Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ft Stockton to Brownwood

Odometer  59155
Trip meter  266

We have mapped out a route today that will keep us off the interstate, but still keep us heading in the right general direction towards Dallas. 

Today's Route

US Route 67 parallels I-20 in Texas

We crossed over into Central Time and in doing so lost an hour out of our day, which we are going to use as an excuse to sleep in and get a later than usual start today.  The overnight temps, as predicted stayed above freezing, so I didn't have the nightmare of freezing pipes I'd had the previous night.  Once we had unhooked the utilities and packed up the interior for travel, we headed out on I-10 east for a few miles before we got to the intersection of US 385/ US 67.
Long Straight Roads- mostly to ourselves!

US 67 turned out to be rather straight and fairly level for most of the trip.  It would seem to most readers that this could be another boring day in west Texas, but I didn't find that to be true.

Rolling countryside punctuated by small towns
US 67 becomes Main Street

The route is punctuated with at least 16 small towns and one fairly large town, San Angelo.
Most of the small towns were bisected by highway 67 and we got to tour down main street in each.  A few of the towns we saw seemed to be still vibrant and the shops, restaurants, bars, and gas stations were still open.  Sadly more of the towns looked to be struggling to make a go of it

Boarded up gas station 

Joan snapped the photo on the left as we rolled through the small town of McCamey.

It is a lot more interesting for us to see these brave and gritty small towns  from main street rather than speeding along the empty interstates.  And before you flame me, we come from a small and struggling town of 1200 residents on the Oregon coast- we feel the pain of not having jobs and industry, and a thriving downtown.  This is America on the back roads.

Oil drilling operations along US hwy 67

US 67 passes right through a corner the Permian basin, and this is still oil country, with tank farms and pump jacks, trucks hauling crude.

Pump Jack
Oil tank truck

Something that surprised us though was that this is also becoming an area where wind power is making a go of it too

Wind Turbines near Big Lake, TX
Quite often we saw wind turbines sharing space in the prairie with the pump jacks- that's covering all your bets!

Home for the Night at Riverside RV, Brownwood, TX

Our destination for today is Brownwood, and the Riverside RV Park, a Passport America affiliate, which means we get a healthy discount on the overnight cost, for a full hookup, pull through space.
The Park is very clean and the utilities are all in excellent shape.  There are only 24  spaces and they appear to fill up fast- we called ahead this morning for our space.  The park is on the edge of Pecan Bayou, and adjacent to a city park with paved walking trails along the bayou.
Tomorrow it's on to Wylie, Tx where we will be visiting Joan's brother's family, Jim, Sally, and daughter Savannah.  More later.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Friday, December 8, 2017

Las Cruces to Ft Stockton

Odometer 58898
Trip meter  292 miles

Las Cruces, NM to Fort Stockton, TX

I had a restless night.  For some reason I hadn't gotten serious about prepping for a sub-freezing night in our home built for the tropics.  I have drained both holding tanks, drained and stowed both the drain hose and the water hose, poured salt in the grey and black tanks, and set up a tiny 200 watt electric heater in the wet bay (outside water hookup bay).  Then my cogs started slipping.  We went to bed with the electric heat running and set for a balmy 70 degrees hoping the extra heat would keep everything from freezing.
What I didn't do was unhook the ice maker line, take the glass jars of olives out of the basement drawers, open the cabinet doors under the sinks- I think of all this while I'm staring at the ceiling at 3AM.  Damn!  I get up and open the cabinet doors and as I do, I'm thinking why isn't the heater cycling on- it's cold in here.  The heat pump has shut down for some reason and won't start back up.  I switch over to the propane under floor heater- the one I should have had on all along- it's the only one that heats the area underfloor.  I hate cold weather!  I'm down here on the Mexican border seeking sunshine and HEAT!
I crawl back into bed and after thrashing a bit I fall back to blissful sleep.

Icy covering on our CRV

At seven AM Joan is the first to get up, I'm groaning and digging under the blankets.  Visions of shattered pipes solenoid valves, frozen water pumps won't leave me alone.  A fresh cup of hot coffee and a toasted bagel finally tempt me to get dressed and see what the damages are.  The water pump whirs to life and the sinks run water-so far-so good.  After breakfast we run over to Walmart and stock up on salt and RV antifreeze.   The olives came through without freezing- I'll check on the ice maker later.

The Small and the Large of it

Joan and I were amused at this juxtaposition of sizes, a 40 foot motorhome and a 16 foot Casita tow behind.  We all love the travel, and we all love getting there in our own way.  Check this out:

They have a fantastic name for their tiny home on wheels.

Finally, by 10 AM we were hooked up and ready to roll.  I-10 is the only choice for us today and we're heading for Fort Stockton, Texas, and hopefully warmer weather.  The skies are supposed to be blue all week, but at night that works against us with no cloud cover and cooler temps.

Today's route

Joan and I always strive to see something different.  We've been this way to Dallas before, at least 4 times if memory serves.  We've done the interstate, and we went via US 62 above the interstate, now we are going to check out the blue roads below the interstate- US 385 and US 67 towards San Angelo more-or-less parallel the interstate.
I-10 through El Paso
It's only a short hop down the interstate to El Paso, Texas.  El Paso is a large city by any standard, 683,000 people in the city proper and over 1 million in the metro area.  This city has been named an All American City, and consistently ranks as one of the safest large cities in the US.

Constuction on I-10 through El Paso

 For us today it is a minefield, the interstate is under construction and repair.

Mountains Dusted with Snow 

Once away from town the scenery gets a lot more interesting.  The Davis, Finly, Quitman, Van Horn, Sierra Blanca, and Wylie mountain ranges rise dramatically above the relatively flat terrain.  The peaks still show a dusting of the snow that has fallen in the last two days.

Vestiges of Snow from Thursday's Storm

As we continued east we saw the remains of the snowfall we avoided by staying in Las Cruces.  Fun to drive through on a nice sunny day with clear roads.

Our Home for the Night outside Fort Stockton

As we approached Fort Stockton, Joan called RV parks to find us a space for the night.  Our first choice was full up.  We remember from previous trips through this area that oil field workers are using RVs for temporary residences and it can be hard to find vacancies.
On her second try Joan landed us a spot at Fort Stockton RV Park.  As we were registering a steady stream of RV were coming in behind us.  Fort Stockton RV has found a way to cater to the needs of the workers by creating a whole new area especially for them that is, shall we say, more utilitarian.
Think graded gravel lot with hookups and you wouldn't be too far wrong.  They also created a restaurant dining room that serves breakfast and dinners.  As we took our afternoon stroll we noticed that the situation seems to work well.  We did not check out the restaurant, choosing instead to make heat up ravioli and serve it with marinara sauce and some cole slaw.
Not supposed to freeze tonight, but we'll do the preparations any way just in case.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Snow and Ice?

Odometer  58606
Trip Meter  57 miles

Las Cruces, NM

After a cold and windy overnight in Deming, we woke to leaden skies.  The temperature didn't dip below freezing last night, but it was in the neighborhood.  I got out of bed at 5 to see if the Honda would start or if I was going to need the battery charger.  It started up okay, so I ran it through the gears, and shut it off, turned on the engine heater on our big Cat diesel, and crawled back into bed to snuggle up against my warm sweetie and doze for another couple of hours.

After breakfast we packed up and headed for I-10.  We elected to top off our diesel tank at the interchange, noting that the price had jumped 60 cents a gallon from our fill up in Arizona, even though the diesel tax in NM is 6 cents less- Hmmm.

An hour later as we were descending a long grade into Las Cruces we decided to pull into a rest area and consider our options.  A quick check on the iPad showed hard rain coming to El Paso, changing to snow or slush as the day progressed.  A cold "bulge" was pushing down from Canada right into our path.

Local TV News Thursday

We decided to stop right here in Las Cruces and let the cold weather move through before continuing.  Joan got on the iPad and found an RV park with a spot for us for a couple nights.

Our Rolling home docked in the Hacienda RV park

We checked into the Hacienda RV and Rally Resort and settled in for at least a couple nights as the weather descended.   We suspect we were not the only ones- as the Park filled up pretty quickly.

Mesilla shop

We used this "free" day to tick off another must do on our list.  We drove over to the town of Mesilla, less than a mile from our RV Park.  Mesilla is a well preserved border town originally built in 1800, it was in Mexico, now part of the US, thanks to the Gadsden Purchase in 1854.

The downtown buildings have been occupied by businesses selling artwork, Mexican pottery, carvings, sombreros, clothing and tourist T-shirts, a few are now restaurants or bars.  We had a good time poking through the offerings- but given the size of our rolling home, nothing tempted us to buy.  The building  pictured below is the oldest masonry structure in New Mexico dating back to 1860.  The bricks were made and fired right here.

Leonart-Maurin Store Mesilla, NM
 150 years ago Mesilla boasted 2,500 residents.  It was a major stop for travelers going from San Antonio and San Diego.  Mesilla garnered some fame as the site of famous western outlaw Billy the Kid's murder trial.  In 1881 the railroad bypassed Mesilla for Las Cruces, but Mesilla managed to retain it's integrity and character through the intervening years.

Today the plaza and the surrounding buildings are a National Historic Landmark.

Thursday morning we awoke to a fairly decent day.  The skies were overcast and the temperature was in the 40s.  We slipped out to Cracker Barrel for some breakfast, and afterwards drove over to an O'Reillys auto parts store to have the car battery tested.  I needed to figure out whether the reason for our dead battery was the battery failing or a nasty parasitic draw on the battery as we are towing.  I put the battery tender on it last night and by this morning it was fully charged.  O'Reillys will check for free and they have a fairly sophisticated checker that load tests the battery, measures the cold cranking amps, checks your alternator, and a dozen other things I didn't understand.  The tech assured me that the battery and charging system were just fine.  That means it's something in the car that's using a lot of electricity while we tow.  Bearing in mind here that all the lighting is being powered by the motorhome's electrical system through the umbilical.  I need to find out what else is being powered, or do as friend Paul suggests just take the battery cable off the car when we tow.

Light snow falls In Las Cruces for the first time in 2 years

As we arrived back at the motorhome we were greeted by this scene.  We had seen sparkles in the air a lot earlier, but this looked like it could become serious.  Our luck was holding and the flurries stopped altogether and there were even some slight breaks in the otherwise overcast sky.

Local News for El Paso Friday
Then the next shoe dropped.  We turned on the TV to see the weather forecast and Yikes!  Did they really say temperatures in the teens!!  Grrr!  I am here to escape winter.

So, after dinner I put on my parka and went out to drain and roll up the water hose, and to put a very small electric heater in the wet bay.  Tomorrow's weather shows a clearing trend that should hold all week.  The lows for this area stay sub-freezing, but as we get closer to Dallas the lows should be above the frost line.  We don't have a lot of experience in this bus with freezing weather while the tanks are in use (wet), so I worry about the fresh water tank freezing or the piping and fittings near it, the grey and black tanks and the drain valves.
Stay turned to see how we fare overnight.

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

A Trip Through Copper Country

Odometer  58549
Trip Meter  345 Miles

Besides a chance to visit with our very good friends my goal for our visit to Ralph and Ann's, is to learn as much as I can about Model T maintenance, from Mr. Model T himself.  Everyday brings a new project and that keeps things interesting.

The author refinishing a Model T Wheel

Wood Spoke Model T Wheel
Today's project is to replace the wobbly wood wheels on the "new" 1915 Touring.  The spokes on the existing wheels are not tight in the metal rim which gives the car a loose feel on the road, and it makes a distinct clicking sound as the wheels roll.  Ralph just recently procured another set of wheels which, although they are tight in the rim, are pretty beat-up looking.  My job is to sand, putty, stain and varnish this set of four wheels. We started by painting the metal rims with some semi-gloss black and then filled the open checks and voids in the spokes with some walnut colored plastic wood filler and stained them.  We dried them in the sun for a day, before applying two coats of urethane spar varnish.

1915 Model T  Touring Car

The result is nothing short of awesome!  The car looks and drives like new!

Our time with Ralph and Ann is up.  It's time for us to head out on our next adventure, and that is a side trip to Dallas, TX to attend Savannah's college graduation.  We got busy and finished up all our preparations to leave in the morning.  Parting from good friends is never easy, and this time is no exception.  Hugs all around and promises that we'll see each other again in the spring.  Joan and I both feel lucky to have such good friends.

We have chosen a different route to keep things interesting.

We get our usual "early" start at quarter to 9 in the morning, and we are going to go east from Phoenix on a scenic byway that will take us to Superior, Miami, and Globe, Arizona and across hwy 70 south and east to Lordsburg, New Mexico, before joining I-10 east.

Hwy 60 through the Superstition Mountains

The skies are overcast today, but the scenery on our way to Superior, AZ in the mountains is spectacular.  We ended up climbing to nearly 3,000 feet, from Phoenix's 1,100 feet, but the grades were mostly gradual and the highways in good condition.  Superior is a small town with a rich history.  Founded in 1875 with the opening of the Hub and Irene mines, Superior is still mining copper today- some say that it is home to the largest vein of copper in the US and possibly the 4th largest deposit in the world!

Further down route 60 and another 500 feet in elevation is the mining town of Miami, AZ.

Miami, Arizona City Limits

Miami is another small mining town with a population of just under 2000.  There is both a mine and a smelter located here.  The town itself is not your typical "cutesy" tourist town, but rather a collection of modest homes and a few small businesses.  Highway 60 goes through the middle of town but I got the sense that the real downtown was not on the main drag, and we did not have time today to dive off the highway and explore.  Their sign touts "The Copper Center of the World"  We will definitely come back with the idea of doing some exploring.

Globe, Arizona

Six miles more along the Old West Highway (route 60) we come to the town of Globe.  Situated at 3,500 feet in the mountains Globe is home to around 7,500 residents.  Principle industries are mining and tourism, this town is going on our bucket list of places to visit.  It has the look and feel of a Jerome or Bisbee and we'll come exploring when the weather isn't quite so gloomy.  Globe is on the edge of the San Carlos Indian Reservation, it's the jumping off place for the Salt River Canyon Scenic Drive, also the gateway to the Besh Ba Gowah ancient ruins- lots more.  Yep! definitely on the list.

Copper Cathodes on a flatbed truck

We saw a few of these flatbeds hauling copper cathodes of 99% pure copper from the ore processors in the area.  At 560 lbs per cubic foot copper is heavier than steel, that explains the abundance of open space on the truck.

We continued on US 70 from Globe, AZ to Lordsburg, New Mexico where we had the option of staying for the night, or continuing on I-10 to Deming for the night.

The Entrance to Road Runner RV Park in Deming, NM

Ultimately, we decided to push onto Deming.   Lordsburg does not have any Passport America RV parks and we found one in Deming that offers deep discounts at this time of year.  Full hookups and half price- Okay!  
The wind has picked up and the clouds look ominous, time to tuck in for the night and see what tomorrow brings.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Project Central

Odometer  58204
Trip meter  0

More shop time for me.  Ralph's '65 Falcon hot rod had developed a leak- or as we found out soon 2 leaks.

1965 Ford Falcon Futura Hot Rod

Rack and Pinion Assembly
I had just changed the engine oil and as I tried to refit the drain plug found that somewhere along the line, someone had stripped most of the threads out of the oil pan.  I would really have like to put a Time-Sert insert in the pan to permanently fix the situation- but getting one proved to be too challenging.  The local auto parts stores did not have them in their normal inventory and to special order a kit meant ordering 5 at a time for $116.  We decided on a self threading oversize drain plug for about $10.  It worked just fine- anchored in nice and tight
The other spots on the floor were coming from the rack and pinion power steering unit.  It was fairly easy to remove, but once out and on the floor, we found no identifying marks to tell us where to order a new one.  We took the whole rack into O'Rileys Auto Parts where Thomas tried for a half hour to find us a match.  We looked a well over 100 different units and could not find one with these specs. Ralph found the booklet on the unit in his restoration files, and we contacted the kit maker Unisteer.  Unisteer was not very helpful.  They offered to send us a new one for $750, which is more than 6 times the price of a comparable unit at the auto parts stores.

Phoenix Rack and Axle
That's when we decided to call Phoenix Rack and Axle in downtown Phoenix.  They were very helpful on the phone and encouraged us to bring it in for a rebuild.
Joan and I were going to Apache Junction the next day (Wednesday) to see our good friend Barb, and we offered to take it in on our way through downtown.  We got away early Wed morning and made our way in to downtown by 9AM in what we'd call light inbound traffic.

Phoenix Rack and Axle's large Inventory

We had no trouble finding them on 32nd St in downtown Phoenix, and we were immediately impressed with the hundreds of axles, driveshafts and steering units they had ready to ship!  Ken recognized the rack we had as a Saginaw unit and told us he could rebuild it for just under $150, AND have it back to us this afternoon!


We continued on our way out to Apache Junction and had a very fun reunion with our friend Barb.  The three of us had lunch at the Olive Garden in Mesa, and afterward we helped her with some set-up on her motorhome.  We are such good friends that it seemed that the conversation just picked up where we left it two seasons ago.  Of course, guess who forgot to take pictures.  (If  you guessed Joan- you'd be correct :->)  We'll cross paths with Barb at least a few more times this season, I'm sure!

A Pair of beauties- a 1913 Ford Model T followed by a 1915 Model T
The really big news is that there are two new T's in the shop this week!  Ralph's good friend Dick just purchased this beautiful blue 1913 Touring car, and Ralph and Ann just purchased the 1915 Touring  in the background.  Both cars have been lovingly maintained, but all the same we have some tweaks to do for each new owner.  The '13 has a 12 volt electrical system, electric start, distributor ignition, an alternator, semi-hidden turn signals, leather upholstery,  new wood spoke wheels, a two-speed rear end, Rocky Mountain brakes, and a Volvo electric overdrive- whew!
The 1915 Touring car is more stock, but does have turn signals, leather, auxiliary brakes, a two-speed rear end.  Both cars have lots of beautiful brass.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2017
It is Thanksgiving and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that Joan and I had quite a celebration, and a day of stuffing ourselves with all things good to eat.  We had a cutlet stuffed with cheese- (meat free mycoprotein which is a better sounding word for fungi), mashed potatoes, broccoli, dinner rolls, and fresh cranberry relish made from this year's crop in Port Orford.  (Thank you Theresia!)
We have lots to be thankful for this year, good health, good friends, and the ability to pursue this nomadic life that we love so much.

Bolting down the auto hoist
Ralph has been experimenting with locations for his shop hoist, and has decided on a final location.  Today is the day we get it bolted down.  We rented a roto-hammer with a 3/4" bit at Home Depot and sunk in the holes to insert the concrete anchor bolts.  I shimmed the posts plumb with the provided shims and tightened the anchors.  We have used the hoist without the bolts- (not smart) but would never go above half way up- now we can use its full range.  Before you flame me- I couldn't move the car because the steering rack was removed and the front tires were not tied to anything to keep them in line- I WAS very careful.

Joan has been working with our insurance company to get the right side windshield in our coach replaced.  Those of you who follow our blog already know that we got hit by a rock driving through Las Vegas last season as we were heading south for the winter.
We had hoped that if we drilled the crack while it was small, that it would not go all the way across the windshield- no so.  We drilled it with a glass bit three or four times, only to watch it march on across the window.

Joan was assured that we could get the glass and get it installed before we had to depart Phoenix and head on our way to Texas for Savannah's college graduation.

Chris McCabe of McCabe's Glass came through for us and with just two days til our departure, he showed up and did the replacement right at our "home" pad at Ralph and Anne's house.  I was being Mr. grumpy- I didn't really see the need for a replacement as the crack was so low and seemed to be stationary.  When I saw the new glass in the frame I was totally surprised at how much I liked the new look.  I had become so accustomed to the old cracked glass I wasn't prepared for how nice the new glass looked. 
Chris let me inspect the steel frame under the old urethane sealant to be assured that the expensive and time consuming coating we had installed 18 months ago was still unscathed.
He also gave me some extra adhesive track so I can re-attach the sagging rubber gasket on the drivers side.

We are now in good shape for the next leg of our trip- stay tuned!

Your Traveling Friends,

Jeff and Joan

Monday, November 20, 2017

Hidden in the Hills

Odometer 58204
Trip Meter 0

Joan and I are guests at the home of friends in the  suburbs north of Phoenix, Arizona.  Our motorhome is set-up in one of four RV spaces they have on their large property.   Our hosts are Model T aficionados, never far from their collection of Ts.

Ralph and Ann in their 1913 Touring Car
I am lucky to be a student at the Model T "academy" here at our host's winter residence.  I get the opportunity to work on engines, transmissions, cooling systems, electrical systems, tires and chassis, under the guidance and instruction of a master who has repaired, built and rebuilt Ts for over 34 years.

On this particular morning Joan and I have been invited on a tour with our hosts, and two other couples.  Our entourage includes a 1910 Commercial Roadster more commonly known as a "mother in law car" which we will be driving,  our host's 1913 touring car, a 1912 speedster, and a second Commercial Roadster.  Our plan is to take the Ts on the 21st Annual Artist Studio Tour called Hidden in the Hills which is an extended tour of various artists studios and residences in Cave Creek, Carefree, and N. Scottsdale, area. 

But first we drive our fleet of Model Ts 15 miles to the nearby city of Cave Creek for breakfast at Big Earls Greasy Eats, a re-purposed 50s style gas station which is now a very popular diner on Cave Creek Highway.  Four Model Ts make a big splash anywhere they go and here is no exception.  The newest of the cars is 104 years old,still looks good and best of all, still runs well!

Dick and Helen  arrive in their 1912 Speedster

This art tour is huge and it is not possible to see it all in one day.  The format is like a treasure hunt.  The eight of us navigate from place to place with our map/brochures in hand, following the sinuous back roads of this beautiful community.

Paul at Desert Rat Forge shows his metal smithing skills
Some houses were modest, some were storefronts or commercial studios, while others were million dollar mansions like gems in the hills above town.  Hard to say what impressed me the most, some of the homesites or the art- both were superb!  We saw jewelry, pottery, paintings, woodworks, ironworks, tapestry, glass, gourds, etchings, sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, photography, stone, leather, drawings, gems, collages and more.  Everywhere we went we were welcomed and given preference in parking.  Anonymous, but driving celebrity cars!

The sunset as seen from our patio
After an exciting day of touring we returned to our home on wheels in time to take in another beautiful Arizona sunset.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan