Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Wrap Up

As I sit here thinking about 2018 and looking out across a frozen lake covered with 13 inches of virgin white snow, it makes me wonder at the silent beauty before me. Until I step outside and the 30 mph wind hits you in the face and you start to shiver from deep down inside you. Your nose freezes up and a tear starts at the corner of your eye and freezes there. Then another gust of wind picks up some snow and immediately it goes down your jacket. I cough and sneeze and think about warmer times. When we leave Minnesota in the morning it will be -21 degrees. BRRRR!

I also think of how 2018 has ended for us. In the last 2 to 3 months, we have never had so many sickness'. Not only the  normal colds and flu's but many other sickness' that have literally knocked us on our butts. The Thanksgiving day flu that I had was a wonderful weight loss program for me. One that I really don't want to repeat.

We have been on the road now for over 4 years so we don't keep a budget anymore. We kind of know where we need to be financially and just try to keep a tab on expenses. Although this year would have blown the budget out of the water because we had three major purchases and many repairs to the truck and camper. Not to mention the amount of money we put into clearing our land in Minnesota.

It has been a busy year. We had the birth of our first grand baby. He is such a sweet little boy and as he grows up, I think that he will be a handful. We will definitely miss him until we get back in May.

Here are some photos of Lisa's year.

Lisa at the beach.

Lisa buying the Hobbit House.

Lisa hiking the great sand dunes.

Lisa drinking with Barb.

Lisa biking with Barb.

Lisa with baby Virgo.

And now some pictures of my year.
Dino working. Fixing the brush mower.

Dino working. Clearing brush.

Dino working. Fixing a flat.

Dino working. Sanding a tug.

Dino working. Pouring concrete.

Dino working. Fixing the water tank.

Dino Working. Cutting steel.

Dino working. Driving a tram.

With that we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We think next year will be a good one with many adventures that I hope won't lead to divorce.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas in Wichita Falls

Christmas is upon us once again.

When we got to Wichita Falls, we had the hardest time figuring out this town. Usually we get our bearings pretty fast. Not here. For example. We needed to go to the Flying J Truck Stop. Mike gave us directions and to double check that we used Lisa's  phone to help us along. We would travel along and all of a sudden the phone would tell us that the GPS signal was lost. That's not good. That means I have to then rely on my navigator, who is Lisa. Needless to say we almost ended up in Amarillo when we figured it out. Another example. I would say that I am going to such and such a place. Easy peasy right? I would get back an hour or two later and someone would ask what took so long. I would then say sheepishly "I got lost". Things finally clicked and we could get around easily.

We have been running the Polar Express since Thanksgiving. It has been fun and the community really likes it. In fact it is becoming a local tradition for them.

Another tradition here in Wichita Falls is the Festival of Lights. It is on the campus of Midwestern State University.
All of the University buildings are decorated.

The Festival of Lights is a collection of little dioramas lit up with sound and lights. You can walk around them. That also is very popular here.

It has a small town feel about everything here. It is a nice community and we really enjoyed our time there. 

Now we are up north spending time with family before we have to spend another winter in hot and sunny Florida. So Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ode to "The Beast"

When we decided to do this fulltiming life, we knew we wanted a fifthwheel camper.  That meant that we needed a big truck to pull it. Enter "The Beast". It was a 2009 Dodge Ram 3500 pick up. More than enough power to pull our camper. We purchased it in 2011 so it was used but in great shape.

2011 on the Icelandic Highway in Canada.
When I bought the truck it was owned by a contractor so it had an aluminum topper and a ladder rack on it. I had to take those off so that we could put a fifthwheel hitch in it and I even had a snowplow for it. That thing would go thru some snow like it wasn't even there. It has taken us on many adventures over the years.
We found our first fifthwheel and it had no problem pulling that around the country for us.
Then we found a bigger fifthwheel and again it had no problem pulling that around.
Then we added a 4,000 pound pick up camper and again it was no problem.

Next year it will be 10 years old. So we decided to retire "The Beast". Put it out to pasture to make lots of little "Beasts". 

Enter our new "Beast of Burden".

Now we have to decide on a new name for it. I like "Gandolf", after Gandolf the Gray. Lisa wants to call it after a book that really has inspired her life. She wants to call it "Fifty Shades" after Fifty Shades of Grey. Her mind is always in the gutter.

We will see what kind of adventures this new truck will take us on.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Retired-being so tired that you have circled around from being tired, to being awake, back to being tired.

Retired-to continuously replace tire after tire.

Retired-adjective-withdrawn from ones position or occupation: having concluded ones working or professional career.*Merriam-Webster

When I think of being retired, I think of myself sitting on a secluded beach, being served fruity little drinks with umbrellas by women in coconut bras and grass skirts. (I would have said Lisa but I know she won't wear a coconut bra and a grass skirt. Or serve me drinks. "Get your own damn drink and while your up get me one!" is what she would say.)
Anyways, the only thing  to worry about is if I will have a tan line or not(think about that). Even though that may sound like paradise, too much of it is boring.

"Shut your pie hole!" my inner voice is yelling at me.

"Calm down!" I tell  it. For some reason there is an uncontrollable flinch, but I get over it. Don't get me wrong. I like idle time. I like it alot. Lisa says I may like it too much. When she sees me in a coconut bra and grass skirt, she knows that it is time to do something.

Which brings me to our current situation. We committed to driving for the Polar Express after many months of not really working at any paying gigs. In fact the last paying gig was in 2017 when we worked in Fargo and then Lisa's father passed away and we then had to handle his estate. So that is behind us and we can carry on. As bad luck would have it we lost our water tank(The Great River Road from Hell Part Deux) and headed to Texas earlier than we had planned but it worked out for the better.

We have been here a month already and that month has flown by because of being so busy. We have been doing so many things that I just could not blog about everything. You know about Working for Santa and also Tanks-giving. At least I hope you do. For those that don't (everyone in my family) I shared the links again. The only reason I say that is because I called everyone at Thanksgiving and they all say "What have you been up too?" Really?

So instead of boring you with all of the boring details I will just post some pictures of the things that have gone on.

Pouring the brick ledge in front of the shop for a stone wall.

Residing the front of the shop while working on trams. Here the stone is being put up but not finished yet along with the trim.
Working on the front end of a tram. Replacing tie rods, steering boxes, tightening bearings.
Cutting steal to make a golf simulator in the shop.

Driving the trams for staging at the Polar Express.

 Doing the final prep for the big night.
This is just one house. I hope to do a video later when there are more lights up.

That's just stuff that we happened to remember to take photos for. My body aches tell me that I have done so much more than that. 

I trust that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was horrible if anyone wants to know. I woke up that morning with the flu. My most favorite meal of the whole year wasted. I couldn't eat a thing and I really didn't. I had to remain within eyesight of the toilet or something was going to hit the fan. Literally. Butt I am finally over the worst part. My stomach feels like it was used as a punching bag for Chuck Norris. One good thing about this Thanksgiving is that instead of gaining 10 pounds, I lost 10 pounds. That has never happened before. 

I wanted to add that a bucket list item has been crossed off. Never in the whole wide world would I have thought that I would know so much about Trams.

November is quickly coming to an end and then December. I wonder what will happen then?

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.