Wednesday, December 28, 2011
(Monday) Tonight we’re in one of our regular campgrounds, Wallymart in Hillsboro, Texas. We had planned to get on the road tomorrow morning but decided that we could save one night’s rent and get an earlier start on the day tomorrow if we got hooked up today. I’d have kept going a little farther north but the post-Christmas traffic kept getting worse the closer we got to Dallas-Fort Worth so Hillsboro seemed like far enough.
We’re all stocked up with Cherry Coke now. Not that anyone in this household drinks the crap. I can’t imagine what it might taste like and I’m damn sure not going to find out. However a friend in Regina appears to live on the stuff and his stock is running low. So tonight I bought all that the Hillsboro Walmart had which was three cases. I expect their computer will lock up tonight trying to figure out how any single fool could buy three cases of the crap.
(Wednesday) Dunno what happened to Tuesday. We just mainly drove until we got to Lamar, Colorado. By then it was damn cold out and there was way too much snow on the ground. They got a blast about a week ago now and a lot of it is still hanging around.
Today we met up with Jim in the parking lot of the Hobby Lobby in Parker, Colorado. I gave him the Growsafe tools plus a big pile of miscellaneous parts, some defective and some surplus. Meanwhile Marilyn was in her new favorite store stocking up on paint and special brushes that she doesn’t think she can get at home. Then we headed north up I-25 again.
When we got close to Fort Collins I started noticing wind warnings on the overhead digital signs and sure enough almost immediately the wind started picking up gusting out of the west. The signs said that the highway was closed to “high profile vehicles” between Cheyenne and the Colorado border so my expectation was that when we got to the border there would be a trooper with one of those cute Smoky the Bear hats on turning us and the semi’s off the highway. I tucked in behind a Werner Transport van and told Marilyn I’d do what he did. As we got closer to the border we started seeing lines of semis sitting on the on-ramps but my guide (and a few other hardy souls) kept on going north so we did too.
All of a sudden I realized that the mile markers had started over and therefore we were in Wyoming. Somewhere about that point I tried to listen to the highway information channel on the radio but it was so faint as to be useless. Next thing we knew we were passing Cheyenne and still no trooper had appeared to tell me I couldn’t keep on keeping on. So I did. It was definitely windy and the wind would occasionally try to boss the bus around. But the bus is pretty heavy and it tracks like its on rails so most of the time I just drove, albeit a little slower than I might have otherwise. Going around Cheyenne we were able to hear the radio warnings and it sounded like the worst of it was behind us but that we would see some wind for the next hour as we headed north. And that’s about how it worked out.
Two truckers did violate the cardinal rule of trucking - “keep the greasy side down.” We saw one semi trailer lying on its side south of Cheyenne and a UPS trailer on its side north of Cheyenne but I’ve seen worse wind in Lethbridge and nobody thought anything of it.
Tonight we’re in the Walmart lot in Gillette, Wyoming where I got to do some troubleshooting on the Onan genset. Its been so good up to this point but tonight it absolutely wouldn’t fire. After a bit of cursing I figured out that the run solenoid isn’t retracting. For tonight I’ve got it unscrewed from its bracket so when it comes time to shutdown the generator I’ll have to go outside and push the governor down. I expect its either a dirty connection or a loose wire somewhere. I tried briefly to jumper it but mainly I was interested in getting power for long enough so the electric blanket would warm up the bed so I opted for the simple solution tonight.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Yesterday we toured the George H.W. Bush presidential library on the Texas A & M campus. I’m not sure it was worth the $14 it cost us but it was informative nonetheless. George the first certainly had a busy time of it on the federal scene. I thought going in that he had served two terms as president but learned that he did all his stuff in just 4 years.
On the way out of the library I happened to read some of the names on the donor list. They were arranged as they always are with the most generous donors in the most prominent location, their names displayed in larger font, with a fancy name – I believe “President’s Cabinet” in this case. And midway down the most important list, there was Jimmy Pattison’s name. That’s pretty high class company for a car salesman from western Canada, alongside the likes of the government of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Now I don’t know Jimmy but as I read the list I was struck by the fact that if I ever needed an introduction to George H.W. then Jimmy would be the connection. You see the father-in-law of one of Marilyn’s nieces is fond of dropping Jimmy’s name in conversation so I figure that, should I ever need an introduction to the 41st President, then Peter would be the starting point and Jimmy the intermediary. I’m not sure whether that’s 2 or 3 degrees of separation but its pretty damn close as far as I’m concerned.
Today we’re watching the wet weather outside the window in the Navasota campground. At 10 bux a night for 50 amp full hookups it will be hard to leave this place but that’s what we plan to do tomorrow. I’ll make one last checkup on the two installations here and then, assuming they check out OK, we’ll start heading north. The prairies are having an unbelievably warm winter so it won’t be any big hardship to go back. I’ve seen winters where it never got above minus 30 the whole week ahead of Christmas which makes the thawing weather this past week pretty amazing.
This time last year we were still waiting for the doofus “Captain” we had contracted to teach us to run Gray Hawk to show up for even one of the many appointments he made with us. Our first ever venture away from the dock came on 1/1/11 when we very bravely cast off and headed up the coast to Shilshole Marina. We went that way because that was the way we had gone on our haulout so it seemed like familiar water. Looking back now it seems silly that we thought it was such a big achievement but it was a major accomplishment getting out and back without damaging the boat or the dock. Like I told R.J. afterward, the secret to docking a boat is to get the dock and the boat travelling at the same speed. And somedays that’s easier said than done.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
For the next week or so we’re paying $10 per night for 50 amp full hookup. That’s an incredible deal on a transient rate. It’s a pretty good deal even if we were paying a monthly rate. For a single night rate, power included, its pretty well unheard of. Our lifetime average per night is just north of $18. For the last year we have averaged just under $9 per night but that includes many nights sitting for free on our Buchanan property.
This place isn’t fancy but we’ve stayed in a lot worse spots (and paid 2 or 3 times as much for the privilege of doing so). Marilyn found it online. Its run by the town of Navasota and I expected it to be full up but there were only 3 rigs here which left 7 sites open for us to pick from. It might be a little windy if the Texas winds pick up but otherwise it’s a hard place to find fault with at any price.
On Friday the 2nd client down here got around to doing their second concrete pour. That’s a great relief because I couldn’t do anything until it was complete. I’m expecting that tomorrow they will either have already stripped the concrete forms or at the very least they will have them stripped during the day.
The new facility at Sexing Technology is huge. The open front shelter is 600 feet long, divided into 10 pens. Their initial pour was the apron where the cattle will stand to feed. The pour on Friday was the feed alley. Eventually there will be another twin facility further to the east which will house more conventional feedlot systems. The facility that they are working on right now is specifically designed to house the Growsafe feed intake monitoring equipment.
It looks now as though we’ll be here through Christmas and then leave for western Canada early the week between Christmas and New Years. We’re still flexible on that though. If the weather in the west goes completely to hell we’ll go up the left coast of the US instead. There’s some really nice Thousand Trails parks all along that coast so we can work our way north at very little cost but if we do that we’ll have to figure out where to store the bus on the coast. And we’ll have to fly back to Regina to see father and do a variety of tasks that we just can’t do remotely so our preference is to go back to the prairies unless the weather is absolutely impossible.
And now for something completely different:
I’m a regular reader of SmallDeadAnimals. The owner of that website is a well known Saskatchewan conservative writer who has a knack for regularly poking a stick in puffery. One of the tags on her website says she is just the voice of an ordinary Canadian yelling back at the radio “You don’t speak for me.” A couple of days ago she posted a link to a Facebook page for Chiquita bananas whereon they were promoting Christmas recipes involving, naturally, bananas. However the comments under one of those recipes were decided unrelated to baking.
Until SDA exposed it, I was unaware that Chiquita has publicly admitted supporting terrorism in Latin America. They have not only supported terrorists, they have actually taken delivery of weapons and handed them over to terrorists. So it seems just a tad hypocritical that they now are presuming to lecture Canada about our oilsands oil. As I said to Marilyn earlier today, if they hadn’t succumbed to the feel good, eco-terrorist demands of the radical left, I would never have known about this part of their history. And without Kate and her SDA website I still wouldn’t know about it. Now you do too.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
This campground system that we belong to has some maintenance “issues”. Its not unusual for their hot tubs to be working but you sure don’t want to count on them. Their streets and access roads are uniformly bad – the access road at Colorado River has been reverted to gravel from the nearly impassable pavement that was there two years ago. Two days ago we realized that we didn’t have any water here at Lake Conroe.
No water in an RV shouldn’t be a big problem if the residents were halfway prepared but in this case we weren’t. For whatever reason we had let our main tank get down to nearly empty so that it only lasted a couple hours with no incoming water and then we were out. Along with a lot of the other neighbours because apparently they weren’t prepared either. And the management hadn’t bothered to give us any warning which they clearly could have. As it turned out they had the water back on briefly yesterday morning and we happened to notice that it was on so we were able to get the main tank substantially full which left us relatively impervious to the painfully slow progress of the repairs.
The water lines here are only buried about 2 feet. I guess that’s about 22 inches deeper than a lot of Rick Wensley’s lines were buried at Noble’s Point but it seems a little shallow to me. As I already mentioned, they’ve had a record setting drought here and they have some pretty heavy clay in this area so likely the clay shrank enough to pull a connection apart. Whatever the cause it took them the best part of 4 hours to locate the break and then a couple hours of dewatering before they could glue everything back together again.
We like to go out for dinner about once a week so yesterday we found a local Mexican restaurant and ate dinner there with another couple from the campground. We met Dan and Patsy at Lake Medina and have been stalking them ever since. They left Medina on Friday for Colorado River and we followed them two days later. Then they left Colorado River for Lake Conroe one day ahead of us so by the time we got here we felt like old friends. That’s a skill you need to pick up with our nomadic lifestyle – how to meet people quickly. Too often we end up meeting someone the day before one or the other of us leaves for parts unknown but this time we’ve had 4 weeks to get to know each other. Today they left and we don’t plan to follow them this time but we got to know each other well enough that we’ll likely stay in touch.
I talked to my buddies at Navasota on Friday afternoon to confirm that they had actually finished with the concrete pour. Based on my reconnoiter in the morning I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that they’d be done and sure enough they wouldn’t have been but the contractor evidently convinced them to bring in reinforcements and that got them finished up. My guess is that their batch plant never did start working after I left and all the additional concrete came from somewhere else.
It was really good news that they were done because it means the concrete will have the whole weekend to cure. I need to drive on it while I’m placing the nodes and then I need to put rock bolts into it so I really didn’t want to be doing that on green concrete. Two and a half days isn’t overly long for a cure but it should be adequate to keep the rock bolts from pulling out when I tighten them.
Friday, December 9, 2011
We got moved over to Lake Conroe earlier this week. The Growsafe client wasn’t ready – they actually got rained out last week. They should have had their concrete poured a long time ago but they didn’t so they are now in the bizarre situation of being in the midst of a historic drought and unable to pour because its too wet.
It’s the driest they have been here since they started keeping records sometime in the 1800’s. All the lakes are low. When we were at Lake Medina we could barely see the water in the distance from the boat launch. This morning I stopped and took a couple of pictures of Lake Conroe.
This Growsafe client has some really neat technology. They produce sexed semen. And they do it for many more species than just cattle. Apparently its really popular with hunt farms where they want to raise bucks – nobody wants to fly down from Chicago to shoot a big doe but they’ll pay big bucks for a big buck. And in dairy they are exporting bred heifers as “two-fers” – you buy a bred heifer and they guarantee that there’s another heifer inside. That’s pretty cool.
The other client down here is Texas A & M. That’s like Mecca for us Agro types so I’m looking forward to that part of the project. They’re ready for the equipment but it hasn’t arrived yet so I’m in “hurry up and wait” mode this week.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The evil that men do lives on after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. Julius Caeser, Act 3, Scene 2.
Thirty years later western Canada is just starting to recover from the vindictive evil done to us by the three stooges – Jean Chretien, Marc Lalonde and Pierre Elliott Himself when they imposed the National Energy Plan on us. Our courts are still controlled from beyond the grave by Pierre Trudeau working through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So it is worthwhile for our American neighbours to consider seriously what may be the legacy and reach of the current occupant of the White House if the country is foolish enough to re-elect him. Eight years of this man will fundamentally change the US and his impact will continue far into the future in ways we cannot even imagine now.
Clearly Obama is no brilliant intellect on the scale that Trudeau was. Many of Obama’s impacts on the US economy could be argued to be incidental or accidental. That doesn’t change the fact that if he runs the country into an economic disaster that it takes 50 or more years to recover from his impact on individual American lives will be fundamental and long lasting.
Friday, December 2, 2011
On one of our trips to San Antonio I discovered a cute little artist’s easel that folds up into a carrying box. So on the way out of Lake Medina we stopped at Hobby Lobby and I bought Marilyn an early Christmas present. She got it set up after we moved here to Colorado River and then spent the last couple of days varnishing it. It’s a very complex little piece of equipment and it took a long time to coat all its various surfaces but today she pronounced it ready to use. It wasn’t a really nice day out today so she is painting indoors tonight. She needs one of those big floopy hats like artists wear and probably a sloppy shirt about 17 sizes too big but otherwise she is a artist.
We met a couple at Lake Medina who were planning to move here and then on to Lake Conroe. Typically when we meet someone at a campground they move on or we move on and we don’t see each other again. In this case they moved here the day before we did and today they moved on to Lake Conroe; we’ll follow them there on Sunday. So we’re getting to know each other a bit and last night they dragged us along to a party night in the local town. They called it Lady’s Night Out but there were lots of guys out too. It was pretty hokey but we got a glass of wine and some bad hors d’oeuvres for $5 each so it wasn’t a completely wasted evening. Its coming up to Christmas so every local crafting fool had a booth set up to sell whatever crap they think people should buy in the name of Christmas. Its mind boggling what some people will spend their money on. One guy had actually twisted barb wire in the shape of Christmas trees and then strung lights on them. I think I heard him say he wanted $15 for the monstrosities but I didn’t get close enough that he might think I was interested.
Yesterday I got confirmation that my equipment should be in Navasota by Tuesday at the latest. That means there’s a chance we’ll be out of here and maybe even back to the boat by Christmas. For a while there I thought we might still be here for New Years so its good to be able to almost see the end of this project. Not that I’m excited to get back to the prairie cold – this Texas winter is pretty easy to get used to.
It seems that pretty well every enviro-fool thinks they have some advice to offer about food production. Here’s a news flash – just because you can find your cake hole to feed yourself doesn’t make you an authority on food production. If you don’t understand why Haber-Bosch is fundamental to our lifestyle then you aren’t competent to comment on food production.
Here’s an excellent video that talks about the importance of plant breeding. When the seed goes in the ground the potential yield is limited only by the genetic potential of the seed. After seeding there are a host of factors that influence yield – nutrition, moisture, parasites, disease and others – but at the time the seed goes in the ground the only limit on it’s potential yield is genetic. You can think of genetic potential as an ultimate yield that is determined by the seed’s genetic makeup and then gets picked away at by all those other factors. Without good breeding programs tailored to the local climate and management you can never have high yields. And without high yields we all pay more and go to bed hungrier.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Its about bloody time. We’ve been party to the Kyoto charade ever since Gene-the-cretin bound us to it. Finally someone has the balls to say the emperor has no clothes. Nobody adheres to the targets, nobody believes they would make any difference if they did adhere to the targets and the biggest carbon emitters in the world don’t even pretend that they will be party to the whole stupid mess.
Of course ElizabethIdiotMay is predictably apoplectic. And I’m sure there’s a parade of greenies lined up alongside her being equally outraged. I say it’s a breath of fresh air. Finally somebody is calling it like it is.
I don’t honestly know whether the world needs carbon emission reductions. Maybe it does – maybe it doesn’t. One thing I know for damn sure – the Kyoto agreement never had hope one of changing the world’s carbon emissions. If it really matters then maybe now our leaders can sit down and talk honestly about emission reductions. That for sure couldn’t happen under the Kyoto framework so if our government has the balls to say enough, I say good for them. Hallelujah for them in fact.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Our life has been remarkably unremarkable for the last couple of weeks. We’ve been hunkered down here west of San Antonio just relaxing. SWMBO has discovered that she is an artist. Who’d a thunk it? She’s been snapping pictures of everything, everywhere on the trip down and now she’s painting those pictures. And she’s pretty good. Her hills suck but she’s good at trees, lakes and skies, particularly sunset skies. I’m sure the hills will improve – they couldn’t hardly get worse.
Next summer some of those eco-freek, tree-hugging, granola crunching, do-gooders who invade Cow Bay are going to go home with some art by a new local talent. I’ve seen the glazed “gotta buy something before we leave” look in their eyes and I know just exactly how to cure that problem for them. But she’s gotta either get the hills mastered or paint really flat landscapes – REALLY REALLY flat ones.
While we were downtown we found the River Walk and had lunch. That was also a floor covering shopping trip. We no longer have carpet in the back half of the bus. Marilyn ripped all that out immediately after we arrived and she has been varnishing the walls while the floor is messed up anyway. Eventually we need to put something back on the floor but it sure as hell won’t be more carpet. I have never understand why RV builders think that people want carpet in a residence that is going to be used at the beach or in National Parks. Its just so incredibly stupid. Tile or hardwood is the only way to go. If you want something warmer you can always throw an area rug on the hard surface but at least that way you can clean it occasionally.
As it stands now it looks like our new floor covering will be ceramic but only once we find someone willing and competent to lay it which likely means a trip back to Nipawin. We talked to a dealer in San Antonio but his “expert” owned a conventional motorhome so he “knew” that you can’t lay ceramic tiles in a motorhome. And he’s right - you can’t do it in a production motorhome because they flex like a cheap ladder and would crack the tile immediately if not sooner. I don’t think we’ll tackle laying the tile ourselves but its been done plenty of times in bus conversions so that isn’t a concern. We’ve got our favorite tile layer, Phil-the-flooring-guy in Nipawin and he’s looking increasingly like our best bet to get the new flooring done. In the meantime we’ll live with floorpaint over the plywood.
Monday, November 14, 2011
This place is over-run with long legged ditch rats. There were at least three things that I hated about Candle Lake – it rained constantly, the wind blew pretty well non-stop and the effing bloody ditch rats were thicker than flies. I don’t know how we managed to drive to the lake as often as we did and never hit one. I’ve killed more of those miserable creatures with a vehicle than most hunters kill with a rifle.
When Ross and Sandy McKnight visited us at Candle Lake he was so sympathetic to my hatred of the ditch rats that he sent me a high powered sling shot when they got back home. I was all excited about the carnage I was going to wreak with my new ec0-friendly weapon the next time we were at the lake. Of course I was doomed to disappointment because even the marble sized steel balls that Ross had shipped along with the slingshot made no impact on the rats. They continued to make our site their home and happily munched any plants that we or the neighbours tried to grow.
The rats here are smaller than their Candle Lake cousins but there are more of them. And some fools must feed them pretty regularly because they don’t realize that I am a predator. I’m working on educating them in that regard, aided by the fact that our site is covered in pea gravel. I’m not that great an aim as my sons will attest but the shotgun approach with pea gravel at close range is pretty effective. And there’s a couple of ex-ducks at Candle Lake that can attest to the fact that occasionally my aim is OK. Of course SWMBO won’t let me launch an all-out assault on the local ditch rats because she thinks it might impact our ability to return to this location in the future. Everything in this world is a compromise.
Today we travelled from some little widespot on I-10 – I think it was called Sonora. We arrived there in the dark last night and then I stupidly got us headed north out of town on a single lane road with no way to turn around. The GPS said we could take some country trail to get turned around but it has lied in the past so I was reluctant to trust it last night. Finally in desperation we did turn off the highway onto a dirt trail that led us along a couple of goat paths to a closed gate. Fortunately there was a Texas gate leading in the wrong direction next to the closed gate so we gave that a whirl and it finally dumped us out in someone’s backyard which turned out to be large enough to turn around in. Evidently there weren’t home – at least there were no lights on and they didn’t shoot at us. When we got back to Sonora I parked us in front of a Mexican restaurant that claimed to be open for breakfast, thinking that we could get up early and thereby avoid inconveniencing the breakfast crowd. Their sign lied but we left early anyway. There was no sign of a cook or a customer at 7:30 when we left.
After we turned off I-10 I made another navigatory error in Kerrville. That lead to us travelling a paved goat trail through the west Texas hills between Kerrville and Medina. I quickly learned to trust their speed limit signs after one of them said 15 MPH and I assumed that “15 MPH” really meant “slow down”. One 30 MPH switchback and a quick 100 feet of elevation later put us in 1st gear for the rest of the climb. Some poor SOB in a minivan met us in the middle of another series of switchbacks. I didn’t really have time to keep an eye on him but I think I left him more or less half of his lane. He was stopped the last time I noticed and I didn’t feel us touch him so I think that was OK.
We’ll be here for 2 weeks because that is how long Thousand Trails will let us stay without paying. Then we’ll go east to another one of their preserves this side of Houston. With any luck by the time our 2 weeks runs out there we’ll be able to go to the project at Navasota that I rushed home from Brazil for.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Many times we have come close to Roswell and many times we have drove on by but today we fulfilled one of Marilyn’s bucket list items.
Tonight we’re sitting on the parking lot of the Roswell Walmart. It’s a lot cheaper here than where we were the last two nights – the KOA on the east side of Albuquerque. We generally avoid KOA like the plague. I can’t remember when we last stayed in one but it was likely with the 5th wheel. However we made an exception this time because a couple of friends are living there while they do some home renovation. Marilyn bought a bunch of books online and had them shipped to Albuquerque so the trip was a combination of picking up books and visiting. It’s a major saving to have stuff shipped to a US address – often the shipping is free or at least very inexpensive. Shipping to Canada on the other hand usually starts at $25 and goes way up from there.
The Walmart is right next door to a Sam’s Club which happens to be serving up free wi-fi so that’s pretty convenient for us tonight. Tomorrow we’ll point the bus east toward San Antonio and Houston but I’m sure we won’t get all the way to our Thousand Trails destination at Lake Medina. We used to routinely do 1200 km days and often many more but lately breaking 500 km in a day is a pretty big day for us and I can’t say I mind that. One time we did the trip from Nipawin to Las Vegas in 2 days and change. I did all the driving and we ran over 1800 km in one day. Its hard to believe that I was ever capable of that. Now after I get the first pot of tea into me I’m looking for a rest area so I can have a nap.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
We’ve lived the last month with no certainty about where we were going the next week. We’ve literally had one day (or less) notice on some of our destinations so it was a great relief yesterday morning to get final confirmation that we were going to Texas. We might actually have preferred confirmation that we were NOT going to Texas because that would have meant we were going back to the boat sooner but either way it was nice to finally have some certainty back in our schedule.
In theory at least, the client in Texas will be ready for me on Dec. 5th. We have agreed to take 3 weeks off and we’re going to use that time to visit some friends in Albuquerque and then relax in one of our Thousand Trails preserves west of Austin. There may actually be another project at Texas A & M but that won’t likely happen until after the Navasota project. College Station (Texas A & M) is just down the road from Navasota so it works out well.
Right now we’re in the upper left hand corner of the top of Texas. We cut across the Oklahoma panhandle this morning, now we’ve got a bit of Texas to get across and then we’ll be in New Mexico. It could just as easily be southwest Saskatchewan or southeast Alberta, definitely cow-calf country.
Now that Texas is firmly in our future we can start seriously planning our flooring renovation in the bedroom. Only a fool would put carpet in an RV and this one was built by a pair of fools. Eventually we’ll get rid of all the carpet but the highest priority right now is the bedroom and hallway because that is where condensation has raised hell with the underlay. The winter we spent in the Pacific Northwet was hard on the bedroom area and we’ve been procrastinating fixing it ever since.
Right now we’ve got the carpet on my side of the bed ripped out to the subfloor and the rest of it will come out as soon as we’re somewhere where we know that we can get everything dried out thoroughly. Then it will get several coats of Kilz paint and finally it will get something other than carpet for flooring. We’ve gone around and around on what we will actually put down and we won’t likely know for sure what we’re going to do until we are driving home from Lowes or Home Depot. One thing is for sure though – it won’t be carpet.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I’ve long maintained that electing morons isn’t necessarily an impediment to good governance. I can cite numerous examples in rural Saskatchewan where drunken fools populate the municipal council yet the local governance is superior to what we get on a national scale. Sometimes morons are really practical. They’re used to getting by in a complicated world and they understand that the job of government is to get things done expeditiously at a low cost. That’s a good attitude for politicians, smart ones or stupid ones.
I was therefore not immediately concerned when Herman Cain appeared on the US political scene and appeared to be sweeping the Republican campaign. The man is obviously an ill-educated fool. But to keep it all in perspective you need to remember that there is a well-educated fool in the White House right now so clearly stupidity is no barrier to success. My bigger concern was that the American public could be so easily duped, twice. So it has been something of a relief this week to see Cain brought low by his apparent inability to keep his hands off his help. He appears to have a kind of “me first, I’m entitled” attitude which is exactly the kind of personality that likes to abuse other members of society. I’m still disappointed that the public couldn’t see through Cain’s façade but I’m relieved that he isn’t going to waltz unchallenged all the way to Washington.
On the negative side of the ledger Cain’s campaign contributions appear to be continuing unabated and his polling numbers appear to be holding up. A good friend of mine once told me “people get the government they deserve.”
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
We’re in a very flat part of the world. Last night at about 7:00 we arrived in Colby, Kansas which proclaims itself an “oasis in the prairies”. The oasis part seems a bit of a stretch, particularly so this morning in the midst of a prairie blizzard. It was a very well forecast blizzard and if it lives up to its forecast it will be gone tomorrow but today it is thoroughly miserable outside. Which would be why we are not alone here on the parking lot at Colby’s Walmart.
I had an early morning orientation with the Growsafe client, Colby Community College, at their farm east of town but I have no intention of freezing my ass off in this shit. Sitting here now with the Proheat rumbling in the background and watching the blizzard outside the window its pretty pleasant. SWMBO hasn’t broken her beauty sleep yet so I haven’t started the Onan noisemaker either. Eventually I’ll have to though because the diesel furnace eats away at the batteries pretty steadily.
Getting out of Nebraska means we got back into data coverage on our cell phones. When we’re permanently anchored we have the Hughes dish for internet access but when we’re on the move we depend on our Blackberries for data access. We can tether them to our computers to get online but as often as not I just use the Blackberry to read email or for light web browsing activity. For some reason however we were almost always unable to get online in Nebraska. It wasn’t that we didn’t have coverage – our phones worked just fine. It was the data coverage that was missing. Sasktel must not like Nebraska for some reason. We’re really getting pretty spoiled when we expect data coverage anywhere we go. Its not that long ago that finding cellular coverage in out of the way places was still a surprise.
Yesterday I got an email from one of our slip neighbours in Cow Bay. He was worried about Gray Hawk because she is riding a bit low in the bow and apparently is listing to one side. I wasn’t too worried but I phoned Barry anyway last night. We’re at about 1/3 of a fuel load and light on water so that will make her high in the stern which makes the bow look low. We’ve got the dinghy loaded on the foredeck because I didn’t trust British Mike to get in and out of his slip without bashing our dinghy. Barry says the dinghy is pretty well full of rain water now which could easily put a thousand pounds of additional weight on the bow.
Barry had been onboard and assured me we weren’t filling up with seawater. The listing thing is a “feature” of the boat. With dual fuel and water tanks located at the extreme outsides of the boat it is pretty easy to create an imbalance. The tanks are crossover connected and I never thought to close the crossovers before we left. If one side of the boat ends up a little low for some reason (like the dinghy filling up with rainwater) eventually the fuel and water will drain to that side which only makes the list worse. When we’re onboard we manage that by shutting off one side of the water until we get back to level. Now we mainly just need to get back to the boat because she is clearly missing us.
Monday, October 31, 2011
There’s not much to report for the last week. Its not all that exciting in North Platte, Nebraska. We did manage to take ourselves out for dinner yesterday. We had such a good meal at Skeeter Barnes in Kearney that we thought we’d try to find some Nebraska prime rib here as well. That didn’t work out because the place that was recommended didn’t open until late in the day and we really like to eat our big meal at noon. Instead we ended up eating at a wonderful Mexican restaurant. I don’t see how any other place could have been better than what we found so it worked out well.
The installation had several hiccups which necessitated us staying longer than I originally thought we might but our plan now is to leave in the morning. I’m going to make one more trip out to the farm so anything is possible but we’ll likely be on the road to Colby by noon. Kansas is just over the next hill so it won’t take us more than a couple of hours to move and the next job is a really small one. That means we’ll likely be ready to move on again by the end of the week but our next destination is still a mystery. The client in Texas that I rushed back from Brazil to service at the start of August still hasn’t got his concrete poured and now doesn’t expect to be ready until early December. It’s a good thing we’re pretty flexible.
I’ve started drawing up plans for the electrical upgrade on Gray Hawk. I find it helpful to make drawings ahead of time, not so much as a template for construction but more as a way to focus my thinking on the project. Already I’ve thought of a couple of items that hadn’t occurred to me before I started drawing. The goal of the upgrade is to increase the electrical capacity of the boat and to bring it into compliance with current ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standards. Gray Hawk was doubtless built to ABYC standards in 1980 but the codes have evolved and changed over the years and I’d like to bring her into compliance with today’s standards. She’s also a bit of a power hog particularly because of the electric range. The way she is currently wired we can’t make use of the entire capacity of her generator. As soon as we get done with the Growsafe trip we intend to move Gray Hawk first to Port Angeles for her haulout and then back to Cow Bay where I will tackle the electrical upgrade.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I’m much younger than the old woman I travel with. So much younger in fact that I refer to myself as her boy-toy.
So it was extremely distressing earlier this week when I received an unsolicited senior’s discount at a local department store here in North Platte. The citizens of North Platte seem outwardly intelligent so it is difficult to understand why the clerk would have made such an obvious mistake, particularly since SWMBO went through the line immediately ahead of me (and didn’t receive any discount). SWMBO says I should dye my hair and beard but, difficult to accept as the characterization may be, 15% is 15% after all.
Clearly she needed glasses.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I can’t quickly find any sources to tell me what percentage of US goods move across I-80 but it has to be a significant share. I-80 is apparently the second longest interstate in the system and from what we’ve seen the past couple of days the truck traffic has to be at least equal to the passenger traffic.
Last week we left Yerington a day later than I had originally intended due to a problem with one of the data panels on the installation. As it turned out the panel that I replaced failed as well but it failed in a less problematic manner than the original panel so we ended up leaving with the job not 100% functional. That’s an ongoing problem with bleeding edge technology although I think there are also some QC problems that need to be dealt with in this particular situation.
We left Yerington around noon on Thursday and then made a detour into Sparks, Nevada when we hit I-80. I had ordered some vibration cushions (rubber bushings) for our new generator while we were in Salt Lake City. They were waiting for us in Sparks so we picked them up and then ran a few more errands. Since we were in the trucking district at Cummins-Onan I picked up some 40 weight oil for the noisy part of the bus. Its getting increasingly difficult to find single weight 40W oil which is the spec for 2-stroke Detroit diesels. I’ve had pretty good luck in Cenex farm supply stores but so far haven’t seen any on this trip. The Cummins-Onan shop was next door to a Detroit Diesel shop so I figured it would be a safe bet that Detroit would have oil for their engines and I was right. I’ve got single weight oil in the boat as well but so far have been able to buy it at the Walmart in Duncan. The spec for the boat however is 30W and that seems to be a little easier to find than 40W. The bus goes through 40W fast enough – I’d hate to see how fast 30W would run through it.
Friday afternoon found us in southern Salt Lake City parked on our favorite RV site, a Walmart lot. It wasn’t the easiest Wally World to get to but once we were there we were very comfortable for two nights. We did unhook though and parked the bus in two head to head stalls. On Saturday we took the trucklet downtown to the Mormon library and spent the whole day there.
Marilyn continued her search for her long-lost aunt, to no avail as it turned out. I had compiled a list of data that I wanted to find source confirmation for and I was very successful in that regard. To my surprise however I also found a huge number of begats that I didn’t expect to. (you know – Ed begat Earl who begat Frank, etc.) I expected that the begats that we have put together would likely exceed whatever the Mormons were aware of and that their usefulness would be more with regard to sourcing birth certificates or church records to confirm (or disprove) information in our files. That turned out to not be the case. Part of the benefit of searching from the Mormon library is the huge number of private databases that they have access to and some of those were very helpful in identifying people that we previously didn’t know about.
I was also able to verify and in some cases correct information that we have collected over the years. I wish I had done a better job of annotating my genealogical data so that I would know where the erroneous information originated. In some cases I found what I would call contradictory information so I simply noted that in my files. In other cases though the contradictory information was clearly correct. When the priest records in the church register that near the end of December he baptized an infant while we record the birth as early January I think its safe to trust the priest.
Ultimately I simply ran out of time. I think I could spend another 3 days before I would get to the end of what they have available online and from there I would then move to the microfiche and paper records which they have available. It turns out however that they have electronic access available to us from Duncan, BC which is about 20 minutes away from where Gray Hawk is tied up so I will for sure spend some time there this winter. If I can get caught up with what they have available online then I would be better prepared to make use of my time in the main library.
Yesterday (Sunday) we hit the road again and got as far as Laramie Walmart last night. We were pretty late getting in and left early again this morning so that we could be here in North Platte, Nebraska before the guys at the research station went home for the day. After we arrived I had time to get us set up and then to meet with the guys at the station. It looks like I will actually have help tomorrow so things could progress rapidly. Its rare enough that I get help that it is worth mentioning.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
There probably are few people in North America who don’t generally understand the concept of Gross National Product. Even if they couldn’t calculate the GNP or GDP of their country they conceptually understand that it is the sum of the economic activity in their country and they would likely agree that an increasing GNP is a sign of a healthy country.
Today the news lead off with stories about the King of Bhutan who apparently just married a 21 year old cutie and then set out on an 80 km walk to meet many of his country’s 700,000 citizens. Evidently in Bhutan, progress is measured by something called Gross National Happiness. I like this idea.
There’s some serious problems with GDP/GNP. Simply adding up the economic activity in a country is not necessarily a good indicator of the well being in that country. Take the US where we are right now. There’s lots of economic activity in this country but a lot of it is defense and security related. Does activity related to putting people in prison really contribute to the overall well being of the country? Some would argue “yes” because clearly having bad guys running around is not good so putting them away should be good. But it should also be obvious that a dollar spent on home renovations and a dollar spent on policing have different levels of social impact and may contribute differently to how satisfied the citizens in a country feel. I’m not sure how Bhutan calculates is National Happiness index but the king sure looked happy walking his 80 km honeymoon and his subjects all looked pretty happy to see him. That’s in sharp contrast to the news we’ve heard about some other notable solitary rulers like Ghadaffi or Mubarek.
Right now we’re parked in “Weed Heights” just outside Yerington, Nevada. The name apparently derives from Mr. Weed rather than some noxious species that grows here. This is evidently the remains of a company town once owned by Anaconda Mines. Apparently what remains of the mine was recently purchased by Quaterra Resources out of Vancouver. I’m not sure exactly who owns what though because the manager of the RV Park claimed that “his boss” bought the whole works many years ago, including the RV Park and company housing.
It’s a pretty spot in a rugged sort of way. The scars of copper mining are obvious but they blend well into the desolate surrounding country.
We’ve got a few more days left here to finish up a Growsafe project at Snyder Livestock. After this we’ll head back east and likely stop in Salt Lake City for one night. We both have some genealogy research to do and we’re not in any huge rush to get to the next job. One day in the library is all either of us can likely handle. Then we’ll continue east back to Nebraska and from there probably will turn right and head for Texas.
Friday, October 7, 2011
We arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon. I think the last time we were here may very well have been whatever year the winter Olympics were here. We used to travel through here regularly on our way south and often ended up stopping for a night on either the south or northbound trip. The last couple of years we’ve been travelling along the coast so its been a while since we made a run down I-15.
We always stayed in Cherry Hill RV park when we did stay here so that’s where we are again. Its pretty conveniently located for a trip into SLC but its not cheap at $38 per night. Our lifetime average for paid sites is $18.23 per night so $38 is significantly outside our comfort zone. For the past year it has cost us $6.28 for every night we have actually spent in the bus. We achieve those numbers by using our membership campgrounds and by simply staying at places where we don’t have to pay. That $18 lifetime number includes the initial capital cost of the membership and whatever transfer fees were associated with it plus of course the annual fees. I suppose we should have added the capital cost of the Buchanan house into that total but it wasn’t enough to make much difference in the lifetime numbers.
The equipment isn’t in place for the next Growsafe client so we’re taking our time getting across to Reno. Today we had a leisurely morning and then set out in search of the Mormon family history library. I was in it once many years ago – probably 30 years ago actually. I didn’t have any material with me at the time but I was overwhelmed by the quantity of information they have and by the helpfulness of the staff. Today was no different.
Marilyn is searching for a mysterious aunt who disappeared in Saskatoon 80 years ago. She doesn’t have much to work with and Marcella likely wanted to disappear. At that time changing your name was more or less a matter of moving to a new town and introducing yourself as someone else so the odds are that she won’t ever be found. And she’s pretty obviously dead by now but there’s a good story attached to her disappearance so Marilyn keeps plugging away at the search. The Mormons weren’t able to offer a whole lot of assistance today other than the suggestion that Marilyn should check prison records. Marcella was into some activities that could very well have landed her as a guest of the state at least once in her life so that was likely good advice.
I’m inclined to believe that all religions were founded by lunatics and are maintained by the feeble-minded. Mormonism is no different but they certainly do genealogy a huge service. The volume and quality of information that they have accumulated is impressive despite the nonsensical reasons that drive them to do it.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A good friend just told me that if you owned a farm in Nebraska and a home in Hell then you’d be well advised to sell the farm and just stay home. I’ve seen nothing in the last week that would make me disagree with that assessment. Nebraska may not actually be the arsehole of the world but you can definitely smell it from here.
I took my last two years of high school in Regina and thought that was the worst place on earth. The incessant wind blew me out of Regina as soon as high school was done and I have only gone back to visit since. But the Regina wind has nothing on this place. This wind will suck the life out of you and blow sand in it’s place. You can constantly taste the grit in your teeth and no matter how often you shower you can always feel the dust in your hair. Tomorrow we’ll put this dump in the rearview mirror and none too soon as far as I am concerned.
Its too bad – the park we’re in is nice enough. Its got a pretty little lake that spends most of its life whipped into a frenzy but its still a pretty spot. We’re kind of sheltered here with big old trees all around us but even so the bus is rocking and not from any activity inside it.
I just get a little crazed when I’m in a big wind. Now that it’s dark outside and the bus isn’t rocking and shaking it doesn’t seem so bad but I’ll still be glad to have this place behind us. It turns out that the equipment isn’t ready at the next location – surprise surprise – so we’ll take our time heading over to Reno. We’ll probably end up spending a few nights in Salt Lake City on the way.
When the wind finally settled down to a mere gale force I finally went outside and changed the fan drive belts. We’ve been running on 2 out of 3 belts for a long time now. For some reason the last set of belts that I put on gave me a lot of trouble. One belt in particular insisted on running inside out or on it’s side for most of it’s life. Eventually it ate itself up and one day I found it draped over the hitch when we stopped somewhere. I don’t think the fan really needs three belts to drive it but evidently somebody at Prevost thought it did so who am I to argue with them? I just kept forgetting to get a new set of belt but yesterday I finally remembered and today I got them installed.
I also checked the oil bath level on the tag and steering tires as well as tire pressures. The inside dual on the curb side has a habit of running low and sure enough its low again so I think tomorrow before we leave I’ll take off the valve stem extension. I’ve changed the tires and changed the valve stems and still the same tire keeps losing air so the only thing left to change is the valve stem extension. I don’t really like valve stem extensions anyway but they make checking the tire pressure and adding air a whole lot easier. However in this case I think my extension is causing more trouble than it is preventing so its going to have to go.
Friday, September 30, 2011
We’ve been 4 nights now at a lovely little state recreation area in SE Nebraska. Up until today we pretty much had the place to ourselves but tonight the weekenders are rolling in fast and furious.
We left Buchanan last Friday, stopped in Regina for a meeting and a visit with father and then parked on the prairie just west of the Regway border crossing. I had a meeting with one of my Palliser clients on Saturday morning and then we once again braved the perils of US Homeland Insecurity. Once again they let us in, perhaps even with a trifle less attitude than we have come to expect. We then wandered our way down into northern Wyoming before stopping in a roadside truck rest area for the night.
Sunday found us retracing the interstate that we must have travelled down on our way to Fort Collins 45 years ago. In the fall of 1965 father packed mother and us kids into a 1964 Meteor, hooked a trailer behind it loaded with some basic furniture and household items and set out for Colorado. He had been accepted to do a Masters in Continuing Education at Fort Collins. Mother hung in like a trooper but later in life she told us that when father told her he had been accepted she went to the bathroom to wash her hair so she could cry in the sink.
I can actually remember the border crossing at Regway from that trip – I don’t claim to remember much else about the trip but I do remember the crossing shack. Its still standing at the crossing but no longer in use. Homeland Security now operates out of a multi-million dollar steel and glass monstrosity. The Canadian side likely still works out of the same facility they had in 1965. It certainly looks like it is 50+ years old. I haven’t noticed that Saskatchewan has been overrun by illegal aliens entering through Regway so I suspect our facility is adequate for the task. Nor have I heard about any plague of illegals that has been apprehended by the glass and steel edifice on the south side of the line.
On that crossing so many years ago I remember that just inside the door of the crossing station there was a display case with a very elaborate model of an ox cart. It was probably something like 1/5 scale – big in other words. I pulled at mother’s hand and asked her if the crossing guards had taken that away from somebody. That was probably what we had been told might happen at the crossing – something might get taken away – so it seemed like a logical question to me. On the return trip 10 months later I clearly recall receiving strict instructions that neither of us kids was to utter a single word while we were inside the crossing office.
We spent Sunday night on the parking lot of an abandoned auto plaza east of Fort Collins. Its not hard to see the effects of the recession down here, even this far from ground zero. Many of the small towns have main streets that are almost deserted now. I’m sure Florida and California are much worse but there’s more than enough hurt to go round.
On Tuesday we found Medicine Creek State Recreation area. There were a few other rigs here when we arrived but by the 2nd night we had this loop entirely to ourselves. Tonight the weekend crowd is rolling in and I can’t blame them. If we lived close to this place we’d weekend here too. I’m about halfway through a Growsafe installation at Arapahoe, Nebraska. After we get done here it looks like we’ll be heading west to Reno. Ultimately we still expect to end up in Texas, somewhere close to Houston. But our plans are – as ever – fluid.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Our neighbour Michael has a variety of things in his yard – old equipment, lumber, derelict vehicles and a great many apple trees. He told us to help ourselves to any of the apples that we could use so a few nights ago Marilyn picked way too many. I had previously picked enough green cooking apples for a couple of pies but the ones she picked resemble a Macintosh – some up the the size of a store bought Mac but mostly about halfway between that and a large crabapple.
Since we’re going to be braving the perils of US Homeland Insecurity this weekend I needed to get the remaining apples cooked. Which is why I was standing over the sink this afternoon listening to CBC while I cut up apples. And it just happened that today was the day that Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to a joint session of parliament.
Cameron and Harper inherited vastly different political legacies but appear to be moving forward in lockstep and they are clearly setting out a path forward for the G20. Time will tell whether some other notable world leaders have the insight and balls to follow their lead but we should all hope they do.
Cameron came to power with a deficit that in percentage terms was worse than the one that presently is sinking Greece. Harper inherited the wisdom of Paul Martin. Both leaders are firmly committed to driving down sovereign debt and to that end they have engineered a joint letter with several other G20 members setting out their recommendations for a path forward for G20 members.
Notably absent from the list of signatories to that letter are the president of the US and the German chancellor. It may just have been my cynicism but I thought I detected a couple of missiles fired toward Washington in Cameron’s address to parliament. Clearly he believes that the path forward for government is to reduce debt – we can’t spend our way out of this crisis. In the subsequent press conference Cameron wasn’t shy about stating that the EU – Germany & France in other words - needs to step up and deal with their debt crisis that is threatening the world economy.
We can only hope other world “leaders” are listening.
Monday, September 19, 2011
When we bought the bus I was happy to learn that it had a Kubota generator. I had never had anything but good luck with Kubota equipment and I assumed that would be the case with the bus gennie. Oh boy was I wrong!
It should have been a clue when we arrived to look at the bus and the previous owner had difficulty getting it started on a warm April morning. He said something about it having always been a cold-blooded SOB and I really didn’t pay much attention to it.
We had a variety of problems with that miserable orange whore over the years. It never started easily but we eventually learned how to deal with that through overuse of the preheat switch. It also quit unpredictably, usually from overheating for no apparent reason. It was also unbelievably noisy. Eventually it was puking so much oil that it no longer would run so I – foolishly – decided to rebuild it. I’m not sure why I did that – I probably still harboured some notion that Kubota paint meant superior quality.
So I pulled it out and took it to the Super Uke, north of White Fox. The Uke is a local legend when it comes to repairing Chevies and John Deeres so he seemed the logical choice. I’m sure he did good work but the rebuilt engine didn’t run noticeably better than it had when we first bought the bus. Obviously it was better than when I took it to Byron because it wouldn’t run when I took it and it was running when I got it back.
Things quickly got worse. We spent the first winter with the rebuilt generator on the desert at Quartzsite. We got about a week’s use out of the genset and then the power head failed. Of course it failed completely and of course I didn’t have the brains to abandon the whole issue at that point. Instead I dumped another $2,000 into the miserable orange crap pile, comforting myself that we would have a completely “new” generator – new engine and new generator head. By this point of course I was well past the cost of a really good brand new genset so I had to tell myself some kind of story but all we really had was our same old pile of junk.
It continued to be less and less reliable until after a trip last fall I had finally had enough. At that point I ripped it out, threw it in the bush and for the past year we have run with no genset. That wasn’t as bad as it might sound because even when we nominally had a genset we rarely had one that actually worked so being without one was really not all that different. At least with the genset pulled out we could use the space for storage.
When we bought the boat it came with a very old Onan genset. And we were EXTREMELY nervous about using it at first. Every time it hiccuped we were sure it was about to die or cost us $2,000. But it never did and we slowly came to trust it and even to depend on it. The only real trouble we ever had with it was a sticky solenoid on the starter which I have since learned to blast with weasel piss as part of my regular maintenance. So when we got back to the bus it seemed like we really should have a genset.
On Saturday we drove to Selkirk, MB and picked up another old Onan. This one is air-cooled but other than that apparently more or less the same gennie that we have in the boat. We bought this one from a guy who used to be an Onan dealer. He’s 74 years old and trying to retire but judging from the work on the floor of his shop he’s not trying very hard. I’ve never heard anything but good about old Onan gensets – I hope I’m not about to learn differently.
Today I got the new generator more or less ready to stuff into the hole where the orange pile of crap once lived. The big challenge for the day was organizing enough cube relays to enable us to remote start it from the inside panel. We’ve also got an external auxiliary fuel pump that I needed to drive. The genset might be able to draw fuel from the tank but the auxiliary pump guarantees that it has fuel and incorporates some additional filtration so I wanted to preserve that feature. Its pretty noisy but so far I’ve only run it without a muffler so I expect it to be much quieter when it isn’t barking out through a straight pipe.
Stay tuned. I hope we haven’t traded orange grief for blue grief.