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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A New Wrinkle

Nope, not in the Journey, or our Element tow car.  It's me.  Again.

Many years ago during my Coast Guard days, I got injured in a rescue.  To make a long story short, I got smacked across my lower back by a pipe (actually a Jack Staff for you Navy/Coast Guard folks).  It's a campfire story.  (The rescue turned out okay).

I was a little sore for a few days and the bruising soon disappeared.  Didn't think much of it after that.

A few years later during an MRI on a fraud investigation (another campfire story) it was discovered that the pipe smack had damaged a disc in my back ( L-5).  It didn't bother me but I was told it could cause problems later on in life.

Occasionally over the following years, I'd get a minor backache and treat it with some Motrin.  It worked okay for me.

Fast forward to now, now that I'm of Old Fart status, the back started acting up about three months ago.  The Motrin was working but as the days passed, it worked less and less and I'd be taking more and more.

On our California trip, the back really started to talk to me.  I didn't let it slow me down (too much) but on the trip home my back started talking to me, yelling actually.  Now I was up to 800 mg Motrin 3-4 times a day and it wasn't working.

By the time we were visiting our friends at the NWR, my back was now screaming at me.  Time to get home and to the doctor.  The pain was getting to the excruciating level and my left leg at times tingled and went numb.

I got an appointment at the Columbia VA today and after an X-ray, there shows problems with that pesky disc that got smacked all those years ago.  Thankfully I got some more powerful meds that have helped turn down the pain.  I'm going to get an MRI in the next week or so as they have an opening.  The downside is there really isn't much that can be done to fix me short of surgery.

That new wrinkle is throwing a wrench in our remaining summer plans.  I'm not complaining, just facing up to the fact that reaching the age for a Golden Age pass can come with a few unwanted side effects.  ;c)

Anyway, we had a great trip to California, the granddaughters were so much fun to be with, the many sights we saw and things we were able to do on the way out and back were worth it all.  We did 5366 miles on the trip and the Journey did us proud, we sure are pleased with how well it ran and how comfortable it was.

The downside is I couldn't wash the Journey, I had to put it in the storage lot with all those bug casualties all over the nose.  I may have to take it to a nearby truck wash when I get a chance, I like to keep it clean and shiny.  It's the least I can do in return for all the Journey's great service it's given us.

So I'll be chilling here at our SC home base for the time being.  A good place to be.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.  


Friday, July 7, 2017

Rolling Out In The Home Stretch

We had a good visit with our friends at Crab Orchard NWR.  Because we're on a roll towards home, we didn't tour any of the refuge.  So some of the wildlife came to our site.  In the tradition of my great wildlife photographer friends, Sherry and Nancy, I gave it my best try.

Unfortunately, my best try was somewhat lacking.  All my subjects either fled from me or gave me their best "end" view.


Finally I got close enough to one guy and he "dissed" my pathetic attempt to snap his picture.


I did get one good picture of another sight.  Thankfully this subject stayed still long enough to get a good picture.


A tribute to the many young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who built many wonderful things for us to enjoy.  This is the Lodge and Restaurant where we went to have a fantastic family style dinner of fried chicken.  No pictures, unlike some people who post amazing pictures of lobster rolls, I chose to eat rather than snap a camera shutter.   :cD


This is located at the Grant City State Park.


We're overnighting at a Flying J just 280 miles from our SC home base.  As usual, with my luck, we hit a big backup several miles from our exit.



 It was really slow going, thank goodness we carry a bathroom with us in the Journey.  I swear many of the other drivers were looking longingly at us, probably regretting that last cup of coffee.  ;c)

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Taking A Day Off

After a day of rain filled driving,


we made it to Crab Orchard NWR in Illinois to stay for two nights.  We have some very dear friends, Denny and Mary, that volunteer here.  We worked with them the last several winters at Strom Thurmond COE so it's nice to take time off from the road and catch up.

Yes, that is actually trees behind the Journey instead of a Walmart or Flying J store.  :c)



Stay tuned.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

For us it was just the opposite.  We got lost.  Really lost.  In Kansas.  Lost so bad that we were even looking for a handy tornado, just to get us out of the state. Hey, it worked for Dorothy and Toto...

It all started as a nice day of driving.  The interstate was not busy at all, probably everybody was off celebrating Independence Day.  Oh yeah, hope you had a happy Fourth.

We laughed as we passed some bikers riding down the interstate...on the shoulder.  Maybe they lost their lane?  We laughed too soon.




When we left California, we had to go over a bridge.  The bridge has a $5 per car toll.  When we drove over it, towing the Element, we got hit  a $20 toll.  Not $10, they charged us like a truck by axles.  If we had known that in advance, we'd have disconnected the car before the bridge and saved ten bucks.

With the stinging $20 toll in our minds we saw ahead that the interstate by a major city turned into a toll road.  Not gonna happen to us, we're going to take the beltway around the city and avoid paying.

Now sooner had we turned off onto the beltway we saw another sign:  Toll Ahead.  Un-uh.  Not going to happen.  We're going to turn off at the next exit and find a different way to go.

Of course, the GPS told us the next exit was 25 miles away, so we were stuck on this toll road.  After driving the whole distance to the exit, with my teeth being ground down to nubs after I realized I only had $35 cash in my wallet (debit cards are so handy) we pulled up to the toll both.

$4.75.  Wow!  We got off cheap.  Now to find our way back to the interstate.  Except the only road we were now on was going through the countryside and was going Southwest.  We needed to go East!

The road was narrow, but pretty as we drove.  And drove.  And drove.


Thankfully, there was water available so we wouldn't die of thirst if we never found our way back to the Eastbound interstate.


All the little towns we ended up transiting were empty, folks were enjoying their day.


Finally we found the interstate.  In the right direction, too.


It only took us 100 miles out of our way.  Now lets see, 100 miles, 7.5 miles to the gallon, a gallon of diesel fuel runs an average of $2.75, um I should have sucked it up and just paid the toll.

Sometimes, no matter how much I look up, I still find myself in another self induced adventure!  ;c)

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Monday, July 3, 2017

No Drama Day

That's just the way we like it.  A simple (and safe) fill up at the RV pump at the Flying J we stayed at.  This Flying J had an IHOP restaurant, so we filled our personal "tanks" with a great breakfast before hitting the road.

Driving through eastern Colorado and western Kansas we didn't see those amazing views we saw the last couple of days.  Instead, we saw lots of flat land, some fallow, some with crops.


Not too exciting.  But one view got me very excited, something I don't see too often.

8.8 mpg!  That's something very rarely seen in our Journey.  Usually we see fuel figures averaging 7.2 to 7.5.  With the flat highway and no winds, we got the much higher figure.  Almost like free fuel.  No complaints, we'll take figures like that.  Sometimes you win!

About another 1200 miles to home base, we'll see what new things we see along the road.

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Situational Awareness

That's what I stressed when I taught my trainees in law enforcement classes.  Always be aware of your situation, don't get tunnel vision and lose track of your surroundings.

Yet today, me, of all people did exactly that, I lost track of my situational awareness.  How did that happen?  Let me 'splain.

Western Colorado is beautiful, but not too friendly to large vehicles like trucks and our Journey, towing our Honda Element.  There are many gas stations that carry gas and diesel, which we use, but aren't laid out to allow big vehicles to fit in.

After yesterday's 415 mile trek and an overnight at a Walmart, with some generator use, the fuel gauge was under 1/4 of a tank.  Normally I fuel around half a tank so I have plenty of mileage left to search out a fuel stop. Of course, this morning all there was available in the quaint little Colorado towns were gas stations with no room for a big vehicle like ours.  We looked and looked to find an accessible station no avail.  We tried exit after exit with no success until I spotted a station across the street that I could swing into, the pumps were parallel to the road instead of the pumps facing the store.

I turned left into the station and before I could get all the way in, a man came running out and stopped me.  He said I wouldn't fit under the roof over the pumps.  He was right, the roof was only 11 feet high and the Journey stands at 12'6".  I almost installed a sunroof in the Journey because I lost situational awareness, I was looking for a place to pull in and not looking up.

Now the fun started, I was half in the station with the car sticking out in the road blocking the lane.  You can't back up a towed car so the only hope was to dodge traffic while I unhooked the car and then backed the Journey out into the road which had traffic backing up.

Fortune smiles on a fool and it sure did for me.  A police officer came along and stopped traffic while I unhooked the car which Marti pulled out of the way and then he helped me back out.  Phew!

Now that I was unhooked, I was able to drive down the street to another station that I fit under and now could maneuver without the car.  After I fueled up, Marti and I moved to a large area and hooked up the car.

Lesson learned, keep track of your situation, breathe, and remember to drive the RV in three dimensions, width, length and UP!

I did figure out a new cable to replace the one I tore yesterday.  This is the cable that attaches to the plug that would stop the car if it ever came unhooked from the Journey.


I found a cable that is used by boaters to attach to an engine kill switch in case the operator falls overboard.  The cable pulls out and stops the engine.  With a little modification, cutting off the plastic part on one end and I had a new cable.  Cheap, too.


After the fueling debacle, we had a nice drive on I-70 through the Colorado mountains, passed Vail and drove along the Colorado river.  The mountains were beautiful,


and we saw many people rafting on the river.  That looks like fun, one of these days we'll have to try that.


The highway even runs through some tunnels.  The road is well engineered.


Tonight we're blacktop boondocking at a Flying J.  You can be sure we'll top off our fuel tank here before we head out in the morning.  1500 miles to go to get back to home base in South Carolina.  And I'll keep looking UP!  :c)

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rolling East And A Change Of Plans

We pulled out of the KOA in Cedar City, Utah this morning with a different plan.  That's why we say Semper Gumby (Always Flexible).

Our daughter is working on her second Master's degree, doing it online.  However, she needs to go to Virginia (to the university she is taking the course from) for a week in person.  Because her husband often needs to travel for his job at the drop of a hat, she needs someone to be home with our grandsons.  That is something we love to do, spend time with the boys.  So we need to be back to SC by July 9.  Might take some PDD driving.

I can't complain because my back has been really bothering me.  Motrin is my friend.  It is an old injury that I was told will get worse as I get older.  That prediction is coming true, so I'll need to check in with my doctor when I get back.

With those changes, we still had a wonderful day driving through Utah on I-15 and I-70.  Lot of great scenery, just goes to show that Utah doesn't keep everything in its five National Parks.








We're stopped for the night at a Walmart in Colorado after a 415 mile drive.  Yep getting back in practice for some PDD driving.  I need to visit the hardware department, when we were pulling into a fueling station, my hitch scraped the ground.  No major damage, just the thin, coiled breakaway cable was pinched and broken in half (the cable that pulls the toad brakes on if the toad were to detach from the Journey).

I'll engineer some kind of Rube Goldberg device to take the cable's place until I can get a new one.  It's never good to have your toad pass you on the highway!  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.