Thursday, May 24, 2012

Keeping busy with a week to go.

I have been keeping busy, but you know how it is when you're getting ready to travel. A lot of little things crop up. We still see a pair of reddish brown wrens near the rear of the motorhome and now they're carrying worms and bugs. Helen and I have BOTH been crawling around under there and have found NOTHING. I went out at night with a flashlight and still saw no evidence of birds at all. No straw or nesting materials, no parts of hatched eggs, and no droppings. I even opened up the hatch under the bed and still found nothing. It's a puzzling situation.

The door lock on the right rear door of the Jeep failed and I bought a replacement off Ebay. $29.00, which I think is a steal.

I took a picture of the old lock assembly so I would know that the control arms would go back to their proper location. It wasn't necessary as I found that they are actually two different diameters and though the smaller one could go into either place, the larger one had only one place to fit.

Years ago I had a number of tire pressure monitors stolen at a campground in Massachusetts. I'm pretty sure that it was kids who thought that they would light up when the tire is moving. We were both disappointed. I ordered replacements with locks and used the locks for a couple of years. I didn't use the locks on the trip to Mexico and the ones on the Jeep were stolen. That will teach me to park in a public road between two churches. Darn Padres. Ah, well, we'll have the memories of Patzcuaro forever. At any rate, I put the new sensors and locks back on and programmed the dash unit. It didn't go perfectly well, so I downloaded the directions off the Pressure Pro website and followed them exactly. Voila.

Another task that I'm working on is removing the scratches that we have on the passenger side of the camper 7 to 10 feet off the ground. I can't remember where we went when we did this. It's more important to us to see places and things than to maintain our camper in pristine condition. Don't get me wrong, it was never in pristine condition and will never be. The good thing is that a power buffer and some very fine polishing compound is making the sides look like they were just painted.

This afternoon Helen and I made another trip to Gainesville, Florida to help transfer two more Labrador Retrievers from Valdosta, Georgia to New Port Richie, Florida. One was a very handsome chocolate lab that had run out of time at the animal shelter, so we got him out in time. He is about a year old and is amazingly powerful. He's much smaller than our labs, but he almost had me on my butt a couple of times. The other one was a delightful black female, still really a puppy at 6 months. The people who adopted her found that she was too much to handle and she was digging holes in their yard. She was just a puppy!!! She was a deal doll on the way home, lying down all the way and giving  us no trouble at all. The male was just neutered two days ago and was wearing a c one to keep him from licking is incision. The cone was driving him and us crazy. Pat, our Lab Lady from New Port Richie was waiting for us when we got home, so I had no time for pictures. Her husband, Lewis, may send me some which I will post. These were two very cute, very adoptable labs and I have no doubt that LRROF will find them fine Forever Homes.

Finally, I  am finished with my doctors until October. I had a problem with blood iron or lack thereof, but all is well now. In fact, the only thing still wrong with me is I'm still fat. The good news is that I'm still losing weight and can now fit into more stylish clothes. HOORAY!!!!! It was 1987 when I last weighed this little, relatively speaking.

That's all folks!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Birds and stuff

We have a Carolina Wren family living in one of the hanging plants in front of the house. It was most interesting to see them get the nest done. First, they did a little excavating, pushing dirt onto our foyer. Then they made the actual nest. It sits down in the dirt, so Helen will not water that plant and the plant is wilting away. She took the plant down and looked inside for just a moment and saw two eggs. Carolina Wrens are very cute and perky and we can frequently see them with a bug of some kind. They are welcome here. Another fascinating thing is that they can fly up to the stucco walls and grab on, hanging to the side of the house.

Yesterday Helen spied another kind of wren under the motorhome. I cot on a pair of coveralls and inspected the underside from stem to stern, but I did not see any trace of a wren, a nest, or any stray grass or twigs. I felt pretty sure that the wren didn't actually live under there. Earlier today I saw one of the Carolina Wrens in front of the house and when it saw me, it dashed under the motorhome, where it was protected. I'm certain that it was one of the pair in the flower pot. Later Helen said she saw another wren back under the motorhome and we really don't want to transport any birds cross country (Right, Sam?). So I donned my coveralls once more. Being under the motorhome is no problem as there is plenty of room, especially since I lost some weight, but moving around on the concrete is nasty on the knees and elbows. Again, I found no evidence of birds or nest, but I will admit that there are places the cannot be seen from the ground. Helen was not appeased. Taking TWO bright lights she inspected the underside and found no trace either. I think that when the birds are spotted, the head for the close security of the motorhome.

On another note, I worked on the dash air today. It's one of those things that you think of when you're on the road when it's hot, but after you're home and get unpacked and all, you kind of forget about it. In my search for the bird I opened the hood where the A/C fittings are and I remembered that I wanted to check the system. I connected my gauges and had Helen run the engine up to 1700 rpm. The pressures were very low compared to what I'm used to seeing on a car. I called Winnebago, but the service technician couldn't give me any real information. He suggested adding a little freon at a time until the temperatures were where I wanted. With the compressor in the rear and the evaporator up front, I'm not sure that I would ever see the cold temperatures that I'd like. In my Jeep, I cannot keep the A/C on maximum cold even in the hottest weather and I don't expect to see that in the Winnebago. I did add freon 134A until the pressures got to an acceptable range, high and low, and found that the cold air coming from the vents inside were considerably colder than they had been. After the trip to MA, I will try to check the system again before venturing back to Mexico.

Next on the agenda is washing the motorhome, starting with the roof. If you don't get the roof, the first rain washed all kinds of dirt down the sides.


Saturday, May 19, 2012!!

A few days ago I got my pressure washer back from my son, and one of the things I wanted to do was to pressure wash the underside of the motorhome  and get rid of the remaining mud that accumulated while in Mexico. I realize that much of it dates back to our second day in Mexico, November 14th, when we had a little problem on a muddy, rain soaked road. Still, I removed a lot with a hose at the campground yet there was a lot I couldn't reach with the hose unless I chose to crawl under the motorhome in the mud. NO WAY!!! I was under the camper today greasing all the fittings and noticed that a lot of mud remained. The pressure washer made short work of it and I was surprised to see just how much stayed on the chassis, through several rain storms and many miles of bumpy roads.

As I mentioned above, I finished the grease fittings today so I'm all set for another 5000 miles. I also took it to a gas station this morning and filled it up with diesel ad $3.719. Diesel was $4.119 just a few weeks ago and it will probably go even lower, but I didn't want to wait too long to fill the tank as we'll be leaving for the Northeast in less than two weeks. Two of our grandchildren will fly up on June 10th and we'll have the better part of a month showing them everything from Boston to Cape Cod, where Helen and I grew up and where their Dad spent the first 12 years of his life. Now we are in making lists and packing things. Heaven help me!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Stupid is as stupid does and stupid strikes again

Yup, I had another one of those episodes that I brought on myself. The precipitating event occurred a few days ago when I wanted to take my outboard motor to Crystal River to be repaired. It developed a shaft seal leak and I didn't want to tackle the job myself. The sensible thing to do would have been to tow the boat down and let the mechanics at the dealer remove the motor. I didn't want to do that, so I took off the motor and put it in the back of the Jeep. At the dealer's, it took TWO techs to take the motor out and put it on a cart. This outboard weighs in the vicinity of 100 pounds and is bulky, too.

The next day I felt a little discomfort in my upper chest, but I discounted it as it went away. Yesterday, I was playing with the dogs and the discomfort came back and increased in intensity. It didn't hurt all the time, but any movement would cause a sharp pain in my left upper chest. The pains grew and grew and I became concerned. I guess I panicked. I took a shower and changed clothes and then told Helen. We were off to the ER in a heartbeat. At the ER, I made the mistake of mentioning "chest pains". Now I was being treated for a possible heart problem, instant EKG, nitro patch, bed rest. Lying in bed, I noticed that when I was still, it didn't hurt very much but if I twisted, the pains would return. I also noticed that when I was lying still, if I put pressure on that one spot, it would  cause the pain. Back a number of years ago I experienced the same thing, only in my back. It was pleurisy then, and the more I thought about it the more I was sure it was pleurisy now. Helen asked if I had done any heavy lifting or such on the motorhome or something and I told her "no".  Then I remembered the outboard.

Pleurisy is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest (the pleura) that leads to

 chest pain (usually sharp) when you take a breath or cough. Symptoms: The main

 symptom of pleurisy is pain in the chest.

Now, I have an odd history with pleurisy. In 1967 or 1968, I got it and went to a young doctor that worked in the same building as the dentist Helen was working for. He diagnosed the painful condition as pleurisy and his treatment was to tape me up from waist to underarms with wide adhesive tape. This cause two problems that I recall clearly. First, he wrapped me tight and I had a hard time breathing, making it necessary for Helen to remove the bandage. This brings me to problem 2. Having the tape removed was TORTURE!!!! The cure was so much worse than the illness.

Years later, I would get pleurisy when I was working for myself. At first, I would just quit working for a day or two, but I had a young family and when I didn't work, I didn't get paid. Eventually I found that if I continued to work through the pain, the problem would subside.

Now, back to my ER visit. Saying "chest pain" in the ER is like yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater. You start a process that has a life of it's own and it cannot be stopped or diverted. I would HAVE to be admitted to the hospital and I would HAVE  to undergo three blood tests to ensure that the enzyme produced by  a heart attack is not present. One test is not enough. Two tests are not enough. It has to be three or more. So I was committed to 24 hours in the hospital.

After a while in the ER, I had to use the bathroom. They refused to let me get up and walk the 40 feet or so to the bathroom and offered me a pee bottle or a bed pan. This was TOTALLY NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!! The nurses told me "NO!" and the doctor told me "NO! It was much too risky to let a possible heart patient walk that distance. I appealed to their sense of logic, asking if it would be more stressful to walk to the bathroom or fight off several staff members trying to force me in the bed. Sanity prevailed and I was able to use the normal bathroom in private. A victory on my part.

While still in the ER I heard two women talking about books. One uses the public library (as I do), the other buys used paperbacks at flea markets and such because she take too long to read a book. I called her over and told her that the local library (right around the corner from the hospital) has shelves of paperbacks free for the taking. You don't need a library card, you just let them know how many you're taking. She was pleased to know that. Then I asked if she had a spare book lying around as I was going to be in for the night. A few minutes later she returned with a brand new book from the hospital lending library, a few shelves of paperback located adjacent to the cafeteria. How lucky could I be. It was a new release (May 2012) of one of Stuart Woods first novels going back to 1988. It may be the only Stuart Woods book that I had not read. That's what I get for being a nice guy and telling her about the library.

Next I was moved to my "permanent" bed in room 331. The staff was nice enough, but even though I was wired and monitored at the nurses station, they had to take "vitals" every few hours. They also had to take two more blood tests during the night. The last was at 6:15 AM and the results would be ready in only 15 minutes. I figured that I'd be getting out early, fool that I am. I was told that a heart specialist would have to sign off on my dismissal, but he/she would be in early in the morning. Ha!!! Early in the morning was after 11:00 AM. Everything looked good and as far as he was concerned, I was free to go. Oh Boy!, I'm going home. I went out and checked with the nurses, still hooked up to monitors and still with the IV needle in the back of my hand. "Yes" she said, the heart specialist had signed off, but I had to wait for the admitting doctor, Dr. Shaw. Oh,oh, I've been here before and the last time I waited HOURS for Dr. Shaw, finally in desperation,  I signed myself out and called Helen to come pick me up. I started out and Helen met me up the street.

I guess I've become a curmudgeon in my old age because I WAS NOT going to be put in the waiting situation again. I removed the monitoring equipment and placed it on the nurses' station. Then I removed the IV myself and deposited it in the "Sharp needles" box. Then I went back to the nurses and asked for the paper I would have to sign to let myself out. They were aghast that I had removed the IV, but one of the nurses offered to tape over the cotton swab I was holding over the needle hole. Then she asked "do you want me to cut off the wrist ID tag?" I said "No, I gnawed it off!", but then I let her cut it off. Oh, by the way, when I started my campaign to get myself out of there Helen sensed a scene and she disappeared around the corner, waiting for me at the elevators.

At home, I got a grand "Welcome Home" from Jodie, Coco, and Sandy. The ordeal is over, but yesterday sure shot Helen's Mother's Day to heck.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Working on the motorhome

I've managed to accomplish a couple of things on the motorhome before vacation. Some of you who have a Freightliner chassis might be aware of the problem greasing the engine fan bearing. The grease fitting is at the rear of the engine and it cannot be reached from below. The only way to get to the fitting is to COMPLETELY disassemble the top of the bed, move the mattress and take off the whole platform. This gets you to the insulated access ports to the engine. The rear port has to be removed and then you lean way down and locate the fitting. I have an air operated grease gun, so it's not as bad as a manual model. Two shots and you're done for another 5000 miles, which comes all too soon.

On RV.NET, I posed the question of how to get out of this miserable way to access the fitting. I got several suggestions. Brett Wolfe suggested I look at the picture on the CAT RV Club website. You can see it below.


In the picture you can see the pulley to which the fan bolts. Behind that, there is a brass pipe nipple and coupling that mates with a grease hose. The other end of the hose is routed to the side and under the engine where the new grease fitting  is attached. Before the final assembly, I pumped the hose full of grease so there will be no air pockets. Other than getting my bulky frame in a position to do the work, the most difficult part was removing the old fitting. It's impossible to get a wrench on it and I couldn't get a socket on it because it is too close to the pulley. I really didn't want to remove the fan assembly, ...really! I dug out my trusty Dremel tool and put a grinding tool on it. Working carefully, I ground away just enough of the pulley to slip a socket over the fitting. Voila!!! It worked. Now I can get all the grease fittings from under the motorhome. It's a real plus because I also don't have to drag a grease gun and hose into the bedroom.

Next on the agenda was to replace the reflective liner we use inside the motorhome. When we bough the motorhome late in 2007, it had a windshield screen that covered the entire windshield. Years of sunshine and  being installed and removed and replaced many, many times did a job on it and it was finally discarded in Mexico. It was missed as our motorhome always seemed to face the sun and the heat was extreme. Also, electricity in Mexico runs about $.30 per kwh. In the campgrounds, you pay a campground fee that does not include electricity and pay the electricity in addition. Each campsite has it's own meter, so you pay for what you use. Using the air conditioner can run up a bill much greater than the camping fee. In addition, even when you are paying for the electricity, you cannot run the A/C because the campground wiring cannot handle the load. I found a roll of this insulation at Lowe's for $40.00 and change for a 25 foot roll. I'll have some reflective shares for other windows as well.


The reflective, insulated window screen sure helps a lot and DOES reflect a lot of the sunlight. The small space between the glass and the screen still acts like a greenhouse and a lot of warm air flows over the top  of the screen. It's better to intercept the sun before it gets through the windshield.

Therefore, I turned to Prompt R V Screens to get this custom made windshield cover. Several years ago they made on for our Safari and it worked extremely well. If we don't have the reflective screen on the inside, we can easily see out and still have complete privacy the day time. At night with the inside lights on, our privacy is gone as we will be on display for all passing by.

Another project completed is the replacement of stolen tire pressure monitoring sensors. On our last trip to down town Patzcuaro, while parked between two churches, someone stole the sensors from our Jeep. I have come to rely on my Pressure Pro system to alert me of any tire problems, so I  ordered new ones once we got home. I had a bit of a problem getting them programmed correctly. First I tried to erase the old sensors from the main memory. Instead I added a tag axle position, but I have no tag axle. On my next attempt, I deleted the front left sensor of the motorhome. Finally, admitting defeat, I went on-line and downloaded the instructions one more time, but this time I printed them out. Reading something and remembering what I read for more than a few minutes is too much to ask. This morning, with directions in hand, I got all the positions programmed properly and all is well. That's enough for one day.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Bird

Sadly, at this time we are down to one bird. We started with Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Nod was quite a bit underdeveloped compared to the other two and was often trodden upon by his healthier siblings. He was not an aggressive feeder, but Helen always made sure he got his share. It didn't make any difference and soon Nod was gone. The other two seemed to be doing very well, growing many feathers and appearing to be very active. Helen would clean the cage every day, placing them in a bucket while she did the cleaning. One day as she went to clean the cage, Wynken let out one loud screech and collapsed, as if he'd been shot. To say that Helen was devastated would be putting it mildly. Helen seems to bond instantly with animals in need. That's why we have three Labs and have raised 2 litters of puppies for LRROF. I buried Wynken in the yard next to Nod.

Blynken is another sort. He, or she, was the most precocious of the three and was the alpha chick from day one. In addition to his feedings, Helen would take him out in the yard to get him used to being outside. He would bob along the ground picking up worms and insects that we could hardly see and soon he was depending on Helen's feeding less and less. Then he would flap his wings furiously as he skittered across the yard. But, for the most part he chose to do his scavenging under the bushes, where he was relatively safe. Since we didn't think it wise for Blynken and the dogs to share the yard at the same time, Helen would put him back in his cage so the dogs could have the yard for a while. Yesterday he didn't want to return, but Helen caught him and caged him again. After the dogs had been out for a while, they were brought in and he was put back out, and stayed out most of the day.  Helen would come inside for long periods, leaving him alone, but he would still return her call when she whistled.

Today was something completely new. When Helen took him outside, he immediately took off, flying around the house and alighting on our pool enclosure. Later, Helen found him in a tree, but he would not come to Helen for food. Now, he doesn't respond to Helen at all. I guess he can feed himself and he can fly, and he is a wild animal, so if he doesn't need us anymore Helen had been very successful. When he was just bobbing along the ground, he never git the chance to go very far, but flying is a whole new ball game. He may be in the trees looking at Helen or he may be half a mile away looking at greener pastures. At least there are three Labs who will gladly take back their domain any time they want.

Nothing like a bath to make a bird feel good.

AAAHHH, just the right temperature!

Hunting for a tasty morsel.

I know....I'm a handsome devil.

There's a goody!