Thursday, November 25, 2010

Car vs bus = car loses

We tried to wait out the stormy weather in the Pacific Northwest and it looked like we had succeeded on Monday so we set out to return our rental car and head east across Snoqualmie and whatever other passes lay between us and Montana. It was a pretty decent day when we left La Conner but by the time we hit I-5 there was snow on the road and it kept falling as we headed south toward Seattle. 

We got the car returned and we southbound again in fairly heavy traffic, probably at the tail end of the morning rush hour.  We were in the 2nd lane out from the right in four lanes of traffic.  I became aware of a car coming up on the left and watched as he all of a sudden went out of control.  I assume he was probably yapping on a cell phone, made a fast move on the wheel and then things went bad for him.  At first I thought he would smack us right under the ticket window but then he got crosswise headed toward the shoulder.  I couldn’t go anywhere so I kept looking ahead and checking him occasionally as he drifted broadside down the highway.  Eventually he got going broadside with his nose pointed back at us.  By that time he was likely about even with the middle of the bus and I noticed at that point that he was steering into the skid – funny the things you focus on in those situations.  I looked ahead and then checked the mirror in time to see him arrive in the side of the bus.

There was an explosion of red plastic as he hit and it was a pretty hard hit.  Hard enough to knock a corning ware casserole off the counter onto the hardwood where it shattered into a million shards of glass.  As he hit I could see another vehicle bearing down on his passenger side and then I had to stay focused on getting us safely over to the shoulder and stopped.

When I got out to survey the damage I couldn’t believe how little there really was.  We’ve got a mangled piece of stainless steel on the back wheelwell trim but that’s really the only visible damage.  He must have hit the driver’s corner of his front bumper squarely on the end of the tag axle.  That punched out the chrome hubcap on the tag as well as the plastic site gauge on the oil bath cap.  That was all I could see for damage at the time and 3 days later that’s still all I know of.

I didn’t want to chance walking across the interstate to get back to the scene of the crime and I also didn’t want to sit on the side of the busy highway because we almost certainly would have been hit again.  But my alternatives weren’t great either.  I could leave the scene but that didn’t seem wise.  There was an onramp from the weigh scale just ahead of me so I elected to pull ahead to the onramp and then illegally back up the ramp.  I had to wait a while for a break in the truck traffic across the scale but when I got my chance that is what I did.  One truck waited on the scale for maybe an extra minute to hold up the traffic behind him and we were back in the scale parking lot. 

Johnny G-Man the scale operator was not impressed.  I could see him come storming out of his little cage so I waited for him to come up beside the bus.  He proceeded to read me the riot act about how what I had done was an automatic $550 fine and yadyadayada.  When he finally ran down I apologized but pointed out that I didn’t really have any good options.  He may not have realized that we had been hit.  He muttered something about how we should have pulled to the side of the interstate but I didn’t let that lie unchallenged and then he told me to wait where I was until the trooper arrived.  Since that had been my plan all along I didn’t argue.

When the trooper arrived, after driving the wrong way up the same ramp with his lights off he seemed genuinely puzzled as to why I was apologizing for doing what I had done.  He did his report as best he could.  His computer didn’t have any province codes for Canada other than BC so our addresses showed up on the report as Buchanan, BC.  Canada Post should have fun with that if they ever try to mail us anything.  Since our damage was so insignificant I didn’t sweat it.

The trooper said that both of the other drivers were charged but we were just innocent bystanders.  That seemed a little harsh for the poor sap who plowed into the side of the jackass that started the whole mess but I didn’t argue with him.  The car that hit us would no doubt have been a total loss.  There was at least $2000 of plastic flew off it when it hit us and then it got seriously damaged.  I estimate our damage at maybe $200 total.

We found a nearby campground in Everett and pulled in there while we figured out what to do next.  When I checked the weather the passes appeared to have gone completely to hell again.  I-90 was back to chainup in a couple of locations.  Apparently I am 52 years old, although I find that hard to believe.  In those 52 years I have never hung chains on a vehicle and I don’t see any reason to learn now.  I carry chains in the micro-truck just to keep us legal but of course we forgot to take them out when we left the truck in Billings. 

Eventually we decided that we would head north rather than east.  We crossed the border back into Canada at Sumas around noon on Tuesday and then headed east along Highway #3.  That’s not a great way to get across the rockies but it appeared to be a warmer route than going up through Banff.  It also dumped us out in Alberta right at our Holiday Trails campground in Lethbridge which is where we are now, plugged into 50 amp service waiting for the bus to thaw out again.  There’s a howling blizzard blowing outside as the chinook wind blows into Alberta but its not all that cold anymore.  We had intended to rent a car and go to Billings today but the road conditions sound like it will be best to postpone that plan. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Famous quotes

I am fond of quoting Ratty’s wisdom on the merits of messing about in boats.  Its pretty surprising therefore that I completely failed to notice the framed quotation below while we were looking at Gray Hawk.  Today when we came onboard I almost immediately noticed it hanging below the chronograph and barometer on the aft wall of the salon.

IMG_3808 We had no intention of coming back to the boat.  On Thursday when we said goodbye we fully expected to be on the road east today.  The weather forced us to change our plans.  There’s been wicked snow in the PNW and the Cascade passes have been hard hit.  We reluctantly moved our departure back.  Reluctantly because we both have a heavy schedule on the prairies and every day we delay makes our time there more hectic.

Having decided we were going to stay out here at least until Monday we were actually looking forward to a down weekend in the bus.  However when we got home last night we had no water.  That wasn’t a huge problem because our tank wasn’t empty but it wasn’t full either.  I had planned to fill both tanks before we left here but hadn’t got around to doing it.  Then the broker phoned last night to say that all the title documents were registered and that we could pick them up at his office if we were back in town.  We had also received confirmation of our insurance which was the last step necessary for the marina to issue us our parking passes and gate access codes.

So we decided to have a leisurely morning and drive in to pick up the papers.  That didn’t quite work out either because this morning the camp manager came around to say that they might not get their water back on at all for some time.  After hearing that we decided that if we were going to be at home in the bus with no water we might as well be on the boat where we could have showers and start to get settled in.

Over the years that we have been RVing we have often used Walmart parking lots for overnight stops.  Some people really abuse Walmart’s corporate hospitality but for us it is always an overnight stop or maybe an overnight and leisurely morning departure.  We don’t put down the jacks, get out the barbeque and set up lawn chairs under the awning on their parking lot.  Unfortunately a few people do, hard as it is to imagine why they would want to.  Anyway, we have parked for free at Camp Wallymart many times over the last 15 or so years but today we paid at least some of our debt.

We needed a variety of boat supplies, everything from tools to kitchen utensils.  We didn’t buy everything today but we put a big hole in it.  Then we stopped at West Marine and picked up the two most expensive tubes of caulking compound I have ever bought – 40 bucks for the pair of them and they weren’t particularly big.  They say a boat is a hole in the water which you pour money into and today we dumped several boat bucks into our new hole in the water.

There’s a couple of leaks on Gray Hawk but I think we got one of them today.  The previous owner did a wonderful job of varnishing all the brightwork this summer (brightwork is boat talk for wood on the outside of the boat).  But he didn’t recaulk the front windows.  I can only assume it was an oversight – he has a new boat in his life after all.  Today we got a weather break – the sun shone all morning and it didn’t rain at all.  We were seriously outside the temperature window for the expensive caulk but we put it on anyway.  When we get back in January we’ll know whether it worked or not. 

The brokers bought us a bottle of champagne so tonight we are toasting our new boat with champagne.  This has been almost a life long dream for me.  I can remember dreaming it while we were still living in Shellbrook and I was 14 when we left there.  For Marilyn it was a case of supporting my dream and then eventually adopting it as her own.  As Ratty said “there’s nothing so absolutely worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Too late to back out now

What a whirlwind of activity the past week has been.  A week ago today we went to Seattle to look at Gray Hawk for the first time.  The Yachtworld listing this morning shows “sale pending” but I’m not sure what is pending about this sale because the documents will likely be registered this afternoon, Monday at the latest.  We’re actually scrambling to get insurance in place before the sale closes.  We ran into a hiccup on that front yesterday but hope that is behind us this morning.

For those of you who haven’t voted on the name change, what are you waiting for?   The poll is here.  I won’t divulge the results so far for fear of influencing the outcome but I will say that it is a dead heat so every vote counts.  Thank you RJ for the helpful suggestions that we won’t be following.  We particularly liked “Two Geriatrics and a Cat”.  It might be a little hard to rattle off on the VHF but it would provide the Coast Guard with a detailed list of what they were looking for.

Today we hope to make it to the Pacific Marine Expo.  It will have a whole new meaning for us.  At one point I thought I would be attending to look for suppliers for equipment upgrades or repairs.  However every item I thought we would need has turned out to be already onboard.  The boat is incredibly well equipped and the mechanicals are in excellent condition.  I’m going to have the injectors tested and likely will end up having them rebuilt but so far that is the only major problem we have found and even that one is pretty minor.  We’ve also got some rainwater leaks around windows to caulk but that is pretty well a given on a boat of this size and age.


Last night we said goodbye to the boat for an undetermined length of time.  If the forecast storm allows us to we will be heading east in the morning to pick up the trucklet in Billings.  If the forecast turns out to be accurate then we might still spend the weekend here but we will be in recovery mode and won’t likely go back to the boat.  It’s been a very hectic seven days.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buying a boat continued

We’re getting to know downtown Seattle pretty well.  Yesterday we left La Conner just late enough to miss most of rush hour – that’s how well we know the place, we know when rush hour starts and finishes.  We met Don Fairchild at the Costco south of Qwest Centre and took him out to look at Gray Hawk.  For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Don is one of the foremost authorities on 2-stroke Detroits in North America.  In that capacity he sees mostly marine installations and since I knew he was going to be in Seattle anyway I asked him if he would have a look at Gray Hawk’s engine room with me.

I don’t think either the marine survey or Don & my mechanical survey turned up anything that we didn’t know already.  The boat is 30 years old so it’s no virgin.  It’s got old systems and some of them need some work.  The marine survey confirmed what we already suspected, namely that the boat is in excellent condition notwithstanding its age. 

The trip over and back to Seaview Marina was our first experience at sea on this size of a vessel.  Both of us and the boat handled it well.  The Naiad stabilizers are simply amazing.  The sea conditions weren’t bad when we left the dock but by the time we got home they were getting pretty snotty.  The stabilizers performed as advertised.  Without them engaged we were rolling through 30 or 40 degrees.  When we engaged the Naiads there would be a moment of hesitation while the gyro got orientated and then the boat would literally snap back to under a 10 degree roll.  You could easily feel the fins take control.

Jerry-the-surveyor did his woodpecker routine over the entire hull and pronounced it sound.  For those of you who don’t know, marine surveyors spend a lot of their time going tap-tap-tap with a small hammer over the entire hull, the interior scantlings and the interior woodwork looking for voids or rot.  I had expected to see at least some underwater fibreglass blisters because they are ubiquitous on hulls of this age but there absolutely were none.  He found a small amount of active interior rot and evidence of some previous  window leakage.  We already knew about the window leakage and I had assumed there must be at least some rot that we weren’t aware of so we really didn’t learn a lot from that. 

Jerry-the-surveyor had a few comments about the engines but the visit yesterday with Don was much more informative.  Lehman 120s (which is what we have for power) are dead reliable workhorses.  I’ve seen lifespans between total rebuild as high as 25,000 hours quoted and 12-15,000 hours seems to be a normal expectation.  That means that at 4200 hours on ours we shouldn’t have to budget any in-frames in the near future.  There are some unique maintenance requirements though, including a requirement to change the oil in the injection pump sump every 50 hours.  I doubt these have ever been changed which may explain why they are fairly hard starters now.  It sounds like even with regular pump oil changes the injection pumps would be due for a rebuild by now so that will be an early priority.

The other thing that the sea trial and haulout confirmed is just how massively built these boats really are.  I have heard many people say that their Defever will take way more than they can stand and I’m sure that will be true for us as well.  The picture above shows my Blackberry leaning against the fibreglass cutout saved from when the bowthruster was installed.  Seeing the boat hanging in the slings at haulout it was clear that there is just about as much boat underwater as there is above water.  Our captain for the trip remarked on how well the boat handled but also commented that it behaved like a deep draft vessel.  On his own boat he is accustomed to scooting the bow sideways with his bow thruster.  On ours he noted that it was much slower to respond to the bow thruster because of its deep keel but particularly because of its deep forefoot.

The next step is to get insurance in place and take possession.  Yesterday we made arrangements to have the boat hauled so that we can do some work on it in January.  There’s nothing major that needs to be done but there are some zincs that need changing, some coolant hoses that have deteriorated, I’d like to change the raw water impellers and I may pull the injection pumps and have them rebuilt.  It’s a machine so it’s going to need service.  My goal is always to do that as maintenance rather than as repairs.  Some days I’m more successful than others.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We need help

OK – not that kind of help.

It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat but SWMBO says that we are going to change it anyway.  The options are as follows:

Baylurker Bayliner makes a spectacularly bad line of “value priced” multi-purpose boats.  As Malibu-snobs we have learned to look down our nose at Bayliners and I have dubbed them Baylurkers or worse.  The name however has some appeal for a go-slow boat that will spend it’s life lurking in bays.
Vamonos Spanish – from the verb “ir” which means “to go”.  Vamonos is the plural present tense of ir.  Grammatically the correct usage would be “nos vamonos” or “we go” but “vamonos” said alone means “let’s go”.
Bethia Jewitt In our family tree the entry for the birth of one of the children of my G.G.Grandfathers reads “Born on board Bethia Jewitt of Saint John, N.B., Thomas Waters Com., at anchor between the north and middle Chincha Islands on the coast of Peru.”  That phrase has always stuck in my mind so it seems appropriate to name our boat for the historical boat.
Something else Feel free to suggest something in the comment section but before Doug suggests it, HMS WTF III is out of the question.

I’ve signed up for some online polling software just in honour of the occasion.  I don’t know how many times it will let you vote – I hope only once.  And we might as well make it clear up front that while we will likely go with the results of the poll we will retain the right to come up with something completely different.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey.


We were sitting in the brokers’ office yesterday afternoon, in the process of writing up the offer.  They had already told us that the owner was living aboard his new 65 footer but we thought they said that boat was on Lake Union.  There was only the two of us, our broker and his wife who is also the secretary and the senior broker in the office. 

The door to the office opened and someone walked in carrying a small duffel bag.  He opened the conversation by saying something to the effect of “maybe I should drop the price on that thing again.”  I happened to be looking directly at the senior broker and I could tell he wanted this guy to go away and go away RIGHT NOW.

Wanting a customer who walks through the door unannounced to leave isn’t unheard of.  We had a couple like that.  One of them in particular everyone would head for the shop so that whoever was the last man standing at the counter would have to deal with the nonsense that was certain to come out of his mouth.  Another was so miserable (and so sickly) that I had standing orders that if he dropped in the yard with a heart attack nobody was to call 9-11 until we were absolutely certain he was dead. 

So it wasn’t impossible that this unannounced stranger was just a pain in the ass customer that the brokers would rather not see but it somehow didn’t seem like that was the case.  He looked around the office, saw that we were there and that the brokers were obviously busy and continued by saying “I’ll just have my shower and come back.”

After he left the brokers tried to pretend that nothing had happened but one of them said something and I asked if that had been the current owner of “our” Defever.  “Yep”.  “I guess we should lower our offer in that case.”

So it wasn’t a complete surprise about an hour later when we learned that he had accepted our offer.

We’ve been doing a lot of reading about big boats.  Some of what we read appears to be extremely useful.

When docking a boat the trick is to get the dock and the boat moving at the same speed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A very very good day

We left the bus around 9:30 this morning.  I had a minor meltdown before we left because effing Messysloth hadn’t printed the maps I asked it to last night.  I carefully selected 5 different map views in Microslop Streets and Trips and sent each of them to print.  I should have looked at them last night.  Instead of the carefully selected views that I was expecting what I found this morning was five copies of line by line directions from La Conner to the Seattle waterfront.

With that annoyance behind us we headed into Seattle and were fortunate enough to miss the morning rush hour.  We must have been right on the tail end of it.  We did have one minor miscue -

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-- just a little to the west of where the “B” is on the map there’s a fairly confusing maze of ramps and we inadvertently ended up in some underground parking cave that is guarded by an overly officious toothless person.  He rather rudely turned us back.  I said something to Marilyn about how he could have been a little more understanding because what we had done likely happened at least 100 times daily and sure enough, before we got turned around, another woman had arrived by making the exact same navigatory error that we had.

Once we got clear of Mr. Official we proceeded to Elliott Bay Marina which is represented by all the boats lined up at “A” above.  We spent around an hour on “Gray Hawk”, the 2nd of the two 43 foot Defevers that we came out here to look at.  She’s moored almost exactly where the “A” on the map is located.  We always said that eventually we would go onboard a boat that would just scream out “this is  the one” and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened this morning.  The engine room was perfect, everything tagged and neat.  The boat was clean.  There’s some really good electronics on it including a side scanning sonar which is a forward looking depth finder that sweeps from side to side to paint a wide picture of the ocean floor.  It has factory installed active “Naiad” stabilizers.  The current owner has moved on to a 65 foot boat but his meticulous care is evident.  The foredecks have been replaced with fibreglass and the portholes don’t leak on this one.  They could stand being replaced but there is no water damage in the master stateroom. 

I could go on but the point is that mechanically the boat appears to be very sound.  It doesn’t have all the liveaboard toys that some of the others on our short list do – things like washer, dryer, dishwasher.  But it was priced at a point where we could afford to add those things if we decide we need them.

The boat was listed at $115,000 when we first saw it online.  Compared to other Defevers we had looked at we thought that was a very reasonable price.  Then about a month ago the listing changed to $99,500 and we were actually worried that it might get sold before we got out to look at it.  Today the broker was dropping broad hints that the owner would look at lower offers so we made an offer substantially below the current asking price.  I guess we should have gone lower because the owner accepted our offer while we were having a wonderful lunch on the waterfront.

The standard boat buying procedure is seriously loaded against the seller.  You have to feel sorry for the poor sap.  Having agreed today to a price substantially below his asking price (and in this case way south of what he thought the boat was worth as little as a month ago) he now has to suffer further negotiation after what is called a survey.  The survey amounts to an independent appraisal and our offer was accepted contingent on both a mechanical and marine survey being acceptable to us.  So that means that we will now hire both a marine and a mechanical surveyor who will go over the boat looking for reasons to further reduce the price.  At the end of the survey if the buyer isn’t willing to remedy any defects that the surveyor uncovers we have the right to back out of the deal or renegotiate the price.  Like I said – the system is loaded against the seller.  We do have to pay for the survey and to have the boat hauled to do the survey so the process isn’t completely lopsided.

We registered for the Pacific Marine Expo last week.  It will be a lot more fun now that we are likely to actually be boat owners by the time we attend the show.  Stay tuned – the fun has only barely started.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going where we aren’t wanted

When we were wandering around the Wyoming range looking for Jensen’s ranch we eventually headed up a trail and found ourselves looking at an R-CALF gate sign.  It turns out that Jim is an R-CALF director but of course at O-Dark 30 I didn’t know that and I instantly had visions of this  lonely lost Canuck wandering uninvited into an R-CALF yard and getting told where to go and how fast to get there.  Or worse.  It might have turned into “whatever happened to Bob?”

I never met Jim but I’m sure he’s a decent well-intentioned guy.  R-CALF on the other hand has been a major trade irritant and sometime embarrassment to USDA.  During the BSE nonsense R-CALF was able to convince some old half asleep judge in Montana to pass repeated injunctions to prevent Canadian cattle from entering the US, in complete defiance of the science-based measures that USDA and Ag Canada had agreed to.  That’s all behind us now because once the US started looking to see if they had any BSE in their herd not surprisingly it turned out that they did.  It would have been pretty bloody surprising if it had turned out any other way since we have had a North American cattle industry since the cowboys started chasing cattle and Indians across the range. 

We left Jim’s ranch around 4:00 on Monday.  We had intended to stay until Tuesday morning but one of the ranch hands suggested that we should bug out early because the weather was about to go to hell.  The forecast didn’t actually look that bad but he said it was going to get really windy and we didn’t want to stay around to see if he was right or not. 

We got to Cody that night and got a fairly early start out of Cody on Wednesday morning.  About half an hour out of Billings I noticed a truck behind me flashing his lights at me.  That’s never good.  As I started to slow down he passed me and pulled in ahead of us.  Before we got out his wife ran back to tell us we had a flat tire on the trucklet.  If only it had been so simple. 

Once again we discovered a busted front axle complete with the same sick looking mess dragging underneath the front of the truck.  Almost exactly one year after our incident in Oregon we had exactly the same failure, on the other side of the truck.  I have no idea what is causing the problem.  We pulled the truck for 4 years with no problem but this past year has been a nightmare.  Both sides of the front end were rebuilt within the last year so there is no excuse for a bearing failure this soon but that is exactly what happened.  The shop that we towed it to in Billings has suggested that perhaps the alignment is not being correctly set up for towing.  That is possible I guess but it still doesn’t explain why we were able to tow with no problems for the first 4 years.  Whatever the cause we left the truck in Billings and came on to Seattle without it.

Along the way we had a great visit with Skip and Maria in Helena.  Skip and I got to know each other through a bus-related online forum and we had met briefly a few years ago.  On Tuesday night we parked in their yard and had a great visit with the two of them, one of their daughters and two grand-daughters.  They also have a serious amount of livestock, most of which we met.  George hasn’t quite recovered from the smell of strange cats and dogs on my clothing.  I tried to trade him for a better cat but Skip wanted too much difference so we are still stuck with him.

Yesterday we made it to exit 106 on I-90 in Washington.  We spent the night in a Love’s truck stop and then came on into Seattle this morning.  We parked on a Wallyworld lot and tracked down a rental car.  It turned out that Enterprise had an office about a mile from where we were parked so we walked over and picked up the car.  Then we got moved up to our Thousand Trails campground at La Conner and settled into the exact same spot we were in last winter.

Of course when we were this close to the boats we couldn’t resist trying to look at one.  Neither of us really thought that anybody would be open on Remembrance Day but we drove into Anacortes anyway.  We have two 43 foot Defevers lined up out here that are the main purpose of this trip.  We have a “short-list” with roughly 40 boats on it that we would look at but of those boats only about 25 are in the Pacific Northwest.  Of those about half are Defevers in various lengths.  We think the 43 foot Defever is the shortest boat that I can stand up in.  Much as we’d both like the extra space in something a little longer we think that in the long term we will appreciate not paying moorage for the longer boat and not having to maintain a longer boat.

We got lucky – the brokerage office was open.  Actually it seemed like a lot of businesses down here were open today.  We had a good look at “Koala” despite not having taken along a flashlight or icepick.  Both of those are important tools for boat shoppers.  The flashlight for obvious reasons – there are a lot of dark corners onboard.  The icepick is important to check for rotten wood.  Today I was able to identify rot without the icepick.  Defevers are known to have problems with leaky portholes and this one was no exception.  The three portholes that you can see at the extreme aft of the photo above have leaked into the master stateroom.  It wouldn’t be a big task to fix the leaks.  The rot would take a bit more work.   This particular boat has obviously been neglected but the price clearly reflects that.

Tomorrow we go to look at a stabilized 43 foot that appears in the photos to be very well maintained.  Pictures can lie as we discovered when we went out to Vancouver earlier this fall.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The middle of nowhere

We waited out the weather in Buchanan.  It seemed like the snow was never going to leave, and it didn’t, but at least the roads got mostly cleared off.  We finally left about 9:30 on Tuesday morning.  We had planned a much earlier departure.

On Monday afternoon I got the truck pulled in behind the bus and hooked up.  We tidied up the yard and tried to leave everything so that the village can get on with mowing the grass because that is what we expect to be happening before we get back there.  We were up early Tuesday morning planning to be in Regina by mid-morning but it didn’t work out that way.  When I turned the key we got a distant “RRR” from the back of the bus and nothing more. 

It was my own fault – I’ve known for some time now that the batteries were on their last legs.  We bought the bus close to 7 years ago and the batteries weren’t new then so they really didn’t owe us anything.  We also really didn’t need the headache of dealing with them on Tuesday.  Two and a half hours later, with the assistance of battery blankets, battery charger, block heater and proheat we just barely got started.  Then I was afraid to shut it off, and with good reason.  When I finally did shut it off in the early afternoon in Regina it just barely started again so I knew it was time to do something.  I had visions of shutting it off at the customs shack and then not getting it started. 

We got to Swift Current about 5 minutes before 5:00 and pulled into the Cat dealer.  I figured that would be the most expensive place to buy batteries but that they would also likely have a pair of 8-Ds on the shelf.  They didn’t.  But the guy at the counter was super helpful and he immediately phoned some little auto parts shop in town.  They had a pair of batteries for about 1/3 of what I thought they would cost so he told them that we would be right over and they stayed open waiting for us. 

We didn’t bother trying to install the batteries Tuesday night because we were already late for supper with Al and Gail.  Al fed us very well when we finally arrived – thank you again Al – and then on Wednesday morning he and I stuffed the new batteries into the compartment on the frenchy-bus.  It sounded much happier when I turned the key that morning and even better when it started right up as we were leaving US Customs.  They were training a new girl so she had to come onboard and snoop through our fridge for salad supplies for their supper that night. 

After stocking up the customs fridge we headed straight south through Billings, Montana and Cody, Wyoming to here.

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Its pretty lonesome country.  We arrived about 9:00 and then wandered around in the dark looking for the place.  Nobody seems to have heard about putting their name or address on their mailbox and even the mailboxes are few and far between.  We finally ended up on a dead end trail that stopped at the gate of an Encana pumping facility.  As we were unhooking the night watchman showed up but he didn’t have a clue about who lived where.  He did very helpfully send us off in completely the wrong direction because he thought there were some ranches that way.  After about a half hour search in the little truck we stumbled on an unmarked lane, headed up it for about half a mile and then finally came to a sign for the ranch we were looking for.  Even then the sign was ambiguous enough that I kept on driving for another couple of miles just to make sure it was the right place.  Its a lot easier doing those reconnaissance trips in the micro-truck.  Along the way we had to dodge dozens of sleeping Angus cows because this is all open range country.  Fortunately they are big on Texas gates – some of them are a little narrow but evidently the ones we crossed were strong enough to carry a bus.

Once we found the yard then we had to find the bus again and get it moved to the ranch yard.  The owner is in Pennsylvania and his cell phone was dying when I talked to his wife late in the afternoon so we didn’t bother trying to phone them.  As it turned out there is actually a ranch hand living in the yard (with his border collie puppy named Stetson) but he didn’t hear us drive into the yard, drive around looking for a level spot, drive out, return with the bus and park the bus.  Stetson barked a couple of times but he’s a puppy so apparently Kevin didn’t pay any attention to him.  He’s a really cute puppy and a real cuddle bug too.  Once he figured out that we were friends he has been a regular guest.  He and George had words so now they just look at each other through the window.