Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

December 26, 2013


This month, I got a new cell phone: the new Nexus 5 unlocked, and tried out StraightTalk  $45 for a month of unlimited talk, text, data.  It is on the AT&T network and can do the LTE data speeds. The down side is that once you use up 2.5GB of data, they throttle you to 2g speeds and you can't tether the phone or roam.  But I can get 5-6mbs upload and 2-3 mps download speeds on it at home on the HSPA network and 8-12+ when it gets the LTE signal.  Compared to the 1.3 mbs at best I could get on the Sprint network and it looks pretty good.  The talk and text works just fine too and it is a lot less expensive. I also got a Google Voice number that I connected to my land line and the new cell phone.  That way, I can change out plans and numbers and people can call the Google number and still get me.

My first cell phone was an AT&T but a few years ago, I could no longer get a signal from them at my home so I switched to Sprint.  Sprint was fine for a while but with the advent of LTE networks, they have really fallen far behind.  Add to that the missing coverage on my trips and it is goodbye to Sprint. In the meantime, AT&T has expanded and sped up their network pretty well.  Verizon wasn't a real option because I get poor coverage at my house from them.

I've had at home a wireless network that bounces the signal from spot to spot for rural places that I've been paying $55/month for 1mbs up and .5 down.  It was a more reliable signal than tethering my old Sprint phone and better than dial up.  I just discovered that they have been offering 2mbs up 1 mbs down for the last year for the same price and never let me know. So I asked and they want $189 for new equipment to up the speed. I know that the equipment I have can do 12mbs unthrottled and it is a very easy software setting to change the speed as that is what it did before the installer throttled it.  Doesn't seem like a very good deal to me.  A cable modem is not an option so I'm limited for internet even at home.

Today, I got the AT&T Unite Pro hotspot with the $50/5GB/month plan and yes, I went ahead and got the contract because I am going to keep it for that long anyway so I might as well save the $150 extra to buy it off contract. It isn't like they discount the monthly fee off contract.  It gets the LTE signal really well in my house and look at the speed! 18+ mbs! Plus it is fully mobile.  All I will have to do in the van is just put it in there and we are good to go.  The hotspot has plugs for an antenna as well so that is an option.

I think 5 gigs of data will be fine for me as I don't do gaming or stream a whole lot of stuff.  If I go over the 5 gigs, they will add a gig and charge me an extra $10.  I can go to using 7-8 gigs in a month and match what I had been paying for the phone and internet so I think this is a better deal by far. Now to cancel the old stuff.

On other computer stuff since I'm on the topic.  Last year, I bought an Android tablet but it was a failure after just a few months. It started rapidly flashing apps on and off and nothing I could find would fix it. It had a short warranty so I was stuck. I decided that I really prefer a laptop and got a Sony ultralight last summer.  I still like it really well and it still works.  Windows 8 takes some getting used to but it runs real programs like the Libre Office suite as well as a bunch of apps programs.  It is incredibly light and fast with a touch screen.  The Android wannabes on the tablet just didn't cut it for real work.

November 29, 2013

Musing on Thanksgiving as a Single Retiree

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, this time with the stores deciding their employees had so little pull that they could force them to have no holiday and come to work for the mad acquisition fanatics to indulge their whims on a national holiday.  I'm one who gets irritated at the onslaught of the Christmas buying spree starting before Halloween. I like the Fall.  The right wing likes to claim there's some sort of war on Christmas because many people like to be pleasantly inclusive to others who happen to not be Christian (it's why we say happy holidays - so everyone will be included in a banal but friendly greeting.) But there is zero evidence that Christmas in is any sort of decline. Just look around you. You can't escape it. It is yet another aggressive attempt to force a particular segment of Christianity onto people who don't care for it while sending the clear message that we don't want your kind around here if you don't subscribe to it.  We used to say that kind of meanness was unchristian, but now it defines christian. But then that was when being christian was also defined as kind and charitable.

Funny thing is that the heavy Christmas traditions only date back to the 19th century when newspapers could shape a particularly monetary feeling about the holiday and set up a mythology that never existed before.  The whole holiday was originated as a reworking of ancient pagan winter solstice celebrations to relieve the tedium of long, cold winter nights and the beginning of longer days again. Because of the lag of solar heating of the earth, the hardest winter is ahead but the sun gradually lasts longer and longer. The Roman Saturnalia and other pagan celebrations were impossible to squash so the early Catholic church got the brilliant idea to take it over and layer the celebrations with the Christian myths.

Enough griping about the coming holiday. Being a happily single middle aged woman puts me in a little quandary about holidays. People often think I'm lonely and in need of being taken care of at these times. So frequently, being a fairly pleasant person despite being a strong introvert, I am often asked to join a friend's family. Don't get me wrong, they mean to be really nice to me and that is their only motivation, so I do appreciate the sentiment.

But when you spend a distinctly family oriented holiday at someone else's family, no matter how nice and welcoming they are, I am a third wheel and don't really belong. I have always enjoyed the holiday dinners with my own family which is quite extensive but who all live far far away, but I am and always have been a part of it. I belong and always will whether I like it or not. Fortunately, I mostly like it. But I really hate traveling during the holidays. Especially by air. The unpleasant air travel is made much worse by the huge crowds so I try to avoid it.

In addition, during my work life, the demands of the job mostly made it impossible to go to a relative's house for holidays.  I got used to not celebrating when in my early career I had to work 24/7/365 shifts.  I would volunteer to work the holidays (more pay!) so that the people with families could have them with their families.  At first, being at work helped distract from the all alone feeling but then it just didn't really matter any more the older I got.  I find that the holiday traditions really matter a lot more when you have children. My dogs and cats just don't care. And I haven't really felt lonely since I got rid of my sociopath ex-husband years ago.

This year, my neighbor, who I see frequently (our dogs are best buds and she has chickens!), invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her husband's family about 2 hours driving time away.  I find it difficult to refuse such invitations because it is meant to be so nice. Then she started warning me about his various brothers and their less than ok behavior. I was raised with the "be pleasant and civil and no politics or religion topics at dinner" etiquette rules. So I started to have some trepidation about the event - with no possible escape hatch. I would be on their time table because of the distance.

The day came and went.  They were very nice to me and mostly pleasant enough.  I just said nothing about the politics discussion.  It is not the time to try to counter the Fox "news" people with actual facts (studies keep showing that those who watch Fox are less informed of reality than those who get no news at all).  But, really, it was a long day that got pretty boring when the inevitable football on TV started (which I find deadly dull - same thing over and over. Essentially playing dog-pile interspersed with endless committee meetings).  They were very nice to me and very welcoming but they are not very educated so I really didn't have much in common with anyone (since I am and always have been an intellectual).  I get along with my neighbor and enjoy her company despite the lack of comparable education because she is practical smart, logical, and thinks for herself, plus we have some common interests.  I have always found hours and hours of banal small talk with (even nice) strangers exhausting. 

In reality, I would have had a better day with no feast and by myself with my pets.  I guess because I'm not a needy social person and really like my own company.  It is amazing how few people can comprehend a single middle aged woman who is happy with her own life under her own control and needs no taking under a wing.  That is when I feel like I have to start making up prior engagements because I really don't want to be taken under someone's wing and incorporated into their family.  I like to choose individual people for friends and company who I like for themselves without being incorporated into their whole lives.  But I am really loathe to hurt their feelings with outright rejection of what is intended to be very, very nice to me.

It is a quandary.

November 10, 2013

To the Dump, To the Dump, Dump, Dump

Today, I lined the van with tarps and filled it to the gills with trash. I think it's been almost a year since the last time I went so there are quite a few bags of household trash. The big stuff is the old front door and trim along with the vinyl floor and underlayment from my hall and powder room. I don't pay for trash pickup. I figured out years ago that I just don't produce enough trash to make the weekly pickup fee worthwhile since I recycle as much as I can. The county picks up recyclables at the curb every 2 weeks for free. Normally, I go to the dump at least twice a year but somehow, I didn't this year.

The van is such a versatile vehicle.  I also used my compressor to blow all the water out of the van to have it ready for winter.

Last week, I completed the front rooms in my house with the stairs and railing, including all the trim and touch up. It feels really good to have it all done and looking like I had always imagined it could. Next up is a big purge. I'm starting to pack up some pictures and pots that I want to keep to get the family room cleared out so I can strip the ugly wallpaper and scrape the paint on the trim. After that, I'll go thru my stuff and give away a bunch of stuff I really don't need to have. It is a big job doing that but I will feel lighter when it is gone. And need room to work on the room. My rule is if I don't really love it or don't use it all the time, it goes.

October 31, 2013

Happy All Hallow's Een

Happy Halloween. All Hallows Eve, the half way point of Fall when traditions celebrated the onset of winter and ever shorter days. According to the Celts, it was the end of the old year and the veils between the worlds of the living and the dead were thinned so the hallows (ghosts, spirits) could walk among us.

I don't believe in anything supernatural so I have no fear of it but I do like to mark the marching of time thru the seasons. My silver maple tree suddenly turned a spectacular shade of orange/red today. It practically glows even in a thick cloud cover. We finally had a couple of killing frosts late last week so it has put on it's gaudy colors. It has been years since I've seen it put on such a show. Must be the extra wet summer we had. Tonight will bring a storm with high winds so I expect most of the leaves will be gone by tomorrow. A fleeting beauty.

I've been working hard putting down the flooring in my hall/living room/powder room/closet and it is complete! I moved my desk and some furniture into it so I can tackle the back rooms. I am in the midst of putting the flooring on the stairs and will set the newel post/railing as I do that, then the whole front part of the house downstairs will be completely done! Feels good but sheesh, it is only 1/8 of the whole job.  I do believe I met my goal of making it look like a lovely cottage.

August 29, 2013

It's Always Something ...

We got cleared for dog swimming and walks this week along with instructions to do core exercises on an air mattress and I am directed to pull my dog's tail.  The tail pull is like chiropractic for dogs and helps to align her spine and release pressure. She thinks that is a bit weird but does seems to feel better with it. So it was off to the lake yesterday to have a good swim which she really enjoyed.

Today, we took a walk on the tow path in the C&O Canal NHP that runs along the Potomac River. Only walked for an hour because we need to get back into exercise gradually. Somewhere along the path, my dog stuck her nose into something by the side of the path and suddenly jumped a foot and a half. All I saw was a very quick flash of white. Towards the end of our walk, she was less enthusiastic. We went down to the river and she swam some. I thought we had over done the exercise from her lethargy.

Later in the afternoon, I noticed she had a big swelling under her chin so I took her to the vet. The vet found two spots right under her chin and thinks she got a snake bite and it was possibly venomous. She also said that most of the snakes here do not pose a life threatening bite and she didn't have a really rapid swelling so that is a good sign.  The vet gave her a Benedryl shot and prescribed an anti inflammatory, antibiotic, and a pain killer. Good thing she is easy to pill. I think that I saw a quick flash of the snake's underside with the flash of white but it was gone fast. The dog refused to get a water bottle discarded a bit off the path after that. Maybe she has learned to be a bit more cautious now.

Her swelling has gone down quite a bit in the late evening so I think she will be all right. The cat continues to heal. I took a picture of his wound to show the vet. She said when the hole in his skin heals/scabs over, then he can go outside again and it is healing up as it should. That can't be too soon. He keeps chasing the other cat and is generally a pain in the neck.

The fool dog finally paid the price for sticking her nose into everything.  It is always something ...
UPDATE: The dog is much better in the morning. Her spirits are up, the swelling is much smaller altho there is a swelling on her chest between her front legs (the vet said that would happen). Her neck measurement is 6 cm less than it was yesterday. So it looks like it will be all right. I love my vet!

August 25, 2013

Life with Furry Invalids

It's been the better part of a week with my 2 furry invalids. The feisty cat with the nasty bite and the dog with newly diagnosed but early spondyloses. The cat has been wearing a lampshade on his head to keep him from licking and irritating the wound except when I feed him. The wound is looking like it is slowly healing - darker in color but no weeping fluid. He acts drunk with cone on. Odd jerky movement and postures, the poor thing. By Friday, he started trying to wash his face with his paw but only got the cone. He is constantly trying to get outside and do his regular hunting, lazing around outside, and cat fighting so I have to catch him every time I open the door. But he must convalesce inside. This morning, he started howling repeatedly for about an hour (my poor ears!) but finally settled into a nap on the floor upstairs. He has finally stopped going after the wound so I let him have some time without the cone to take a cat bath. Then the brat entertains himself by chasing the other other cat and brawling. He also spends a lot of time insisting on laying about my desk which I find rather inconvenient.
Syl wanting to go outside

Still sitting crooked which indicates she doesn't feel right.

My poor dog is bored out of her gourd. I looked up the spondyloses treatment and prognosis on the interwebs. It really is good to find out early. One good piece of news is that they recommend swimming as really good exercise for her so once she is cleared to resume that, we will take daily jaunts to lakes for her to swim. Meanwhile she wants to run and can't and she wants to play fetch. She's a good girl tho. We are also going to start carting training in the fall. The vet says that will be good exercise for her. It's the jumping and twisting actions that she loves that won't be good for her to do.  I got the long rope I use in the van for her to be leashed outside so she can keep tabs on the world but not go crazy dog. She's learned a new trick this week - to beg. It grew out of her waves when she got excited and lifted both paws up.

Meantime, I am cleaning up the living room of all the tools and supplies to ready it for floor laying. There is a lot of stuff in there to clear out.  Much of it is going into an upstairs bedroom for now that will function as a shop area. I am also clearing out the van so it can double as a trash hauler and to work on the pesky refrigerator again.  I'm putting all the cushions and things in the corner of a bedroom.

August 20, 2013

Chugging Along and Vet Merry Go Round

Since I got back from my trip in July, I've been working along on my main objective: fix up this house so I can sell it.  I just finished the ceiling and walls of the powder room with wainscot beadboard. I went ahead and installed the toilet paper holder and towel holder and new mirror. Now the front part of the house is finally ready to lay the flooring after I clean it all out to clear out the rooms. Pre-finished flooring is nice in that once it is laid, all that is left is the baseboards and the rooms are done. I have to install the new vanity after the floor goes in as well. My objective in the house refresh is so that when prospective buyers walk into the house, their first impression is what a cute cottage. Most houses are sold in the first 5 minutes so I am trying to make that initial impression a good one. 

One of my long standing personality traits is focus on an objective until it gets done. So rather than indulge in my wanderlust, I am in full on carpenter mode to get this house done.  When pulling out the old ratty vanity a couple weeks ago, I wrenched my back. Drat. So I was down a few days but I'm ok now. Research has shown that no matter what you do for back pain, whether a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapy, or nothing, in a week to 10 days 95% get better. So I opt for nothing and inside a week I was much better. Cheaper and less trouble that way with the same outcome.

I've been spending a lot of money at the Vet's lately. My dog, Dirona, had a couple of episodes of limping again before and during our trip. I took her in for more physical therapy - laser treatments. Her PT found she is sore in the rear and today, she found the dog is sore on her back and doesn't like her tail moved in one direction. We talked with the vet and decided on getting xrays to see what is going on. Now I've got a dopey dog because they sedate them for an xray. But it is a good thing we did because she is diagnosed with spondylosis in her lower spine. No arthritis yet and the vet said that they do see arthritis in dogs this young. At least we now have a reason for all this lameness and that lets us formulate a better therapy for her, including tail pulling. Yep, next week, I get taught how to do therapeutic tail pulling. Makes me wonder if missing a tail makes my back recovery longer. I need a tail to pull! Defective humans. ;-)

Dopey Dirona
The vet also said they rarely get to diagnose it this early. Usually it gets diagnosed when the dog is fairly crippled.  I blame her physical therapist. If she hadn't done such thorough examinations, we would never have been led to get the xray and find it out.  Good thing this dog is so easy to pill. We now have Deramax, an anti inflammatory for 10 days and Vetri-Disc, a chondroitin supplement to add to the Dasuquin. But no more muscle relaxer.

Sunday, Sylvester, the Evil Extra Cat, hopped up on my desk where I noticed he had blood and fluid on his arm. A little examination revealed a nasty bite on what would be the armpit on us. I could see two fang punctures on the top and a mess on the underside. It didn't look infected so I waited until Monday to bring him in. The vet said it looked like a bite and him pulling away for the tears on the underside. The fool cat acts like he is in no pain but it has to hurt. He presents himself to go out and hunt mice in the morning like usual. So, he got  an anti-inflammatory shot and an antibiotic shot that both last a couple of weeks. He is impossible to pill and even liquid meds get spit out. The vet thinks it is likely a cat bite. She said the only other animal with teeth that size is a raccoon but they usually do a lot more damage. No doubt, Syl probably started the fight and if he didn't he did in the past so the other cat was primed to fight. He is just awful to other cats. And impossible to keep inside.

When we got home, Syl was more angry than I have ever seen him. He walked thru the house spitting, hissing, and growling with no one near him. When I put him in a crate to chill, he continued to growl and hiss for 2 more hours. Usually, he just does a quick show of his displeasure and runs off when he's mad. By nighttime, he was back to normal and purring at me. He's been licking the wound vigorously so I got him the lampshade to wear, which he hates. I asked the vet if the meds affect mood but she said she had never heard of that.
I do not like this one bit!

Unhappy cat in jail and dopey dog

Lots of fur-kid issues lately. Nissa, my elderly female cat has been vomiting lately. I switched to just giving her a heaping teaspoon of food at once and so far, that seems to have stopped the vomiting. It means she has to be fed 3 times a day now.

The other day, before the bite, Syl showed up on my deck with a mouse in his mouth. He asked to come in but I refused. He meant business because he proceeded to chomp the mouse down in short order with no typical cat torture session. The hunting must be good because he's been refusing his morning meal and insisting on going outside.  Sunday night, Dirona was very interested under the deck and finally when I made her come out, she had 2 rabbit feet sticking out of her mouth, chomping away. Predators.

August 4, 2013


Some things I set up in my van have not worked out so well. So I change them and learn from the failure.

Cat litter box

My first attempt was to put the litter box under the bench but I quickly learned the hard way (a quick diversion to a laundromat) that there just wasn't enuf head room in there. My raised bench/bed made plenty of room and it seemed to work fine for one cat but the other one, who is a victim of the male's bullying, was too scared to put herself in what looked to her like a trapped position. So I got a small kennel on top of the benches and set up a little litter box for her inside there.That worked ok as long as I kept the boxes clean. But this trip, neither cat was willing to use the under-bed box. It might have just been part of the male's bullying to take over the kennel box but the end result was the female was an unhappy camper.

On the way back, I put a garbage bag on the back floor between the benches, laid a couple of pee pads over that and put the litter box in front of a couple of boxes of things. Just to see, I left the kennel box in place with a litter box liner but no litter. The floor box was used regularly by both cats but once, someone went in the bare kennel box. I put a little litter in there to absorb it but no one used it again. It really looks like I have to have the litter box in the open, more or less. I'm going to get one of those plastic carpet protector runners to put over the carpet back there. There's always something to address with 2 cats who hate each other. They are old now but are showing no signs of ailing since I started feeding them a raw diet.

Swing table

I put in a table with a swing around mounted on the side of one of the benches. It worked really well until this year.  Turns out the post that inserts into a sleeve in the swing arm just reaches the top of the arm. The sleeve has worn so that it no longer holds the post tightly and it sags badly. It would have worked better and lasted longer if the post rose higher than the arm so that the top would be held securely. My attempts at finding a new sleeve failed as the post is just a bit smaller than one inch.  I'm going to re-think the whole table design

Refrigerator Ventilation

I got an Isotherm marine refrigerator last year to replace the dead 3-way that came with the van.  I seem to have a van refrigerator curse as it decided to not work again this year. I did a fairly elaborate outside air ventilation for it using the old wall vents.  The problem is that the Danfoss compressor really should have air below 110F for ventilation. With the hot summers, the outside air is often just too hot for effective ventilation. I could feel the heat blasting in just from the vents. Plus the Reflextix insulation I used to block outside air from the inside of the van actually conducts electricity so I'm not sure but it might have shorted out some of the electrics.

The Isotherm is made to use inside air from the bottom going up the back and drawn thru the compressor by the fan which is located in the upper right side and then out into the cabin over the top. I used vinyl flashing to seal the the two wall vents and put insulation against that to seal out the hot outside air. I put two 3/4" slats under the refrigerator feet and took off the chute I made to bring the air to the top of the unit. That leaves about an inch of space behind the unit and the van wall rib for air to come up. I left the top open and used a decorative aluminum vent piece to cover up the hole. Surprisingly, the piece wedged into the top bracket and didn't really need any screws to hold it in place. While I wasn't able to test it out since the fridge doesn't work at present, it was a lot cooler inside the van by closing up the outside vents and insulating them.
New ventilation for fridge

Frustrated by the continuing problems with the new fridge, I decided to go ahead and get a chest fridge/freezer. I had planned on getting one eventually anyway so I could have a little freezer to keep a supply of frozen meat for the pets (I raw feed them). I put it right behind the passenger seat - a fairly dead area in the van. I picked up a Dometic CF35 unit at Camping World on sale. It was still more expensive than I could have gotten on the internet but I could go get it and have in place for my trip. It was a good thing I did since the repair piece the company sent me to fix the fridge did nothing and I ran out of time to mess with it.

The place where I wanted to have the chest fridge necessitated getting power there. I didn't want to have a cord draped over to the nearest 12V outlet on the upper cabinet wall next to the sliding door. That is kind of asking for an accident. As a stock thing, Sprinter installed battery cables under the passenger seat for an auxiliary battery.  Mine has the house batteries located in the rear of the van so under the seat is empty except for the cables. A quick check with my ohm meter showed that the red cable is threaded to under the driver's seat and is loose under there. Under the drivers seat is where the battery isolator is located.  All I had to do was connect the wire to the house side of the battery isolator and I would have a live wire under the passenger seat. The black wire was already grounded to the body of the van under the seat.

Of course that was more trouble than it looked.  It always is. The stud for the battery isolator connection is short. Too short to put another wire on it. I didn't want to risk under-sizing the wire or have to run a new cable so I used the 4AWG cable that was already there. I solved this problem by getting a short battery cable and connecting that to the battery isolator stud and then bolting all the wires to the other end of it. I cable tied it securely and ran a big shrink wrap over the connections to insulate them from any potential shorting to the metal. I didn't use heat to shrink wrap it; I just used cable ties to hold it in place.
Passenger seat - Outlet box and junction box that I put under the seat

Battery Isolator connections under drivers seat

That got me power to the cable under the passenger seat. Next up was to wire in a fuse to protect everything downstream. I used a small junction box for this purpose. I drilled two holes for bolts, staggered a bit to reduce any chance of wires crossing. I attached the negative wire to one and the red hot wire to the other. I ran one end of the fuse holder wire to the positive bolt and out an access hole in the junction box after crimping on a yellow hole connector. A lock washer and nut secured them to the positive bolt. The positive wire for the 12V outlet was connected to the other end of the fuse holder.  I ran the negative wire thru another access hole in the box. I screwed a box cover on the bottom to protect the bolt heads from contacting any metal and another one on top to close the box.

I got an exterior outlet box but found it was too short to hold the outlet. I got a box extender that worked. I cut a cover from aluminum flashing and cut the holes for the outlet and a switch. I crimped connectors and connected the switch in line with the outlet and connected all the negatives together. There was a screw hole in the rear of the seat pedestal so I used that to feed the wires thru.  I attached the box to the seat pedestal with rare-earth magnets. It stayed steady the whole trip.

The chest freezer worked very well. I was amazed at how much can fit in 1.1 cu. ft. I quickly learned that it could be a freezer on the bottom and a fridge for the things on top. There's a small section above the compressor that stayed at about 62F. That was good for things like butter. I had just learned that hot buttered coffee is quite good and butter is a lot easier to manage than cream is.

I haven't given up on the Isotherm refrigerator. They have a very good reputation for quality and it is under warranty for another 4 years. He says that sometimes the problem is in the wiring or contacts but when I connect up an 8 ga wire directly to the fridge, it still doesn't work. When it did work, it was really good. Got to go get my batteries tested to be sure they aren't the problem.

July 31, 2013

A Yearly trip 2/3's across the country

I just got back from a quick trip to Colorado and back inside of 2 weeks for our family reunion. I wanted to make it quick because the yard gets so out of control in the summer and I really want to focus my efforts of getting this house ready for sale next year instead of indulging in wandering.

The trip out took 3 1/2 days of pretty solid driving. It was hot and humid until I got to the high prairie of western Nebraska. My rule is if the dew points are above 68, it is too humid for any kind of comfortable sleep boondocking so I seek a campground with an electric hookup. If the dew points are lower, it is not so humid that I sweat all night and it can get cool enuf to be comfortable over night with just a fan. I'm using a northern route to get a little cooler temperatures. Avoiding a humid push up from the Gulf of Mexico is impossible sometimes. That week, the humidity was clear into northern Minnesota. At least I didn't have the heavy storms to contend with that have been occuring in the middle of the country.

I left at about 3pm and made it to Tappan Lake in Ohio.  I camped in the Class B section of Tappan Lake Park campground on the west side of the lake for $26.50. It was up a hill and fairly secluded from the dense campground for the bigger rigs but there were few semi-level sites and those were so damp and soft, I was afraid of getting stuck. So the night was not terribly comfortable because of the slant.
Kil so Qah camp

Next day, I stopped at the Kil so Qah camp in the Little Turtle State Rec Area, Indiana that I found last year at about 6pm for $15 for electric - up $5 from last year. The lack of good sleep made me tired as I wanted to keep going until 8pm. But I also wanted to have electric to run the AC and camps get thinner in eastern IN and IL. Before we went to the camp, I let my dog have a good swim in the lake only to get to the camp and see a warning about toxic blue-green alga risk (not posted at the lake??).  She seems not to have gotten sick so I guess it wasn't there or not bad. Good sleep there.
Crossing the Mighty Miss

Hackbarney Woods camp, IA

We got to western Iowa and stopped at a little camp called Hackbarney Woods at about 8pm for $15 with electric.  Nice minimal campground with flush toilets. A nice family was tent camping with a dog who wanted to play with my dog so they had fun. But I had to call it off because Dirona started limping.  That dog is just all in when she does things and has no sense. One of them happened to live for a time within 10 miles of where I live in Maryland.

The next day, I made it to my sister's house in Greeley at about 7:30.

Visiting with the family was fun as always. I spent 5 days camped outside my sister's house moochdocking her electricity and shower. But unlike my brother who stayed in her guest room, when I left, she only had one towel and washcloth to add to her laundry. The beauty of having my own little cabin.

I lucked out on the way back.  The humid air retreated to the southern states and the temps were in the low to mid 80s with lows in the low 60s and even 50s. Ahhhhh. That meant I could boondock on the way back because I didn't need to use the AC.

I left Greeley at 11:30 after making breakfast for my sister and brother-in-law and letting the dog have a little play session with her boyfriend Pete the standard poodle. I made it to Hastings, NE Walmart and dumped, got fresh water at the Julesburg, CO rest area.  It was ok but I didn't sleep really well. Something about the lights being too bright or just the adjustment of the first night out.
Gladstone Lake - The fur-kids liked it there

Gladstone Lake camp

2nd day, I made it to the western edge of Illinois and found the Henderson County Conservation Area camp at Gladstone Lake.  This was a primitive campground that was completely deserted. We had the whole place to ourselves. It had pit toilets that were clean but no water. A sign said no fishing because the lake was being rehabilitated. No problem, I didn't want to anyway. It also said to get a camping permit from park personnel but had no way to find one or pay, so we stayed for free. The animals liked it a lot. Even the cats thought it really safe and hopped out of the van to look around. They usually don't do that. It was refreshingly cool and the inside van temp dropped to 65F. It was raining at a fair clip when I woke up.
OH Amish country - you can tell this an Amish farm by the hay ricks

Amish farm - notice the horse carriage

Amish on the move

The Amish parking spot in Mt. Eaton, OH


They have the best ice cream - Mt. Eaton, OH

3rd day, it was raining half the day until I outran the front. I ended up in Bucyrus, OH at about 8:30. I checked out a lake and found a round parking area with no one there and considered camping there. But I couldn't find a good level spot and then mosquitoes made me decide Walmart would be better. When I got back to Walmart, I saw a road going behind it with a field. I discovered it was a T that went nowhere. A stub for future development, I suppose. So I camped at the end of one of the Ts and was not disturbed at all.
Bucyrus, OH camp on the stub road

Bucyrus, OH - nice field buffer from the shopping center
The 4th day I awoke to rain again as the front caught up with me. Lots of rain until the afternoon, then it was in and out of showers over the Appalachians. I stopped at what has become my favorite ice cream in Mt. Eaton, OH in the middle of Amish country.  Must be so good because it is real food and not any chemical food-like ingredients. The Amish give a tiny peek into what life was like in the 19th century. I stopped at Tappan Lake to let the dog have a swim. I got back at home by 7:30.

June 29, 2013

Thinking ...

There's only a couple weeks left before I have to take off on my Colorado trip this summer for a family reunion. An idea about sleeping arrangements has been rolling around my head a bit lately. I raised my bed with 2'x4' x 7.5" high boxes over the benches and sleep cross-wise in the back of the van.  At 67" tall, I just barely fit and usually sleep a bit crosswise. It works ok. That height is just enough for my head to miss the upper cabinets when sitting to make maximum use of the space.

When I was thinking about how to live in a van, I went thru the exercise of designing the interior using the Sportsmobile tool to assist in it. I had thought then that having a bed on the side, along the length of the van with a desk area on the opposite side would be a good thing. My van was designed to have a big 75" long side to side bed for two in the back and then put a table in the center for a 6 person dining area. That seems like a huge waste of precious space for a solo traveler. The dog sleeps on the floor and is not allowed on my bed (except for the time she fled up there to escape a broken latch and a door swinging while underway). The cats sleep wherever they like. I raised the bed to get more storage space and more head room for the cat litter box. I find that it is most comfortable for me to have a 3.5' - 4' width for my arms and torso to stretch out. The center aisle board is 3' long and that is fine too. My feet don't need all that space but crosswise doesn't give my feet room to stretch out.

The idea I have is to make another box to raise the seat at the end of the galley counter up to the level of the bed and just sit up high when I use my computer. I can rest my feet on the printer drawer edge or put them up on the opposite side. My little table can rise up to a comfortable height. It is perfectly comfortable to sit on top of the bedding.  One impediment is there is a little lift up counter extension so I would either have to remove it or move sitting to the side of it. I thought that it would be handy but, in truth, I never use it. Then with the 3' board between the 2 benches, I could sleep lengthwise in the van and still have plenty of room at the top for my arms to stretch out. I did a little concept test and it seems ok.

In the future, I could devise a slot for the center board to slide into the opposite side and just come right out to form the widened bed. That would make it easier to push the bed area back when it is not night and have a bit more room in the back of the van when up and about. One thing I don't want to do is lose the permanent bed at the ready and have to make it up every night. When I park with a little slope like along a curb, it might not be so great or it might be ok. One thing I learned is that I absolutely must sleep with my head higher than my feet or my nose gets all clogged up (allergies!).

Hmmm. I could try this idea out this summer with nothing more than a board cut and put together with pocket screws in not much time. The finishing and trimming it out could wait and if it doesn't work all that well, I could easily take it apart and stow the boards and go back to my crosswise bed.

Back to mowing my too big yard.

June 28, 2013

What I've Been Doing ...

Not in the least RV, travel, or van related ...

I have a house with a little acreage that I want to sell. I've lived here for 20 years and always had planned on doing some remodeling. Strip wallpaper and paint. Fix some stupid things the builder did like delete a small coat closet straight in front of the front door and put a spacious one in the hallway at the sacrifice of a bit of space in the unused front room. Remodel the kitchen. Put in hardwood flooring. De-decorate what the previous owners did.

While working in my demanding career that required a lot of travel, I did achieve a lot of stuff. I heavily indulged in my gardening fantasies as I really enjoy being outside whenever the weather isn't awful. I got the closet moved and flooring in the dining room years ago. Made a start on the de-decorating. I rearranged the kitchen in a half move to put a new stove against the wall so it could have an outside vent and test the layout I had in mind. But always, my limited time kept me not quite finishing up and not quite completing what I thought would never take so long to do.

My desire now is to get the house in good condition  and attractive so prospective buyers will walk in and their immediate impression is, "how cute." House sell for most people in the 1st 5 minutes. And I have to fix anything that isn't right anyway before I could close on it.

After spending a good part of my time since retiring getting my van set up the way it works for me and fixing problems I've had with it, this year, I am determined to work steadily at the house and get it done so I can get this anchor off my foot. To that end, I just finished up putting in a new front door and fixed up and replaced the frame on my old walk-in garage door and had a new patio door put in last fall. Now, just the kitchen-garage door needs to be replaced and this house is much more weather tight than it ever has been. Over the winter, I put up crown molding in the master bedroom and front room along with chair rail in the front room and painted it. My house is a colonial style that always had an unfinished feel to it since the hall way had crown and chair rail and most of the other 1st floor rooms had it. Now it matches! Last year, I got the 13 doors and upstairs and down stairs halls painted in a job I thought would never end. So much surface area! I also rebuilt my stairs so I can put down the new flooring I had planned for them and make them much sturdier.

Last fall, tried and failed to fix rot at the bottom of all the outside door frames but the more I worked at it, the worse it got as I uncovered rust and more rot. So I ended up replacing the patio door and fixing a 6"x12" rotted piece of subfloor. (yikes!) I paid to have that installed because it is just too heavy for me to manage. The new door lets in more light but is much more comfortable because it has the low-e glass. That and it is sealed against the weather, unlike the old door. Winter set in before I gave up on the front door.

This spring, I was faced with the same problem - the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got so I gave up and bought a new and much prettier door.  The old door was set in line with the brick facade which is rather weird. When I removed it to put in the new door, I discovered why. The builder had a series of cascading mistakes - they didn't set the header for the door opening quite high enough and then the brick layer set the bottom brick a bit higher than the subfloor, leaving about a quarter inch too little height to set it where it belongs - in line with the house framing. The old door was never fully tight and had managed to come loose to move at the top a half inch. I never could find any nails or screws holding it in place so I think they just glued it in and the glue failed. So with the opening wide open, I got my grinder to flatten the bricks even with the subfloor and surgically removed a bit of the header to have just enough room for the new door frame.  Good thing the house frame is still plumb. I put flashing under the whole door and a threshold extension to cover up the brick. It was a long hard slog of a day but I got the new door in place in one day. It took me another day to get it solidly fastened together and to the wall framing, all plumb.

Then I worked on the trim. I had to devise a jamb extension to bring the door frame out to the brick. Many doors just go to the brick but mine had a column/pediment facing and they never intended to have the brick opening exposed so it was a little rough. I had bought Fypon no-rot replacements for the rotted facing last fall. I used plastic exterior trim boards to line the door frame out to the brick edge so the columns could meet up with it. Lots of painting and caulking. On rainy days, I got the inside trim and painting done to match what I had put up on the front room opening.

In the end, it is a big improvement both inside and outside with a door that lets in a lot of nice light but with the low-e glass so it doesn't get too hot. And, there are no more bug collections on the floor now that it is weather-tight and solid. There were always a bunch of carpenter bees buzzing around the front door as they had set up housekeeping in the old trim boards. It took them a little while, but they have now found other quarters someplace else!

Next up is the powder room, then the flooring can go down in the front of the house. The new flooring will go into the powder room too so it makes sense to fix up the walls in there. I already painted the ceiling and put up crown molding in there. Decided to just keep the wall paper and put patches on it in a couple of places. But that probably won't get done until August because I have to make a run out to Colorado in July.

April 26, 2013

Getting Ready for Sprinterfest

I had a lot of fun and learned some interesting things last year, so we are going again this year.  The location is very easy for me - only about 90 miles away.  Unlike last year, the weather will be really nice in the upper 60s or low 70s.  Last year was chilly.  I'm going to keep the dog on a tether so she can't go crazy getting people to throw toys for her.  This is where she got the bad elbow sprain last year because she doesn't have the sense to stop.  She still thinks she's superdog at 3 years old.

April 11, 2013

Mission Creep

In installing my new back splash in my galley, I removed the stove cover to have access to caulk the counter seam.  My stove is the old fashioned type that sits on top of the counter with a 2" lid.  I'd like one of those that sits flush with the counter but this one works great so I have no plans to replace it.

April 9, 2013

Galley refurb

My galley faucet broke so I needed a new one.  The one that came with the van was the usual small faucet with handles on each side that many RVs have.  I never liked it and it was starting to leak some anyway.  I've been wishing I had a good kitchen faucet.  After looking at the RV faucets, I decided there isn't any real reason to get one made specifically for RVs.  I like the oil rubbed bronze style.  I found this one at Home Depot for several dollars less than a similar RV faucet.  It has a pull-out head and can be mounted in a single hole - something nice for the limited space on the counter.  This will allow me to fill a bucket on the counter or the second dishpan for rinse water.  And since I decided to use the single hole mount, I got a top fill soap dispenser so it doesn't go flying as I'm driving.

February 1, 2013

Last Day in Paradise

Friday is our last full day in St Thomas. In the morning, we took a little drive in search of t-shirts but it looks like they are mostly in the tourist places so we just got them at the resort. Then we went up towards the north of the island and got some pretty views of Thatch Cay and St John. We also stopped at American Yacht Harbor on the East End.

January 31, 2013

Boogie Board

This is not me or the BIL or St Thomas but it is bodyboarding
Today, we stayed at the hotel and tried the boogie boards again.  I think we got the hang of it.  When you do it right and catch the wave right, they send you smoothly into the shore.  Great fun and decent exercise too.  Lots of misses too.  I think it works if I wait for the water to drop low, then hop on the board because the wave following the big drop is a big one.  More than once, a big wave following really drenched me on the sand.  This is a good way to get a lot of sand inside one's clothing.

The Day of the Iguana and Gorilla Feet

While walking around the resort, we came upon a large family of iguanas. Later, we found a few of them at the end of the beach.  They are funny critters.  One came right up to me and looked at me expectantly.  I suspect he had been fed by people.  They eat leaves and are nice lizards unless scared, then they use their long tail as a whip.  On the beach, an obnoxious non-English speaker got a long stick and started hassling the poor lizard.  I don't know why some people are mean to peaceful animals.  I objected but it made no difference to him.  Don't know why the movie said night of the iguana - they only seem to be out during the day.