November 23, 2018

We're Not Bored

Owning and operating two businesses, working out, household chores, rig maintenance, dog walking, dog entertainment and so much more is enough to keep most anyone from getting bored.  But we're not just anyone...  We're DIY people :-)

How can you be bored when there's DIY projects to be done?

The past several weeks have kept Ron very busy with three projects.  And he accomplished them simultaneously to boot!   


The first one involved moving an electrical outlet, adding another outlet, stabilizing drawers, making a drawer and making a cutting board.  It's really a benefit for us that we have our shop where he can fabricate his designs.  I couldn't imagine paying someone else to make these for us.  *Ron isn't an electrician, but he knows what he's doing.  Don't try this unless you are certain you're capable.

For the longest time, well ever since owning Raven, we wondered why the GFCI in the kitchen was put where it was.  Located above the drawers but still under the counter top.  It rarely got used.  The space could be much better utilized with an added cutting board.  But not just any regular cutting board.  Oh no...  How about also adding a 'hidden' drawer to hold pens and the like?  Time to make some changes.

not in the most useful location
much better

The first step was to relocate this GFCI outlet that was hardly used.  It was in such a poor spot.  But it is a necessary outlet.  Ron had first wanted to locate it next to the one above it on the wall.  However, the wall is too thin to accommodate the housing.  It instead got moved to under the sink where it is more useful.  I plug my Instant Pot under there so it can vent under the stove instead of under the cabinets.  So much better :-)

Now that he's got that cleared out of the way, 
Ron had an open canvas to create something useful.

it's a tight squeeze back there

The frame used to support the three original drawers wasn't enough to hold what Ron was creating.  Additional internal support was fabricated using both plywood and plastic.  The drawer bottom will slide on the plastic rails which are screwed onto wooden posts.  Ron also fabricated a wooden front piece so that the green plastic won't be visible.

Here you can see the wooden pieces that Ron made to hide the green plastic slide rails.  You can also see the beginnings of the drawer which is 2" tall.  It's the perfect height to accept pens, a tape measure and other small items.  The cutting board will sit atop the drawer.  Access to the drawer will be simple: lift the cutting board :-)

the drawer face and handle are on, tools inside, yippee :-)
the bottom has legs to keep it in place when we're in motion
 Ron does awesome work!!  Thank you honey :-))


This one was actually very simple.  The two of us changed out the window in about an hour.

Raven has a second door in the bedroom.  It's great when we want to get more fresh air inside.  It's not so great when we want to sleep and there's light flooding the room from a nearby lamp post.

Our makeshift aluminum foil window cover wasn't quite so attractive when the door was open.

The window that we bought is CloZures Shade made by Zarcor.  We ordered the room darkening option for obvious reasons :-)  It comes complete and ready to install.  It fits any window that measures 12" x 21" with 16 mounting screws.  The only tool required was a screwdriver.  We have an electric drill so we used that too.  This is a two person project.  If you're a solo RV'er grab a friend or neighbor to help.

Once we removed the interior window frame, the exterior frame and glass came out easily.  The kit comes with everything including two lengths of adhesive sealant for the window and exterior frame.   We ordered our kit from Amazon and it didn't have a tinted glass option.  If you prefer a darker glass then order it direct.  The price is the same for either seller.

in the open position

We're quite happy with how it turned out.  It does work very well at keeping the light out when it's closed!  However, I wasn't expecting the view out the window to be somewhat blocked when it's open.  This is the bedroom after all so the door is rarely used for access.  Guests come to the front door.  Plus, we rarely slide the control handle so it works out fine for us.  The supplied handle is a bit short for our particular screen door opening.  Eventually I'll contact Zarcor to get an appropriately sized handle.  If asked, I would give the window replacement 4 out of 5 stars.


Roamin was sold with one of the day/night accordion style shades broken.  It had been that way for a long time.  We had planned to fix it eventually.  I even bought a re-string kit to do it.  But, we never did bother.  Instead we just left the window shade down.

When we bought Raven, it came with the same accordion shades.  We knew they weren't optimal but we figured it would be okay.  That wasn't quite accurate.  The front shade strings broke within the first six or seven months.  Luckily we were able to have a repair shop restring them for no charge under warranty.

Then shortly after, the string of the one next to the recliners broke.  We again kept the shade down and closed most of the time.  On the few occasions we wanted it open, we would jam a piece of anti-slip mat up in the cavity between the shade and the valance.  It wasn't very pretty though...  

When a third string on a third shade broke we had just about had enough!!

I had been researching MCD shades for quite awhile already and knew that's the way we wanted to go.  There are other options, but these are the ones we felt would hold up best for us.  We did our measurements according to the website, double checked with their installer and placed our order for the front six shades.  We went with the duo shades which have a day time privacy shade plus a night time light blocking shade.  They arrived at our door step about three weeks later.

Ron removed the valances and the string shades from the wall.  We were kind of surprised that the valance behind the recliners was secured to the window frame with "L" brackets.

day shade pulled down

We had hoped that we wouldn't need to keep the brown side pieces.  One thing we weren't sure about was whether or not the edges of the vinyl MCD shades would warp.  Unfortunately they do warp ever so slightly meaning that the brown pieces would have to stay.

A few of the valances mount on the wall as opposed to the underside of a cabinet.  The mounting screws to hold the blocks of wood securing the shade hardware would be seen.  We bought some brown screw caps at Home Depot to beautify them a bit.

simply no comparison-these MCD shades are outstanding!

It took us three days to install all six shades.  It's been about two weeks that we've had them in use.  We had to make some minor adjustments to two of the six.  One was too close to the window frame making it difficult to move the shade up or down.  The other was positioned wrong to begin with so it just needed some tweaking.

Overall, we love these shades!  The bedroom still has the original accordion style shades.  We wanted to replace the living room shades first to see how we like them.  In time, the bedroom ones will get replaced too.

November 17, 2018

Glimpses Of Fall

Fall comes just a little later than most of the country here in California.  But when it's in full swing, the colors are gorgeous!  I just wanted to share the reds, yellows and oranges with you as they make me smile :-)

Ron's been doing some modifications to the interior again.  I'm working on that post and will put it up soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the colors and Happy Thanksgiving to You All!!

October 28, 2018

Border Crossings and Home For A Few Months

16 states so far

We've camped in 16 of the lower 48 states so far.  For our state map we add a state's sticker if we have camped in it.  Although we have driven through more than the ones on the map simply because that's where the road leads us.  It's been a fun journey (most of the time) so far!

We arrived back to the Sacramento area in mid August.  PolyMenders had repairs on the road in several California locations prior to our arrival.  Plastic Pros, however, has contracts that we need to get wrapped up so we can get back out on the road.  During the weeks before our expected arrival to the area we had made about a dozen phone calls to various RV parks looking for a spot to park for awhile.  Most had no availability :-(  However, we got a return call from Laurie at Dutch Flat RV Resort.  Yippee, she has a site for us!

our spot in the forest

Dutch Flat RV Resort is located just off Interstate 80 in the Sierra mountains.  Ron and I have an hour drive down the hill to the shop.  We are still quite happy with the park, even with the long distance commute.  It's just off of the freeway but down a small grade so the freeway noise doesn't bother us at all.  We hear freight trains go past as they blow their horns.  Plenty of trees to keep us shaded too.  The park has mostly seasonal campers although a few have told us they've been here for more than a year.  We had originally planned to be here for two months but we seem to keep getting more work in the area so we'll be here until we feel the need to move on.

On weekends we like to take day trips to nearby places.  One fun outing was actually on a walking trail here in the park.  There is a small creek about half a mile away.  It was nice and easy to get there.  The park put a couple of chairs, some lounges and a picnic table by the side of the creek making it great to stay there a bit.  Rufus isn't a swimmer so we were glad that there was an area where he could do some wadding.  He found a stick to play with .  We tricked him (shh, don't tell him) and threw it into water that was slightly deeper than his comfort level and he was actually swimming.  Barely swimming, but it still counts.  Hahaha

Since we're so close to the wonderful beauty of the mountains we looked up another hiking area within an hour's drive of the park.  Years ago I bought a paperback titled Easy Hiking in Northern California by Ann Marie Brown.  It's contents are in chapters separated by area.  I've used this book many times for many hikes from the time I was a girl scout leader to the present.  When we downsized our house I knew it was coming along too.

One sunny afternoon we packed up the truck and headed just up the freeway to Fuller Lake.  The parking area was full but we managed to find a spot to fit us near the entrance.  We walked to the water's edge where families donned in swimming suits with picnics were enjoying the afternoon's warm water.  Their laughter soon became non existent as we left the shoreline and headed into the forest on the other side of the dam.

The trail pretty much runs along the shore of the small lake.  We went off trail just a little and ended up in a lush meadow.  When we once again found the lake shore Rufus happily played in the water with a stick he found.  The only negative part of the day was the continual tree sap that ended up getting on Rufus' pads.  Next time we may have to put his booties on first.

nice lake for fishing, you can see the dam we crossed in the far distance
On our drive between Sacramento and our RV park we pass through the small town of Colfax.  The main exit hides a secret likely known only to the locals.  We didn't know about this trail until I found it in the same book referenced above.  Just ten minutes from home, we had to walk it.

The trailhead is at a dead end street with a parking area for about a dozen or so cars.  It starts downhill for quite awhile.  Your return trip to the car is going to be primarily uphill so be sure to turn around when you feel the need.  The noise from the freeway is with you for maybe the first ten to fifteen minutes of your walk.  The trail is well identified with a clear walking area and signage.  We walked for maybe two miles before taking a break and heading back uphill and back to civilization.  My old knees were having a hard time with the rough downhills.  They're much more accepting of level trails :-)

Ron and I are quite happy when we can take Rufus for a walk away from the crowds and he's able to run ahead (or behind) and sniff to his content.  He shows his appreciation to us by giving us plenty of kisses :-)

can I have some jerky Mom??
While we were taking our snack break four firemen came up the hill.  That's when we remembered seeing their truck at the trailhead...  They were there to put out a small campfire (highly stupid at this time of the year to start one!!) and also helping a woman who had hurt her ankle and needed to be taken out via helicopter.  As we came upon them on our way out they were helping another hiker who likely had heat stroke.  What a busy day for them!

We've had a few other adventures during our time here.  For now we are on standby for repairs at a local RV repair shop for the damage from our tire blowout back in July.  We took Raven to the repair shop last week so that they could take measurements and make a quote for the warranty work.  Hopefully we'll hear back from Forest River soon and that we'll get the work approved.

Ron and I have plans to be in Oklahoma City for Christmas at our son Alex's new home.  Their first born, Benjamin, is due early December.  Grand baby #2 for us! 

September 20, 2018

Bumps and Bruises

After our time with Jessica, Mike and Emmett ended, we had to turn Rainier and Raven in a westward direction and head back to California.  Our plan was to make a detour in Texas to visit my cousin, David, and his wife, Dee, for a few days before continuing on to southern California for work.  Unfortunately Texas would have to wait :-(

Raven Suffers a Mishap

We were less than 200 miles into our day's journey.  I was driving.  Rain was occasionally pouring down.  Ron was occasionally napping.  During one of his awake moments we both heard a weird noise.  We didn't really feel anything though.  I looked out my window at the side of the rig and it didn't seem to look right.  Ron said pullover.  So I did.  He jumped out, walked around the back of Raven and then came back in the truck to give me the bad news.

Raven's rear drivers side tire had delaminated.  Thankfully there was enough air inside the tire to drive the very short distance to the next off ramp.  We were also thankful that there was a gas station at the exit with easy access for us.  It really could have been so much worse!!

notice something missing?!

it really could have been so much worse

mangled but repairable
the larger black tank valve was still in place but not the smaller gray tank valve

so glad this bracket was in place!

The damage could have been so much worse too.  Our water heater is just above the sewer connections and it was untouched :-)).  The floorboards in that region weren't affected either.  What did break were our sewer connections, the sheet metal just above the connection, the plastic support pieces for the sheet metal, a little dent in the side of the rear slide and some scuff marks on the side of Raven.  Before we left in June Ron had made an ABS support bracket for the sewer connections.  It is mounted to the trailer's frame member.  If that wasn't in place there was a definite possibility of the entire system being ripped away.  When I see these photos after two months time, I still thank my lucky stars that it wasn't worse!!

Central Tire to the rescue!

Once the initial shock subsided I called Coach Net and asked them to call a tire repair company to come and change the tire for us.  We had never even looked at our spare...  But it was in good shape and a good temporary solution to get us on our way.  

After the tire was replaced we carefully headed to the closest campground about 45 minutes away.  Natural Bridge/Lexington KOA was just off the I-81 freeway.  They had a spot for us to sit for a couple of days.  A complete set of four Goodyear tires were soon on order the following morning.  We also went into town to find some replacement valves.

almost back to original
Let me warn you ahead of time, using aluminum foil to help drain your black water tank should only be used in cases of severe necessity!!

We went to a nearby Camping World and found both of the dump valves.  Originally they were plumbed together but they didn't have the "T" connection that we needed.  Oh well, at least now we could use the shower and bathroom sink again.  Our kitchen sink has it's own tank and separate dump valve in the front so at least we could brush our teeth and wash dishes :-)  The body damage would just have to wait for now.  *Ron did later find the "T" fitting he needed at Amazon.  They really do have everything!

Rainier Needed Some Attention Too

The tires were replaced and we were on our way west again.  We planned a short driving day because we weren't sure how long the tire install would take.  We booked a one night stay at Dumplin Valley Farm RV Park in Kodak, TN.  If you're ever in this neck of the woods I recommend it.  A small family owned RV park with a few FHU pull through spots in a grass covered field with underlying gravel for stability.  We walked around and viewed the three empty silos.

Once a year in September they host a Bluegrass Festival and the place fills up.  That would be fun to experience.  Our mid July stay was quiet and relaxing.

Our pace would soon take a quick stall...

Rainier's computer told us that it was low on DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid).  The countdown to zero miles left had hit the magic number of 500.  It would continue to drop until more DEF was added.  No worries.  Or so we thought.  We stopped at a Pilot, bought a box, Ron began to pour in the liquid but just a portion went into the tank??  That's not supposed to happen.  What was even worse was that the counter kept ticking down.  When it hits 100 miles the engine won't let the truck go faster than 55mph.  There are other warnings and slow downs when the counter gets to certain stages.  Suffice it to say, you really don't want to run out of DEF.  My cousin David has a friend who owns a diesel shop but it was too far away from our current location.

We needed a major city to get the repair done.  Memphis, TN wasn't too far away.  That should work.  I looked at my Campendium app and saw that Tom Sawyer's RV Park in West Memphis, AR was within our mileage restricted driving zone.  The Mighty Mississippi River is the state border and the park is right along the shores of the river.  Our friends, Jodee and Bill, have stayed there before and gave it a good review.  We called and explained our situation.  They had plenty of room and we could stay as long as necessary.  Phew.

We decided on a site which is a bit further from the water's edge.  It's definitely close enough to get good views of the barges passing by but costs much less at only $28/night with 50 amp FHU.   We arrived on a Sunday afternoon.  Rainier had an appointment the following day at a local Ford dealership in West Memphis.  A diagnosis would take a full day.  The dealership had a rental car available so we could get around town.  Time to play tourist :-)     
freeway view

We had driven past a very unique looking Bass Pro Shop on our way to the RV park.  It's called The Pyramid by locals.  It was just on the other side of the Mississippi River.  Why not?  This Bass Pro is located on the shores of the Mississippi River.  According to one employee they are in the process of having boat test drives on the river.  How cool would that be?

street view

observation deck at the top

Driving in on the entrance road you feel like you're arriving at a Disneyland Theme Resort.  There are trees, grassy areas, plenty of parking, people taking photos, people staring ahead at what they are about to experience.  We were there on a Monday mid afternoon.  I can only imagine the crowds on a weekend.

Of course we HAD to take photos too...  At the top of The Pyramid are two observation decks, one on the front (south) side of the store and one on the river (west) side of the store.  The all glass elevator is 28 stories tall.  We were thinking about going up there until we found out they charge $10/person.  Knowing that the truck could be an expensive repair we opted not to indulge this time.  No charge to walk through the store though :-) 

Walking through the front doors there is a hotel lobby just to the right.  Yes, you read that right.  Inside of the Bass Pro Shop is Big Cypress Lodge.  With 103 rooms, there is something for everyone.  Except us, we have Raven just on the other side of the river.  But, it sure would be an adventure to spend the night here! 

clear glass sided elevator to the observation decks

 this guy is safe and free from worry

If you find yourself with nothing to do while visiting Memphis, I highly recommend walking through this store.  We arrived at lunch time.  Imagine our surprise when we learned of the full service restaurant next to the swamp which has alligators and 36 varieties of fish.  We had a great view of the water, fishing boat sales area and the clear glass elevator. 

But the fun didn't stop there.  We ventured to the bowling alley next.  The Fish Bowl was busy.  People were having a fun time in the under-the-sea themed bowling alley.  There was a bar serving drinks and showing varied television shows on the multiple screens.  We saw signs for a pistol shooting range and archery range.  There is also a Ducks Unlimited Museum on site.  Of course, there is also plenty of retail therapy for everyone!

After leaving Bass Pro we stopped at the nearby Memphis visitor center.  There was a geocache onsite.  We should have been doing more caching on our trip.  Just too busy driving, visiting family and relaxing to even think about it.  But we had some free time so why not.


The dealer called us Tuesday to let us know Rainier needs an entire new DEF system.  YIKES!!  If we lived anywhere but California we could have eliminated it all together.  Too bad it wasn't covered under some type of warranty issue.  On the positive side we did have a nice spot to relax while they put Rainer back together.  The dealer said that we could be back on the road by the end of the week.  We picked Rainier up late on Thursday afternoon.  Yippee!

Time to head west again.  Sorry we couldn't dip down to mid state Texas a little to visit David and Dee.  We'll definitely see them this winter though.  They have a new 3 acre property and are planning to put in an RV pad.  I see some mooch-docking in our future :-))