More Progress


The front panels are installed and the generator cover fiberglass work is done.  Gel coal gets sprayed on and then sanded out and then polished.

Rance making magic happen.
We cut holes for the upper tail lights (Rance cut, i watched).
And put the high output LED light in.
In the single fixture tail, turn and brake lights.  We went out to check them at nights. Very bright!
I also installed a new wiping gasket just above the slide.  It sweeps water and debris off the top of the slide as it closes.
The folks at Xtreme are sticking to their completion date of 2/3.  I hope so.  
We are trying to hunt down a water leak that gets the floor wet in heavy rain. So far we haven’t found it, more likely them.
While we are here we are trying to get some other tasks done. We installed new door gaskets on the two jeep doore (not the source of water).  The old ones were 17 years old and had holes in them.  
Tomorrow’s task is to finish installing the breakaway brake to the Jeeps towing set up.  This sets the brakes on the Jeep if the tow bar should fail.  Not even remotely likely but many states require them.
We continue to try to walk everyday.  I got to about 12,500 steps on Monday.  Close to 10,000 most days.


Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. 31 years of getting ready and then 8 more since we said we do! A nice dinner wil be a treat.
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That’s all.  More later.
Roger and Susan

Work Progress

The folks at Xtreme seem like they can do miracles.  And everybody knows it.  There about 10 people who work there and people come from all over the country to have them work miracles.  Most are scheduled, some are not.  There is another older full time couple here getting there coach repaired after a serious crash.  They have been here since the beginning of December and have a couple weeks or more left.  All unscheduled.  So our work is progressing, I hope we are on schedule, seems like maybe just a bit behind but it is hard to say.

There are a half dozen coaches here being worked on from touch ups to full body painr.  These full body paint jobs take 4-7 weeks.  Maybe another time.
Of all of the painted coaches we have seen, this one is far and away our favorite.

The new parts have been made and fit into the openings that were left after the old parts were removed. The parts are aligned and fixed in place with aluminum plates.  A gap is left, about 3/16″, that is filled with a structural urethane adhesive.  It sets up in an hour or so.

The area on either side of the joint is ground down about 1/8″ and feathered out in both directions. New resin is brushed on, glass mat is added, more resin brushed on and the rolled out to fully wet out the glass and get rid of any bubbles.

Sort of looks like whiskers.  One more layer of resin and glass and then it gets sanded out. Automotive body filler is added and the sanded out until it is smooth. And then they spray on gel coat. Rance, the fiberglass guy says they start with 320 grit paper and work up to 600 or more sanding out the gel coat.  Then it get polished.

The step is installed.  It is a much larger step area than the original. I think we will like it very much. It will get painted to match the coach. There are trim pieces that fit around the edges. Still away to go.  It is set up to slide put when the door is opened and close when the door is closed or to open when the engine is not running and close when it is.  A switch changes the way it works.

About six days left in the three week time estimate. It will be close.  
And then we have one day at Foretravel for a slide adjustment. And then two to three at the detail shop for a fluff and buff. So when we leave here is not yet know.  Sort of like doing a home renovation project.
While all of this has been going on I have been finishing up a couple other projects.  
One is a hot water recirculator. I added a small electronic timer/relay device, a water line from the hot water distribution manifold back to the fresh water tank and an electric solenoid valve.  When you push a button in the kitchen, the timer opens the solenoid valve for about 20 seconds and water flows back to the fresh water tank and hot water flows to the manifold.  So when we turn on a faucet we have hot water in 5 to 10 seconds, lots less water down the drain waiting for hot water. Works great.
The other project was to run wires from the auxilliary air compressor to a switch in the driver’s side control panel.  Easier said than done.  It took me about four hours to run two wires about 12 feet. And I went the easy way.  Through two bulkheads, around the front wheel well and then up through the floor where other wires already passed.  While hooking up wires to the compressor I also replaced the spring mounts.  It is much quieter with the new monting springs.  
Another project to,do while we are here.  I am adding a temperature switch and a variable speed controller to the vent fan in the front overhead electronics cabinets.  It will come on when it starts to get warm, turn off when it cools off and can run slower to reduce the already almost silent fan noise.
And the last is another speed controller on the heat exchanger fans in the living room. They are already very quiet but at slower speeds the will be quieter and running slower for longer will result in even more uniform heat.
So we have plenty to do in the parks and gardens and with projects here on the coach.  I have finished  two books so far and am into the third.  Susan is on book 8.  A couple revenue generating hours tomorrow.  
So far we are averaging 65 miles a day, a bit below our target. That works out to about $20/day for fuel. We have had to pay for only one night for camping, $8. Not bad.
More next time.
Roger and Susan

Parks and Rec

There is an extensive recreational trail system here in Nacogdoches.  At the north end of town there is a forested area, maybe 40 acres, called Tucker’s Woods.  Paved trails wind around through different parts of the landscape.  There are oaks, maples and giant pine trees as wellas many others.  Along side small creeks there are ferns of all sorts.  Part if it is on a hill side anspd part a sometimes wet lowland.  At on side is the Piney Woods Native Plant Center.  There is quite a bit of imformation about which plants do well in different ares and how to make a fire safe defensive area around your home.  Thi area is also the home of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Demonstration Graden. In another month or so it will be lovely.

A new trail is being built heading north.  Heading south one comes to the MAST Arboretum.  It is a nice area, about 20 acres with winding trails and art installations.
The Lanana River runs along one side of the Arboretum.  Across the river is the Mize Azalea Gradens.  These are about 40 acres of mostly azaleas and some camellias. Last time we were in Nacadoches the Azaleas are blooming.  This time there are just beginning.

We got our bikes out rode through all of the areas we had walked through.  For our first time out on the bikes it was a good ride.

Lots of art in the gardens.  This is a big raven on top of a pump are from an oil well.  The raven is made of old tires and found objects.  It stands about 4 ft tall.

There is a Children’ Garden in the same area.  There is a really nice gazebo with nicely done timber framing.

And more art.
The University has a big Forestry School.  The folks need to have a training center for tree climbing and such.
Pretty neat!  But not every day is a walk-out-side kind of day.  We had a couple of rainy days so off to the library where we found this nice quilt.  Is is a bed sized quilt.

So there is plenty, well almost plenty, to do while work proceeds. We keep meeting more Foretravel folks.  Two folks from the ForeForums web site drove up to Xtreme, got out and said, “We know who you are!”  Lots of fun.  They’re coming over tomorrow for cake and show and tell.  We met a couple from Illinois down here looking at Foretravels.  They are new retirees and want to buy a motor coach and go full time.  So we spent a good part of one day witl them and a couple other Foretravels folks helping them look.  They were focusing on a 2003 U320 40ft.  It had a nice floor plan, very well maintained and all that they were looking for including price.  They had it inspected, worked with the dealer (Motorhomes of Texas), ironed out the details and made the deal.  Yesterday they joined the Foretravel family.

Still more to come, later.
Roger and Susan

More In Nacogdoches

What Texans Think

Never heard of “Hot Dish”.  But casserole?  Maybe. And this must be the heart of all of them what ever they are.  M-M good.
Just kidding, everyone we have met here has been very nice to us and made us feel welcome.
Downtown Nacogdoches
We went to downtown Nacogdoches Sunday about noon. Only one store was open on the Square.  Most that are open on Sunday open at 1ish.  

Pretty quiet.

Nacogdoches is the first chartered city in Texas founded in 1779. It was a typical southern town built around a public square.  It had wood framed buildings, one or two stories and all of the usual services of a town back then. Nacogdoches has the Lanana river that runs through it and the area was widely forested at that time.  Lumbering and mills poped up, the railroad came and Nacogdoches prospered. Much of the downtown was burned in a big fire in the 1800’s.  A German architect who had come to live here was the go-to building designer.  Everything was rebuilt using bricks.  So there must have been a prosperous brick maker in town as well.  Many of these buildings still exist and are
characterized by the use of bricks to decorate the facades of buildings with inset layers, details, cornices, arches and lots more sometimes with the same bricks, sometimes with different types of brick.  There are many homes in NAC as well designed by the same fellow.  The center of the town square is now filled with a visitor center and small museum.
Between two building on the square is a garden of sorts.  There is a small fountain and several planting beds.  It memorializes the site of an archeological project to dig up old fire and trash pits that were found under the building that used to be here.  There were four excavations.  They found bones and the usual trash bits of all sorts, Spanish, English and French china, earthenware and porcelain pieces, old weapons and 18th century silver Spanish coins.. Some of it is on display.
This is one of the first fireproof buildings in NAC. Built of brick it has (still has) a riveted steel door and shutters. It is on one of the corners of the square.  It is now a lawyer’s office.
NAC is now the home of Stephen F Austin State University.  Its 13,000 students add to NACs 33,000 residents to make it a bigger than is seems like it should be city.  It sure seems like there are an awful lot of places to eat, every conceivable fast food place, dozens of TexMex food places and almost every other food group as well.  But we have not seen a Vietnamese place yet.
It seems pretty nice here.  A shop keeper told us that the summer is hot and very humid.  The folks we had lunch with last week asked about weather in Minnesota.  We said we had 2 days in the 90s last summer but normally about 14.  They measure the number of 90°+ days in months down here.
More to come.
Roger and Susan

A Walk in the Neighborhood

Today was an every day day in Nacogdoches.  Just 30° in the morning but warming to over 60’s in the afternoon and then upper 60’s for the next several days. 

Rance, the fiberglass wizard at Xtreme was busy making new parts for our coach. So off we went this morning to the Washeteria. First time I have seen one called that.  But it was clean and quick.  We were in and out in 45 minutes. 
Back to the coach to attend to some business and then off to Motorhomes of Texas, a big motorhome dealer (not the factory) in NAC.  Three of the Foretravel owners we had lunch with yesterday cooked gumbo and rice and a bunch of deserts and brought lunch for the entire staff at Motorhomes of Texas.  They do this a couple times a year to show their respect and gratitude to these folks who take good care of their coaches.  There are five go-to shops in NAC for coach service, mechanical service, paint and body work and remodel and upholstery work that are first class.  Sort of a central place for everything.
Lots of coaches for sale. Many brands.
A great lunch.  Great folks.
And then we went for a walk in another nice park in NAC. There are woods and gardens and riparian trails all through the city.  NAC is the home of the Stephen F Austin University.  There are schools of Nursing, Early Childhood Development and Forestry among athers.  Forestry is a big industry in this part of East Texas. It is very odd to see big logging trucks driving on the highway.
Today we went to a big park that had a Frisbee golf course, picnic pavillion, bike trails and a nice long trail along the Lanana river.  

Off we went down the trail for a mile and a half and then over a couple blocke and back through an historic district in old NAC.  There was a couple of really nice homes.

A mix of brick and frame homes, different styles, big lots and interesting landscapes. There is another house in another area that is a prairrie style.  Quite nice looking.
Susan found this sign.  Seems appropriate sometimes.
That’s it for today, more later.
Roger and Susan

Nacogdoches, first few days

We are now at Xtreme Paint and Graphics. They have an apartment for folks who are here for stuff that is going to take awhile. The people who were here before us were having repairs done after a crash and as is not unusual, theirs is taking longer. We understand.

We have found several really nice areas for walking and will try to get out everyday. We had lunch today with four other Foretravel owners. They find out you are in town and that TX hospitality comes a running.

So we are staying in our coach at night for a few days. That is OK with us.  We are very comfortable. But they got started working today.

Repairing the damage done in September.

They just cut off everything they don’t want and make new parts and replace them.

They are replacing the headlights and the door over the generator. The driving lights in the generator cover are moving to the outer panels and they will be a license plate recess in the new door.

The front will look like this. (This is someone else’s coach.). This mod is a major and common upgrade to night time driving ability.

Cut out the tail lights.

New ones will look like this. Much brighter lights and the upper ones will be above the top of the Jeep and much easier to see from behind.

And we are changing the front step. Like this.

Two wider steps. This will be a nice safety improvement especially as we get older.

Probably will take another two weeks or so.

More later,

Roger and Susan

A Quick Trip To Portland

My sister and her huband, Bruce, live in Portland, OR.  The both went to a small college just west of Portland and have spent almost their entire married lives there.  They had two wonderful children, Eric and Sarah.  

Sarah died in a mountain backpacking accident 10 years ago at age 28.  She was deeply loved and dearly missed by so many people. Sadly, Eric died on December 6 at age 41. He had a very bad infection that settled in his heart. It also caused problems in his lungs and kidneys and worse, a severe stroke that did much damage.  After 8 days in a coma in ICU his heart failed and Eric died. Judy and Bruce and Eric’s wife, Cyndi, and their two kids, Victoria and Hunter were there with him. 
Eric always had a smile, a wise crack or two and a practical joke ready to go. He loved his family and his job at the Oregon Zoo where he was a Public Safety Officer.  He started at the Zoo when he was 19. 
He loved playing games, any games and was a seriously great Scrabble player.  I though I was pretty good and he would just wail on me. We will all miss him.
His memorial service was held at the Zoo. They set up the Ballroom for 350 and when the service started the seats were filled and a great many were standing. There were some great stories about Eric from the Zoo Director, from long time friends of Eric’s, from Judy and from Bruce.  A bag piper concluded the service in a traditional tribute to a departed Public Safety Officer.
Both Eric and Sarah were respected and loved.  They made a big difference in the lives of people they met every day. Their lives are are testament to the basic values and qualities learned from Judy and Bruce that they each built on in their own ways for themselves. They are not here with is anymore but will never be far away in our memories and hearts. Rejoicing in those memories reinforces them and helps Sarah and Eric live on.
Most of Bruce’s family is from northern California and a great many were there, way too many to remember names and faces after a single pass but there were many more opportunities.  The evening before the service about 25 showed up at Judy and Bruces for a casual supper.  After the service there were about 40 at friends Kimi and Andy’s house for a soup supper.  We were all there after Sarah’s service too. And then the next morning 30 showed up at a nearby restaurant for breakfast before everyone went one way or another.

   “The cutest little devil you will ever see.”

So we got to Houston, had our coach graciously kept safe by Ralph who answered the call from our friend Rudy, drove to the airport, flew to Portland, see above, flew to Houston, got to bed at 2:30AM and then drove to Nacogdoches, TX, stayed overnight at the Foretravel factory campground and are now at Xtreme Paint and Graphics for some repair work and some safety and beauty upgrades. While here we will stay in the coach a few nights and then into their free-of-charge apartment until the work is done.
We have found the Chilis restaurnt, the library, several walking trails, the grocery store and more. We have already run into folks we know or will know soon.  Lunches and dinners are being scheduled. The Foretravel family is an active and friendly bunch.
That’s where we have been for the past few days. I am really glad we went to support my sister Judy.  We are each the only family we have left.  I needed to be there.  She needed me to be there.
More later as the adventure continues.  Pictures too of the transformation at Xtreme.
Roger and Susan

We are off!

Time to go
Our original departure window was January 7-9.  An unexpected turn of events made it important that we be in Portland, OR on January 10.  So we moved our departure window up to January 4-5 and with help from very gracious friends in the Houston area we were able to find a place to park the coach for four nights, plugged in and in a secure area while we hopped a jet to Portland.
Kansas City, MO
Turns out that was probably a good thing.  Sunday morning the 4th was below zero when we got up. We were gone in an hour and a half heading south towards Kansas City, MO.
Best buds, ready to go.
The drive was uneventful, cold but clear skies, windy, some blowing snow but no drifting or packed snow on the roadway.
Southbound from (in) the living room.  
We made a pair of movable fans to help with first-thing-in-the-morning window frost.  They work quickly.  And in the summer will keep us cool.  We take turns driving, 100 miles or a couple hours seems good.
The other driver.
It really helps. We stopped just as the sun was setting on the outskirts of KC at Camp Walmart.  We went in for a few store laps, got some milk and back to the coach in time to see Downton Abbey. We are not entirely hooked on it but sort of want to see what happens.  The historical context is interesting.
Dennison, TX 
The next morning was much warmer than the prior morning but still in the 20’s.  We were quite comfy and warm.  Got up fairly early, had some coffee and breakfast, did our normal preflight checks, oil level, coolant level, tire pressures, lights, that sort of thing and were ready to go. Southbound towards Joplin.  Susan drove through Joplin and then west towards Oklahoma.  She pulled into a truck stop, into the big boy fuel lanes and we added 50 gallons of diesel. I think that was her first time doing that. No problem.  So the further south we went the warmer it got.  40°, 50° then 60°.  Nice.  We were going to stop in Atoka, TX at a Camp Walmart but it was a small Walmart and not easy to get in to so we went another 50 miles to a much bigger Walmart in Dennison TX about 50 miles north of Dallas.  
Camp Walmarts are ok, there is a store nearby, but often there are trucks and other stuff that makes noise.  This one had us sandwiched between semi’s that all seemed to leave about 5 AM.  
We got up and got going about 9 hoping to miss most of the Dallas traffic heading for an Army Corps of Engineering campground on a reservoir near Ennis, TX a short 120 mile drive.  We went right through downtown Dallas looking left and right for the Ewings.  Never saw them but there was construction, narrow lanes and lots of traffic.we perservered and made it to the COE campground in time for lunch.  50 amp hookups, water, quiet and almost deserted. $8/night.  60’s.  Shorts! Perfect.
We drained out all of the water lines and tanks, flushed everything out, flushed it again and then added about 40 gallons of water.  Then we hooked up the hose and washed the road grime off the coach and Jeep.  Not a perfect job but we got off the salt spray and rinsed out the wheel wells.  Perfect enough.  Actually looked pretty good. All of those chores took about three hours.  Then we walked for an hour or more around the campground, a nearby picnic area and a marina.  We made pizza for dinner, watched NCIS, read for a while and went to bed.
It was about a four hour drive to the east side of Houston where we had a place to park the coach.  Another fuel stop to fill up, the price is going down as we head south. There was a lot of construction heading into Houston.  They just cram four lanes into three and have at it.  But no problem, right towards downtown Houston, around on I610 and the east in I10 to the far side of Baytown.  Houston is huge!
We parked at Ralph’s place on a lake with full hookups available. They were very accommodating and gracious hosts.
Views from Ralph’s.  Before we left for Portland and the morning after we got back.  There is a 45ft coach in Ralph’s barn and a lot more.
So this is the first leg of our travels to elsewhere. 
More to come.
Roger and Susan

Getting Ready to Go.

End of October, 2014.

When you think about being gone for a long time – for us this upcoming adventure will be about four months – you might think there is lots to think about.  There is. What clothes, what food and so on.  Actually it is much more about things to make life easier on the road and esier to be away from home.  Clothes aren’t too hard, something warm, some t-shirts, some pants, some shorts.  If we don’t have it we will get it. We take less food to start than we would for a long weekend.

We have folks watching over the house. Helpers to call if needed. The snow is being plowed. The mail is being forwarded. Monitors watch temperature and power in the house.  We have flooding detectors too.  These will alert us if there is water on the floor.  We have remote cameras watching that detect motion and send us emails when that happens.  We can remotely access those cameras for a look-see of our own.  Pretty much good to go on that front.

The coach has had all the needed and scheduled service done, systems checked and all is thumbs up there.

We put in a new refrigerator in September and gave that a test trip.  It works fine but we pulled it out and redid the exterior access hatch to improve insulation and reduce air infiltration.  I also rewired the circuit that powers the refrigerator so that the outlet that the refrigerator plugs into is now behind one of the kitchen drawers.  For whatever reason this refrigerator does not have an on/off switch. So I wired the outlet to a new switch on the front end of the kitchen cabinets and while I was at it added another 110v outlet next to the switch.  This lets us turn off the refrigerator without cutting power to that circuit.

We have just about completed our conversion to all LED lighting.  The last to get done are the insides of the inside cabinets and closets.  Just a couple left to do now but this makes a big difference.  They are on switched 12 volt circuits and have sensors in the doors so when the door is open the light is on and when you close the door the light goes off.  It really makes it easier to see what is in there and find stuff.  
I have also been adding LED lighting in the basement storage bays. These are areas that needs all the light they can get.  I am even adding lights to interior equipment bays, the engine compartment and the generator bay.  All of this makes working with the coach easier.
We were able to get TV reception in many areas in the SE US but we are pretty sure that won’t be the case out west.  So after a lot of debate we decided to add a DirecTV dish and receiver. If you want this at home you just call and they provide everything and hook it all up.  If you want this on your motorhome you buy all the parts and get someone to install it and set it up at your expense or you do it yourself. I of course chose to do it myself.
The dish is mounted on the roof.  It folds down while traveling. There are control boxes and inside wiring as well.  When you deploy the dish from the storage position shown, it rises up, unfolds and starts rotating and tilting and automatically finds the correct position to receive data from three satellites simultaneously.  It takes about 5 minutes.  
There is a Genie DVR receiver in the coach.  It can record and watch five different programs at once.  I also added new over-the-air antenna signal strength displays and amplifiers and lighting.  We still have the Bose surround sound system, cd player and blu-ray player as well.  We also have about 40 blu-ray discs with us too. And way too many remote controls.  We can be well entertained when needed.

I added new drawers under the dinette for more organized longer term storage for supplies.

We also upgraded the coach’s wifi network and 4G access to the internet.
And then we unloaded everything that was in the coach, sorted, removed, added, organized, repacked and reloaded what was left.  We ended up with more space
So all of that done we winterized the coach, put it in the barn and started our departure countdown about 8 weeks away.
More next time.
Roger and Susan