Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Glamorous Retirement Life Takes A Nosedive

Ozzie on the left, Lexie on the right.
Standing at the top of the steps.

On Monday, September 12th, we left Rifle, Colorado increased in number by one Ozzie Smalley.  Our route took us through some beautiful Rocky Mountain scenes as we traveled parallel to rapids of the Colorado River and the railroad bed.

If not for being so busy with my two babies, I would have snapped a few dozen pictures.  Instead I got this one photo. Wayne took it.
Look closely to see two sleeping dogs on my lap. Lexie on bottom, Ozzie on top.
Ozzie was still afraid of me so he lay real close to Lexie.
Just before rush hour we got through Denver and onto the flat part of eastern Colorado. Exhausted, we opted to stop overnight at a truck stop at Limon, Colorado.  We were moving quickly now as Wayne's college football fever is full bloom. The night air in Limon was cool and sometime during the night, the winds picked up and for the first time ever, I was actually afraid we'd get tossed over. The slides rattled and moved.
Ozzie at the top, Lexie at the bottom.

Ozzie. Posing for the camera.

Next morning we were up before the sun. We walked Lexie and Ozzie and then pulled out, headed east.  The winds were as high as any we've ever driven though and they were relentless. We rocked along and felt the pushing and pulling effect of the wind gusts. Less than five miles down I-70, a cannon-like sound caused us all to jump in fear. Unable to determine the source of the problem the only option was to pull onto the road shoulder to take a look.  I stayed inside while Wayne walked the length of the coach and saw that our largest slide cover (road side) was hanging off the curb side of the roof.  Climbing onto the roof, he found the whole slide cover and the damaged it had caused as it flew off the brackets and flopped around. Although the wind almost blew Wayne off the top of the coach,  traffic was light and he managed to tear the remaining 16" of canvas and remove the entire slide cover. The early morning sun was bright and I feared some tired trucker would be blinded by it and slam into our rear -- killing us all.

In short order, though, Wayne got the huge slide cover off the coach, rolled up and put into the car.  Leaving the rear liftgate glass open, the slide was as long as the car and rested on the bicycle frames on the car's backend.  Near the end of the process, a Colorado State Trooper stopped to see if we needed help. We did not.

We looked at our maps and opted to backtrack about 5 miles on I-70 to a road that would take us to Colorado Springs instead of returning to Denver.  Our destination was Camping World there.

The slide minus it's cover except for the 16" piece of canvas. The nylon strap was in too tight to remove.
It had to be duck taped to keep it from flapping in the wind.

The highway from Limon was a good one and it's wasn't long until we reached Camping World in Fountain, just south of Colorado Springs. We pulled into a parking spot and went to unhook the car only to find the battery was dead -- again. This makes about four times the battery has died while being towed.
A frustrated full-timer.  Dead battery. Charger on the ground.

Wayne is good to start the car every 3-4 hours to let the battery recharge so we can't figure this trouble. We called Ford's Roadside Assistance and they sent a wrecker to tow Blackie to the local dealer.  Our luck seems to be in a bit of a slump.  Wayne rode with the wrecker driver to the Ford dealer while Lexie, Ozzie and I stayed with the coach.
Close-up of a frustrated full-timer.
He really took it all in rather good humor, I must say.
Never lost his cool. 

The tow truck who took Wayne and Blackie away.....
We seem to have gotten the worst of Camping World's service technicans to deal with our slide cover problem.  He seemed preoccupied with telling us all about how bad this was going to be.

The bright spot in all this was about to be realized. Fortunately, there was a good "dog walk" place around Camping World. I took the dogs out several times as we're working on Ozzie's housebreaking. During one of those walks, I saw someone watching me and heard my name called.  The familiar voice and face of Connie, a friend from Tombstone Territories Campground who we met last winter. She and Dave were staying at a nearby campground. We enjoyed catching up on one each other's travels and we shared our miserable bad news with them.  They offered to help us and we appreciated it. It's amazing how much an offer like that can help one's spirits during these anxious moments.
Dave and Connie saved us. 
They are full-timers from Texas.  I always say the people in Texas are the most hospitable.
Waiting for word about the car while waiting in Camping World's parking lot, we decided to make a few personal business calls.  This resulted in the horrifying news that my medical insurance coverage had been cancelled for non-payment.  Interesting development since an electronic funds transfer (EFT) was drafted every month for the payment.  Furthermore, the payment was accepted by the vendor.  Several telephone calls later, we learned that all the medical payment funds had been misapplied to our dental plan (same company) but they refused to reinstate my medical coverage.  That's the thing with these COBRA plans, they look for ways to get insureds off the roster.  We're sure we're being punished today for some unknown wrongdoing.

By the day's end, we had secured ourselves a reservation at Mountaindale Campground where Connie and Dave were staying.  The drive to the campground was longer than we expected -- some 20 miles out of town, but we arrived and got setup well before dark.  Wayne turned on the TV and got a new message "AV FAULT" -- first time for that message!   We tried to entertain ourselves with the computer only to find we have no Internet signal.  Checking the phones, we see we have no cell coverage either.  Horrors! We're dead in the water.

Our friend and neighbor, Dave, climbed onto our roof the next morning and saw signs of the slide cover hitting the satellite and he also found that the thing had punched a hole in Mona's roof.  Ugh -- this is getting worse all the time.  Everything's broken and we can't make a call, send an email or drive ourselves to a cliff to jump off.  Remember, the car's still at the Ford dealer in town. Dave is quite good at DIY fixes and he patched the hole in the roof so well it should last for several weeks until we can get a permanent fix. 
Wayne and Dave surveying the damage to the roof and satellite.

The hole in our roof.

The slide cover surely "whacked" the satellite, although no sign of damage could be seen outside the dome.

Early that afternoon, Dave also helped me get onto the campground wi-fi. We sent an email message to the Ford dealer who responded quickly with our first good news in days.  Blackie's battery is still good -- just drained completely. It's been charged and the car is ready to pick up -- NO CHARGE! Even the tow was paid by Ford's Roadside Assistance. Dave again came to the rescue and drove Wayne into town to retrieve the car. We made plans to move out the very next morning. Originally, our though had been to stay on in Colorado Springs for several days but our "gut" feeling about the Camping World technician changed our minds.  We'll head back to middle-Tennessee to get our repairs done by people we know and trust at Columbia Campers.  Our satellite people are in Nashville, so we'll go there first...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lexie and Ozzie: Getting To Know You

The weekend Ozzie took us for a "test drive" was enlightening to say the least so it gets a post of it's own here on the family blog.

For the nine months we had been with her, we thought we had gotten to know our little mild-mannered Lexie.  The most excitement she'd displayed was the "bark and dance" routine she does before meals and the game of "tag" she plays when it's time to leash up for a walk.  The only other time she plays is the few minutes before breakfast when she gets on the bed with us and wants me to scratch around her ears. Sometimes then she will play a little tug-of-war with the blanket.

All that changed over this wonderfully funny weekend. I think she had what Wayne refers to as "pent-up demand" because she followed Ozzie every step, barked at him and tried every trick to get him to play. I don't think little Ozzie was really up to all this but he did play a little bit and I think he let her win the wrestling match every time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rifle, Colorado: Our Adoption of Ozzie

We found both Lexie and Ozzie online at, a foundation that makes pictures and descriptions of adoptable animals available to those interested.  They represent over 300,000 pets and 13,000 agencies including rescue groups and animal shelters.  Lexie's adoption was through P.A.W.S. (Pineywoods Animal Welfare Society) in Beaumont, Texas.  Ozzie's agency was BRAS (Breeders Release Adoption Services) in Rifle.  Both babies had received excellent care in loving foster homes before we adopted them.

I found Ozzie several weeks ago and have been in communication with Robin, Ozzie's foster mom about adopting him.  Robin offered to bring Ozzie to us within a reasonable distance, but we've decided to go there for a few days' trial to see if he and Lexie get along.

Rifle is a quaint Colorado River town established in 1905. We camped in beautiful Rifle Falls State Park overlooking a serene blue reservoir.  Aside from a little rain we had nice, cool, sunny weather.
Our campsite overlooks the lake

Looking at the campground on the hillside from the other side of the lake.

This was a perfect setting for Lexie and Ozzie to get to know each other.  Robin brought him, along with two other rescue dogs, Mopsy and Fergie, out to visit the afternoon we arrived.  I loved all three of them but knew we could only manage one more for our total of two.

Ozzie (red halter) meets Lexie
Ozzie was reserved but showed confidence.  Through email exchanges, Robin told me that Ozzie came from an Amish puppymill in Missouri -- much the same background as Lexie had endured in Mississippi. Ozzie came to BRAS covered in matts that had to first be cut before he could be shaved.  Robin had fostered Ozzie for three months (since May) and had observed that he was playful with the other dogs but wasn't too rough. That was important to us as Lexie really doesn't seem to know how to play.
Ozzie when he was first rescued.
The matting near his bottom is not his tail. It's feces dried in his unkept hair.

Ozzie's picture as shown on
It was love at first sight.

Lexie (front) seems to be smiling.
Ozzie is looking around to see how he likes us.

Ozzie got comfortable pretty quickly.  Lexie followed him every step.
Because he's not completely housebroken, he sometimes has to wear a cumber bun (belly band).
Robin let Ozzie visit with us for the next three days to see if he and Lexie were compatible.  At first he was frightened and I could tell he was feeling a degree of separation anxiety. During Friday and Saturday, glimpses of his sweet, timid personality could be seen.  To our surprise, Lexie chased him around the coach, barking and trying to play.  He was completely uninterested in play but we didn't care, we had fallen in love with him and on Sunday we loaded our menagerie into the car and drove to Robin's house to finalize the adoption. 
Try as he may, Wayne is unable to get either Lexie or Ozzie to come when he calls.
This is a "first" as babies and dogs naturally love Wayne.  

Wayne decides he'll win them over with kibbles! 
He feeds them simultaneously... by hand. 
Lexie on the left, Ozzie on the right.
They eat this way every afternoon at 4 p.m.

The first of a zillion photos of the furkids.
Ozzie on the left, Lexie on the right.

This one is out of focus but easy to see what's important here...
Lexie in the top of the photo -- Ozzie at the bottom.
"Lexie... look at the camera. We're being photographed for a calendar, I think."

Robin's home is in a beautiful setting, high on a hill with a fabulous view.  She met us in the drive and we got to see Mopsy and Fergie again.  We also met Jackson and Piper, Robin's other two Malteses.  I begged Wayne to adopt Mopsy, a tiny little girl with lots of food allergies.  Then there was Fergie, who Robin referred to as the "lap magnet" -- a fun-filled Yorkie who was Wayne's favorite.  But Wayne said no, we couldn't take then all and Ozzie was a perfect fit for us. 
Ozzie's foster home. Life was pretty good out here in Colorado
We have a tough act to follow.

Okay, let's see if I can get this right....  Lexie in the lead, then Jackson. Fergie (the Yorkie) is next, followed by Ozzie and Piper. Mopsy was being held by yours truly.
Wayne playing ball with Piper.  She never gets tired.
Taken in Robin's kitchen (loves dogs, can't you tell).
Ozzie is relaxed on the shelf behind Wayne.

Lexie, Jackson and Ozzie romp around the patio at Robin's house.

Robin and me with Piper, Ozzie, Fergie, Mopsy (in blue) and Lexie

Mopsy, Piper, Fergie and Ozzie with Wayne and me.

After at least an hour of playing with all the rescue babies, we loaded up and headed back to the campground for our final night. We'll head east tomorrow morning.
Going back into the campground.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ogden, Utah to Rifle, Colorado

Somewhere between Idaho Falls, Idaho and Ogden, Utah our parallel travel with Marcella, Landon and BJ ended.  We saw them last at a Flying J fuel stop where BJ had just caused Marcella grief by losing his cookies after gobbling his food during the lunch stopover.  We pulled in for fuel and Landon explained Flying J's loyalty discount card to Wayne.  We got ourselves one of those cards and we're Flying J loyalists as a result. $0.02 a gallon mounts up quickly when you by 100 gallons of diesel every few days.

Landon and Marcella drove on to the Provo area where they learned they could have their washing machine repaired.  We stopped at Sierra RV in Ogden to have the patio awning repaired.  When the awning work was complete, we stayed on for several days at nearby Willard Bay State Park along the northeastern part of the Great Salt Lake.  Our campsite was nice, notwithstanding the proximity of the interstate, whose noise soon became just a constant low background roar.  We really didn't take in much of the area sights -- instead, we just sat around the campground, watched some college football and played with Lexie. Wayne and I (me to a lesser degree) are getting football fever and contemplating a return to the southeast. We know we'll return to Utah to see more of it someday.  But as we leave here today, we're heading for Colorado.
Our final smoldering campfire at Willard Bay Campground. 
On Wednesday morning, September 14, we pulled out of our campsite headed for Rifle, Colorado where we were going to see male Maltese rescue I'd found on the Petfinder website.  I've been in communication with the dog's foster mom and from her description, Ozzie might be a good adoption for us.

While the new adoption is exciting to us, we learned that Marcella, Landon and BJ have excitement of their own. They've just traded their Jeep Liberty in on a new Rubicon. Being desert rats and off-road enthusiasts, they're all excited at their new wheels and sent pictures to us. Without their permission, I'm sharing one of their pictures here.
Marcella, BJ and Landon
(in order of importance)
The trip to Rifle, Colorado was originally planned over two days, arriving late Thursday evening, but the drive along I-70 through eastern Utah was so nice, we just kept going.  The scenery was simply beautiful.
Utah landscape

More Utah landscape
Gas equipment dot the land along I-70

Just before sunset and rain.

Leaving Grand Junction, Colorado next morning

Along the Colorado River somewhere between Grand Junction and Rifle, Colorado

Fruita, Colorado, just across the state line from Utah on I-70 seemed like a good place to stay over for the night. I had planned to ask Robin, the adoptive dog's foster mom, to bring him there for us to meet him. Then I thought we'd spend a few days exploring Canyonlands National Park, Moab and Arches National Park.  To my surprise, Wayne was eager to get to Rifle. Secretly, I know he's as excited as me to meet little Ozzie.   .... so we drove on in a light rain that became a pouring one as darkness fell.  By 7 p.m. we reached Grand Junction where we knew we'd find a Walmart near the interstate.  To our dismay, a Grand Junction city ordinance prohibited parking there.  The GPS located another Walmart and we drove there, where, not seeing any signs prohibiting overnighting, we found a spot, walked Lexie and then crashed into our bed to to sound of light rain.  The next morning, I as dismayed to find a sign right in front of the coach prohibiting overnight parking.  Oh well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Leaving Yellowstone and Grand Teton

After ten days at Red Rock RV Park, I was ready to leave it behind -- along with leaving summer behind. Today is Labor Day and I'm not ashamed to say I really dread the long holiday weekends as we have so much competition for campground space.  Don't get me wrong... I really love children -- especially when they're in school. 

We got a good start with a beautiful clear morning. Landon and Marcella pulled away just ahead of us and we followed them back into Yellowstone National Park, taking the large southern loop again, passing by Old Faithful and heading down to Yellowstone Lake.
Yellowstone Lake

Everything was going smoothly until we missed a turn that Landon had intended to take. We drove on until we found a long pull-out.  We eagerly jumped out and took BJ and Lexie for a short walk down toward the lake... which is, incidentally, bubbling and steaming around the edges.  Most unnerving.

Something about a boiling lake bothers me. 

Just before the awning catastrophe. 
Marcella taking a picture of me taking a picture.

About this time Wayne noticed our curb side awning was not securely rolled into it's "travel" position.  Now this thing is not one of those good ole reliable mechanical awnings.  Oh no. This is an electric awning that extends and retracts with the flip of a switch. Tightening the awning didn't work so Wayne though it might be a good idea to extend it a bit and then try retracting it.  I heard a solid "thump" and looked to see the huge 10' x 25' awning fully extended into the trees along the roadside.  Wayne's face was colorless.
Awning deployment here is NOT a good thing.

Manually rolling the motorized awning required all four of us. Using a ladder, Wayne managed to roll the awning while Landon and Marcella held it into place. Then Wayne climbed onto the coach roof to secure it somehow. Meanwhile I was scouring the operators manual for any assistance it would provide -- a useless exercise.  In the end we used velcro straps and duct tape to hold the thing in place until we could get a repair. Mind you now... we're in Yellowstone National Park and there's not a really large city near here. 
Wayne on top. Landon holds the forward awning arm.
Marcella at the rear.   I'm taking pictures -- very important role.

Getting the velcro strap put in place.

Marcella can do this with one hand.

Finished!   Duct tape is a necessity in the tool box.

Once the awning was secured we still needed to turn around and take the turn we'd missed.  While our coach is long at 40', Marcella and Landon are 42' and we'll need 40 acres to turn these rigs around. We think we've found it at one point...
It was right about here Wayne said to Landon on the CB, "You've got it. Plenty of room."

But there wasn't plenty of room.  It's not easy to back a rig but Landon "got 'er done"!

We tied up traffic for a few short minutes.  Once we got all straightened out, we moved on to the next wide spot.

Once we got on the right road we continued the drive south, crossing the Continental Divide several times between Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park where we came upon a Elks Ranch Flat and a huge herd of bison.  We stopped for pictures, a short rest and a look-see at our awning tape job.
Photo taken through the glare of the windshield.
We got to almost 8,000 foot elevation and crossed the Continental Divide three times.

The Rockefeller Memorial Parkway goes through Grand Teton National Park.


One of two buffalo herds.

Our rig with the Tetons in the background.

Marcella, Landon and BJ in the far right corner.
That's their rig -- Tetons in the background.

It was nice to see the Tetons from the opposite side of where we'd seen them yesterday.  I was glad we hadn't decided to stay in the Teton National Park, though, as a fabulous view of the mountain range was all I needed for my "Teton fix". 

We drove on into and through Jackson Hole, Wyoming and then back into Idaho, yet again to stay overnight at a campground at Swan Valley before going on into Idaho Falls to see about our awning repair.  Marcella and Landon make the ride with us as they want to see about getting service on their coach washing machine too.

The Antler Arches are in Jackson Hole.

The Snake River going back into Idaho from Wyoming.