Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Birthday To ME!

I can’t quite believe I’ve hit the big 65! Otherwise known as the Medicare Birthday. I’m in good company – 1946 was the first year of the Baby Boom, when there was a large spike in births mostly from the return of WW2 soldiers getting back to their wives and sweethearts. When I first started school, teachers had to take on a double workload, with classes in the morning for one group of children, and a repeat of these classes in the afternoon for the second group. Throughout my life, this bulge in population has been a factor for people my age and younger as the Baby Boom continued from 1946 through 1964. Whether going to public school, getting into college, applying for jobs, etc., there was always lots of competition.

I’ve never been reluctant to tell people my age, and I’m pleased when they sometimes show surprise that I’m not younger. But, even if I look my age, it doesn’t bother me. I feel that I’ve earned the “smile lines” (not “wrinkles”) and the silver hair.

Looking back over my life so far, I have few regrets, although there are some things I wish I’d done differently. But since there are no “do overs” in life, I do my best to look forward and enjoy each new day. I try to improve someone else’s day when I can, with a smile, a kind word, a bit of information from something I might have learned the hard way, or even a gift or donation. As a cancer survivor, I know that each day is precious and I try to make the most of every one.

My biggest joy is sharing the RV lifestyle with my loving husband Don. I’ve been so fortunate in being able to land on my feet several times when my life’s plans didn’t come together in just the way I wanted, and meeting Don was no exception. When I was widowed at age 55, I wondered whether I would ever have a special person in my life again, and really didn’t expect that it would happen. I thank God every day for sending Don to me at exactly the time when I realized I was ready for a close, loving relationship as part of my new adventurous life. Solo RVing can be a lot of fun, especially for those who make friends easily and approach challenges with a positive attitude. But it can also be lonely at times. I still enjoy many of the friendships I formed during those 5 years when I was by myself on the road. But I’m happy to be part of a couple again.

I had planned to share this momentous occasion with friends in Benson, Arizona. Instead, Don and I made the most of being in Alabama today. We drove about 40 miles from Red Bay to Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama. After a really good lunch at a Mexican restaurant, we took the house tour and wandered through the gardens.


The home was built in 1820 by Helen Keller’s paternal grandparents. Surrounded by huge trees, some over 150 years old, the house and other buildings have survived the years well. About 85% of the furnishings inside the main house are original, and some are now antiques worth a small fortune.

The cottage below was used by her parents as a bridal suite, and is where Miss Keller was born. She was 19 months old when an illness left her blind and deaf. The cottage was later used as a school house when Anne Sullivan took on the lifelong task of teaching Helen to speak and understand sign language by feeling her teachers’ hands and face. The addition on the left houses Helen’s dolls and playthings.


Against all odds, Helen learned to speak, read and write, beginning with the moment when as a 7-year-old she learned the word “water” and associated it with something cool flowing over her hand from a well-pump. With an I.Q. of 160, she graduated Cum Laude from Radcliffe College. Her teacher stayed with her through all those years, helping her understand classroom lectures and discussions. Ms. Keller then dedicated her life to improving situations for other blind and deafblind people.

The movie “The Miracle Worker” depicts Anne Sullivan’s patient and miraculous teaching of a sometimes unruly child who lived in silent darkness. The story is re-created in a play performed on the grounds of Ivy Green during the summer. Click the link above for more information about this remarkable woman and her birthplace. Here are some more photos.

Later, we visited a very different house a few miles away in Florence, Alabama. It’s the Rosenbaum House, the only one in the state that was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


The house was built in 1940, when Wright was aged 72. In 1948 an addition, also designed by Wright, was constructed to expand the house to accommodate the family’s 4 growing sons. The ‘dormitory’ below shows their bunk-beds and play area. The garden is through the windows and doors on the right.



The living room includes lots of space for books, mostly collected by Mr. Stanley Rosenbaum, a college professor at what is now the University of North Alabama.


It was also large enough for the baby grand piano played by Mrs. Mildred Rosenbaum, a former model who was also a musician and artist.


A small study is attached to the far end of the living room, where Stanley read and prepared for classes.



The dining area shares a view of the large yard with the living room.



The original kitchen was quite small, and was converted to a bar by replacing the small stove and refrigerator (on the left) with more cupboards when the addition included a larger kitchen.


The new kitchen is more than twice as large. The huge stove is out of sight on the right.


The house was never lived in by anyone other than the Rosenbaums. When she moved to an assisted living facility in 1999, Mildred sold the house and most of the contents to the city of Florence. Due to a lack of maintenance, an infestation of termites, and years of damage from leaking roofs, restoration took several years and a large amount of money. The result is now a good representation of the way the home looked while the Rosenbaums occupied it.

It was a wonderful day, and one I’ll always remember as a ‘landmark’ birthday. And I look forward to many more!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Replacing Wet Bay Floor

Now that I know how to make movies, watch out! I’m likely to be posting lots of them.

This movie is about the floor in our wet bay (under the holding tanks), which has been absorbing water from rain and wet roads.

We learned that the wrong material was used by Tiffin in two models, Phaeton and Allegro Bus, for the years 2007-2010, an estimated total of 9,000 rigs. The company acknowledges that fact and will replace the floor free for 8 years. That’s the good news; most manufacturers won’t cover defects in manufacturing after the one-year warranty has expired. The only hitch: the owner must bring the motorhome to the factory service center in Red Bay.

We first observed the problem in June when our friend Dennis Hill, who had the same problem on his Phaeton (that he no longer owns), pointed out that our floor was sagging between the support beams, as seen in the first photo. We were traveling in Alaska at the time, 4,000 miles from Red Bay.

In September we were at Hart Ranch in Rapid City, SD, our home base. We realized the floor was so saturated that it was sagging on the passenger side and allowing the fresh water tank to tip enough to drip water out of the overflow. Slides 2-7 show the soggy floor drooping below the edge of the storage doors of the coach. Slide 6 shows the corner of the freshwater tank above the saturated floor. Keep in mind the bottom edge of the doors is about 3-4 inches below the floor of the coach.

We hired Toby of Land Roamer Mobile RV Repair in Rapid City to lift the floor and attach 3 pieces of angle iron to support it enough to continue our travels and get to Red Bay safely. (We’re presenting this repair bill to Tiffin, as well.)

The first stage of repairs was to remove the floor. It literally crumbled off, and the techs said it was the worst they had seen. Then the black and grey tanks were strapped up and the freshwater tank removed. It was at this point that Curtis (slide 16, in plaid shirt) noticed a gap above the tanks that could be the cause of the sewer smell we’ve suffered with since the coach was new. The odor occurs in the hallway between the refrigerator and bedroom, not in the bathroom itself. Curtis said there’s a gap that should have been filled in with foam. He had a team member do that before they finished the repair job. Here’s hoping that fixed the problem. We’ll know when we get on the road again.

After everything was cleaned up, the new floor was installed and the freshwater tank re-installed. All pipe connections were made and tested for leaks. We’re really happy to have this repair finished!

A final note about making movies: it takes quite a while to save the movie once you have it put together. But it takes only a few seconds to post the blog, unlike when I include lots of photos separately. I think I’m hooked.

Removing Slide Room

Several readers said they would like to see photos of the repair process on our motor home. I wanted to create a slide show rather than post a lot of photos. I discovered Windows Live Movie Maker, free to download from Microsoft. So here’s my first attempt at publishing a movie. Hope it works!

The steps shown in the video include:

1. Removing all contents in the slide. This was a good exercise in cleaning out things we forgot we had and now realized we don’t need! We emptied all the cupboards and removed things sitting on top of counters, then Don took out the 4 drawers of the desk. We didn’t think the desk would need to come out, and I was concerned that the top wouldn’t hold together if it had to be removed. The techs later decided the desk must come out to give them access to mechanisms in the floor for extending and retracting the slide room, and Don was able to get the top off in one piece! Hurrah! Removing the boxes of the base was then easily accomplished.

2. All the wood trim pieces and side cupboard were removed from inside the slide.

3. Straps were wrapped around the outside of the slide and attached to a pulley to support it when it was removed from the coach. They backed the coach out of the work area and tilted the slide room on its back. While they did this part of the work, we waited in the customer lounge, and I got a shot of Don and Shadow relaxing.

4. In the process of replacing the floor, a cracked support was discovered in the frame. Repairing it wasn’t a problem, but the bonding agent used with the welding had to dry overnight. So we went to a motel in Russellville, about 25 miles away.

Note: In order to insert the video in my blog using Windows Live Writer, I had to create an account on YouTube, then link that account with my Google account. I went around in circles at first, then I finally somehow figured it out. Uploading the video took a long time – not sure if it was a factor of the size of the video, the speed of my Internet connection, something else or a combination of factors.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Coon Dog Cemetery, and Repairs Update

To distract ourselves from the environment of motorhome repairs, we took a drive about 18 miles from the Allegro Campground on Saturday to the unique Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, aka Coon Dog Cemetery.


The final resting place for over 185 dogs, only “authentic” Coon Dogs are allowed to be buried here. The first dog to be buried here was in 1937 by a man named Key Underwood was his beloved hound “Troop.”


The grave markers are sometimes clever, some are simple, and some are comparable to those used for highly revered humans.









We weren’t lucky enough to observe a funeral, but there’s a video of one on the web site that you can watch. We had heard of a recent one that other Tiffin owners had attended, and it wasn’t too hard for us to find that grave. The dog’s name was Beaujolais, and he died on 5-25-2011.


Meanwhile, the week prior was productive in getting some of our repairs done. The floor in our big slide was replaced on Monday. When it was removed from the coach, the techs were surprised to find part of the frame was broken and had to be rebuilt. This required that we spend the night in a motel, the closest of which is in Russellville, AL about 25 miles away. It’s been a long time since we slept anywhere but our motorhome, so packing and moving into the motel was an unfamiliar procedure. The repair job was finished on Tuesday and we moved back in to our home around noon.

We had just gotten set up in our campground site and had lunch when we were called to go to the wet bay! I could hardly believe my ears, since this was much sooner than we expected. The floor under the holding tanks was replaced in two stages on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. A possible cause of our long-time intermittent problem with sewer odor in the hallway might have been found in the process. We asked Curtis and John to look for a possible cause while they were working in this area, as previous visits for service didn’t offer any clues to a reason for the odor. Curtis found that an opening in the sub-floor that wasn’t sealed with foam as it should have been might allow fumes to work their way up into the vents in the bedroom floor and under the refrigerator. We won’t know if this has fixed the problem until we start traveling again. Here’s hoping it’s the end of an annoying and frustrating problem!

A few other small jobs were finished as well. For instance, we had the headboard and our dining chairs reupholstered. Now we’re waiting for calls to get the Diamond Shield replaced and the roof rails replaced and painted, as well as 3 windows replaced. And we’re still hoping to replace the sun roof and get other body work done on the car while we’re in this area.

If anyone is interested in pictures of our repairs, I’ll be happy to post them separately. But I thought it would be more interesting to write about something fun rather than dwell on the more frustrating aspect of the RV life: getting repairs!