Attack of the Hummers!

THURSDAY, MAY 22. 2008

Jane and and John love to see their little hummingbirds return in the spring, usually around the middle of March. There are only a few brave hummers appearing that early in the season because we can still have freezing weather. Soon though the trickle turns into a flood about mid-April and by May we are constantly filling our two large feeders and usually putting out about a gallon of

One of our “ranch” hummingbirds

sugar water every day. We have friends that buy hummingbird food mix, but there isn’t much point in that – just use one part sugar to four parts of water (i.e., one cup of sugar to four cups of water.) Please do not use red food coloring – it isn’t necessary and some say it isn’t good for the hummers. So far this year, we figure we have used about 50 pounds of sugar! If we weren’t leaving this coming Monday for summer travel, we might go through another 50 pounds! John took many high-resolution close-up pictures of our little friends and they are posted in our photo gallery. We sincerely hope you will appreciate the pictures of some of God’s beautiful creatures!

Speaking of travel, we are getting the coach ready to hit the road. We are both looking forward to getting on the road again and seeing some friends and more of our beautiful country. Instead of being gone all summer, we will be coming back in eight or ten weeks due to the high cost of diesel. We might do more local exploration with the coach – Texas has lots of state parks and the Davis Mountains might provide a nice break from the heat later in the summer.

Stay tuned for updates while we travel! Blessings to all!

Branson, work on the air conditioning

Wednesday, July 25. 2007

We planned a few months ago on attending a gathering of “birds of a feather” for those active in the RV forum at being held in Branson, Missouri and were looking forward to being tourists in Branson and meeting people with whom John has met electronically on the Internet.  (Comment 3/8/2010 – John is no longer at iRV2 for various reasons – find him on the Winnebago forum at Some RV rallies are huge involving literally a few thousand RVs, and some are small like this one involving less than a hundred.  This rally was several days in duration and included several activities including various technical seminars and organized trips.  One trip was a Branson tour on World War Two era amphibious vehicles which the Army called a DUKW but always referred to as “Ducks.”  We spent about an hour driving around Branson and maybe 20 minutes in the lake near Branson.  The experience was a “ho-hummer” – it was hot, noisy, and not that exciting spending most of your time on the road and a few minutes in the water.  We attended a show at the Pierce Arrow Theater that features a pretty good comedian but the musical entertainment was at best maybe cruise-ship quality.  Our last day of organized

Ugly in steel – the Branson Belle

activities featured a dinner and show on the showboat “Branson Belle. This was a purpose-built boat for the lake in Branson and is not really that great to look at.  It looks like a barge with a hotel-like superstructure cobbled on top.  John sincerely hopes the naval architect who designed that vessel, and the financial backers have nightmares about how ugly it turned out.  The show however was simply outstanding featuring several singer/dancers, a Russian dance/acrobat couple, a good band, and a very funny ventriloquist with “talking” dogs.

While in Branson, we attended the nearby Tri-Lakes church for Sunday worship service which is held in one of the several ex-commercial theaters which have been purchased by area churches.  The service began at 10:30 AM and when we walked into the auditorium, we were amazed at the large size (it must seat 2,000 people) and then further amazed at the quality of the 100% contemporary music of the service.  There was a praise chorus, praise group and several musicians that must be mostly professional talent from the Branson area.  It was so good, we thought we were in one of those TV commercials advertising CD/DVD sales of contemporary Christian music.  The service lasted TWO HOURS! We must say, it didn’t seem that long and we felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in that gathering of God’s people!

We have had a minor but ever-existing intermittent problem with the air conditioning on the coach blowing warm air after we have spent a day of traveling.  Once we are hooked up and stationary, the air conditioning works fine.  Thanks to our good friend and

Brian changes out our circuit board for the AC

advocate at Winnebago Service Administration, he arranged for the air conditioning manufacturer to troubleshoot the problem.  So we headed to Wichita, Kansas after Branson to meet with the factory technician to have this problem diagnosed.  He met us at the campground as we arrived and of course the air conditioning worked perfectly unlike the last few traveling days.  Dale (the tech) wanted to replace the control board which contains all of the operating electronics for the system, so that’s what we had done the next morning.  Fingers crossed the intermittent problem has now disappeared.

We are now working our way back to Elkhart, Indiana to have our new captain’s chairs installed (we received a phone call today that they are in) and to have our new problem with the washing machine/dryer combo repaired.  It’s always something!

Ranch update, coach repair, pig hunting

Wow – a nine pound turkey fits in our Advantium microwave/oven!

We have been so busy with coach repairs, a family visit, Thanksgiving and trying to buy the ranch, the travel diary has suffered from inattention.

We had two more issues with the coach – the second set of batteries (we have five batteries in total) wouldn’t charge from the engine alternator and the vinyl material that unrolls from the coach roof to the slide top when we operate the slide-out (the room extension) was torn on one end, most likely from all of the gale force winds we have been camping in while in the western US, Canada and Alaska.  Unfortunately for us, there only a few Winnebago dealers in Texas and the handy dealership located between Austin and San Antonio (Crestview RV) we chose for service work has serious service department work process issues.  It is our opinion that department is fairly dysfunctional and we believe the root causes of this are a lack of training and a lack of management oversight resulting in gross inefficiencies, poor work quality and then customer dissatisfaction.

We have now resigned ourselves to making an occasional trip to the Winnebago factory to get all of our little problems dealt with.  Please keep in mind that we are extremely happy with our Winnebago product; our coach consists of hundreds of parts and many components supplied by many vendors that are bouncing up and down for hours at a time.  Things are going to break – that’s a given.  The salient issue is where to get the coach serviced; we have had excellent luck at the factory (certainly excellent but not without its quality problems occasionally) so we will just make the trip up Interstate 35 when necessary.

We got tired of waiting on parts for the coach at Crestview and were anxious to see Jane’s brother and sister-in-law, so we took the coach to their house in the hills of west Austin.  Poor Bosun the cat got sick going and coming because of the twisty and up and down roads. There must be some 10-12 per cent grades back in the sub division – the coach was in second gear (out of six!) climbing some of them.  While in Austin, Bill (Jane’s brother) took John feral hog hunting at a friend’s 500 acre ranch near Llano.  It was a great time of male bonding for John, Bill and Jerry (Bill’s other hunting companion.)  Feral hogs are extremely destructive and are universally disdained by wildlife managers and land owners so harvesting them is a great civic duty and after all, it is a guy thing!  More about the hunt later.

Several have asked us about the status of the little ranch we are trying to buy.  It certainly appears that the good Lord has opened up all of the doors for purchase because as of this moment, there are no issues that would keep us from closing on the property next Thursday, November 30.  The pest report was okay, the well report was nominal for the area (Edwards Aquifer), and the attorney found no problems with the mineral rights (we will have 100% rights which we understand is unusual) or title documents.  John will need to shop for some cowboy boots and a western shirt shortly!  We will be driving the Jeep to Florida in a week or two to load up a few things and bring them back to the ranch.  We have a 10’ utility trailer that Jane will pull with the Jeep and John will drive his big Ford F-250 pickup back with the Kubota tractor and equipment trailer in tow – the caravan back to Texas should be interesting along the extremely busy and torn-up Interstate 10.  Every ranch needs a tractor, so this is one of John’s top priorities.  We are excited at the prospect of living in a new area – it seems that every ten years, we are ready to move on and try something different.  This will be our sixth (and smallest) house.  It was certainly fun and rewarding remodeling (and owning) our house in DeLand, but at almost 3,000 sq ft it was too large for us and it was expensive to heat and cool.

We have kept you waiting long enough the hog hunting results!  After waiting until dusk at a popular deer feeder in one corner of the ranch, two medium size hogs approach from the tree line headed to the feeder to snort up some deer corn.  Bill is at the front of the pickup truck; John is in the bed of the pickup truck.  The hogs are about 100 yards away when Bill whispers to John, “Let’s shoot on my count of three.”  We already had prearranged which hog to shoot, so the only task was to locate the hog in the rifle scope and pull the trigger.  That morning we sighted in the rifle John was using at the rifle range, so if he can get the target in the cross hairs of the scope, the hog was on his way to piggy heaven.  While John is still trying to find his hog in the scope Bill shoots and drops his pig.  Poor old inexperienced hunter John still had his zoom telescopic rifle scope set on a magnification of 15 instead of three or four making it extremely unlikely to find a moving target.  John had a great time anyway and is now rifle shopping not being content to borrow Bill’s.

Thanks for keeping up with us and God Bless!