Monday, October 31, 2011

Movin’ on

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

America’s Lifeline

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

Gross National Happiness

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

Hangin’ out with the Mormons

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

Looking forward to being somewhere else

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.