Daily Archives: September 4, 2020

Ferries and Chicken . . .

Well, I was back on the phone with both Spartan and American Coach this morning trying to reconcile the different information I’m getting from each of them. In many cases the schematics I’m getting from each of them of the same system don’t agree with each other.

And then there’s things like this.

Now, I’ve only been dabbling in electronics for about 60 years, but I’m pretty sure that that relay is never going to work.

One thing I’ve run into over the years working on RV’s is finding where things are actually located in the rig. Years ago I was helping a friend troubleshoot a problem with the brake lights on his 2005 Winnebago Vectra.

The brake bar light up high on the rig worked fine but the actual brake lights didn’t. So I downloaded all the schematics and found a relay that looked like it could be causing the problem. So I went looking for it. And looked. And looked. And looked.

Giving up, I finally put in a call to Winnebago Tech Support. And here’s how it went.

“Well, if it was built on a Thursday, then Larry liked mount the relay here, but if it was Jerry then he liked to put it there.”

“And Jim liked to put liked to put it over there . . . unless it was a Monday and he was a little hungover, then he would put it back there.”

And yes, that’s literally how the conversation went.

Since my friend wanted to get on the road, I built up a relay circuit box to drive the brake lights directly from the brake bar light and he was on his way.

I heard from him several years later that when he was having some other work done on the rig, they found the missing relay hanging from a socket underneath the dashboard, nowhere near where it was supposed to be. And it was bad.

September 4, 2009

“Ferry cross the Mers… uh…North Atlantic…”

Today was our last day in Louisbourg for a while.

Tonight at 11:00 pm we catch the car ferry for the 15 hour, 325 mile trip to Argentia, Newfoundland.

However, unlike some RV’ers, we’re not taking our coach over.  Jan said “No way I’m putting my home on a boat.  Those things sink. I’ve seen it on the news.”

I didn’t tell her that it wouldn’t make it any difference, since we would be on the ferry, too.

So we’re leaving the rig in Louisbourg and taking the truck on the ferry, and we’ll stay at B&B/motels for the next 5 days we’re in Newfoundland.

We went out for breakfast about 10 am and ended up sitting next to another RVing couple from VA.  Gene and Chris had just spent two months in Newfoundland and gave us a lot of good tips.  Hopefully we’ll meet up again sometime.  Nice people!

About 3 pm we left for North Sydney, Nova Scotia, where the ferry dock is.

We wanted to drive around the area,  do some last minute shopping,  get gas, and then eat supper before we boarded.

Although we didn’t sail until 11 pm,  we had to be checked in and in line by 9:30, or we would lose our reservations.  And, after taking care of all our chores, we ended up getting in line about 7:30, along with a lot of other people who were already there.


They board all the commercial stuff first and then the cars.  We finally started moving onboard about 10 pm

Ferry Loading

Ferry Loading 2

After entering the ship on Deck 1, we drove up a ramp and parked on Deck 3.

Ferry Loading 3

By about 10:30 pm we were up on the passenger decks with our stuff. You have to bring everything with you that you’ll need for the trip from your vehicle because you’re not allowed to go back to it during the voyage.

We had reserved two seats in the sleeping area that reclined and had footrests. It turns out to have been a mistake because they were very uncomfortable. We would have been better off to have just stayed in the regular seating area. Those seats also reclined, but didn’t have footrests. But they were much more comfortable.

After grabbing a late night muffin snack in the cafeteria, we settled in for the night.

Thought For The Day:

Life is prickly – carry tweezers.


September 4, 2013

Chicken . . .

No, not that kind. The one in Alaska.

You know, the one that’s named after the State Bird of Alaska, the ptarmigan. The only problem was that when the town got its first Post Office in 1902, nobody could agree on how to spell ‘Ptarmigan’ so they went with Chicken instead.

Everyone could spell that.

Today’s blog is about Chicken for two reasons. It’s in the news, and we were there in Chicken 5 years ago today.

It’s in the news because a couple of weeks ago an EPA SWAT team (huh?) descended on the 17 residents of Chicken to check for Clean Water Act violations. (once again, huh?) The heavily-armed, body-armor-wearing EPA agents swarmed over the many small family mining claims in the area, to check their gold mine holding ponds. There were more agents than residents.

They said they were heavily armed because the Alaskan State Troopers told them there was “rampant drug and human trafficking going on the area”. The State Troopers deny they ever said any such thing. I think some people just wanted to play with their shiny new toys.

And any ‘trafficking’ would be pretty obvious. There’s only one road through there, the Taylor Highway. There’s nowhere else to go. To even get to Chicken, you drive 75 miles from Tok, on a lane and a half wide, gravel road, trying to avoid the moose running across right in front of you.

Tok is the first Alaskan town you come to after you enter Alaska on the Alaskan Highway, and itself only has about 1200 people. It’s too small to even have a Wal-Mart. And that’s small.

From Tok to Fairbanks is over 200 miles, and to Anchorage is over 300 miles. So these agents, made up of EPA, the FBI, Coast Guard (more huh?), Department of Defense (even more huh?), the Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, had to drive 300 miles to Tok, then 75 miles to Chicken, and apparently, another 40 miles out to Boundary, the last town before you enter Canada.

All for nothing. No charges, state or federal, have been filed. Your tax dollars at work.

This is Chicken.

Chicken AK 1

And this is Chicken.

Chicken AK 2

And this is Chicken.

Chicken AK 3

And this was what Chicken was here for. The gold dredge, abandoned in place once the gold ran out.

Chicken AK 4

Not much to make such a fuss over. But it all makes for some real pretty scenery.

Chicken AK 5

Chicken AK 6

Chicken AK 7

And this is Boundary, the last ‘town’ on the Taylor Highway before you enter Canada, about 4 miles away.

Boundary AK 1

Boundary AK 2

Boundary AK 5

That’s all there is to Boundary. But again, the scenery getting there is great.

Boundary AK 3

Boundary AK 4

And concerning all the “rampant drug and human trafficking going on the area”, like I said, there’s nowhere to go. If it was coming from Tok, the only place it can go is through two border crossings into Canada. And the same two border crossings in reverse.

There’s only one road in and out.

Like I said, shiny new toys.

Thought I end this Alaskan-themed blog with some pics of the multitude of beautiful flowers that you see everywhere. 24 hours of daylight does wonders for the plants.

AK Flowers 1

AK Flowers 2

AK Flowers 3

AK Flowers 4

AK Flowers 6

AK Flowers 7

And here’s a few other beautiful things. Our daughter Brandi, who visited us in August of 2008,

Brandi Alaska

and our granddaughter Piper, who visited us in July of 2008. And of course, my Sweetie. Like I said, beautiful things.

Piper Jan Alaska

And of course, every Alaskan blog has to end with a moose picture.

AK Flowers 5 Moose


Thought for the Day:

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.” – Charlie Brown, Peanuts




Gate Guarding in North Zulch, TX (Yep, that’s really the name.)

September 4, 2014

Head’em Up, Move’m Out . . .

Well, things got a lot busier today. Yesterday we had 61 vehicles through the gate. Today we had 130. And it’s going to get even busier.

This is the view straight in front of us.

North Zulch 1

We were originally told this was going to be a frack pond.


This is a new pad site for a drill rig that will be coming in tomorrow or Saturday. So that should liven things up. AND we have a frack starting up sometime soon.

Last year on the frack site where we were at, we had two days of 300 vehicles coming through the gate. That will keep you jumping, believe me.

But with the bad comes the good, hopefully.

Drill Rigs and Fracking usually means catering trucks coming through. Which usually means we eat really well. So here’s hoping.

Here’s what our setup looks like.

North Zulch 2

The tree provides a lot of shade, enough so that the AC’s actually cycle on and off during the day. Imagine that. Of course as I said yesterday, the tree also ‘shades’ our view of the DirecTV satellite, so it’s not all fun and games. And I still haven’t found my longer cables yet. I haven’t needed them in several years, so I may have tucked them away really good.

One thing nice about this site is that we have our own trash trailer so I don’t have to schlep bags of garbage down to one of the pad sites. And this morning the Company Man sent us a load of pea gravel to cover up the muddy spots around our site. Very nice.

Something else nice is that the water trucks come by 2-3 times a day. Really keeps the dust down.

About 2:30 this morning I was in the middle of a cow stampede. About 2 dozen cows came running down the small farm road to our left, cross the main road, and then ran along the dirt embankment in front, and disappeared into the woods. Don’t know what it was, but something sure had them spooked.

For dinner tonight Jan fixed a great batch of Nachos, with a new twist. Nachos are one of our favorite ‘gate foods’ and we have them a couple of nights a week.

Normally Jan makes them using Tortilla Chips, Jalapeno Bean Dip, Shredded Mexican Cheese, and Jalapeno Slices. But she discovered we were out of the Bean Dip, so she opened a can of Hot Chili Beans, mashed them up some, and spread that on the chips. Covered with Shredded Cheese, and Jalapenos, and sprinkled with cumin, chili powder, and ground habanero spice, and popped in the microwave, you’ve got a great meal.

Thought for the Day:

“Everything that’s done by the government is done in your name. You are responsible whether you like it or not.” – Helen Thomas



September 4, 2015

Jan was Giddy . . .

All afternoon.

I put in a call to Jamie, our GGS supervisor, this morning to update him on our supposed upcoming schedule here on the gate. I also ask him, that since we had been a 12 hour gate all this week, if it would be OK if Jan and I took a couple of hours off this evening to have dinner in town and do the weekly shopping together. I told him that we’d already cleared it with the landowner, and he had even recommended a place to eat.

Jamie said, “no problem”, so we were good to go, and as I said, Jan was giddy all afternoon. It’ll be her first time to leave the gate since we got here August 25th. She did say that this gate is so nice, so far, that she’s really not getting gate fever like at past locations.

With something to look forward to, the afternoon went pretty fast, and Jan came out about 5:30 to relieve me so I could come in and take a shower before we headed out. While I was inside, the last vehicle left. In fact they’d been the last vehicle since 2:30 when everyone else left.

I had been checking with everyone else as they left today, to find out if they were working this weekend. And although as I mentioned before, some are off until Tuesday, it looks like a few will be working this weekend. Bummer!

It does seem like most or all will be off on Monday, so we may try another night out then.

We did close the main gate as we left, and I set it so that I would know if anyone had opened it while we were gone.

We had planned to eat at KJ’s Whistle Stop Restaurant, the one recommended by our landowner, but we couldn’t find the place. It’s certainly not where Yelp, Google Maps, etc., says it is. They’re supposed to have a really good Friday Night Buffet, and fantastic pies for dessert. Jan later got directions from a lady at Wal-Mart, and I guess it’s moved, because it’s nowhere near where the Internet thinks it is.

So instead, we ended up at the Longhorn Country Restaurant right on the main drag. We’d been wanting steak, so this worked out fine.

We both started out with salads, and it was obvious that the dressings were homemade. Very good salad.

Carthage Longhorn Salad

While Jan had a Sirloin, I had my usual Ribeye, which was really great.

Carthage Longhorn Steak

What the photo doesn’t show is how thick this steak was, over an inch in places. The other thing that made this really delicious was how hot it was. I always get my steak medium rare, and most times it’s plenty warm, but not hot. But this one was still sizzling when they brought it out. I assume that they cooked it until it was rare, and then put it over the flames, because the outside edges were charred just like I like it.

Somebody here knows how to cook a steak.

For dessert, we splurged and didn’t split one. But in hindsight, we should have, as we were both too full afterwards. But it was a ‘good’ full.

Jan went with the Strawberry Cheesecake after she saw a waitress walk by with a piece.

Carthage Longhorn Cheesecake

Me, I can’t pass up Bread Pudding, so that’s what I got.

Carthage Longhorn Bread Pudding

Jan loved her cheesecake, and after trying a bite, I could see why. But I was so-so on the Bread Pudding. It tasted delicious, but I was put off by the fact that it had peanuts in it.

Not crushed and sprinkled on top, which might have been good, but there were actually peanut halves cooked into the pudding, which gave them that slightly mushy texture, like boiled peanuts, which I do not like at all.

I think next time, and based on the steak, there will be a next time if possible, I will have the Cheesecake.

One thing I really also liked on the table was the buckets.

Carthage Longhorn Buckets

Every restaurant should have a bucket on the table. No, not the one with the peanuts in it, although that was good, but the empty one.

Since there are no ashtrays in restaurants anymore, you have no place to put your trash. You know, all the trash like empty sugar packets, empty cracker wrappers, used lemons, butter pat papers, jelly containers, even the little wrappers on your silverware. It all just piles up in your own personal trash heap.

More buckets, please.

After that great dinner, it was on to Wal-Mart for groceries. Like a lot of small towns, this Wal-Mart SuperCenter is a ‘mini’ SuperCenter, i.e. it has a full grocery department, but it only has one entrance, not two like the regular ones.

The other part of ‘mini’ is the selection of stuff. It seems to only be about 2/3 of normal. So you may not find a particular brand or size that you find at other ones.

We first encountered these ‘mini’ ones down in Kenedy, TX a couple of years ago. One guy shopping there said, “It’s like a real Wal-Mart, only smaller.” And he was certainly right.

Getting home we found the gate we left closed was undisturbed, so that was good. But getting back into the rig, we found a problem.

We have no12 volts in the bathroom so the overhead light and the shower light don’t work. We have it on one side in the kitchen and on the other side in the bedroom, but not in the bath.

The water pump and the water heater still work, but the bathroom vent fan doesn’t. And for that matter, neither does the vent fan in the kitchen. So I guess that’s a problem for tomorrow.

Probably a fuse, but who knows. Just part of the RV life.


Thought for the Day:

In the future, imagine how many Go-Pros will be found on snowy mountains containing the last moments of people’s lives.


More Gate Guarding

September 4, 2016

¿Cuál es tu nombre?

Today begins our 3rd week here at Blue Moon Gate, another slow day with only 37 vehicles coming through our gate, just a few more than yesterday’s low count.

I spent part of the afternoon working on our bell system, trying to fix a leakage problem. Gate Guard Services supplies us with one of those old fashioned bells like they used to have at gas stations a while back.

Lengths of rubber hose  are laid out across the entrance and exits and are connected to a bell. When a vehicle drives over a the hose, the increase in air pressure in the hose causes the bell to ring. The only problem with this is that after a couple of weeks of being run over by 80,000 pound truckloads of oil rig stuff, the hoses are either so flattened that they don’t generate enough air pressure change, or they’re just plain leaking.

Then I have to splice in sections of new hose, but for some reason I’m still having a problem with the one that alert us that a vehicle is leaving the pad. So I may just set up one of my Mighty Mule Driveway Alarms to fix that problem once and for all.

I mentioned yesterday about the new, ‘better’ WiFi system being installed on the pad, since the Company Man was going to let us use it. I noticed that the datacom people had put a couple of antennas up on a pole, and when I got a closer look today, they’re the same Wilson directional antennas that I use on my Wilson booster system.

Blue Moon Gate WiFi Antennas

And I may still need to set mine up, since the new, ‘better’ system only gives me one bar of signal and my devices won’t stay connected. So we’ll see.

The high note of the day was that we got fed again, this time with a setup in the Safety trailer with a serve-yourself spread. They had Shredded Brisket, Pulled Pork, Potato Salad, Beans, and buns laid out, and you make your own.

Blue Moon Gate Labor Day BBQ

I went down and made Jan and I both a sandwich of each, and a big serving of Potato Salad. I didn’t get any Beans because the Styrofoam containers they furnished didn’t have any divisions in them, so it would have just all run together. It was only later in one of those ‘Doh!’ moments that I realized that I should have just spooned the Beans into another container.

I made the sandwiches big enough, and thick enough that we just ate half of each one, so we’ll have another meal tomorrow.

And it was really good BBQ, too.

About 3 we had another squall line come through, giving us about 30 minutes of heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. And the lightning part means the rig shuts down for the duration, and everyone goes inside.

I guess you can’t be too careful when you’re working on a 200 foot tall lightning rod.

I have been constantly amazed over our 5 years of gate guarding how many drivers don’t speak English. I mean, not even enough to understand, “What’s your name?”.

So I have to resort to ¿Cuál es tu nombre? ¿Primero? ¿Apellido?

That’s “What’s your name? First? Last (or Surname)?”

Luckily we lived in Colombia, SA when I was a kid, so I can normally stumble through making myself understood. I do have to be careful sometimes because Colombian Spanish is not the same as Mexican Spanish which is not the same as Spain Spanish. And each one has its own idioms.

For example, you’ve probably at times had Pico de Gallo at a Mexican restaurant. Well, ‘pico de gallo’ translates to ‘rooster beaks’. Supposedly it’s called that because of the little pieces of red tomatoes and white onions in the mix. Of course it really could be rooster beaks, I guess.

And ‘amiga’ could be a girl friend, (or a computer) but it’s also slang for a women’s ‘time of the month’

And don’t even get me started on Portuguese. It’s just enough like Spanish to get you either slapped or shot, depending on the situation.

Thought for the Day:

“If you can hear the shot, you aren’t the target.”