Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strong winds & idiots

When we got back to the park yesterday afternoon we were immediately accosted by a very earnest couple who I had never seen before but who must be neighbours in some direction. They had a long tale about some idiot in a very large motorhome who had whacked the side of the bus with the tail end of their trailer. As they got further into the description we recognized the rig as the one that was parking its trailer next to the fence as we entered the park. There's not a bunch of damage to the bus - a couple of scratches that I might not have noticed otherwise. It seems that this pair had blundered their way through the park whacking both us and another coach further up the lane. At that time we had a family staying next to us with a lawyer in their party and Kim had made sure to get all the particulars of the offending coach. It sounds as though she also tried to avert the accident but bozo wasn't paying enough attention to his surroundings to either notice her waving her arms at him or hear her screaming at him until it was too late.

So no big deal -- I said to Marilyn "I hope they come to apologize but there's not much we can do anyway." Sometime in the next couple of years, after we get back from Alaska, we will get the bus repainted and all those minor scratches will disappear at that time. They waited long enough but much later in the evening Mr. & Mrs. Bozo came along to "apologize", although the words "we're sorry" never actually escaped their lips. In fact, after a brief explanation of what had happened they launched into a long series of excuses about why it really wasn't their fault. Part of that explanation included the phrase "after all --- we're 65 feet long". That was the limit of my patience. I explained that perhaps if their rig was really too long to maneuvre in a campground then maybe they should unhook their trailer before entering the campground. That provoked another outburst which concluded with "where are we supposed to unhook?" "Right where you eventually did would have been good. AND WOULD HAVE KEPT YOU FROM WANDERING AROUND THE CAMPGROUND BASHING INTO PEOPLE!!"

This morning I discovered that the reason they pull a 25' trailer behind a 40' motorhome is so they can haul a couple of those loud dune buggy affairs that sound like a pissed off bumblebee and serve no obvious purpose other than to annoy the neighbours and rip up sand dunes so that they drift worse. But I digress. We also noticed that they have an automatic awning exactly like Mel would like to have. Apparently they either don't have the automatic retract feature on it to protect it against wind or they are too stupid to enable that function. The wind has been howling here today but so far it hasn't ripped their awning off. Too bad.

To say the wind is blowing is a serious understatement. The wind is howling loud enough to rock the bus. There's a serious surf blowing in on the beach and only a few beachgoers are dedicated enough to be out there. Mel & Billie want to walk into town to the Dead Fish restaurant for supper but I don't think that's going to happen unless the weather perks up PDQ.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Camarones rellenos (AKA barbequed cholesterol)

You need big shrimps. Make a "C" with your thumb and forefinger. If the shrimp (head off but tail on) isn't clearly bigger than that "C" then it isn't big enough. Devein the shrimp and leave a large slit up the back of the little devil. Cut some wedges out of a big spanish onion and cut some slices of cheddar cheese. The wedges should be roughly 2/3 the length of the back of the shrimp and the cheese should be similarly sized. Lay a slice of bacon on the counter, lay the shrimp on the bacon, stuff some onion into the slit up the back of the shrimp, lay some cheese on top and then wrap the bacon tightly around the whole works to hold it together. You may need to tie everything together with a toothpick. Barbeque the rellenos until the bacon is cooked.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wind, wind and more damn wind

I grew up in Shellbrook, well sheltered in the Parkland of central Saskatchewan. I finished my high school in Regina and hated the 2-1/2 years that I lived there because the damn wind never quit blowing. Manitoba sucks and Alberta blows - poor old Regina is caught halfway in between.

This place isn't much better. The view is dramatically better than anything in Regina. Even the recently dredged Waskana swamp doesn't begin to compete with the dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean that we have out our front window. But I'm getting a little sick of the constant wind. This morning it is at it again, rocking the bus and threatening to rip the neighbours' awnings off. I guess its a good thing we don't have our awning installed yet because we wouldn't be able to use it anyway.

Mel & Billie arrived in the late afternoon yesterday. They got set up and made a grocery run and then we fed them clam linguine for supper. There's enough clam sauce left over and a few clams that didn't make it into the pot last night so we will be having some more clams for lunch today. They've got something planned for us tonight involving calabacitas - we're not sure what that is all about.

Meanwhile we're watching with morbid fascination the rise of the Red River. Sitting here in the Pacific sunshine its hard to believe the icy water and constant snowfall we see on the TV.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Compramos almejas - un momentito Mexicano

I ordered some clams from my fishmonger yesterday but he never showed up at all today. So we made a trip into town and wound our way right downtown to the fish market. Traffic is pretty congested down there and just at the point where I was thinking "now where the hell am I going to park" we spotted a dude standing in the traffic flow wearing white rubber boots. We weren't moving at the moment so I rolled down the window, thinking to ask him where we could park. Instead he asked if we wanted fish. I said no, we wanted small clams. No problem - $5 for 10 pounds. Yep that'll work. So off he jogged across in front of us to a vendor along the sidewalk to my left. About that time traffic started to inch along again so I crept ahead, thinking that I could let the Brinks truck behind me get by but the street wasn't really wide enough for that. One car managed to sneak by but then the truck was next and he couldn't get by. But nobody seemed to care. We had traffic stopped for blocks while we bought our clams but no horns honked, nobody got irate. It only took a few minutes but it was a particularly Mexican moment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mexico lite

We're parked in the front row at Playa Bonita, Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico. And we're surrounded - for the most part anyway - by gringos without enough balls to go to Mexico. This place resembles Mexico but its certainly not Mexico. For one thing we've got 30 amp power and its a strong 30 amp. I've been running the AC hard and running the convection oven over top of the AC. We still haven't tripped the breaker and the voltage is holding up above 110. So this definitely is not Mexico. But it is a very pleasant place nevertheless.

The wind has blown pretty well non-stop ever since we arrived which has diminished our enjoyment of the place but the view out the front window is hard to beat. We've met a couple of the neighbours and hit it off well with them so that is always a bonus. Mel & Billie should be along here either Thursday or Friday, I can't remember exactly when they said they were arriving. There is a steady parade of vendors through the park - and I mean a STEADY parade. I got some tamales from an abuela yesterday and I've got some camarones grandes lined up for tomorrow morning. There's Tecate in the fridge and shrimp for the barbi tonight. Life is good - we like to eat well.

Today I paid Jaime to wash the bus. It wasn't cheap but we sure got our money's worth. $127 US bux got us a complete wash and wax, including the roof. They also polished all the wheels and they are so shiny now you can see yourself in them. I told him it was como tengo seis espejos pero ud. va a necesitar un traductor si no intiendes español. The guys have a pretty good gig going here in the campground. I'm sure there are a lot of payoffs to the campground involved but they do a booming business washing RVs right where they sit. Jaime's crew today consisted of him plus 3 other men and I think they had 3 of us going at the same time. They came around washing first and wiped us dry at that time. Then quite a while later they showed up to put on the wax and once that was done they spent a couple of hours with all four of them working on the aluminum rims.

Busses, Michael & Missiles

This one's kind of out of sequence. Right now we're sitting in the front row on the beach at Playa Bonita RV park in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. We'll get to my opinion of Mexico-Lite a little later but for now I want to put up a few pictures that I took while we were at the GM rally south of Tucson.

This is a shot of the big hole that they take copper out of. The paydirt is something like 300' below the surface so there is a lot of overburden to take off first and then the ore is only 0.6% copper so they need to move a lot of dirt in order to get a pound of copper. The shovel is actually visible in the first photo but it doesn't show up except at extreme magnification. Just for reference though, it is loading a 320 ton truck and it does that with 8 shovel fulls. It drags a massive electrical cable behind it but at this magnification you can't see the cable.

This shot is looking down the Titan missile silo. The silo itself is close to 150' deep; the missile is 103' tall and 10' in diameter. The crew of four lived in hardened quarters down a flight of 55 steps near the bottom of the missile in this picture. The facilities were designed to withstand a nearby missile strike. When the Titan program was dismantled this facility was retained as a museum but from above ground it had to be clear to the Russians that it had in fact been decomissioned. I didn't take pictures of them but there are 3 huge concrete cubes, probably 6 feet on a side positioned so as to block the movable concrete slab that once concealed the silo. Now the cover is rolled halfway back to expose the missile for viewing but the concrete blocks make it obvious from satellite photos that the missile site is no longer operational.

The GM busses attracted a lot of lookie-lous but this old White conversion was also a traffic stopper. I had a brief visit with the owners who were returning to Kamloops, BC from a winter at Teacapan, Sinaloa.

The rally was put together by Larry & Carol Hall. They were the perfect hosts through the weekend to the point of inviting us all out to their ranch for dinner on Saturday night. That evening was capped by entertainment from Michael & Christi Hargis.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Las migras

So yesterday was a pretty sleepy morning here on the Desert Diamond parking lot. Don had been by earlier walking the dog, a few of the group were gathered around Larry & Carol’s bus munching doughnuts and sipping coffee, I had the outside access panel off on our fridge and was fiddling with it. I heard the sound of feet running on the sand behind the bus and looked up in time to see two young latino men jog by followed by an out of shape INS guy in full green border patrol garb. The latinos didn’t look to be running that fast but they may just have been tired. The INS guy wasn’t cut out for running. It wasn’t that he was overweight but more that his left leg was going southeast while his right leg went southwest. It was the most awkward gait I have ever seen and clearly wasn’t serving him well in this pursuit.

When I stuck my head around the front of the bus there were two more migras with two more young men but these border guards were much better pursuers and they had their captives worn out. They ended up taking them down in the middle of the parking lot, more or less right in front of where we are parked.

Meanwhile Marilyn had another view of the incident. She was sitting in the group in front of Larry & Carol’s bus when a young latino man appeared around the back of Larry’s bus and promptly sat down in one of the vacant lawn chairs. It was a pretty good plan – insinuate himself into an open conversation and escape detection in broad daylight – but it didn’t work quite that way. While Marilyn & I may have some sympathy for the plight of the Mexican illegals, there is no sympathy in the rest of this group and the newfound friends quickly encouraged the young latino to move on. Of course when he did he immediately got caught.

The two that had gone by our bus with the goofy runner in pursuit were eventually followed by two more INS guys but I didn’t see any sign that they had ever found anyone. Later in the morning I saw the INS climbing onto a 4WD pickup and leaving so I thought the adventure was over. In the early afternoon though there was a helicopter hovering over our buses and the area behind us. There’s a helo that comes and goes from the casino but this was a different one and eventually it flushed out the remaining two illegals who were loaded up in front of where we are parked.

Larry and Carol have done a superb job of entertaining us at this rally – a Titan Missile site tour, the Arasco copper mine tour, entertainment by Michael Hargis and their own incredible hospitality at their ranch but the live INS takedown was over the top. I doubt that anybody will ever top that one at any rally anywhere.

There’s all sorts of theories going through the group about what we saw. I was puzzled by the lackadaisical running that I saw from the first two guys that went by. In general it didn’t seem that any of the group were trying that hard to escape but it may just have been a hot day and they may just have been played out. Assuming they had walked across the border they had already covered over 50 miles of desert on foot. Apparently the other possibility is that they may have been ready to be caught. The drug mules make their way across the border and quickly stash their illicit cargo in some agreed upon location. At that point they are ready to be caught and sent home. They get caught, hauled to Tucson, fingerprinted, fed and then loaded on a bus to be shipped back to Nogales. If I had been out on the desert fending for myself for a couple of days I might be pretty well ready to be caught too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Meeting new people

We’ve been sitting on the parking lot behind the Desert Diamond Casino at exit 80 south of Tucson for a couple of days now. There’s a converted coach rally here hosted by the Western GM bus group. I know Larry is disappointed by the low turnout but for our own selfish interests a small group like this is much better for meeting new people. In a large gathering like we were part of at Arcadia there are established groups of people who hang out together and it can be very hard or impossible for newbies to break into the social circles that have existed for years or even decades. In a small group like this everybody gets to know everybody else and some of those cliques that are so annoying in the larger gatherings no doubt get started in small gatherings like this one. So we are delighted that these GM guys let us crash their party. We did put temporary GM tags on the front of the parlez-vous bus but nobody seems to be fooled.

Today we toured Arasco’s open pit copper mine which is more or less directly across the interstate from where we are parked. They did an exceptional job on the tour. The guide managed to make a canned presentation sound fresh and wove a fascinating tale that conveyed a lot of information about mining in general, the history of copper mining in Arizona and the specifics of this particular mine. He did a particularly good job of reducing the complexities of the primary processing to language that we could understand. This mine uses a completely mechanical process to reduce the 0.6% ore to a 28% concentrate that is then further refined in other locations. Traditional primary refining processes would use acid to accomplish that same task.

The refining process was presented as a more environmentally friendly alternative to the conventional processes that some of Arasco’s competitors continue to employ. I would never profess to understand the environmental science well enough to agree or disagree with that opinion. On the surface the argument makes sense but there is far too much environmental junk science being practiced.

Too many people lack the intellectual discipline as well as the mental acuity to understand the core science but are nevertheless willing to hold strong opinions about environmental practices. It seems that every company has jumped on the green bandwagon and is trumpeting their environmental successes. I’m a firm believer that increasing gross domestic product is the best environmental defense any nation can hope for. I also don’t believe that man has had as negative an impact on the environment as the enviro-quacks would like us to believe. I’m therefore profoundly skeptical when anybody tells me that this process or this piece of technology is fundamentally better for the environment than whatever it is replacing. Nevertheless it was fascinating to see how the rock that comes out of the pit in chunks as big as a TV set gets inexorably and inevitably reduced to a greenish black scum floating on the surface of a settling pond. The “chemicals” involved in that transformation are pine oil, soybean oil and a small amount of lime used as a pH regulator.

We’ve been avoiding starting our generator because it is noisy, dirty and so far not essential but I am going to have to run it for a while tomorrow morning. Our little Kubota which was also noisy, dirty and hard to start hasn’t been with us for close to a year now. I pulled it out last spring while we sat on the pad in front of the garage and hauled it off to the Super Uke for a rebuild. Nipawin readers will know that Super Uke is a local legend for his ability to fix all things John Deere and Chev related. I wasn’t sure that he would even agree to work on a lowly Kubota but I phoned and begged. He agreed to work on it but that work of course progresses at Byron’s pace which has nothing whatsoever to do with my timetable. I assumed when I dropped the generator off that it would be gone for at least 6 months and it now looks like it will be slightly over a year from the time I took it out until I get it back. The consolation is that it will be perfect when it comes back.

I will however have to do some considerable reworking on the control systems for the generator once it comes back. I caught hell from the Super Uke about a month ago now because my generator starts and goes more or less immediately to governed RPMs. That’s pretty well standard operating practice for generators. They start and immediately go to work. That’s obviously not the best practice for a diesel engine but there are literally 100s of thousands of them in use across North America doing just that. Mine will no longer be allowed to do that.

The alternative to making some changes is that, if something goes wrong with my generator, I will have to explain why I didn’t change the control systems. And I’m not willing to have that conversation with Byron. Truth is – I’d be afraid to have that conversation. So sometime this spring I will pick up the generator which is now completely overhauled and I will then install it back into the bus in some kind of a soundproof box. Then I will redesign the control systems for the generator so that it can start and run for 10 minutes to warm up before I put it under load. I may even use some LEDs and resistors in that new control system.

In the absence of our Kubota we have been getting by with the CCC (Cheap Chinese Crap) generator that I bought at a Hodgins sale last spring. This thing while it is painted Honda red bears little resemblance to the Honda that it is obviously knocked off of. It is extremely loud and it has taken to puking oil smoke out in huge quantities. We ran it a lot while we were getting out of the Canadian deep freeze last winter and it apparently didn’t like that. I’m really dreading the stink and noise that it will make today but the alternative is running the 8-92 and that is even noisier and way less efficient so CCC it will be.

I just finished reading “The Max Ward Story” which is the autobiography of Max Ward’s aviation career. It is a depressing account of Canadian regulatory mismanagement and Liberal interference with private enterprise. It is obviously the world according to Max and has to be read with that caveat in mind but it is impossible to ignore the heavy handed bureaucratic meddling that it exposes. Canadian business labours under the weight of an omnipresent bureaucracy and western Canadian business is doubly hamstrung first by the overly regulated Canadian environment and second by eastern interference with and resentment of anything that comes from west of Toronto.

It is informative and not surprising to see that Don Mazankowski, the western “Minister of Everything” in the Mulroney cabinet, is the only politician in the book that comes out whole. Otto Lang, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien live up to their reputations for duplicity, lethargy and self aggrandizement. I’ve got a few books that I rescued from mom & dad’s library when they moved to Vic Park. This one was a frustrating read but well worth rescuing. It also reinforced my conviction to never again fly on an Air Canada flight.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Americans may want to skip this post

Its been a while since I read "The Mystery of Capital" by Hernando De Soto. I won't do justice in 1 page to what takes De Soto over 150 pages, but his thesis is that capitalism as we understand it is underpinned by a host of social norms, policies and procedures that we take for granted. For example, we have a street address and a central property registry which means that a bank can quickly determine whether we actually own a given piece of property and can be reasonably confident that they can send bills to our street address and know we will receive them. From that he builds a case that capitalism and the ability to use assets in a financial sense grows from the most basic civic infrastructure.

That all makes sense to me and I have always assumed that those structures were North American in scope and reasonably consistent across all of North America. De Soto certainly implies that they are. I therefore have been reading with some measure of horror the tales that people down here are telling about selling their RVs, purchasing new RVs and then discovering that the lien on their old RV is still in place or that a previously unknown lien is registered against the unit they thought they had bought. (I'm not sure if you can read that one without being an Escapees member but you can read this one for sure and it is similar - give it time, it takes a while to load.)

I read these tales with a bit of smugness because I don't think that can happen in Canada if the buyer exercises the most basic diligence. We have central property registries that weren't set up to guard against that eventuality but, as De Soto explains, effectively do prevent more than one person from claiming the same asset. The US has carefully guarded the rights of the States but apparently the preservation of State rights may have come at the expense of protection of the individual citizen. It appears to this outsider that there is a lack of consistency in how the individual states handle property registration and that leaves the opportunity for deliberate or inadvertent abuse of the system.

There's a reason why the Canadian banks have weathered the current financial storm much better than their American counterparts. That reason appears to be our different regulatory regime. I hesitate to label our regulators better or wiser although they appear to have better served us in the current financial environment. The question is what happens in the next months or years. If the most basic underpinnings of US capitalism are rotten then the worst may be yet to come down here.

Sunshine, memories and other miscellany

The sun hasn't actually showed itself yet but the rain seems to be letting up. I've said 100 times that there's no good comes of looking at or listening to weather forecasts but I broke down and checked Accuweather and it looks promising. The trouble with weather forecasts is that, when you look at them, you either like what's coming or you don't. And then down the road it either does what the forecast said it would or it doesn't. No matter what the outcome, checking a forecast just increases the odds you are going to be disappointed either with the forecast, with the eventual outcome or with the correlation between the forecast and the outcome. Somebody once told me that there is a higher statistical correlation between subsequent day's weather than there is between the forecast weather and the actual weather. If that is true then you are further ahead to look at the sky and assume tomorrow will be similar. It that turns out to be the case then tomorrow will be gray and foreboding but not actually raining.

We've got about 5000 images on a memory card playing on our Sony picture frame. We've got another one that doesn't hold nearly as many images - maybe 3 or 400. That one gets tiresome because we recognize the pictures and can almost predict which one comes next. The Sony has enough that we still see segments that aren't familiar. Its set up on an endless loop so it keeps cycling through the card. Lately I've noticed myself watching it intently when pictures of Mother appear. Particularly when she was younger. I've got a lot of father's scanned slides on that card and the bulk of them come from the Shellbrook years when they were in their 40's, younger then than we are now. Its hard for children to remember that their parents were once younger than they presently are.

Life is a one way highway ending in the cemetary. At times I envy people of faith their certainty that there is something else beyond the cemetary but I don't share that faith and I don't envy the lack of critical thinking that gets too many of them to that point. We have made a conscious decision to enjoy this period of our lives to the fullest because neither one of us believes there is something better waiting for us and we believe it is important to grab as much life as possible while it is present. Slowly, inexorably we move toward the point where we will gather as an extended family, look around the room and realize that we are the "old ones". When we reach that point we intend to have our heads full of memories of places, people and adventures that will sustain us to whatever the end turns out to be.

I suppose this black train of thought has been driven by father and Anne's deterioration over the last couple of years. In father's case the deterioration has been slow but steady for 2 years now. Its hard to pin down time but I can clearly remember father striding down to the basement of Broadway Terrace in the fall of 2007 when we stopped there with Karla's parents. I can't remember exactly what he wanted us to take from the storeroom at that time but I clearly remember how he walked to get down there. In Anne's case it is a scant two years since Christmas 2006 when we took her to Regina with us. In both their cases the physical deterioration in that time has been extreme. In Anne's case the mental deterioration hasn't been nearly as dramatic but even that durable old brain is starting to let her down now.

This morning between rain squalls that knocked out our satellite service I ordered a Wilson cell antenna and booster. I'm not 100% sure how I am going to mount that once it arrives but I'll figure something out. Our cell antenna situation has been like a leaky roof - when we have cell coverage I didn't worry about improving it and when we didn't have cell coverage it was too late to fix the problem. I did try valiantly to fix it at Arcadia. I thought I was in luck - there was an actual vendor there - at least that's what he called himself - idiot would have been a more accurate description.

This guy had a little display set up with Wilson antenna advertising and something else - I can't remember what else he was trying to sell. I sincerely hope he was more successful selling whatever else it was because he will surely starve to death if he is depending on his Wilson sales to put food on the table. I spent about half an hour with this clown before eventually figuring out that I was dealing with a complete fool.

The last straw was when I asked him how I was going to hook my Blackberry up to the Wilson antenna that he was going to sell me. He said, "Oh they make an adapter cable for that." That made sense. Then he wanted to look at my Blackberry. I said "Its a Blackberry". Blank look. He needs to look at it. So he turns it over and peers at the back and the bottom and the sides of it and then announces that it is a Qualcomm 3G CDMA. Strange that, I always thought it was a Blackberry Curve. It does have Qualcomm printed on the battery cover but I'm guessing when he phoned his Wilson contact and told him what kind of phone I had the guy said "Huh?" It seemed completely beyond his understanding that the word "Blackberry" was in any way important so I'm betting he phoned his guy and gave him the Qualcomm name and nothing else.

I left the proposed sale in his court and he said he would get back to me. Either he couldn't find any information to get back to me with or he has a worse memory than the cat because we ended up spending time together at Jack & Paula's and he never brought the subject up again. For my part I had already decided I was dealing with an idiot and I wasn't about to go out of my way to give an obvious fool my money. Today I asked for and got a recommendation for an online vendor, placed the order and had it shipped to some friends in Arizona. If all goes well I'll figure out how to mount it while we are in Mexico. Or maybe we'll end up mounting the long awaited awning and the cell phone booster at the same time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And the beat goes on

Today I paid my Sasktel Mobility account online. Then I went into Quickbooks to record the transaction. When I entered Sasktel as the vendor up popped an amount that didn't match what my account statement said I had paid last month. What the hell??? So after a bit of checking it turns out that Sasktel was trying to steal $106.27 from me. Maybe "steal" is a bit harsh - that implies intent and that would require a measure of intelligent thought that I am loath to ascribe to Sasktel. Its obviously just ongoing incompetence but the effect is the same.

For those who missed the original incident the details are posted here.

Sasktel claims that they didn't actually steal $106 from me - they just were too incompetent to get my payment posted for 5 days after it left my Credit Union account. Since their "system" is too primitive to let me see what is actually going on in it until over a month after the fact I have no way of verifying or contradicting what they claim they have done. Based on my history with them I am unwilling to take their word at face value.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The people get the government they deserve

Does anybody ever actually listen to the stuffed shirt currently living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? I mean really listen to the words that come out of his mouth and try to discern a meaning revealed (or concealed) in the sentences he speaks? His speeches are full of "transparency" and "meeting the challenge" but they simply don't make sense. If you really listen to what he says it comes up zero. Other than blaming everything on Bush and promising a better tomorrow the man's words are without substance.

Newsflash: THE ELECTION IS OVER. YOU WON. You don't have to fight the election anymore but you do have to lead.

We can only hope that Obama turns out to be another Jimmy Carter flash in the pan who is followed by a strong Republican who actually knows how to lead.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Florida in the rearview mirror

I guess we enjoyed our time in Florida but the weather was a major disappointment. We’ve now crossed three states since leaving Florida – Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana - and we’re starting the long grind across Texas. It’s pretty daunting when you enter the state and the mile markers start at 880.

Monday night we squatted on a Walmart parking lot on the east side of Houston. We left Gautier, MS early Monday morning after stopping at the Thousand Trails membership transfer office in that sleepy little town to pick up our membership materials for our Thousand Trails campground membership. We’ve been researching membership campgrounds since we started on this great adventure but hadn’t got serious about buying one until this winter. I started out by bidding on a couple on ebay but got outbid. I was kicking myself one night because I had an opportunity to exercise the buy-it-now option on a membership at $350 but thought I could steal it for less. That one ended up fetching over $450.

I kept looking and eventually stumbled onto one on Craigslist somewhere in Texas that the guy wanted to give away. Its hard to beat the price on a freebie but we have learned that these memberships come in a host of different flavours and you really have to know what you are getting. I’m sure there will still be some surprises along the way but so far we are pretty pleased with ourselves. In exchange for $1000 US in transfer fees we have the right to camp for 50 nights free of charge in about 40 locations down the west coast, across the gulf and up the east coast of the US. Next year we will have to pay $500 to keep our membership current. If we go over our allotted 50 nights the extra nights cost us $5 per each. We can spend up to 14 nights in one location and then have to leave that location for a week but we can go directly to another location in the “system”.

The flaw is that there is only one campground in Canada that is part of the Thousand Trails system but that one happens to be located in Cultus Lake, BC so there’s nothing wrong with that for a location. We’re locked into a 10 year contract at $500 per year so that could get tiresome but we already know that these things are saleable for over $400 if you know how to do it. There are some of the same memberships advertised on ebay for over $3000 but I have to believe those are owned by fools. These things are like timeshares – there is a lot of money in them for the guy that is selling them.

So today we settled into Colorado River campground – which is on the Colorado River halfway between Houston & San Antonio, TX. We had intended to hotfoot it across Texas to Mojave and get our awning installed before going to Mexico but I talked to Clifford a couple of times in the last two days and we are now waiting for some essential parts to arrive so the awning will have to wait until we get back from Mexico. That’s not all bad because it eased the time pressure for the run across Texas – which you may remember is 880 miles.

The campground is located well away from any other signs of civilization, about 6 miles off the interstate. They call these places “Preserves” and they do a good job of maintaining a natural appearance. There’s lots of trees, relatively large sites and lots of green space between the sites. On the downside the cell coverage is crap but we will cope with that and the wind has blown steadily since we arrived. We’re both still scratching the hundreds of bug bites we got in Gautier so a little wind isn’t all bad.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Riveting place

Yesterday we moved and ended up here. Today Mike & I are going to tackle replacing some of the mild steel rivets that doofus put in the bus when he did the original conversion. It looks like he replaced a few of the stainless steel panels but ran out of SS rivets. So he just used mild steel rivets and kept on going. I'm sure that looked OK the day he did the job but its looking a bit rough now. Mike has a couple of air power riveters. I'd never even seen an air powered riveter until last night and he has two of them. He's also got a seriously well equipped bus shop, complete with an L10 Cummins that he pulled out of one of his two spare parts busses.

Friday morning Mike & I did the rivet job. That went surprisingly quickly. I have put pop rivets in with a hand rivetter and it is a tiresome process, particularly with SS rivets. The SS rivets are much harder to pop than a mild or aluminum rivet. But not so with the air gun - one squeeze and they are popped. So by noon all the rivets were done and we were looking for another project. Which turned out to be tearing down a comm tower that Mike had scrounged from a neighbour.

If it had been me I'd have been up the tower with a chunk of 3/8" rope around my waist and another one to lower the sections but Mike is quite a bit more focussed on safety. He had a complete climbing harness with safety lanyards and a work belt. We spent the afternoon tearing down the tower and hauled it home in time to have supper.

Yesterday we left Mike & Diane's place and headed west out the Florida panhandle. For the next couple of weeks we don't really have a destination but we wanted to put a few miles behind us over the weekend. Last night we holed up in a rest area just west of the FL/AL border. This morning we crossed Alabama - all 60 miles of it - and entered Mississippi. We found a nice state park outside Gautier where we are spending the night waiting for the Thousand Trails membership transfer office to open in the morning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sasktel incident update

Regular readers will remember this link and may have been wondering whether anything ever came of it. Well not much did. Early this afternoon I got a nice personal note from Robert Watson's email responder person In that note Mr. Watson's apologist accepted no direct responsibility for any of the havoc he created but hey, at least he responded. Or so I thought.

At the same time as I posted the original link I also sent an email to the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff. I happen to have Ken's email address, having met with him on a few occasions and Ken just happens to be minister of crown corporations. What a fortunate coincidence I thought.

Less than an hour after I received the aforementioned note from Mr. Watson's apologist I received a note from Ken's EA acknowledging my earlier email and indicating that he had been informed that Mr. Watson had already contacted me and that the matter was resolved. Translation for those of you that haven't been paying attention (or those of you who are less cynical/realistic than I am):

  • Mr. Watson had no intention whatsoever of even acknowledging my existence let alone responding to me.
  • Somebody from Ken's office contacted Mr. Watson.
  • Mr. Watson either fessed up that he had done nothing or lied saying that he had already contacted me.
  • Either way I immediately got an email from Watson's office.
  • That's probably as good as I could have hoped for.

The magic silver spoon

The new photo on the front page is of Jorgito pointing out the magic silver dipper that always has his favorite food in it.

This post is really just an excuse to try out Google maps by pointing out our current location which of course we will be leaving on Thursday.

That worked rather well didn't it? For those of you who aren't acquainted with Google Maps, notice the little man at the top of the slider on the left side of your map. If he is yellow then you can drag and drop him on the map and he will give you a street level view from that location. Neat, eh?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

National emergency

I thought I should point out the dangerous state of affairs that CBC just revealed to me. Some of you may not have seen the report so I felt it was my duty to repeat it. Apparently there is mold on the walls of some homes on an Indian reserve in BC. Maybe that's a "first nation" - whatever - its a first nation with moldy walls. Apparently its a national disgrace. Some pimple faced junior politician from BC is all over it. Evidently she hasn't heard about bleach.

If only we had known. When we were in the middle of selling the acreage last November Hughene noticed that we had black mold on the walls of the cold room. Obviously I should have phoned CBC. Instead I foolishly got out the bleach and a mop. About 10 minutes later the walls were white and the mold was dead. Little did I know what an opportunity I was missing to participate in a national emergency.