Happy Thanksgiving – Take 2

Happy Thanksgiving 2

Jan and I headed out about 10:15 for the 65 mile trip up to Brandi and Lowell’s to meet up for Thanksgiving dinner.

By the time everyone showed up, we had about 25 people chowing down on a lot of great food.

Thanksgiving 1

Besides all of Brandi’s family, (us, as well as Chris, Linda, and Piper) Lowell parents were there, as well as Lowell’s sister Sherry, and a friend from her work, Betsy.

Thanksgiving 2

Then we’re into Brandi’s BFF Shawna and her family. A lot of family and friends.

Thanksgiving 3

Then after a lot of delicious food, it was off to the sofas for football. Lots and lots of football.

By the time Jan and I got back to the rig, full and exhausted, it was almost 8pm.

Tomorrow, nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Thought for the Day:

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust their people with arms." – James Madison


Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone !!


Gobble Gobble, Almost . . .

It was horrible. I had to get up at 7:15 this morning.

First up I had to put a call into Coach-Net to activate my towing appointment to get my truck towed up to Brock’s Car Care to have them take a look at my front end noise problem. Then I also had to call the EZ Tag Toll Pass people to transfer my pass to the rental car.

By the time I did all that and then got dressed, the tow truck was here. Once he got the front end hooked up and lifted, I put the truck in Neutral Tow Mode and off he went with us following in the rent car.. Getting to Brock’s, I went inside while the tow guy unhitched the truck, and by the time he was finished outside, I was finished inside. And after tipping him $5, we went our separate ways.

Our way consisted of the Jack in the Box next door so Jan could get a Supreme Croissant breakfast sandwich and a Christmas Toasty Jack antenna ball for our truck(when we get it back). Then it was across the street to the Starbuck’s for Cinnamon Dolce Lattes for two.

Finally, about 9:30 we were on our way up to Brandi’s for a day of cooking. They were trying to get pretty much every thing done before tomorrow.

And to make a long story short, and because I’m tired and we have to get up early again tomorrow, they got everything done, and it looked delicious.

The End.

Thought for the Day:

Paranoia is just having the right information. – William S. Burroughs


A Squash Shortage ?

Well, I was finally able to find a rental car this morning so that problem was taken care of. I did use Enterprise, the “we’ll pick you up’ people, but they weren’t sure how long it would take to get the car out to us, so about 11am I walked down to the office to see about getting a ride, And as luck would have it, the park owners, Tom and Kevin, were heading in to Houston for a meeting with the engineer for the RV park upgrades, and were happy to give me a ride.

By noon I was on my way back to the park to pick up Jan and head off for an afternoon of lunch and errands. And what’s better for lunch on a cold, rainy afternoon than a big bowl of Monterey’s Little Mexico Chicken Tortilla Soup. And chips. There had to be chips and salsa.

Next up I got to freeze my rear off standing in line outside the Honeybaked Ham store to pick up our Thanksgiving ham. Originally I was going to pick it up yesterday when the line would have been shorter, but that didn’t work out, so today’s the day.

And man, was it cold!  It was about 40° with a brisk wind that just cut right through you. And to think, last year I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt when I pick it up. But after about 30 minutes I  was finally inside the store and the counter was in sight.

Ten more minutes and $77 later I was back in the warm car where Jan had been waiting, waiting in the warm car.

I did mention she was waiting in the warm car while I stood out in the cold rain, didn’t I ?

After I warmed up and stopped shivering, we headed over to Kroger’s to pick up some Thanksgiving supplies, but once inside, our first stop was at the Starbuck’s for a Pumpkin Spice Latte for Jan, and a Cinnamon Dolce Latte for me. Anything to warm me up.

We found everything on our list except for the frozen squash for Jan’s World Famous Squash Casserole. We found the frozen broccoli, we found the frozen chopped onions, but no squash was to be had. Plenty of okra, spinach, green beans, black-eyed peas,and even edamame. But no squash

So heading back toward the rig, completely squashless, we decided to make a stop at another Kroger’s on the way, but once again no squash.

What’s up with that?

Somebody at Kroger’s forgot to order frozen squash? Was there a squash famine this year? Inquiring minds, and all that.

Getting home I made a call to Coach-Net to make an appointment to have my truck towed up to Brock’s Automotive tomorrow morning. Then Jan and I will head up to Brandi’s where Jan and Lowell’s mother Sonja, will help her cook for Thanksgiving.

And I’ll probably be out looking for squash.

Thought for the Day:

Cogito ergo sum. – Descartes

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum. Cogito. – Ambrose Bierce


I Hear Bells . . .

or at least I think I do  Every time I start to fall asleep, I keep thinking I’m hearing the ding,ding of the driveway bell on the gate. Same thing happened last year, too. And also just like last year, we both find ourselves looking at car tags to see if we recognize them. It’ll pass.

Well, if we thought the weather was bad last night, all we had to do was wait for today. It got colder and wetter. And of course I had to wait until this morning to hook up water and sewer. Doing it this morning meant  I had to get down on my hands and knees in the cold water so I could run the hoses under the rig to the pedestal on the wrong side.


But the first thing I did after getting up was to start checking on rental cars since I’m going to have to have the truck towed into the shop. And I quickly ran into a problem.

There are pretty much no cars to be had, especially from Enterprise, the ‘we’ll pick you up’ people, which is what I need. Apparently everyone rents cars to travel for Thanksgiving. Although this year it was worse because of the bad weather. They’re supposed to be bringing in more vehicles tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll luck up.

I also talked to Brock’s Automotive, the car repair shop I’ve used for years. Turns out my Dodge Dakota doesn’t have conventional front wheel bearings. Instead it has an integrated hub-bearing assembly like this.

Dodge Dakota Hub Bearing Assembly

If I I had a 2WD, it would be a quick and simple repair. Just remove the tire/wheel and then remove the 3 bolts, and then remove the old hub and reinstall the new one.

Unfortunately the 4WD repair is a little more involved.

About noon I walked up to the office to pay for the month and also get the park WiFi code. They have a very good system here with good coverage, and excellent speed. Here’s the SpeedTest results from earlier this evening.

SpeedTest - GBRV

During the day when the load is lighter, I’ve seen 20Mbps download speed. Very nice

Although it was overcast and rainy all day, we still got to enjoy the view out our windshield.

Galveston Bay View Site 77 2013

Galveston Bay View Site 77 2013a

Galveston Bay View Site 77 2013b

One of many reasons why we like this park so much.

Thought for the Day:

“Nothing needs reforming nearly as much as other people’s habits.” – Mark Twain


Heading Home . . .

After our first full night’s sleep in 3 months, we left the Gate Guard Services’ Whitsett yard a little before 10am, heading for our winter home at Galveston Bay RV Resort  in San Leon, TX. And it was really fun bringing in the satellite dish, hooking up the truck, and unplugging the shore power with 40° of cold rain, but it was worth it to be on the way home.

Our first stop was about two hours later at the Buc-ee’s in Luling for coffee and kolaches, and then it was back on the road for another two hours before our next stop. And that stop was much better than coffee and kolaches. We met Landon, Lowell, and Brandi at a gas station near their home so we could see them for a few minutes. Of course we’ll be seeing them Wednesday (for cooking) and Thursday (for Thanksgiving), be we didn’t want to wait until then.

But after a short visit we were back on the road again, this time our next stop was at another Buc-ee’s, this one located on SR 96 in League City, about 8 miles from the RV park. We always stop here on our way to fill up with diesel. It’s always better to park for an extended period with a full tank to cut down on condensation during cold, wet weather. I also add a dose of Biocide to kill any algae growth.

After unhooking the toad, we headed over to the park, only to get there and find there was a truck parked in our site. It took a while to find the owner, but finally we were parked. Our site, 77, is actually a 5th wheel site, but we just hook up the utilities underneath the coach with no problems.

About 6pm we headed up to Webster to meet Chris, Linda, and Piper at our favorite King Food. But on the way I discovered the truck had another problem. Jan had said it was making a funny noise as she followed me from Buc-ee’s to the park. And once I drove it I quickly realized I had a front wheel bearing problem.

Something else to fix.

We had a great time seeing the ‘kids’ again, to go along with the great food. Later,on the way home the noise from the bearing became much worse. So much that I’m probably going to have to do something about it very quickly.

Like tomorrow.

Thought for the Day:

‘Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays. – Red Skelton


Changing of the Guards . . .

Well, it’s done. We’re off the gate for this year.

I spent last night getting everything but our canopy taken down and packed away, even if somewhat soggy. Tearing down the canopy can be a one man operation, but I didn’t want to chance it in the 20 mph winds we were having all night. Before I can take it apart, it has to be completely unstaked and all the tie downs removed. And of course right about then a big wind gust would make it look like Dorothy’s house in the tornado. So I saved that for when Jan got up about 7am.

About 8:45 I called our support guy Todd, and got Joseph instead. Todd was off this weekend and Joseph was filling in. I called to be sure he would have an extension cord on his truck. While I was reconfiguring the cords getting the rig unplugged from the generator, I found the plug on one cord had overheated and just came apart when I pulled on it.. This one powered the front set of light stands and also the bell. So the new guards were going to need it.

At about 7:30 Jan and I started in on the canopy, and since the wind had died down it went pretty easy. The only problem was that the canopy was wet from the rain when we took it off, so rather than pack it away in the case, we just stuffed it in a large garbage bag, and we’ll dry it out after we get back to Houston and the weather improves.

My last chore was to stow the water and sewer hoses, leaving only our electrical cord to unplug from the generator before we pulled out. Well, that and the slide.

Then it was just a matter of waiting for our relief. I forgot to ask Joseph whether it would be just him relieving us until the new guards showed up, or if he was bring them with him.

As it turned out, Jim and Donna Mossman showed up with Joseph about 9:30. While Jan went over the logs with Donna, I caught Jim up on some things about the site. Interestingly, Jim and Donna are long-time blog readers, so It was good to finally meet them. I think we left our gate (ex-gate?) in good hands.

When I saw them pulling in, I went ahead and cranked up the rig, so by the time we were ready to leave, the rig was up on the airbags and ready to roll. After saying our goodbyes, and unplugging the electric and bringing in the slide, we pulled out.

Well, I pulled out. Jan on the other hand, took off like a bat out of hell, never looking back and leaving me in her dust. I finally caught up with her at the Gate Guard Services yard and we parked and got set up. As it turns out we’re parked in exactly the same spot as when we first got here in April last year for our first gate guarding adventure..

Gate Guard Lot 1

We’ve just got 50amp, but that’s no problem for one night. As soon as I was done with the set up, I headed off to bed since It was now 10:30, and I was already 3 hours into my normal sleep time. So a nap was in order to start getting me back on a somewhat normal sleep schedule.

About 3:30 Jan and I headed over to Pleasanton for dinner and some grocery shopping. On the way we drove by the gate to check things out, and it looked like Jim and Donna were all set up and had made themselves at home. Good to see.

Dinner was at Chili’s, and the shopping was Wal-Mart and HEB, and we were home by a little after 6pm.

Tomorrow, we’ll head for Houston about 9:30 with a stop at the Buc-ee’s in Luling for coffee and a kolache for breakfast. Tomorrow night we’re meeting Chris, Linda, and Piper at our favorite Chinese restaurant, King Food.

Family and good food. Can’t be beat.

Thought for the Day:



Almost Done For This Year . . .

Today was our last full day here on the gate, and it was really pretty quiet. And cold.

Actually very cold. The temp finally inched its way up to about 42°, but didn’t even hold that for very long. And the 20 mph didn’t help out at all.

So while I started breaking things down outside (with frequent inside trips to warm up) Jan handled the gate by just coming out when a vehicle came though. And it certainly helped that we only had about 40 vehicles today.

A lot of people stopped off to say goodbye, and some with more “lovely parting gifts”, in this case a couple of beautiful ribeye steaks. How about a new tradition – Steak for Thanksgiving.

I picked up the truck from the repair shop about 3pm, and it cost about what I thought – a little over 4 gate days. The repair guy said the water pump was the original one, so not bad for a little over 208,000 miles. Our truck, a 2004 Dodge Dakota, had 101,000 miles on it when we bought it toward the end of 2007, so we’ve put another 107,000 on it in the last six years. And that doesn’t include the 60,000 miles that we’ve towed it behind the rig.

Once I got the truck home I could really start loading things up, and by about 7pm and after stopping for supper, pretty much everything was done except for taking the canopy down. And we’ll do that tomorrow morning.

The reason we didn’t finish it up tonight is that it started to SLEET!  I’m sorry, but I didn’t come back to south Texas for the winter to have SLEET!  With his propensity for bringing bad weather with him, I’d swear that Nick Russell was closer than Tucson.

We plan on heading over to the Gate Guard Services lot around 10 am tomorrow after our relief arrives. A blog reader, Jim Mossman, commented yesterday that he might be our relief. If so, we look forward to meeting them.

That’s about it for gate guarding this year. Next up, home to Houston for holidays with the kids and grandkids. YAY!


Thought for the Day:

"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." – George Mason, who along with James Madison, is called the "Father of the United States Bill of Rights.


Getting back in the habit . . .

and no, a nunnery is not involved. That would be kinky.

I’m just trying to get back to doing a blog every day now that we’re coming off the gate on Saturday.

We got some good news about our Houston home yesterday. No, not the one we still own, but Galveston Bay RV Resort, where we’ve spent the winter the last 5 years.

Galveston Bay RV Resort Upgrade

They’ve finally got their big expansion under way, adding 54 new sites to the 80+ they already have. The 54 will be a mixture of pull-thrus, marina, and waterfront sites, and are greatly needed. Several times over the past years, blog readers have wanted to stay at Galveston Bay on their way through the area, but found the park filled up.

Master Landon is going through this phase where he doesn’t want his picture taken and turns away anytime he sees a camera. Here’s the latest two examples during Turkey Day at his daycare.

That’s him in the very center with the blue bat on his shirt.

Landon at Turkey Day 1


And here he is, second from the right.

Landon at Turdey Day 2

School pictures are going to be loads of fun for the photographer, I bet.

Well, the saga of the truck continues. Orlyn, the gate guard down the road, took me into Pleasanton to pick up my truck from the “Complete Auto Repair” place that doesn’t do water pumps, so I could drive it over to another place that does do water pumps.

Luckily it was only about a mile or so away so I didn’t have to worry about overheating. In fact the temperature gauge never got off the stop. I was happy to see that the new place is a NAPA repair shop, so I’ll have some recourse if I have a problem down the road, and somewhere else.

When I talked to the shop yesterday, the guy said he probably wouldn’t be able to get to it until Friday morning, but then this morning he thought he’d be able to get started this afternoon. And about 4:30 I got a call and they said they were working on it, and said they recommended that I have the radiator hoses replaced because both of them were hard and brittle. I told them to go ahead since they were already replacing the drive belt because it had stretched from being soak in the coolant. That’s why it was squealing.

They should have it ready sometime tomorrow morning, they think. They didn’t say, but I figure the repair will run $400-500, or as we say, 3 to 4 gate days.

Well, our flare put on another great show this afternoon. Crude (black gold, Texas tea, etc.) got backed up in the system and started coming out the stack along with the gas. The first thing that happened was the flaming oil came pouring down the sides of the stack like molten lava, starting fires on the ground. Then the sirens started going off.

Flare 3


You can see in this next photo the reddish glow of the fire on the ground through the trees.

Flare 4


Next we got fireballs and big ‘booms’ shooting out the top.

Flare 5


Reminded me a lot of artillery fire.

Howitzer 1

Howitzer 2

Just glad there was no ‘incoming’ associated with the show. The only thing that would have made it better was if it had been night time.

Starting to break down our site tomorrow is probably going to be interesting.

And cold.

And wet.

Right now at about 2am, it’s 76°.

At 7am it supposed to be 70, but it’s forecast to be 57 by 8am when the ‘arctic blast’ cold front moves through.

Then about noon we’re looking at 49°, and 45 by 3pm. And then there’s the 70% chance of thunderstorms and heavy rains to add to the fun.

Oh boy!

Thought for the Day:

There’s a difference between a hand-out and a leg up.


These Lovely Parting Gifts . . .

Not sure if the guys coming through the gate are dropping off  “these lovely parting gifts” because they’re sad to see us go, or are encouraging us to leave, but for the 3rd time this week we got another food delivery, this time a couple of BBQ dinners.

I guess what makes this special is that this is not a catering truck coming though, dropping off a couple of extra dinners for us, out of the 50 – 60 they’re doing for the crew. This is the workers going out for lunch or dinner and then bringing back extra just for us. We’ve even got one guy, Bobby, who brings us coffee every morning.

It’s amazing how involved you can get these guy’s lives, people we’ll probably never see again (we’ve not run into any of the people we met gate guarding last year). We know who’s got a baby or a grandbaby on the way. We know who’s ex is letting them have the kids this weekend, and even who’s getting ready to have an ex.

It is nice to be appreciated.

Well, we did our short move this morning and it all went fine. We cranked up “Beauty”, raised the levelers, and then backed up about 30 feet so that our rear wheels are up on the gravel area where we park the truck and we’re now angled so that come Saturday morning when we leave, I’ll be able to just pull straight out onto the road without having to turn my front wheels and possibly getting stuck.

The reason behind this is two-fold. One, there’s a big cold front coming our way, bringing heavy rain with it. Friday morning the high is supposed to be 85°, but the low that night is going to be in the mid-40’s. Then the high on Saturday is only going to be 49°. And when the hard ground under our RV turns to muck like it does when it gets wet, I don’t want to be stuck here when we try to leave.

The second reason is that after 3 months of sitting here, it’s always nice to be sure everything’s going to work when we go to leave on Saturday, i.e. the engine starts, the levelers come up, the airbags inflate, etc. Unlike other RV’ers I’ve talked to, I don’t regularly crank my engine up when we’re parked for long periods of time. The reason being that Cummins says not to, and Spartan (our chassis manufacturer) says not to. Two different Cummins reps at national rallys told us that unless you plan to run your engine for at least 45 minutes, just let it set. My engine manual says this also.

And Spartan says that to regularly start the engine and not bring the transmission up to running is bad for it too. So I don’t do it.

Twice we’ve been parked for 5 months without cranking up, and every winter we go 3 months while we’re back in Houston. Never had a problem. I do also throw some Biocide in the fuel tank to prevent algae growth, but that’s it.

If you’re going to break down, it’s always nice to do it in a repair shop’s parking lot. It does helpt to be the right repair shop, however.

Yesterday, I followed Orlyn, the gate guard down the road, into Pleasanton to drop off his truck for repair, and then I brought him back here. Coming home, I noticed my engine belt squealing some when I accelerated from a stop and thought I’d check it out when we get back to Houston.

Then this morning I took Orlyn’s wife, Gail, back in to pick up the truck and it happened again. In fact when I went to turn into the repair shop parking lot, the belt was really making noise and the power steering wasn’t working very well. So while Gail was paying for her repair I thought I check und the hood, and then maybe pick up a spare belt at the AutoZone down the street.

But raising the hood, I discovered the belt wasn’t the problem. It was the coolant squirting on the belt that was making it slip. It looked like it was coming out in front of the engine around the fan, which normally means water pump problems.

So when Gail came out, I told her I was going to ride back with her, and left my key and info with the lady inside, telling her I thought I had a leaking water pump and to check it out and let me know. And a couple of hours later they called and said Yep, you were right, Your water pump’s leaking.

They also told me they don’t fix water pumps. Huh?

This is a nice 4 bay shop, advertising “Complete Auto Repair”. Well, complete I guess, except for water pumps. Heck, my son and I have changed out water pumps in shopping center parking lots, and they can’t do one in their shop? They could have at least told me that before I left my truck there, telling them I thought I had a water pump problem.

So now I have to get another ride into town tomorrow to take the truck to another place. I did call them first to be sure THEY fix water pumps. Just in case.

The guy said he won’t be able to get to it until Friday, but that it shouldn’t be a problem to get it fixed before we leave.

My fall-back position (I ALWAYS have a fall-back position.) if they can’t get it fixed for some reason is to stop off on our way home to Houston on Sunday, and just tow it back as is. As usual, we’ll see how it goes.

Lately it seems like I’m getting a lot of annoying sales calls on my cell phone, even though I’m on the National Do No Call list. But I’ve come up with a pretty good fix, especially for repeat numbers.

Most people know that you can assign your own ring tones to specific phone numbers. But did you know you can have a ring tone that doesn’t make a sound?

My solution is to use an app like Hi-Q MP3 Rec (Free) to record 10 seconds of no sound. I then assign this MP3 file (called No Sound) as the ring tone for a contact called Annoying Sales Call. Then when I get one of these calls I just add the number to the contact Annoying Sales Call. My phone never rings again from that number. And it only takes a few seconds to add.

For me it’s easy to identify an Annoying Sales Call. First off I never answer my phone for a number I don’t recognize or expect. If they want me they can leave a message. And Annoying Sales Calls never leave a message. You can also type the number into Google (it’s important to use the format  ###-###-####) and usually get some idea of who it is.

Wrapping up on this phone theme, ever long for the days of only 3 TV channels that sign off with the National Anthem right after Johnny Carson? For the days of no TV remote so one of the kids has to get up and change the channel?  For the reassuring clicking of a rotary dial phone?

Well one of those you can still have today. Well, two if you let the batteries go dead in the remote, or lose it in the sofa cushions. Or a ferret runs off with it and hides it. (true story, He also liked to chew on the little rubber buttons on it).

Or you can get this Rotary Dialer Free program for your smartphone.

You get your choice of modern,

Rotary Dial 1

or not so modern dials.

Rotary Dial 2

Or if you really want to rock it old school, how about this jazzy number, quite possibly actually from the Jazz Age.

Rotary Dial 3

And it evens makes that ratcheting clicking sound when you dial.

Check it out.

Thought for the Day:

If I had to chose