Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 547 Squadron Threat Yard at Nellis AF Base -- WOW!

We traveled to Las Vegas, NV to visit our son, George, who, as a Captain in the Air Force, is attending a training class at Nellis Air Force Base in the area.

One of the amazing things at Nellis is the Threat Yard -- also known as the Petting Zoo -- which contains weapons systems from eastern block countries. This is a "hands-on" museum where you can actually touch and examine potential enemy's weapons systems. Here, George and Rick check out AK 47 variants.

This Mig 23 was available for Rick to "try on". The systems in this recent fighter while effective, were very crude by comparison with our systems. It was amazing to actually sit in the cockpit where Russian pilots sat not many years before.

Orinda thought this was great -- but likely because she could spend some time with her son!

This Gillie suit was just her size -- although I do not think she was really excited about wearing it.

George also tried on a couple fighters for size. This one seemed to fit just fine.

The Petting Zoo is not limited to just aircraft. Many tanks and armored vehicles are included. I believe this was a T-33 Soviet Tank. While impressive, we were very glad we did not have to ride in it -- very primitive.

This T-80 is a recent addition and was used in the Iraq conflict. While much improved over the T-34, we decided that we prefer the Air Force over the ground forces!

This is the famous Russian Hind helicopter and was huge! Used extensively by the Russians, this was a remarkable chopper. Still, the systems were very crude, but effective. Rick is ready to lift off and ready to go!

George was shocked at the small confines in this armored personnel carrier which was built by the Russians. Imagine riding with a large number of soldiers carrying full gear and weapons in this one!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cedar Breaks National Monument - A HIGH Mountain Experience!

We took another side trip about 20 miles outside of Cedar City, UT to the Cedar Breaks National Monument. Frankly, we did not know what to expect, but decided to check it out -- and we were very pleasantly surprised!

The Breaks are a large area of eroded land that is in amazing canyons, crevasses and plateaus. Add this to the remarkable coloring and you have a spectacular view.

The breaks are at an altitude of over 10,000 feet as you can see on the GPS. This elevation allowed a dramatic change in weather -- we left Cedar City (it is at about 5,800') in sun and warm temperatures. At the breaks, we experienced sun -- and sleet! Wow -- big difference.

This is an amazing sight to see and we spent a couple of interesting hours looking this area over.

This picture was taken from the Visitor Center (they had the wood stove burning for heat -- and it felt good!) . The canyon must be a couple thousand feet deep and was filled with interesting shapes resulting from erosion.

Orinda is checking out the Visitor Center observation area and you can get an idea as to the large area that the breaks covers. She doesn't look cold, but she is pretty frozen about now!

Rick is much better prepared for the weather -- I guess he should offer the jacket to Orinda (he did!), but she wanted to return to the car.

Here is another area of the breaks. Notice the spire-shaped areas in the bottom of the canyons which were hundreds of feet high.

Rick is enjoying the sudden sun and warmth that followed. The weather literally changed every couple minutes here and was a very interesting experience. This smaller National Monument is a great place to visit and we are very happy we took it in!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park -- Outstanding!

We spent the night in Cedar City, Utah with the intention to see the wonders of Zion National Park and surrounding areas. One of the lesser traveled areas of Zion Park (the main body of the park attracts over 3 million folks a year!) is the Kolob Canyon area which is located in the northern zone of the park.

As soon as we entered the park, Rick saw this little rascal crossing the road. Wow -- a huge tarantula spider! We learned that these are rather common in the park, but it sure was impressive to us to see this fellow up close!

This area of Zion National Park is amazing with one spectacular view after another. The road to the summit in this section is only six miles long, but we spent over two hours enjoying the incredible sights.

The rock formations were remarkable and the lighting on each formation was very interesting today since there were alternating clouds and sun.

Here are the intrepid explorers -- Cody and Orinda at one of the many turn offs. As you can see, there were relatively few folks sharing the visitas with us. We learned from one couple that they could not even find a place to park int he main area of Zion. Glad we explored this area.

The top of these rock formations support trees and grass -- at 8,000' in elevation. Looks like fields in the sky.

You can see the road to the left of this shot and it is typical of the scenery we saw around every turn. The colors, mostly a deep red, were unique and very beautiful.

This shot shows the many different layers of rock in many different formations. It was hard to focus on only one area with the many different views available.

Finally, Rick found another tarantula next to the car. We wondered if they liked to hunt on the road, but whatever the reason, they were impressive!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pierre, SD and on to Wyoming's Independence Rock

We are back on the road and left Sioux Falls to go to Pierre, SD. We stayed at the City RV Park which is beautifully located right on the Missouri River, which you can see in the background. The sites offer 50 amp electric connections and a dump station for $15 a night. Plus, it is right in town, so is very convenient.

We did some exploring and left Cody in the coach with the A/C on. I guess Cody was a bit bored and his excellent nose found a brand new bag of dog food! Obviously, Cody figured this must be for him, so he helped himself as the picture shows. No more dinner for him that night!

We left Pierre and headed west on I-90, stopping at this rest area near Wall, SD. We were delighted with the excellent weather -- late Sept. is a great time to be in the Dakotas with warm days and cool nights being the norm.

Passing Spearfish, SD, we quickly came to the Wyoming state line. Western SD and Wyoming really illustrates the real west and we always enjoy the interesting terrain and uncrowded roads. Often, we seem to see more pronghorn antelope than people.

Wyoming was the crossroads for several old West trails, including the Bozeman, Mormon, and Oregon trails. Amazingly, over 500,000 people traveled west over these trails in wagons and on foot during the mid 1800's. One key waypoint was Independence Rock where people figured they were about half way to their destination.

Visible for miles around, Independence Rock was covered by names carved into the rock by travelers. Over the years, most of these have vanished due to erosion, but there are still a few that are visible.

You can just make out the carvings above. According to period literature, names were thick on the rock as travelers left their names and initials there for subsequent travelers or posterity. It really makes you think about the past when you see such reminders.

Here is a classic prairie schooner, or wagon. Imagine traveling 15 miles a day (on a good day) over the hot, dusty plains. We decided that our motorhome is one heck of an advance!

This is the typical terrain of Wyoming and still looks the same as it did hundreds of years ago. The settlers must have been made of "stern stuff" to venture over these difficult surroundings in search of a better life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Replacing the Caulking on the Coach Roof -- lots of fun!

We have owned our Winnebago Tour about two and a half years and a routine maintenance item is to check the roof seam sealant for integrity. Over time, the sealant begins to pull away from the sidewall seam as you can see from the small crack above.

The best way to inspect this seam is to climb onto the roof and very carefully, bend over and try to gently push the roof inward. If you can push the roof in a bit and you see a small crack appear (usually on the outside of the roof) as you can see under my fingers above, then re-sealing is needed. Oh joy!!

Rick decided to do it right and first had to cut out the failed sealer with a razor knife. I first gently cut alongside the roof several times, deepening the cut each time. Then, I cut along the outside of the seam in the same manner. Since there are 40' of roof seam on each side of the roof, this was not a small project.

Here, you can see the ribbon of failed sealer as I cut it out. I was pleased to see the sealant come out of the joint fairly cleanly and was ready to replace it with new sealant.

The tools of the trade! Now that the tedious sealant removal has been completed (hurray!), I was ready to re-seal it. I used RV Pro-Flex sealant from Geocel which I have used before in similar applications with great success.

Here, you can see the new sealant after it has been applied (top of photo). I used the caulking gun to apply the sealant, then a wet finger to tool and smooth the sealant to form a nice, smooth seal. Once the sealant cures, it forms a strong, but flexible, seal and should last for many years. That is great, since I do not look forward to doing this job again in the near future!

Monday, September 13, 2010

3 Year Anniversary of the Auction of all our "Stuff" to go fulltime!

How do you get rid of 30 year's worth of "stuff" and still get some value for it? We pondered this issue in the early summer of 2007 as we made the decision to try the fulltime RV lifestyle. We considered the yard sale approach, but had never felt we received a fair return for the effort of putting it on. So, we decided to investigate an auction. We contacted a respected. local auction house (Bessman Auctions) and discussed the process. We decided to give it a try and set Sept. 14, 2007 as the big day. Of course, this meant that our summer would be spent preparing, and cleaning, items then moving them into the garage to be ready for the auction. This is what took the vast majority of time, but really paid off. As you can see, the garage was packed as the auction day approached!

We decided to offer everything -- from this pair of old ice skates to Rick's very nice wood-working machines. Of course, the auctioneer advertised all of these items (at our expense) for a few weeks in advance and we hoped for good weather for the auction.
Sept. 14 dawned clear, but cold! In fact, note the frost on the roof of the green house above (not too surprising in South Dakota where we lived in the fall)! Starting at 6:30am, the auction team showed up to start moving items onto the lawn in "lots" -- each of which was auctioned individually. We ended up with auction "lots" being staged everywhere on the lawn -- in fact, there were several hundred lots. Some consisted of a few glasses and plates in a cardboard box. Other lots might be a large TV or a dresser.

Here you can see a small part of the auction items. We started auctioning at 10:00am, and continued full speed (with two auctioneers) until about 3:00 pm. Wow -- what a day!
We were fortunate to have hundreds of bidders, due to the excellent advertising done by the auction house. This shows a small group of the folks as we were getting ready to auction our living room leather furniture (which sold very well!).

Cody was wondering what was going on, but Orinda assured him he was NOT on the auction list!

The auction house covered all the bases and all we did was watch. They registered all the bidders, collected the money and even would have handled any bad checks (there were none). We received a complete tally of items, lot prices and buyers at the end of the day. A couple days later, we received a check and we were done.

Here, one of the auctioneers is selling a small stool -- he is a real pro and completed this item in about a minute. The best part of the auction was that everyone took their purchase with them and at the end of the day -- all the stuff was gone!!

Here you can see some of Rick's wood working tools. These sold very well and made Rick feel much better about selling them. Some items sold for less than we expected, but others sold for much more. Overall, we cleared about 20% more than we hoped for and were very pleased with the results.

An interesting aside -- after 3 years, we have realized we have not missed our stuff at all. Amazing!