A Bump in the Road, Time to Regroup and Count Our Blessings

A recent visit to the Doctor revealed Doyle has an Abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

This comes as quite a blow to us, we are just becoming somewhat successful in our new endeavour as a Full Time Kitchen Under Canvas and have been unsuccessful in finding an insurance carrier that would cover us since we both have previous medical conditions that preclude us from any kind of meaningful insurance that we could possibly afford.

Instead of turning this into a rant on the present state of affairs of the medical insurance policies in this country, we instead, wish to reflect on a life well lived and we move forward boldly to deal with this situation as best we can.

We have both been blessed with a good, adventurous life and healthy, wonderful children.

We have watched our country change, mature, fall back on itself, rally together and take on the challenges of a world seemingly gone mad all at the same time. I guess that's what a democratic and free country does best and we wouldn't trade it for any other system in the universe.

I have seen our flag raised before tear filled eyes, burned, worn as trouser patches and draped on coffins. This is America too. We never see a flag unfurled that doesn't make us choke up with pride for the people who paid with their lives so it could remain our standard.

We were raised in a different time, knowing a rustic lifestyle that no longer exists and have seen many wonderful, (and not so wonderful), advances in technology and society. We have both lived quite happily without electricity, indoor plumbing, phones or television. We have been to remote, primitive areas that few if any human eyes ever saw before. We drank from a crick, built a shelter, fished with a handmade hook on string and built fires without the benefit of a lighter. We never felt the worst for it or felt we lacked for anything.

We have both benefited from modern society also, we have both been to college, worked in the hectic modern world and owned fine houses and lived prosperous lives by anyone's standards. 

We have lost it all at one time too, and had to gather ourselves up and begin again more than once.

We have been selfish, petulant, and made more mistakes than we could count on all hands and fingers, yet we learned from it eventually and found that actions speak louder than words and that we must learn to forgive ourselves and seek the forgiveness of others for our wrongs. Life is a round table, eventually what you put on it will come back to you.

We have been humbled, exalted and chastised in the proper time by a Maker who wanted us someday to be wise and worthwhile people.

We have both been gravely ill in the past, and through the miracle of our Maker and Good Folks around us, we have persevered through dark times.

We know, from past experience, that everything happens for a reason, and today's challenge is no different, we just have a temporary case of clay feet and will move past this moment of doubt.

Our Friends and Family have overwhelmed us with their thoughts, prayers and concern. They are our backbone now, and will be for the foreseeable future.

No matter what, it's been a great ride and we hope to be back on the roller coaster soon, careening our way down the road with our heads out the no-draft, our tongues lolling in the wind, like two pups on an ice cream run. 

God Bless this Great Country and God Bless You All.
Doyle & Terri Johnson

Storage Bags a Real Life/Space Saver

Here is a photo of my under bed storage space which was filled with my collection of wool blankets. 

I really needed more space so I decided to invest in the "Space Bag" and using my central vacuum I more than doubled my available storage space!

(A Caveat thought: Remember, more stuff weighs more, so don't get carried away stuffing tons of stuff in your storage, even blankets can add up! Also, the bags I bought were rather fragile, I somehow managed to put a hole in one already that I'm going to try and patch with an airbed patch kit, so be careful moving the bags around after filling).

Flatscreen TV Hutch Transormation (Hide the wires)

Most of us have a flat screen TV housed in an cabinet that has many connections, wires and tie downs visible. Ours is no exception, and this picture was taken before I added my ipod connections which has a nest of white wires running all over the place.
I needed a solution that would allow the TV to be secured by it's travel strap, allow the TV to be moved in and out on its arm and yet cover the unsightly tangle.
At first I came up with a number of complicated fixes, but then decided to embrace the KISS principal, (Keep it simple, stupid), and just cut a piece of stretch black fabric slightly larger than the opening. I cut a slit from the bottom middle to the center of the fabric and then just tacked in in place inside the cabinet frame with push tacks strategically placed.
The finished look is clean and uncluttered, also uncomplicated. If I really need to get in the cabinet, I just pull the tacks and then replace when finished.
Make sure you have enough clearance in your slit to allow the retaining travel strap to come out and still attach!
Here is the finished look, very nice!

Cutting the Glare of Those Oval Wall Interior lights

Most Fifth Wheelers and campers have them, those nice looking oval wall lights. There's only one problem, they are brighter than the morning sun when lit, (blinding, perhaps is a better word for it).

I solved this problem by removing the lens assembly and lining it with tin foil, after shaping it to the inside of the lens I removed it and used a sewing pin to make a random pattern on the foil, then placing it back into the lens I the reassembled the light, being careful not to block the venting, since these fixtures do get quite warm).

One could make a design pattern if one chose, but I just needed a quick fix for a more subtle effect, so I didn't get too fancy. 
This really looks nicer than the pictures show, give it a try on your "spotlight" and make yourself a more subtle "romantic" light!
(Only use a non flammable tin foil and don't let the foil touch bulbs or wires within!)
Now if only someone would come up with a suitable way to tame the glow of those awful ceiling fixtures! I think I'll just replace them with DC LED eventually, but there has to be a way to cut that terrible surgery lamp light look until I can find the right replacements!
I'm going to experiment with using a non flammable, temporary white wash on the inside of the lense to get rid of the bare bulb look, (can anyone remember that stuff we painted on glass as kids that dried in a snowflake/frost pattern?)

Katie Dog Settles in to Her New Digs

Oh yeah, Katie has found a new way to relax, and annoy the cat at the same time.

You see, the cat has taken over the upper loft, (the ladder ascends to her lofty perch), and Katie has found that if she naps with her head resting on the rung, the cat has a fit about not being able to climb up to her throne room.

A truly passive/aggressive move on Katie's part, but totally affective.

Get out the camera, and she will show up, who says pets don't know want their picture taken? 

I wanted to get a nice shot of the trailer set up and guess who just happened to stroll into camera range? She even seems to be trying to get me to shoot her "best side".

I Love a Parade! We Sneak our Road Warrior Into the Mix!

This has to go under the heading: "Only in Wisconsin"

We were on our way to an Event when we came around the corner to find a Tractor Parade in progress, we joined right in and followed along for what seemed ages, finally they tired of our trying to "fit in" and pulled over to let us go about our way.
The irony of the last picture is the fact that cows can't read.

Wheel in the Sky....

Rare Cloud Formation
We spotted this Cloud formation on our way home from Platteville.

I can't remember where I read it, but this type of "spoke wheel" formation is rare and wonderful to behold. Pictures don't quite do it justice, (I had to kinda splice the photos together to catch it). It actually spread across the entire sky from East to West but I couldn't get a good shot of it shooting into the sun. 

The spectacle lasted only the better part of a quarter hour before it blew apart, but it was glorious in it's passing!
click on pictures for larger version

Pictures of our Road Warrior at Platteville, Wisconsin Historic Encampment

Ever get the feeling something is following you?

We can't get over the ease at which this new rig pulls, sure, it's heavy, but it tracks along behind us like it's a part of the truck.
The turning is much smoother and tighter than our former trailer and it feels like we are gliding along..with Tow/haul we do well on Wisconsin's challenging 8% grades and braking is very smooth and controlled.

I don't think I will ever get tired of taking pictures of our new home, here we are on quite a hill, no problems with the slides binding, rock solid and stable.

The cat likes it too...she's hamming it up to show her appreciation for us buying her a new house to live in!

We are setting up in a beautiful park on the edge of town, we'll haul out canvas, set up and then retire to the equally nice RV spot they've reserved for us at the entrance to the park.
The camp host came out to greet us, he thinks we have a mighty big rig. Yes we do.

We love this life because who else can pull their RV onto the grass in a city park and boondock? we can!
Here's Doyles end of the rig...funny how he forgot the "Easy" button to make it all fly out and set itself up! 

It's a beautiful day though, nice lower 70's and a cool breeze, so we don't mind charging into the duty of the day...
The new larger windows framed in black make a perfect picture frame of this wonderful park. Makes taking a break a luxurious experience, can hardly remember the days when we lived in a tent behind the kitchen, our Road Warrior makes us feel at home anywhere!

Tree Trimming Time...

Not going forward here...
Sure, getting in the yard was easy...but when we went to leave we realized there was an obstacle, namely the 100+ year old cottonwood growing in our yard.

Removing just what's needed
So Doyle just climbed up on the roof of the Road Warrior and removed the offending limbs, I was so concerned for his safety, I did what most loyal wives do at this moment, I got out the camera and took pictures!

Once again we are amazed at the sturdy construction of our Road Warrior, people spend more time on the roof than you would think, fixing this, adding that, and the Road Warrior has a strong enough roof to actually walk around on!

Free at Last

This is probably the most expensive tree removal piece of equipment ever built, and you can camp in it too!

One less thing to worry about when we pull in late at night!

Copying DVDs to your Computer for Later Playback

This is in response to an RV'er wanting to copy their movie files to an external drive to watch at a later date without having to load the DVD. 
Here is a quick tutorial of how Wondershare DVD Ripper works on a Mac. 
The windows version should be very similar.
This software allows you to copy your DVD's to your Hard drive for computer viewing without the disk being loaded. Be aware of copy write issues, you may legally make copies of your DVD's but sharing or distributing them is illegal.

The software I am using to make this tutorial is Screenflow, by the way...

I would suggest you watch this on the you tube site and click on the resolution tab and select at least 720p to view this tutorial properly. Otherwise it will be a bit fuzzy.

The Amazon Link below is for PC, if you want the Mac version, click on the Wondershare link above.

St. Augustine Beach, Florida 2010

Doyle walking at North Beach, St. Augustine Florida, January 2010. We stay at this campground, North Beach Campground, between the sea and the inter coastal for several weeks in the Winter, great fishing, walks and shell finding.
One of the great undiscovered retreats in Florida. Looking forward to getting there soon!
If you have a fast connection, try clicking on the high res version by clicking the small 4 arrow zoom at the bottom right of the video to fill screen. Enjoy!
Hey, leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Road Warrior Computer Center in Operation...

Here is our Computer Center fully operational it consists of:

2 Macbook Pros
17" Unibody Macbook Pro, 2.93GHz, 4GB RAM, 320MB WD 7200RPM HD, Anti-glare.

1 13" Gloss 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 duo, 4GB RAM 250 GB HD 5400rpm

Bose External Speakers

Sony HDR-SR11 Digital Video Camera w/dock

Lower cabinet shows:
2 ESATA External drives:
1 Terabye
Western Digital E Class HDD 9600rpm in icy dock
1.5 Terabyte Western Digital External 5400rpm
1 USB Book Drive 1 Terabyte 5400RPM
not shown:
Original 320 MB internal drive housed in icy dock for Time Machine backup

Travel Laptop:
15" G4 Powerbook, 1.67GHz, 2GB RAM, 120MB HD

Internet Hook Up:
Palm Pro Windows 6 Smartphone tethered

WMwifirouter for interface

Stashed in drawer under couch:
Cannon Pixma iP 2600 Printer for occasional use

We also raised the table 2" to accomidate all the wiring and cabinets and added a paper shredder, we now open the mail over the shredder!

This was the most dreaded part of setting up our new home, there's a lot of cords, wires, power sources,(duly grounded and surge protected), and external equipment it takes to run a full featured video operation, I haven't even worked on my back load of videos from the last 8 months because of this anticipated move, now I have no excuse not to get those Historic and Vacation videos processed! 


Here is a pic of my old office in the bedroom loft of our Forest River Work and Play, 4 foot of head room, (from the top of the bed to the ceiling), and I couldn't stretch out my legs, I actually sat cross legged on the bed most of the time! This is why I am 2 years behind in processing my photos and videos!

Meet the Hills in Their HDT Freightliner

So... we're cruising through Viroqua, Wisconsin and we spot this unit sitting at the County Fairgrounds. Being the shy retiring type, we pound on the door and demand an audience with the owners of this incredible home on wheels.

Meet The Hills, Dale & Kathy, hailing from Yuma, Arizona and spending the Summer in Wisconsin to be near Dale's 100 year old Mother nearby. They were more than gracious, telling us everything we cared to know about the place they have called home for the last 19 years.

Dale is retired military and they have been as far North as Alaska with this rig and as far South as Mexico and all points East and West in between.

As you can see, Dale loves to fish. He uses a swing hoist, (that black thing sticking up) to take down the boat, complete with trailer. 'It's easier that way, with the trailer attached' he explains. 'It makes a great wind deflector too up there like that'. And so it is, we agree. He also uses the hoist to load his motorcycle, (not pictured) and load the Johnson outboard. He was going to buy a hoist, but after looking one over he thought, 'heck, I can make that myself!' and so he did!

He bought the tractor and did all the modifications himself, except the flatbed, which was already done.
They also tow a Toad to complete the look.

We got a complete inside tour as well, Dale has practically gutted the interior and rebuilt it making it quite the showplace. We didn't take pictures inside, we have to draw the line someplace, I suppose.

Kate told us that they are used to being stopped and photographed by people from around the world, seems their rig is quite the conversation piece.

Kate gave me some great advice on several housekeeping tips and Dale gave Doyle the lowdown on buying and rigging an HDT. It was the best afternoon we have spent in a long while. Now we just have to get our own HDT, we can't go wrong with great people like the Hills to show us the ropes!

Escapees helping Full Timers Find A New Home

I consider myself a bit of an old timer on the road, we have been living this way for four years now and consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable about the ins and outs of life on the highway.

If only I had known about the Escapees Forum! What a great group of people sharing their collective hundreds of years on the road. I have only been posting and reading for three weeks and already I have learned more in that time than I ever learned on my own.

Using their search feature I have been able to enter a keyword and get back an amazing amount of information, everything from rubber roof care to tires and everything in between. There are even areas to swap design ideas and recipes for us Ladies! What a friendly group of people!

I was particularly upset lately about issues of residency, since I had just sold my home of 27 years and didn't know which state to claim as my new "domicile" for Drivers License, Taxes, insurance, (You get the idea_) so I posted a query and was quickly assured by folks who had been there that they had the answer in-house with their own mail forwarding service out of Texas. I knew about these services, (one is through Good Sam's Club), but wanted to be a tax paying, voting member of a state, not just a place to call home on a letterhead. We also spend much of our Winter in Texas, so it was a good fit.

The atmosphere is friendly and well moderated, no flame wars here! Most regular posters have their own very interesting blogs with tons of specialized information and trip information. I have made several new friends already and look forward to getting to know more of these Road Hardy Old Hands.

So if you are on the road and think you know it all....think again, there is a collective group of support folks out there at the Escapees Forum that is there to help!
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