Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jeep Day

I spent most of today in and on the Jeep. First, our neighbor with his '99 Wrangler invited us to go for a short run out on the desert. We found some trails that challenged both Jeeps, although I didn't have to put my lockers on, I did air down and ran in 4 wheel drive low range on a couple of sections. The Trail Limo did great. The more I get out on the trails, the more I appreciate it. It is a big vehicle for the trails, but it is quite capable, and the new suspension from Rubicon Express seems to work very well.

The neighbors Wrangler had a little problem with one section of rocks, where he got spread-eagled on a couple of big rocks and lifted both wheels. He had to back down, and then hit the rocks with more speed, allowing the momentum to carry him past the rocks. I took the same line as him, and the new suspension was very impressive. All the wheels followed the rocks almost perfectly. I was going very slow, and one tire slipped for just a moment, then grabbed and we continued to crawl over the rocks. After driving a little further up the trail, I remembered that I had not turned on the sway bar disconnect, so I could have articulated even more, probably avoiding the small slip. I turned off the sway bar, and continued on with no problems.

We finished the trail in about 3 hours, and headed back to the RV Park. I had procrastinated putting all the Kilby gear and the winch on the Jeep, so I decided it is time to get moving on this project. I hoped to get the old bumper and tow bar adapter off and mount the new bumper before the start of the NASCAR race on tv. Unfortunately, the old parts had a different schedule in mind.

When we mounted the tow bar adapter last august, Dale and I struggled to get the plastic trim nuts out on the plastic skid plate, and had to mess them up to get them out. We put in some new ones, but they were even harder to pull out today. I ended up having to pry them up, then chisel them out. Once they were out, I tried to remove the large bolts holding the adapter to the frame. Two of the bolts refused to come out.

I remembered that when we installed the adapter, the kit came with some funky nuts that had a long rod welded to them. We had to slide them in from the front of the bumper mount, then hold them up in front of the frame holes with the long rods while screwing in the bolt. The funky nuts had serrated sides intended to dig into the frame while we tightened them. It worked fine for mounting, but I found that when I tried to take out the bolts, the funky nuts just spun. Grrrrrrr! I was able to get them out by holding the nut, and then hitting the nuts with a chisel to turn them off. It was very tedius, but after about an hour I managed to get all the bolts out, and dropped the adapter and bumper a few minutes after the bolts were out. During the rain delay of the race, I bolted on the bumper. It looks awesome. Makes the tires look larger. Can't wait to see what 35's look like.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to put on the winch and the skid plates. Another day wrenching. Oh, boy!

It's getting late, and I need to pick up the tools and get them locked up.


Friday, February 13, 2009

This Congress Doesn't Suck At All!

No, I'm not talking about the US Congress. They do suck!

We woke up this morning in the North Ranch Escapees Resort in Congress, Arizona. We pulled in late last night, so we didn't really see the place that well. When we woke up this morning, it was really a nice place to be. Just across the street from us was one of the oldest Saguaro (sa-war-0h) Cactus in Arizona. Now, old for Saguaro cactus is really old. They are 80 years old when they sprout their first arm. This particular Saguaro, appropriately named Methusela, was sprouted circa 1600 a.d. This old cactus is home to hundreds of birds. It was nice to hear all the birds chirping this morning.

After checking in, Willa and I walked the grounds. This is a very nice park. It has several parks within it, and lots of interesting walking paths. It adjoins BLM land, so you can hike out on the desert from your RV. This is a very nice place to stay, and the price is only $13.50 per night, plus electric. We are looking forward to our stay here, and to staying in more Escapees parks in the future.

After lunch, Ron (our jeeping neighbor in Quartzsite who invited us here to Congress) asked if I wanted to go get some geocaches in the area. We took the "TrailLimo" and just the two of us went. Ron's wife (Evelyn) and Willa decided to stay in the RV's while we went.

We drove north, to the Junction of highway 71 in Congress, and then took Ghost Town Road up into a canyon. There, we found the ruins of an old mining town and the "Pioneer Cemetary" with a geocache a short walk away. We found the cache right away, and then walked around the cemetary. It was an interesting place.

Many of the graves were too small for adults. Many had "headstones" that were just large pieces of raw quartz or other local rocks with no incriptions on them. Several others did have nice engraved tombstones with dates back in the 1890s. Some were engraved in spanish, and they indicated that the deceased were babies, only months old. It makes you realize how life at the turn of the century was much more fragile than now. Modern medicine has really improved the chances of babies to live, and old age is double what it was then, especially in a remote area like this.

After touring around the roads in the ghost town, we drove up highway 89 and found 4 more geocaches that were just off the highway. One cache was a local landmark called "Frog Rock." This rock formation is especially for those tourists who lack the vivid imagination to interpret natural rock formation landmarks. Frog Rock is painted with genuine bullfrog green paint plus a light underbelly, black spots with white halos, big eyes, and an even bigger mouth. There is a plaque on the rock that reads "In memory of Jerry Owens (Frog) 12/25/1945 - 1/14/1995). I don't think that bullfrogs typically live for 50 years, so I'm thinking this was a guy that was nicknamed frog, rather than a frog named Jerry Owens.
We easily found the cache just over the hill from the green rock. Other than a couple of miles of driving in circles, we fount three other caches with no problems. We enjoyed excellent views from highway 89 as it traversed the peaks above Congress.
Like I said, this Congress doesn't suck, at all. In fact it is a very nice place to park your RV and do some exploring, green frog rocks and all.
To see more pictures of Congress and the surrounding areas, visit my web album at
Gil Meacham

In Kilter, and in Congress, and Contemplating Becoming Outlaws

Yesterday was one hectic day. We got up early (for us) and drove the RV into Phoenix to get the spring work done. After we dropped it off, we did some banking, some siteseeing, and a lot of shopping. Willa had not been in Phoenix before, so I intentionally hit all the different areas of town for our errands. We started in Glendale, where almost everywhere we went we heard either low rider hip hop, or salsa music.

Our business in Glendale was going to the AT&T store and complaining about the crappy G3 network coverage they have and how sketchy the Sierra Air Card is. The good side of our AT&T experience is that we have learned how to exersize our patience and ingenuity much further than we ever had before. Not only is our service painfully slow (less than half the speed we had on land line dial up service) but we also have learned a routine of getting online that goes like: 1) Boot up the laptop 2) Start the ATT comm manager 3) wait for the manager to error with "no device found error 4) Plug in air card 5) Wait for 3 minutes for air card to initialize 6) Wait 3 minutes more while attempting to "Acquire Network", 7) Close ATT comm manager and repeat steps 2-6 several more times 8) If itstill fails, repeat step 1-7. Usually, after doing this, we get online, although it is so slow that sometimes it seems it was hardly worth the effort. Of course, when we tried to demo the problem to the AT&T guy, everything worked better than it ever has. Grrrrrrr!

Then we went to Scottsdale to do some banking. The Scottsdale branch of US Bank is obviously set up for catering to a higher class of clientele than us. Instead of the typical teller line on one side of the bank and officer's desks on the opposite side, this bank has nothing but officers desks strewn about the entire branch. The Branch VP of Operations saw that we were totally out of our realm and took pity on us. He walked up to us and asked if he could help us. When we asked if they have tellers, he smiled and escorted us to one of the executive desks and introduced us to one of the tellers.

The tellers were all seated at desks mingled about the branch. I could imagine how weird it would be to walk up and sit at one of the desks and pull out a jar full of change and ask the teller to open a savings account. Fortunately, we were into a little more impressive tasks, so it was only slightly embarrassing. She also comforted us by telling us that she never judges her clients by the way they dress, telling us that she has learned you really cannot tell who are the haves and the have-nots strictly by their fashion choices. I half agreed with her, but only to a point. If any of the folks we saw in Glendale ever drifted over to her branch, I think she would have to agree they go to different tailors than her clients.

After the slide into the upper crust of Scottsdale, we drove over to Mesa to do research on a ridiculous permit policy adopted by the Arizona State Lands Department.

The state owns a lot of land around the state, and they have determined that it is, apparently, a cash cow. They used to charge a $15 per year permit fee per person to access any of "their" land. That was ridiculous enough, but now they have decided that since they haven't increased the rate for several years, they are now justified to raise it to $50 per person! This means if you just happen to be going to Wickenburg, as we are, and you decide to go on a trail that happens to cross over the state trust land, as we were, you were going to pay $50 per person for a permit. Since this was the only trail we would be on that crossed state lands, it meant we would have to pay $150 for one trail, one day.

I decided to go to a good source for information on this hot topic, and maybe do a little window shopping while I was there, so I went to the 4 Wheel Parts store in Mesa. When I asked about the permits, everyone confirmed that yes, you do have to get a permit, and yes, it does cost way too much, but no, nobody there ever buys them because "we just don't ever run trails that require them." I would have loved to give them a shot of sodium pentathol or hook them up to a lie detector and ask them if they really don't ever drive on trails that requre the permits, because they all were kind of glancing at each other when they said that. It appeared they were not willing to tell me that they think this is stupid and they just go ahead and go on those trails, since they know there aren't the resources to enforce this silly permit process.

The guys at 4 Wheel Parts were nice guys, even if they didn't support the state by buying overpriced permits. They did give me the name and phone number of a person in Mesa that would sell me the required permits, if I decided to buy them. I actually called that person, and it added even more comedy to the topic. The number rang through to a voicemail that was obviously a private residence. The message on the voice mail was "Hi, you have reached the Mullens. Please leave a message and we will call you back." The number was correct, because the name to call was Cindy Mullen, so it was her home. I did leave a message, but she hasn't called back in 24 hours. Maybe I could get a job collecting fees for the state of Arizona. It doesn't seem to require much, and I'm sure the benefits are great. They may even give me a few permits!

After getting the info on the permits and shaming all the 4 Wheel Parts guys, I decided the least I should do is buy something from them, so I picked up a winch for the Jeep. It was the least I could do. Besides, it was kind of Willa's fault, since I asked her to go into the store and she said she would rather stay in the Jeep and wait. Anyway... I needed a winch so I can go into trails and if a ranger comes to give me a ticket for not having a permit I can pull the Jeep up a tree and hide from him. I know that plan isn't totally thought out yet, but I hope to have it worked out before I need to execute it.

After Mesa, we checked out Apache Junction and then passed through downtown and back into the Glendale area to pick up the RV. It wasn't quite done, so we shot up to Costco and paid our monthly visit to the store where everything is such a good deal you buy way to much and go broke. At least the gas was a necessity, and it was only $1.87 a gallon (about 12 cents less per gallon than the rest of the stations in Phoenix.

Back to Betts Spring Company to pick up the RV. Then, we hooked up the Jeep behind the RV and drove the 70 miles to Congress and pulled into our space in the North Ranch Escapees Park well after dark. It was a long day, so I bagged trying to log on with the crappy AT&T air card and just set up the RV, watched a movie, and passed out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rolling down I-10

We woke up early today in order to hit the road and head on over to Phoenix to fix the springs in our leanin' Dolphin. It was a beautiful clear day. Just right for driving down the road. It has been a few months since we hooked up the Jeep behind the RV, so I had to do everything twice to make sure it was done.

The only hitch in that method is when your instructions are "start up the engine and put the shifter in neutral. Put the transfer case in neutral, then shut off the engine and put the shifter in Park." Instructions like that are just plain confusing when you try to do them twice. I elected to just go through the instructions once, then try and drive down the road and see if the wheels on the jeep are turning. If they are, instead, skidding and making smoke roll off them, I would stop and re-execute the instructions.

The bad thing about these instructions is that I wrote them. I can't really sit there with a confused look on my face and say "What idiot wrote these stupid instructions? I can't understand a thing he is saying!" Instead, I have to just look at the instruction, then gaze emptily into space for a moment, and cuss internally about how life gets weirder every day.

One instruction I totally missed putting on my list was a tiny one, but it about gave me a panic attack. I started the RV engine, then shifted the gear from Park to Drive... and it wouldn't budge. I must admit I panicked. I sat there like an idiot, yanking on the shifter as hard as I dare, and it wouldn't move. I tried turning off the key, then restarted the engine, still no luck.

About the time I was ready to call the wrecker and have the RV towed to the shop, I remembered the silly little instruction that wasn't on my list... "Push on the brake pedal." It is totally amazing how much easier it is to shift an auto transmission from Park to Drive when you step on the brake. It's weird that I even had to think of this tiny little technicality, since the last 6 cars I've owned (minus the CJ5)have all been automatic transmissions... and I don't think I've ever, not even once, sat there like an idiot, trying to wrestle the shifter from Park to Drive. It is just a habit. But I guess when you are going through a checklist... you just get a little more literal. Or, maybe it is just the alzhiemers kicking in a little stronger.

When I was younger, I had lots of great excuses for doing dumb things. Either I hadn't had my first cup of coffee, or maybe I was still a little buzzed from last night at the party. Perhaps I hadn't slept enough for the preceeding 3 months and I was getting a little rummy. Now that I'm older, and doing even more dumb things, the only possible reason that seems to make any sense is that I'm getting older, and the onset of all sorts of maladies are upon me.

Once I finally got into Drive the rest of the Journey was quite uneventful. We were lumbering along, leaning to the right, putt putting our way down the road at our usual blazing speed of somewhere between 42 and 59 miles per hour. At that speed, not only do you get to see the scenery, you get to memorize it. Along with that, you also get to see a lot more of the people that are going your way. With the speed limit of 75, I think I saw just about every eastbound vehicle on I-10 this morning as they roared past me.

It is really fun when a big semi passes you at least 30 mph faster than you. The first thing you feel is the motor home is pushed to the shoulder of the road by the huge wave of air that builds in front of a semi. Then, just as you are correcting for being thrown to the shoulder, the suction of the draft along the side of the tractor trailer will suck you ever closer towards it. About then, the truck passes you and the turbulence off the back of the truck will cause you to veer almost anywhere, as long as it isn't where you are trying to steer. Usually, this is only as scarey as it sounds for about the first two or three rigs that fly past you. After that, you just enjoy the excitement of actually having to drive, rather than sit with a flacid steering wheel in your hand and daydream about sitting in the shade on a hot summer day with a cool glass of lemonade watching.... shooooosh! OMG... hang on, Monty. We just missed that one.

After the usual uneventful trip, we ended up in the WalMart parking lot in Buckeye, just west of Phoenix about 20 miles. We spent about 6 hours and a few hundred bucks walking back and forth between the stores in this huge mall.

Tomorrow, we get the springs taken care of. Gee, maybe it will help with the suction from the tractor trailers. I'll let you know!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We're a bit out of kilter here...

I've been procrastinating starting this blog for 5 months. I almost created a blog a few months ago, but I overheard a friend saying that it was egotistical to believe that people would be interested in the daily meanderings of common folks like us. It made me take pause.

Last night, I got a call from JD. now we all have JD to thank for whatever happens now. He motivated me to start the blog.

We spent most of the day getting the RV cleaned up and ready to move on to Phoenix tomorrow. You may ask why we would ever leave this Mecca we call Q. To be sure, it took a mighty good reason:

We are out of kilter. Our RV tends to lean to the right going down the road. It's a spring thing. Our springs are sagging after just 12 years. I figure that my body started sagging when I was about 58. Therefore, RV years are a little under 5 years to 1 human year.

The rv spring sagging problem is made worse by another syndrome. While adjusting my outgo to my lack of income, my wallet seems to get much thinner. Since I usually travel with my wallet in my right rear pocket,the thinner wallet only tends to increase the tilt on my body. I tried stuffing all our travel receipts into my wallet in order to "shim" up on the right side and thus ride a little more level. It seemed to work for a while, but it doesn't help Willa who, of course, doesn't sit on her wallet. I am finding that my posterior is getting tender from having this behemoth blob of a wallet under the right side, so I am going to pull out the receipts and file them. I will offset the lack of cash nor receipts in my wallet by having the springs in the motorhome repaired. I plan to tell the spring guy that I need the right side a little than the left, in order to offset the outgo to pay him.

We took a little time off from our travel prep to go out on the desert this afternoon and take some pictures of some of the interesting campers out in the Long Term Visitors Area. We managed to wander into an area that is, apparently clothing optional. I knew you all would love to see a picture of this area, so I took one for you. The sign says "Attention: Past this sign you may encounter nude sunbathers" Now, we did "encounter nude sunbathers" but I didn't want to bother you with a bunch of wrinkled old retired people with skin like raisins.

We came back to the rv and found that a bunch of my Jeep parts (skid plates and bumper) had arrived from Brad at Kilby Enterprises. I had to put them in storage until we get back from getting the springs fixed. Can't wait to get them bolted on.

To see more pictures of the Long Term Visitors Areas, go to my photo album at
My Picasaweb LTVA pics