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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Work Never Stops

Even though many of the COE campgrounds around Thurmond Lake are closed for the season, it’s a chance to take the time to do an in depth inspection of those facilities and get any discrepancies repaired for next season.

Marti and I put a temporary halt to our pin hunting to spend several days driving long distances around the lake to put a serious eyeball on the  25 campgrounds, day use areas and boats ramps owned and managed by the Corps Of Engineers.  It is kind of spooky driving around the closed areas, keeping a sharp lookout to not drive off the leaf covered roads.


Things you take for granted have to be checked out, like signs, roads, fallen trees, rest rooms, lighting, even the boat ramp conditions.


The ramps need to be examined to ensure their surfaces are in good condition and that gravel alongside the ramps is enough to keep boat trailers from dropping off the ramp.  As I walk over and inspect the ramp surface, Marti takes notes of the condition in a large notebook back in the truck.


Once we’ve finished the inspections, we’ll compile a work list of necessary repairs to get into the maintenance log.  Some of the work will be done by contractors, other work will be done by the volunteers, saving the COE lots of scarce dollars.

One thing I can never understand is why some people have to use signs for target practice.  Mindless vandalism that wastes some of the scarce dollars that could be spent on other projects.  Not only was this sign shot up, it was then broken off and tossed on the ground.  Grrr!


But it’s not all work and no play.  We had a great Thanksgiving dinner last week with all the COE rangers, employees and volunteers.  One of our favorite rangers, Pepper, was retiring after 26 years with the COE and she was honored at the dinner.  She and her husband restore John Deere tractors as a hobby so Marti and some of the other volunteers made little tractor favors out of candy to decorate the tables.


Some crushed gingerbread cookies for dirt, gum, mints and Hersey kisses made cute little tractor decorations.


They were a hit!

To all our friends, family and faithful blog followers, Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Man Plans, God Laughs

That’s what our daughter Heather said when I gave her the news.  Our plans to go out West for several months after the New Year have been shot down in smoke.

Once again I’m in need of eye surgery, after all the fun I had over the last two years with a cataract in my right eye which ended up needed two additional surgeries for a detached retina, I’ve now had a diagnosis of a cataract in my left eye. 

The earliest I could get a required pre-surgery appointment at the VA hospital is 29 January 2015, with the actual surgery and follow up appointments yet to be determined.  So we have to stay around the South East Coast area.  When we informed the rangers here at the COE that we need to stay around longer, they were quite pleased.  We’re happy to have a place to stay neat the VA hospital, so that’s worked out well. 

Fortunately this won’t impact our Disney cruise we booked for the first week of January.  After we get some surgery dates, we plan to take a vacation of sorts and spent two or three weeks in Florida.  So all you RV friends of our’s wintering in Florida, please save some of that sun and warmth for us.

We also are going to use the time in Florida to change our residency from South Dakota to Florida.  Since our mailing service in Sioux Falls had moved a couple of blocks down the street and we have to put in address changes, we decided to change to Florida where we’ll save hundreds of dollars in the Journey’s registration fees.  Diesel and gas may be much cheaper now, but with the savings, we’ll be able to keep some of that savings in the wallet instead of putting it in the fuel tanks.  (Plus we can get some great Florida resident discounts at Disney World).

We anticipate remaining at the COE through April, and possibly into May 2015 to get all the cataract surgery and follow up appointments behind us.  We’ll see where we go from there, don’t want to cause anymore heavenly laughter.  ;c)

One more thing, a late Veterans Day comment from a proud dad, a picture of my son Ryan, who is a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer and our DIL Amber, at a dinner last Friday night for newly promoted Coasties.  He is the real deal, not a “Poser”.  :c)

                Ryan & Amber

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

We Never Know Where Our Day Is Going

This time of year the lake at the J. Strom Thurmond COE project is very low, a perfect time to inspect all the dozens of beach areas at all the campgrounds and day use areas surrounding the lake.


One of the items at all the beaches are depth pole markers.  The numbers indicate the water depth when the lake is full for swimmer safety.  With the water level low, it is the perfect time to perfect time to do maintenance on the poles, like replacing missing numbers.


Marti and I got pulled off the task for a higher priority job.  At one campground, the host notified the rangers of a drifting boat.  It had drifted aground and then drifted off into the lake.  The concern was not only for the boat to drift out into the lake and become a safety hazard for other boaters to run into at night, but if the boat had been in use and the operator fell off.

We headed to the campground with binoculars and a portable radio to see if we could locate the boat.  After talking with the campground host as to where he had seen the boat last, we headed out along the shoreline.

We’ve done a lot of hiking in the woods with our pin hunting work, but walking along the lake’s shoreline in this area was some of the most rugged terrain we’ve encountered yet.

The shoreline is not like an ocean beach, it curves back and forth and has many streams, coves and ravines that are not passible, causing us to have to head quite a way inland through the brush to find a place to cross.  Parts of the beach are very rocky,


while others look smooth, but are actually very muddy.  Your feet sink down into the red Georgia mud four or five inches with every step.


We stopped every so often to scan the horizon with the binoculars to see if we could find the boat.


Finally we located the boat aground on a spit of land.  Even though it looked fairly close, it took us another hour of hiking to reach it.


It was a 26 foot long pontoon boat.


Boarding the boat, we were able to ascertain that it was not operated by someone who had fallen overboard.  The boat was in various stages of disassembly and looking at the mooring lines it was obvious that it has just broken loose from its dock and floated off.  We pulled out the boat’s anchor and secured it to the shore so it wouldn’t drift off again.  With the registration numbers, the rangers could track down the owners to come and recover the boat.

A job well done, right?  With Marti’s iPhone, we calculated we had hiked about 3.6 miles to get to the boat.  Now that we had found it, it was back another 3.6 miles to our truck through the rocks and mud. 


Being out in the woods, you’d think we’d see all kinds of wildlife.  Nope!  But we did see some dead life.



For our friend Sherry, I wanted to remind her that even little trees deserve hugs!  ;c)


Once we returned home to the Journey after our day, I spent about about a half hour with a wire brush outside, cleaning what appeared to be five pounds of mud off each one of our hiking shoes.  They are clean, but stained reddish from the mud.  I guess we won’t be wearing those shoes to formal events anymore.

We love the variety of the jobs that pop up here at the COE, we never know what we’ll be called upon to do next.  We remain “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible) and have realized with all the hiking we get to do, we don’t need a gym membership.  ;c)

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Stolen Valor

With Veterans Day being tomorrow, I want to wish all my brother and sister veterans the best and bestow grateful thanks for their service. 

Whether the veteran did a couple of years in the military, or made a career out of it, they deserve the thanks from our nation for standing up, heeding the call and serving honorably, in whatever capacity or field they choose.

Something that irks me to no end is the individuals out there that are called “Posers”, who claim to be a military veteran or member and have never served a single real day in uniform.  They go to great lengths to purchase uniforms, medals and accoutrements, then devise lengthy tales of their “bravery” to impress others.  At times some have even gained access to bases and used privileges that they are not entitled.

Often they claim to have been a SEAL, or worked classified operations when there is not a shred of truth to any of it.  They wear all kinds of medals and ribbons to “prove” their “heroism”.  It is not just limited to the United States, posers have been exposed in Great Britain and Canada.  In one famous case, a Canadian even posed as a U.S. Marine! 

When I was a Coast Guard special agent, I personally worked two cases of two men claiming to be Coast Guardsmen.  It was really easy to expose them and we confiscated their uniform items.  One had never had any connection to the Coast Guard and the other had been a junior enlisted man who was thrown out of the Coast Guard for disciplinary reasons.  He bought some officer uniforms and was going around inspecting people’s boats at marinas.  Even though uniforms and medals are supposed to be controlled items, they can be purchased on line through sites such as eBay, or Army surplus stores.

Sadly, there are no federal laws on the books that they can be prosecuted for impersonating a military member, it was viewed by the Supreme Court several years ago that these individuals were exercising their First Amendment rights.

There are websites out there to expose these posers.  Nothing legally can be done, but with the Internet, they can be shown as the fraud they are.

It is a slap in the face to all the many people who have honorably served our country.  Stolen Valor.  Shameful, in so many ways.

Anyway, to all who have really served, Happy Veterans Day!


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Age Isn’t Always Just A Number

Sometimes your muscles and bones remind you that you’re not 18 anymore, you really are getting old.

Motrin is my friend.  Usually in 800 milligram amounts.  Why, you ask?  Because sometimes the areas we pin hunt are really rugged areas, like this:


The picture doesn’t do justice to this twenty five foot deep ravine, choked with fallen trees and brush.  Of course, the boundary line went right through it, and so did we.  Very carefully.

Fortunately, there were no spills.  Here.  I did take quite a digger face plant on ground that was more level and where there was no reason for the fall.  Except that I’m clumsy, or getting old and the feet don’t lift as easily as they used to.

One thing we’ve found very helpful is hiking poles.  I have a pair that I got in Finland some years back.  I almost gave them away, thinking who’d need them?  Somehow, they ended up in the Journey’s storage compartment for use someday. Well, that day came and they sure are handy.  Marti uses one and I use the other.  We still have other gear we carry when we pin hunt, so only one hand is available for the pole.

The other useful item we’ve been able to use is fellow volunteer Laura.


Having her along helping us has actually increased the ground we cover and pins we find.  She has some pretty sharp (read: younger) eyes and has been able to find pins and tree markings a bit faster than we do.

We have our routine down to a science, once we locate the trees that have special markings indicating a nearby pin, I use the metal detector to locate it and then often have to dig through leaves and dirt to expose it.  Then  Laura jumps in and wraps the pin with plastic tape (to make the pin easier to find for the next hunters in the next survey, about five years in the future).


Marti is the “Map Maven”.  She has the map that is our guide to the areas we’re checking.  As the pin is wrapped, she crosses the located pin off the list as “found” and points us in the next direction.


Long sleeves, long paints, gloves and orange vests are part of our working outfits.  The orange vest are for protection from hunters, it is hunting season around here.

Every area we survey, we find encroachments onto Corps land, like this driveway.   Marti is standing next to the truck  where the property line is and I’m taking the picture from where the next pin is located.  Drawing a straight line between Marti and where I’m standing, you can see someone needs to relocate a part of their driveway.


We’ve been averaging 4 to 5 miles of hiking through all kinds of terrain every time we pin hunt.  It’s a lot of fun and very satisfying work.  Especially when there is plenty of Motrin to come home to…  ;c)

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Finished The Verizon MiFi Switch

I find it amazing that so many Verizon customer service reps had never been informed about the Millenicom shutdown and to expect all kinds of former customers to come over to Verizon.

With the problems I was having switching and getting my device registered and set up with Verizon, we went to a Verizon corporate store for help.  The reps were very nice and tried to help, but had never heard of the Millenicom issue.  They wanted me to take the Verizon double up package, but we don’t need 40GB of data, and the cost was more than we wanted to spend ($40 more per month, $130).

Back to the phone.  One issue that was clouding up the rep’s response was that I was calling them on our Verizon pay-as-you-go phone that we need in this area where our AT&T phones don’t work.  They got confused thinking I was calling about the Verizon phone and not my Verizon MiFi.

After bouncing around between a few customer reps, I finally got a guy who put me on hold and looked into the Millenicom issue.  When he came back he had the correct answers and set up my account and billing information.

We stayed with the 20GB/month plan.  By signing up for a 1 year contract I got the same $89.99/month cost as I had before, the only addition is now I’ll pay tax on that amount.  I could have gone to a non contract plan for $99.99/month (plus tax) but figured the $120 bucks looked better in my pocket.  It’s not like I’m not going to need Internet for the next year.

A slight bump to the budget, but one worth it.  We don’t stream video or download movies so it’s all good.  And Internet is nice to have here is sunny South Carolina where it’s 38 degrees and raining out, with snow just to the North and East of us.  Good day to stay inside.  :c)

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