Misadventures and Things Not Working

I know that some of my readers take comfort in our various misadventures and repair projects along the way.  It seems I have not recounted these in any organized way in some time.  This thought occurs as we recover from the case of the lost keys, redux.  I don’t remember if I told the story of the lost keys as we were preparing to leave Rainbow Plantations in Summerdale AL.  The short version is that as we prepared to leave I could not find my key to the Jeep.  The search encompassed the car the coach and eventually with the help of a passing Escapee who happened to have a metal detector, a search of the ground surrounding the coach.  All of this was of no avail.  As I made a final walk though to be sure the coach was ready for departure the key miraculously appeared lying on the floor by the back closet where I had put them down for a moment while doing something else.  Needless to say I should not have had the key in my hand, it should have been placed on the key rack by the front door as I entered the coach.

Today, as we prepared to leave Rainbow’s End in Livingston TX (is there a pattern here?) I went to the key rack and there were 3 sets of keys, Carol’s keys for the coach and Jeep and my keys for the coach, the Jeep key had gone missing again!  We searched the coach, we searched the car and we searched the ground, this time the gentleman with the metal detector was nowhere to be found.  No key!  We did the whole thing again.  With cost and inconvenience in our minds we eventually set off down the road without the second Jeep key.  Two hours down the road there was a lovely Texas Roadside Picnic area that beckoned for lunch and a driver change.  I searched the dashboard of the coach just in case the key might be there, no such luck.  After lunch as I took the navigator seat I picked up the burn envelope (this is where we put papers that have been scanned that have material that ought to be shredded – it will eventually feed a campfire) and reached in.  There was the missing key.  It had fallen off the key rack where it belonged, directly into the envelope.

Getting satellite tv working was a bit of a trial.  As reported earlier Dish Tech was well meaning, even helpful, but essentially incompetent when it came to getting the system working on this RV.  After the tech left, I tinkered some more and got everything working with one exception, the big TV in front had no Red input.  People were green, and CNN was grey.  I opened the back of the compartment that the tech at Colton RV had opened to fix something else to do with TV and sure enough there is a nightmare of wiring packed in there.  I pushed, I pulled and turned on the TV and the Red was back.  I closed up the hidden compartment – why do they use square drive screws, star drive screws and phillips heads seemingly indiscriminately?   The Red stayed on . . . until it didn’t.  A night later there was no Red.  In frustration I thumped on the back wall of the front compartment and the Red came back until it went away again an hour later.  I have learned that a tap on the outer door of the compartment is sufficient to reset the Red.  This will have to do until I am feeling energetic again, or get to a Tiffin Service Center, it is under warranty.

If the sum total of my trials and tribulations do not get any worse, I will be content.  I have scrapes and gashes on wrists, elbows and knees, but haven’t hit my head on anything in a couple of weeks.  Who ever said RVing isn’t an extreme sport?  It is amazing how many things find ways to get in my way when my attention is distracted.

Fixin’ and Cleanin’

Back in Livingston. Beautiful day, no plans.  While reading the NYTimes and wondering how the Israelis will put together a government this time and how long it will last, watching Hillary speak to the Senate hearing, I thought about projects that have been put off indefinitely it seems.  Back in November at Dan and Malena’s I had jury rigged the electrical setup for the macerator pump with wires running around door posts in the basement and held in place, not very well, with grey tape.  All in all an ugly arrangement, but who wants to crawl around on the ground and in the storage compartments when it is cold and wet?  Certainly not me.  As the morning fog lifted and the sun started to warm things up I started opening some compartments and sizing up what needed to be done.  For starters I dealt with the ground which didn’t need to be routed out of the utility compartment because there are plenty of good ground points available.  I thought of reducing the length of the wire but found that with tie wraps and some judicious wrapping of the wire I could keep the length and make it neat.  Done.

Next I needed to reroute the positive lead.  Just the other side of the utility compartment wall in the storage compartment is the inverter,  mounted to the ceiling.  A large gauge cable from the battery compartment feeds the inverter.  Just need to get a 10 gauge wire through the wall and it is done, well almost.  I crawled in on my back and found a tiny hole very near the exterior wall right at the top of the  storage compartment.  I shoved a piece of wire through and Carol announced she saw it coming into the utility compartment.  I measured out how long the finished wire needed to be and allowed some slack and made the cut and tied it to the wire I had used for a fish and with some struggle pulled it through.  I used a lot of tie wraps to secure the wire neatly and bound it to the post with the battery cable – I used a crimped on ring and retained the inline fuse that was part of the original installation.  Turned all the power back on and tried the macerator.  It works.  I think it was harder describing it than doing it.

We took off earlyish on Thursday to go to the Museum of Fine Art Houston.  We wanted to see the War/Photography Exhibit curated by Ann Tucker a graduate of VSW.  She spent eight years curating the exhibit.  Photographs range from before the Civil War to current conflicts and reflect all the aspects of war.  We spent all of three hours in the exhibit and were totally spent at the end.  While having lunch in the Cafe we both realized that we would not be able to take in any more art exhibits that day.

 I remembered that we had just read an article by Anna Lee Braunstein, with whom we have traveled, about the Space Center just south of Houston.  We headed out further south by 30 minutes to see what she had written about.  With only a few hours we could not fit in much of the extras, but we were able to get on the Tour Tram and get into Mission Control, the room we saw on TV through Apollo and the Shuttle until 1995.  It has been declared a National Historical Monument.  It almost brought tears to my eyes.  I remember getting up early and staying up late to watch launches and moon landings with continual views on screen of that room and the big screen with orbital lines on it.  Someplace I have slides I took off the TV when Armstrong took his famous step. The rest was very interesting, especially the training facility.  The rocket park is a let down, but then Houston was the control center and they never launched a rocket from there.

We headed out at five o’clock to thread our way through the heart of Huoston rush hour, please, after LA this was child’s play.  We only crawled three or four miles and once we started moving out of the center it was speed limit all the way home.  Of course we did take the HOV lane for 50 miles, what a blessing.

I’ll post some pictures another day.

We do Dallas

We have avoided this very large, high traffic city since our first days with the RV.  Then our friends Deb Friedman and Scott Mackler moved to Dallas from Rochester.  Last year we convinced them to enjoy New Years Eve with us in Liberty Texas, clearly not a large or even medium sized city.  This year their schedules were full, as is normal for people who must still work (there I did it, I uttered a four letter word).  We did some research and found a Passport America affiliated campground really close (that is large city close) to their home.  Sandy Lake RV and Mobile Home Park is located adjacent to the George W. Bush Expressway.  The park is old, the sites are tight, and the pavement is breaking down.  Everything else works fine and we are not bothered by traffic noise for some reason.

Scott’s office is not far from the park and he came over as we finished setting up and we had some time to get caught up while Deb was still seeing patients.  We followed Scott to their house in Dallas proper.  It is deep into a lovely gated, walled community surrounded by the city.  After downsizing to a 1470 square foot apartment and living in the roughly 350 square feet of Gee Whiz, their home seems very spacious, even huge to us.  We had a delightful Shabbat dinner and rolled home in time to get to bed.

Saturday morning began with me fussing to get our new satellite service to work.  I hadn’t been able to do anything in Livingston because our antenna was staring into a tree.  As I turned on the antenna and the receiver the installation wizard that had tried to run in Livingston jumped ahead two steps to try to connect to phone and/or internet.  Since neither of these is connected all I needed to do was bypass this step to continue with the installation, but no there was no way to do that.  The resulting lengthy tech support call resulted in my learning an undocumented sequence to jump out of the wizard and an appointment for Sunday morning with a tech.  I shut the system down and we went to see some galleries we had found in our research.

We started at Afterimage Photograph Gallery.  This seemed to be a logical starting place since Afterimage is the name of the magazine published by Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) where Carol got her MFA.  The collection is quite glorious with images by well known masters and work that we did not recognize (well I didn’t anyhow).  We engaged the salesman and he suggested that we continue to Dragon Street where we would find Photographs Do Not Bend (PDNB).  We made our way there after having a lovely lunch at MoMo which is in the same complex as Afterimage.  While we were walking around the gallery, Burt Finger, the owner appeared and we had a lively conversation about photography, photography in Rochester, especially at VSW and a friend of his from Rochester who we also knew for many years.  If anyone reading this is going to be near Dallas and has any interest in photography these two galleries are musts.  Burt then pointed out three galleries on Dragon Street within walking distance that he thought were worth our time.  We visited those and a few more as well.

If you want an intense exposure to several galleries with a wide range of material in less than a day while in Dallas, I cannot imagine that there is anyplace better than Dragon Street.  Indeed I would compare it to Newberry Street in Boston (haven’t been there in so long I am not sure the comparison would hold up today) except theses spaces are all old warehouse and thus have very high ceilings, grand spaces and many have loading dock entrances.  Eventually our ability to look at another image or sculpture with any discernment ceased.  We drove to Central Market, the only grocery store we know that approaches Wegman’s for quality and quantity of choice not to mention wonderful staff.  After 90 minutes we checked out with more than enough food to replace what we had consumed since arriving in Livingston.  Shopping in Livingston is from the stone age.  There is nothing wholesome and fresh to buy.

We rushed back to Gee Whiz and unloaded the purchases into the refrigerator and the the cupboards and without slowing down we turned around and headed for Deb and Scott’s.  After a brief entertainment by Mr T (cat) we headed out to dinner in Scott’s truck to Baboush in the city.  Another DO NOT MISS, unless you really hate middle eastern cooking and even then you should go there.  While there have the baba ganoush, maybe have two orders and think of us while you eat the second one.   The lamb chops in Moroccan seasonings were heavenly as was everything else that came to the table.  Surfeit, we returned  to Deb and Scott’s and played with Mr T some more before returning to Gee Whiz to get some sleep.

Sunday we planned to go to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as soon as the Dish Tech finished setting up our satellite receiver.  Before he arrived I turned it on and it seemed to have fixed itself overnight.  He arrived and after a fair amount of mumbo jumbo with his boss came to the conclusion that the antenna was not providing a strong enough signal.  He left, giving me the phone number for King Satellite Services even though I assured him that my antenna was Winegard, not King.  I exchanged email with both King and Winegard over the subsequent 24 hours.  I learned that indeed King does not service their competitor’s antennae – surprise, surprise and Dish informed me that the mumbo jumbo that the tech had assured me was the problem was indeed the right stuff for the antenna I have!  It works fine now.

We had lunch and drove 40 minutes to Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth which is a member of the National Reciprocal Program so we were able to enter as members.  The space! The collection! the installation!  Not sure I can say a whole lot more.  They had a wonderful Donald Judd and in the next room on a wall where you could see both they had a Daniel Flavin, those two men were friends and Judd’s own museum in Marfa has a major permanent installation of Flavin’s work.  We noticed a docent giving what appeared to be a private tour early in our visit.  Later she saw us again and stopped to chat with us and ask if we had any questions about what we were seeing.  We had an extended conversation with her and she gave us some interesting pointers.  I am not sure I remember ever being approached by a docent with that kind of friendly gesture.  Back to the coach and dinner and reading before turning in.  Today is Monday, galleries are closed even if it isn’t Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration day.  We finished our shopping and are settled in for a quiet day.

Back to Livingston Tuesday, January 22, which happens to be tomorrow.

Transferring ID to Texas

This was supposed to be easy.  Get insurance; have vehicles inspected; change registration on vehicles to Texas; surrender NY drivers license and obtain Texas drivers license – oops.  Our Coach weighs 26,500 pounds empty.  Texas regulations require a special drivers license – Class B – for vehicles that weigh more than 26,001 pounds empty.  How hard could that be? Oh there is a computer exam to take before you can take the road test.  It is the full CDL (Commercial Drivers License).  We both sat for it immediately, and failed!  I really do not need to know that I need to know the county’s regulations for how to cover a load of sand and gravel (that is the correct answer), or a myriad of other details that are very important to truck drivers or school bus drivers, but not so much to RVers.  We went home and while Carol prepared dinner I read the book, ignoring sections on endorsements for Hazardous materials and Towing Multiple Trailers.  Back we went on Friday afternoon after Carol had time to read all the material and we had reviewed  it together.

When we sat at the two old touch screen computers, the one I sat at would not work even when I rapped the screen with my knuckle.  So much for ancient technology.  Carol meanwhile passed so I took over her machine and proceeded to answer all 20 questions correctly only to have the computer ignore my presence and dump my results into the bit bucket.  After consulting with Cindy I was able to reenter the test and retake it.  This time I missed an answer, so much for perfection, but the only needed grade is Pass, which I did.

We are signed up to take the road test here on the 28th.  Today I mailed my NY plates  back to NY DMV. It is all progress in our intended direction.  For now we are relaxing in Livingston and figuring out what to do as the weather continues to be unstable.  We have had torrential rains, a warm sunny day and it is now threatening to rain on a rather warm day.  Soon enough it will be cold and wet then cold and sunny then???

A Gathering of Goldbergs – 2013

We began the new year in Fredericksburg Texas with half our complement down with what turned out eventually to be the flu.  Fortunately Carol and I were among the lucky who had flu shots over a month ago and they covered the particular flu we were exposed to.  We stayed healthy!  On New Years day Yechiel, Josh, Azriel and I went to the National Museum of the War in the Pacific.  After more than four hours they were turning off the lights to get us to leave.  Even with two more hours the next day, Yechiel and I never got passed the Leyte Gulf battle (preliminary to retaking the Phillipines).  Lesson, if you are a history buff and interested in the War  in the Pacific allow two full days or more to take in this museum.  I have not even talked about the Battleground site just down the road from the museum.  Check out their web site http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/index.asp

The second day of the year Yechiel and I were active, Carol and Miriam were the healthy ones staying behind to care for the sick ones.  By the 4th we were mostly up and around and we packed up and got back on the road to San Antonio KOA.  We arrived mid afternoon and after basic set up I got busy setting up the eruv for Shabbat (here is probably more information than you want on eruv).  We had set one up at Admiralty using a kite line and clothesline to link the back of our coaches and an open area from the door of Yechiel’s coach to ours. As I checked with Yechiel before climbing on the back of his coach to hang the rope, he told me that the KOA was entirely fenced with a river along one boundary, problem solved the entire campground was declared an eruv.  The kids were delighted because as they were recovering from their flu they could romp and play ball wherever they chose – so long as they stayed out of other’s sites.

Saturday Leigh and Pat revisited and after a great visit on the coach we went off without Yechiel’s family to a Mexican restaurant “Guajillo” for lunch.  We treated Josh to a margarita to celebrate his 21st birthday (a day early).  Sunday began the end of the Gathering.  Dan and I took Yechiel and family to the airport and said farewell.  On return to the KOA we decided to go to Mission San Jose where we took in the introductory film and toured the grounds.  Originally we had planned to celebrate Josh’s actual birthday with dinner on board, but Dan and Malena suggested that we take the Riverwalk boat ride and have Josh choose a restaurant for his birthday dinner.  Great choice!

Monday was a marathon of sorts.  Dan and family had an early flight so we let them take the rental van and drop it off.  We then left in Dan’s rental motorhome- me – and the Jeep – Carol with Josh to go to the airport.  Carol then found her way to the rental agency and picked me up so we could pack lunch and drive Yechiel’s motorhome in convoy with the Jeep to the rental agency in Boerne.  We returned to KOA and proceeded to spend the rest of the day cleaning everything in sight and preparing to continue on with our travels, alone.

Today, Tuesday, we headed out to Rainbow’s End in Livingston Texas where we will get new driver’s licenses and Texas plates for the vehicles.  The drive was uneventful if damp.  It took three different mapping packages and the use of a paper map to find a reasonable way to drive from San Antonio to Livingston without going close to Houston.  We did it and it only took 6 miles and 30 minutes more.  Upon arrival it started to rain for real with thunder and lighting and as I got out to disconnect the Jeep and guide Carol backing the coach into the spot it poured.  By the time the coach was spotted we were both soaked so I just finished hooking everything up in the rain.  In the morning I will double check my work.

After note: If anyone reading this is considering renting a motorhome from CruiseAmerica have second thoughts, then rethink if you are still considering it.  The list of unserviced items and failures is too long to make a ten day rental comfortable.  If I had not been along with my RV knowledge, it could have been a disaster.  The furnace failed and the propane/CO detector went into a failure mode I had not seen myself.  Add leaking roof vents and you begin to get the picture.  The 24 hour emergency service did not answer the phone for over 30 minutes and finally responded 12 hours later.  The rental from American Dream Vacations was not without some issues but the coach was new and well maintained and there were no major/show stopping failures.

A Gathering of Goldbergs

Our route to San Antonio for the Gathering got a bit obtuse.  I was struggling to find a way to get there without going through Houston.  Call up a road map of southeast Texas entering on I 10.  We have struggled with this every year.  Usually we go north, but that was too far out of the way.  We elected to drop down to Bonaventure Island and take the ferry to Galveston Island and stay at the state park past the still devastated city of Galveston.  As we drove along Sea Wall it was shocking to see how many places were gone and no sign of restoration so many years after the storm.

We arrived at Admiralty RV on Sunday as planned and found no surprises.  Miriam, Yechiel and there boys arrived on schedule, the boys stayed on board for two nights and the parents in a Holiday Inn until they could pick up their rental unit in Boerne (rhymes with journey), about 30 minutes from where we were staying.

As we settled them in we got a call from Dan that storms in the East were impacting their ability to travel as scheduled.  Josh flew on from Rochester to Dulles only to miss his connection to San Antonio.  He spent the night in a hotel and caught an early flight in the next morning.  Dan and his clan flew in on Friday morning and by mid afternoon we were all together.

Shabbat, Pat and Leigh Rainwater came down from Austin to join us for the day.  She and Dan had not seen each other for 30 years and Yechiel had not seen here even longer.  It was quite a reunion.  For lunch we left Yechiel and family to a relatively quiet Shabbat while we went off to lunch and a tour of The Alamo and Riverwalk guided by Leigh and Pat.  We gathered back at the coach late afternoon for extended conversation and meal that the three women put together for all of us.  Leigh and Pat were moderately anxious to get on the road before 8:30 as the Longhorns were playing in the Alamo Bowl and half of Austin was in town for the game (If they had not been with us, the entire event would have passed unnoticed by us.)

Sunday was moving day and I lead the convoy of GeeWhiz pulling Ruby with Yechiel in his rental and Carol in the rented van out of the park.  About 20 minutes later Dan in his rental joined up from an early morning shopping side trip and we proceeded north on 16 into Hill Country toward Fredericksburg.  The road proved to be a beautiful drive with just a touch of roller coaster.  I was leading through the twisty climbs and descents at 15 mph with Josh at my side to read the map and watch for signs while I wrestled the steering wheel.  I think we will need to let Carol have her chance to drive that road someday.  It is our kind of fun.

Monday the 31st we took everyone, minus Malena who was down with a cold, in the van with packed lunches to the Johnson Ranch State park AND National Historical Park.  It was a full day with the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, the grounds of the Ranch and eventually the Ranch House itself.  By now Cory was too sick to participate and Carol stayed behind in the van with him while we took the Ranch House and Western White House tour.  Much more of the house has been made available for touring since we toured five years ago.

New Years Eve was a bit dampened as there were three kids down with the cold as well as Malena and Dan was not feeling great either.  The relatively healthy gathered in Gee Whiz and we ate and had some Port in our tea and then just the port and retold old family stories until midnight eastern time.