Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Repairing, Repurposing and Revising

We left Hardeeville last Saturday and moved to Callahan, Florida which is out in the country near the Georgia state line not far from Jacksonville.  The camp ground in Callahan is small and tight but we found it very nice. 

The sign at the entrance was certainly unique and I recognized it right away as a great example of repurposing  which is highly touted these days as part of the recycling movement.

The campground's signs facing both ways on US 301 are old 1950's era C-band microwave antennae developed by Bell Laboratories as part of their long lines telecommunications.  This is before satellites.  You could see these horn type antennae along side highways relaying line of sight microwave radio signals.  With the advent of satellites and fiber optic cable, these rather large antennae were made obsolete.   In 1964, cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered which was the evidence that was used to prove the Big Bang model of the creation of the universe. The accidental discovery of this background microwave radiation by American radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson used similar antenna design and won the Nobel prize in physics for their discovery in 1978.  OK, class dismissed.

While in Callahan, I had to make an essential repair to our shore power cord. Evidently I left the ground prong in the female socket in Hardeeville and discovered the problem when we arrived in Callahan.  It is not good not to be grounded.  So I made a trip into Jacksonville to the Camping World store to get a replacement cord that would wire into the transfer switch box.  Cost would be over $200.00 for a new cord and plug and since my cord is still in very good shape, I opted to just purchase the male plug. $27.00.  It took an hour sitting at the picnic table outside to cut off the old, groundless plug, strip the 6 and 8 gauge braided copper wire in the cord and attach it to the prongs (correctly) and re-assemble the new plug.  I re-attached Phaeth to shore power and all was good once more.

Because I like to shave in the shower which, because there was no mirror, I had to shave by feel and risk lopping off part of my mustache or making my sideburns uneven, I revised our shower by adding a flexible mirror.  Now I won't miss any spots on my handsome, rugged face.

Monday, hearing of blizzards in the North East and single digit highs in the Mid West, we drove to Ocala, Florida where it was 65 degrees.  YES!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

Anyone who has ever traveled I-95 through Georgia and South Carolina for the last several decades has seen the B-47 parked near the highway and the growth of the museum behind it.  I used to drive this way on business back in the eighties and I have always wanted to see what they have here. I have the time now so Joanie and I went yesterday.

It is a special place because of the men who served in this unit.  During WWII no other unit of the armed forces suffered the casualty rate that the 8th suffered.  The story of the brave men they tell here is very moving.


This is an actual trainer in which Army Air Force personnel  learned to fly.
The distinctive vertical stabilizer of the B-17.
At the beginning of WWII the 8th Army Air Force was created at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah and that is why museum is located here.  Hunter Army Air Field is still in use today.

The museum is restoring a B-17G. The ball turret was used in the film Memphis Belle. Volunteers, some retired pilots but anyone interested in aviation, work almost daily on this restoration project.  When finished, the plane will be an authentic complete B-17G all parts will be working including the engines.  It can't be flown because it was assembled inside the building.
A diorama of a low level B-24  raid on a German held oil refinery in Ploesti, Romania.  All the exhibits are painstakingly accurate and authentic items are used extensively.
Out side the museum is a large memorial garden honoring 8th Air Force crews.  On the grounds is a very nice chapel where memorial services are regularly held.

The stained glass art work in the chapel is very moving.

To be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others.


Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm not sure what I should entitle this entry.


Joanie and I both agree that we have been very "busy" for the last few months.  We have visited with more family and friends than we ever have and have loved every minute. We sort of feel that all that activity, all the places we have been, start to blur in our memories.  We feel like we were in a fog of time.

Indeed, many people suffer from what is called the "holiday let-down" at this time of year which is just the transition from all the activity from September to January and then realizing that there is not so much we "have to do" now.  Many people finally find in January the Peace that was wished for them during Christmas. Finally there is silence and time to contemplate and rest. We synchronize ourselves to the earth that is in a dormancy, a silence, a rest before being reawakened in the spring.  I find myself spending more time in prayer, with my spiritual readings and just listening to what God is saying.  It's nice!

So we are here in Hardeeville, SC, near Hilton Head and close to Savannah.  Being on the coast it is warmer here and we are now away from the bone chilling drops in temperature that our bones can no longer tolerate easily.  Joanie says she can now climb into bed without getting the "cold sheet shock" which has the tendency to wake you up when you are really sleepy.

The world is green here, sort of like Wilmington, with lots of live oaks, pines and even occasional palm trees. The sun rises higher in the sky and you can feel it has more energy here.  It gets up earlier and goes to sleep later.  That's nice, too.
Caught a neighbor out walking his cat.

Good sized cat.

He's kind of outgrown his halter jacket.

We will be here resting for at least a week before heading farther south. I have a couple of little projects but may put them off until we get to Ocala. So "I'm busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do", to borrow from the song Bing Crosby sang in the movie Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Sunlight coming through the small kitchen window highlighted Lobo's handsome face.

Joanie always cooks with color and when I saw all this on the stove together, I had to take a picture.  If you don't recognize it you are in for a treat.  Miniature pierogies, stewed fresh tomatoes and spinach, garlic and mushrooms. Polish comfort food.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Servicing Phaeth

Wednesday we broke camp at the KOA in Fort Mill, SC and drove an hour to Gaffney, SC.  Gaffney is where Phaeth was conceived, you might say.  There is a large Freightliner plant here where all the Freightliner chassis for class A and class super C motorhomes are built.  The chassis consists of the wheels, tires, chassis frame, brakes, the Onan generator, Cummins engine, chassis batteries, alternator, fuel tank, Allison transmission, steering wheel and dash gauges. Everything that makes the motorhome go. These are then shipped to the motorhome manufacturers like Tiffin, Winnebago, Forest River, Thor, Fleetwood and others. Freightliner is the "motor" part of the word "motorhome" and Tiffin is the "home" part of the word.
We are the second from the right.  We semi-boondocked here Wednesday night in the Freightliner back lot.  Freightliner provided electricity but no water or sewer hook-ups.  We used our tanks.

"Be ready at 8 o'clock". That's when they began work Thursday morning to finish the servicing job. That is a bit early for us retired folks. It was a gray, foggy, frosty morning that greeted our yawns.

And at 8 sharp they took Phaeth back into the work bay.

Gaffney is where Freightliner operates its best service center.  They do a lot of training here, too.  A motorhome owner can come here and Freightliner will give then a thorough education on how his/her motorhome operates but mostly they service the chassis portion of the motorhome. This is not really a process for a shade tree mechanic and needs to be done by people who specialize in this heavy duty equipment. Putting one of these 30,000 + pound behemoths up on a lift requires some heavy duty equipment. So, yes, it costs more than servicing your automobile.

However, diesels are designed for the "long haul".  Phaeth takes 23 quarts of oil but turns a little more than half the RPMs your car does so we don't need servicing again for about 15,000 miles.  We will probably put about 10,000 on her by this time next year.

Lobo and Juniper waited not-quite-so-patiently.

We spent most of  the time in Freightliner's customer service lounge.  Joanie did a little shopping in Gaffney at the Belk department store.  Joanie got us both some new socks and a couple pair of pants for me.  I am "hard on my clothes", I am told.  We threw out the same number of old pants and socks so we don't accumulate "stuff".

This is Sharon who shared the waiting area with us at Freightliner.  We shared full-timer stories, too.  She patiently waited on her husband who was taking an all-day educational class.

Since this was the first service we have had done since purchasing Phaeth and because we were not sure what all the previous owner had done to her, we decided to do a thorough job of it and include generator servicing and get her weighed and tire pressures adjusted.

They started Wednesday about 1 PM and we got Phaeth back about 4:30 so we could eat and sleep.  They would finish Thursday about 1 PM. We hooked up Hope then drove to Lexington, SC where we are now.

Because Lobo and Juniper don't wait quite as patiently as humans, we went out for a couple of extended walks around the facility.  We came across this big old tree... 
... which, upon the type of close examination that dogs will give trees, ...

... we found barbed wire.  A long time ago a farmer had used the sapling as a fence post and the tree assimilated the wire which runs directly through the middle of the tree.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Another Lesson Learned

A lot of fulltime RVers who keep blogs use New Years to recap their adventures and travels.  Some take stock of their new life style and evaluate whether or not it was a prudent choice for them.  I don't think you will find too many admitting to having made a mistake.  It is not in human nature to broadcast to the world that they screwed up. Most won't even attempt an evaluation.  They will just do the old slide show of the family trip.

Since we have been at this for only seven months, I'll spare you the boring recapitulation for now; but come June 5th, look out. (Or, maybe not).

Our most recent lesson?  We don't want to be this far north in the winter.  Especially during arctic blast outbreaks! 

We are in South Carolina, the Sunny South.  So where is everyone?  There are only a handful of RVs in this campground on this sun-filled weekend. Most of our neighbors have come in after dark and leave at first light headed south on I-77.  Their toads are white with road salt. This place is still too cold for the snow birds.

RV's, even luxury motor coaches, are not very well insulated so you have to run furnaces and heaters.  They are noisy and expensive to run and you waste time worrying about running out of propane.

• The outdoor temperature must be monitored closely so that water connections can be severed and protected before damage is done. (We have a new standpipe and spigots on our water connection because the campground didn't turn off the water correctly the other night and the pipe burst.  When water freezes it expands and even steel will not contain the sudden expansive force). At the end of the day, Joanie has to hurry up and get the dinner dishes washed up so that I can run out, shut the water off, drain the hose and stow it, turn the valve to the internal fresh water tank and be sure the drop-light in the wet bay is on making some heat to protect the plumbing system.

• Northern latitude solar exposure is insufficient in winter to keep the old bones and mental processes happy.  The sun only gets to about 40 degrees above the horizon here in Fort Mill, SC (not even half way up the sky) before it starts going back down.  It is even worse for folks farther north.

So the lesson is: if you have wheels under you, use them.  Next year when we do our New Year's recapitulation we will be farther south. Lesson learned!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Survived and Survived
It is 2:30 in the afternoon.  We may not hit the "revised" predicted high of 28. (Revised down from 31).

Got through the night OK.  Nothing frozen inside.  We now have a new record of surviving 10 degrees.  Tonight it will be a balmy 16.  Makes ya' want to go out and plant palm tress doesn't it.

I also survived a trip to the doctor's (orthopedic) office first thing this AM.  I was worried that Hope may not want to start.  But I got there in the blustery weather and felt very sorry for the other ortho patients hobbling in with me (actually they hobbled a lot worse than me).  Yes, I was not the worse patient the doctor had ever seen.  They took some really neat x-rays of my knees including an "over the shoulder shot" that gave the doctor a really good look of my patella (knee cap). For now the doctor said I could get some relief from cortisone shots.  So he needled both my knees and I was off; call him in the future if I have more trouble and he will consider another treatment including possible knee replacements. Who knows, maybe they will come up with a new miracle cure for arthritis on the knee.

So that's the update.  Will go to work on travel plans next after we get through the "arctic blast".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Survive the night!

The robins that have decided to winter here in Ft. Mill, SC know that something is about to happen.  So do the starlings and the squirrels.  They are trying to find some extra food, risking being close to humans and their dogs to desperately search for more calories that will help them survive the night.

The temperature is expected to drop to 11 tonight.  It is also predicted to stay below freezing all day tomorrow and for the next several nights.  We, too, must survive the "Arctic Blast".

There are a few things we must do so that we stay comfortable in Phaeth and so the deep freeze does not do any damage to her.  First, be sure we have enough LP (liquid propane) to run the furnaces. Next, fill our fresh water tank and empty the waste tanks so we can "boondock" for the next couple of days.  (This isn't true boondocking since we will still be attached to the campground's electricity.  Electricity has been known to go out during these drastic times so we need to have enough diesel fuel to run the generator.  Now that will be true "boondocking").  Be sure your sewer hose is pretty much empty, too.  Poop-sludge-cicles have been known to cause damage to sewer hoses.

To be sure none of the fresh water plumbing freezes, we set the rear furnace thermostat higher than the front to assure that the rear furnace comes on during the cold snap and keeps the wet bay relatively warm (above freezing).  It does this by diverting some of the heated coach air to the wet bay.  Just incase we run out of LP, I will put a 75 watt incandescent drop light into the wet bay utilizing its heat. (See, incandescent bulbs are still necessary).

At sunset we will remove the fresh water hose from the campground's spigot, empty it and store it.  That way it will not have any ice in it.  The campground will probably turn off the water, anyway.

Sunset is also a good time to put on long johns, extra socks, snuggly slippers and sweaters; "ma in her kerchief and I in my cap".  An extra blanket would be a good idea, too. 

We have survived 14 degrees without too much discomfort and expect to survive the 11 degrees.  We hope you are surviving the "blast" too.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


45 years ago today in a blizzard in Montclair, New Jersey, Joan Rogers and Robert Alexander were married.  The adventure continues...