Released to the Wild

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Oh well.  My volunteering stint at the Escapees CARE Center here in Texas will be over at the end of July.  It turns out that they have a slew of volunteers available for the lovely month of August, so as my teammate put it, “We shall gracefully exit.”  It has been a great time, I’ve learned a lot, and I will be leaving with a wealth of good memories and experiences.  The people who work at CARE and the residents who participate in the program are golden.  Absolutely.  Without exception.  Golden.

So, rolling along like a good little stone, the first thing I did when I got back to my rig after getting the news was google “coolest US cities in August.”  The thermometer here has been toying with the 100 degree mark and when you toss in the humidity, it’s like slogging through twice warmed-over soup.  Poor Dawny’s mid-day walks consist of desperate searches for shade puddles, which are few and far between at that time of day.  So we shall work our way back towards cooler climes.

I’d love to see the upper Michigan peninsula and now that we have some time to spare, that may be where we aim the hummingbird.  Along the way, we hope to do some camping with our friends, Carol and John, if they can spare time from their ranch and family.  At any rate, we’ll pop back by their place on the way north and maybe shoot some of those cows (or perhaps do something else that would be helpful, since Carol said the inoculations are pretty much done by now).  We also have an invite from friends we met at our Florida winter roost to visit them at their summer place in Pennsylvania.  Dawny is especially hopeful that we pull that off, as it will mean she can see her good friend Dusty sooner rather than later.

Yup, it will be good to be back on the road for August.  A horizon rich with choices before us.  A village of golden friends behind.

(Photo is of Dawny submitting to her latest modeling assignment, wearing my pink “Don’t Mess with Texas” baseball cap that I use when on kitchen duty.  Hairnets just don’t do it for me.  She agrees.  Best to go with as much attitude as you can muster!)

 

Immersion

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I’ve mentioned before how I only have a roof antenna on my rig.  I crank it up when I get to camp, search for channels, swirl it around until I get the best reception on the greatest number, then enjoy.  Or not.  Sometimes absolutely nothing comes in.  Sometimes, like now, I only get a small handful of stations.

This isn’t a big deal if I am in travel mode and will be moving along in a day or so.  But I may be in this location for almost two more months.  That’s a long time to be at the mercy of limited local programming.

I am lucky that the Movie Channel is one of the channels I get.  Some of their best flicks are shown in the wee hours of the morning.  That’s when I caught the 1967 black and white film “In Cold Blood.”  Yikes!  It is based on Truman Capote’s book about a real-life case of two killers on the run after brutally murdering four members of a family in their home in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959.  Robert Blake played one of the killers.  Absolutely stupendous performance and a really well done film, even though parts were hard to watch (thankfully the TV reception broke up and I saw very little at that point).  One of these days I’ll have to pick up the book.

Speaking of books, Harper Lee of “To Kill a Mockingbird” fame accompanied Capote to Holcomb to help him research and gather material for his book.  Turns out they were childhood friends back in Monroeville, Alabama.  In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Scout and Jem’s friend, Dill, was based on Truman Capote.  Talk about a small world with big people!

Yesterday I saw bits and pieces of the 1935 film version of Jack London’s book, “The Call of the Wild.”  Clark Gable and Loretta Young starred in it, along with some unnamed St. Bernard who played the role of the star of London’s book, but his poor tale was clipped by Hollywood’s romantic priorities.  The movie-version dog was lucky to get a howl in edgewise.

Did you know Clark Gable and Loretta Young made a baby out of wedlock during the filming of that flick?  Gable was married at the time.  Major scandal for that day and age, or it would have been had it not been kept tightly under wraps.  Loretta went to Europe where she had the child (a daughter) in secret, put her into an orphanage, and then adopted her.  Ah, yes, it was a different world indeed.  You could never keep something like that under wraps nowadays with paparazzi swarming over every minor celebrity, cameras on every smart phone and under every blanket, and YouTube a bare click away.

Returning to today’s world, to supplement my paltry channel choices (when my one major network station just won’t come in and John Wayne is on the movie channel… yes, I know… he’s a classic… just not my type), I’ve decided to learn Spanish.  Immersion style.  MundoFox has all-Spanish language programming and is a rip to watch.  Everything seems to be a soap opera–heaving bosoms, manly men, and colorful sets… love scenes, fight scenes, and intrigue behind the scenes… female eyes brimming with tears and manly men bulging with machismo.  Most of the dialogue is shouted, even when whispered.  Loads of drama, loads of fun.  And occasionally I catch a word or a phrase that I can actually understand, such as  “Esta muy loca….”

You know who’s crazy?  The Three Stooges.  I usually feel the same way about them as I do John Wayne, but a few months ago I caught them on the Movie Channel in one of their earliest short films (1935), “Restless Knights.”  Set in medieval times, they discover from their dying father (Walter Brennan!) that they are of royal blood.  They set out for the Kingdom of Anesthesia to–but of course!–save the queen.

All sorts of slapstick silliness ensues but there were a few great lines that had me rolling on the floor.  (Please be kind.  I was sleep deprived at the time.)

“What were you doing in Paris?” … “Looking over the parasites!”

Later, while waiting in front of an execution squad armed with crossbows, Larry exclaims, “Maybe they’ll miss us.”  To which Curly responds, “That’ll be an arrow escape!”  (Cue two-finger eye poke.)

Yup, it’s a crazy world.  Then.  Now.  Looking on down the road.  I suppose it’s best to just smile and enjoy the ride.  And try to pick and choose where I want to bury my head, especially when the choices are limited.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll add Harper Lee’s new novel, “Go Set a Watchman” to my book list.  It will provide a nice counterbalance (along with many other wonderful reading suggestions from friends and family) to the TV fare and, if I actually read it, may resuscitate a few of those brain cells that have drowned in the tube!

(Re photo:  This is what I look like at 4:00 a.m. when I can’t sleep and I’m watching the Movie Channel.)

Been Awhile

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It’s been awhile since I posted any tips about living in and maintaining a house on wheels, probably because I lack technical talent and expertise.  But I suspect there are a fair number of travelers out there in a similar boat so, for whatever it’s worth, here are some of my latest tips and experiences from RV-Noobville.

What should you do when your air conditioner rains on you?  Well, yes, after frantically turning it off and mopping things up, get its manual and read it (hopefully you’ve already read it through at least once after taking delivery of your rig).  That’s how I found out that when operating the A/C in high humidity (most days the air is quite soupy here, even under a sunny sky), you should run the fan on high all the time.  This allows the unit to more effectively rid the air (and itself) of humidity and condensation.  I had the fan on auto, so it would only run when the A/C turned on, and the condensation built up inside the unit to the point that it eventually started raining on me.

What should you do when your refrigerator gets wonky?  Yes!  Run back to that stash of manuals and read.  If it is still under warranty, as mine barely was, call the customer support number and pick their brains.  Unfortunately, the refrigerator company (Norcold/Thetford) would not talk to a mere customer about such things.  They only speak to an approved RV technician who will be doing the work.  On the other hand, customer service for my Surge Guard unit was very helpful and gave me information that even the experts on the ground did not know, which I will share in case it is helpful to someone else.

A little background on the problem, first.  In late April I was unable to hook up to electrical power at the campground post.  This happened regardless of where I was.  My built-in Surge Guard is designed to detect faulty electrical input from the electrical post.  The error screen will show if there is a faulty ground or reverse polarity situation.  In my case, the screen went totally blank.  It would not give an error message, and if I changed to a different post, the problem still occurred.  Over and over again.

First suspecting the problem was with the Surge Guard unit, I referred to their manual.  Finding nothing helpful, I called their customer service number and lucked into a terrific technician who gave me great information.  It turns out that the unit also will detect something fishy going on within the RV’s electrical system.  It will detect any feedback, such as an open ground or open neutral somewhere within the RV and then not allow the connection.  Nothing showed up on the error screen because the problem was not at the post.  Armed with this information, I turned the refrigerator entirely off before trying to hook up.  Success.  Then I turned the refrigerator on to electrical (vs. propane) mode manually.

Assured by both the Surge Guard technician and the builder of my rig (Phoenix Cruiser, whom I had also called for help) that it was not a dangerous situation, I figured I would just continue to operate that way. Keep the refrigerator on manual mode, switch it to propane for travel, turn it off when hooking up to electric or firing up the generator, then manually setting it to electric mode.

Things escalated, though, a few weeks later when the refrigerator stopped working on propane entirely.  This is a problem when you have a refrigerator full of food and it is a travel day.  I was able to prevent spoilage by running my generator while driving, which provided A/C power to the frig, but I really preferred to be able to use the propane.  Besides, at this rate, who knew when the electrical side of things would stop working, too, and I would be totally out of luck (and milk and cheese and frozen burritos and fruit cups and cottage cheese…).

So, after arriving at my summer park, I found an approved warranty shop to look at the refrigerator.  They weren’t terribly interested in what I had learned about the Surge Guard and feedback from within the coach.  They simply determined it needed a new circuit board, and the following week installed one.  Everything worked on automatic mode–switching from propane to electric and back again–when they tested it using the generator.  Yay.  But when I got back to the campground, I sadly encountered a blank Surge Guard screen and no power unless I turned the refrigerator off prior to hooking up to the electrical post.

Now that the one-year warranty is up on most of my appliances and systems in the coach, I am reluctant to pay $125 per hour to have this shop try to figure out what is really wrong, because I suspect the problem is not originating in the refrigerator.  Instead I will probably swing by Phoenix Cruiser this Fall and have them thoroughly check things out.  They only charge $50 per hour to work on their rigs and they know best how everything works and what to do when it doesn’t.  Hopefully everything continues to work on manual switchover, or at least on electric mode, until then.

Final point, don’t be afraid to ask.  Ask questions.  And ask for what you need.  While searching the RV forums (two of the best for me have been the Escapees’ forum at www.rvnetwork.com and Phoenix Cruiser’s forum at www.phoenixusarv.com), I found that Norcold refrigerators have a fairly bleak reputation for reliability.  One of its problems is the door, which can break at the hinge and fall off.  Norcold sells an after-market kit to reinforce the hinge, but that does no good if the door is already broken, in which case you have to buy a whole new door.  So, while the shop was on the phone with Norcold to order a new circuit board, I asked them to request a hinge reinforcement kit at no charge.  Norcold obliged and sent one along with the circuit board.  I’ll put that on myself.

I also discovered that the seat belts in my dinette are only long enough to secure a child or skinny adult.  I contacted Phoenix Cruiser and asked if they would reimburse me for seatbelt extenders.  Being the reputable company that they are, they agreed.  Again, don’t be shy about asking, especially when it makes sense!

Well, that’s more than enough techie talk for one day.  Apologies to any readers who have fallen asleep by now, but hopefully the information and my experiences will be useful to someone.  As for the rest of you, I hope you needed a good nap!

(Photo shows Dawny exercising her tongue rather than helping me out with RV maintenance tasks.)