What? It’s 2013 already?

Let’s see, where were we at last update…  It was fall and we participated in the Black Hills Jeep Jamboree.   Then elections happened and 51% of the voters decided we needed four more years of Barry & his buddies.  (Lord, please deliver from these feckless idiots in Washington.)

Since we’re (okay, John is) turning into off-road fanatics, it just seemed right to participate in the Family Motor Coach Assn (FMCA) 4-Wheeler’s

Trail repair - I tied a shock up and out of the way

At the Golden Vally FMCA 4-wheeler rally, I pulled out the left-rear shock from its mount

Thanksgiving event in Golden Vally, Arizona (near Kingman).  We joined the club several months previously but our schedules didn’t mesh until this event.  So we made another trip out West (we love the open spaces) and had to stop by Las Cruces, New Mexico to see our dear friends, the Topleys and John made his usual shopping foray at Harbor Freight tools.

We had a great time as usual in Las Cruces and then headed to the NW corner of Arizona

iPad taking video of a Jeep

We thought this was a very cool picture that Jane captured at the FMCA 4-Wheeler’s Thanksgiving rally

and had a great time with all of the old 4-wheel codgers like us <grin>, the rally and trails were very well organized, managed and we had a great time.  I was impressed at how much planning effort went into this production, this is what happens when you have a bunch of talented people with a lot of spare time on their hands 🙂

Since we pulled the left-rear shock absorber from its upper mount at this event, it was time to completely redo the rear axle shock mounting system and make certain that couldn’t happen again.  Since John

Rolled Jeep

A rolled Jeep at the FMCA 4-Wheelers 2012 Thanksgiving rally @ Golden Vally, AZ.  Everybody was okay

does 99% of the work on the Rubicon, it was necessary to buy a plasma torch to cut off the old parts.  Darn, another tool taking up space 😉  This work was quite involved since John fabricated new shock mounting brackets to be welded on the axle and relocated the upper coil spring mounting perch (via a kit.)

Then winter happened.

Fortunately it was a mild winter and all of our blackbuck antelope babies survived (four or five of them), we did have some animals netted and sold last fall but the herd is still at about 23 or so animals, plenty for our acreage.

Rock crawling buggy on 54" tires

Spotted at the Chili Challenge – a buggy on 54″ tires lined up for one of the extreme trails. What an amazing rig

Then we did two more Jeep events, the Chili Challenge (Las Cruces, NM) and the Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree for the third year in a row.

On a more domestic note, our house AC/heat pump decided to croak – it was diagnosed as a bad compressor.  A bum compressor isn’t necessary a hugely expensive repair ($1,000 which is a lot if you don’t have the money!) but the government has complicated things significantly with the elimination of first R-12 Freon, and then R-22 Freon which is what all household AC units used until two or three years ago.

The refrigerant now is the “earth friendly” (right) R-410a for home units.  The dirty little environmental secret that you won’t hear discussed is the fact that R-410a is not as efficient as R-22 and has to operate at far higher pressures (like twice as much) as good old R-22 and “however, it has a high global warming potential (1725 times the effect of carbon dioxide), similar to that of R-22.”  So, we’re using more energy to produce as many BTUs of cooling or heat but we’re saving the ozone while producing just much carbon dioxide.  Huh?  Time to send the environmental wackos and junk ‘scientists’ to a place where everything is.. Happy.  Yes, Happy Land where we’re saving everything from .. everything.   Ah, that feels so good..

Okay, done with that rant.

Back to the AC problem.  After a lot of discussion with our AC guy, we decided it was more

Rusty & leaking AC evaporator

Rusty & leaking AC evaporator (in the air handler)

practical to replace the entire system with a high SEER unit – this meant a totally new outside unit and a completely new inside unit (the air handler and evaporator.)  It was an expensive operation and it took three guys about 9 hours to make the change but we now have an “earth friendly” AC system (I’m so overwhelmed.)

The new AC system is working great (as we expected) so the new system should last many, many years (finger’s crossed.)

John got interested in Amateur Radio (WB5THT is his call sign) again after being inactive for many years so he’s back on the air.  Since everything was in the “I’m not going to work” mode, his old radios that were stored away for many years didn’t work of course, so new radios were ordered and he’s back on the air in the digital modes (like Teletype) and has communicated all over the world with a simple antenna, radio and PC.

As this update is penned (with a keyboard <grin>) we are in Balmorhea, TX at a cheapo campground with overflowing sewer hookups – never a dull moment when you’re on the road.  There aren’t a lot of choices out here unfortunately.

Thank you dear reader for following along with us as we travel, ranch, do stuff to and with the Jeep, and spend money 😉  As always, may God Bless.  -Jane and John-

Summer 2012 – Final Update #3

It always seems like the last blog entry of the summer travels always takes the longest to get out the door since we get so busy when we return home, so here ’tis.

We left Montrose, Colorado on September 4th and headed a couple of hours north to Grand Junction, Colorado to our appointment with the Cummins/Onan dealer to get our coach engine cooling system looked over (we had overheating as we headed west on I-70 over Vail Pass six weeks earlier) and to get our balky diesel Onan generator repaired.

The coach engine was checked out with no trouble found, basically we have to go slower in hot weather on long steep grades to reduce the load on the engine.  The generator was diagnosed with a bad inverter again.  This expensive part ($1500) failed a couple of years earlier but thank goodness it was still in warranty at that time.  This time we had to pay 🙁  and of course it was our luck the part had to be ordered, so we had to wait for two days.  The generator has to be significantly disassembled to replace the inverter so we had a ‘nice’ labor expense added to the parts bill.

Finally we left Grand Junction and made the fairly short run to Moab, Utah to get a few days (we thought) of running

Moab overlook from Seven-mile trail

Moab overlook from Seven-mile trail

the most excellent trails in the area. When we arrived at the campground in Moab, our generator shut down again, Grrrrr (we use the generator for the coach air conditioning – it was hot weather.)  We only stayed in Moab for three days and then headed back to Grand Junction to have the generator looked at once again.

After some head-scratching and a call from the dealer to Onan tech support, they came up with the diagnosis – it was good news and sort of bad news.  The generator was fine, the shutdown was caused by our battery charger/inverter interfering with the generator.  It’s a complicated situation but fortunately there is a workaround available which is to shut down the battery charger part of the inverter while the engine is running.  So we spoiled our plans to hang around in Moab for several days.  Bummer.

From Grand Junction we headed north to Spearfish, South Dakota to participate in the Black Hills Jeep Jamboree held near the end of September every year.  This was a new Jamboree for us and we enjoyed it very much.  We qualified for

Black Hills Jamboree - broken U-joint on the rear drive shaft

Black Hills Jamboree – broken U-joint on the rear drive shaft on an older Jeep Cherokee

the group (Black Group) that ran the hardest trails so we found ourselves doing some challenging rock crawling.  (“Membership” for the Black group required at least 35″ tall tires, locking differentials and trail experience.)

We started the first day with 12 Jeeps and only eight finished, four dropped out due to mechanical problems.  We did fine and nothing broke 🙂 .  The second day we only had seven Jeeps which made for a great group considering the trail difficulty, everybody was well skilled and there were very few problems for that entire second day.

Another benefit of being in South Dakota in late September was to admire the gorgeous fall colors.  The trees were in the middle of turning from green to all shades of red, yellow, and orange and it immensely added  to our overall experience.

After our Jeep Jamboree fete, it was time to point the bus south and make a beeline for home.  We were only going to

Black Hills Jamboree - he's rock crawling

Black Hills Jamboree – one guy in our Black Group rock crawling

be home for about six weeks (we are heading to Arizona November 8 for more off-roading), so we decided to keep living in the coach instead of moving a bunch of stuff back and forth between the coach and house.  Our house sitter agreed to keep living in the house until our return from Arizona (early December) – then we’ll move back into the house for the winter/spring.

We drove an average number of miles this summer, 6,059.7, burned through 814.5 gallons of diesel fuel for an average miles per gallon of 7.44.  It is interesting to note that since we now pull a car hauler trailer (the Jeep rides in style) which weighs 1,400 pounds, our miles per gallon has only decreased about 0.25-0.3 mpg.  One major factor I suspect is the Jeep with its large tires has quite a bit of rolling resistance (when we tow it on its own tires) compared to the relatively skinny trailer tires aired up to 65 psi – much less rolling resistance.

Thanks for riding along with us and as always, may God richly bless you!


 

Oh, here’s one of our latest videos:

Summer 2012 – Update #2

Since John brought you up on what transpired before we left for our summer travels, we will back track a bit to our visit to Ohio after leaving Virginia. Our objective for the first week of July was to visit our nephew Jason, his wife Christine and their children Colin, Madalyn, Elliot and Zachery. Also we were able to spend the week with his brother, Erik, wife Karen and their children Ethan, Alek and Anderson. What joyous times we had and a busy week going to the zoo, splash park, slip-n-slide at the house, gun range (for the older boys) and pedicures (for the older girls)! A real treat was viewing a puppet show and a recital by some very talented young musicians playing either the piano or the violin (their kids)! At the end of a week to remember, we said our good-byes and headed our separate ways, hopefully to reunite before the children get much older!

The infamous and popular Black Bear Pass – 12,840′ elevation

As previously reported we left Iowa and headed West for Colorado and the Western Slope. Took four days to get to Montrose and Centennial RV Park. The day after we arrived, we were out on the trails of the San Juan Mountains with the Western Slope 4-Wheelers for a work day and good fun and fellowship! The WS4W maintain a number of the trails for the off-road vehicles.

Among the trails done this summer, we did several that we had not done before. Poughkeepsie Gulch, Silver Basin, Black Bear, Alaska Basin, Governor Basin and some others I don’t recall the names.

My handy husband, when he hasn’t been driving or washing the Jeep (lots of trail mud caking the Rubicon. Yes, many of you might say ‘mud’ – what’s that?) has kept

Three new Lifeline AGM 31XT batteries for the coach. The old ones lasted 7 years

busy with several projects such as installing three new house batteries, installing two large solar panels on the roof of the RV (wiring included)! The batteries were 7 years of age (the originals) so we figured it was time to replace them! Hard for us to believe the RV is 7 years old, but I have quite a log book of all our travels that make us realize it!

290 watts of of solar power!!

Another “happening” while we have been here, is John and Jane celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary! We boarded Sassy at Little Paws (we told her it was a B&B) for a couple of nights, and traveled South to Durango on route 550, a beautiful drive itself. We had lunch in Silverton at a favorite restaurant ‘Handlebars‘ and on to Durango where we stayed at the historic Strater Hotel (we had stayed here once before in 1976) when we did the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. This train ride is wonderful and we highly recommend it if you are able to do it, or have never done it! Enjoyed just strolling the streets of town and enjoying the ambiance of this historic town. An interesting fact for Western book fans… there is a room in the hotel just above the saloon that is named for Lois L’Amour and his wife…it is said this town, sounds, and sights gave him inspiration for writing his books!

We arrived on July 24th and will leave here on September 4th to head to Moab, Utah to do more 4-Wheeling after a stop in Grand Junction, Colorado to have our generator and the coach engine checked at the Cummins dealer.

As always, we do appreciate y’all traveling along with us, and we value all of our readers! May God bless and keep you.

 

Jane and John, Sassy (the dog) and Trekkie (the cat)