick “Pin 101”.

First all the pins have unique serial numbers and they are broken down into areas. 


For example, a pin in area, say 99, will be marked 99-24, the next pin 99-25 and so on.  Once the pin is located, we tie a bright pink ribbon on it to aid in finding in again in the future.

We are given Google maps with the boundary lines outlined and the approximate pin location overlaid on the map. (Sorry this isn’t the greatest picture, but you can enlarge by clicking on it).


We’re also given a map without the Google picture, which is easier to read.


In a perfect world, every pin would be marked by three trees, triangulated around the pin.  The pin marking trees have three orange stripes and an orange dot at the top, called the “Eye”.  The Eyes are all “looking” at the pin, and where the eye “lines” intersect, the pin is supposed to be.

Here is a perfect example, with the pin being one of the old orange cement monuments that were placed in the 1950s.  It also has a modern marking pole.


Most modern pin markings look more like this, and the pin has replaced the cement monument.


Where it gets interesting is in some places, the marking trees have been cut or have fallen down, and/or the marking pole has been removed or destroyed.  Often a homeowner has put lots of fill dirt to make a nice backyard lawn and buries the pin. 

That’s where we have to use the metal detector to find the pin and once we get a hit, dig down to the pin to verify its location.  If an unscrupulous person tries to move the pin, there are enough ways to find the pin’s true location, and we have seen that a couple of times.  That’s for the park ranger to deal with.


Sometimes, we just can’t find the pin, for some reason it has been lost, removed or even washed away.  We note it on the map and turn it in to the park ranger we’re working for.  The ranger passes the info along and eventually a surveying team is sent out to relocate and replace the pin.

Basically, our pin hunting is like geo-caching on steroids.  We enjoy the “thrill” of the hunt, the fresh air and the exercise.  We both spent too much time in offices and cubicles during our working careers, so this is a very refreshing change.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Odd Jobs

Many of the tasks we do here at J. Strom Thurmond COE are not cutting edge, in fact, many of the jobs are downright menial.  But in the grand scheme of things, they all add up to making the Thurmond Lake COE campgrounds, day use areas, beaches and boat ramps some of the best in the country.

We’ve patrolled some of the areas for problems.  Here I dragged a small fallen tree off the road.  Thankfully it was pretty light because Hercules I’m not.


Another day we had to drive to all the campground gate houses.  Not a big job, or a hard one but they are so spread out around the lake it takes almost a whole day to cover them all.  About 160 miles, about half on the South Carolina side of the lake and the other half on the Georgia side of the lake. 


At the end of the season when the campgrounds close, the gate houses have all their equipment removed, such as radios, phones, computers, TVs, cash registers, etc. to prevent them from being stolen during the closed season when no one is there to keep an eye on them.


We had a load of fire extinguishers from the gate houses that were given their annual service and we dropped them off at the buildings.



Simple work, but important and it was good to give a look over of the gate houses to make sure there are no problems or any vandalism.  The electronic gear will be moved in as it gets closer to the season and the gate house staff personnel arrive.

One task we weren’t involved in but many of the other volunteers participated in was with the Christmas Tree recycling program.  The trees were spread around to the many boat ramps around the lake to be dropped in the water for fish habitats.


The volunteers headed out with portable drills to drill holes in the tree trunks for eye bolts to be screwed in, which rope and weights like cinder blocks can be attached to anchor the trees in the water.

We went out instead to do some more boundary line inspections and pin hunting.  We’ve come to enjoy this work and we’re getting pretty good at it.  We get to walk around all kinds of places, from deep in the woods,


to around boat docks,


as well as houses built around the lake. 


Sometimes those pins are very visible and we find them quickly.  Often the pins are marked with a fiberglass pole.  We still have to look for and verify the pin is there because over the years, the poles have been know to be moved by people or even removed so they can construct houses, fences and other structures on COE property.



Here is a fence built six feet over the boundary line, an example of why the lines need to be inspected.  You can see the boundary line’s orange mark on the tree.


Here a person built their deck and fish pond  over the COE property.


Every once an a while, the pins are really difficult to find, or we never find them.  We searched for a pin location near a scrap wood pile.  We got plenty of false signals because of old nails in the ground.


We dug several holes after getting hits with the metal detector.


We finally realized the pin was buried under the scrap wood pile.  Can you see the orange indicator dot on the tree?


How about now?  The pin is buried under all that scrap wood.


The rangers will be contacting this homeowner to remove the wood pile.  Glad that’s not in our job description!


Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.