Category Archives: Cat

Who Let the Cat Out?

This blog is written on a template from WordPress. Periodically, WordPress updates the platform. I was told, by someone in the know, to always update to the latest version. Sometimes the update fixes bugs or plugs vulnerabilities. So that’s what I do. Well, the latest “upgrade” changed the whole platform. My photos no longer are reduced to a smaller image that can enlarged to their original size by clicking on them – they are sized to fit the page automatically. I don’t see this as an upgrade.

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to insert links in the new format. The biggest issue I have is with the sidebar widgets. I have affiliate links in the sidebar. Some no longer work – for example, I’m an Amazon affiliate. If you go to Amazon from my website link, I earn a small referral for anything you buy from them on that visit. You pay the same price – I just earn an small referral fee. It isn’t much and now that the link has broken, my last statement showed I earned all of 54 cents in the last month. I’ll have to figure out how to fix it. I’m never going to get enough referral money to even pay for the web hosting cost of a blog, but a few bucks here and there doesn’t hurt.

I don’t have much to report on the RV side of things. We’re settled in and I haven’t had any real projects here in Mesa. We stay active at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort though. I’ve been busy playing pickleball and instructing pickelball lessons. Giving lessons has helped me focus my own play – so it’s beneficial to both me and my students.

We enjoy the birds here at Viewpoint. When I bought the second quail block to attract and feed birds, I wondered if I could keep it up. The birds demolished the first one in about 10 days. At $14 per block, I wasn’t sure if I should keep it up. Now that we have much warmer weather, the birds have an easier time finding more naturally occurring food sources, so the block isn’t disappearing as fast.

Ozark the cat loves the quail block. She sits on the bottom step of the entry and watches the birds through the screen door. She doesn’t try to go outside though. I think she had enough of the outdoors when we found her as a young kitten hiding under our coach at Turkey Creek near Branson, Missouri. She’d much rather stay dry and well fed in our coach.

Ozark the cat stretching out on the dashboard

Our friends Mike and Jodi Hall have a rescue kitten that looks a lot like Ozark the cat. We were talking over happy hour at Lucky Lou’s and Jodi told us her cat story. Apparently, the night before, their kitten, unbeknownst to them, went out the back screen door sometime after 10pm. Jodi knew something wasn’t right when the cat never came to snuggle in bed all night. In the morning, she couldn’t find the cat and it didn’t come when she put food out.

She checked the backyard fearing the kitten may have fallen into the koi pond or got into the pool and ended up in the filtration system, but the cat was nowhere to be found. In the backyard they have an aviary built around a tree. In the afternoon, Jodi looked at the tree carefully. Sure enough, the kitten was up in a crook in the tree. Jodi had to climb up on the aviary, then into the tree to bring the cat down. Mystery solved and now their cat doesn’t seem as inclined to go outside anymore.

While I don’t have any RV related things to post, I want to post a few meal pictures. I know this seems like a food blog at times, but I like to make the point that full-time RV living doesn’t mean always mean eating out, grilling hot dogs or microwaving frozen food. It doesn’t always have to be fancy either. Last week Donna diced leftover pork tenderloin and prepared street tacos. Yummy!

Street tacos

I took advantage of the fine weather and grilled steaks on Sunday.

Steaks right off the grill
Steak with baked sweet potato and asparagus

Monday Donna made a dish called chicken Gabriella and served it with mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts.

Chicken with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts

Speaking of fine weather, we’ve had daily highs in the mid to upper 70s over the last 10 days and even hit 83 degrees yesterday. The forecast looks good although we may have a couple of cooler days with rain showers next week. Overall, we can expect upper 70s and low 80s in the foreseeable future.

Fairground Events

While we were dry camping at Sierra Trading Post (STP) in Cheyenne, I saw something interesting. Around 7pm, a UPS tractor-trailer rig with a long trailer pulled into the STP lot. It had an additional fifth-wheel plate mounted on a dual wheel tow bar trailing behind it. The driver dropped the trailer and left. Minutes later another UPS tractor trailer rig with a shorter pup-trailer pulled in. The driver dropped the pup trailer, then disconnected the trailing fifth wheel from the first trailer and moved it to the front of the pup trailer. Then he hooked up to the long trailer and left. A little while later, a third UPS tractor-trailer pulled in with a long trailer. He hooked the pup trailer to the back of the long trailer and pulled out towing a double combination rig. This performance was repeated in exactly the same sequence the following night.

Apparently, UPS used the STP lot as a staging/transfer station. It reminded me of the time we were in Alamogordo dry camping in an abandoned shopping plaza and FedEx trucks converged there to redistribute their packages. I guess UPS and FedEx can’t have dedicated facilities everywhere they need to transfer freight, so they make do with what’s available in the area.

When we left Cheyenne, we saw on Facebook that our friends Charlie and Sheila Pennington were in the area. They stayed at a campground south of town off of I-25. They were probably within 10 miles of us – too bad we didn’t know. It would have been fun to see them again – we met them in Rapid City our first year on the road.

I mentioned the Bright Line Eating plan that Donna’s on. It involves consuming a lot of vegetables and I don’t always eat the same meals as she does. But sometimes it works out and we have the same thing, just in different proportions. On Friday night, Donna made ginger-carrot soup and grilled wild coho salmon, bok choy and shishito peppers. Yummy!

Ginger-carrot soup with unsweetened coconut milk

Grilled salmon, bok choy and shishito peppers

On Saturdays, they have the Longmont farmers’ market here at the Boulder County Fairgrounds from 8am to 1pm. We walked over to see what it was all about. It was a fairly large market with dozens of vendors – local produce, meats and crafts along with food trucks. As usual, live music was presented with a bluegrass band playing while we were there.

Bluegrass at the farmers’ market

Walking over there, we passed a pond. There was a platform with a large osprey nest. The osprey was in the nest but jumped out and stood on the edge of the platform before I took a photo. It’s hard to see the bird, but the nest was huge.

Osprey nest on platform at the pond

After we shopped and bought a few fresh veggies, we headed back through the fairgrounds and stopped at the indoor arena. A horse show was taking place over the weekend – much like the one we saw in Springfield, Illinois but on a smaller scale. It was cool in the arena and felt nice to get out of the sun.

This girl competed in the nine and under category

Saturday night Donna made green chile turkey burgers and served it with fresh corn on the cob we bought at the farmers’ market along with grilled zucchini sprinkled with lemon salt. I had my burger with avocado on a ciabatta roll – Donna opted out of the bread.

Green chile turkey burger with veggies

Sunday morning the Moto GP race from Silverstone, England was cancelled due to standing water on the track. I watched the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix instead and it was a good one. This is the first time Moto GP has cancelled an event since 1980.

It’s been hot out with afternoon temperatures reaching the low to mid 90s. We’ve also had periods of gusty wind. We run the air conditioners from late morning until evening. With the interior temperature of the coach on the cool side, Ozark the cat likes to lay in the sun on the dashboard. She stretches out on her back and from the outside, she looks like a dead kitty.

Ozark the cat lying in the sun

Stretching out

As usual we witnessed the Monday morning exodus. The weekend warrior campers pulled out en mass.

The temperature should reach the low 90s again today with wind gusts up to 35 mph here and up to 50 mph in the mountains. A cold front is forecast to move in overnight and the temperature will be much cooler tomorrow – the high is predicted to be 75 degrees.  Last night we had a passing shower and gusty winds. We plan to extend our stay here until Thursday.

 

 

 

Roadside Assistance

I closed my last post saying we were waiting for Coach-Net Roadside Assistance to send a tow truck Wednesday morning. They were on top of it – they called me to first say they had found a qualified shop for the repair. Later they called and told me a tow truck was dispatched and should arrive in about 90 minutes. Actually two trucks were coming – one for the coach and one for the trailer.

The tow truck driver phoned and said he was delayed slightly and would be about 30 minutes late. They showed up and set to work. First I had to unhook the trailer, then I needed to get the coach turned around. The road had curves coming from both directions, so they stationed their trucks with emergency lights flashing in the road, blocking traffic from either direction while I turned us around.

The tow truck for the coach was a big heavy-duty Peterbilt. Once they had the front wheels secured in the cradles and lifted to the coach, they had to get underneath to disconnect the drive shaft. You can’t tow with the rear wheels down with the shaft connected. If you do, the transmission output shaft will spin but it won’t be lubricated because the pump works off of the input shaft which only turns when the engine is running.

On the tow truck – the guys are disconnecting the drive shaft

It was a long, slow ride to Binghamton. We retraced our route for several miles, then got on I-81. Traveling on highway 206, we came down some of the grades we climbed the day before. I rode with the driver in the big tow truck while Donna rode in the pickup truck towing our trailer.  Ozark the cat stayed in the coach in her crate. Later, I told Donna she was lucky to ride in the comfort of the pickup truck. The Peterbilt tow truck rode rough and the big Caterpillar engine was so noisy, it was hard to carry on any conversation. The jake brake on that thing rattled my eardrums.

The nice thing about roadside assistance is they find the provider and pay for the tow. This was a very expensive tow since we were so far out in the countryside. I won’t complain about paying the annual Coach-Net membership fee – they covered the bill to the tune of $1900. It was $1300 for the coach and $600 for the trailer!

Coach-Net determines who the nearest qualified shop is and that’s where they take you. If you want to go somewhere else, get your wallet out. They took us to Stadium International in Binghamton. I went inside and met Dave, our service guy. It didn’t go too well. Right off the bat, he said he couldn’t look at our coach until Friday, possibly Thursday. He advised me to rent a car and find a hotel. Not what I wanted to hear. The bad thing about roadside assistance is they choose the nearest qualified shop!

After a while I talked to another guy, Richard. He runs the night shift – they’re open until midnight. He agreed to order the hydraulic oil filters – I asked if they could change those first as it may solve the problem and it’s not a difficult or time-consuming task.

Donna found us a room at the Red Roof Inn. One of the go-fers from the shop drove her there with Ozark the cat and all of the stuff we thought we would need for the next few days. I followed on the Spyder. At the hotel, we met an interesting bunch of guys that had been staying there Monday through Friday for the last five years! They’re part of a construction crew working on the interstate bridge project and have a couple more years to go before completion.

The shop got the filters and they set about changing them Thursday morning. The mechanic was unfamiliar with the system and I had to tell him where the filters are located – they’re in the bottom of the fluid reservoir.

After filter change, I was out of luck. The fan still didn’t operate correctly. The service guy, Dave, said they could diagnose further, but he wouldn’t be able to get to it until next Tuesday! I explained to him that if we needed parts, such as a hydraulic motor for the fan, they were difficult to find. I found a place in England called White House Products, LTD that had seven units in stock. For a fee, they could have them here in three business days. That meant that if we had to wait until Tuesday to see if that’s what I needed, it would be a full week before we had our hands on the part. He said I could take it up with Jim. I asked who Jim was and he said he was the manager.

I had a short meeting with Jim. He was non-committal, but said he would see what he could work out. I left before noon. Later I rode the Spyder back to the shop – I had forgotten my blood pressure meds. Jim told me they found the problem. He said the thermostat for the fan located in the radiator was bad and he didn’t think he could find one. I knew what he was talking about – I told him it was called a wax valve and I thought I might be able to find one online.

The wax valve in this system controls the fan speed without the use of electronic controls. It’s strictly a mechanical system and usually very reliable. The hydraulic fluid flows through an orifice in the wax valve. There’s a tapered rod with a piston on the end inside the valve – shaped somewhat like a nail with a thick head. The piston resides in a cylinder filled with wax in a closed chamber. A spring on the opposite side forces the piston against the wax. In this position, the orifice is open and fluid bypasses the fan motor through the wax valve.

When the wax  valve is heated by the coolant, the wax begins to melt and expand. It pushes the piston forcing the tapered needle into the orifice.   As the orifice becomes restricted, it bypasses less and more fluid flows through the fan motor and it speeds up. When the orifice is completely closed, the fan is running at high speed.

Around 2005 or 2006, most motorhome manufacturers went away from this simple and usually reliable system and went to an electrical/mechanical valve with an electronic controller. These have proven to be troublesome.

Back to my story. I searched online and found the wax valve was back ordered at White House Products, LTD. They had 55 units coming, but couldn’t say for sure when they would have them. I contacted another place in Oregon called Source Engineering. They sell a kit for Monaco  coaches to retrofit the newer electronic system back to the wax valve system when it inevitably fails. He had kits and told me he could probably supply a valve in a week or two. His recommendation was to disconnect the hydraulic lines from the valve and cap them, stopping all bypass flow and the fan would run on high speed continuously.

I knew this would work, but I wondered if we would run too cool on level roads when the load wasn’t very high. Of course the coolant thermostat wouldn’t open until the coolant hit 180 degrees, so theoretically we should run at least 180 degrees which is acceptable.

I relayed this information to Jim at Stadium International. He agreed that capping the lines would work. He said that was how they determined for sure the wax valve was bad – they capped the lines temporarily and the fan ran at high speed. He used brass fittings for this and said if he was going to send me down the road with a makeshift repair, he had to find stainless steel fittings because he didn’t think the brass would hold up. I asked him to go ahead and he said he would have it done by noon.

Meanwhile, Donna’s sister had to go to Albany for a meeting on Thursday. She offered to drive down to Binghamton and take her to Bennington, Vermont to their parents’ house. We were thinking at that time that we were looking at a full week or more in the hotel room. I figured there was no need for us both to share that misery. But then, it looked like I could be on the road Friday afternoon. This left me with a logistical problem. I had more stuff in the hotel room than I could transport on the Spyder.

I talked to the hotel owner and settled on a late checkout time of 2pm. I figured I would take what I could on the Spyder and once the coach was ready, drive it back to the hotel to load Ozark the cat and her litter box along with my suitcase.

It turned out the coach wasn’t done at noon. They had trouble finding the fittings needed, but they had them around 12:30pm and were working on it. Dave helped me solve the hotel dilemma. He had their go-fer drive me to the hotel in their parts van and I loaded everything from the room right at 2pm and he drove me back.

They had finished the work by then. I had already loaded the Spyder in the trailer and transferred the stuff from the van. Dave told me I should take the coach for a test drive while he finished the paperwork. I knew it would be fine – the fan kicked in at high speed as soon as I started it up. I drove it and the coolant temperature hit 182 degrees and held. There were no leaks. I was good to go.

I headed out around 3pm. The traffic wasn’t bad but the road surface on I-88 in New York is atrocious. When I hit Albany, the traffic thickened. Going through Troy was bumper-to-bumper misery. The coolant temperature stayed cool the whole way. On a long grade near Central Bridge, it only went up to 184 degrees. It was a cool day, but I think even on a hot day, I won’t see over 190 degrees. As soon as I can, I’ll get a new wax valve and complete the repair myself.

I pulled into the yard at Donna’s parents house around 7pm. I was exhausted. Her parents, Duke and Lorraine, have three acres just outside of Old Bennington, Vermont. We’ll moochdock in their yard. I have to change out our house batteries here, but that’s a story for another time.

 

 

Daily Downpours

We mostly hung out at the Grand Ole RV Resort and dodged the expected thundershowers all weekend. Friday evening Donna browned bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and cooked it with diced tomatoes, red wine, and kalamata olives and then topped it with feta cheese. She served it with whole wheat orzo and  roasted broccolini on the side. I’d made a run to the Goodlettsville Kroger a few miles away earlier to pick up the wine and kalamata olives.

Chicken with tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta

It was a very tasty meal. We ate inside as the thundershowers rolled in.

On Saturday morning we planned to go to the Madison Creek Farm for their Saturday market. Their farm is located out on Willis Branch Road – an affluent area with large homes and horse farms. When we arrived we found out that the market was closed due to a wedding being held there. From time to time, they rent out the property for special events.

Madison Creek Farm

We saw some fresh vegetable baskets they had prepared for members that signed up for weekly pick-up. The vegetables looked great and were obviously freshly picked from the garden. They also grow flowers and in the summer months, customers can cut their own.

When we returned to Grand Ole RV Park, we moved from our temporary site to a long, full hook-up site. We packed quickly and made the short move by 11am.

Donna enjoying a glass of sun tea in our new site

Our new site is on a small rise near the park entrance, overlooking most of the RV park. It’s nice but the trees along the south side of the coach have blocked my Dish Network reception. No Moto GP race coverage for me this weekend.

After we settled in, I rode the Spyder to Walmart several miles away on Gallatin Pike. The traffic in the Nashville area is horrible. At a couple of intersections, I had to wait for the traffic signal to cycle twice before I could get through. I went to Walmart to refill some gallon jugs of purified water.

Donna went out and hiked along a creek called Lumsley Fork – she actually walked along a road called Hitt Lane that follows the creek. In the late afternoon and into the evening we had thundershowers again.

They serve breakfast here at the RV park. On Friday, I had their bacon and eggs plate. I found out they had biscuits and gravy, so I had to have that Sunday morning. They also have a daily dinner plate – no open menu, just one entree per evening and live entertainment. Donna met one the musicians. He stays here at the park and plays in two bands. One band plays on Friday night and is more of a country music band with a girl playing fiddle. The other band plays on Saturday night and they cover blues and classic rock. They have other musicians for each night – either on the back patio – weather permitting – or in the little store/restaurant.

I used the downtime in the afternoon to remove and clean the screen on our Fantastic Fan in the kitchen. The roof vent collects a greasy film and dust over time.

On Sunday evening, Donna marinated a pork tenderloin in a brown sugar/bourbon/dijon marinade. She broke into my bourbon stash for one of the main ingredients. The weather was threatening when I put it on the grill. I had just given the tenderloin a final check and found the internal temperature with an instant read meat thermometer at 135 degrees when the rain started falling. I quickly put the meat on a cutting board as Donna opened the door to the coach for me. The rain came down in buckets.

Pork tenderloin with brown sugar/bourbon/dijon gravy, mashed sweet potato and buttered corn with roasted red peppers

Thunder had Ozark the cat hiding in a small storage cubby in our closet.

Ozark hiding out

After a heavy down pour, the rain let up and we had showers off and on into the night. It’s overcast this morning and the forecast calls for thundershowers this afternoon – a 50% chance all afternoon. We’re planning to take a shuttle to downtown Nashville, but we’ll probably be dodging showers while we’re there. The high should reach the upper 80s. Waiting for a window of nicer weather doesn’t look like a possibility. The daily showers should continue all week.

 

 

Spoonbills, Alligators and Horses

We jumped on the Spyder Monday and headed east from Betty’s RV Park in Abbeville on highway 14 past Delcambre. Our destination  was Rip Van Winkle’s Gardens. We weren’t that interested in touring the gardens – our intention was to visit the rookery to see the birds and look for alligators.

Click to enlarge

The rookery is a favored nesting ground for roseate spoonbills, ibis and egrets. The birds congregate on the three islands in the pond created by water recycled from the gardens. They prefer to nest in islands where alligators keep snakes, raccoons and other predators away from their eggs.

A little hard to see, but these trees are full of birds

Donna and I walked the path around the pond – it’s about three quarters of a mile around. As we reached the far side of the pond, something thrashed in the water. There it was – an alligator – eyes and head popped up looking at us. Then I saw a much larger ‘gator swimming in the channel between two of the islands.

We continued our walk and met a woman from Baton Rouge who was visiting the area and photographing the birds. She warned us about taking I-10 into Baton Rouge. She told us there was construction before the bridge into Baton Rouge taking the interstate down to one lane. She said there are crashes reported on a regular basis as an inattentive driver slams into the suddenly stopped traffic. It’s always nice to have local knowledge – we planned to avoid the I-10 bridge over the Mississippi.

As we made our way around the pond, we heard a sound. It was almost like someone snoring. We moved slowly toward the sound. The sound stopped. A few more steps and there he was – an alligator just a couple of feet from the shore. I estimated him to be between five and six feet long.

Alligator snoozing

He didn’t pay any attention to us and only opened his eyes a couple of times.

Zzzzz

We rode into Rip Van Winkle Gardens to visit the gift shop and look around. We found several peacocks and hens by the gift shop.

Peacocks and hens

Peacock in a tree

Donna bought a couple of items and we headed home. I got busy stowing things in the trailer and getting us ready to move. We had our final Betty’s Famous Happy hour – until next time. The name Betty’s Famous Happy Hour comes from an app called Untapped. On this app, people check in and rate the beer they’re drinking. Someone checked in and put their location as Betty’s Famous Happy Hour! So now, if you open the Untapped app at Betty’s, you can check in and it’ll give that name for the location.

On Tuesday morning, I finished making us ready for travel. I moved slowly as it was hot and very humid. I kept the air conditioners running until the last moment before I unplugged from the 50-amp pedestal. Once I had the trailer hooked up, I started the generator and turned on the front roof air conditioner for the drive to Baton Rouge.

We took a roundabout route that took us up US167 to Lafayette and up to Opalousas where we hit US190 east. The road surfaces were atrocious, but I figured I-10 probably wasn’t much better and we would cross the mighty Mississippi into Baton Rouge on the US190 bridge avoiding I-10 altogether.

The drive through Lafayette and Baton Rouge wasn’t much fun, but metro areas never are in a big rig. We found our way to the BREC Farr Park Equestrian Center. This is a large park on the east bank of the Mississippi River. They have 108 RV sites with water and 50-amp electrical pedestals. We squeezed our coach and trailer into site A4 – a pull through site – and left the trailer a little crooked to make us fit without hanging into the road.

Site A4 – a tight fit

After setting up and showering, Donna and I rode the Spyder to town. We went to Tin Roof Brewing for a cold one. It’s about five miles away from the park. Donna had a beer called River Rosé – it’s a mild ale like a Gose but it was brewed with beets. She liked it and said it was refreshing.

River Rosé

On the way back, I rode up on the levee of the Mississippi. We saw a large tow of 28 barges behind a couple of freighters. I wrote about barge tows here. The river is very high right now and there are flood warnings in effect. The levee here is so high, I don’t think we have any worries.

Barge tow behind the freighters

Later, we sat in the shade of the coach. I puffed a cigar and we watched a group of girls riding horses.

Girls horseback riding

It was very quiet and peaceful last night. However, Ozark the cat didn’t let us enjoy a restful night. For some reason, the cat kept waking us up. This morning, I thought I could hear a rooster crowing. When I stepped outside at 6:30am, it turned out to be a horse whinnying. He was kicking up dust prancing around the pasture and making a racket.

Feeling his oats and kicking up dust

Today will be another hot one. The forecast calls for a high of 90 degrees. Donna and I want to explore a bit and go to the Old State Capital Museum. Tomorrow we’ll head out and make our way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Resistance and Heat

Life is good at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort.  I haven’t posted much lately, but we’ve kept busy. Last weekend, I missed the pickleball tournament – the start time of the event was changed from 10am to 9am. I didn’t get the memo and forfeited. There will be another 3.0-3.5 level tournament in a few weeks and I’ll make sure I make it to that one.

I mentioned in a previous post how a Gila woodpecker visits our hummingbird feeder and drinks the nectar. Ozark the cat gets really animated when the woodpecker is outside the window next to her cat perch.

Gila woodpecker

sweet nectar

Last weekend, I watched the NFL Divisional playoffs – the final game of the weekend was a real barn burner. Minnesota pulled off the winning touchdown with 10 seconds to go and time expired during the play. I enjoyed the game with a bottle of Chimay Belgian ale.

Chimay Belgian ale

I’m continuing to work on my pickleball game and Donna took an advanced lesson last week to sharpen her skills. We went to the court on Friday at noon and worked on drills for her to get more power and pace on the ball. I played five days straight and took this weekend off. My left knee and right foot were sore by Friday.

We’ve made a few new friends here in the park and renewed friendships with people we met here last year. One of our new neighbors are a couple from Alberta, Canada – Geoff and Cynthia. They are in a Winnebago Class C coach called an Aspect. Last week, they mentioned to Donna that they were having electrical problems and needed to find a shop to take it to. The problem was a loss of electrical power to the radios – both the in-dash radio and one mounted in a bay outside. They also smelled a burning odor coming from the fuse panel. Geoff shut off the switch for auxiliary power to the radios.

I went over to their coach to take a look at the problem. I found a loose connection at the fuse panel. A 12-gauge wire was connected to the fuse panel with a screw that clamped the wire to the panel and that screw was loose. I measured the resistance before I did anything with my Fluke multimeter and found over 200 ohms of resistance between the panel connection and wire. This resistance had overheated the connector and left a black burn mark on the fiberglass surface of the panel. It also melted the insulation on another wire that was laying across the connector. Geoff had discovered this and taped over the insulation of the wire and just left the circuit switched off.

After I tightened the screw and firmly clamped the wire in the connector, I measured 0.3 ohms at the connector. I told them that all was well, I didn’t see any real damage, just the cosmetic black mark and the tape over the wire insulation. Geoff was surprised to find that a loose connector could create that much heat. When a connector is loose and poor contact is made between conductors, resistance rises. In this case it was over 200 ohms. Electrical current flowing through resistance creates heat. Here’s a photo of our 12-volt fuse panel to illustrate how the wires are clamped in place with screws.

Our 12-volt fuse panel

It’s a good idea to periodically switch off the 12-volt power and check the connectors. Ours use small torx head screws – Geoff’s had a flat slot screw.

Yesterday Donna attended an introductory performance arts workshop class in Phoenix hosted by Showstoppers Entertainment. Her classes included aerial silks/lyra, hoop dancing, strength and conditioning, dance movement and lines, and hip hop. The program ended with open gym time to practice skills. She was most interested in the hoop dancing lesson, but enjoyed the day.

The weather was great all week here in Mesa – we had highs in the mid to upper – 70s. Yesterday that changed. A cold front moved in and with it came clouds. We had a few rain showers and the temperature only reached 60 degrees. Today we have clear skies but the temperature will remain cool – about 60 degrees today and tomorrow before we warm up again. The overnight low was a chilly 40 degrees. I have the heat pumps running this morning as I peck away at the keyboard.

The Cat and the Hummingbird

Before we left San Diego, our friend, Sini, gave us a hummingbird feeder. This feeder attaches to window glass with a suction cup. We used it at Mission Bay RV Resort and have it set up again here at Viewpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. I attached it high on the living room window right next to Ozark the cat’s window perch.

Ozark loves napping in the window and now she has entertainment there as well. At first the hummingbirds were a bit skittish and Ozark would try to reach them. She would make little cat sounds and paw at the glass or lunge forward. She soon learned that she cannot get to the hummingbirds. The glass has a solar film that reflects like a one-way mirror. Most of the time the hummingbirds can’t see Ozark, but when they do, it doesn’t really matter. They’ve also learned that Ozark can’t get to them.

Ozark and a hummingbird eyeing each other

I’d almost forgotten how spectacular the desert sunsets can be in Arizona. With a few high, thin clouds, the sunsets are fiery and colorful. On Christmas Eve, I shot a photo of the sunset here at Viewpoint.

Arizona sunset

Donna baked brownies on Christmas Eve. One batch was chocolate gingerbread brownies and another batch was almond butter (gluten-free) brownies. On Christmas morning, we went to the pickleball courts and worked on a few drills, then some players came along and we played several games. Pickleball is played at a high level here and we had a lot of fun.

Then Donna prepared asparagus spears wrapped with prosciutto and boursin herb cheese as appetizers. We were invited to spend Christmas afternoon and dinner with our friends, Howard and Sara Graff. Sara’s brother, Stanley, was also visiting from Denver. Donna brought the appetizers and brownies.

The Graff’s Christmas tree – if you knew Sara you would understand the elf legs sticking out!

Sara and Stanley tag-teamed in the kitchen and prepared a complicated recipe for chicken paprikas, also known as paprikash. Chicken paprikash is a Hungarian meal. The chicken is simmered for an extended period of time to infuse paprika and other spices. It’s served with boiled egg noodles that are like small dumplings and a thick, creamy sauce. Although Donna had paprikash before, it was a new dish for me and it was delicious. The egg noodle dumplings reminded me of of a German version called spätzle that I had several years ago in Munich.

Chicken paprikash

We visited for several hours and talked about a wide range of subjects. We also sampled a couple of Scotch whiskys that I hadn’t tried before. One was Bruichladdich Laddie – an Isley (say eye-luh) single malt Scotch that paradoxically is unpeated. Most Isley Scotch is heavily peated and has a very smoky flavor. In fact, another Bruichladdich offering called Octomore is considered the most heavily peated malt. Laddie is a very smooth Scotch Whisky.

The other Scotch I tried was Talisker Storm. This is a no-age statement bottling that comes from the Isle of Skye – I think Talisker is the only distillery on Skye. This was a flavorful and complex whiskey. I picked up a hint of sea salt – I wouldn’t call it briny, but it has a hint of saltiness that permeates the cask while aging by the sea. A great drink in my opinion.

Before we knew it, it was going on 6pm and we said our goodbyes until next time. It was a nice way to relax on Christmas day.

We had plenty of action on the pickleball courts again this morning. The mornings have been cold – the overnight temperature dropped to the low 40s. We expect to see close to 70 degrees this afternoon with a warming trend for the rest of the week. We might have high 70s by Friday. I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas regardless of weather wherever you are.

Winter Solstice

Our friend Sini left Mission Bay RV Resort on Monday and flew from San Diego to Seattle to spend Christmas with friends and family. She left the keys for her Saturn Vue with us so we could use her car – we had a plan for her to retrieve her keys when she returned. The car was a big help when I started packing our gear on Tuesday. I was able to load our chairs, ladder, Weber Q grill and a few odds and ends, then drive over to the lot where our cargo trailer was stored. Thanks, Sini!

On Tuesday evening, I rode the Spyder over to Offshore Tavern and Grill and Donna walked up to meet me for a final happy hour and taco Tuesday dinner. We said our farewells to the guys and to Leann, the bartender. We’ll be back in September – I’ve booked three months beginning September 25th.

I only had a few things left to pack on Wednesday morning. Donna went to her early morning boot camp for her final workout. Once again, our neighbor from Louisiana, Larry, loaded the Traeger smoker grill into his van and we drove it over to the trailer. Pulling the Traeger on its small plastic wheels is a chore, driving it over in the van was nice. Thanks, Larry! And thanks, Brenda (Larry’s wife) for the yummy homemade pralines!

I checked all of our tire pressures and added air all the way around. The trailer tires needed air as well. It’s common for tires to lose a pound or two of pressure per month and we’d been sitting for two months. Plus the ambient temperature was cooler which also affects the air pressure in the tires. I’m a real stickler on proper tire pressures. Underinflation is the number one cause of tire failure and a blowout is no joke.

Over the past eight months or so, when we’re packing up, Ozark the cat senses something is up. Before we know it she’ll hide behind the sofa and remain there until we reach our destination. I don’t know if being stationary for two months relieved her travel anxiety, but she didn’t hide. She ended up riding quietly in her crate.

We pulled out of our site at 11:30 am and hitched the trailer. Over by the boat dock at the overflow lot, an osprey perched on a lamp post watched us. Ospreys are sometimes called fish hawks as fish is their main source of food. They excel at plucking fish from a body of water and are often seen around Mission Bay.

Osprey on a lamp post

We were rolling down the road shortly before noon, making the familiar drive out I-8 east. We made the usual stop east of Laguna summit at the Buckman Springs rest area for lunch. Donna made ham sandwiches and we sat outdoors at a picnic table to enjoy a little sunshine with our lunch.

It was an uneventful drive to the Imperial Dunes where we exited I-8 at Ogilby Road. Road construction is ongoing on I-8 and the westbound ramps for Ogilby are closed, but the exit and entry ramps on the eastbound side are open.

We missed the turnoff for our usual spot in the desert, but it didn’t matter. We turned off on the east side of Ogilby at the next obvious trail into the desert – it’s BLM land and dispersed camping is allowed in this area for up to 14 days. I was ready for a break from driving and we were set up in no time – not much to it when we’re boondocking. We had a nice, level spot and I didn’t even put the jacks down. I just popped out the slides and got comfortable.

Quiet sunset in the desert

We remarked how quiet it was out in the desert. There were other RVs there, but no one was within a quarter mile of us. To the west, we saw only open desert out the windshield. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep as I didn’t sleep well the night before.

It wasn’t to be though. Shortly after we retired for the night, the wind kicked up. We had howling gusts of wind that rocked the coach and had the slide toppers flapping. I slept fitfully. We wanted an early start Thursday morning, so I was a little short on sleep again.

We were only about 10 miles from the Arizona border. Once we crossed the border, we continued for another 12 miles to Fortuna Road. We stopped there so I could pick up water filter elements at Al’s RV Store. This shop is well-stocked and has just anything you might need for your RV. And the parking lot is big enough to park a big rig with easy entry and exit. From there, we crossed over I-8 to the Pilot-Flying J on the north side. I topped up the tank with 63 gallons of fuel at $2.70/gallon – about 75 cents less per gallon than diesel fuel costs in California!

We bypassed the usual shortcut through Maricopa and continued on I-8 until we hit I-10. I wanted to stop at the Blue Beacon truck wash in Eloy, near Casa Grande. The coach was badly in need of a wash, but it was too expensive to get a wash in San Diego. Mission Bay RV Resort doesn’t allow you to wash your coach. You need to hire a mobile detailer to get a wash job there and they charge exorbitant prices.

We pulled into Viewpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona around 3:30 pm – we lost an hour when we crossed into Arizona. Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time year ’round. So at this time of year, it’s an hour later than Pacific Time. When everyone else changes to daylight time, Arizona is the same as Pacific Time.

Backing the trailer into our site took a few attempts. The narrow roads here make it tough, but we got it done without any problems. We’ll complete our set-up today. I need to wash the windshield cover before I put it on and then we can set up our mat, table and chairs. This will be home for the next three months.

The wind I mentioned in the desert was due to a cold front moving in from the north. It was chilly when we arrived – about 60 degrees. Overnight, the temperature dropped below freezing! Yesterday was the winter solstice – the shortest amount of daylight for the year. This morning it was only 49 degrees in the coach – we don’t run the heater at night. We have the heat pumps running now and our plans to play pickleball at 8 am were dashed – we play on outdoor courts here. Maybe we can play later or wait for warmer weather which should come over the weekend.

 

One Way or Another

Things went from bad to worse on Monday (see previous post). I went to Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins Monday morning to meet with their parts manager, Hans. He didn’t have good news for me. The information I was given Friday turned out to be incorrect. The replacement turbocharger they located wasn’t in a warehouse in New Jersey. It was at the Cummins-Holset turbocharger factory in Memphis, Tennessee. But it was damaged and unusable.

I asked Hans what the next step was. He said the issue had been escalated and they were trying to find another part. I asked him why the damaged turbo couldn’t be repaired and shipped – it was at the factory, right? He said that may be one of the options they were looking at. I asked who “they” were – there had to be someone that was a decision-maker involved with this. I got nowhere.

I went back to the hotel and called Cummins Customer Care at 10am. I reached a guy named Jesse there. I went through the whole saga and asked if he could tell me who was working on finding a replacement turbo for me. He said it was in the hands of someone named Chelsea – but we couldn’t talk directly with that person. He said he would look into it and I would receive a call back or e-mail by the close of business that afternoon. That didn’t happen.

Tuesday morning I was back at the Cummins shop.  Hans told me he didn’t have any update – he was waiting to hear from Chelsea. My patience ran out. I told him someone needed to take ownership of this issue and get into action. Sitting around waiting for someone else to do something wasn’t getting us anywhere. Somewhere along the chain of command there was a decision-maker that needs to give us an answer – either they’ll repair the damaged unit they have on hand or a replacement part would be available on a certain date. I couldn’t wait on an open-ended order, I needed a date so I could make decisions of my own.

Back at the hotel, I called customer care again. After 56 minutes on hold, I spoke to Jesse again and asked why I didn’t get a phone call or e-mail. He said he had escalated the case and the second level was supposed to call me. I told him it didn’t happen and this was a clear example of what was happening on the parts side of things. Hans placed the order on September 22. When he didn’t receive the part, he decided to look into it a week later. Through e-mail, he was told that Chelsea would handle it. End of the line – was Chelsea in fact doing anything or was this like the case where Jesse assumed the second level person had called me back? Someone needs to ask Chelsea where we stand, someone has to ask for accountability – not just sit back and wait to see what happens next. I haven’t heard anything more from Cummins Customer Care.

Donna made it back from her visit with her parents in Vermont around 10pm. We caught up on news over a drink in the hotel bar.

This morning I went back to the Cummins shop. More of the same – no response on the part order. When I pressed Hans to get a timeline, he said as it stands they expect to have the part in November. I asked him if that meant November 1st or November 30th. He said he didn’t know. So, what he was really saying was that he didn’t have a clue when the part would become available.

I asked to see the old part again. I was considering having the old part put back on. I knew it was functional – I just didn’t feel good about its reliability and potential for additional damage. Looking at the nicks on the leading edges of the vanes on the compressor wheel, I was concerned about stress risers that would lead to cracks and possible separation of a blade.

I asked about rebuilding the turbocharger. Cummins-Holset will not sell the individual parts, only the entire unit, so they don’t rebuild them. I was told an outfit called Central Motive might rebuild it though.

I called Central Motive. Their guy, Joe, took the part number of the turbo and said he needed to make a few calls for parts and would get back to me in 45 minutes. My phone rang 45 minutes later. Joe said he might have a turbo in their Denver facility. If not, he located a Center Housing Rotating Assembly (CHRA) and could rebuild the turbo. The CHRA is the guts of turbo – all of the working parts including the turbine wheel, connecting shaft with bearings and seals and the compressor wheel. He could take the housing apart, bead blast it and install the new CHRA and I would be in business. He said if I was willing to pay the cost of overnight shipping for the CHRA, he could have it done by Thursday afternoon. Bingo!

I asked the Cummins service manager what the timeline would look like if I took the turbo to Central Motive and brought it back by the end of the day Thursday. They had the radiator stack and all of the other parts on hand. He said he would get the job done Friday if I had the turbo by the end of Thursday. It looks like this will solve the problem.

I loaded the turbocharger into the Spyder and rode to Central Motive a few miles away. Joe and the manager, Aaron, looked the turbo over. Joe told me he hadn’t heard back from Denver and it was still possible a new replacement could be found. He said one way or another, I would have a turbo ready to go by Thursday afternoon. I’m just as happy to have my unit rebuilt. Joe and Aaron said the housing looked great. The CHRA is a complete, balanced assembly and should be as good as a new one. Joe and Aaron seemed enthused and very confident they could deliver.

Tomorrow we have to leave the hotel – I managed to get one more night here so we’re good until Thursday morning. Donna’s friend, Hazel Thornton, offered to put us up. Jessica Rice also offered to let us stay at their place. Ozark the cat complicates the matter – but at Hazel’s we’ll be in a room in her guest house, separate from the main house and her two cats. If all goes well, we’ll only be there for one night. Friday we should be driving the coach to the Balloon Fiesta Park and setting up for the fiesta.

One Thing Leads to Another

We made it through the weekend in our temporary quarters at the Hotel Elegante in Albuquerque. The weekend was just a waiting period until we could see what comes next in our engine repair saga. Although the square footage of our hotel room isn’t much different than that of our coach, the layout is very different. The hotel room is made for sleeping and the small desk and storage areas are afterthoughts. The coach is much more comfortable and organized – long hot showers notwithstanding.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed over to Marble Brewing to take the 2pm tour. They were having a fundraiser for the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council and that packed the house. The brewery tour had to be broken up into two groups and the groups were still too large. It was interesting nonetheless. The thing I found most interesting was part of their process – they boil the wort in a 30-barrel brew kettle. This isn’t unusual – what’s different is that the wort is transferred to 150-barrel fermentation vessels. It takes five batches to fill the fermenter! It must be quite a task to keep things consistent when you have to brew five batches before you begin the fermentation.

150-barrel fermenters

We also viewed a temperature-controlled storage room filled with wooden casks where beer was being barrel-aged.

A portion of their barrel-aging storage

The bottling line

We sampled a few ounces of brew, then decided to leave the crowded brew pub and head over to Rio Bravo Brewery. They have a large brew pub and it’s really laid back. They also serve food – Marble and Tractor brewing rely on food trucks.

Donna had a quinoa and arugula salad to go with her porter while I ordered a New Mexico treat. In Michigan, you’ll find cafes that specialize in what they call Coney Dogs. These are hot dogs covered in a type of beef chili (no beans) and various other condiments. In New Mexico, they serve hot dogs with cheese and diced green chilies. It was tasty.

Green chili cheese dog

On Sunday morning, Donna wanted to get out and get some exercise in the fresh air. So she rode the Spyder to the east end of Menaul Boulevard to the Menaul Trailhead to hike. I stayed at the hotel and watched a very entertaining Moto GP race from Aragon, Spain. Valentino Rossi showed his talent as well as his toughness as he held on to second place for much of the race before fading to fifth place near the end – this was just 24 days after he broke his leg! He broke his tibia and fibula in a training accident and could barely walk a few days ago.

On Sunday evening, Donna took an Uber ride to the Old Town area to meet up with her friend Hazel. They walked from Hazel’s house to the Range Cafe restaurant where they met up with more friends. I stayed home and watched the Oakland Raiders struggle against the Washington Redskins.

On Monday morning, it was time to get back to business. I was getting ready to go over to Rocky Mountain Cummins when they phoned and told me they had the turbocharger removed and I should come and look at it. The original estimate called for a turbo replacement due to oil leaking past the seals. I didn’t believe this was the case. The oil in the intake and turbo housing was coming from the auxiliary compressor on the engine. This compressor supplies air for the suspension system and air-operated parking brake.

With the turbo removed, I could see there wasn’t anything wrong with the shaft bearings or seals, however it did have a problem. The blades on the intake compressor wheel were damaged. They had small nicks in the leading edges of the blades. This is usually the result of foreign objects ingested through the intake system. That could be really bad news as any foreign material would pass through the engine and most likely damage pistons and cylinders or at least piston rings. Close inspection revealed the nicks only to be on the leading edges – dirt or other abrasives show themselves across the blade. Also, there was oil in the turbo and no sign of dust or dirt in the oil.

In talking it over with the mechanic doing the work, Josh, we came to the conclusion that the nicks in the leading edges of the blades were likely caused by droplets of oil being struck by the spinning compressor blades. The turbine wheel on the exhaust side, the shaft and the compressor wheel and blades are constructed from lightweight materials. This allows the wheels to quickly spool up to high operating RPM – over 100,000 RPM at times. The compressor is designed to operate in a clean air environment.

The integrity of the blade material is important. Anything that weakens the structure could lead to a failure such as blade separation. That would be bad, very bad. A blade failure would send pieces of the blade through the engine with catastrophic results. I decided to have the turbocharger replaced.

Turbocharger on bench

Close-up of compressor blade damage

I saw the exhaust manifold on a cart. It wasn’t just cracked – it was completely broken into two pieces! This is likely due to the leak in the charge air cooler. A pressure leak in the CAC can lead to excessively high exhaust gas temperature. One thing leads to another.

Broken exhaust manifold

Now we’re back in a waiting pattern. The CAC and engine coolant radiator are at the radiator shop to be re-cored. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they can repair the CAC. If all goes well there, the shop may have everything back together by Thursday – we’ll see. One good thing about being here in Albuquerque is the availability and concentration of qualified shops. There’s a lot of heavy-duty truck traffic due to I-25 and I-40 intersecting here without much else within a few hundred miles. The Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins is one of 32 Cummins Coach Care Centers in the USA. They do a lot of RV work.

Tomorrow morning, Donna flies back to Albany, New York. She’s visiting her parents for a week in Bennington, Vermont. It’s pretty good timing for her – she can get out of this hotel. Meanwhile it presents a logistical dilemma for me. If the coach is ready to roll on Thursday, I need to figure out how to get all of our stuff and Ozark the cat from our hotel to the coach. I’ll come up with something and try to remain optimistic about having the work completed by then.