Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What we've been doin'...
 
 
Our youngest son, Chris, graduated with his Masters Degree in Geology on December 12.
 
Katie, Katie's mom, Kathy, Deaglan and Joanie in the bleachers at UNCW before the graduation ceremony.
 
The grad. 
 

On December 6th we went to see Emory's performance in the Nutcracker.  Her grandma presents her with flowers after the show.
 
A great deal of artistic license was taken to E.T.A. Hoffmann's story that Tchaikovsky wrote the ballet to.  The story was set in Wilmington, NC just after the American civil war and the toy soldiers who do battle with the mouse king were Yankee soldiers carrying American flags.  The local audience did not seem to have any problem accepting this version of the Nutcracker.
 
We had Christmas Day dinner with old friends Candle, her sister Jeanie and their family.

Jeanie's daughter Sydney did some "posing" for the camera.

And another pose.
 
As most of you know winter has been postponed on the east coast. Every day in December the daily temperature flirts with 80 degrees and mother nature is trying to create a rain forest here.  Rain, rain please go away!

During a break in the rain, I got this shot of our Christmas tree which we put in our picture window this year.
 
The day after Christmas we took the grand kids (and their folks) to Bounce.  For hours Deaglan and Emory just burned energy at an unbelievable rate.  

This place has state of the art bounce equipment. 
 Of course Emory had to do everything her big brother did.
After Bounce, we went to a nice Italian restaurant but Emory could not stay awake.  She was totally out of gas.

Later we played with Christmas presents.

 
 
Did I mention that it is raining? For Christmas I got Wellingtons; AKA Wellies.  Anyone who has watched PBS knows what Wellies are.  Rubber boots. Did I tell you that it is raining? Even as I write this, a summer thunder storm rages outside.  The ground is super saturated.  Flash flood warnings, rivers spilling over their banks are causing untold problems. 

We are high above the river and creeks and our lot drains as well.  But there is mud everywhere. Therefore, the need for Wellies.

I made this Wellie stand the other day.  The rain washes off the mud while the boots stay dry inside.

This is our latest modification to "Plan B".  A small shed to keep shovels, rakes and a place to store the trash can and recycle bin when we travel.
 
 
We expect to break camp here and move Phaeth and Hope to the KOA in Wilmington on Sunday.  We will be helping Chris and Katie with the kids while Chris travels to the OBX for three weeks.  The GeoEngineering company he works for will have him working on their barge taking core samples for the North Carolina DOT. He will be the resident geologist identifying soil and rock samples.  He will be coming home on weekends when grandma and I will rest.
 
 



 
 
 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Plan B"...

When Joanie and I started out on our adventure of full timing we knew that we would not be able to do it forever.  We knew that health issues and our age would cause us to come an end sometime.  The question we had then was "What would we do then?".  Where would we park Phaeth for the last time? 
This is the lot before any contractors began work.

 
 
The first thing we did was to put in the water line.  There existed a frost proof  yard hydrant out near the street which when moved back about 60 feet, was perfect for an RV site.  The valve is 18 inches below grade protecting it from freezing.  A 4 foot rod that opens and closes the valve runs down the middle of the water pipe making it very easy and convenient to turn the water on or off.  It also opens (when valve is off) and closes (when valve is open) a weep hole below grade to let water drain out of the stand pipe, preventing it from freezing. Recycling this hydrant saved us some $.

 

At first it seemed like a question with no good answer but after thinking about it, we came up with some.  (1.) We could park in one of the long term campgrounds in Florida, Texas or Arizona and just continually rent the space.  It is difficult to find a good place and they pack you in like sardines.  (2.) We could buy a space in one of the upscale "resort" RV retirement places where there is greater "elbow room" but those were out of our budget range.  (3.) We found out about a progressive nursing RV village in Texas that sounded very nice but Texas is far from any of our relatives or friends that we would like to see.


Next, a septic tank had to be installed.  This system has no drain field.  Instead, it has an electrically operated lift pump which, because the ground here does not "perk", sends the liquid effluent of the tank to a city sewer line. The septic tank had to be vacuum tested  and certified by an inspector against leaks which is what is happening here.



We decided to create our own "alternative" that combined all of the above and give us everything that we wanted.  We decide to build our own permanent campground with plenty of "elbow room", is in a quiet location with moderate weather and close to friends and relatives. 

 
The truck that delivered the septic tank got stuck in the Carolina clay (which is why the ground "don't perk") that makes up most of land along the Neuse River.  The excavator's Bobcat had to help pull it out.  The wet clay is like a powerful vacuum that sucks things down into it.  It is like a very slow liquid that will stick to everything. Cleaning it off requires much water and effort.
 

We found and purchased a lot that is two thirds of an acre on a dead end road on the Neuse River in an unincorporated section of Craven County, near New Bern, North Carolina. We are not "on the river" but are across the street from the waterfront properties. The lots across the street are tax valued ten times greater than what ours cost because of their "waterfront" nature. 

It is far more peaceful and quiet here than in some campground or RV resort.

We bought the lot in June and came back in November to start the "build".  For more than a month we have tried to coordinate contractors, inspectors, city water, sewer and electric providers all while dodging one of the wettest falls this part of the country has seen in a long time.
 
This year's El NiƱo is causing a record warm December.  I have no problems accepting the warm weather and hope January and February behave themselves, too. But the rain makes it difficult to get work done.
 
 
 


We had a standard 200 amp service installed mostly because it was the least expensive route to go.  From this panel a sub-panel was installed for the sewer lift pump and controller.  From this main panel an RV 50 amp plug was installed.  The breakers for this plug are in the main panel, again to save a few bucks.

The essentials for life while living in an RV, water, sewer and electricity, are finally in and we have moved Phaeth to her new campground, our campground.  I have to admit that it was frustrating at times.  We have a lot of "refining" to do as we have mud all around us.  Maybe we will get a pair of "Wellies" to put on whenever we leave Phaeth.


 The excavation contractor also installed the circular driveway and parking pad of ABC stone gravel.  He had start by striping away the sod.

 


We plan on staying here until Spring,  enjoying the Christmas holidays with our son Chris' family and friend Candle and her family, taking our time doing the "refining".  Should the weather turn too nasty for our taste, we will just drive away.  We have never stayed for this long in one place living in Phaeth. We will need to exercise her every so often to be sure she stays in shape.  We hope to celebrate Chris' birthday then head north to Massachusetts to celebrate Don's and Sherri's birthday. Then, perhaps head West until fall when we will come back to "Plan B".




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Blue Neuse...
It was a gray, cloudy day yesterday until sunset when the last of the setting sun made a very brief appearance. The night, closing in, made everything look very blue.  This picture was made looking West North West at three old cypress tree stumps I call "The Three Sisters".
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not exactly an adventure...

Lobo lays in front of the dorm fridge.  It was taking up one of "his" favorite spots in the coach.
 
 
Wednesday, a week ago, I was awakened by the sound of heavy rain pounding on the roof of Phaeth. In the gray, early morning light I peeked out the windows and saw puddles forming around us.  I put on my rain suit and walked Lobo and Juniper who had to be dried off when we came back in, all smelling of "wet dog". 
 
Made coffee, got Joanie up and started to break camp.  There is probably nothing more dispiriting than breaking camp in the pouring rain.  Yuck!
 
But we were also anticipating an improvement to the way our life style had been for the last 3 weeks. 
 
We had been living without our refrigerator.  Living in less than 360 square feet without our fridge was less than pleasant, to put it mildly.  When the fridge died, we had to do A LOT of cooking very quickly, giving most of it away, then trashing what would soon go bad.  We called an RV repair center here in New Bern who ordered a large, expensive part that would revive the poor dead fridge and scheduled a day to have it repaired which was Wednesday a week ago, in pouring rain.  We drove Phaeth to the RV repair center then waited for a call to tell us of the good news that our fridge was "ALIVE". Now we had to drive back to the campground, in the pouring rain and set up camp, in the pouring rain, walk the dogs in the pouring rain, dry off and crash.
 
At 8:30 PM we were startled out of our fatigue stupor by the sound of ice falling into the empty ice bucket in the freezer.  Huzzah! And thank you, Lord!  We had our fridge back.
 
In our small world, small victories are celebrated.
 
Lobo has his sleeping spot back and the dorm fridge we were using is outside waiting for someone to come and get it and make some use of it.
 
  

Monday, November 16, 2015

The river is boiling...

I took these photos this morning.  We are camped on the banks of the Neuse River. A fog hovered over the glassy surface of the water at high tide making the water look like it was ready to boil.  I waited just a few minutes so that objects became a little more defined by the rising sun.

"The Three Sisters".  Three very old cypress stumps.

 

Weather vane over the fishing pier.

Looking East at the rising sun.  There is a primordial feel to this shot.

"New Bern in the Mist".  This is the east side of New Bern. You are right; it's not a big town.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

From where I sit...
The view is pretty nice! 





 
New Bern, North Carolina is only single digits above sea level on the vast flat, open, coastal plain so you would not think that there could be any majestic, awe inspiring views.  However, we have been blessed to have been given the best campsite in the RV park. 

My work station looks out the driver side of the coach and I have the best views and get to see gorgeous sunsets! I look across the marsh grass from the Bridgeton community to see New Bern on the other side of the river.   The Neuse River is almost a mile wide at this point.  Another mile southeast the Trent River joins it to be almost a mile and a half wide. Farther down you can take a ferry ride from Cherry Point to Minnesott Beach.  Drive father southeast and you can take ferries to the Outer Banks.

Geese are plentiful this time of year and their honking, low flyovers drown out the mocking birds and the tapping of the red headed wood peckers. 

Our work and RV adventures are keeping us busy.  I will tell you about some that in a later post.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Another adventure in RVing...

Thursday morning I awoke to the secondary level alarm (the bathroom door. The "primary" is on the auto level control pad).  The bathroom door was closing by itself - we were no longer level!  As soon as I had my shoes on, walked the dogs, said my morning prayers and made coffee, I checked our situation.  I found the left rear leveling jack along with the jack pad under it had sunk into the gravel parking site. 

This is what my investigation turned up. Not good!
 
The results of our non-voluntary episode at compacting the parking pad at our camp site.
 
Fearing that this racked (twisted) the motorhome's chassis, I took action.  I needed to perform a re-level.  Ordinarily you would first pull in the slide out rooms before pulling up the jacks but I could not risk doing that with a twisted chassis frame.  I raised the jacks which put all the weight on the wheels and we felt a bit more secure. I put larger jack pads under the rear jacks and hit the auto level button. A kind of earth quake shudder went through Phaeth as the larger pads made of lumber broke in half and also descended in to the growing sink hole. 
My poor fractured 2 x 10 jack pads.  I will have to go to Lowes or Home Depot and make new ones. 


Images of aerial photos of famous Florida sink holes flashed through my head so I made a sort-of-emergency call to the campground office. They were very apologetic and said they would send out the maintenance man who, after viewing the situation, called the head maintenance man, who gave orders for the maintenance man to get two 2 x 10 by 8 foot long planks and a tractor load of gravel.

The planks were new, pressure treated pieces of lumber with a very high water content which would resist breaking. Once they were positioned under the jacks I hit the re-level button. The new timbers bent but did not break.

The rear axel is carrying about 22,000 plus pounds (11 tons), so the jack points are pressing down at close to 11,000 lbs. each but the weight is spread out over 8 square feet.  The expressions on the faces of the maintenance workers said it all when they saw their timbers bend under the load.

Upon questioning the maintenance workers, we found out that the parking site we were assigned had recently been enlarged to accommodate larger RV's and we were the first "big rig" to make use of it.  The gravel on the enlarged part had never been compacted.  They had expected the RVs using it would do all the compacting work for them.   They had substantially underestimated the weight of a motorhome! 



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Front Royal, Virginia...

From Littleton, Massachusetts we drove to East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and visited with my sisters and some of their families then moved on to Front Royal, Virginia.  The countryside was beautiful and the colors were as good as they were going to get.  We camped in a very old, used to be KOA RV park.  Much of the park has been abandoned by the owners who are just letting it rot away.  However it could not have been in a more charming location.  We could see the Skyline Drive from our site and it was quiet and peaceful. (There were lots of critters around, however:  Someone had just run over a skunk in the road about a half mile before the campground and there were numerous other road kills in the area.  I also had the unfortunate experience of evicting a field mouse and three of her just delivered babies whom I found in the chassis battery bay.)



From Front Royal, we drove down from the mountains to the flat, flat coastal plain in Chesapeake, Virginia.  My knees love me for that!