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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Saving Christmas With A Bowline

Bowline.  The King of Nautical knots.  And also my arch nemesis during basic training.

One aspect of basic training in the Coast Guard is to learn the various knots used by seamen because as one works on seagoing vessels, the knots are used for all kinds of applications.  The most important knot because of its wide applicability is the Bowline.  Of course, it was the one knot that I couldn't get down as hard as I tried.

The instructor beat into my head:  "The rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree and back in the hole."  Somehow, my rabbit too often got tangled in the tree branches.

With much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally got a poor semblance of a Bowline knot good enough to pass the knot tying test and moved on to other subjects of basic training.

Fast forward to a dozen or so years later, I was on duty Christmas Eve with my duty boat crew at a Search and Rescue station on the East coast.  It was just the three of us manning the station on a quiet night.  As the lights blinked on and off on the Christmas tree in the corner of the radio room, I felt pretty lonely. Marti and the kids were home looking forward to opening presents the next morning and I wouldn't be there, I wouldn't get off duty until noon on Christmas Day and by that time there would be piles of torn wrapping paper all over the living room as the kids played with their new treasures.  I'd miss the fun of seeing their faces radiate with joy as each present was unwrapped.

A voice on the marine radio suddenly broke the peace.  A passing freighter sailing several miles out along the coast reported seeing some kind of flying craft fall into the water.  I quickly hit the SAR alarm and bolted down to my rescue boat, followed by my two crewmen.  The twin diesel engines were lit off, the lines tossed and we headed out as fast as we could to the location where the freighter reported the possible crash site.

After what seemed like a few minutes, we were in the general area that was reported.  I backed off on the engine throttles and we peered off into the darkness, trying to see something.  I turned on the cabin spotlight and rotated it all over the calm ocean waves, hoping that whatever went down would quickly be discovered.

Suddenly, the spotlight lit up something ahead on the water!  I gently engaged the engines and slowly motored over towards it.  What we found left us astonished, with our mouths hanging open.

It was a sled floating in the water.  A white bearded man in a red suit was waving his arms over his head, while swimming around him together were eight reindeer.  It was none other than Santa Claus!

"Ahoy, Coast Guard!  Can you help me? The harness to my reindeer has broken and I can't fly my sled!"

Shaking off the shock of the scene, I slowly eased alongside Santa's sled and my crewmen tied it up to the side of my boat.  Santa pointed to the hitch where the well worn leather strap had broken off from the reindeer's harness.

"Is there anything you can do to fix the harness?" Santa asked me with pleading eyes.

There was, a Bowline knot would be just the thing to reattach the reindeer's harness.  With a few quick instructions, my crewmen pulled the animals over to the sled and held them in place.  I grabbed a piece of line and leaned over, threading one end through the sled hitch point and the other end into the harness.

Closing my eyes, the mantra came back to me, "The rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree and back in the hole."  It was a miracle because I tied the knot right the first time and it held.  Looking into Santa's worried eyes, I said, "I think that will hold your reindeer's harness in place and get you on your way, Sir!"

I could see the relief in Santa's eyes and we untied the boat from the sleigh and pushed it away.  I backed the boat to give him some room.  Santa called out to the reindeer as he shook the reins.  They paddled forward a bit, picked up speed until they broke the surface of the sea and launched into the air.

The sled rose, dripping wet and Santa maneuvered the sled around my boat in a circle and yelled:  "Thank you Coast Guard, and Merry Christmas!" as he sped off on his way.

As we cruised back to the station, we were quiet.  We all replayed what we had just experienced in our heads.  I just couldn't believe it.

In fact, I still can't believe it to this very day.

Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers.  May you have a special day.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finding Balance

Since we've moved in to our "Home Base", we've had to put the Journey into a storage lot.

Poor thing looks so sad there, but we visit it several times a week to slowly move items we're going to use in the house.  But one thing we've been adamant about is that we are going to leave enough items and clothing aboard so we can take off at a moments notice and not need to buy or bring anything other than food to roll down the road.   Of course, sometimes this makes for some comedic moments with us.

Marti:  "What do you want to make for dinner?"
Paul:   "How about a nice roast in the crock pot?"

A few moments of silence between us, until it dawns on us both that we don't have a crock pot in the house. Yet.  Off to Walmart for a crockpot.

Paul:    "I hope you like the home made chicken soup I've made."
Marti:  "I'm sure it will be good, pass me the ladle so I can put some in my bowl."

Another few moments of silence until we realize we don't have a ladle.  Yet.  After using a soup spoon to get the soup into bowls, we eat it and then, once again head to Walmart for a ladle.

We are getting there, the house is almost completely furnished with mostly all the necessities now and with a bunch of stuff removed from the Journey, I'd swear it is sitting a couple of inches higher on the suspension air bags.

Some things have returned to us from storage at our daughter's house that we chose to leave behind most of the time.  Here are the "Tadpoles" in our garage awaiting a little TLC so to be ready for Key West where they'll come in real handy.

It's not been all work, though. Being close to our grandsons Andrew and Owen, we have had the time to build the two mini bikes I bought them.  They've taken to them very well and are enjoying riding and working on them.  Never too young to learn to turn a wrench.

I another week or so, the construction of all the houses should be complete, the work trucks and dumpsters will go away and I can bring the Journey down to the house for a day to wash it, unload a few more things and winterize the water system.  It's been six years (!) since I last winterized it and I hope I remember how to do it.  Just because we are not living in the Journey 24/7 right now doesn't mean I won't take care of it as much.  We intend on keeping it and enjoying travels with it for a long, long time.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Removing Diamond Shield From Our RV

It's about time I got back to writing about our Journey RV, because, after all, this is supposed to be about our RV lifestyle.  So I'll skip over talking about new houses, assembling furniture and skinned knuckles (lots of skinned knuckles).

The Diamond Shield protective coating on the Journey's nose served well for the nine years (already?) we've owned it, but the glue started growing mold under the plastic, making the Journey look like a diseased abomination.

I tried various things to remove the plastic, some parts it easily peeled of in big sheets, other parts it came off in little tiny pieces.  My fingers cramped after a while so I found plastic razor blades at Ace Hardware, which help a bit, by the plastic still came off in tiny, postage stamp sized pieces.

I got a recommendation to try a decal removal disc made by 3M.  I gave it a try after ordering it from Amazon.  I chucked it into my drill.

It didn't work well at all.  While it did sort of remove the top layer of the plastic, it melted the glue underneath into a really hard surface.  It took a very long time to even get that far.

Honestly, I was at a loss as to what to do.  Peeling the Diamond Shield off piece by piece would see me working on it until the next century.  There is a lot of surface area on the front of a Class A motorhome.

I was watching TV on my new home's 55 inch unit when I came across a car show where a custom car shop was removing a fancy car body wrap using a heat gun.  It came right off.  I decided to give that a try, after all, what did I have to lose?

With the heat gun on low, I heated a four inch square section at a time and then used the plastic razor blade.  The plastic shield peeled right off easily, with one down side.

The down side was in some spots, the plastic came off, but the glue remained behind, doing its job, sticking to the paint.  I tried some WD-40 on the glue to see if it would come off.

For the first time ever, WD-40 let me down, it didn't work on the glue.  So I tried another penetrating oil.

The PB Blaster worked well.  I sprayed it on and let it soak for five to ten minutes.  It turned the glue orange.

The glue residue was easily scraped off with the plastic razor blade and a little elbow grease.

The result was clear, undamaged paint, which I put some wax on.  The generator hood came out clean and shiny as if it was just painted.

Now that I know the secret to removing the Diamond Shield, I have the rest of the nose to clear off...when I'm finally finished putting together the furniture and other items in the new house.  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Home Base

It was with a lot of tears that we turned in our COE gear to the rangers last week, both from us and the rangers.  We have grown very close over the last three years and it was very hard to leave.  We intend to visit and hopefully volunteer again over the years.  It was a wonderful experience, we'll always have happy memories of the fun we had there.  The Journey is still at the Volunteer Village campground, we were allowed to leave it there until we can pick it up in a week or so.

On to the new home base, it's amazing what you can get for just signing your name on a piece of paper.  ;c)

Our long ago decision to sell all our furniture when we hit the road instead of storing it was very wise.  We saved a ton of money that would have been spent on storage fees and enabled us to buy all new furniture for the house.  Of course, I failed to realize that much of the new furniture comes unassembled and I've been working putting it together.  My cordless screwdriver has become my new best friend.

A fast tour of some of the inside rooms.  We decided to purchase the model that has all the major living areas on one floor.  My 94 year old dad may come to live with us at some point and we're not getting any younger, so it will eliminate stair climbing if necessary.  We do have a large room on the second floor with a full bath that we're going to use as a video game and sleep overs area for the grandkids, as well as a work area for Marti to do her crafting.

A few pictures:

Living room.

Kitchen (with a dishwasher!!!).  The kitchen table area.

Master Bedroom, nice to have lots of room around the bed.

Guest bedroom with newly assembled bed, new mattress is coming on Saturday.

Still more boxes of furniture awaiting my attention.

One thing (actually two) that I'm looking forward to putting together with the grandsons.

We've got lots of traveling scheduled for the upcoming year, Disney World in Florida with the Jersey granddaughters, Key West, Disneyland with the California granddaughters, just to name a few.  It looks like the Journey will get some PDD driving days in the near future.  :cD

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Almost There

It's been a busy couple of weeks getting ready to close on our new home base.  We've spent quite a lot of time traveling between our workamping job at Thurmond Lake COE and the new house.  A myriad of things have taken place to line up all the odds and ends to make the bare lot,

into the new 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 2188 sqft home where we'll spend time when we're not traveling.

I've got a whole collection of pictures documenting the entire build, so I can reference them if I need to someday trace an electrical circuit or a water line.  Following the construction, I've been able to keep an eye on the work and point out a couple of errors to the contractor before they became a problem.

We've lined up all our furnishings, getting them scheduled for delivery shortly after we close on the house next Friday.  It's been fun shopping and getting a theme for the different rooms.

When we sold our last house and hit the road fulltime five years ago, we sold all our furniture, keeping just a half dozen boxes of special keepsakes in our daughter's attic.  Our furniture was old and had been moved (and dinged, scratched and dented) a number of times while we were in the Coast Guard.  It was still good, but we decided against storing it, not knowing how long we'd have to keep and pay at a storage facility somewhere.  It turned out to be good planning, looking at the costs, not to mention moving it, we've been able to buy all new furnishings for way less than keeping the old stuff.

I'm glad that we'll be getting these things delivered, even though I'm healing well from my surgery and got a good report from the doctor on my progress, I still can't do much in the way of lifting or moving things around.  I'm still pretty sore and thankful for Tylenol at times.   I'm being careful, I'm told that it will be another 5 or 6 months before I can do what I could before the operation.

The one big sticking point was where were we going to be able to keep the Journey.  The neighborhood has an HOA (Boo!) and parking it at our house is not allowed.  We searched the local area and didn't find any storage lots satisfactory until this week, we found a good, secure RV storage facility just five miles down the road for a very reasonable price.  That was the last piece we needed to fall into place.

We'll be winding up our volunteer stint at the COE shortly.  It's been fun, but it's time to move on. We've got a bunch of travel plans in the works, we've already got some Disney World reservations at their Fort Wilderness in February to take our Jersey granddaughters there for the first time.  After that, a couple of weeks in Key West before we turn the Journey west to California to visit our granddaughters there for a couple of months.  A Disneyland visit with them is in the plans, too.  This summer, a trip north to Jersey for a month or two to visit with the Jersey grands will take place, along with my annual motorcycle trip with my two brothers (Do I hear talk about Nova Scotia this year?).

So the wheels will still be turning, even with a home base.  We've been RVing for many years, with many more years still ahead of us.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Blog List Restored Thanks To Rick Doyle!

Once again it's Rick Doyle to the rescue.  If you want the solution to restoring your blog reading list, check his comment in my previous post.  I followed his instructions and got almost all my blogs back.  I'll have to add the few missing ones piece by piece when I get a chance.

Thanks again Rick, for your outstanding technical support.  My virtual hat is off to you!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Okay, Who Stole My Blog List?

Several days ago my list of blogs I follow has disappeared from my blog page.  Looking into it I haven't found a solution, has anyone else had this issue?  Blogger has presented glitches in the past and things returned to normal after a short while. Trying to manually relist my blogs hasn't worked, either.   Hopefully this gets fixed soon.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Fifty Shades Of Jello

It has been a long haul these last five months dealing with my colostomy bag waiting for my reconnection surgery.  To say I won't miss the bag is an understatement, I know it had its purpose and there was no alternative, but it doesn't mean I was ever really fond of it.  When I was fitted for the bag after my initial surgery last April, the ostomy nurse said to expect an accident with it from time to time.  She didn't lie.  And I won't go into the accidents I had, use your imagination...

I had to have a colonoscopy the day before the actual surgery. The doctors want to take a "look" to ensure there were no surprises waiting when they opened me up.   Taking all the prep stuff is always not fun, having to deal with the bag made it even more "fun".  Insert the word "accidents" here.  Yep, use your imagination.

After the colonoscopy I wasn't allowed anything to eat and no drinking of any liquids after midnight leaving me feeling like a member of the Sahara Desert dying of thirst club.  If anything, it made me even more eager to get into the operating room the next day for my re-plumbing job.  No fear or apprehension, just a deep desire to get a ice cold glass of water.  Of course, I was second on the surgery list that day with the surgery scheduled to start at noon.  My "luck" didn't fail me again and the first surgery went way longer than expected.  Insert sound of me sucking my tongue unsuccessfully for any inkling of moisture here.

Finally I went in to surgery, Marti, her sister Gail and my daughter Heather sat in the waiting room while the operation was underway.  The surgeons encountered some issues and the whole thing took over 5 1/2 hours to be completed, with the removal of another 10 inch section of bowel that had more diverticulitis in it before the installation of a titanium coupler joining all my plumbing back together.

Coming out of the anesthesia in my room, the doctor told us the surgery went well and I needed to get right up and walk all around the hospital floors 4 to 5 times a day.  That was quite the challenge, but as a reward I could have a teaspoon of ice chips every hour.  I wasn't going to let the massive pain in my belly stop me.  No way...until I tried to get out of bed and take that first step.

Thankfully Marti was there to coach me through my steps and I was able to stagger a lap around the hospital and then collapse back in bed.  The reward of ice chips was heavenly.

The first night after the operation I was able to walk the floor three times with Marti holding me up on one side and the IV pole machine wheeling along on my other.  I looked just like Tim Conway doing his old man character shuffle from the Carol Burnett show.  I got lots of kudos and congratulatory smiles from the nursing staff on the floor which made me feel good.

The next day, the doctor put me on a clear liquids diet in addition to my ice chips.  I was living large now, with some kind of mysterious, unidentifiable broth each meal and another colorful cup of Jello. This is where I made an amazing discovery.  Hospital Jello, no matter what shade or color, all taste the same.  Makes me wonder if they pay extra for that.

Now that I was getting a better diet and making more and more laps round the floor, the next challenge was the ultimate one.  Putting the newly reconnected plumbing to use.  No way was the doctor going to let me go home until the "spirit" moved.  The number one priority was number two.

We waited and waited and waited with no success, gas on the other hand was so plentiful I could have filled the Goodyear blimp up a couple of times over.

After several more days of disappointment, the doctor order some laxatives to hopefully improve the situation.  With a heavy dose of a foul, chalky liquid, I choked it down and we waited some more.  And walked some more.  And ate even more shades of Jello.

Then...Sweet Mother of Magnesia!  Words like Tidal Wave, Whirlpool and Tsunami come to mind, but it wasn't that spectacular, just enough to know that things were starting to work as expected and even better I could go home the next day.

I'm now home back at the Journey, recuperating.  It's going to be a long period of healing to get back to normal, no driving, no lifting more than 10 pounds, no bending, stretching, bungee jumping, marathons or any other things that make up my normal routine.  My beloved motorcycle is under its cover resting for now, too.

It was pretty extensive surgery all tolled and I'm fortunate to have come out of it with an excellent prognosis for the future.  I'm grateful for the two surgeons that did my life saving operation and my restoration procedure.  They are special people who go to work every day where the sun don't shine.  Think of them the next time your job frustrates you.

Most of all, I'm grateful for all the prayers, thoughts and encouragement from all my friends and family, but none more so than Marti, who stuck by my side and helped me when I needed the help, pushed me when it was too painful to walk and kept me going.  How was she able to do it?

She threatened me with another shade of Jello!

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Leaving My Mark

Nothing too exciting going on at the COE, summer wrapped up with the Labor Day Weekend.  Despite lots of heat, people made the most of the last summer weekend and we spent three days covering a gate house at one of the day use areas.

With the approaching fall, it's now time to start shutting down the parks and getting things put up for the winter.  I was out the other day without Marti, who was helping her sister Gail move in to her new house down the street from our still building house.  I was collecting life jackets from the loaner board at the beaches around the lake.  Since most of the COE beaches are now closed, the life jackets are removed, cleaned, inspected, sorted and stored to be ready for use next season.

All was going good until:

I backed into a tree at one of the parking areas.  Barely tapping the tree at a speed of slower than a walking pace, the bumper buckled right in to the quarter panel, bending it too.  Of course, to make matters worse, it was the boss' truck I was using.  I certainly have left my mark on the COE!  :c(

We checked on the house build today, it's coming along, the kitchen cabinets have been installed.  Marti is wondering how they are every going to clean up the mess.

Tuesday is my surgery date for my plumbing reconnection.  I'll be so glad to get this "behind" me.  Anticipating a 3-5 day hospital stay if all goes well and a couple months recovery to get back to normal.  I'll have to hibernate my motorcycle for a while,too.

Just wanted to give an update so you don't think I fell off the face of the earth or have been abducted by aliens...

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Things Come In Threes

This has been quite the season for our medical issues, my gut, my eye and now it's been Marti's turn.  She had to have a procedure for a partial removal of her thyroid gland.  Nothing serious but a preemptive surgery for some non malignant nodules that grew on the gland.  Like my gut, it appears this is something that runs in her family, several of her family members have had the same issues.  Thankfully all has turned out well and she is back to her normal routine.

I am looking forward to my final gut surgery on September 13, can't wait for my plumbing to be reconnected.  It's been a long time and I certainly won't miss this colostomy bag.  It doesn't slow me down from normal activities, but it can make the most embarrassing noises at the most inopportune times.  I have no control over it, it does what it wants to do whenever and wherever it wants.  After the surgery, I hope to recover what ever dignity I have left...  ;c)

It has been a hot, slow summer here at the lake.  I've been working nights doing radio watches for the rangers that are out on patrol around the campgrounds and day use areas.  It's not a terribly exciting job, but I don't mind it, I have made good use of my Kindle and devoured quite a few books.  With Labor Day weekend approaching, that job will end after the weekend.  We'll be covering a day use gate house for those three days, a job we can do together for a change.

With the drought conditions here at the lake, we've seen the lowest water levels ever in the three years we've done volunteer work here.  One downside is many of the volunteers here at the campground have been fighting ants in our RVs.  We've been battling ants now for the better part of a week inside areas of the Journey, we've tried our trusty Terro ant baits and they are not working,  I have vaseline around all my hoses and cables and the ants have walked right over it, we've had to spray all over the cement pad under the Journey with various home remedies and commercial products and have still found ants around.  The downside is these little suckers bite and we've both gotten munched on at various times.  Hopefully we'll get this battle over sooner rather than later.

We check up on our new home base house usually once a week.  It's been interesting to see it coming along and I've been documenting the build, taking pictures of all the wiring, plumbing and framing. We've been buying some necessities to furnish the house when we close on it in mid October.  We sold everything we owned when we sold our last house instead of paying for storage, it was a smart move, we saved lots of money and now have funds to buy new items to outfit the home.  Some of that old furniture was pretty beat up from our military moves, so no loss there.

We are still going to travel in the Journey, still going to do volunteer work too, in between time spent at our "home base".  It will be nice to off load some of the items we have in the Journey to the house because we won't need to carry everything we own/need on the road.

We are trying to figure out our travels for the winter, we have grand kids in California and New Jersey that we want to visit, as well as some needed repairs on the Journey at the Winnebago factory service center that are beyond what I can do by myself, can't put them off too much longer.  Funny how life can make you a juggler.

One project I've been "picking at" (literally) on the Journey is the removal of the Diamond Shield plastic covering on the front.  Initially it was installed at the factory to protect the paint.  Good idea, sort of.  Seven years later, the glue that holds the shield on has grown mold behind the plastic, leaving the Journey's nose looking very unsightly.

Some sections of the shield peeled right off in one piece.  Very nice result.

Other sections are so brittle, it comes off in tiny pieces, leaving behind some glue residue, which comes off with a bit on WD-40 on a rag.

I watched a number of YouTube videos on how to remove this stuff, some were interesting but I'm unable to use one technique because I don't have a steam gun (whatever that is).  One guy used a high pressure washer and blasted the plastic off along with his paint and put holes in the fiberglass.  Not going to do that, for sure.  

I originally was picking at it with my fingernails, but after a while, it hurt too much, so what I've been using a little bit at a time are these plastic razor blades I got at Ace Hardware.

They work better than fingernails, but it's slow going.

I've been doing small sections at a time, hitting them for a few minutes here, a few minutes there.  It's been so hot here at the lake, I get drenched with sweat in no time.  Hopefully with cooler fall weather approaching I'll be able to spend more time to remove it all.  Until then, a little bit at a time is all I can do.


I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a better, easier, faster way to do this.  I (and my fingernails) will be eternally grateful!   ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Picking Up After Pigs

Thurmond Lake is a beautiful place to visit, mild weather makes it a year round destination for boating, fishing and camping.  Some of the campgrounds have water/electric sites, others are primitive, with nearby water pumps and toilets.  The primitive areas are "Carry In-Carry Out" sites, meaning no trash service.

One campground, despite the large signs at the entrance/pay station informing campers to take their trash with them always has someone that doesn't seem to get the message.  Marti and I have several times this summer had to drive the half hour up to the campground and spend a couple of hours picking up after those "pigs" that can't get the message through their heads.

I can't understand why many people thing the fire ring is also a trash can.  Aluminum cans and glass bottles don't burn well.

In our rounds checking up on the campgrounds, we came across this mess, not only did the camper leave trash everywhere, they left all their equipment behind, too.

Due to COE regulations, we couldn't just pick up the gear left on the site.  Instead, we had to make a second trip to place a Removal sticker on the tent.  The sticker tells the owner to remove the items within 24 hours or they will be disposed of.  

All attempts to contact the owner from the registration paperwork left on the site post were unsuccessful.  Now later this week, Marti and I will make a third trip to pick up the abandoned equipment and spend at least an hour picking up the trash left behind, now scattered over a large area thanks to animals.

It is a tremendous waste of time and resources to have to pick up after pigs, pulling us off of more important tasks to clean up the parks.  We are not fans of these jobs, but we will do whatever it takes to help keep the COE lands up to the high standards they are known for.

Thankfully most everyone that uses the COE parks and campgrounds are respectful and follow the rules, keeping things clean and neat for the next visitor.

Not every job we do here at the Thurmond COE is glamorous, but we're very happy to be a part of the team and enjoy volunteering several months every year.  It's good to give back.

The lake area is in a drought and the water levels are the lowest we've seen in our three years of volunteering.  Grass is growing on the land that's normally submerged.

Now for the latest house build picture.  The house looks bigger than it really is, we chose this model because it is small and on a tiny piece of property.  For our home base, we wanted something that will be easy to keep up so we can still travel around the country.  Don't be fooled by the house next door going up to the right of the garage, it almost looks like it's attached.  Front view:

And the back view:

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.