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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Getting Settled In... What I Missed Most

Now that we are back home, it's time to get back into the swing of things.

The house was in perfect shape, the housesitter did a great job, my plants are thriving and the house was nice and warm when we got to the door.  We have a wifi controlled thermostat so I could turn up the heat an hour or so before we pulled in the yard.  How nice is that?  Also with it, I was able to monitor the heat each day with my smart phone to make sure the furnace was working.  It enables us to get an alarm notification if there was anything wrong with the heat system.  Remember, we did replace a furnace component on our aging furnace before we left. We wanted to be sure it was still functioning while we were gone or when the house sitter wasn't here.

The dogs were absolutely NUTSO when we got into the house!  They rammed around like two crazy insane nutcases, rediscovering toys and up and down the stairs.  Once I carried in their two bed pads and put them at the foot of our bed, they raced upstairs at least ten times to be sure their bed pads were there where they belonged!

Don't they look happy to be home? 

Then Steve and I got to work and unloaded of most of the gear and freezable things.  Trip after trip we went, from the motorhome into the house to bring back everything we loaded up 6 weeks before! LOL  I have to work my way through the piles of things laying all over, now to put them all away.  arggghhhhhh

Steve got the air compressor and blew out all the lines and then winterized the water system and the washing machine on the motorhome.  The temps during the night are in the low 20's so we had to winterize.

Sooooo now that I am back in Wisconsin
 and in my house, 
what did I miss most? 

  • First and foremost, the grandchildren!!  We will be seeing them all soon. 
  • Second, REAL toiletpaper!!!!  Steve bought some really thin rough stuff for the motorhome and I will be soooo happy when it's gone. He bought a LOT of it.  Take note- he will never be in charge of buying toilet paper again. 
  • Third, my big thick thirsty plush bath towels! The ones in the motorhome are just okay.
  • Fourth, my comfy front porch which we went and sat out there for a while, reconnecting with our home.  The dogs were so excited to be in the house, they kept making laps to reconnect too.
  • Fifth, UNLIMTED internet!   While we travel, we have only 4GB of data to share each month, and I had to call Verizon to add 2GB more to the plan for the month to get by. At home, we have Frontier with unlimted data.  Now I could catch up on the videos, missed tv shows and also do updates for our laptops and tablets. 

One bad thing we came home to was a car with a dead battery.  Well, that's not so bad in itself, BUT when the battery is dead, the power door locks didn't work so we couldn't get INTO the car to release the hood latch to get to the battery!  The keypad on the door didn't operate either.  The key was have on our ring seems to be an "ignition only" key and won't work in the door lock or trunk lock! We have always used the key fob button or the keypad on the door to get into the car. Ever since we bought the car two years ago, we never tried the key in the lock itself.  Fine time to find that out, eh?

We googled a few options. One was to jack up the car and apply power through a battery charger clamp to the positive post on the starter, hoping to get enough juice flowing through the system to make the door lock work.  But you also run a risk of damaging the electronics on board by doing that, possibly even the whole car computer system.  No thanks.   Another was to break a tail light lens and power the system through a hot wire at the light the same way. No thanks.  So Steve said to wait until he can bring home some car door lock opening devices they keep on hand at work for lockout situations. (Steve used to be the campus locksmith at UWGB when these kind of things happened)


Sunday night we cooked our dinner and ate in our dining room. It was so nice to sit in there again and sip wine and eat our dinner together.  Later, we started a fire in the fireplace and the dogs found their comfy spots just like before.


I still wasn't feeling too good, and probably overdid it unloading the motorhome so fast. I was exhausted and all I could think of was MY BATH!  I filled up my big tub and took a long soaking bath, and used those plush towels and felt so wrapped in comfort with unlimited water. The motorhome only has a 10 gallon hot water tank, so you have to take quick showers and turn it off between soaping, shampooing and rinsing.

On another note, it takes a few days to stop trying to flush the household toilets with our imaginary foot pedal!  Any RVer will laugh at that, because it takes some time to drop the habit.


Monday morning, Steveio was bright eyed and bushy tailed to head into work!  He donned his work uniform and headed out the door with a smile on his face. I know he missed his work and enjoys the park so much.  But on the other hand, these six weeks of vacation gave him a good taste of retirement that he can choose to do if he wants to.  He drove to work in the Tracker, and I was home because I didn't have a car!~

I spent most of Monday catching up with some laundry, putting away things, and just sitting in my loom room while touching my fiber toys I had left behind.  Of my special pleasures I covet my big weaving looms, my elegant 100 year old treadle sewing machine, and my three spinning wheels. I put away the sock machine, quilting stuff and electric sewing machine that I had brought along on the vacation. I started planning my next few projects after I sat down with a stack of quilting magazines and catalogs.

I walked to the post office to pick up our mail and packages, and ship out some things I had to send. It was a pleasant walk, but the temps were dropping fast and bad weather was on it's way.

Monday afternoon, my friend Lisa Martin put this adorable outdoor patio set on our local Facebook Buy Sell Trade list....   I had seen her post it last fall, but I thought it had sold back then.  It turns out that none of the promised buyers had shown up so she still had it in storage!  I said PLEEEEESSSEEE and when Steve got off work, we drove over and picked it up.  How cute is this???


I can just see the grandkids sitting around on this eating watermelon, can't you?  I am going to shop for either a brightly colored umbrella or even a watermelon printed one to put on it!  I saw a few online and might order one.   Our soninlaw Jesse made us a neato lazer cut metal campfire ring to put in our backyard this summer. This will be so cute out there with it, we will have to make a little back yard patio area now. Maybe lay some paving stones or do some crushed gravel in an area to set up the fire ring and arrange these benches and table around it.  hmmmmm new project! 

Steve made it home from his first day at work and got the car door open!  Yayyyy my hero! 

As I said, there was bad weather on it's way.  This one blew in overnight with sleet, ice, snow and freezing rain. Not fun.  I woke up, pulled back the curtains and looked out the window.  ARRGGGHHH


Just think, five days ago I was sitting in the desert, in 75 degrees, enjoying the sunshine and warmth.  And now... well....  let's just say I am thankful to have had the best of both worlds and can have the opportunity to go south for some sunshine, but come home and bask in the warmth of our home.

 Look---  it's only noon and the snow is melting! 



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Home Again - Home Again - Jiggety Jig!

First and foremost
I want to wish my beautiful daughter Heather a 
VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

30 years ago I remember the day as if it were yesterday....



Sooooo on to my other news!
Snow has been chasing up the highway from mid-Illinois to Wisconsin,
and we have been keeping one jump ahead of it.

This is it... we are HOME! 



and there isn't any SNOW on the ground!!

Two years ago we came home and had to snowblow out the driveway of foot deep drifts before we could even get the Tracker and motorhome into the yard.


I know my last post was from Thursday, but I haven't felt up to posting much as I am under the weather.


Our recap of the last four days:

We left the Mexican border area of New Mexico
436 miles - Thursday to Ute Lake, NM
538 miles - Friday to Topeka, KS
254 miles - Saturday to Bethel, MO
and 
500 miles today to HOME! 

!!!~1,728 miles in four days~!!!
(total trip 3,695 miles)

I have not been feeling too well. Not sure what is going on.  Steve wanted to get home to be able to get to work on Monday, and not use up any extra days other than his paid vacation time off. We decided to bomb our way north and head on home.  Tomorrow there is 1-3" of snow forecast and icy roads in northern Illinois, so it is best we push on our last day today and get to Wisconsin. The sun is still shining to it's a good idea to rush the last 500 miles to home today. Here is the weather report for N. Illinois tomorrow that clinched our decision to leave  :

... Accumulating snow Monday morning... 

Snow is likely to begin late tonight and will continue through
Monday morning. A period of moderate to possibly briefly heavy 
snowfall rates is becoming more likely for the region during the
Monday morning commute. Even with mild pavement
temperatures... these snowfall rates will likely lead to
accumulations especially on untreated surfaces.

Those traveling Monday morning... including during the morning
commute hours... across northern Illinois and far Northwest
Indiana should prepare for potential slower commute times... as
well as possible hazardous conditions.

Oh, I wanted to a give a shout-out before I forget:  RVing friends Debbie and Steve wrote a nice blog about our visit together in Pancho Villa State Park, you can read about it here:  Down the Road With Steve and Debbie

Our overall impressions of New Mexico are very favorable. We would like to snowbird there once Steve retires.  We like the cooler temps compared to AZ or Southern CA.  Also it seems less dusty and sandy than AZ or CA.  We like the dry air humidity levels there...  (and returning to the Midwest has brought back our joint aches and pains and Steve's continual sinus issues)  We like the rate fee for long term camping in New Mexico ($225 for a yearly pass, the all state campgrounds are free for unimproved sites and only $4 if you want an electric site)   The only drawback we don't care for is the GOATHEAD spurs for the dogs' feet and some areas seem really messy and unkempt with trash by residents who don't seem to care about their surroundings. But all in all, we think we will look forward to spending more time in New Mexico than we thought we would before.


Yesterday we had a nice (but short) visit in Bethel, MO with our dear friend Rosie.

As soon as we arrived at her house, we parked the motorhome out front...

then we hopped into the Tracker and zoomed up to her favorite restaurant at Heartland and met up with her friends Mike & Lisa, and Joe & Sue.


I just love this lady!!!!!  



Steve found plenty to gab about with the guys....


The restaurant is a pretty cool place, and has a whole side of collector cars to oogle over.  The whole Heartland complex is very interesting and you can find out more about it here at this link:

We spent some time gabbing (and gabbing and gabbing) to catch up and share.  Little Binney was placed on Rosie's lap for some cuddle time and socialization.  I whipped up a salad, some chicken alfredo lasagna and garlic biscuits while Rosie babysat the dogs and Steveio.  



She was so comfortable and relaxed being in a someone else's lap.  What a long way she has come from the little scared tyke we got 3 months ago! 




It was the first time our little doggers were introduced to alpacas and sheep!!!!   At first Finnegan was nervous and barking.... little Binney just turned her butt to the fence and ignored them.  But Val was curious about them and leaned over the fence to sniff Binney's butt!!!!   Soon they were both looking at each other with curiosity.



  Val is the male and the brown colored one, 
Jewel is the female and is white. 

I took both dogs over on leashes and made them sit/lay nearby until they got used to those "big fluffy doggies" and soon were okay and not so scared.




Steve had a few little projects to do around Rosies house.
He is her "tall man" to come and find a few things each time we stop that she could use a hand with.



After a fitful night of not getting much sleep, we said our goodbyes in the morning and hit the road to get home.  With the weather report fresh in our minds, we wanted to get these last 500 miles over with before the snow began.

My, oh my, we forgot how rough and bumpy these northern roads are .. .the frost heaves and the potholes!   Even on the interstate in northern Illinois it was quite lumpy and bumpy while I tried to sleep.

We even had a few *S*N*O*W* flurries as we drove through N. Illinois and into Wisconsin. EWWWW  We sure don't want to be driving on icy and slippery roads.   Steve slowed down we didn't miss any exits and we got home safe and sound.

Recap
3,695 miles
averaged 8 miles per gal


Vacation Related Expenses:

  • diesel costs of appx. $962.00 but we had a full tank to start out worth 800 miles.
  • tolls were $42.00 (Illinois, Oklahoma and Kansas are buggers!) 
  • campground fees $455  which is higher than we are used to, but we wanted to enjoy exploring the NM state parks to gather information and research for future retirement possibilities.  Most were $14 a night, some were $8 a night. 34 nights of campground, the rest was boondocking. 41 total nights away.
  • groceries and mis. walmart type items were $453  We brought a lot of food from home too.
  • restaurant eating out was $157.00
  • propane fill up was $84.25


total vacation expenses $2153.00  for 41 days of fun averages out to $52.50 a day!


Non-vacation related expenses:

  • Steve's eye glasses $140 and his dental $250 
  • bought a new tv and bracket for $238.00
  • repairs $1.767 total between the motorhome and tracker.... but oh well, we had to. 


and....... 

the memories????

PRICELESS!!!



Friday, March 20, 2015

High Tailing It Home (4 states in a day)

Now that the Tracker is done and tested... we are able to pull up stakes and head on home.  Steve is tentatively due back to work by March 23, but if his boss Linda is reading this, she can be aware that perhaps he just might not come back at all!!!!!


(just kidding)


We said our "see ya laters" to Hazel and the park staff as we pulled out of Pancho Villa State Park, NM which has been our home for the last 22 days.....   it was really time to get a move on before we had moss growing on our tires, and weeds around our rig!

We hit the road on Thursday morning about 8:30 am after dumping our tanks and stowing our gear to get "road worthy".  

We decided to put the Tracker's transmission shifter into N and the transaxle into N and tow the Tracker that way.  The manual says to put the transmission shifter into 2nd and the transaxle into N... which is what we HAD been doing.  But that big BUMP we figured is what knocked the transaxle into gear, thus ruining the engine. Art Miller who repaired the engine said he would do N and N.

We may reconsider after a bit more research, as we read that some Tracker owners put their transmission into 4th and the transaxle into N.  We want to know how well that works.  Soooo if any of you Tracker owners with a manual transmission and 4 wheel drive and lock out hubs....   PLEASE offer your opinions????  

(2 wheel drive Trackers have a different set of rules and so do Trackers with automatic hubs)

We wandered our way north and east.  We were just a jump, hop and skip ahead of a nasty thunderstorm, and watched the weather tracking online closely as we traveled.

(we turned to the right just after this pic was taken) 


We pulled off the highway at Tucumcari, NM and saw a GODFATHER'S PIZZA!!!!  Man oh man it's my second favorite most pizza in the world!  (the first being Riverside Pizza from Iron River, MI)  I didn't feel like cooking after travelling 436 miles.  I called on our cell phone from the parking lot to see how long it would be to wait.  Only 15 minutes!   I ordered up their special... TWO medium pizzas for $18.99... one the Classic Combo and one just cheese and pepperoni.  Ohhhh that tantalizing smell wafting out from the boxes as I carried them back to the rig.  Steve said WAIT till we got up to the campground.  ARGGGHHHH

We got to Ute Lake State Park in the northeastern area of New Mexico. There are four portions to the park, each with multiple campgrounds situated around the reservoir of damming the Canadian River.  We pulled into the nearest one by the town of Logan near the dam to check it out.    All nice smooth level pull-through sites and free WIFI!  There were only about four RVs in the park, with about 30 empty spaces.  We picked a site right next to the WIFI tower, and dug into our pizza.  YUMMMMMM!!! It was worth the wait.


The rain caught up with us and started pouring down.  Now we had to choose, take the dogs out in the rain and get them all wet? Or see if it would stop.  Nope... no stopping.  So Steve took out the doggers on leashes and they both started dancing around in pain!!!!  Why???  GOAT HEAD BURRS!!!

They are tiny things that are rock hard and do not crush or pull off easily.  The nasty barbs are finer than a needle and grab hold something terrible.  They get in between the dogs toes and can give a bad infection if not pulled off right away.

Those awful burrs were ALL OVER the ground in the grassy areas.  He pulled off as many as he could from their tender feet, and made them go on the gravel instead of the grass. Dang.... here they were so excited about seeing REAL GRASS to go potty on.


NOTE... 
THAT IS NOT A "FAVORITE PARK"
FOR DOG OWNERS.....

The rain came down harder and harder, since Steve was already wet, he opted to go back up to the office to deposit our campsite pay envelope that we had obtained as we came in the gate. He unhooked the Tracker to drive in the pouring rain, and we were now set for the night.

It was pretty comfy cozy inside with the rain coming down and the dogs dried off.  We got in a nice movie on the tv and curled up together.  Ahhhhhh  after a long day of driving, it was just the perfect way to end the day.


We were awake before dawn, and started to put things into road worthiness... the dogs did a quick dance outside among the goathead burrs and did their thing.  Poor dogs were really looking forward  to using some grass for their bathroom.  Oh well, as we moved on through the day into Texas, Oklahoma and finally Kansas, we will find them some Real Grass.


We hit the road by 7 a.m. and traveled north and east, making good time.  We did go over a big bump in a small town, and immediately pulled over and checked the shifter levers on the Tracker!!!  Call us "gun shy" but after blowing our travelling budget on repairs, we are being more careful than ever.

We fueled up at $2.62 a gallon diesel, not too bad.  The cheapest price so far this trip was 2.42 in Missouri on our way down.  Our mileage varies depending on wind conditions.  We most often travel between 55 and 60 mph due to towing the Tracker. Our onboard Silverleaf computer in the dash records all our fuel usage and mileage, and says on our whole trip we have averaged 8 mpg.

My Happy Motorhoming Man

We drove on through Texas and Oklahoma.  
We finally found some GREEN GRASS for the dogs in Kansas....
ahhhhh they so appreciated it! 



We decided to try to make a good long day of travel today... so we are now about 500 miles northeast of where we stayed at Ute Lake.  We hope to be in northern Kansas by nightfall.  It's 7pm as I write this and we are crossing many many many acres of burned prairie land!  I guess it's done on purpose, as there are even road signs saying "range burn in progress, pull to side of road in case of smoke"

Oh my... it went on for miles and miles and miles! Many many thousands of acres of rangeland was being burned.  I can not imagine that being such a good thing, but naturalists will tell you that burning is Mother Nature's way of pruning back and letting new seeds grow.    It just looks so devastating and destructive to me.  Sigh.




We are driving on until we get tired or 8 p.m. whichever comes first.... so I will hit send now and publish this while riding down the road.

Aint' technology great?  Thanks Verizon!

p.s. we pulled over in Topeka, KS for the night... we travelled 538 miles today.

Tomorrow on to Bethel MO to visit ROSIE!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Last Day at Pancho Villa State Park, NM

Yup, it's true, our Tracker is FINALLY finished!  I posted a short blog a while ago from my cell phone, with two photos of the Tracker and the engine.



We are more than pleased with the repair job.  Art Miller did a good job, and he was frustrated a few times about the wrong parts being delivered etc. to get the job done.  But it is finished and we were able to go over the list and pay for the work done.

  • turned the crank shaft
  • new piston rods
  • new piston rings
  • new rod bearings
  • new main bearings
  • cylinder head reconditioned
  • new oil pump
  • new water pump
  • new clutch, throw-out bearing, pilot bearing, pressure plate
  • new belt
  • new gaskets, oil, filter
  • new antifreeze coolant to our radiator

The engine is very clean now and they even did tiny things like replaced some wires and clips, even replaced our missing cap on AC fill nozzle for the freon. And he came in with a final price $100 below his estimate, and we were quite pleased with the work. The bill was $1,500 plus tax.


We put on over 80 miles tonight to make sure all was good.  It ran perfectly, and we are going to be able to move on in the morning!

For supper, I made up a pan of an old family favorite... Tater Tot Casserole!


  1. mush ground beef in the bottom of a pan 
  2. sprinkle chopped onions or dried onions
  3. spread a can of cream of celery (or mushroom) soup over the hamburger
  4. arrange frozen tater tots on top
  5. season with Lawry's, pepper and parsley flakes
  6. cover with tin foil and bake half an hour at 350
  7. uncover and cook 15 more or until brown and bubbly.





OH, we did have rain yesterday... it poured twice for a good 15 minutes and then some drizzles.  The most rain we have seen our entire six weeks of vacation!



Our sweet RV neighbor Hazel took out a recumbent trike to let Steve air up the tires
 and we got to give it a spin around the park.. 
what FUN! 



I peddled around and got the hang of it. 
strange to kinda steer from the rear, like a boat! 


Steve took a turn around the park too,
and got a kick out of this big boy toy!



On our way back from our Tracker Test Drive, 
we saw the amazing clouds hanging low over the mountaintop,
actually covering the summit.




and this sunset just breathtaking as it was reflecting off the clouds....

Our final night for a sunset here in Pancho Villa State Park did not disappoint us, and it was in it's glory as it went down by our site....   it almost felt like an eerie space ship!




Our plan is to get north tomorrow as far as we can and start heading east at the northern end of NM into TX, OK and then into KS.  We hope to hole up for a day or so with friend Rosie in Bethel, MO. Then the final mad dash home to Wisconsin, where hopefully all of the snow and ice are GONE! 




YAY!! The Tracker is done!!!!


Yay! The tracker is done! We are out driving around now for the evening. total engine rebuild plus a bunch of extra things we asked for like water pump, clutch, throwout bearing, pressure plate, pilot bearing and he even refilled radiator with antifreeze for cold up north weather!. And it came in under the estimate.


Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE Smartphone