Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace (a word that means trail or road in French) was originally a network of Native American trails. By the late 1700's when the United States was just beginning to expand into the area along the southern Mississippi, what became the Natchez Trace developed in prominence. It was designated as our first National Highway by Thomas Jefferson.

You can read the story about the Trace on Wikipedia or you can read my condensed version here.

The Trace ran from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, thus joining the lower Mississippi with Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road that ended in Nashville. Its original use was by boatmen and entrepreneurs who built flat bottom boats on the Ohio River, loaded them with goods, and floated them down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Natchez where they sold the goods and the lumber from the boats. At the time, Natchez was the most important city on the Mississippi. They then had no choice but to walk back north. Steamboats had not yet been invented, so there was no way to go up river by boat.

The trip from Natchez to Nashville was about 450 miles through wilderness and Indian Country. Eventually some very hardy individuals built and operated "stands" about a day's walk apart. So every 15 miles or so there would be a small cabin where the travelers could stop for the night and get a meal. The trip took about a month to complete.

The Trace was in use for only about 30 to 40 years. During that time it was very important, both as a route for commerce, and in later years as a postal route when the US was attempting to lay the claim to the lands in what was then the west. When the steamboat was developed, it eliminated the need for the Trace. It fell into disrepair and might have disappeared from history if not for the Mississippi chapter of the DAR which took on the project of restoring the Trace in about 1930. They sold their idea to the government and in 1938 the Natchez Trace became a unit of the National Park Service. The road was finally completed in 2005.

The Natchez Trace is essentially a 444 mile long National Park. They have done as much as possible to follow the route of the original trace, and to give the feel of the wilderness. If you have ever driven on roads in National Parks, you know what this looks like. There are no billboards, power lines, fences or other signs of civilization; at least to the the greatest extent possible. There are no stop signs from beginning to end, and the road crosses over or under all major highways. Many small roads do intersect with the Trace, but the Trace always has the right of way, and all access to the Trace is through ramps that camouflage the other road as much as possible.

The road itself is in excellent condition. The speed limit is 50 MPH, and we saw only very few people driving over 55. There are a lot of motorcycles on the Trace, so we were right at home. We started from Tupelo since it is approximately in the middle of the Trace. We used the trunk on the back of our scooter as our "suitcase" and filled the underseat storage with cold weather and rain gear. Unfortunately, our delay in getting the trailer painted meant that the weather was not nearly as nice as we had hoped for. We encountered no rain, but it sure was cold. With snowmobile suits and our heaviest insulated gear, we managed, and left on our adventure on Wednesday.

We first went south towards Natchez. It was only in the upper 40's as we left, and the sun came out for only brief periods throughout the day. There are exhibits, nature trails, signs and things to see every few miles, and we stopped at just about every one of them. We saw cypress swamps, hardwood forests, remnants of the old Trace, Indian burial mounds, sites of treaties, Indian villages, boundaries, geological formations, sites of old stands, and ferries. Below is a photo I took in one of the cypress swamps near Jackson, and a picture of Dianna standing in the old trace with her cold weather gear on.

It was getting late, and we were getting saddle sore by the time we reached Jackson, MS, so we stopped for the night. The next morning we continued on south toward Natchez, about 80 miles away. The entire trip from Tupelo was mostly over flat land. The elevation did not change more than 200 feet from beginning to end. About 15 miles north of Natchez we stopped at the only restored stand on the Trace. It was also one of the most luxurious due to its proximity to Natchez. It also served as a working plantation, and it was owned by the original family until the 1940's when it was taken over by the National Park Service. It has been restored to its 1810 appearance, and approximately 25 percent of it is original.

We then continued into Natchez where we visited the "Under Hill" area. It is where the steamboats tied up. Natchez itself is located on the highest bluffs anywhere along the lower Mississippi, which was the reason it was settled in the first place. We then toured the Natchez Visitor Center, and finally we toured Melrose, a plantation that was built in 1841.

By now it was late in the day, so we spent the night at a Day's Inn. It was somewhat unusual in that not only was breakfast included, but also dinner. They served red beans and sausage over rice, with cornbread. I thought it was pretty good. Dianna does not like sausage so she was not as impressed as I was.

The next day, Friday, we rode all the way back to our trailer in Tupelo. Since we didn't have to stop many places, it took a lot less time getting home. Saturday we rested, did laundry, and prepared for the trip toward the northern end of the Trace.

It wasn't quite as cold on Sunday, but we were still bundled up. As we rode north the terrain began to change, and there were fewer leaves on the trees, although beautiful fall colors were on display everywhere. Again we stopped at all the exhibits, overlooks and falls, tobacco farms, ferries, fords, Indian mounds and other sites to see. As we neared Nashville we got into much more mountainous country, but the Trace followed mostly along the ridge tops, which provided great views.

Near the northern end of the trace, yet still well into the wilderness, is the burial place of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He died there under "mysterious circumstances" at one of the stands while traveling the Trace in 1809, three years after returning from the famous expedition. By then Jefferson had appointed him as the Governor of Northern Louisiana. He was only 35 years old.

We continued on to the end of the Trace and found ourselves in a major city, Nashville, with Interstate highways and lots of traffic. I had used Travelocity's "secret hotel" feature to find a place to stay. It was described as a 4 star hotel for only $59. It turned out to be the Sheraton Music City, and it indeed was a very nice place. We paid less than half the normal rate. We had a nice dinner at the hotel after soaking our aching bones in their hot tub. By the way, our dinner cost a lot more than the hotel room.

Monday we headed back. We retraced our route across Nashville to the start of the Trace, then south for about 40 miles until we turned off toward Columbia, TN. It was the home of President James Knox Polk, also a relative of Dianna's. We toured the house his parents built, which is now a museum that contains most of the artifacts of his presidency. He did live in the home for a short time, but it was his parents home. It is the only house he lived in that is still in existence, except for the White House.

The video and tour lasted quite a while, so it was getting late by the time we had something to eat and left Columbia. We rode south to Lawrenceburg, where Davy Crockett lived from 1817 to 1821. He served as a state representative while living there, but had moved further west when elected to congress. Of course, he died at the Alamo in 1836.

From there we continued west to the Trace again, and then south to Tupelo, arriving about 6:30 last night. It was well past dark by then since DST is no longer in effect, and we are near the eastern edge of the central time zone. We were happy to be home, but we have great memories of our adventure. We rode just about 1,000 miles in total, saw some great scenery, and learned a lot of history. Next year, maybe the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Arkadelphia, Tupelo, and a Droid

We hung around Denton for a few days so we could celebrate Deidra's 19th birthday and take care of some last minute business, and left there on Tuesday the 25th of October. We drove to Arkadelphia, AR where we stopped at a very nice Corps of Engineers park. We stayed two nights since rain was forecast. That's when we found the leak in the freshly painted trailer. They had not sealed the roof properly where they added the new wall/roof radius.

While in Arkadelphia, Dianna did some genealogy research. One of her ancestors was a Confederate governor of the state, and he was from there. There is a lot of history about him in the town, including his original law office which has been preserved.

We then drove to Tupelo, MS where we planned to ride the scooter on the Natchez Trace. Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold and did nothing for 2 days. The 3rd day I finally got dressed and we visited the Natchez Trace Visitor Center, just north of Tupelo, and we made the obligatory visit to Elvis's birthplace.

There is not a lot to see unless you want to pay to go in the house and visit the museum. We've never been huge fans, so decided to pass. We came, we saw.

While in Arkadelphia my Motorola RAZR died. I have had it for many years so it served its purpose. I purchased a Droid Bionic smart phone to replace it. It's a nice phone that does a lot, but I'm not sure I really get the love that some people seem to exhibit. This has one of the largest screens available, but it is still very small print, even when enlarged. I'm sure I will find I use it more as time goes on, but it is not going to replace my laptop.

The biggest reason I went with this particular phone is that it is 4G, and because Verizon is currently running a little known promotion. For $30 per month they will enable the hot spot feature, and include unlimited data for life! I've been thinking about purchasing a cellular connection to compliment or eventually replace my satellite internet. This deal made it a no brainer.

I have now had an opportunity to use the hotspot in a 4G area. I can tell you that it screams. Even in a good 3G area it is much faster than satellite for small amount of data, mostly because of less latency. For large files the satellite is still better due to some recent improvements from HughesNet.

That's it for this part. The next post will cover our adventures on the Natchez Trace.

The Finished Product

Although it has been completed for a couple weeks, I finally had an opportunity to take a decent photo of our freshly painted trailer. We are reasonably pleased with the result. There are a few flaws, and a mistake on their part resulted in a very bad leak the first time it rained, but overall it looks very nice.

They had originally estimated that the job would take 3 weeks. It ended up taking almost 7. It was a huge job and I think they underestimated just how big a job it was going to be. Then they had employee problems, paint problems, supplier problems. By the time it was finished we were both glad it was over.

The new fiberglass radius where the wall meets the roof is a huge improvement. We decided not to have any brand name painted on it. Since Teton is no longer in business, there doesn't seem to be any reason to advertise for them. Now if we can just keep it looking good .....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three More Day Trips

Needing to be out of the trailer while they are painting has allowed us to take three more day trips. Last Wednesday we spent the day at the Dallas Arboretum. It is a world class arboretum and we had a wonderful and relaxing time looking at all the gardens. They have a Fall theme going and there were pumpkins everywhere.

It is located on the shores of White Rock Lake near downtown Dallas. The property used to belong to the DeGoyler family who made their money in oil. They built the house in the 1938's and it is an architectural treasure. Some of the furnishing were purchased from William Randolph Hurst who had more things than he could fit in his castle on the coast of California.

On Thursday we went to the State Fair of Texas. Seniors get in free on Thursdays, so we drove to the nearby DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) station and rode it to the main gate. The DART only cost $8 for the two of us round trip. Parking at the fair, after fighting the crowds and downtown Dallas traffic, costs $15. It was a no brainer.

The Texas State Fair is the largest in the country. We spent the whole day there, leaving about 7 PM, and still did not see everything. We didn't go to the midway at all, yet still had a good time seeing all the exhibits, animals, free shows and other fair displays.

Yesterday we drove south about 120 miles to Waco, TX where we visited the Texas Ranger Museum. They were/are an interesting group with a varied history. They have served in different capacities at different times, starting during the pre-Republic days, and serving during the Republic, early statehood, Confederate days, Mexican War and finally their roles during modern statehood. Even then they served in an evolving role. Today they are basically a state FBI type organization that provides assistance to local law enforcement agencies.

Our outings have been fun but we are ready to get on the road. The painting is all done and they are now working on reinstalling all the lights, awnings, ladders, etc. They also still have to reseal the entire unit. It should be all done in a couple days. We will post pictures when it is complete.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Playing Tourist

The trailer and truck painting is still ongoing. It is taking longer than we, or they, thought it would. They have run into difficulties with employees primarily, but they are doing good work and will be sure it is right before calling it done. In the meantime, we have been finding things to do since we can't be in the trailer while they are painting. Some days that consists of trips to Costco or Fry's, but a couple days this past week we did visit some interesting places.

It is so nice that the weather has finally cooled off so we can ride the scooter again. Last Friday we rode up to Gainesville, a small town about 30 miles north of Denton, but we took the scenic 54 mile route to get there. We went to the Frank Buck Zoo. Some of us older people may remember "Bring em back Alive" Frank Buck. He was on many TV shows and in some movies back in the day. He is considered the "father" of modern zoos and was responsible for capturing many of the animals found in zoos around the country. He was born in Gainesville, and though he had nothing to do with starting the zoo, it is named in his honor. He did visit there on occasion, and some of his things are in a small museum dedicated to him.

The zoo itself is rather small and certainly not up the the standards of larger zoos. Seeing the rather small enclosures and cages in which many of the animals are kept left us feeling a little conflicted about it. Still, it was entertaining for a couple hours. We did see at least one animal that we have never seen in other zoos, a cavy.

Saturday we rode down to the west side of Fort Worth to visit the Texas Civil War Museum. Of course, Texas joined the war on the Confederate side, and the film we first watched was presented from that perspective. Then we toured the museum itself. It was very well done with sections for infantry, cavalry, artillery and medicine. The displays on the left were from the Union soldiers, and the displays on the right were the same items used by the Confederate soldiers. It was very interesting to see the similarities and the differences. Most of the items were identified as to the actual soldiers and officers who used them. Again we saw some items we have never seen in any museum we had visited before.

Following those sections was a display of battle flags, followed by a large display that had nothing to do with the Civil War: Victorian dresses. Dianna spent quite a bit of time there while I rested my tired legs. After a visit to the ever present souvenir shop, we headed home.

This week we plan to visit the Dallas Arboretum on Tuesday, and go to the Texas State Fair on Thursday. Of course, the Texas State Fair is the largest state fair in the country. We've been every year we have been in the area, and it's always a lot of fun. Admission is free for people 60 and over on Thursdays. We'll let you know how that all turns out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eisenhower's Birthplace

The weather yesterday was very nice, so we took a motorcycle ride to Denison, TX, a little town about 60 miles from Denton. Its primary claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of our 34th president, and the man who led the allied armies in the defeat of Hitler. Knowing that the first Texan elected president was Dwight David Eisenhower may win a trivia game sometime.

The Eisenhower family was from Abilene, KS, and they lived there most of their lives. The family moved to Denison after the failure of the family business and losing everything to bankruptcy. Ike was the only one of the seven children to be born in Texas. The rest were all born in KS. They only lived in Denison for three years and Ike was only a year and a half old when they moved back. He remembered nothing about the time he lived there, but did visit the town and home three times after the end of WW II.

In an interesting parallel to recent questions about the birthplace of a president, Ike had no birth certificate since he was born at home. Worse, the county records were lost in a fire. Interestingly, he had no need for one his entire life, but although it was not required, one was finally issued for him just before he was elected president. As the curator of the Eisenhower Presidential Library explains:

Dwight D. Eisenhower did not have an official birth certificate until Oct. 1, 1952. When Eisenhower supporters in Texas learned he didn’t have a birth certificate on file in Texas, they decided to obtain a delayed birth certificate for him. Mr. Lonnie F. Roberts of Denison, Texas obtained birth information from Mamie Eisenhower and got Ike’s older brother, Arthur, a banker in Kansas City, to sign the necessary documents. We have a copy of this certificate in our files.

The house itself is a typical 1870's house, but it was on the wrong side of the tracks. Rather, it was almost on the tracks as they were only about 100 feet from the front door. Ike's father worked for the railroad as an engine wiper, the lowest paid job in the train yards. Denison was a major railroad center at the time, and jobs in the busy town was the reason the family moved there in the first place.

It was a nice day for a ride, and we learned something too. Below are some photos we took.

The birthplace is now owned and managed by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife

There are four rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs.

This is the bedroom, though not the actual bed, that Ike was born in.

This bronze statue stands in the garden. It is the first of five that the sculptor made. Each is different. The other four are located at the Presidential Library in Abilene, West Point, The US Embassy in London, and in Normandy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interior Trailer Remodel Completed

In our last post we told you about some of the things we were doing to our RV, but we were still in process and did not have any pictures to show you. I'm happy to say that we are now about 99 percent complete and ready to share what we have done. It has been a difficult period in which to accomplish much. Texas has had one of the hottest summers on record and doing anything outside has been no fun. While most of the work was done inside, we still had to do some parts of it outside, and just the general heat and humidity made doing anything unpleasant. That's one reason why it has taken longer than we had hoped to get it all done.

As we mentioned in our last post, changing the refrigerator to a household unit became part of the project. When it arrived we had to get it into the rig by opening the escape window in the slide out and lifting it from the tailgate of the delivery truck through the window on its back. There's no other way to get it in. It took a while to get all the blocking, bracing and trim just right to hold it securely in place and to look just the way we wanted, but we are very happy with the final result.

As you can see, it is a side by side unit with water and ice through the door. It draws air in through the lower right side of the grill, and exhausts through the left side of the grill. There is no need for any air movement behind or beside the unit but there is space all around anyway. I secured it by raising the front wheels and wedging the top against the upper cabinet, then added extra security by installing a Z bracket that goes behind the upper rail and screws into the top front face of the refrigerator between the doors. It is painted black so you don't even see it. I secured the bottom by making a board that is just the right height to slip between the floor of the opening and the bottom of the refrigerator. It sits against the front wheels and is screwed to the floor of the cabinet, securely holding the refrigerator in place. It cannot move.

While waiting on the refrigerator I completed the rebuilding of the water damaged wall, and I did the preparation for the new shades. This involved running 12 volt electrical lines to all the areas where we would be installing shades. I had to tap off several different places in both slide outs and in the rear. It was quite a job to keep all the wires hidden behind walls or inside cabinets.

I also began the process of making new valance boxes for the shades. I used 7/16 oriented strand board. They have a leg and a top section, both of which were covered with batting and fabric. The top section is plum colored and has a geometric pattern. The legs are a solid plum colored microfiber fabric. All the pieces of wood were cut at Jenning's on Chris's table saw and assembled here. I used his pneumatic brad nailer and glue. Here's a look at the finished product.

After the refrigerator was installed we began putting up wallpaper. We purchased a light tan, textured, cloth backed vinyl. It has the appearance of corduroy. Given all the windows etc., I don't think there was a single piece that did not have cutouts in it somewhere. It took quite a bit of work, but it came out very nice. You can see it in the previous photo as well as this wider shot.

After the wallpaper was done we installed the valance boxes and then the shades. The MCD shades are the top of the line window covering for RV's. They are not cheap! While there are many options available, ours are typical of what most people do. They consist of a day and a night shade. The day shade is solar blocking and is pulled down in all the photos below. They really help keep it cooler inside. The night shade is a cream colored vinyl material. The day shades are manual and the night shades are electric. Even the manual shades are a far cry from the old style roll up shades. The roll up speed and the upper height limits are settable. That means you can just give it a tug and let go to put it up. It slowly retracts to its preset location. The night shades are electric and remotely controlled. Here is a photo of the remote.

There are 14 buttons to control individual shades, but we only have 11 shades. I have programmed the other three buttons to work groups of shades. One does all, one does all the shades in the rear of the unit, and one does all the shades in the curb side slide out. These are great! Raising and lowering all the shades in this rig used to be a major hassle. We rarely opened more than a few. Now we can open or close all the shades with the push of two buttons. It's one of the best upgrades we've made.

Once the shades and valances were complete I installed base molding along the bottom of all the walls, crown molding along the ceiling, and new corner molding in all the corners. We took some of our wall paper to Lowes and had them mix a paint to match which we used on all the molding before installation. The molding gives the place a nice, finished look that feels more like a house and less like an RV. You can see the molding in the previous photos as well as in this one and some of the photos to follow. The photo also shows the trim around the slideout that we covered in fabric to match the window valances.

The next project was the tile in the kitchen area. We removed the mirrors that Teton had installed on the walls, and replaced it with 3/4 inch square glass tiles. We used a spray on mastic that works better than thin set or regular mastic on slick surfaces like the original walls. We also used an epoxy grout that is normally used in commercial applications. We were concerned that regular cement based grout might crack due to the flexing and movement of the trailer. I had to make oak trim to finish it off nicely. Here are several photos of the finished tile job.

The tile is much darker than the original walls. This, along with the removal of the mirrors, made the counter area quite dark. So, we ordered and installed some 12 volt LED's for under the upper cabinets. That involved running more 12 volt wires inside cabinets and through walls. The lights are hidden behind the front trim and really brighten up the counter area. In fact, they are almost too bright first thing in the morning, but just great the rest of the day. Here is a photo of three of them installed just behind the front lip of the upper cabinets. This photo is taken from the top of the counter looking up.

Somewhere along the way, Dianna decided she didn't like the original 120 volt lights any more. So we replaced all of them, including the ceiling fan. They do look very nice. You can see some of them in previous photos. Here is a closeup of the fan, and you can see the lamp above the rear window as well. The new wall sconces are shown in previous photos.

Once we finished making messes, it was finally time to replace the carpet. We ordered a two tone cut pile carpet made by Mohawk. It is a new product that they call Triexta or SmartStrand. It is guaranteed not to stain. For demonstration purposes they installed it in several animal cages at zoos around the country. You can see some of the videos on their web site where light colored carpet that had been in a rhino pen for two weeks was cleaned with a just hot water. Even bleach is not supposed to affect it. I'm sure some of it is marketing hype, but it does seem to be pretty good stuff. I doubt we will be as hard on it as the rhinos and camels were, but it's nice to know it should last. We're really enjoying walking barefoot and feeling how soft it is compared to the old carpet. Here's a photo of the carpet.

That's about the end of the interior remodel story. Somewhere during the past couple months we have also refinished the kitchen table and moved all our stored goods from a regular storage facility to one that is climate controlled. Of course, that required building more shelving and working outside in this terrible heat, but we got it done.

Next on the agenda is the outside. We have an appointment starting the day after Labor Day to get the outside of the trailer repainted. We're going to keep it white but have some new graphics painted on. There will be no more decals or vinyl graphics. They will also be replacing the radius where the outside walls and roof meet with fiberglass. Teton used a cardboard form for a couple years, and brought the roofing material down over that form to meet the top of the walls. Of course, the cardboard did not hold up and they abandoned that method, but that's how ours was built. It sags and looks very ugly. Some other minor body damage will be repaired before they paint.

The one other thing we may change is the sofa. It doesn't really go with the decor any more, and the hid-a-bed is almost impossible to sleep on. We are thinking about installing a smaller sofa or love seat with storage underneath, and using an inflatable bed for the rare times we have guests. Stay tuned.

So, for those of you who thought we have just been goofing off all summer, now you know. We hope you like it as much as we do.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011


For some time we have been planning to do a major facelift to our home, and make some upgrades to certain equipment as well. Part of that has already been done. We added new and better brakes while in New Hampshire last year, and we replaced the wheels and tires with heavier duty ones when we lost the wheel in Globe, AZ earlier this year.

We then went to an RV repair facility near San Antonio for repairs and adjustments to our slideouts. They replaced some parts and installed a bracket to keep the slide from coming in too far. Then we continued on to Denton where we planned to make the majority of the modifications.

Dianna has posted about our family activities since we arrived, so I will post about the plans and progress of the upgrades. The first item was not planned. Our refrigerator failed. RV refrigerators use ammonia as a cooling agent, and are powered by electric or propane. Our cooling unit, the thing on the back of the refrigerator, sprung a leak. They are not repairable. We then discovered that our 10 year old refrigerator is no longer made, and repair parts are not available from the manufacturer. Even worse, no one makes a refrigerator of the same dimensions as ours. To replace it with a new refrigerator would require cabinetry modifications.

We found a company that makes replacement cooling units and ordered one. It was shipped to a trucking terminal in Grand Prairie, about 45 miles south between Dallas and Fort Worth. We picked it up and enlisted Chris's help installing it. It was described as a DIY project, but I dare say most would find it more than they would want to tackle. Our refrigerator was the largest RV refrigerator made, so it was heavy, and it had an ice maker, heat tapes, and cooling fans installed to make it more difficult. We got it done but immediately had concerns. It did not cool as well as the original unit. After a lot of work, including adding fans and rebuilding baffles to route air through the fins, we finally gave up and decided to send the cooling unit back. The company offered a replacement but we decided we have had enough of RV refrigerators. They gave us a full refund, including shipping charges.

Many people now order their full time RV's with residential style refrigerators. We decided that was the route for us too. Our trailer has an inverter that lets us make 120V AC current from our batteries when we are not plugged in. So, after removing the refrigerator and the cooling unit again, and taking it back to the trucking terminal in Grand Prairie, I set about modifying our cabinetry to hold the new refrigerator we picked out. It is a 21.7 cubic foot Whirlpool with ice and water in the door. It should be real nice.

I removed the drawer below the original refrigerator opening, removed the gas line, rerouted electrical lines and moved the plug, closed off and insulated the outside access doors in the wall since rear access will no longer be needed, fabricated and installed mounting brackets to hold the TV cables and 12V wiring on the back wall, and strengthened the floor. I also enlarged the cupboard above the refrigerator opening by extending it an additional 9 inches to the rear. This space was used for air movement above the rear of the original refrigerator, but it would now just be wasted space. It certainly didn't get back as much space as the drawer we lost, but it helped.

We are now waiting for the new refrigerator to be delivered. That will be another interesting experience. It will have to come through the escape window because it is too large to fit through the door. We'll let you know how that works out.

In the meantime, I have also rebuilt the end wall in the living room slide out. It had a water leak some time ago that rotted the wood structure. I had to completely disassemble it, rebuild parts of it with an epoxy putty compound (that smelled worse than Dianna's nail chemicals), replace the wood framing, and resurface it in preparation for new wall paper. That's the next item. We have decided to re-wallpaper the entire living room area. After several trips to home improvement stores and other stores, we finally found the one we liked. We just received it today and will begin on that project in a few days.

But, that's not all. We've always disliked the day/night shades that came with our trailer. They are difficult to get to behind sofa and chairs, cumbersome to operate, and most of them have now been repaired at least once when the cords wore through grommets in the mechanism. So we decided to replace them with new shades from MCD, a company located in McKinney, just a few miles from here. They will have both a night time shade and a separate sun blocking daytime shade. Best of all, they will be electrically operated with a remote control. At the push of one button we will be able to lower or raise all or any of the shades.

The shades have been ordered but we do the installation ourselves. I will be running 12V power to the valences where the shades will be located. This will require opening slots in the walls, another reason for new wall paper. And, as long as we are redoing the wall paper and shades, we also decided to replace the valences and the legs that surround the shades on several of the windows. We have purchased the plywood from which they will be constructed, and we have purchased the new material they will be covered with. They will go in as soon as the wall paper is up.

We have also decided to replace the mirrors that serve as the back splash in the kitchen with tile. In fact, we will be adding the tile in the entire kitchen backsplash area. We chose a small glass tile that should look very nice.

Of course, when all this is done, we will replace the carpet. We're still contemplating about whether or not to replace the current hide-a-bed sofa with a built in seating area with underneath storage. That one will probably be decided by how much energy we have left after all the other upgrades.

There are still a couple more things in the works. I plan to replace our current inverter, the thing that makes 120V AC power from the batteries, with a different kind. Ours makes a form of power known as "modified sine wave". This means it is not exactly the same as utility power we have when plugged in or using the generator. Most things work OK with it, but some do not. We will replace it with a true sine wave inverter that makes power exactly like utility power. It will be better for all our electronics, and for the new refrigerator.

And, when all this is done, we plan to have the trailer painted. That's still a ways off, but we're working at it as much as we can. The temperatures have been brutal the past few weeks. This week it has been up to 105 with high humidity. It makes going outside no fun, and we're both feeling the effects of the heat.

So, there you have it. Now you know what we've been up to, and what we will be up to for the next several weeks. I'd sure rather be doing it somewhere more comfortable that here, but we have everything convenient to this location. There are two Lowe's and two Home Depot's within ten miles, (I visited one Lowe's every day for 14 straight days), and many of the larger tools, like the table saw and chop saw are in Jennings garage, just 5 miles down the road.

I'll try to post a little more often as the projects move along. I may even include photos!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Prom, Graduations, Strutter's Spring Show, Jobs

I wanted to wait until all the major events had come and gone to write a post. Maybe that wasn't the best of ideas as there were so many, so please bear with me.

First was Deidra's prom. She looked like a full-figured Tinker Bell in her gorgeous gown. She doesn't have a boyfriend so she went with her two best friends and other acquaintances, one of whom had rented a limo for the evening. I think they had more fun getting ready (nail, hair & make-up) and taking pictures than at the actual prom, but they did have a really good time.

Next was Dayna's graduation and Deidra's Strutter's Spring Show - all on the same weekend. Dayna ended up with a 4.0 GPA in her Master's program! (We're not too proud!!) Next she will do the prep class for her CPA exam. She's going to take the exam in NM as she doesn't qualify for it in TX. In TX you have to take half of your accounting classes in a classroom. Since she did her Bachelor's studies on-line that didn't happen. She's job hunting but not having any success. One company really likes her and they are hiring a lot of people as it is a new business but they haven't found the right position for her yet.

Deidra was in nine dances in her Spring Show. We found out Strutter's is not just a drill team. It's a dance group. They did a military, hip hop and jazz routine as well as many others. Dayna did one with other moms and Chris participated in a Daughter & Dad dance with Deidra. We were so glad to finally be able to see her perform as we've missed most of her season. The picture is one of her outfits they wore at football games.

Finally Missy D graduated last Friday evening! It was held at UNT's (University of North Texas) coliseum so there was lots of room for all the family and friends who wanted to, to attend. We can't believe that cute, red-headed infant of 18 years ago is now a high school graduate! This picture is of her and her father, Daren, who came from Las Vegas to be with her. His sister and niece also came, as well as Crystal (and family) and Eva (Dayna's former business partner) (and family) from NM. (The picture on the banner is of the same three as the prom photo.)

Dayna has been living on adrenaline for over a month and is looking forward to doing nothing for awhile ... until she starts her CPA prep course. It just never ends for her!

Dom just finished his first day at his new job. He is working for the HOA, cleaning pools, restrooms and around the lake. He decided he likes his job as he found $15 while cleaning the lake today!

Deidra has been promised a job at Sonic but they haven't put her on the schedule yet. They are supposed to this Friday, but we'll see. She plans on attending a local community college to get her basic courses out of the way. Currently she thinks she wants to be an English teacher.

It's been a busy month attending all the events plus we've started our home make-over projects. I'll let Richard tell you all about them. The list just keeps getting longer and longer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Iron Butt

The term Iron Butt refers to long distance motorcycle rallys. I didn't attend a rally, but I feel like I did. We drove the car to Edgewood last Friday to bring the new motorcycle back to Texas. It was a drive of just about 600 miles, and we drove into the teeth of a horrendous wind the entire way. I don't recall ever driving in such strong wind for such a long distance.

We stayed with Diane Nolen with whom we were worship leaders at Valley View. It was great catching up on her life. She works five jobs to keep a roof over her and her daughter's heads so we had to sneak visits in in between jobs.

Saturday morning we went to Weavers, where the scooter had been stored for the past month, and I prepared it for the trip. I installed a larger windshield than the stock one, a backrest for the front seat, a cup holder and a GPS holder. In the afternoon we visited with Errol and Joyce Stepp, our pastor when we lived there, and his wife. We also went to Sadie's for dinner with them, and had some great New Mexican food.

Sunday we planned to go to church and then leave for Texas, but we woke to spitting snow flurries. By the time church was over, there were two inches of snow on the ground. I don't mind riding in some light rain, but snow is another matter. We decided to stay, which gave us the opportunity to get together with some old friends and play cards and visit all afternoon. Much of the snow melted off during the day, but there were still patches around. All the roads were clear by days end.

Monday morning was bitter cold. I bundled up and we left at about 9 AM when it was 34 degrees. Dianna led in the car because it has cruise control, so it was easier for me to follow her than the other way around. We headed east on I-40 to Clines Corners where we turned south toward Roswell. By the time we got there it was above 40 and my hands were finally beginning to thaw out. We turned onto US 380 and headed east, finally stopping for the night in Post, TX after traveling over 350 miles for the day. That is by far the most miles I have traveled in one day on a motorcycle. I was pretty much sore all over. There is no question where the term Iron Butt comes from! We traveled the final 250 plus miles to Denton on Tuesday, and arrived about 3 PM. It sure felt good to get off the bike.

It is hard to compare this bike with our old one. They are completely different. This bike is a lot heavier, much more powerful, and more comfortable at high speeds and in the wind. It does not get nearly as good fuel economy as the 400. We stopped every 120-140 miles for fuel, getting on average around 45 MPG. I think it will get better when the weather is not so cold, and when we are not traveling at such high speeds or in such high winds. We ran 70+ most of the time, which is something I rarely did on the 400.

When we got home I installed the Givi topcase on the back. It is similar to the one we had on the 400 except it is a little larger. I also looked for a way to power the GPS. The installed cigarette lighter plug will not work because the glove compartment door will not close with the adapter plugged in. I found a hard wire kit on the internet that will let me make a very neat install. It should arrive in a few days.

Today Dianna got her first ride on the new bike. We had to make a trip to the post office. She immediately noticed the different sound of the twin cylinders, the power, and the greater stability of the heavier bike, even in the wind. I think we are really going to enjoy it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The incomplete saga of the wheel problem

Yes, it may be a saga.

The new wheel assemblies arrived from Kodiak early last week but the axle did not arrive from Dexter until Thursday. When it came in the installer at Cobre Motors called me to let me know it was not the same as our other axles. After some phone calls we discovered that the people at Dexter Axle had not looked up the serial number we gave them completely, and had shipped us a standard 7,000 pound axle instead of a 7,000 pound axle with an 8,000 pound spindle. That meant that brake mounting brackets would not work. After some discussion we agreed that the quickest way to deal with it was to have Kodiak send us two 7,000 pound mounting brackets. Those were overnighted to us and they arrived on Friday. All was finally ready for installation on Monday.

I arrived at Cobre Motors at 8 AM Monday, and Joseph, the mechanic, began work. First he removed the wheel on the opposite end of the axle that had failed, so he could replace the axle. When he did so we discovered that the bearings in this axle had already begun to fail. They were rough and they had metal filings in them already. We then pulled the remaining 4 wheels and discovered the same thing in all of them. It clearly identified the problem that caused us to loose the wheel. The bearings failed.

There was no option but to replace all the bearings. Cobre Motors located 5 new sets locally, and we had the one new set that had come with the new brake assemblies from Kodiak. Joseph toiled without letup to get everything changed out. I was very impressed with his conscientiousness, knowledge and work ethic. It was a lot of work.

Late in the afternoon we ran into another snag. The new brake assembly did not fit on the 7,000 pound brackets. There was no explanation for this since the part numbers were exactly the same. Our only option was to rebuild the old caliper from the parts in the new caliper. This slowed things down a bit, but was successful.

Along the way we made the decision to lubricate the bearings in an oil bath instead of using grease. The hubs from Kodiak are set up for either approach. Heavier axles, like those on the front of my truck, are usually lubricated using an oil bath instead of grease. It help them run a little cooler and insures complete lubrication that can easily and quickly be verified by looking at the oil level through the clear axle cap.

The new wheels and tires were the last thing to go on, and they look really good. I finally left Globe at about 5:45 and drove about 65 miles to Safford where I spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I stopped and checked the temperature of the wheels with my infrared thermometer several times. Five of them were almost the same temperature, but one seemed to be a little warmer than the rest. As I continued east on Tuesday, I stopped every 50 miles or so to check them. It was over 90 degrees outside so they were all a little hotter than the day before, however the one wheel consistently ran 30 to 40 degrees hotter than the others. At this point, the reason is unclear, but I suspect that is the location of the bearing that came with the new assembly from Kodiak. I am now convinced that they have a bad batch of bearings.

We are now in Pipe Creek, Texas, a small town near San Antonio, having our slide out worked on. It has needed adjustment for quite some time. It has been binding, and the people here have developed a technique for strengthening and rebuilding them that helps quite a bit. Of course, the manufacturer of our trailer went out of business a couple years ago, so that is not an option.

We will probably be here until at least Monday. When we leave here we will go to Denton where we have plans to have a lot more done to our rig. Kodiak is located in Ft. Worth, so I may stop there on our way. Someone is going to pay for all the expenses I incurred in Globe.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Scooting and Really Scooting

We had so much fun Monday that we decided to take another scooter ride on Tuesday. Since there will be little time left before we need to be in San Antonio after we get the trailer fixed, and we will need to take the most direct and shortest route when we leave, we decided to ride the scooter through the Salt River Canyon to Show Low. It's about 100 miles from where we are staying and we really enjoyed the scenery. Salt River Canyon has some great views and it was nice to end up in the pines of Show Low. After having lunch, filling up with gas, and looking around a little, we headed back to Globe.

The scooter ran fine but we encountered some heavy headwinds in the afternoon. We also often found ourselves climbing long grades where the scooter was not able to maintain the speed limit. Even with the throttle wide open we found ourselves at 55 or 60 when the speed limit was 65.

When we first bought the Burgman in 2005, I considered buying the larger 650 model, but decided to go with the 400 since we figured it would mostly be used around town and that we would only occasionally ride on high speed roads or take long trips. While it does get a lot of around town use, we have found more and more that we like to tour with it. The trip to Show Low was a perfect example, and we have talked about riding some of the parkways and traces on the East Coast sometime. In the 6 years since we bought it, we have put almost 33,000 miles on it. That's a lot for a single cylinder motorcycycle.

I often peruse the Burgman Users Forum for ideas about maintenance, accessories and other talk about Burgmans. I have also kept an eye on the classified section. Tuesday night when we got back from our ride I saw a new posting from a man in Albuquerque who had decided to sell his 2008 Burgman 650. He had purchased it on an impulse when gas hit $4.00 per gallon, but in over 2 years he has ridden it only 895 miles! It is essentially new. It has always been kept in a garage and is in showroom condition. Best of all, he was willing to sell it at a reasonable price. A new one today would cost just about $10,000. He was only asking $6,000. I made a couple phone calls, and.... well, you can guess the rest.

Dianna was all in favor of it too. We made arrangements to meet him Thursday to look it over and close the deal if it was as described. That meant we had to drive to Albuquerque the following day. Nothing like 12 hours notice! Wednesday we drove back north through Salt River Canyon to Show Low, on to Holbrook where we joined I-40, and east to Albuquerque. We checked into a hotel and then went out for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.

Wednesday night Albuquerque received the first rain they have had in over 2 months. Naturally. It was raining when met with the owner, but the bike was exactly as described. After making the deal and accompanying the owner to his credit union to pay off the loan and make arrangement for the title to be sent to me, we prepared to take the bike out to our friends in Edgewood who have graciously offered to store it for us until we can come get it in a few weeks. The rain had stopped in Albuquerque, and it looked like we might be able to make it to Edgewood. By the time we entered Tijeras Canyon it was cloudy; then it started sprinkling, then raining, then sleeting, and finally hailing on me. Yuck!

The good news though, is that the Burgman performs incredibly. I had a very hard time keeping the speed down to 65. The bike is much heavier (around 600+ pounds), and much more powerful. More than that, it has a completely different feel. The suspension is very different from the 400's, and the transmission is much more sophisticated. Having two cylinders instead of only one also make it much smoother and vibration free.

After parking the new Burgman in Weavers garage, we headed back for Globe. This time we got off I-40 before we got to Grants and drove through El Malpais National Monument before joining US 60 in Quemado, then west through Springerville and down to Show Low again. After dinner in Show Low we made the trip through Salt River Canyon for the third time in as many days. We got home about 8 last evening.

There are many posters on the Burgman forum who used to own, or still do own, Honda Goldwings. Many of them compare the Burgman 650 very favorably to the Goldwing. Of course the Goldwing is much heaver and has more power, but many people prefer the Burgman because it is lighter and easier to handle. They think nothing of starting out across country on a Burgman 650.

Then there's Gerry from Oz, the Australian fellow whose blog I followed a couple years ago when he rode his Burgman 650 from Vietnam, across China and Russia to Europe. We don't have anything that strenuous in mind.

Needless to say, we are really looking forward to getting back to New Mexico and picking it up. After the trailer is fixed, and we are still waiting on parts, we need to so to San Antonio to see Deidra perform in a drill team show at Sea World, and then get some adjustments made to the slide outs on the trailer. After that we will go to Denton where we plan to have some more upgrades done on the trailer. As soon as we are settled in there, we will go over to New Mexico and pick up the new bike.

Stay tuned as we end our scooting days and begin our "really scooting" days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keeping Busy While Waiting For Parts

Since our breakdown occurred late on a Friday afternoon East Coast time, it was not possible to get a lot accomplished. Saturday morning I supplied the owner of the place our brakes were done in New Hampshire with serial numbers so he would have all the information he needed for Monday. We also talked about the best approach for dealing with the badly damaged axle. Rather than try to have it repaired we agreed that the best thing to do was to have a new one built by the manufacturer.

After getting all that taken care of, I took care of one additional item. Our plans have been to spend the next couple months in Texas, having several things done to our trailer. We want to get it painted, new curtains, new carpet, new inverter, and we wanted to install new wheels and tires. The issue about the tires is that currently there is only one tire made for the size and load rating of our existing wheels. It is a very unusual tire that is only used on large 5th wheel trailers. The tire is not only quite expensive, (about$350 apiece), but it does not wear well and it has a very poor service record with respect to tread separation. I replaced all 6 of them in 2007 before our trip to Alaska, and they are now all just about worn out completely.

Many owners of large trailers like ours have replaced these wheels and tires with ones that are used on low boy trailers. The are much more common, a little less expensive, rated to handle more than 1,200 pounds more apiece, wear better, and have a good service record. It's not an inexpensive upgrade since it involves replacing both tires and wheels, but we feel that the additional safety margin is well worth the cost. There are a few companies that are making very nice aluminum wheels for these tires that will fit our trailer.

Since one of the tires was destroyed when the wheel came off, I had no choice but to do something. It did not make sense to replace just the one tire when I was planning on replacing all of them in a month anyway, so I ordered 6 new wheels and tires. They are being shipped from Ohio and will arrive Thursday.

After getting everything in motion, there is nothing else for us to do until all the parts are here. We spent the rest of the day Saturday and all day Sunday just hanging around the RV park, out of the heat on Saturday and out of the wind on Sunday. This morning I received a couple phone calls and by noon everything was ordered. I am still waiting on tracking information and projected arrival dates. Since the axle will need to be manufactured, it may be a while until it is ready to ship.

This afternoon we rode the scooter to Tonto National Monument. It's only 30 miles or so from here, and it was a nice ride. We were there a few years ago but Dianna didn't remember it, so it was new all over again for her. I still get a warm feeling each time I just show my Senior Pass and walk right in. We hiked the half mile up the steep trail to the cliff dwellings, and enjoyed looking things over. They sure had a nice view out their windows.

We'll try to find other things to do for the next few days. While there's a chance all the parts could be here in time to get us on the road again this week, I doubt it. It will probably be the first part of next week at the earliest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Breakdown - No April Fool's Joke

After spending almost 2 months in Mesa, we left this morning for cooler climates. Our plan was to get to the high country by way of Globe, Salt River Canyon, Show Low and then Springerville. We got ready quite early for us, and were on our way out of Apache Junction by about 10 AM after dumping our tanks, filling with water, and filling a propane bottle.

US 60 climbs much of the way, and is narrow and winding in some places. Dianna followed along in the car and we made good time on the 60 miles to Globe. After driving through town we made the turn north toward Show Low and were only two miles out of town when Dianna suddenly came on the radio telling me we had just lost a tire on the trailer. It was sure fortunate she was following me because I did not notice anything out of the ordinary.

I quickly pulled to the shoulder of the road, and as I did she came on the radio again telling me she was seeing flames. As soon as I got stopped I jumped out and grabbed the fire extinguisher. The smoke was coming from the middle wheel on the drivers side. I hit it with the extinguisher and quickly put it out, but the problem that had caused it was very easy to see. The wheel itself was no longer attached to the axle.

Last August we had new disc brakes installed on the trailer. They have worked wonderfully for the 4,000 miles we have driven it since then. But something obviously was done wrong or was defective. The bearings failed. Whether there was a manufacturing defect in the new hubs or the bearings, I don't know. It's also possible they were installed to tight or too lose, or that they were not properly greased when they were installed. We'll probably never know for sure. All I do know is that they should not have failed in only 4,000 miles.

Needless to say, everything was extremely hot. The fire was caused by the hot metal of the brake rotor touching the tire. After it cooled down some I was able to lift the trailer with the hydraulic leveling jacks enough so I could get the wheel out from behind the Tskirt (which was also damaged slightly). The brake calipers were still hanging, sort of, but the hub was in two pieces and the bearings were gone. Just the damaged spindle and the brake mounting bracket, which was also bent, were still attached.

I managed to roll the tire up a 2x8 we carry, onto the back of the truck bed. We consulted our GPS and camping directories to locate an RV service place in Globe. The Chevrolet dealer handles large trucks and RV's so that's where we ended up. I drove only 30 miles an hour since the two remaining tires on that side are now carrying the entire load. The brake bracket clears the ground by about three inches.

I called the owner of the place in New Hampshire where I had the work done, and he said he will work with me on getting it repaired. Exactly what that means remains to be seen. He is going to call his supplier to see if they will stand behind it. The service guy at the Chevy dealer seems to know what he is doing. He said they can take the existing axle off and have a new spindle welded on, but the axle will have to go to Phoenix to get that done. Since it is Friday afternoon, I don't expect to get much done until Monday.

Meanwhile, we have moved out to the Apache Gold Casino RV Park, just a few miles west of town. Again I drove only 30-35. We will stay here until we figure it all out. I won't take it back into the shop until we have all the parts in hand. Staying in the trailer while they are working on it is not possible, so we will probably have to spend at least one night in a motel.

When we know more, we'll post more.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Picture This" Orienteering Geocache - Part 2

This is mostly for those who participated in Part 1. I did not blog about part 1, so don't look for it.

Dale's son Dave and his wife Lisa visited this week and one of the things we all did together was to try a new geocache near us. It was a combination geocache, orienteering and photo identification multi-part cache. The GPS coordinates to the first cache were given. Dianna, Dale, Donna, Daryl, Dave and Lisa all joined in.

We began by driving to another parking area just a half mile or so up the river. We parked the car and used the coordinates given for the first hide and set out across hill and valley. Finding the first cache was pretty easy. In the container we found a topo map and another small section of that map with a location on it. Matching the small section to the whole map showed us where the next cache was located. We needed to use the topo map to locate it since there were no coordinates given. Fortunately my GPS has the capability of entering a bearing and distance from a known point, and we used our best guess at those items by looking at the topo map. A protractor sure would have been handy.

Also at the first location was a number that we needed to locate the final cache. Each of the first five caches had a number and a code that when put together correctly would give the GPS coordinates of the sixth and final cache.

The trek to the second cache was not too bad. Some of us tried to stay on a main trail for most of the way, but Daryl headed cross country and got there first. The third cache was quite a distance away and required a healthy climb. Lisa found it first. After comparing the small section of map to the main map we discovered that the next one was quite a long way away. In fact, it was closer to our trailer than where the car was parked. By then we were all getting tired and Donna needed to head back to check on her turkey which was in the oven. On the way back to the car we found another cache, not part of the multi-part one we were doing, right near the trail we were on, so we all logged that one too.

Today Dianna and I finished the cache. We walked from our trailer to the first cache. It was just over half a mile and a fairly easy hike. After working out the location of next cache we hiked over hill and valley again to locate it. It was about seven tenths of a mile away but was not too strenuous. There we obtained the map for the fifth cache and worked out its location. Again the hike was not terribly strenuous but it was up and down. As we neared the area of the cache we came upon a group of wild horses. They wouldn't let us get too close but they didn't bolt and run away either.

We searched for nearly half an hour for this cache. We had a photo that marked the location and we finally located the right rock outcropping, but we searched and searched for a long time without success. Finally I went around the rock and noticed a small opening. I would not have stuck my hand in there during the summer when creepy, crawly things are out, but I did and it was there. This time there was no map; just the final numbers we needed to complete the GPS coordinates of the final cache which I entered in my GPS.

This time the route took us down a very narrow canyon that required climbing over and sliding down rocks. It was a really neat place. I just would not have wanted to be there during a rain storm. After we were through the canyon we again had to climb to the top of another hill where the GPS said the final cache should be located. It was on a hill with a great view of the Salt River flowing below. After some more searching we finally located it, again in a very small crevice and completely covered with rocks. We entered our name in the log and set off for the home.

Once again we found our way blocked by a steep cliff and had to carefully work our way down to the river. We followed it back to the trailer. The total distance covered today was 2.85 miles.

We look forward to geocaching with family and friends again. I hope everyone had fun on the first half. I know you would have enjoyed this part too.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The end of an era

It is finished.

We continued packing and preparing to move the things family members wanted, and we held a very large garage sale on a Saturday and Sunday. We had pretty good luck getting rid of many of the items but were still left with quite a bit of furniture and some other things. Dale's van was immensely valuable as we used it to take two large loads to Goodwill. We also used his van to move furniture to Julie's house. Marie and Adam borrowed his dad's pickup and came for their things.

We continued to advertise furniture on Craig's list and has some success over time. We had to keep dropping prices until things were practically being given away. In fact, we finally advertised a couple things as "free", just to get someone to come take them away. Even the beautiful side by side refrigerator/freezer that lists for almost $1,900 did not sell until we lowered the price to just $250, and we finally ended up donating the dining room set to friends in the church. We donated much of Mother's art materials to a church school and another art school. We also took a van load and two car loads of items to the church where they covered 6 large tables. We just asked people to make a donation to the church in Mother and Dad's name if they could.

On Monday, January the 31st, the moving van with items going to Texas and Tennessee left, and Tuesday the moving van going to Rochester departed. The only thing left was a trundle bed which we loaded into the van along with boxes of other things for cousins Carrie and Nancy. We also took with us many boxes of family heirlooms that still need to be scanned. They now fill the upper bunk in the truck.

We spent the night at our home in Bakersfield, then convoyed to Turlock on Wednesday with Dale to deliver the bed and some of the boxes to Carrie. Dale and I visited Mike, then Carrie fixed us all a nice dinner while Dale and I built a fire in the fireplace. The next morning we said goodbye to Dale as he left for the coast to do some sightseeing and to deliver the remaining items to cousin Nancy in Arroyo Grande. Before we separated we spent most of the morning touring the airplane museum at what used to be Castle Air Force Base.

I don't know what we would have done without Dale's help and his van. He made so many trips with his van full of things. He and I also confirmed the fact that we really don't want to do furniture moving for a living. We did plenty to prove that. It was also great just having him with us. It gave us a chance to become real brothers again. I can't explain it, but in some ways it seemed like we had never been apart for all those years. I'm sure glad he is back in my life again. Thanks, man.

On Saturday the 5th we went to the house one last time to clean it for the new owners. Although we thought we had already emptied it, we still took another car full to church and filled all our trash barrels as well as the neighbors. About 5 PM we left our keys on the kitchen counter and locked all the doors. I pushed the button on the garage door opener and then jumped over the electric eye as it closed.

We had dinner that evening with Julie and Michele, then drove home to Bakersfield. It was tough saying goodbye to them too. Everyone has done so much under very difficult circumstances. We are going to miss them.

The house closed on Tuesday the 8th.

We are now in Bakersfield, catching our breath and getting ready to resume our "normal" life. We have neglected some maintenance on the truck and trailer, and have been taking our time getting ready to move again. Dianna has had a bad cold but is finally on the mend. We plan to leave here on Tuesday and make our way to Arizona to be there when Dave and Lisa visit. We don't know how long we will stay or exactly where we will go from there, but we want to be in Texas for Deidra's graduation as well as Dayna's MBA. We also have some things we would like to do to the trailer. It is nine years old now and it's time for some upgrading and remodeling.

One era ends. Another continues.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Working through all the details

I know it has been a long time since we last posted, so we need to catch everyone up to date. As planned, we continued to inventory the entire contents of the house and clean out things that could not be sold or given away. We photographed every item in the house and cataloged it in a spreadsheet. When we finally finished there were over 1100 items on the list. The photographs and the spreadsheet were distributed to all heirs for their initial selection. Everyone had the opportunity to mark any item as "I want it", or "I'll take it if no one else wants it". After tabulating all the requests we found that there were a relatively small number of items that more than one person wanted.

All three children gathered at the house again in mid December to make the final decisions. We went through each room and made the final choices. The process worked so easily and there were absolutely no issues. This has to have been the easiest, most amicable division of an estate in history. Dianna, Julie and Greg are special people who obviously were raised by some very special people as well.

The decision was made back in November to put the house on the market. There were several showings but it quickly became apparent that the market had fallen even further than any of the realtors we interviewed had thought. We lowered the price in late December and that stimulated the interest considerably. During the entire inventory process we kept the house looking as good as possible so it could be shown in its best light. That was difficult but we felt it was necessary.

After the mid December meeting to make the division decisions, we decided it was time to move forward with packing and distributing everything, even though the house had not sold. We needed to leave for Texas so we could spend Christmas with our family, but Tina stayed on to begin the packing process. Michele stayed with her and they accomplished a tremendous amount in a weeks time before returning home to NY.

We returned to California after the first of the year and have continued what Tina and Michele began. We are advertising and selling unwanted furniture on Craig's List, and we have found charitable organizations who are worthy recipients of other things. We have also given much to friends and relatives who are grateful to have things to remember the Wideners by, and who can really use some of the items. We still have a tremendous number of things that we will try to sell at garage/estate sales in the next few weeks. This is now imperative because we have accepted an offer on the house and it will go to its new owner on February 15.

Having a deadline is a good thing because we now know what we have to do and when it has to be done. We no longer have to keep the house looking good for prospective buyers, and it is now full of boxes and empty walls. All the family members have been here when they can to help with the sorting and packing, and my brother Dale has come to help us as well. He was here all of last week and plans to be here at least next week as well. This weekend he is making a quick trip to see Death Valley and plans to go to Universal Studio on Monday with Don's family.

That's about it from here. We are still staying the mostly empty house until we sell the bed we are sleeping on out from under ourselves. We don't have many pots and pans or any food in the cupboard, but we are making do. At some point we may have to make other arrangements, but we think we can hang in for a while. It will soon start to feel like camping out. We will schedule the movers sometime in the next couple weeks, and that will really make the big difference as we will have no place to sit after that. We still need to return about once a week to our rig which is still parked in Bakersfield. Other than that, it is just more packing and moving, but the end is in sight.