February 5 Saturday
The weather finally returned to something more than freezing, so it was time to do a job that would either be easy or hard, but not somewhere between. As it turned out, it was hardly easy, but it could have harder than it was, maybe.
That's our site at the Safari Mobile Home Park in League City. It's not a five star RV Park, but it does have pull thru sites, water, sewer and 50 amp hookups. It also has a few of Canadians, those people who are known for finding winter bargains in the lower 48.
Sure the street in front of our site had a foot of water standing in it a few days ago, but then so did many of the regular streets in town. Calder Road is full of pot holes, but Field of Dreams Parkway off the I-45 frontage road is in great shape. There is all manner of shopping within five minutes of the park, and the price is less than half of what we were paying a week ago, just a few miles away.
We've been here for almost a week as a comedy of errors has unfolded in our attempts to get a new front tire to replace the one that was repaired just before we went into Mexico a year ago. Then there was the problem with the wheel wieghts and balancing, and now it is losing air every few days, so we are getting it replaced, hopefully on Monday when you may or may not hear the rest of the story.
Now, back to the present. We had a Winegard TRAV'LERŪ SK-3005 DIRECTV Slimline satellite dish installed last week by Bill Adams, who had also installed our MotoSat back in 2006 and has been the greatest when it comes to support over the years. Today it was my turn to finish the installation, which involved running the second cable to the slideout where the DirecTV DVR and the TV is mounted.
Bill had completed the installion of the second TV signal wire to the point of being in the coach where the controllers for the MotoSat and the Trav'ler were located, which was up in the compartment above Linda's seat. Yesterday I had run the cable down the pillar and through the floor so it was down where it could be run back to the compartment where all the other wires, cables etc. feed into the slideout.
Bill had said that we could have the DirecTV installer do it, or we could do it ourselves. I figured it would be a lot easier to have the installer do it, our I could do it my way, and also have the satisfaction of still being able to do the things I enjoyed doing when I was younger. I guess you could say ego won out, and I tackled it myself. Or mostly myself, because without Linda it would certainly still not be done.
The Trav'ler dish is mounted right at the front of the coach, so we now have to make sure that both dishes have a clear view of the sky. Of course that meant that we picked a spot where the Trav'ler ended up in the trees the first time we set it up, but with a little jockeying of the coach, we had finally obtained the right sky view.
Anyone walking by our site for most of the afternoon saw this view of me. Down underneath, I guess you could say deep in the bowels of the coach, there are mydrid cables going every which way, sort of, maybe. They criss-cross in the front and the rear, but in the center they run between the main frame rails between the front and rear. Since the controller was in the front, and the access to the slide was towards the rear, that meant the cable was going to have to run from front to rear.
The lower bays are formed plastic compartments that hang down from those rails. So the cable was either going between the rails or was going to be very exposed and attached to one of several bracing rails that run along the bottom of the compartments.
The latter was the easy way, but then the cable would exposed, even with the split loom I was going to put on it to protect it. Besides, it would also look very unprofessional, done by someone who did things the easy way rather than the right way. The problem was how to feed the cable over top of the compartments, between the rails to the back of the coach.
We had visited Lowes this morning, buying a 50 foot roll of quad insulated CATV cable, and most importantly, a 25 foot long electric fish tape. Then it was a quick stop at the Walmart next door to buy some pieces of split loom.
The easy part was getting the cable from where it came down from the front corner through the floor to the spot where it needed to be feed trough the rails. I put split loom on all of that run, and taped and zipped tied it to existing cables in that area. It was just long enough to reach the area where it needed to be fished to the back, and so everything was going perfectly.
It should have been very easy, the run was less then 20 feet, and I had the tools I needed to do the job. So then why did it take an hour or so to get that stupid few feet of cable where I wanted it? For one thing, it was dark up there making it hard to see. For another it was at the end of my reach, plus the slots and spaces where I could reach up were so narrow my arm would barely fit. In fact I sometimes had to turn my arm to get it to fit past a brace to I could access the place where the fish tape wasn't.
Where the fish tape wasn't, did that ever sum up what was going on. Of course I couldn't start the tape in over the compartments where their front edge was located. Even if I could have reached up there, the bend would have been so sharp that feeding the tape in would have been extremely difficult. That meant going towards the front of the coach three or four feet to a spot in front of the fuel tank where it was easy to feed the tape.
The key here is the addition to what I'm wearing, which is dirt, lots of dirt. There's the fish tape nearby, and after trying from the front to the back and the back to the front, but not succeeding, Linda suggested tying a red and silver ribbon on it to make it easier to see. Then she was also under the coach, feeding the tape and moving it around while I looked in vain for it.
I was seriously considering taking the easy way out and running it along the lower brace when, pushing and twisting the tape, I felt it give big time. Quickly crawling to the back of the coach, I looked in vain for it. Then, right in front of my face were those brightly colored ribbons, and with a quick pull they were where I could fasten the cable to the tape.
The rest was actually easy in comparison, pulling the cable, drilling a hole into the back of the water heater compartment, feeding the cable up into the coach and fastening it in place so it would move with the slideout.
The only casualty was a brief attack of claustraphobia Linda suffered while under the coach. We still have the job of sealing off the two openings with foam and running the cable up to where the control box is located, but that's for another day.
All this omits most of the rest of the story, the he said, she said parts, which at times was most interesting. It also doesn't touch on all the things that have happened since early January, but that's Life. More tomorrow.
February 6 Sunday
What have I done
It was a decision that did not come easily even though Linda had been pushing me hard for a number of months. My computer, my lap top, was in its sixth year of life, and like most things that fall into the electronic category and are that old, it was more than just a little outdated. I had installed a larger hard drive, but the wireless was less than ideal, and it was getting slower and slower in terms of processing.
Our son makes his livelihood writing computer programs, and it was during a conversation with him that he mentioned that not only was he enjoying writing programs for touch screen terminals, he also very much enjoyed using the touch screens.
My level of competence when it came to touch screens was just a tad above the never heard of them level. Luckily, or unluckily depending on ones viewpoint, there is a Fry's Electronics store just a few miles from where we are staying. Several visits to the store, question for the sales people, lots of computer research, more questions, and the result is a new Sony Vaio VPCJ116FX, and on which, this is being written.
That's it with its wireless keyboard and mouse. The only cable is a single power cord. I'm still learning to do the touch screen thing, but the more I use it, the easier it is to use. If you catch what I mean. I find that I can already manipulate photos, resizing them, etc., as fast with the touch screen as with the mouse.
One website I use a lot requires me to post photos as part of the process. I'm to the point of seldom touching the mouse, and with only one or two exceptions, the keyboard, to view, manipulate and post three to six photos in what seems to easier than it was with only the keyboard and mouse.
That's the on-screen keyboard, shown with the login screen. It certainly doesn't replace the normal keyboard in the sense of making it unnecessary, but it certainly has its place. To me the best part of the whole experience is how small the computer's foot print is, and how easy it is to move. Just unplug the cord, lay the computer on the bed, put the keyboard, mouse and cord beside it, and that's it. Also, it only weighs about 25 pounds, so weight isn't a problem.
It isn't easy moving back to Windows after all those years with Linux, but the touch screen sure makes it fun. All those programs I have been using, and now I have to find replacements and learn to use them. I can see why people stay with what they have, even if it isn't the best, because to change as much as this isn't all that easy. I remember how difficult the move to Linux from Windows was, and I'll tell you this isn't like going back to something familiar. More on all that in the future. As for now I'm just trying to get something half decently written and then uploaded to the server without it taking all day.
It was Super Bowl Sunday, and so we did the guacamole and salsa thing, though doing it in Mexico the past few years has definitely been better. Linda even made some Jamaica, that we topped off with seltzer water for our waistline friendly drinks.
Tomorrow we should get our new tire installed and spend one more night in League City before starting our trek to the Valley for a few weeks or so, before circling back north towards Dallas and some new MCD window screens. Now if I can just keep up with the writing pattern and start slipping in a little of our daily doings with the Bob touch, Life will be complete.
February 7 Monday
Retiring a problem
During the time I wasn't writing some things, actually many things, just weren't going right. One of which was the drivers side front tire on the coach. It had started as a simple thing, get the tire balanced, and ended up as a study in frustration. The main problem being that except for one person, the the people who work at Wayne's Tire in Onalaska, Texas, which is near Livingston, either need more training, more experience, or need to find another line of work, and I'll just leave it at that.
On the other side of the coin, the people at Wingfoot Tire in League City know what they are doing, and though they may have a problem with communicating with the customer at times, when all is said and done, they know their stuff, and the result is a satisfied customer.
For several weeks we have been fighting, or maybe putting up with is better choice of words, a tire that over the course of several days just wouldn't stay up. It was also the tire we had repaired when it got the bolt in it the day before we drove into Mexico a year ago. I know people drive on repaired tires, we certainly do with several of the tires on the Explorer, but with the coach it is different. We don't want a repaired tire, and absolutely not as one of the front tires.
I can remember when I used to squat in front of that tire, the pain increasing by the second, as it took what seemed liked hours, to fill that tire with air. Mama didn't raise no dumb Bob, so now I sit on my stool, while it takes what seems like hours to fill the tire. But today that should all end.
Of course once Linda had taken that photo, she says, "That's going to be a good one, love the look on your face." "Well babe," I think, "if you'd been the one digging out the compressor, hooking it up, sometimes squatting in the rain, just so we could go somewhere else to do the same thing in a few days, you'd wouldn't be exactly the smiling Queen of Sheba, now would you."
Not one to pass up the opportunity to put my best face forward, I gave her my biggest and best smile. Come to think of it, it was real, because in less than a half hour, that tire was going to be retired.
The post office may have its motto about the mail, but let me tell you, Wingfoot isn't far behind. Neither rain, nor ice pellets, nor icy roads, nor cancelled trucks, nor shipping the wrong tire, can keep them from eventually, eight days actually, getting the tire at the right place at the right time. Wonder if I'd have been treated differently if I'd been a trucker with a blow out along the road rather than an easy going, retired RVer with a slow leak sitting in a RV park?
They were actually waiting on us when we drove up, and it didn't take long before the old tire was coming off. Having watched Doofus and Roofus at the tire shop where we had the tire put on a few weeks back, it was shear joy watching a man who was a professional at this, change out the tire.
Not only that, but take a gander at the awesome looking babe that shined up the wheel so it would look as good as new. Now if I could just take her home and have her do a few things around the coach....
All mounted, shined up and ready to roll. It wasn't cheap, but now we have confidence in our tires, and that is worth an awful lot. Wish I could say it drove better on the way back to the RV park, but it didn't. That was not bad, because I didn't notice anything, meaning that it was smooth and easy.
Tomorrow we will be leaving the Houston area, heading toward the Rio Grande Valley. It's about 350 miles down there, so it should take us four or five days to get there if things go as planned. There's a little town, Palacios, about half way between here and Corpus that we want to check out.
We read something about it having one of the largest shrimp boat fleets in Texas. We read something about how good and inexpensive the shrimp were. We read something about a Passport America Park that is on the bay. We read the blog of our friends, John and Judy, as they sat by the bay in the Florida Keys, enjoying their beverages and taking blurry photos of each other. You read whether any of this comes about in our case, and if it does, what really happened, along with any blurry photos, here tomorrow.
February 8 Tuesday
Different points of view
There was joy in Mudville this morning, the air that Mighty Casey had flayed away at was still there this morning, holding the new tire exactly as it should be. Even Linda noticed the lack of lean when she came bouncing out this morning. Bouncing being the operative word as her hair had a spring not seen for weeks. It's amazing what a trip to the shower house can do for your ego, and your looks.
We didn't have a set time to leave the RV park, knowing that the drive would take less than two hours, so anytime after 10 would be fine, though we do like to arrive earlier in the day. For once the MotoSat stowed when asked and everything else worked as it was supposed to.
It's been a long while since I started a post with the old "view to the front" that graced the Daily Journal for so many months. Dusting off the cobwebs, or at least the html, here is the view to the front when parked in site #10 at Safari RV Park in League City, Texas, which is probably why they refer to themselves as Safari Mobile Home and RV Park. Especially since mobile home is the operative word here.
We noticed an RV park alongside I-45 a little to the north, and after checking it out online, decided that for what it costs at each, Safari is a much better deal. Sure the restrooms aren't the cleanest, and the sites don't have the greatest view, but there is no freeway noise, and we didn't have any problem getting on both satellites, though in the lower numbered sites it might be a bit iffy.
The view four hours later at Bay Side RV Park in Palacios. They call this "The Best Kept Secret on the Texas Coast", and from what we've seen so far today, whether that is true or not, it is a neat place with some interesting places to visit and a singular lack of people, though we'd expect it is a different story in the summer.
Only in a small town do you stumble across the town mascot stoically standing in the corner of the visitor center, which was actually the Chamber of Commerce/Economic Development office in one of the mostly vacant buildings that make up the old downtown area. Like the wonderful lady that helped us said, "Most of the people drive through town on the bypass and never know what is down here." Over the next several or more days we plan to discover what is not only down by the waterfront, but any other place that we learn about. By the way, the mascot's name is Pal the Palacios Pelican, and I bet you didn't know that before you read it here.
There is just something special about being out on the water, and even though we don't have a waterfront site, we are enjoying the view. As we learned, it is unseasonably cold in Palacios, though that's the same thing we have been hearing everywhere we have been for the past three months. It seems a long time since we were in Montana and everyone was saying it was far warmer than normal.
Tomorrow we plan to do a little sightseeing, and probably visit the local history museum. As we learned, we are a long way from the actual Gulf coast, but now we know which back roads to take to get there. Also there is a, bring a dish, dinner tomorrow night at the RV Park, and I noticed Linda getting out a dozen eggs to set out over night, meaning it looks like we are going and taking deviled eggs. It's late, I'm tired. More tomorrow.