Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Quirky side of EAA

Thursday, July 30, 2009

As I write this morning, a light rain is falling and things are quiet around the show. We've had a couple nearly perfect days so a little rain won't dampen spirits too much.

We're having more fun than we expected at AirVenture 2009. There's a real sense of fun that's evident with almost everyone you meet. Sometimes that fun runs more toward the quirky -- I thought I'd pass along a few examples.

We were driving around the grounds last night with our son Justin and his bride Kaytlyn. We wanted them to experience some of the ambiance of the showgrounds after hours. As we were driving down this one road, a sofa suddenly pulled into traffic ahead of our car. That's right -- a sofa. There were three guys sitting on it just as if they were at home watching TV -- seemingly unconcerned and nonchalant to the fact that they're riding on a sofa in busy traffic. It was, somehow, running down the road sideways, lengthwise, on hidden wheels, under some kind of power, and being controlled, steered, by some invisible means. Equally amazing was the crowd of nearby pedestrians that reacted as if there's nothing that unusual about a sofa going down the road... like this happens all the time.

After yesterday's airshow, the group of us -- Jan, Dave, Rudy, Dar & I -- stopped off at Chuck Swain's "Beer Church" in the campground near one of the main gates. Chuck is from our hometown of Beaver Dam and has been an aviation enthusiast for his entire life. He operates this facility as a public service -- an aid station for those airshow attendees who have maybe been out in the sun too long... for those running low on electrolytes and in need of energy in order to make the long walk back to the camper. The centerpiece of the aid station is a genuine casket that's been converted into a cooler filled with the most amazing selection of beer. He like to point out that his oasis has both medical doctors and morticians nearby -- so you're covered regardless of the outcome. Are we having fun yet?



My last example of quirky is this: (click on picture)


Thom

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

EAA AirVenture 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
EAA AirVenture
Oshkosh, WI

Some of my earliest memories are of airplanes. I think I've been hard-wired to be in awe of things that fly. And I've never lost that interest. I had my first airplane ride when I was 5 and when I had a little spare money as a young adult, I took flying lessons and earned a private pilots license.

We lived most of our lives in the upper Midwest and during the 70's and 80's and we'd often make the easy trek to Oshkosh for a day or two to join in this crazy celebration of flight. The EAA organization is built around the idea that flying can be for everybody... not just the rich. A lot of members... tenacious, diligent, passionate souls all... have built their own planes from ideas in their heads, or from plans they purchased, or from kits. They've spent thousands of hours carefully putting these flying machines together and a fairly high percentage actually make it into the air. What a day that is when a couple man/years of labor and a not inconsiderable sum of money come together with that first flight. That must be quite a feeling... a real sense of success.

On Sunday we made the drive from Colwell Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Oshkosh. Reversing the route north to the UP on the previous Monday, we arrived in Oshkosh about 4pm and got in the check-in line for the campground. The check-in process was fairly efficient, especially considering the mass of campers trying to get in at that time. The campground is a series of large, marked off, grass fields. There are no hookups of any kind so before we could find a place to park we had to take on enough freshwater for the week. That took a good half hour before we drove out to the "back 40", the campground "suburbs"... out near US-41, almost a mile from the flight line of the show. It appears most campers arrived on Saturday or earlier on Sunday. Grassy fields are great as long as it doesn't rain much -- lurking just below the sod is dirt, and dirt turns to mud if it get too wet. For that reason I wanted a spot that was relatively close to a real road and one that was relatively high. We found an acceptable site and set up.

Monday was the official day of the show. We walked down about 11a.m. and proceeded to go through some vendor displays. Everything aviation is here as well as a lot that doesn't seem to have much to do with flying. There's a large area called the "Fly Market" -- a play on words as it's really a flea market. We looked over the current crop of expensive flying machines from the major manufacturers like Cessna, Piper, and Beech -- all nice stuff but my interest is more to the lower end of the $$ scale. Ultralight craft are available from a lot of companies and, while still somewhat expensive, make flying a possibility for almost anyone with the passion.

About 2pm we found a spot near the flightline to watch the airshow. The highlight of the day was the arrival of WhiteKnightTwo from the private space venture of Burt Rutan and Richard Branson called Virgin Galactic. WhiteKnightTwo will carry SpaceShipTwo to high altitude -- something above 50,000 feet. The SpaceShip will be released and, with it's own rocket engines, power it's way into space. It won't go into orbit, so after a short flight it returns to earth, landing as any airplane does. Dozens of people have already lined up and paid a deposit to take a ride into space. For the measly sum of $200,000 you, too, can be a space traveler. [link to VirginGalactic web site]

We also watched the arrival of Elvis, the heavy lift helicopter built by Sikorsky and improved by Erickson Air-Crane. On arrival it dumped 2400 gallons of water as it flew down the runway as a demonstration of it's fire-fighting capabilities.

All day there were things flying around. Old things like a WWII 4 engined Lancaster Bomber and the EAA's own Ford Trimotor giving rides. And new things like an F-16 from the Thunderbirds doing a high performance take off and vertical climb that's guaranteed to put a grin on your wide-eyed face.

About 3:30pm or so the show had to stop due to a heavy rainshower that passed through. The performers that hadn't yet had their chance will fly later in the week. We hoofed it back to the bus-house, dried off, had some dinner, and then headed back down to the flightline (yes, another mile walk) for the Doobie Brothers concert.

For some reason, as we lingered near the back of the crowd at the concert, a security guy came up and asked us if we'd like to move to the VIP section front and center. He probably thought people of our advanced age needed to be closer just to see something. Let's see... is this a test?... hmmm. Dar grabbed the VIP wrist band so quickly she almost burnt the poor guys fingers, and before long we were down front enjoying some great old music from the 70's and 80's. The Doobie Brothers may be growing old, like the rest of us, but they still put on a heck of a show.

T

Friday, July 24, 2009

The North Woods

Friday, July 24, 2009
Colwell Lake Campground
Hiawatha National Forest

We love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In both '07 and '08, we spent nearly a month enjoying the cooler summer and the isolation that comes with the territory. This year our visit will be much shorter -- 6 days. Because we've scheduled the EAA Airventure Convention, which is next week in Oshkosh, WI, and because we're heading west earlier this year, we're trying to cram a months worth of enjoyment into less than a week.

The mosquitoes aren't making it easy though. And the weather has been less than perfect. Being chased by swarms of the little black biters while dodging rain showers can dampen your enthusiasm for a place. And it's been cool too. I was told by a local fellow that this is the coolest summer up here in 25 years. I can't attest to that but he seemed to know. There have been some very nice stretches too -- I don't want to leave the impression that this has been pure misery. As fulltimers we've learned to adapt to conditions, to take what comes, to find things to do regardless of the weather. All in all, we're enjoying our stay in the north woods.

A couple days ago we explored the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore which extends from Munising to Grand Marais on Lake Superior. It's a gorgeous and dramatic lakeshore with high exposed cliffs and exposed colorful rock walls that form the shoreline. The colors come from different minerals seeping from above. A couple years ago we explored the PRNL from a tour boat out of Munising -- which is the best way to see those cliffs and rock walls. This year we explored parts of the area by land, and found hiking trails, waterfalls, and incredible vistas of Lake Superior from the tops of those cliffs. It seems that wherever we go there are things like this to see and experience. I don't think a fulltime nomad would see it all in a lifetime.

If I get this entry posted today, Friday, there probably won't be another update until Sunday or Monday. In some ways I'm enjoying being away from instant access to the internet. One of these days I'll write more about that.

T


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camping the Old Fashioned Way

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Colwell Lake Campground
Hiawatha National Forest

Yesterday, Monday, we left The Farm about an hour later than my 9:00am target. But between light traffic and few road construction delays we made good time and arrived in Manistique about 4:30pm. We lost an hour to the time zone change and stopped for a quick lunch just north of Green Bay so actual driving time was just a hair over 6 hours for the nearly 300 mile jaunt.

The route took us North on US151 to Wis26 to US41 which we took all the way to Menominee MI. There, we picked up M35 which follows the Lake Michigan shoreline to Escanaba. That stretch, from Menominee to Escanaba, is about 50 miles and wins the prize as the most pleasant part of the drive today. Bright sunny weather, great road, a rare tailwind, and almost no traffic, combined with the low authoritative rumble of the Cummins diesel, the steady whine of the tires, and the wonderful views of the Lake and shoreline -- one of the more enjoyable and sleep-inducing drives in recent memory. At Escanaba we picked up US2 to Manistique where we stopped to fill our freshwater tank and then took M94 north to the camp.

Colwell Lake Campground is in the Hiawatha National Forest which stretches from north to south all the way from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan. The campground is a small place with about 30 campsites, about half of which are right on the lake. The campsites are large clearings in the forest that remind us of what camping used to be all about -- getting away from the rat-race in a natural and secluded place. However, like other National campgrounds we've been in recently, there's apparently no money for trimming trees. We had more trouble getting to our site than we did two years ago -- having to chop and hack our way through low hanging branches and side-growth but eventually got in. While the campsites are large enough for big rigs, the lack of hook-ups and the primitive setting seems to deter most. We love it however.

The remote-ness of this place does have a cost... no air-card internet and very limited cell phone access. If you go out on the fishing pier, as far as you can, and hold a metal coat hanger in one hand, your phone in the other, and dip one foot into the lake -- only then do you have a chance at completing a call. But we deal all this by driving into Munising every other day or so, to a wonderful internet cafe on Main Street, and do our internet things and make calls while enjoying coffee, an ice cream, or maybe a bakery item. A comfortable and relaxed way to deal with very minor problem.

We'll be here for 6 nights and will leave on Sunday for the EAA Airventure convention in Oshkosh.

T

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NO! It Can't Be 40 Years!

Sunday, July 19, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

I graduated from Beaver Dam Senior High School in 1969... just a month or so before the first moon landing. That was 40 years ago. It seems trite to say it, but it just doesn't seem that long.

We were probably an average class. Out of 306 graduates there would be a couple medical doctors, a lawyer or two, and a few that started small businesses. Many went on to college. No one became a celebrity or is considered famous. Most of us would work at jobs and careers, get married, have kids, and mow the lawn whenever it was needed. We put in our time, did what was necessary, tried to enjoy life, and watched as our kids grew and themselves graduated from high school. And the circle began again.

About 80 people gathered at Stooges Bar in downtown Beaver Dam last night for a reunion of the Class of '69. I hadn't attended for 20 years and hadn't seem some of these people for longer than that. As you'd expect, what I found, my impressions, ranged all over the place. There were some, ok, a few, ok, a very few, who hadn't changed at all... shockingly so in at least one case. And there were the ones that had morphed into totally different people... and not for the better. What did they do with their original selves? But most people were just slightly older versions of what we were when we graduated... sort of what you'd expect. In general, we're a fine looking group.

And how's this for shocking: I'm told on good authority that almost 80 of my 306 classmates have already died. Now I haven't seen the definitive list but the ones who should know these things, the locals who put these reunions together and more or less keep track of everyone, swear that number is close to accurate. More than 25% are already gone. I don't know but that seems like an awfully high percentage considering we're less than 60 years old.

Stooges Bar is owned and operated by Buck Gradel, a classmate of ours. He and his wife Jerra have done an incredible job in transforming an empty ugly lot on a main intersection in downtown Beaver Dam into a very classy outdoor beer garden that adjoins their bar. Complete with deck, tables & umbrellas, and comfortable chairs it was the perfect place for this casual reunion of the very casual class of '69. They also worked miracles to convert our $10 per person charge into a very impressive offering of hot beef and pork sandwiches with all the trimmings and sides, not to mention a selection of free beers. I was very impressed.

Since Dar was just a year behind me in school, and because she is much more the social butterfly than I am, she knew my class as well as her own. We both had a very good time talking with long-lost acquaintances and getting caught up with their stories. It was a comfortable and fun evening, evidenced by how fast the hours flew by.

After 40 years, most people are still who they were, but just more experienced... more weathered. We're in awe at the flow of time and wonder what happened to some of our hopes and dreams from 40 years ago. Those that aren't already retired are thinking about it. Many are dealing with medical issues. It all made me appreciate our decision to explore the USA while we're still able.

It was an enjoyable and fun evening.  I'm actually looking forward to the next one.

Thom

Saturday, July 18, 2009

April Weather in July

Saturday, July 18, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

Nature has a way of keeping us on our toes. A couple weeks ago we were enduring punishing heat and high humidity. The past few days it's been positively spring-like, with low temps in the 50s and highs only in the 60s. Yesterday was cloudy and windy, blustery and downright cold. The high for the day was only 64f. I guess if you average the past few weeks together we're having an average summer -- just to show how misleading statistics can be.

The hitch receiver for the Focus arrived, so I took the opportunity to install it -- and it bolted on without a "hitch". So when the bike rack arrives I can finish up with that part of toad2. I  also took another long walk up the newly mowed hay field next to the barn here at the Farm. It's a half mile to the end of the field at the other end so making two round trips is a couple miles. I certainly need the exercise as I've been lax about it this summer.

Later this afternoon we're going to attend a class reunion... my 40th high school class reunion. These events used to be big expensive deals at the country club with everyone trying to convince the others how thin and young they look, or how successful they are, or how much exotic travel they've done. Not any more. After 40 years I think most people are just who they are, or, at least, can't hide it any more. This year it's being held at a bar in downtown Beaver Dam. Total cost was $10 a head, so I'm not expecting much. I'll write a full report tomorrow.

We're still planning to leave the Farm and head North on Monday. The destination will be a small National Forest Campground in the U.P. of Michigan where Dar's family is having their annual two week summer camping vacation. With temps predicted to be mostly in the 60's there may not be much water skiing going on.

Till tomorrow...

T

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fun Thursday

Friday, July 17, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

There was NO meal preparation at the bus-house yesterday. For lunch, we met Mom & Dad Hoch at Chili John's Cafe in downtown Beaver Dam. Chili Johns is an institution around here having been in continuous business at the same location since the 30's. We make it a point to visit whenever we're in town and soak in a little of that old-time tradition.

Then the "Thursday Night on the Deck" gang met again on the outdoor deck at Dos Gringos, the finest Mexican restaurant in Beaver Dam. Jan & Dave, Mom & Dad Hoch, and Dar & I convened to start the weekend (Yes, we officially start the weekend on Thursday night!!), chat about everyone's week, and find solutions to world problems. This is a fun group and we usually leave with sore muscles and watering eyes from laughing too much.

All the parts and pieces that will transform the new car into toad2 are dribbling in. No work is going to get done on that project until we return to Beaver Dam in early August after the EAA convention. At that point I'll have less than a week to get it all installed and working. There's nothing like a little pressure to keep the senses keen.

And speaking of "keen", I've found the world's best shoes. They're called "Keens". They make all sorts of different styles but the one's I have a like a cross between sandals and walking shoes. They have an enclosed toe and a full heel, but the rest is very much sandal-like. I don't think I've ever had shoes that felt more comfortable. I've been wearing these almost every day now for a couple months and they just get better with age.

Preparations continue for our departure on Monday.

T

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Toad2

Thursday, July 16, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

When we started fulltiming in the bus-house two years ago we decided to tow my old 1999 Chevy Blazer (our toad) and hoped we'd get a year or two out of the old boy. It's over 10 years old now, has 150,000 miles on the odometer, and has been towed about 18,000 additional miles. It's been reliable and has only stranded us once, in Little Rock last fall. But time has taken a toll, as it does with everything. We made the decision over the past few months that replacing the toad would be the big summer project this year.

But the process of deciding what to buy was a long and winding path. First, our requirement that the vehicle be deemed "towable" (all four wheels on the ground) by the manufacturer, without any modification, was the first narrowing of the possible choices. As long as the manufacturer says it's OK to tow the car the warranty remains in effect -- something that's important to us. The list of vehicles in this category is not a long one.

At first we thought a small SUV was the way to go. Having 4 wheel drive and higher clearance might come in handy when exploring the back country of the USA. It would be a minimal change from what we've had with the old Blazer. We looked at a Jeep Liberty and a Ford Escape.

But on the down-side, even small SUVs have lousy fuel efficiency. We were getting about 18mpg with the old toad and something like a Jeep Liberty is only slightly better... maybe low 20's?... if you drive like your aunt Tilly. The latest crop of small SUV's are also taller than the old toad, which means it'd be harder to get bikes on and off the roof rack. And space-wise, most of these small SUV's are really quite small inside.

Then we reviewed how we've actually used the old toad. We have two solid years of experience to learn from. Not once in those two years did we use, or need, 4 wheel drive. And there was only one time, near Quartzsite in Arizona, that it was probably good that we had the higher clearance of the Blazer. But even then we felt that the next time we'd probably rent 4-wheelers, "quads" as some people call them, and have a real off-roading experience. So high-clearance and 4 wheel drive really aren't as important to us as we first thought.

We once thought we'd like to have a couple kayaks. But dragging kayaks around, having to deal with them every day, paying for fuel to lug them around, putting them on the car, taking them off the car, storing and locking them up at our camp... dealing with all this when we'd actually be using them less than 1% of the time... it just doesn't seem like the benefit of having them is worth the cost in bother and hassle. Besides, in most good kayaking locales there are people in the business of renting kayaks. Here's a real-life example: when exploring the Okefenokee Swamp we rented a small motorboat for a few hours for something like $30 bucks or so. How can you beat that? No gas hassles, no repair hassles, no loading or unloading, etc. etc. Therefore we've decided we really don't need a vehicle that can carry boats.

How about the bikes? Biking is one thing we do everywhere. I love biking -- it feels natural to me... it's liberating. We often ride improved trails that follow the paths of old railroad grades, and have a blast every time we've done it. While we don't lug kayaks around, we do have our bikes. Making it even easier to store and transport the bikes would be nice. The roof mounted rack system on the old toad has worked well but it's been a bit of a hassle too. A bike rack system that's lower to the ground would be a plus.

If we don't really need 4 wheel drive and high clearance, there are quite a few other vehicles that could be considered. And high fuel prices a year ago made us wonder if we shouldn't find something with better fuel efficiency. Hmmm.

So we expanded the search and started checking out small cars. Personally, I've always liked the feel of small cars with manual transmissions. They're just fun to drive. And I was surprised how refined this category has become. They're quiet, have good road feel, are quick in corners, and because they're light, even a small motor feels strong.

Ultimately we settled on a Ford Focus. There were a few others we also liked but, for me, the factor that nudged the Ford to the top of the list was the fact that it's made in the USA by a U.S. company. I know, I know, how silly can I be? Why would I buy a car that some may feel is inferior to those famous foreign brands? Somehow I just felt it was small positive thing I could do to help this country out in stressful and troubled economic times.

The little Focus will become "toad2" in my writings. It's an efficient thing, getting around 35mpg in all around general driving so far -- a factor that will ease some of the pain of rising fuel prices. At about 1,300 fewer pounds than the old toad, we may see some small increase in mileage on the bus-house too.

It'll take some scrambling the next few weeks to get it ready to tow. We need to add a "base plate" (the piece on the car the tow-bar connects to), wiring to connect the turn signals and brake lights on the motorhome to the car's rear lights, and a brake system "breakaway" (the switch that activates the brake system in the car in the unlikely event it breaks away from the motorhome)... all necessary to make toad2 ready for towing. I'm also adding a rear hitch receiver that will be needed for a new rear-mounted bike rack.

That's my story about toad2.

Thom

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Web Page Updated

I found a way to work around the problem. The front page is now updated.
This is one of those times I have a real love/hate feeling for computer technology. It's real easy to kill a morning trying to resolve a simple problem.

Thom

Web Page Problems

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

I'm having problems with updating the front page of our website this morning. I have an application that runs on my laptop, which is where I make the changes, and those changes are then uploaded to the web server that sends them out whenever anyone requests. It's that upload that I'm having trouble with... I can't get the web server to recognize my login. So, until I resolve this, you may be looking at Tuesday's front page for a while.

Thom

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Illinois Tourists

Sunday, July 12, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

Every summer Wisconsin roads are filled with cars with Illinois plates driving to and from their cabins or vacation spots here in God's Country. All these people are good for the economy and we really don't mind sharing our state with others. But there are times when it takes a toll. Besides all the congestion, we often have to deal with incidents like this one, reported in yesterday's Beaver Dam Daily Citizen:
Randolph Police Beat: Assist motorist — An officer was paged at 12:15 p.m. on July 5 to help people locked in a vehicle on Stark Street. The officer found a brown SUV with Illinois plates that had a dead battery. The occupants of the vehicle said they could not get out, as the power locks were not working and they were concerned because it was getting hot inside the vehicle. The officer showed them how to manually unlock the door so they could get out.
I'm not creative enough to make this stuff up. If you still think I'm pulling your leg, click here to check out my source.

Ain't life fun?

T

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Digital TV

Thursday, July 02, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

Are you as happy as I am that the "digital transition" has occurred? That's right, it's over, done, fini... it's a wrap as of about a month ago. TV stations all around the USA have stopped broadcasting in fuzzy but far reaching analog signals. Instead, their new digital signals are more efficient -- able to carry more programming on less bandwidth with less power. The results are a perfectly clear picture -- as long as you can get the signal.

Anyone that was sleeping through all those months and months of warnings and tests about this historic change is now staring at static and noise instead of a clear picture and digital sound. It occurred to me that perhaps the real value of static and noise is about the same as most of the pabulum generated by industry execs selling the viewing public on shock and awe programming in order to make a few more bucks. Much of what I've seen on the 150 channels of clear digital programming on DirecTV is really just static and noise with a bit more order added to make it watch-able. There is very little difference... IMHO.

Anyway, the reason I'm so darn happy is that I don't have to listen to all the warnings and tests anymore. Near the end of the transition period they were actually interrupting the pledge drives on PBS to warn people about the doom that was about to descend on their lives... NO TV!

Well, it's over and things have settled down. And now we can move on to more important things... like how to get that digital signal.

There are many people who don't know that you can actually receive a TV signal for free off the air. Most of these people are below the age of 35, and have gotten their TV exclusively from cable or satellite providers like Charter, Comcast, or DirecTV or Dish. They've become acclimated, and have accepted paying twice for TV programming... first by having to sit through all those commercial ads that consume 20 minutes of every television hour... and second, by having to pay someone else to send the signal to their TV.

A few years ago, in simpler times, it was common in social circles to rip on the cable and satellite companies for their unfettered power over us. They could, and did, raise their prices at every turn. They controlled the programming that was offered in the various packages. They were famously bad at customer service, making it necessary to take the day off of work in order to let the cable guy in... only to have him not show up. There was indignation, anger, and a desire for an alternative.

But lately I've sensed that people are inclined to defend their TV signal provider. Why, they just couldn't live without their Dish or their cable. They've been bludgeoned and bribed into becoming true believers. For many, being connected to a TV signal 24/7 is a priority of existence. And then there's the hook of the DVR or TIVO -- it's provided by these signal carriers (for a price) and makes it more difficult to kick the cable or satellite habit. The perceived benefit outweighs the cost, which for many is approaching 100 bucks each month.

People, the alternative is here... at least for many of us. It really never went away, but now, with digital signals, it's even better. It's called pulling the TV signal "off-the-air" for FREE! It's such a good deal that many almost feel dirty doing it... isn't it illegal?... isn't this piracy? You want to keep the drapes closed and lights down to keep from tipping off the signal police.

What do you get for free? A perfect picture, sub-channels that aren't offered by cable or satellite, and high-definition programming that you pay extra for with "the other guys". It's really quite a remarkable deal.

Depending where you live you can get this signal with a simple antenna. Years ago, when I was growing up, every house had a TV antenna on the roof. They were large spiky-looking things that did a good job of bringing in all 3 channels from Milwaukee.

Today's antennas are smaller and more efficient. If you're close to the TV transmitter you might get along just fine with "rabbit ears". If you're further away you'll need more. But even here in Beaver Dam it's possible to put a brand-spanking-new antenna, rotor, and power booster on your house for about $500, installed, and get about 50 channels of programming. If your cable or satellite bill is $50/month, that's only a ten month payback. And then your television viewing habit is FREE! What could you do with an extra 50 or 100 bucks every month?

But the big payback is when you call your old cable or satellite company and tell them to "stick it".

T

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Skunked

Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Beaver Dam, WI

What a difference a week makes. Just a week ago we had a record heat wave... the longest and hottest period in four years. This morning I woke to 51f degrees. Inside the bus-house it was 61f... low enough that Dar was silently plotting a way to turn on the furnace without my knowledge. "Com'on, once the sun rises it'll warm up faster than a frat boy at a Megan Fox film festival."

Besides a bit of chill, there was something else in this morning's air... skunk. First I smelled it. Then, peering out the window, I saw it. Some unlucky polecat was rundown on the road right in front of the farm... and the morning's brisk wind was carrying the redolence directly at the bus-house. Man-O-Man! It looks like I'll have to peel that black and white fur pizza off the road and give it a proper burial. Living in an RV ain't all romance and recreation.

Yesterday we moved the bus-house downtown to dump our holding tanks. We've been at the farm for three weeks and while we still had remaining capacity in the tanks, I wanted get the wheels turning to lubricate all the moving parts and keep the camper in tip-top road worthy condition. And we really wanted to back onto our new RV pad and try it out.

Everything went well until we backed onto the pad. Apparently the underlying soils are still too soft and spongy to support the weight of the bus-house and it was cutting ruts in the crushed rock and actually sinking when parked. That was a disappointment. We called the contractor who came over and checked out the situation. He agreed to remedy the problem in the next few days by digging more soil out and replacing it with more crushed rock.

So, we're back on the asphalt for the time being.

T