Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cameras, Break-ins and Chores...

Our camera bit the dust.  Rats.

It was 12 years old.  A great camera.  It definitely did not suffer from overuse.  I never got into the habit of keeping it with us and taking all those incredible pictures.

It was a Nikon Coolpix 995.  Only 3 megapixels but in its day it was one of the main choices of professional photographers.  I never did master it's capabilities.  I mostly did "point and shoot."

Now I am in the market for a new camera.  How do you choose from all the possibilities?  I am looking at a few RV forums and reading blogs.  So far I am hearing good stuff about the Canon S100.  Do any of you have suggestions and/or preferences?

Coach Net Follow-up...
I talked to Coach Net today.  The woman I spoke with was very professional and courteous.  She apologized for the frustrating situation in Hillsboro, TX the other day.  She did not understand why the rep I talked to did not go ahead and use the LOCAL tire shop and installer.  She suggested I send copies of my receipts.  Their Quality Assurance group would review and make a decision.

We'll see.  Stay tuned.

Theft During Storage...
Not anything of ours, thank God.

It is amazing how conversations move from one topic to something completely different.

Yesterday, I encountered a couple riding fold-up mountain bikes.  I struck up a conversation about their bicycles.  They are from Alaska; down in the "Lower 48" for a couple months touring about.

They explained that they store their motorhome in different places when it is time to return home.  We have heard this a number of times from foreign visitors and others from the far North.  It is less costly to store it than to ship it overseas or drive back to Alaska.  Makes sense to me.

Unfortunately, these folks' experience with a local storage outfit was far from good.  Their motorhome was ransacked while in storage.  They lost all their electronics (TV surround sound, computers, printer, TV, etc.) as well as all their tools and maintenance stuff.  Their Honda generator was gone.  They even lost kitchen knives and other accessories.  Sheesh.

The frustrating thing is that from all appearances it was an inside job.  The investigating cops agreed.

The rental place had insisted that they leave keys for their rig.  This was unusual.  The RVers/owners argued but then complied.

There was no evidence of a break in.  According to the RVers, there was proof that someone had been eating and spending a bit of time in the unit.

The car that they tow behind the motorhome had 181 more miles on the odometer than when they left it!!!!!

The storage place has video surveillance, but the tapes are only stored for 21 days.

The police dusted for fingerprints.  They told the victims that results will take MONTHS to get back.  Seems a bit odd to take so long.

The RVers are suing the storage owner in small claims court.  Because they had surrendered keys, the insurance company does not consider it a theft.  What?????

I realize I only got the side from the owners/victims but they also said that there are public records showing that there have been other incidents of similar theft in that facility.  Things sound pretty incriminating.  I hope the truth comes out.

Chores and Home Improvements...
After a week, we can report that we are really happy we got the motorhome back.  We are so much more comfortable.

Just as with any home, there are things that need attention.  I have been working on a list of items.  It feels good to check them off as each one is completed.

One thing I have wanted to do for some time is to install our "Extend-a-Stay".  It is a control system that allows us to hook up an auxiliary propane tank in line with our permanent tank on the RV.  That means we do not need to take the motorhome to a propane place.  Nor must we hire a propane outfit to come fill us up.  We have a removable tank in our camper.  Now we can hook it up to the motorhome.  When it is empty, we switch to the permanent tank while we take the camper tank and get it filled up.

We've had fun showing our rig to people.  We have done so much remodeling and decorating that I am confident there is not another one like it.  We were looking at it the other night and realized that it is more like a small apartment than an RV.  We love it!

Austin is Busy This Month...
The park has been preparing for a busy month.  College Spring Break begins on the 12th.  Colleges in the area stagger their break periods so we will be busy for a couple weeks in a row.

Also, South by Southwest (SXSW) is here.  It is a huge music and movie festival. Somewhat like Cannes in France, or the Sundance Film Festival in Utah that Robert Redford made famous.

People come from all over the country and the world.  Hotels are very expensive.  Some people rent out their houses for thousands of dollars.  The park is convenient and inexpensive.  We will be busy.  I am looking forward to meeting some of the interesting people.

I am going to begin chronicling the interesting folks we meet.  Stay tuned!

Travels Ahead...
We have a little over 7 weeks left at McKinney Falls State Park.  The experience has been great.  We look forward to stints in other parks.  Next is Yellowstone for the summer.

We are going over to Seminole Canyon State Park the weekend of March 17 & 18.  We are anxious to see it.  We have committed to a stint for next Winter.  I'll let you know what we think after our visit.

The day is winding down.  We had a great dinner and are now enjoying a glass of wine and some of our favorite TV shows.  We are comfortable, warm, happy and ready for the next adventure that waits while we are "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

The Motor Home is Back in Texas!!!

It's been a little while since I posted. The biggest bit of news was my quick trip to Indiana to retreive our motorhome.

All I can say is "Wow!"

We did not realize how much we were missing it. The small truck camper worked fine for the seven months full-timed in it but Robin really missed her washer and dryer. I don't think they have been idle a day since I returned on Wednesday, February 29.

I flew to Southbend, Indiana on Sunday, Feb 26.

I made a connection in Minneapolis, MN. It was COLD there!! Hey, we've been in Texas for crying out loud. What the heck is that white stuff on the ground? I thought I was not going to see any more of that. I sure was glad I did not have to spend much time there!

From Minneapolis I connected to Southbend. It is way up north near the Michigan border. How many ways can you spell "Brrrrr?"

I got to Southbend at 1:00pm. Rented a car and started looking for a hotel/motel (what the heck is the difference???).

Anyway, I got a room at the Day's Inn. After checking in it occurred to me that it was a "guy's room." Not exactly a man-cave but I know Robin would not have approved. It was not tooooo bad. I was glad I did not have my black light and I did not see anything crawling on the bed, so, what the heck. Hey, I used to drive for Greyhound.  Believe me, they did not put us in 5 star places for our layovers. I think they wanted us to be able to relate to the passengers. We had to draw the line at sleeping on the benches in the lobby.

Meanwhile, back to the trip...

I got to the storage place Monday morning. The rig looked great. When I stepped in it sure felt good. I could not believe how roomy it felt! I guess living in a box that is 7 feet wide and 16 1/2 feet long makes one appreciate the space in one that is 10 feet wide (with the slide out) and 37 feet long! It really is amazing the difference.

I hooked up the batteries. I put the key in the ignition, the dash came fully alive. The heater blower blew, lights lit. Hooray!!

Turn the key - click. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, shut off. What th'... This was not supposed to happen.  Rats.

I turned the key multiple times. Nothing.

Looked at the fuse and relay box. All appeared in order.

They guy who owns the storage place (real nice guy) came over to see what was going on. We talked a bit and considered a possible bad cell in the battery. It was brand new when we stored it 7 month ago. Hopefully, it was OK.

He suggested hooking up his booster box. Things not starting after a long storage happens and he was prepared.

We hooked up the booster. Nothing. I was seeing $$$$ flash before my eyes as I visualized someone I do not know in a strange city trying to troubleshoot a complicated electrical problem. Jeez.

We switched from boost to charge. After a moment I hit the ignition again. The same click clicked and she started right up!!! Yay, with a capital YAY!

We surmized that a relay was stuck and the charge popped it open. Perhaps there was some sulfating in the battery. Who knows, all I cared about was "will it start repeatedly?"

We disconnected the charger and tried starting a few more times.  She started perfectly each time. Seems the battery was still fully charged - pretty good for 7 months.

I took it for a short drive. All was well. Yay #2!

I still had a rental car to return. I had discussed how to do this with the Hertz guy when I rented it. He told me that for $25 they would pick up the car if I left it somewhere where I felt secure leaving it.

I called and asked if rather than leave it someplace, could I come to their location and pick up someone who then could take me back to the rig. We agreed that would be the best way to do it.

$25 would be much cheaper than a taxi.

I picked up the guy and we returned to the rig. I got inside and he left. Then...  I could not find my keys!!! Panic!!!!!

I called Hertz and asked if they could call the driver and see if I left the keys in his car. They put me on hold.

I stood inside the RV and waited -- Now don't get ahead of me here...

I am inside the RV... I had to unlock the door to get in... Where oh where could those pesky keys be???

Yup - hanging outside in the door lock. Sheesh.

Hertz comes back online. The guy swears they are not in his car. "Yeah, I know. I'm a dork. Thanks for checking. Have a good day!!!"

I'm on my way!!

I headed to Muncie where I was supposed to have dinner with Robin's parents, our two girls, Michelle and Jessica, our grand daughters Shelby and Katie and our two great-grandsons.

The rig ran great! I was having a ball. Back in trucker mode after all these years.

Dinner was a lot of fun.

I opted not to go to Richard and Norma's hotel (or was it a motel) to visit. It was 8:30 and I wanted to head south. Remember, it was COLD up there. I had not winterized the rig because it was stored inside. If I could get 300 miles south there would be no chance of freezing PLUS, those horrible storms that devastated the midwest last week were headed my way.

BTW - This was a few days before they actually hit.  No one had any idea they would be so disastrous.  I passed right by Henryville, IN, the town that was pretty much wiped out.  Scary stuff.

The night was beautiful. No clouds. Cold weather. Good coffee and great highways. South I shot.

I kept thinking I would stop but was having so much fun. If you have not driven big rigs (buses - 3 1/2 years and then semi-trucks - 10 years) you really are missing something. As I said, I was back in trucker mode.

Should I stop? - Nah. Keep going.

Next thing I knew I was south of Nashville, TN and it was 3:30 in the morning. Time to stop.

Slept for four hours. Man-o-man. That Tempurpedic mattress felt great! Sure wish Robin was here so we both could have slept on it the first night. That cheap foam pad mattress in the camper does not even come close to comfortable...

Next morning I took off. The rest of the drive was a lot of fun and uneventful. Until...

I stopped in Hillsboro, TX, just north of Waco, to get gas at Wallmart. The parking lot was a bit difficult to get into.

As I was exiting a guy pulling a big trailer with a pick-up was headed in. No problem, I'll swing out of the way and give him room.

I misjudged and the right front tire went off the pavement. Again, no problem. Just gently back up and ease it back on.

The pavement was a few inches thick. The tire grabbed the edge of the pavement and ripped the tread right off!!!

The trucker lingo came right back: @#$%^&*!!

This started a whole new adventure. I called our road service (no-service??) Remember when we were stranded in Arkansas last year? Same outfit. Coach Net.

Here's how it went:
I called and explained that I lost a tire. I don't carry a spare. I needed a new tire and it needed to be mounted. They weren't optimistic. They would call around and see what they could do. Now remember, I was a few miles north of Waco.

Yeah, I know - you are asking "doesn't Walmart sell tires?" Yes, they do but nothing big enough for a motorhome. But - there was a Ford dealer next to Walmart. The motorhome is on a Ford chassis. Perhaps....

I walked over and talked to the service department. Nope. Again, nothing that big BUT - The friendly service guy gave me some LOCAL tire dealers' names and numbers who may be able to help. Cool!!

Remember, Coach Net was trying to find something...

I called the LOCAL dealer.  They had a tire and a guy to come change it out. The tire was $313 and the service call/labor was $75. They could be there literally, in a few minutes.

Coach Net finally called back. "Man, we are having real trouble finding a tire. The best we can do is in Waco and the tire alone is $450. That does not include the service call from Waco."  We're looking at $600!

Hmmmm - Here's an idea - I just got off the phone with a LOCAL tire dealer who can do it all for less than $400. How about you deal with him? I have all the phone numbers and names right here.

Sorry, he is not one of our preferred venders...

You have to be kidding me. I found a LOCAL dealer, found a tire and can arrange for immediate assistance and you, who I paid for a three year membership with, cannot help????

Here is what I am going to do, I'll get the LOCAL dealer to fix me and we will talk when I get home.

OK - Sorry we could not help.

Yeah, I'm sorry too. Bye.

Within and hour, I was back on the road. I paid for everything.

Austin appeared. It was great to be back. Robin walked into the rig and could not stop smiling. She loves the camper but this is "home."

I have not gotten with Coach Net yet. I'll keep you posted.

Well, we have moved in. The camper is again a camper. The motorhome is again a home. We do have a lot of equipment now. We certainly are prepared for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"