Nick Russell

The Little Dutch Boy

 Posted by at 12:55 am  Nick's Blog
Mar 022015
 

Do you remember the children’s story about a little Dutch boy who saves his country by putting his finger in a leaking dike? I kind of felt like that youngster yesterday.

You may remember our black tank blockage last week, and that one suggestion was to drill a small hole in the end of the plastic housing around the valve and to use a pick or probe to push the gate valve blade open. As it turned out, the valve wasn’t the problem. But it came back to cause another problem.

We sealed the hole with Gorilla Tape, which will usually work on everything. And it did on the valve. At least for a while. But yesterday it began to leak and we needed to scramble to solve the problem before we had a real mess. We dumped the tank and then I got some J-B Weld WaterWeld, which is a putty-like substance that is supposed to work even under water. Terry followed the instructions and kneaded it between her fingers, then spread some over the hole. And it worked just like advertised! This is some handy stuff to have around the RV!

71B gjryajL._SL1500_[1]

With that task finished, I worked on my new Big Lake book and got about 2,500 more words done. It seems like this one wants to write itself. If it wasn’t for medical appointments this week and then Escapade the week after, I think I could almost knock it out by the end of the month.

Later on we drove into town to take cousin Beverly to dinner and visited with her for a while. This woman is the very picture of grace. She has some serious physical limitations and challenges that would reduce most of us to sniveling wimps, but she just takes it all in stride and never complains. Beverly always says that no matter how hard she has it, there are lots of other people in the world who have it worse. She’s too busy being active in all sorts of things for her three granddaughters and other kids to feel sorry for herself. And you wonder why Terry and I love her so much?

Today we begin a series of medical appointments, nothing to be concerned with, just the routine annual checkups for both of us. Kind of like preventive maintenance for our bodies. And since mine is a high mileage unit, it’s always good to look for problems before they get out of hand.

Congratulations to Tom Julkowski, the winner of our drawing for an audiobook of JET by Russell Blake. We had 81 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon and it could be your turn to win.

Speaking of books, George Wier is one of the best authors I know and he just published his latest book, Murder In Elysium, a story of murder and long hidden secrets in a small Texas town. Read this book and I bet you will become one of George’s fans too!

Thought For The Day – The trouble with children is that they are not returnable.

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Mar 012015
 

We once met a couple at the Escapees Rainbows End RV Park in Livingston, Texas who told us that after a year of fulltiming they were going home because they had seen it all and done it all and there was nothing left to do.

They said they had been from border to border and ocean to ocean. And that included going to Alaska! The husband said they left their daughter’s house in Seattle on June 1st and were back in her driveway July 4th. “We never saw an animal all the way up and back,” he added. “But we about destroyed our motorhome and toad.” The list of damages included, as I recall, broken windshields, tire blowouts, and a broken axle. No wonder they didn’t see any animals at the speed they must have been traveling.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t see all of New Jersey in a year. Everywhere you go in America there is more to see and do than you’ll ever live long enough to get around to. I know, because we’ve tried!

From the hauntingly beautiful Hudson River Valley to the wild shores of Oregon and the white sands of the Mississippi coast, you really have to work at being bored when you travel in an RV.

Coastal view 5

Some of our best RV adventures have been when we left the main highways behind us and went exploring the side roads and small towns in search of the overlooked treasures that most people never even hear about. How do we find these hidden gems? By asking people in the places we visit, by internet research, and by reading local interest books. A good place for you to start is our weekly Overlooked America series in this blog. Each week we feature a different state and tell you about the places the tourist brochures usually ignore. Here is a link to our latest installment, Overlooked Colorado.

You could make a career out of just trying to visit and experience all of our National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites alone. Click any state on this map supplied by the National Park Service and you’ll find enough to keep you busy for months.

The other day my pal Donna McNicol posted this link to the 20 least visited Western National Parks Units. I’ve lived in the West for most of my life and I’ve only been to three or four of them. I guess I’d better get busy!

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing yet for an audiobook of JET, the first book in my friend USA Today bestselling author Russell Blake’s wildly popular Jet thriller series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Jet

Thought For The Day – We may all be on the way to the nursing home, but there’s no reason we can’t take the scenic route.

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My Lucky Day

 Posted by at 1:17 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 282015
 

I guess yesterday was my lucky day. I started out with several very nice reviews for Big Lake and for Big Lake Burning, the first and latest books in my Big Lake mystery series. Reviews are very important to authors in terms of marketing our books, and positive reviews are especially nice both for sales and the ego.

I spent the morning answering e-mails and then went outside to dump our black tank. I was a little apprehensive considering the terrible blockage we had to deal with last week, but everything went well and no problems.

About the time I was finished dumping, two motorhomes pulled in and I got to visit with our new neighbors, John Hatch and Roger Maxie (I hope I spelled that right), both blog readers. I can usually remember faces but I’m terrible with names, so by the time I see them again today I’m sure I’ll have forgotten which is which. There’s a reason the military and the Escapes RV Club use nametags.

A while back a friend of mine gave me a beautiful Winchester 9422 lever action .22 rifle, a firearm I’ve always admired and longed to own. .22 ammunition has traditionally been commonplace and inexpensive but for the last couple of years it’s been almost impossible to find. I know because I’ve looked from Florida to Arizona with no success. Yesterday afternoon we were in town running some errands and on a whim I stopped at a pawn shop that also sells guns, and they had a huge supply of .22 ammo in stock. I bought a brick of 500 rounds – that should keep me plinking for a while.

9422-STD-XTR-SMALL

Several months ago I was browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Florida and came across a writing reference book I was tempted to buy but didn’t. A day or two later I decided I wanted it and went back to the store and it was gone. I thought I’d order it from Amazon but it has gone out of print and they didn’t have it. I struck out trying to order it from Barnes and Noble, too. Since then I have been looking at every bookstore we see and had given up, but I had even more good luck when we stopped at a Barnes and Noble store yesterday afternoon. Not only did they have the book I wanted, but also another one I have been looking for. Maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket, too!

Speaking of books, after a six month hiatus while I tested out the Amazon Select program, my Big Lake books and Dog’s Run are all available again on Barnes and Noble for Nook e-book readers.

Several readers have been asking how we like the 12-inch Night Therapy Elite Gel Infused Memory Foam Prestige Mattress we got about a year ago. We love it! For over 25 years I seldom had a good night’s sleep, and woke up every morning with back pain. Now I sleep comfortably, don’t toss and turn all night long, and don’t hurt in the morning. Here is the link to the mattress we got at Sam’s Club. And you can find the slightly thicker 13-inch model on Amazon.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of JET, the first book in my friend USA Today bestselling author Russell Blake’s wildly popular Jet thriller series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Jet

Thought For The Day – You are only young once but you can stay immature indefinitely.

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A Lot Going On

 Posted by at 1:27 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 272015
 

We’ve had a lot going on and have been busy ever since we got to Tucson on Monday. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to ease up anytime soon.

Wednesday I got my lab work done at the VA hospital in preparation for medical appointments next week. The blood draw went fine and then the young lady said they also needed a urine specimen and handed me a sheet of paper with detailed steps on how to give a urine sample. Then she asked if I wanted her to go over them with me. Really? I’m 62 years old, I’ve peed in a cup before. Hell, I peed in a coffee mug once. (I was leaving that job anyway). I need both written and verbal instructions?

We’ve also been getting things set up to get the new issue of the Gypsy Journal out once it finally arrives early next week. We had already ordered the envelopes and they arrived, and then it was time to go to the post office. I used to use Stamps.com and printed postage out online, but I dropped them a while back because with every mailing there was always an error or two printing out postage, and the hoops they make you jump through to get a credit take more time than it’s worth.

It costs $1.61 to mail each issue out first class, and the easiest way is to use a 70¢ stamp and a 91¢ stamp. But finding a post office that has the huge number of stamps in that denomination in stock can be a challenge and they always want to sell us all kinds of combinations of three, four and even five stamps to get the job done. When you’re sticking thousands of stamps on envelopes, that really slows things down. And it doesn’t help that a lot of post office employees don’t seem to have very good math skills and counting out the stamps always take a long time. With the stamps finally obtained and paid for, and a big stack of plastic mailing tubs to haul the stuffed envelopes in, we’re finally ready for the papers, if they’ll just get here.

While we were at the post office I tried to see if they could help me with another matter. A while back I won several stunt kites on the Kite Life website and asked that they be delivered to me, care of my cousin Beverly, here in Tucson. We have had many things delivered to her apartment over the years, but this time around the kites have gone missing. The post office tracking number shows they were delivered to the “front desk/reception” at her apartment complex on February 12, but the two ladies there don’t remember them ever coming in, and they are very good about things like that. This wasn’t a tiny package that would be easily overlooked, it was a box approximately 38 inches long and 6 to 8 inches square.

After speaking to her supervisor, all the woman at the post office could tell me was that since the package wasn’t insured, there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s interesting that we had another package that should have arrived at about the same time, but since the sender did not obtain a tracking number the post office wouldn’t even talk about that one. And the post office wonders why they are losing customers on a daily basis?

Anytime we’re in Tucson we spend as much time as possible with cousin Beverly, one of my favorite people in the world. I’ve always been closer to her than I ever was to my sisters, and Terry loves her, too. Yesterday she went with us to run some errands and then we took her to dinner at Golden Corral.

One of the errands was TV shopping, since the 26 inch Samsung LCD mounted over our dashboard seems to be going out. The video goes blank, but the sound stays on. At first it was only occasionally, and if we put our fingers behind the TV and give it a little tug forward, the picture would return. But the video outages became more frequent and the little tugs graduated to big tugs, and then having to open the cabinet door it’s mounted on and pushing it shut hard to get the picture to return. While we were parked next to Greg and Jan White at the Colorado River Thousand Trails preserve in Columbus, Texas a few weeks ago Greg played around with the TV for a while and pronounced it “broke.” And since then it’s become “broker.” Due to the shape and size of our cabinet, we’re limited to the size of TV we can put in the same place, and we found three different models, by Samsung, Vizio, and Insignia (Best Buy’s house brand) that will work, but the position of the hookups on the back have to be taken into consideration, since none are located quite like the one we have now. We’ll make a decision on which one this weekend.

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of JET, the first book in my friend USA Today bestselling author Russell Blake’s wildly popular Jet thriller series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Jet

Do you remember when you got your learner’s permit and were finally allowed behind the wheel of the family car? I don’t think any of us had an experience like Charlie Dunbar did the summer he got his learner’s permit. Becoming a fugitive was nowhere on Charlie’s bucket list, and having his ailing grandfather along as his partner in crime on a cross country trip makes the story even more bizarre. If learning the rest of the story intrigues you as much as it did me, there’s good news. The Driving Lesson, by my friend Ben Rehder, is on sale for 99¢ for a limited time. Check it out, it’s a good read.

And for friends of Meghan Ciana Doidge’s excellent Dowser series, there’s a brand new book out, Shadows, Maps, and Other Ancient Magic. It’s also available on iTunes and Kobo and will be coming soon to Nook.

Thought For The Day – If quizzes are quizzical what are tests?

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Glad You Asked That

 Posted by at 2:14 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 262015
 

Today I thought I’d answer a few questions that pop up every so often, in the hope that some of you might find it useful.

Back when Dish Network customers lost their Distant Network Service when All American Direct folded, a manager from Dish assured me that they were in “active negotiations” with another provider to supply that service. Well, a lot of time has passed and obviously that never happened. Blog readers have asked me if I foresee any change. The last communication I had with Dish was that they “are no longer pursuing that option.” So if you are a Dish customer, the best you can do is get local networks wherever you are staying. Yes, it’s a hassle, but I’ve been doing it for over a year now.

Here is a tip I got from a blog reader to make it easier. Instead of calling Dish to change your service location every time you arrive at a new location, log onto www.mydish.com and set up an online account if you don’t already have one. From then on, log into http://www.dish.com/chat/ and choose Chat Now. The wait is usually less than five minutes. I have a paragraph typed up and saved on my computer that I just paste in when the rep comes on the line, with the local address substituted. Here it is:

"Hello. We have your DISH service in our motorhome and need to have you change our service address to 175 Any Road, Anywhere, Texas 77399 so we can get the local channels." It’s quick and easy. Within about 15 minutes we have the local channels.

I have found that if I give them an address near a large city, it will cover a wide area and I don’t have to change as often. For example, when we are in Florida I can get the Orlando stations from St. Augustine all the way south to the Keys. In Texas, we got the Houston feed from Livingston to Mission to Hondo.

Another question is, if somebody is on the road and needs to call 911, will emergency responders be able to find them quickly. I have a free app on my smart phone called Where Am I? that gives my address and GPS coordinates anywhere I am. It’s handy to have not only for calling 911, but also when you need emergency road service.

I have written many times about the benefits of Elks membership and I frequently get asked how one can join. First you find a local Elks club, preferably in a small town because they usually charge less. Then ask the bartender or manager if someone there will sponsor you. Most will because they always need new members. You have to go to a couple of meetings, kind of a meet and greet, and then you are sworn in. It’s no big deal. If you are going to be in Tucson for the Escapees Escapade rally next month, the Escapees Elks BOF and the Willcox Elks lodge are having an accelerated membership program a couple of days after Escapade. You can get more information on the Escapade Facebook page.

Usually we have the new issue of the Gypsy Journal in the mail by now, but this time it’s going to gn out a few days late due to weather related delays in printing and shipping. I’m not sure where the new issue is, all I know is that it’s on a truck somewhere in the snowy Midwest and the last report I had was that it should arrive in Phoenix sometime Monday. I have always said that we’d never go strictly digital, but between ever increasing costs in printing and postage, and frustrations like this, sometimes I find myself rethinking that position more and more. We appreciate your patience.

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to kick off a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of JET, the first book in my friend USA Today bestselling author Russell Blake’s wildly popular Jet thriller series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Jet

Thought For The Day – Will power is easy. It’s the won’t power that is hard.

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Click Here For Back Issues Of The Gypsy Journal

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A Tailwind? No Way!

 Posted by at 1:55 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 242015
 

We left the Escapees Dream Catcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico and experienced that most rare of natural phenomena, a tailwind. Yeah, I know, I thought they were a myth myself, one of those made up things like leprechauns and wood nymphs, and I was so surprised that I almost fell off my unicorn. But there it was, a steady 20 mile per hour tail wind that pushed us west along Interstate 10. And according to my Silverleaf engine monitor, we were getting great fuel mileage!

Just about the time we left Lordsburg the highway took a different angle and the wind was hitting us from the side for a while, which made driving a bit of a white knuckle experience. But twenty or so miles later when we crossed into Arizona our route turned slightly again and the wind was back behind us.

We stopped at the Love’s in Benson for fuel, noting that diesel was about 15¢ a gallon cheaper than in New Mexico. By 3:30 we were in Tucson, our home for the next month or so as we get our annual medical stuff out of the way this week and next, and then we’ll be at the Escapees Escapade Rally March 8-13. We’ll have a vendor booth at the rally and I’ll be presenting five seminars. I hope we see a lot of you there.

With all of the frustrations we’ve had over the last few days, I forgot to tell you about a couple of odd coincidences I experienced. A couple of days ago somebody posted this old picture of a car towing a camper trailer in an internet RV group I help admin.

Old Buick and trailer

The car looks like a 1951 Buick, which is the same year and make as the car on the cover of my mystery novel Dog’s Run. The tunnel in the background is the Superior Tunnel on US Highway 60 near Superior, Arizona. Which is ironic, because the car on the book cover belongs to the Apache Junction, AZ police department, located maybe 30 miles from there. And when I took the picture of the police car it was in an RV park with trailers in the background, so my cover artist, Elizabeth Mackey, dropped out the background and put in the one you see on the book’s cover.

DogsRun small

The other coincidence happened on Friday. We stopped at the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, and while there I bought several books in the gift shop. That evening, when I started to read one of them called Whatever It Took by a former Border Patrolman named Kenneth LaMascus, I discovered that the introduction was written by Billy Kring, Chief Patrol Agent (Ret.), U.S. Border Patrol. The same Billy Kring who is the author of the Hunter Kincaid mystery series I wrote about in a blog last week, whom we visited with when we were at the Lone Star Corral RV Park in Hondo, Texas. Yes, it is a small world.

Thought For The Day – I wonder if clouds ever look down on us and say, “Hey, that one’s shaped like an idiot.”

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Feb 232015
 

We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see your travels.

Boulder: Over 50 vintage Shelby automobiles are on display at the Shelby American Collection Museum.

Boulder: You can take a free tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea company at 4600 Sleepytime Boulevard.

Boulder: The Leanin’ Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden of Western Art features an outdoor park with 25 beautiful bronze life-size sculptures of wildlife, cowboys and Indians. Inside, the free museum displays over 250 paintings and 150 sculptures from over 100 artists.

Canon City: At the Museum of Colorado Prisons, located at the old Women’s Correctional Institute, you can see exhibits of homemade weapons confiscated from inmates, guard’s weapons and equipment, and the gas chamber where eight prisoners were executed.

Canon City: The world’s highest suspension bridge can be found a few miles west of town off US Highway 50. The 1260 foot long Royal Gorge Bridge spans the Arkansas River from a height of 1,053 feet.

Colorado Springs: Visitors can tour the United States Air Force Academy here and learn how our future military officers are educated.

Colorado Springs: The World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame is located at 20 1st Street in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs: The May Natural History Museum has a collection of over 100,000 insects.

Colorado Springs: The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame here recognizes the achievements of rodeo cowboys and clowns with displays of saddles and rodeo equipment, videos, and western artwork.

Cortez: Hovenweep National Monument protects six prehistoric Puebloan-era villages spread over a twenty-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. Multi-storied towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders lead visitors to marvel at the skill and motivation of their builders. Hovenweep is noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character.

Creede: The Creede Underground Mining Museum gives visitors a look at the work of hard-rock miners.

Cripple Creek: Things are a bit tamer now that the Old Homestead bordello has been turned into a museum, complete with mannequins representing the soiled doves who plied their trade here. You can tour the old cathouse, located at 353 E. Myers Avenue.

Cripple Creek: Visitors to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine can don hardhats and descend to the 1,000 foot level to learn about gold mining in frontier Colorado.

Delores: The Anasazi Heritage Center is a museum of the Ancestral Puebloan (or Anasazi) culture and other Native cultures in the Four Corners region. It is also the starting point for visits to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Denver: The Denver Firefighters Museum, housed in the historic Denver Firehouse #1, built in 1909, displays antique firefighting uniforms and equipment and photographs of early day firefighters.

 

Denver: At Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum you can see dozens of vintage and unusual aircraft, including a World War II German Luftwaffe trainer, a B-52 Stratofortress, and a rare B1A bomber.

Denver: All American coins are made at the Denver branch of the U.S. Mint. Visitors can take a free tour and learn about the craftsmanship required at all stages of the minting process from the original designs and sculptures to the actual striking of the coins.

Denver: The Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys displays some of the finest exhibits of miniatures, dolls, and toys to be found anywhere, including elaborate and antique dollhouses, dollhouse furniture and rare dolls.

Fairplay: The South Park City Museum is a reconstructed 19th century mining town composed of old buildings from throughout the region that have been moved here.

Golden: The Colorado Railroad Museum is recognized as one of the best privately supported rail museums in the United States, featuring more than 80 historic narrow and standard gauge locomotives and cars.

Golden: Buffalo Bill is buried on Lookout Mountain here, and a museum displays exhibits on his life and career.

Greeley: Stroll through history at Centennial Village Museum, eight acres of High Plains history, featuring 45 structures. The Village gives visitors a look at life in early Greeley and the High Plains from the 1860s to the 1920s.

La Junta: Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is a reproduction of the 1833 trading post William and Charles Bent built here to trade with Plains Indians and trappers. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, food, water, and protection.

La Junta: The Otero Museum has an extensive collection of exhibits, pictures, and artifacts which tell the history of La Junta, Otero County, and the surrounding area. The museum complex includes a reproduction of a 1920s filling station, complete with gasoline pumps and a vintage 1927 Star touring car; early 1900s blacksmith shop; the H. L. & Louise Boyd Coach House, which contains an original Concord stagecoach built in Concord, New Hampshire in 1865; a log cabin school, a neighborhood grocery store with apartment overhead; along with displays of farming equipment, a 1954 fire engine and a World War II era locomotive.

Leadville: You can learn all about the work of hard rock miners at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum here.

Congratulations to Phyllis Frey, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Crazy Days in Big Lake, the third book in my Big Lake mystery series. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Happiness is good health and a bad memory.

Check Out Nick’s E-Books In Our E-Book Store

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Clearing The Clog

 Posted by at 1:33 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 222015
 

Warning, this blog contains content that may not be comfortable for the squeamish.

We have been dealing with a nasty problem, and while we still don’t know what caused it, after a lot of trial and error, and even more frustration, we seem to have solved it. At least for now.

We are very careful about avoiding waste tank clogs, always waiting until our black tank is at least ¾ full before dumping. I also power flush our black tank on a regular basis to avoid any buildup.

Saturday a week ago, while we were at Pleasant Valley RV Resort in Mission, Texas, I dumped and flushed the black tank and everything was good. The next day we drove to Lone Star Corral in Hondo and spent five days, and when we were getting ready to leave Thursday morning I pulled the handle to dump the black tank, and nothing. Not one drop. Nada. Hmmm… that’s not right.

I was still dealing with my cold and we needed to get on the road, so I decided to close the valve and deal with it at our next stop. We drove over 400 miles that day, which should have shaken anything in the tank up pretty good. But when I tried to dump again the next morning the same thing. I use a clear elbow when I dump so I can tell when things are running clear. Or, in this case, when things weren’t running at all.

Instead of the standard T-handle dump valves a lot of RVs have, our Winnebago Ultimate Advantage uses a cable valve system and I suspected the cable had come loose, which happened once before. Once we got to Deming Friday afternoon, I stopped at the local RV repair shop, which was highly recommended, and talked to the owner, who suggested a couple of things that might be causing the problem, including a clog. But it was the end of the day and he is closed on the weekends, so the best he could do was try to fit us in Monday morning (tomorrow).

In the meantime, out tank was now full and we resigned ourselves to using the bathrooms here at Dream Catcher RV Park, which are nice and clean. But we’ve reached an age where late night trips to the bathroom are common, and it’s quite a walk to the bathroom, especially at 2 a.m. on a chilly, windy night!

I posted a query on a couple of RV internet bulletin boards Friday night, and called a few people for advice yesterday morning. We took the panel off that separates our pass through bay from where the tanks are, and the cable was attached to the rod of the valve. Pulling the handle in and out moved the rod back and forth. Hmmm… did the rod come off the blade that slides back and forth inside the valve?

Phil Botnick, one of the best RV techs in the business, suggested drilling a small hole in the plastic housing of the valve on the opposite side from the direction the blade moves and using a pick or metal probe to push the valve open. That way we could at least empty the tank. We tried that and discovered that the blade was working properly and was opening and closing as it should when the handle was pushed. And the probe came out of the hole dry. Curiousier and curiousier. That means there was a blockage. But in just five days after I had power flushed? And a blockage so solid that not one drop of liquid would get through after over 600 miles of bumping down the highway? Even Phil thought that was odd.

The next step was to get a plumbers snake and see if I could go in from the dump tube and try to dislodge whatever was in there. But the plumbing system is laid out in such a way that I couldn’t get the snake in. Somebody had suggested that maybe there was a clog in the vent tube that goes through the roof, so Terry climbed up on top and ran the snake down the vent tube. About 2/3 of the way down she felt resistance, so she kept spinning the cable and suddenly it let go and went all the way down. I was at the sewer bay watching for anything to come through the elbow. Nope, still nothing. And when Terry pulled the snake back out of the vent pipe there wasn’t anything on it.

A couple of neighbors had come by to observe all the fun. By then it was late in the day and I had stopped having fun hours ago. One of the neighbors suggest trying to flush the tank again, but it was so full we’d have had an overflow out of the toilet. Then the suggestion was made to leave the black valve open and try to force water in through the sewer drain and see if that would do anything.

What did I have to lose at that point? I had a sewer cap with a hose connection on it and, with Terry in the bathroom watching in case the level rose any higher and the neighbor standing by to turn the water off in a hurry, we gingerly gave it a try. I filled it up until it was backing up in the clear elbow, took the cap off and attached the sewer hose, and Terry said that ever so slowly the level was dropping. But the strange thing was that all we were seeing was clear water coming out. Eventually it stopped flowing and we repeated the process, and again all I was seeing was pretty much clear water, but the level inside went down. Okay, let’s try again.

Sewer cap

Eventually Terry could look down through the toilet and see that the tank seemed empty. (I told you this post wasn’t for the squeamish. But if you’re an RVer, it’s information that might save you an expensive trip to the shop.) We repeated this procedure several more times, and suddenly as the water was going in I heard an audible “pop” and suddenly a deluge came out so fast that it actually blew the clear elbow apart! And unfortunately, it was sludge, not just the clear water I had been seeing. I managed to get the black valve closed and cleaned things up, but by then it was dark and time to stop for the day.

Today I plan to power flush the tank a few more times, just to be sure. And I still don’t know what caused the clog in the first place. I never saw any big wads of toilet paper coming through or anything that would indicate a problem. And again, we’ve been fulltiming well over 15 years so we know and follow all the rules to maintain a healthy sewer system. I called Phil Botnick back and gave him an update, and he said it over 30 years of working on RVs he has seen a lot of amazing things in RV tanks, including toys and eyeglasses. He said it’s possible that something was dropped down into the toilet long before we bought the rig and lay down there all this time waiting to move around and cause a problem. I’ve also heard that sometimes in the manufacturing process, when cutting holes into the tank, the round plastic disk from the hole falls into the tank and is left, and can later come back to haunt the RV’s owner. Who knows? At least we don’t have to walk across the campground in the dark to go potty, and we’ve saved ourselves a trip to the RV shop, and hopefully some money.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Crazy Days in Big Lake, the third book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Crazy Days test final

Thought For The Day - Above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

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Oh Yes, The Wind

 Posted by at 1:45 am  Nick's Blog
Feb 212015
 

We were exhausted after our long 400+ mile trip Thursday, so in spite of some traffic noise from Interstate 10, we slept soundly. Usually on a traveling day we are up at the ridiculous hour of 7:30 a.m. and are on the road about 10. That way we avoid all of the rush hour traffic. But as we were going to bed I realized that just a few miles up the road we would enter Mountain Time and pick up an extra hour, so I told Terry to set the alarm for 8:30.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, Southern Star RV Park in Van Horn was a good find, exactly what I want in a Passport America park – easy access from the highway, level, clean, good hookups, and affordable ($15 night under the Passport America rate). As you can see, it’s not fancy, but who needs fancy for a quick overnight stop? We have added this one to our regular stop list.

Southern Star small

When we got on the road it was breezy, but not too bad. A little over 100 miles brought us to the Loop 375 on the south end of El Paso. We took it north, bypassing all of the traffic congestion through the city.

We usually continue north on a couple of local roads into New Mexico and connect back with I-10 just over the border. But this trip we stayed on Loop 375 as it turned west and became the Transmountain Parkway. A mile or two further on we came to the U.S. Border Patrol Museum.

This is a special place for me because when I was a boy my dad wore the uniform and I’ve always had a lot of respect for the men and women who protect our borders, and the museum honors their work and dedication.

We spent a couple of hours at the museum, checking out the displays of everything from patrol vehicles to aircraft, robots, infrared cameras, and other tools of the trade.

My dad carried a Smith & Wesson .44 just like this for years, though it was not as fancy, with wooden grips and no engraving.

There is also a display of captured and seized items, including this homemade raft that four Cuban refugees sailed to Florida in back in 1994, and contraband weapons taken from smugglers and other border criminals. I’ll have a feature story on the Border Patrol Museum in a future issue of the Gypsy Journal.

When we’ve been back east for a while, I forget how hard the wind blows here in the Southwest. By the time we left the museum and began the long climb over the Franklin Mountains it had really kicked up. Between the steep uphill climb and the headwind, I think our miles per gallon were probably measured in quarts, not gallons.

Heading downhill we had a short 8% grade and then several miles of 7% and then 6%. The engine brake on our Winnebago really got a workout on that one!

Back on Interstate 10, we soon crossed into New Mexico, and another 90 minutes or so brought us to Deming, where we pulled into the Escapes Dream Catcher RV Park. By then the wind was really blowing hard and we were glad to be off the road.

The wind is going to be even worse today, and Sunday doesn’t look good either, so we’ll be here a while. But if you have to be someplace, an Escapees park is a pretty good place to be, right?

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of Crazy Days in Big Lake, the third book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Crazy Days test final

Thought For The Day – Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

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