Sunday, November 11, 2018


As all of the RV world knows, we lost our fresh water tank driving "The Great River Road" somewhere in Iowa.
It just bounced right out from under our fifthwheel. We didn't hear or see anything, so who knows where it fell out. Looking back at the time, it looked like it would be a major undertaking to get it fixed. Fixed by a professional. So we cancelled our trip. Called some friends in Texas looking for recommendations and a place to stay. They said we could stay with them and they knew of a place to get it fixed.
All set up at Camp Kephart.
Our friends let us move into their huge shop and they had full hookups in there so that was nice. We talked to the RV maintenance shop and ordered a tank. However, they were a month out for the repair but knew of another tech who could get to it in 2 weeks. The same amount of time it would take to get the tank. Well we are at their mercy and we will have to make the best of it.

The tank came in, so we picked it up and brought it to Camp Kephart so that the tech could just work on it in his shop.
Easy peasy. We called the tech and told him the tank was here but now he was busy and couldn't get to us until Nov. 26th. Again at their mercy and more time to kill. Mike and I were looking under there and the thought occurred to us that we could do this. If not the tech could always finish where we left off.
We needed to get fittings for the overflow and the inlet. A google search said that we were missing a wiring harness for the sensors.  I found one of those in town and a quick trip to Lowes and then we had things prepped. To be honest, it was about 10 trips to Lowes.
Next we cut the plywood to support the tank and made sure that fit in the space.
Then we laid the tank on the plywood and with the both of us we jockeyed the tank and plywood into position.
Snug as a bug in a rug. Now to start hooking things back up. Mike had the water fittings and the special tool needed to attach those.

I wired up the sensors.

Glued all of the fittings into place. I added an extension and a ball valve to make draining the tank so much easier. No more climbing under there to remove the original screw cap. Once everything was in place it was time to re-enforce everything so that it won't happen again.

Mike welding new supports across the bottom of the tank. The original design didn't have those so we are making it better.
We also added brackets up over the top to keep it in place. Once that was done we filled it and leak checked it and made sure the sensors worked. Everything worked great. Now replacing the underbelly. Mike knew a guy who made signs and we got a 4X8 sheet of that black corrugated plastic. I cut off most of the damaged underbelly.
It is starting to take shape.
I was under the rig in Minnesota and noticed some of the underbelly coming loose. So I was re-enforcing the old parts and installing the new.
I added flat strap along both sides to hold up the underbelly and then put changle iron across to keep it from sagging. Again, better than the original. All in all it was easier than I thought it would be and it required many hours on my back looking up, so it was a pain in the neck. I also want to thank Mike and Robin for letting us be in your shop. It was so much easier having access to so many tools. Since it has been inside I have also done the wheel bearings.
Also the last bit of damage to our side when we had a tire blow out 2 years ago.
To say the least, it has been a very busy time and a very productive time for us. Less than two weeks until the Polar Express starts.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Tug Drive Down Memory Lane

"Red 8, Red 2."

"Red 8, go Red 2."

"Red 8, deliver a -70 to Sierra Oscar Niner, Over."

"Red 8, copy."

In my days of being an Airman stationed at Cannon AFB New Mexico which was flying F111D's at the time.
One bad ass plane.
Working in the 27th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, that's how a typical radio conversation would go for me. I delivered Aerospace Ground Equipment  to all and any aircraft that needed it. Breaking it down for you civilians goes like this.

The color denotes the Squadron. We had red, blue and yellow.
The number represents who is calling you. The lower the number the more important that person is. 2 being an expediter and 8 being me the A.G.E. driver.
-70 (dash 70) means they need a -60 (dash 60) gas turbine generator and a -10 (dash 10) air conditioner delivered to spot 09 (Sierra Oscar niner).
Copy means that I understand the directions and will carry them out.

Conversations where short and to the point because of the number of people on the channels and it keeps the airwaves open.

The reason I am sharing this bit of info is two fold. One being Veterans Day is around the corner and two out of the blue, Mike and Robin who run the Polar Express here in Texas just happened to buy a warehouse tug which brought back some good old Air Force memories.

This baby has seen some hard use and many years of neglect. As they would say in the old westerns. "It was ridden hard and put up wet." The plan for this little beauty was that it was going to get painted and then sold off with some tram cars to make a complete set. So a sanding I will go.
There was a lot of rust on it and took a day to just sand it down.
Here I am driving it back into the shop and hoping the brakes work. They did.
All prepped, Mike did the painting on it.
All finished and it looks great. Breathing life into this old girl.

Back in the day we used these tugs to move equipment around the maintenance yard. Out on the flight line we used tow tractors and Bobtails.
Dodge Bobtail
If you got to drive the bobtail that meant the boss liked you because there were only 2. Most of the time we drove small tractors from Ford, Case and the dreaded International Harvesters. 
It was very hard to find any photos of the tow tractors but here is a Case tow tractor. They were all fun to drive and I really enjoyed my tour in the Air Force.

I thought I would just share some of my experiences and I would like to say Happy Veterans Day to all military members of all the branches. Remember, freedom isn't free.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Working for Santa

Hunkered down in our superest, secretest undisclosed location is going well. It is so secret that spy planes and spy satellites can't find us, thanks to being inside.
The tinfoil hats are working wonders. Except one time. I went to bed and it fell off and I then had the craziest dream. So don't tell me that they don't work. In fact that reminds me that I need to put a chinstrap on mine.

The dream went something like this.

"Dino. Dino. DINO!!!! It's me Santa. I have a job for you. I want you to go someplace secret in Texas and spread some Christmas cheer to some Texans." Santa said.

"But Santa, I am in Texas." I said.

"You are. You must be in a super secret undisclosed location then. Anyways, get back on point. Go see one of my helpers and spread Christmas joy to all, Santa out."

"Lisa, wake up. I just had the strangest dream and why does my mouth taste like candy canes?"

So we found Santas helpers. They run the "Polar Express" in northern Texas.
Mike and Robin at the Pelican. Ignore the picture above their heads.
What the Polar Express is, is they have trams that go by the "Festival of Lights" and people pay to ride the slow moving trams and view the beautiful Christmas decorations. It's becoming a Christmas tradition here and we have agreed to drive for them. It doesn't start until Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 29th.

The trams are ready. They have been painted red and white and Christmas lights have been strung on all of them. I am glad I didn't get there for the painting. They look great.

What can we do in the meantime?

"There are some big crowds that form so what we are going to do first is build a queue line management system for crowd control." Mike said.

"What!? Those are some pretty fancy words for a rope line." I said.

And build it we did. It started with metal that needed to be welded together.
The queue line management system for crowd control taking shape.
Then ground down for smoothness. I was given the grinder and put to work. I had Lisa try grinding one day and now she has given the grinder a new name. She affectionately calls it "The Tickler" which is a story for telling around the campfire.
I was grinding so much that my hand was going numb. So numb that I almost couldn't hold my beer. The key word being almost. Once done they then needed to be painted and then bolted together.
The final product. It looks great. It took a team of 4 of us to get that built and it will hold well over a 100 people. They get some crazy lines for the Polar Express. It is that popular.

"Dino, Dino, DINO! It's Santa again."

"I have got to get a chinstrap for my tinfoil hat."

"I want you to replace a sewer line. The old one was crushed." Santa said.

"How is that spreading Christmas cheer?" I said.

"You will see. Santa out."

I have never been a technician in the arts of sewage management butt (pun intended) I was willing to give it a try. Mike rented a miniature backhoe and we started tearing up the yard. First thing we accomplished was to break the water line. Just to make it more interesting.

Notice how I am correctly leaning onto the shovel.
The problem we had was that little backhoe could have been bigger. This is the north side of the shop and doesn't ever get any sun so the ground does not dry out, especially with all of the rain lately. So instead of moving dirt, we were moving mud. Heavy mud.
What a mess. I can now cross shoveling mud off of my bucket list.
Our new sewer line is in the ground.
Now it looks like a union job. One worker with 3 supervisors. We finally got the new line installed and repaired the water line. We can finally empty our pooper. Good call Santa!

It has not all been work. Mike and Robin have taken us out a couple of times and showed us around their town.They took us to a local watering hole called P2. Not sure what that stands for but there is an area were you can park your vehicle and the waitress's will come to your car and serve you alcohol.
Those trucks under that overhang are enjoying adult beverages right inside their cars. Awesome! We also went to the Lazy Dog Saloon. A very local bar. The owner was a friend of Mike and Robin's. He was giving us shots. Like the Crowndog and Snicker. That was fun.

They even had a working cigarette machine. I haven't seen one of those since my childhood. 

So we have been busy working and having some fun. Lisa has even spent time taking Moose for some walks.
Our water tank has been ordered and hopefully enroute. In the day and age of 2 day shipping why would it take so long?

What's next for us? Only Santa knows.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution, an intermediate state or condition.*

We arrived at our newest and most secretest of undisclosed locations. Our hosts. Mike and Robin wanted to give our arrival a big shindig, being our first trip here. We told them no parades or fireworks. We are keeping this on the down low.  Thankfully they listened because as we pulled into their compound when know one else was around, we very promptly got ourselves stuck in the mud.
 Twice on this journey after leaving Minnesota we have needed 4 wheel drive and we were thankful to have it.
This photo shows the camper wheels in a hole. That hole actually goes up to the axles. Our camper weighs 16,000 lbs. I had to use the leveling jacks twice to prop up that side and stick those yellow blocks under the tires. It was about a foot deep.  Once that side was high enough I got in and hammered it and we started to move. Yay!
It looked drier than what it was but they have gotten a lot of rain lately like everyone else.
Even with new AT tires we got stuck. Maybe "The Beast" needs great big mud tires. After events such as this we can look back and laugh. But during it, we are thinking that Karma is trying to tell us something. Maybe something like "What idiots".

Well anyways we got ourselves out and were enjoying a victory adult libation when I happened to notice the security cameras on Mike and Robins building. "Well that will give them something to laugh at when they watch the footage." I told Lisa. Dorks on Parade.

Good news! We got our water tank ordered. Now to wait for it. 

*courtesy of Google.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Great River Road from Hell Part Deux

Week 2.

We have settled a little bit here in the Quad cities. We have some business to take care of on Monday and a visit with someone on Tuesday so we are just chillin. Literally and figuratively.

Saturday we did some sight seeing in the Quad cities. We found the Camping World to get a new sewer vent cover and then drove along the river to see some of the flooding. Of all of the years coming to the Quad cities I have always wanted to see the Rock Island Arsenal.
Any history or military buffs might recognize the name. It is a Army post that has been around for a long time. They produce weapons and weapon systems for the military. They have a huge collection of firearms that just gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you gaze at them.

I was like a kid in a candy store with my nose pressed against the glass, drooling. "Clean up in the gun aisle" was heard over the intercom.
It's been awhile since I have taken a cannon photo so here you go. After the museum we went to find the Mississippi River Center. That also happened to be on the Rock Island Arsenal. We were in luck because when we got there there was a barge going through the locks. The River center is at Lock and Dam No. 15.

It is amazing watching those big barges go through there. It is a tight fit. Just a couple of feet of room to spare on each side. We were talking to the Army Corps of Engineers person who said that because of the flooding down river, 2 of the locks were closed. So there wasn't much traffic on the river. In fact this lock and dam was still working but the difference in height of the river from one side to the other was only about 6 inches.

Trestle bridge over the Mississippi.

Sunday we wanted to do some shopping. Lisa found an outlet mall 1 short hour away. So off we went. She did not have much luck finding clothes, but I did. Then she wanted to find a Gander Outdoors and that was about 40 minutes north of the outlet mall. For those that don't know about Gander Mountain, Gander Mountain went bankrupt.  Apparently Camping World has bought Gander Mountain and has started opening some as Gander Outdoors. As camping people who may belong to Good Sam, you can use your Good Sam card at Gander Outdoors for an additional 10% off. They have some great deals. We have found two so far. One in La Crosse, Wis. and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One good example is this. I like to shoot 9mm. At Gander Outdoors they have a box of Remington 9mm FMJ  after the discount for $9.29 a box. BANG! BANG! BANG!

Driving back to Davenport we passed the Herbert Hoover National Monument and Presidential Library. So we had to stop for a quick look. I got my National Parks Passport Book stamped and learned a little about a president I really didn't know much about.
Herbert Hoover's house he was born in.

A look down the street.
He came from a very humble beginning.

His final resting place. We would have gone to his library but there must have been some kind of event going on. There were no parking spots left and we were getting to the end of the day anyways.

The Great River Road or Bust

We have abandoned the "Great River Road" for fear of turning this journey into the Donner Party. Actually there are many factors that have conspired against us, forcing us to give up the dream.

#1. The weather. It has been unseasonably cold and rainy for this time of year. Maybe we have become wimps. Who knows?

#2. With all of the rain came flooding leading to closed campgrounds and closed roads. Detouring us in circles just to get to the next road that happens to be closed.

#3. The "Great River Road" itself. The road is old and in horrendous shape. We lost one sewer vent to low hanging trees already. Which brings us to the main reason for abandoning the road.

Todays travel promised to be a nice one. The sun was shining, although it was still cold. We left Davenport, Iowa headed to Ft. Madison, Iowa. Lots of road construction on that first leg of the journey which led to some pretty rough roads. Roads that I would assume would be called smooth if they were up in Alaska. However they were in Iowa and the bumps were bone jarring. We also had one of our shades come crashing down from the bumps. 

We stopped for a pit stop and Lisa was in using the facilities. I said to her that we were going to be awhile because we had a minor problem behind our RV. She said "a flat?" No, just take a look.
It looks like our underbelly came loose and has been dragging for awhile. I know it was loose in Minnesota and I fixed those areas with changle iron so everything behind the area I fixed came loose. Well upon closer inspection, things didn't quite look right under there.
In fact if you look at that area that is all black, that is where our fresh water tank should be. But it appears to be missing. We have no idea where it fell off because there was no crash or sounds of wreckage. Nothing. Our camper is literally falling apart on this road.
So I threw some straps on it and we headed down the road, away from "The Great River Road from Hell." You can see the changle iron that I used to fix the under belly is still fine.

It is always an adventure with us. It's like the old "Hee Haw" song. "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Woe, despair and agony on me."