More Summer Projects, 2021

Bikes, Well Trikes – Nope, Tadpoles – Whatever

You may remember that Susan tipped over on her bicycle a year ago in early December, 2020, while we were in Alabama, going from a paved trail to a soft sand trail. I will never forget it, I see it in slow motion, in disbelief, in horror. She went over hard, I thought maybe at first it was just a sprained ankle but the odd angle of her foot was pointing at a different conclusion.

It was a broken bone, just above the ankle. A ride in an ambulance and a long long afternoon and evening at the ER. Two weeks until the swelling went down enough for surgery, a couple more weeks until a cast, another couple of weeks until a walking cast, and a few more weeks until PT started.

Her bicycle (2 wheeled) riding days appeared to be over. The RV Park we were in had several folks with three-wheel trikes. Some were trikes, two wheels behind the rider but most, as we learned, were generally referred to as tadpoles, two steering wheels in front of the rider, and a drive wheel behind. We looked at every one of them and talked to the riders. This seemed like a good option to keep riding. So call them anything you want, they are three-wheel recumbent trikes.

We got home and looked at several varieties on-line. The more we looked the more we learned about things like gears, seat heights, seat angles, weight, electric options, and prices. Lots to consider.

Then we went to look at several options available in the Twin Cities. Some got tossed from consideration quickly, some were OK but the bike shop folks didn’t seem very interested in really helping us figure out what was going to work.

Our last stop was the FreeWheel bike shop in Bloomington, MN. They were located in the old part of Southwest Bloomington not too far from where my Mom grew up. We went there specifically to look at TerraTrikes. They seemed to have the right seat height, weight, and other features we thought might be important. We actually wanted to see one in person. When we got there, Chris greeted us and got busy showing us what we wanted to see and answering our questions. FreeWheel has several shops around town. This was their oldest (since the mid-70s) and biggest shop. Chris is the company’s “Chief Experience Officer”. And he made our experience worthwhile.

After a lot of questions and a short test ride we ordered a Grand Tourismo TerraTrike. This is a manual (not electric) bike that we could get by late summer. It can be refit with an electric-assist motor and battery at some future time. Supply chain issues were in full play. We also ordered an EVO model, pretty much the same trike as the Grand Tourismo but equipped with an electric-assist drive and battery. It would be a 2022 model and wasn’t expected until April, 2022.

We started thinking about how we were going to transport these trikes, a pickup truck seemed like a possible option. So we started looking. We were clueless. We wanted a used truck in decent shape, probably a four-door, four-wheel drive, towable. When we went looking there was a severe case of sticker shock. And mileage shock too. Many of the 2016 models we looked at were between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. That seemed very high to us but then we are putting on only 6-7,000 miles a year on our cars. We figured we could wait until spring 2022 since we thought we weren’t going to need it until then.

The first trike arrived, we went to pick it up with the Jeep Cherokee. We were pretty sure it would fit with the back seats folded down and it did. So we thought we’re all set until next spring.

And here is Susan coming down the driveway in our Mango TerraTrike Grand Tourismo. These are seriously fun, easy to ride, and comfortable.

We did keep looking at pickup trucks, mostly to find out what equipment packages we needed to get the features we wanted. And to figure out what it was that we really wanted. Mostly a 2018 or so, a V6, preferably red, leather, heated, and cooled seats, and a long (6.5”) box on a four-door pickup. Some of the newer technology safety features would be nice.

I looked at RAMs and was even more confused about what you got with what. My preference had always been a Ford F150. We discovered that the 6.5’ box on these pickups is pretty rare. Maybe one in ten. Add in a red color and it was now maybe 1 in 50. We found just a few that looked OK. One seemed like it would work, it had a V8 which was not what we wanted but it would work. Then we discovered it had been in 2 accidents in less than three years. That was the end of that one.

We pretty much quit looking. We thought we might have to settle for a white one. Ugh! There was almost nothing in a 50 mile range. One day I was looking at one of the car search engines and increased the distance to a hundred miles or more and a 2018 F150 popped up at a smaller Ford dealer in Kenyon, MN. It was White Gold, sort of tan. It had a nice topper and new tires. I called, it had been sold new to a retired farmer who spent his winters down south somewhere. He had just traded it in on a new truck. It had all that were were looking for and much, much more but was still no more expensive than anything we had looked at closer to home with much less equipment and options.

We went to look at it. We asked if we could have our mechanic, Don, in Hastings look it over. They said sure. We drove it to Hastings. Don looked it over and said it was exceptionally clean and in very good shape. He thought it had never been driving in a MN winter which was right. He thought one of the front struts had a small leak but otherwise a clean bill of health.

We took it back to the dealer and reported what Don had found. They offered to put in new struts at no charge. So much sooner than we had expected, we bought a pickup truck.

Pretty snazzy, way more than we were thinking about but it was available and at the price point we were comfortable with. It seemed enormous to us, it is. But visibility is good, it is comfortable. Some driving practice required.

And a week later, Chris from the Bike Shop called and said one of the 2022 EVO trikes that had been sold to another buyer was available because they backed out. Did we want it? Sure!

TerraTrike EVO

And they both fit in the pick up truck.

And they are easy to get in and out. They weight about 40 lbs each. So we just leave them in the back end, undercover and secure. And there is lots of room for other stuff as well. I guess timing is everything.

But in order to tow the pick up we needed to add the base plates for the tow bar connections, add the braking connections, and add the electrical wiring so that the brake, turn and running lights work.

I ordered all of the parts, it took a week to get them all and then asked Don if he could lend a hand. He is retired now but has a lift in his home shop that would get the truck off the ground and make all of this easier. Don and I had it all done in just over three hours.

The proof is in the pudding. The color looks good. We hooked everything up, went through the get-ready-to-tow procedure, checked the lights, and were ready to go. We drove several miles, around corners, down straight roads, curvey roads, left turns, right turns, and then home. We went through the end-of-towing procedure and disconnected the truck, backed the coach into the barn, and breathed a sigh of relief. Compared to the Jeep Cherokee, the F150 is a bit easier to set for towing and set back for driving.

Our friends, Ed and Deb, visited in June.

They just started towing a pickup truck behind their 40 foot Foretravel. Ed cautioned about going around right-hand turns. So we were careful but it seemed fine. We will continue to pay a bit more attention.

What we are still learning is driving the pickup truck. It is longer, takes more room in turns and more room for parking. We are getting used to it. We like it.

Well, that was the rest of the summer’s big projects. There were days when we thought we didn’t get much done while we were busy with our other tasks during the summer. But when we look back we did get a lot done. I even got in several days at a Habitat for Humanity house being built in Hastings.

And we managed to make a two week trip to the Black Hills in September, that is another post.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Summer Projects, 2021

Summer would hardly be summer without some projects. While we were busy paying attention to other tasks we managed to get some projects done.

Barn Quilt

A barn quilt is a quilt pattern painted on the side of a barn. We decided to do one painted on a 4’x4’x1/2” medium density overlay plywood panel. This plywood is commonly used for outdoor signs, the plywood part is waterproof and the surface is a smooth waterproof paper.

The pattern is one we found on the internet. Even with 6 colors, it seemed easy enough to lay out and paint. Well, almost easy. There was a lot of masking tape involved, paint, wait over night, and tape, and paint some more. Everything got at least two coats. And even with multiple coats we didin’t use more than a 1/4 of any of the 6 quarts of quality house paint we bought. They don’t sell it in smaller quantities.

We attached it with screws to the front doors of our barn. The sun helped the final cure of the paint. We think it looks good.

Painting the Roof of the Coach, New Air Conditioners

The roof of the coach is fiberglass, over time especially in the sun, the gel coat surface of the fiberglass starts to oxidize. It gets dull and chalky. If you rub your hand on it it comes off with a white residue.

The gelcoat can be cleaned with a rubbing compound and then finished with a non-slippery polish. I did this before we put on the solar panels and it took about 4 days.

There are paints that can be applied to the roof after the surface is sanded with a 220 grit sand paper and carefully vacuumed and cleaned.

The solar panels, the satellite dish, and the old air conditioners were removed from the roof.

It was pretty dirty under the solar panels. The roof was sanded, vacuumed, and cleaned. There was a lot of masking tape applied. A polyurethane primer paint was applied around all of the panel mounts, roof openings and anything else still on the roof. It cured overnight and then a full coat over the entire roof was applied with a roller. After that cured up overnight, the roof was swept and a second full coat of primer was applied.

And then three coats of white polyurethane paint with ceramic micro-beads mixed in. The ceramic beads are hollow and add some insulating value as well as some surface texture that makes the roof surface non-slip. I like that.

The air conditioners that were on the coach were original. They both still worked but were making more and more noise. As long as they were off, I decided to replace them with newer, more efficient air conditioners with about 10% additional capacity. I sold the 20-year-old air conditioners for about 1/3 of the cost of the new air conditioners. Not bad.

Solar panels back on, new ACs installed, satellite dish moved towards the passenger side by about 6 inches.

The original roof vent for the refrigerator was removed and replaced by an aluminum panel with a passageway for the solar panel cables.

A new thermostat and interior covers finished up the air conditioner installation. All seem to be working fine. The air conditioners have two motors, one for the fans and one for the compressor. And they are quieter.

Start Battery Wiring Modification

This is a project that I hoped would improve the process of starting the coach. When I start the coach it seemed to turn over slower than I thought it should. I had all of the parts since I did the Lithium Batteries two years ago. I just needed to find some time and motivation. I am glad I finally did.

The start batteries are each connected directly to positive and negative bus bars. A big cable goes from the positive bus bar to the starter motor. The negative side connects to a shunt, a switch, and then to a big cable that goes to the negative side of the starter motor. There are other wires connected to both the negative and positive sides. By eliminating the original single connection posts and battery connections, more power should be able to get to the starter motor.

It worked! The starter motor turns at least twice as fast now. Much easier on the starter motor, start batteries and the big engine.

Garden Edging

Somehow we (maybe mostly me) decided we need to define garden edges a bit more and add some additional bricks around the backyard fire pit. About 300 50 pound concert pavers later we had newly defined edges around trees, bushes, and the fire pit. Almost every brick had to get cut to make the curves. It was a bunch of work but they look good and make mowing much easier.

And there were almost 100 bags of mulch that need to get spread too. We have pavers and bags of mulch left over for next spring’s projects.

There were more projects too, they are coming up in the next post.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Fredericksburg, December 2021

We stopped at a smaller casino at Tonkawa, OK for an overnight on the way south and then at another in Thackerville, OK just before we got to Texas. We were trying for shorter driving days on the way south and these seemed to be spaced about right. All were good for an overnight stop. We would have done fine at Walmarts too but these gave us access to water so that we could flush out all of the winter water system antifreeze, get it disinfected and rinsed again and then add some fresh water for the remaining drive.

Our last day on the way to Fredericksburg had us going around the northwest corner of Fort Worth and then west on I20 and south on US 281. Traffic and construction around Forth Worth was busy. We could have (should have) headed west from Denton and picked up US 281 further north and missed all of the construction and traffic. Next time.

US 281 leads to Johnson City and then west on US 290 towards Fredericksburg. When we first visited Fredericksburg several years ago there were mostly ranches between Johnson City and Fredericksburg and a couple fledgling wineries. Now there are about 40 wineries along this route, a couple of distilleries, and craft breweries too. And more wineries heading south of Fredericksburg too. None of the vineyards are big enough to make the volume of wine to support these operations so grape juice is trucked in from other growers, mostly California, to make up the difference. As long as it is 10% Texas grapes it can be called Texas Wine.

We got to Fredericksburg, checked in, and pulled into our site. We didn’t do much more than that. We went for a walk around the campground, fixed some supper, and had an early night.

Our site is about as roomy as they get. Trees on three corners. The sun goes down just behind us, looks nice.

The next day we finished setting up. Got some Christmas decorations out, and hung the red chili pepper lights on the side of the coach.

We came to Fredericksburg, TX for the Weihnachtzeit or the Christmas season. This smaller Texas town is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year and as they do every year, they go all out for decorations.

The town square, the Marktplatz, is all lit up at night and even has a skating rink, a very large Christmas Tree, and a 32’ tall traditional German Christmas Pyramid. Most every shop down Main Street is decorated as well. It is really quite attractive. We are going back to Johnson City on Monday, we hear they are quite decorated as well.

There are usually several homes and nearby ranches that are all decorated and are open for tours. Last year and again this year there are no tours. We were disappointed but it gives us a reason to return.

No snow here but the weather has been nice, mid 80s for Christmas day, much warmer than normal. We got our new three wheeled recumbent bikes out for a spin yesterday. Lots of fun.

We hope your Holiday Season is safe, healthy, and wonderful.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Time to Head South. December, 2021

We decided to head South again this winter. The plan was to leave in late November. But as often happens, life’s events dictate what happens.

So we are off towards warmer places. A couple of weeks late but on our way in any case. But not before we got a very nice December snow. It made everything white and fresh and quiet. Our destination is Christmas in Fredericksburg, TX. We are staying until the end of December. Getting there late is a disappointment, we missed the Christmas Parade but we will be there to enjoy the season, see the decorations, see friends, and get in some shopping.

The drive today was highlighted by almost every tree on our way through Minnesota coated in frost from some overnight fog. The fields were covered in a light snow. The roads and sky were clear. The afternoon sun was quite warm.

Tonight we stopped at a casino in Osceola, IA for the night. It is a pretty old RV park but functional for its purpose.

Tomorrow we are headed to another casino in Tonkawa, OK. They seem to be spaced about the right distance apart. It was a very busy summer, more about all of that coming up.

More Later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan