Monday, December 15, 2014

Mammoth gets new "joints"

Saturday, October 25-Sunday Oct 26, 2014

Once we returned from our trip to Colorado this summer, we knew we needed to replace our shackles and equalizers. Recall that we had one break in Colorado, so we knew the others were in need of service. 

Well, I purchased the parts we needed via Amazon, and they had arrived a few weeks before. We purchased a complete shackle, bolt and Never-Fail bushing set, as well as a pair of 6-8K Trail Air Equalizers. Both were sold under the "Mobile Outfitters" brand, which was a division of Lippert, targeting Aftermarket sales. Lippert has since disbanded the "Mobile Outfitter" idea.  

We knew this project would likely take t least two days. We started by pulling all the slides in, hitching the coach up to the truck. Tony pre-loosened all the bolts before jacking the rig, using penetrating oil and a lot of elbow grease, so they would remove easier.

We raised one side to remove the tires. We added plenty of backup jacks and blocks to make sure the rig was safe to be under.

We removed the wheels, then went to work on removing the bolts. Some took far more effort than others, including some help from a 5lb hammer. Removing the bushings was also a challenge, but not as hard as we thought. We had a metal punch to help remove them. Reassembly took longer, as we had to work to get things properly aligned so the bolts would seat correctly. It was also hot and we were in the sun, getting hungry and thirsty, but did not feel safe to go inside the coach with it being suspended as it was. Tony ran and got us lunch, and we had access to the park facilities for restrooms. 

Coach is raised using our Ground Control system, but a jack under the axle helps support it to take pressure off the suspension.

Tony preps the bolts with lubricant and works (before the rig is raised) to get the nuts free.

Removing the bolts requires some hammering, some wrenching, and ultimately some pulling.

Yay! It's installed! Just need wheels! 

He finally had everything back together about 5pm (we had started about 10am). He was very happy!!

The next day, we began about 10 with the other side. It went a little faster since we knew what to expect. We had more challenges getting things aligned, but we got done about 2:30.

Using the punch to remove the bushing.

Adjusting (jacking) the axle height to align the spring and hanger.

We reassembled this side and then proceeded to "settle in" again, putting outr blocks and stabilizers in place, extra jacks for stabilizing, wheel covers, etc.

At least now if we want to go, we can feel safe doing so!

Top is new, Never-Fail bushing. Two middle are old bushings, bottom is standard nylon bushing (like the two worn ones.)
Old vs new-- you can see how worn the shock-absorbing rubber is.

Old vs new -- there should be a lot less "play" in the suspension now.

Old shackle vs new. Notice the elongated holes!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bringing the Rally to us

The October Thursday 2-Wednesday 8, 2014.

I failed to blog about this when it happened, and for that I feel bad. Life's just been busy!

Since Manmoth is now our home for the time being at Solid Rock, we are unable to "pack up and go" for RV trips like we once did. It just so happens that a Heartland Rally was coming up in Bullard, TX, October 11-13. We had originally hoped to attend when we were in Terrell, and Tony would have just driven back and forth for part of it.  Now at Lake Leon, we were not able to attend. However, some of our Heartland friends would be attending, and droving right by us on the way. 

Dan & Ann, our friends originally from Austin, TX, would be passing through from Breckenridge, CO headed to Bullard, TX. They agreed to stop in and visit for a day. Also, our friends Malcolm and Valerie, were actually not going to the rally, but decided to stop and visit as they headed from Nashville, TN to Wichita Falls, TX to see their son, in the Air Force. Also passing through were Amy and Dave, our friends from Cody, WY that decided to take their vacation down to TX just to see their HL friends. How cool is that? They stopped by and stayed a few days, too! We were very blessed to have them all visit. We took Val & Malcolm and Dan & Ann to attend a Cisco High School football game. It was a little chilly, but we all had a great time enjoying the band and the good game.

The next day we did some running around at WalMart, had an impromptu potluck, sadly Tony had to work. 

Sunday we said bye to Dan & Ann, and Monday said hello to Dave & Amy and their dog Tucker. 

Monday night we had another impromptu potluck, and Tony got home late after practice and joined us to visit a little.

Tuesday we said bye to Val and Malcolm, and had another great meal visiting with Dave & Amy. They left Wednesday AM. 

First there were two...
Enjoying the game with Ann, Dan, Malcolm, Valerie
Three rigs!
Now a different one!
Enjoying the Heartland family! Malcolm, Valerie, Amy, & Dave.
Bye Dave & Amy!

After they all left, I ended up heading to Terrell. I attended the Heartland Rally with Tony's sister, Tori, and staying with her during Friday and Saturday nights, as she lived in Tyler, just 10 minutes away. It was great to see other Heartland folks there as well. Too bad Tony could not attend, but I know it meant a lot to him that folks would stop and visit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home Sweet Home Away from Home

August, 2014

From August 1st through the 10th, 2014, The kitties and I were able to spend time with Tony at Lake Leon. I worked at home in the Mammoth, while he had band camp.

Here's a few pictures:

Lake Leon. Wow what a view!

Down by the lake, at sunset, with my sweetie.

Dusk falls on the RVs of Solid Rock RV Park

Mambo and Tango overseeing the creative process.

Tango enjoys a nap with a view.

Our site and the lake, just down that road about 200 yards

Opposite side of the park, looking back toward the premium back in sites.

Mambo "helping" me work.

For those of you who have never heard of the Cisco Loboes, they were the 2A Div. 2 State Champions in football last year. A long-standing nickname of the school is the "Big Dam Loboes".  Click here for the history. We drove out to see the famous Williamson Dam at Cisco Lake. Very interesting! Some more information on the dam and World's Largest Concrete Swimming Pool. More info and vintage photos, here.

Williamson Dam on Lake Cisco, built in 1923, the largest "hollow concrete" dam in the world at the time. 

I have to periodically return to our "sticks and bricks" home for work, so I never know exactly where I'll be.

Expect fewer posts as we won't be getting to travel for a little while! If you are passing through the area on I-20, give us a shout! Solid Rock usually has sites available.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mammoth goes to Lake Leon

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Today was a "moving day" of sorts for us, as Mammoth is headed to a new resting spot for a while. Tony has a new job, and Mammoth is going to be our "home away from home" as Tony lives out the life of a band director in Cisco, TX.  I'll be traveling back and forth as work requires, but the plan is that Solid Rock RV Park, near Eastland Texas, on the shore of Lake Leon, is our main abode.

We're still holding onto our house because we want to make sure this job goes smoothly. We also wanted to give ourselves plenty of opportunity to look for a new house, or whatever works best for us, in the future, since we are unfamiliar with this area... and give us time to clean out the clutter and prep our home for sale accordingly. (We have a number of unfinished "projects" there, too.)

On Sunday, we loaded up the Mammoth and car and headed to Solid Rock. We opted not to take the kitties this trip, as I was going to be going back home the next day for some work commitments.

We had already checked in with the manager at Solid Rock, so he knew we were coming. Our site we picked out was the same one we had visited back the first part of June, when the job interview took place. We liked the views out the windows, and our neighbors seemed to be pretty quiet. It's also two sites over from a small bathhouse, should we need it.

We arrived about 1pm, and got set up. We took our time to try to get the rig level and stabilized, since it's going to be here a while. The park management had added some more gravel and leveled the site better, so that really helped. We didn't have too much trouble getting settled in.

Not long after we got set up, we had to head to Covington, TX. The Cisco head director and his wife had invited us over for steaks and to visit, so we headed out about 3. We have known Mac and Kathy a long time, and have kept in touch through the years. We nearly always see Mac at the band director's conventions in San Antonio, so this we like getting together with dear old friends! They live in Covington, but Mac has been staying in an RV for his work in Cisco. It was just more cost-effective for them. They have a great place with acreage and cattle, and it's paid for, so it's hard to pull up roots.

We thought it was about a 2 hour drive, but we managed to miss a split in the highways in Cleburne, and ended up having to cut back cross-country to get where we needed to go.

We arrived about 5:40, and had a great time visiting and eating (everything was terrific!), then playing some Chickenfoot. It reminded us of getting together with our Heartland friends, it just felt great!  We stayed too late talking, it was a great time. We had to hit the road to get home (to Mammoth), so we decided to cut over to the interstate.

It was much quicker to go I-35W north, then I-20 east. We got home about midnight. Wow, what a day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Last Leg Home

Monday, July 14, 2014

Today we took our time getting up, but not too much time. We packed up and hit the road a little after 10. Thank goodness there was cloud-cover that made the prep not too hot. We were making good time and listening to music. Some interesting things seen along the way:

An ATM building on the shoulder… Apparently, the trailer it was riding had a blowout.

A dunking booth being towed… At first, I thought it was a badly loaded trailer of playground equipment, but once it passed us, I could tell what it was.

A pickup truck going in the opposing lanes went off the road and flipped several times. Here is a link to the story. I called 911 to report it.

Pic of the truck, from the news website.

We also saw very little rain, before reaching Denton. Apparently, in some areas we drove through, later in the day they saw severe storms with micro-burst winds in excess of 65mph!

We got home about 2:30, and got the trailer backed in on the first try. We hooked up the electric and got the A/C running, so it would be cooler later for unloading items.

We are glad to be home, but also unhappy we had to leave the great weather and fun times we were having in Colorado. I wish it could have been longer.

We now turn our sights onto our next adventure as we get ready to take Mammoth to Solid Rock RV Park at Lake Leon. She will be “home base” for us for a while, as Tony takes his new position in Cisco.

From Volcanos to Volcanic Heat

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Today,we got up early and got going. We were trying to coordinate eating lunch with relatives in Amarillo, but because of the time change, we knew we needed to get started quickly. We pulled out of the park about 7:45am (mountain time).

Eileen (on the sign) at Capulin RV Park, Capulin, NM

Eileen with Capulin Volcano in the background, visible from the RV Park.

We made good time and ended up going to my relative’s house for lunch, right at 12 noon (central time). It was about 90 degrees, but partly cloudy. We had a nice visit, and the kittles got to explore their house for a bit.

We pulled out about 1:30pm, on the road again. We stopped at the edge of town and fuelled up again, but only about half the big tank this time. Clouds were around for much of the drive, until we stopped at the big rest stop near Claude. Then it seemed we drove out of the clouds, and the temps started to climb. We made another stop along the way, at the Pecan Valley store in Chillecothe, to get some treats. By the time we got to Vernon, TX, our decided stop for the day, it was 102 degrees!

We stopped at one of our previous parks of choice, the Rocking A RV Park. They always seem to have sites available. It looks like a former KOA that has seen better days, but it is an easy in-and-out park close to the highway, and next to a WalMart, if you need anything. The lady that checked us in was very nice, and escorted us to our site. It didn’t take us long to get set up, but it took a little time to get the rig cooled down! We sat under the AC dump vent for a while to cool us off.

We then ate leftover lunch pizza that our relatives had sent along with us. It was a good, quick and easy meal. I worked on some work, and the blog for a while before hitting the hay. I know it wasn’t too long or hard a drive, but we are wiped out again. Tomorrow, we’ll head for home.

What a great trip, despite the hiccups along the way.

Limos, Passes and Volcanos, Oh My!

Saturday, July 12

We didn’t sleep very well last night, just because we were “outside” the RV Park in our minds. About 11:30pm, there was some yelling outside that woke me up. I woke up Tony and told him about the voices outside. We looked and saw a Limo unloading, and folks got into another vehicle and drove into the RV Park. Then, the Limo left. The RV Park has a gate that you must have a special key card to get in, so that’s probably why they had their vehicle outside the gate. No one bothered us, but it surprised us to hear all the ruckus. I think it put us both on edge for the rest of the evening, and we tossed and turned more.

At sunrise, we were both awake, so we got started prepping to leave about 6, and were pulling out about 7:10. We did not want to be a “problem” for anyone who discovered us that morning and didn’t know we had permission to be there.

We also did not have breakfast, since we normally microwave or cook something. With no power, we skipped our usual breakfast and decided to stop at the grocery store on the way into Breckenridge to get some more water and donuts to eat, instead. We pulled out on Hwy 9 out of Breckenridge, about 7:45, headed to Fairplay. This road goes up over Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,542 feet. The pass is located on the Continental Divide at the northern end of the Mosquito Range, in a gap between Mount Lincoln (west) and Hoosier Ridge (east). It sits on the boundary between Park (south) and Summit(north) counties. The road over the pass has a smooth approach on the south side but has several switchbacks on the north side with a grade of 8%.

Heading up, we encountered the switchbacks, but they were not too bad. We stopped at the top of the pass and took some pictures and let the truck rest a bit and check the wheel lugs for proper torque, before we headed down. Just as we arrived, a tall, slender man with a disheveled appearance and long beard arrived on foot, using a walking stick and carrying a backpack and bedroll. He said hello, and asked Tony how far it was to Breckenridge. Tony told him it was about 12 miles, but it was all downhill from here. The man said, “Good, I like it that way…” and kept walking. We were amused and intrigued by the whole encounter. I’m sure God’s hand was involved in it, but I bet will make more sense “down the road.”

Stopped for a breather at the top of Hoosier Pass

We continued down the pass to the town of Alma, and then Fairplay. We then turned on Hwy 24, to head to Colorado Springs, to join up with I-25 to head south. We saw lots of unique and beautiful scenery, crossing another pass, Wilkerson Pass at 9,504 ft, within the Pike National Forest.

We made our way through Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, passing right by where we had stayed just a few weeks ago. We joined up with I-25, feeling we had made good time with this route. It was only 10:30am.

We continued on, and stopped for lunch about 11:30 at a rest stop. Tony made sandwiches and soon we were again on our way. We had to cross Raton Pass, from Colorado into New Mexico, to get to our final destination. We were now well-versed in mountain driving, so we didn’t have any issues with it this time – even though the temperatures were in the 90s for the area.

Once through the pass, we had just another 35 miles to get to Capulin. We pulled in about 2:15pm. While we were getting instructions from the owner, we learned he had family in Terrell long ago. He was very nice and friendly, and we had a nice chat. He led us to a nice shady spot, next to a Heartland Bighorn! We got unhooked and set up, and were pleasantly surprised that the temperature wasn’t too bad. There were some rain clouds nearby, which may have been helping the temps some with a cool breeze.

Capulin Volcano, off in the distance, as we drove down Hwy 84.

Our site. Trees helped keep it cool, and there was a Bighorn next door!

We decided to go ahead and go out to Capulin Volcano National Monument, before they closed the gate at 5:00. We drove 3 miles to the main visitor center, where we paid our entry fee and bought a souvenir, watched a short video, and received a map and some guidance from the park ranger.

Entrance to Capulin Volcano National Monument

We then got back in the truck and headed up the volcano road, 2 miles to the volcano visitor center. The views are amazing as you literally circle up the side of the “mountain.” We reached the volcano visitor center, and looked at our map. We decided to tackle the trail down into the volcanic cone. It was winding and steep going down, but well worth it. The view looking up to the rim was amazing, as was the volcanic terrain and scenery surrounding us. We then headed up, much more difficult, since we were at approximately 8000 ft!

Once we got back to the visitor area, we decided to attempt the rim hike. We didn’t get too far before we were out of breath, nearly out of water, and out of time. It was getting close to closing time. So, we headed back down. After a sleepless night, a long drive with 3 mountain passes, and a hike down to the bottom of the cone and back, we decided the rim will wait for another trip, when we have more time and energy.

The path down inside the cone of the Volcano. See Tony on the path?

Us at the bottom, the rim edge at the top of the pic.

Informational kiosk, showing how the volcano formed.

Lava rocks, and looking toward the rim.

Starting up the rim road, taking pictures

Us on the rim hike after about 15 minutes -- stopped at a bench to rest. Look at that view!

Look at that rim edge behind Tony!

Headed back down the rim hike trail.

Driving down the Park road that circles the Volcano. Look at the layers of activity!

Looking out there, we can BARELY SEE the RV Park down below.

We drove back to the park, but stopped across the street at the convenience store/gift shop. We saw lots of neat things, and picked up a shot glass for our collection. We headed back to the trailer for some leftovers for dinner. Tony waked around the park a little, and took Eileen’s picture. I took a shower before going to bed, and we hit the hay early. I think Tony was snoring before 9pm!

Tomorrow, we head towards Amarillo, and beyond. Not sure how far we’ll get.