Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Near Peggy\'s Cove, Nova Scotia

Planes, Cars, and Chickens . . .

Finishing up yesterday’s road trip, about 3pm we headed out on the 2 hour trip down to Alvin, Texas to attend the Alvin Opry Christmas Show. But our first stop was at the Kelley’s Restaurant to meet our friend Maria for dinner. We always allow extra time there because they get really busy on Friday nights, and this time was no different. But finishing up dinner, we got to the Alvin Opry a little after 7pm, just in time for the 7:30 show.

It was really great catching up with all our old friends, and meeting new ones. But the show was even better. But besides all the great Christmas songs and music, the highlight of the show for us was John Mark Davis. Here’s what I wrote about him last year.

John Mark is the full-blooded son of a chief of the Adai Caddo Indians of Louisiana, and has performed all over the country. He has opened for Mark Chestnutt and Tracy Byrd, and was offered a slot opening for Dwight Yoakum, but due to a prior obligation was unable to accept.

He was also twice an award winner in the Nashville’s Music City Song Fest, and really knows how to work a crowd and keep you entertained. He’s also know for his hilarious versions of Kaw-Liga, Running Bear, and Please Mr. Custer.

You can go here and download for free, or listen to one of John Mark’s songs oh his website.

John Mark Davis 12-19-14

John Mark Davis 12-19-14a

It’s hard not to like a guy who sings ‘Running Bear”, complete with pow wow dancing and war whoops from both him and audience. And in the background, the band is singing, “Um Chucka Lucka, Um Chucka Lucka, Um Chucka Lucka . . .”

Politically correct, John Mark is not.

After a great night, we finally got home about 12:15am after I made a stop for coffee since it had been a long day.

As far as today, after coffee this morning, I checked in with Randy next door to see how his battery situation was going. Found out that so far the power converter is still keeping the batteries topped off about 12.8 volts. Tomorrow when we’ll have more time, we’ll take the converter offline and see how the batteries handle some load from the coach.

But today, we wanted to do some tourist things, so about 1pm we made the 30 minute trip west to Schulenburg to visit the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum. We visited, or rather, I visited here in March 2007 on our very first RV trip in our CruiseAmerica rental Class C.

Since it was a ‘toy’ museum, Jan wanted to stay out in the RV and finish packing things away for our 3 week trip out west. So she never saw it.

But they have added a new building since then and I knew that Jan would want to the see the restored 1800’s family home next door, we were back here again.

Stanzel 1

Stanzel 11

The Stanzel brother’s Victor and Joe, were pre-eminent in the model aircraft world from the late 1920’s until the early 2000’s when the last brother died.

The Stanzel Company started out making ‘ornamental’ (i.e. non-flying) aircraft models that were sold to nearby cadets and collectors. Stanzel models were known for their absolute attention to detail, and proved to be very popular.

Stanzel 2

Later in the early 30’s they started selling their planes as kits with 11 different models available. In fact they were selling so fast they had to expand their production and hire more people. . . . in the Depression.

Stanzel 3

A few years later they were building full-size aircraft and rocketship rides for fairs and carnivals.

Stanzel 5

Next up was a tour of  a mockup of their factory.

Stanzel 6

The center display was another carnival ride that the company was working on when the last brother died.

 Stanzel 7

This is an injection molding machine that was used to make the many small plastic parts used on the models.

 Stanzel 8

At the peak of production, the factory employs over 170 people, and made every part of their many products, including printing and cutting the boxes for the products. Nothing outsourced to China here

Stanzel 4

Next up was Jan’s favorite part, the restored Stanzel family home right next door.

Stanzel Home 1

Originally built in the mid 1800’s, it has been restored and furnished as it was in the 1880’s.

Miss Lillian, our guide, has worked for the family for years, starting out in the factory.

Stanzel Home 2

The kitchen with the coal-burning stove and the dry sink.

Stanzel Home 3

The bedroom with the rope bed.

Stanzel Home 4

And of course the obligatory chamberpot.

Stanzel Home 5

This is a quilting frame for large quilts.

Stanzel Home 6

The baking and food preparation area.

Stanzel Home 7

And an old time washing machine and a bath tub. All near the kitchen since the water had to be heated on the stove.

Stanzel Home 8

The Stanzel Museum is a fun visit, especially if you owned some of their toys over the years as I did. And even better, unlike some private museums, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to visit. Just $4.00 for adults, and $2.00 for seniors. Nice!

There are a lot of other museums around town, but for some reason Jan didn’t want to visit this one.

Texas Polka Museum

You’d think she didn’t like the accordion, or something.

Next up, we turned around and headed back up TX71 almost to La Grange. We had passed Timeless Texas Classics a number of times, but this was our chance to stop and visit.

Timeless Texas Classic 1

As the sign says, they will sell you a restored auto, restore yours, or sell you parts from their own bone yard out back.

We were warmly greeted by Lance Herrington, the owner., and given the run of the place. As long as we didn’t touch anything.

Timeless Texas Classic 9

The sign says that “Buttons and Buckles scratch. So please do not lay on these cars unless you are NAKED!”

Then in smaller letters underneath, it says, “And FEMALE!”

Sounds like he’s serious.

Timeless Texas Classic 10

This is his personal T-Bird that he bought new over 40 years ago, and he still has it. But it can be yours for a price.


Sounds like he really doesn’t want to part with it.

This is a rare 1963 Falcon Sprint Convertible. Not that many were made, and not that many survived.

Timeless Texas Classic 4

 Timeless Texas Classic 5


And this Ford Fairlane Victoria can be yours for only $36,000.

Timeless Texas Classic 6


Another rare beauty, this is a 1963 Thunderbird Sports Roadster. Only 455 were made, and it’s NOT for sale.

Timeless Texas Classic 7


This is a 1946 Ford Deluxe Delivery Van, complete with the fabled Flathead V8.

Timeless Texas Classic 8


As you can tell, Mr. Herrington is partial to Fords, especially Thunderbirds.

Timeless Texas Classic 11

Timeless Texas Classic 12

Timeless Texas Classic 13

If you like cars, you’ll like this place. And even better, it’s free.

Our last visit of the day was to a Texas icon, one of the most famous places in Texas history. Storied in books, plays, movies, and songs, everyone in America knows exactly what you’re talking about.

And, no, it’s not the Alamo. And it’s not the Houston Astrodome.

This is the former location of the one and only . . .

Chicken Ranch, i.e. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Chicken Ranch

It’s not much to look at now. In fact, there’s nothing to look at now. In 1977, four years after the place closed, two Houston lawyers bought the place and moved the building and the furnishings to Dallas where it reopened as a restaurant with the former madam, Miss Edna, as the hostess. It closed the next year.

Seems like Miss Edna was better at running a whorehouse than a restaurant, because in its heyday in the 50’s, it was making over $3.5 million a year, with each of the 16 girls averaging over $2000 a week in today’s dollars.

You can read more about the history of the Chicken Ranch here. It’s an interesting read. I think my favorite part is the helicopter that the Army supplied to ferry soldiers to and from the place. Your tax dollars at work.

Tomorrow afternoon we’re driving in to meet Brandi, Lowell,and Landon. And of course,eat dinner at Little V’s Vietnamese Bistro. Can’t miss that.

Finally, I received confirmation the other day that Jan and I will be giving our seminar on gate guarding at the 54th Escapade in Tucson, starting March 8th. Called “Gate Guarding for Fun? And Profit”, it will cover everything from how to get started to how to survive on the gate, the do’s and don’s, and what to expect.

I don’t know the day and time yet, but I’ll  let you know.


Thought for the Day:

“There are no great men, just great challenges which ordinary men, out of necessity, are forced by circumstances to meet.” – Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey




After coffee and muffins this morning, I went next door to check in on our next door neighbor Randy and his batteries.

Yesterday he came over with a problem with his chassis and engine batteries. Although he had been here for several days, and was plugged into shore power, his 12v batteries, both chassis and engine, were going dead.

After spending a little while looking at the setup in his 2001 Monaco Diplomat, the only thing I could see was that his Magnatek Converter was turned off at the control panel. And turning it on seemed to start the batteries coming back up. He said he hadn’t turned it off, so I thought he may have bumped with his shoulder since it’s in the hallway.

But when I went back over to check this afternoon, he was still having problems. He said later in the evening the converter switched off and the batteries dropped back down. He had been on the phone with an RV Electrical Tech who was having him check all of the big heavy-duty fuses in the electrical bay by putting a voltmeter across them. The tech thought maybe the batteries weren’t being charged because the 250 amp fuse between the converter and the batteries had blown.

If a fuse has power on it and you put a voltmeter across it, the meter should read 0.0 volts. If the fuse is bad, you should read ~12volts. But all of the fuses, especially the big 250amp one, read good. But once Randy moved out of the way, I got a closer look at the fuse and saw the problem.

The 2/0 cable came from the output of the Magnatek converter to one side of the fuse block, just as it should. But the other end of the fuse went nowhere. There was a stud with a nut and lockwasher on it, but nothing was connected to it. And the nut was loose.

So the power converter was not connected to the coach at all. And apparently hadn’t been since he bought the rig a short time ago. I think only thing that kept him going was the 3 big solar panels on his roof. But the last 3 or 4 days have been overcast and rainy without any sun, so it finally caught up with him.

He has a setup I haven’t seen before. His house batteries are six 12volt batteries, arrange in two banks of three batteries, with these two banks in parallel. But each set of the three batteries are housed in a black plastic box with a set of terminals at one end and two water fill caps for each battery. The internal connections paralleling the three batteries are all internal to the plastic box. No problem, just different.

I then started tracing out cables, trying to figure out where the missing cable was that was supposed to go from the fuse block to the battery, but it wasn’t there. There was no loose or unused cable. But as I was looking, something kept nagging at me about the way everything was wired up. Then it hit me.

The first thing I saw that that both the engine batteries and the house were wired directly together with a big 2/0 cable. Right off the bat, this explained why both sets of batteries were being pulled down. Normally there is a isolator between the two sets to prevent this from happening, so that if you run you house batteries down, you can still start your engine or generator to recharge them. But not wired up this way.

On the back of the compartment I saw the isolator mounted on the wall. In this case it looks to be pretty much a standard automotive starter solenoid. And it was wired up, but for some reason it was wired between the two banks of HOUSE batteries, not between the house batteries and the engine batteries.


In looking at the cable length, it looked like the short cable now going from the isolator to the house battery bank should go instead over to the unconnected end of the fuse block. This would get the converter output in to the battery banks.Then it looked like the long 2/0 cable going from the engine batteries to the house batteries should instead go to the isolator.

To try and set this right, I disconnected the short cable from the isolator and touched it to the stud on the fuse block, getting the expected spark. And as I held it in place, I could hear the converter whining as it ramped up to try and charge these almost dead batteries. So far, so good.

But then I encountered another problem. The hole in the lug on the end of the cable was slightly too small to fit over the fuse block stud. So where ever it had been, it had not been here originally. But I was able to wedge the lug onto the stud enough to hold it in place, and it was charging the batteries which was the most important thing right now.

And that’s where we left things for now, as I had to get ready for Jan and I to head down to Alvin for the Alvin Opry Christmas Show.

As far as what happened here, I don’t know. Some of the solar installation stuff looks kind of ‘kludgey’, so maybe it got screwed up during that installation.

Or maybe someone who didn’t know what he was doing, tried to change out batteries or something, and got lost and hooked things back up wrong.

Or maybe more likely, the battery isolator circuit or controller had died, and they were trying to make things so that the engine batteries would be charged as well as the house batteries. But they ended up screwing things up so nothing was being charged on shore power, only from solar, the genset, or the engine.

What I want to know is how a dealer let this get off his lot this way.

Oh, and I want to know who the dealer is so I can stay as far away from him as possible.


Thought for the Day:

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. – Bill Gates