Thursday, May 30, 2013

Family Get-Together, Driver's License Woes and RV Shopping...

Fun Family Time...
May 15-18 we spent in Boulder, CO at a mini-family-reunion.  Robin's parents came in from NC and we all met at her brother and sister-in-law's wonderful home in the hills outside of Boulder.

One evening Robin's cousin, Gary, and his wife, Sherilyn, dropped by.  All 8 of us went to a nice Mexican food restaurant.  Good food, good company - things don't get a lot better.

Driven to Distraction Getting our Driver's Licenses...
Prior to the family thing, we stored the motorhome and trailer in Cheyenne, WY and ran up to Rapid City, SD to finally get our drivers' licenses.  That turned into a fiasco because we arrived at the DL place early Monday morning only to find it is closed on Mondays.  Sheesh.

I had read that the smaller towns in SD have only a day or two of DL office operations per week.  Knowing that, I called Rapid City a while back and specifically asked if they were open "every day" compared to smaller towns.  I must have been unclear because the person assured me that they certainly are open everyday.  I guess every day in this scenario means that they are open every day that they are open.  Grrrrr.

Anyway, we stayed in the area an extra day.  We ran up to Mt. Rushmore and then relaxed at a campground back in Rapid City.

Mt. Rushmore is pretty neat.  We liked it but it is one of those "been there, done that" places.

Tuesday morning we hurried over to the DL place to get things wrapped up.  Not so quick and easy there pardner.  We are the government and we do things our own way.

I knew I had all the documentation necessary because I had called to make sure.  You see, any name change in a person's history must be documented.  We had Robin's birth certificate and marriage licenses showing her full history.  Guess what - her birth certificate did not have that fancy embossed circle saying it is an "Official Certified Copy" so the uber helpful DL gal cheerily told us we could  not get her DL.  No offer for further help or anything  - "Photo copies of birth certs are not acceptable - you can't get your DL."

Needless to say, we were a bit miffed.

We left grumbling to ourselves that our 600 mile round trip from Cheyenne to Rapid City was a bust.  Then I remembered "Hey, I  used to work for the government.  There is always a way around something, you just have to get to the right person."

We returned to the office and I asked to speak to a manager.  We explained that we were in the midst of a 600 mile trip specifically for this purpose and hoped that there was an answer.

We were referred to a supervisor who apparently needed to establish his superiority.  He gruffly wanted to know what was going on.  I explained that we are full-time RVers and had driven specifically to Rapid City in order to get our our DLs and were hoping for help in avoiding another long trip.

He responded contemptuously "So you want to get a driver's license here but you don't want to spend any time in our state."

"Yeah, right.  We just want to give you all our taxes!"

Now, with both our attitudes sufficiently piqued we got down to business.

We had another issue:  our marriage certificate did not have the all-so-important embossed seal.  Rats.

Oh - and guess what.  In order to get a DL, one must show a receipt of having stayed in a hotel or campground for at least one night.  No problem.  I knew the regulation and we had just spent two nights.  Wellllllll.  Said receipt was made out to Kevin.  Unbeknownst to us, we needed to have Robin's name on the receipt.  I guess they were concerned that she may have hitch-hiked in that morning from out of state to get her DL.   Sheesh #2.

I called the RV park and explained the situation.  The owner laughed and said he knew of the requirement.  He added Robin's name to the receipt and faxed it to the DL office.   We really appreciated his assistance.  (Sure glad it did not require an embossed seal of some sort...)

If you ever pass through Rapid City, SD be sure to camp or rent a cabin at Lake Park Campground.  Besides being helpful to us, this is a very nice campground.

Scrooge harrumphed away from his desk.   The workers at positions on each side offered smiles and eye-rolls toward his vacant spot.  I told them I got the message and was certainly glad to not be in their roles.  It must be frustrating trying to work within the crazy constraints.  Their friendliness and brief interaction helped us improve our attitude toward the whole ridiculous process.

Scrooge returned.  He said he was going to give Robin a 6 month extension on her TX license.  We need to gather the required embossed items and send them to Pierre.

"Great - who is Pierre?"  Oh.  Right.  Pierre is the capital of South Dakota - As a resident I should have known that right away.  Sheesh on me this time!!

We left with somewhat of a feeling of accomplishment toward getting a resolution.  We were happy I got my DL with no problems.  We'll see what Pierre has to say....

Having Fun Looking at New Rigs...
After leaving Rapid City we scooted over to Casper, WY to visit one of the larger Arctic Fox RV dealerships in this part of the country.  Arctic Fox is renowned for their 4 season utility.   They are a relatively low volume manufacturer so there are not many to view in person.  We have heard nothing but good things about them and wanted to tour some units.

Were we impressed.  We fell in love with a 2013 model 32-5M.  It was a struggle resisting the temptation to work a deal on the spot.

After Arctic Fox we headed south toward Boulder and stopped at a Montana dealer in Longmont, CO.  Boy, were we surprised and impressed with the Montana lines.  We used to lump Montanas into the mid-range line of 5th wheels.  They have really stepped up their quality in the last few years.  Were we to buy, Montana would be a contender.

We enjoy RV shopping.  Fortunately, we are not in any kind of hurry to purchase something.  We will research and tour more rigs as we can.

Our visit in Boulder was a lot of fun.  We always enjoy our time with Robin's family.  Visiting family counts as "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

San Angelo, TX - A Taste of Mayberry

Tuesday was an interesting day.  We went to our favorite Whataburger for breakfast.  The usual crowd was there visiting and laughing.

Following a quick trip to the post office.  I had to send a prepaid return package.  I swear, so often I leave a post office shaking my head.  It is not surprising that it appears to be about the worst run business out there.  Although I think being able to send an ounce of mail from door stop to door stop for 46 cents is a bargain, I have a real problem with so many other facets of the operation.

When I took the package to the counter, the woman had just stepped up from being away.  With absolutely no personality she mumbled 'next'.   I gave her the package and with no comment she looked it over and said 'ok'.  I asked if I could get a tracking number so I could follow the progress and delivery.

She said "it's already paid for."
"Yes, I  know.  I just want to be able to track it."
"You will have to pay for it."
Thinking that maybe for a buck or two it would be worth it "How much would it cost?"
"You have to pay for shipping."
"What - in order to get a tracking number I have to completely pay for shipping again!?"
"Yes." No offer of an alternative or other options.
I had already pegged her as an example of what seems to be so commonly perceived of PO folks.   She lived up to that image except I could not see a gun...   At that point I would have been more surprised if she had offered an alternative.   Fortunately, my heart was saved from a shock and I left frustrated.  Hope the package arrives intact.    Sheesh...

Fortunately, that is the only negative example regarding the people of San Angelo.  We have become quite fond of this city.

One of our favorite spots is Rita's Book Exchange.  What a fun place.  Rita has put together an incredible inventory of used books.  She is a delight to visit with and absolutely knows her inventory.  Ask for a book and she knows if she has it and exactly where it is.  If it is not on the shelf, she goes to her warehouse and checks.  She said her warehouse has as many books as are on her shelve in the retail section.

Her customer's are equally fun and interesting.  New customers are instant family.  Everyone knows names and will take time to visit.  This bookstore feels like it was dropped out of Mayberry into San Angelo.  A perfect example of San Angelo.

Many of you probably know that this area of west Texas is in the midst of a huge oil boom.  Besides oil rigs, wind generators are popping up on all ridge lines.  Part of the business of erecting the wind generators is getting the parts to the site.  You've all seen the huge blades on the roads.  Some are as long as 185 feet!!

Transporting them requires pilot/escort vehicles.  I've noticed the pilot vehicles about town and finally cornered a driver at Rita's.  Brian Cunningham was happy to visit for a bit.  He told me a lot about the business.  With our trucking background I've often thought about a pilot operation.

Brian is from Hayword, WI.  He is out here transporting wind generator blades.  Right now business is taking a break and holding its breath due to the uncertainty of the economy and congress's inability to get its act together a la sequester.  He has found a lot of time on his hands the last few weeks and so has become quite a customer of Rita's.

I was surprised to learn that he actually steers the rear axles on the trailer of the truck via remote control in his van as he follows along.  I had no idea.  Given the length and that the blade extends 35 feet beyond the end of the trailer it makes perfect sense that the rear axles are steerable but I had no idea it was done from a separate vehicle.

When we were driving trucks we saw log trucks in Oregon that had a small compartment below the trailer directly in front of the rear axles with a man in a reclining position who steered.  His butt was literally inches off the road.  We were always glad that was not our job.  It had to be like a carnival ride every day, all day.  Whew!

Earlier in the week we went to the main library and had equally as good experiences.  Everyone was so friendly and accommodating.  Robin got a card and all set up for e-books on her Kindle.  We had a happy visit with the ladies running the checkout counter.  We asked if they were volunteers as they were so friendly and upbeat.  Nope - they just have fun at work!!!

We have noticed a trend in libraries - Coffee Shops!!!  How cool is that?   San Angelo's coffee shop opened up just this week.  We got a chocolate brownie sample.   Yummm.  I guess it was a good thing the sample was just a bite.  I was surely tempted to get a whole one but alas, my recent weight loss prevailed.  But, man was it good.

Robin had a little problem getting the e-book operation to work on her laptop.  The help desk fixed her up immediately.  Turns out there is a problem with her browser.

Anyway, all the positives of the town certainly outweigh the single negative.  If you pass through this area try to spend a day or two experiencing the people.  You won't be disappointed.

Today, Wednesday, we are up and getting ready to leave.  We are going north about 300 miles and will be spending the night at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  We are excited to spend a day or two as we are slated for a two month stint in October and November.   We'll keep you posted....

San Angelo - definitely a place for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Time in Texas is Almost Over

We finished our stint at Seminole Canyon State Park.  We spent a few weeks touring around Texas before we head north to Yellowstone for our second summer.

We are at San Angelo State Park.  We'll leave here Wednesday for Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the panhandle near Amarillo.

I'm working on a few Texas recaps.  One outlining our time at Seminole Canyon State Park and a couple others covering our time since we finished up.  Stay tuned.

We've been quiet for some time.  Everything is great as we continue "Chasin' Our Dreams!"