Category Archives: Fulltime RVing

Fun in the Hudson River Valley

May 12, 13, 15 & 16, 2018 – Hudson River Valley, NY

As we stated a couple of posts back, our base for seeing New York City was Newburgh, New York.  Located about an hour-plus north of NYC by rail, this charming area nestled in the Hudson River Valley is as if you are in a totally different world.  The rolling hills are dotted with small farms and little towns, in contrast to the metropolis to the south.  With us being in the vicinity for the better part of a week, we decided to explore and see what hidden gems we might find!

Saturday, May 12 was a cold, drizzly sort of day, we decided it would be a good opportunity to do some grocery shopping.  On the way to the store, Diana did a little Google search and informed me that Angry Orchard Hard Cider was located near there in the town of Walden, and that they had live music that afternoon. Seeing that this cider is available across the nation, I had always assumed Angry Orchard to be a fictional place.  Apparently, this wasn’t the case.  I made a quick U-turn and we headed to the cidery.  Groceries can wait until later!

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This very real place is filled with gnarly-looking apple trees.  According to the company, the angriest trees produce the best cider.

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It is here that they have what is known as their Innovation Cider House.  This is where they offer new flavors and blends to their guests, before sending it out to the masses.

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Everyone of drinking age is given a free flight of three different ciders, and the bar offers several other flavors for sale.  As you can see in the photo above, the complimentary pours are a decent size!  Diana also tried their Rose.  I had a pint of their Maple Wooden Sleeper, which is aged in bourbon barrels.  It has a somewhat dryness to it, with hints of maple, vanilla and bourbon. At 12% ABV…double their normal offering…it also earns the name ‘sleeper’!

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They had a duo that afternoon, which made for a great atmosphere!  We were sitting at community tables with several locals, which was a lot of fun.

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They have a self-guided tour that ends with this showcase of the awards they’ve won.  Most were from the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.  Hmmmmm…..never heard of that, but it might be worth checking out sometime!

Sunday, May 13 was another rainy day, so we decided to head across the river to Hyde Park.  We had visited this town back in 2007 to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage, Valkill.  Both were amazing and are recommended by us, if you are in the area.  This time, we visited FDR’s neighbor, the Vanderbilt mansion.

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Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt had this estate built in the late 1890’s as a summer escape from the heat of New York City.  These are the people who owned the New York Central railroad and are responsible for the beautiful Grand Central Terminal we love so much.  When Frederick passed in the 1930’s, he willed the mansion to his niece.  After unsuccessfully trying to sell it, FDR convinced her to donate it to the National Park Service.  It has been in their care since 1940.

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This is the dining room.  The table actually looked small in this room, but our guide explained that the couple only entertained a few guests at a time.

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This is Louise’s bedroom.  Lots of gold leaf adorning the walls.

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This is the man cave, so to speak.  I’m sure there were plenty of cigars smoked in this room!

Tours are offered at $10 each. Although it doesn’t state it in their literature or on their website, NPS Interagency Annual Passholders are admitted at no charge.  We didn’t check, but that is probably the same at the Roosevelt sites, so be sure to ask.

On Tuesday May 15, we decided to check out the nearby town of New Paltz with our friend Kathy.  We met her while working at Amazon in 2016 and we’ve been fortunate to see her twice between then and now.  Check out her new blog called Wonder Woman Wandering.  After checking out a few stores, we grabbed a drink at a local watering hole.  While there, everyone’s phones went crazy as there was a tornado warning.  We looked at the radar and it appeared we were OK where we were, but we decided to head back to camp, just in case.  Later that evening, a nasty storm hit.  While it was bad by us, it was much worse just to our south.  Huge trees were toppled everywhere and a couple of people were killed when they fell on them.

The next day, the three of us decided to do some more exploring.  On a stop at Walgreens to pick up a prescription, we saw this:

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I guess this is why it’s a good idea to have a backup generator.  All of their dairy coolers had lost power in the storm.

We headed to Minnewaska State Park on a quest to do a little hiking.

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This is Awosting Falls from above.  We continued down the trail to see what they looked like from below.

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Very pretty!  These falls are located on the Peters Kill River, which was flowing rapidly with the recent rains.

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Diana and Kathy spotted this interesting boulder across the river with trees growing over it.  🙂

We then drove up to Lake Minnewaska to see what that looked like.

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Kathy read a sign that told how the quartz that underlies the lake prevents the acidity from being filtered out.  As a result, this body of water doesn’t have any fish.  It is a picturesque scene, nonetheless.

On the way back, we made a stop at Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson.

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Kathy had spotted this garden gnome in Roadside America, as the largest in the world when it was made in 2006, and said “Now THAT’S a selfie moment!”  By golly, I believe she is right!

To cap the day, we stopped at Tuthilltown Distillery to sample what they had to offer.  They had some excellent bourbon, but their prices reflected their small size.  We did enjoy the tasting, though!

That wraps up our time in New York and the Hudson River Valley for the time being.  Next up, we visit with friends in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Be sure to stay tuned for that.  Until then, safe travels to all!

Serendipity Along the Grand Strand

Have you ever been put somewhere by what seems like sheer luck?  Maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s meant to be.  We had that situation last May when we were put in a campsite next to a guy who I had a Facebook friend request into for ages, as we had 11 friends in common.  Turns out our now great friend Rick wasn’t big on checking his Facebook account.  🙂  Neither of us had any connectivity at the campground we were at on the Oregon coast, and our mutual friend Tracy (who figured out we were both there) was frantically trying to get in touch with us.  By the time she did, Rick had met us…even though we hadn’t made the mutual friends connection yet.  Thinking back, it was as if we were supposed to be there.

Such was the case on April 16th at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina.  We really didn’t have any plans for what we were going to do once we got there, only that we wanted to see what the place known as the Grand Strand looked like.  We pulled in and got ourselves set up and prepared to settle in for the evening.  As I kicked back in my recliner, I could see a Bighorn fifth wheel passing by.  A few minutes later, I saw the back of it peeking out from behind the motorhome next door.  The woman that was helping direct the rig back looked really familiar to me.  I thought ‘Hmmmm….that looks like Sharon’, a fellow RV-Dreamer who we had yet to meet.  Before I could totally grasp that thought, her husband David popped into view.  Neither of us had any idea the other was going to be coming to Myrtle Beach. Here were two people that we had long wanted to get to know, placed just two campsites away from us.  We had been following their blog Two Lanes of Freedom for years, as they had with ours.  Dumb luck?  We choose to think it was more than that.  We were out of the rig and headed over to meet them in a flash!

They recognized us right away.  🙂  We talked for a bit and then called it a night, as we were all tuckered out from traveling. The next day, they invited us to go to Brookgreen Gardens with them, as they were meeting longtime RV-Dreamers, Bill and Nancy there.  Oh my goodness…two more people we had wanted to meet!

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Here we are gettin’ cozy on a park bench.  We slowly wound our way through Brookgreen’s trails, admiring the sculptures, landscaping, and animals.  All the while, we were learning more about each other.  🙂

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Here’s David admiring the gardens from the shade of a huge Live Oak tree.  Nancy and Sharon are in the background.

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This red fox had other plans for the lazy afternoon.

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Diana, Nancy, and Sharon are headed towards a sculpture of…

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Diana of the Chase.  This amazing work was created by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1922.  She and her husband, Archer Huntington, founded Brookgreen in 1931 on four former rice plantations.  Close to 1500 works are displayed throughout the gardens.

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Their former winter home, Atalaya Castle, is located across US-17 in what is now known as Huntington Beach State Park.  Anna had an indoor and outdoor studio in the home.  She kept live animals in the courtyard, so she could study their muscle structure as they moved about.  What an amazing day with Bill, Nancy, David, and Sharon!

The next day was a beach day for Diana and I.  The temperature climbed above 80, which was perfect for putting our toes in the sand….except when the wind would shift and the cooler ocean air would roll in. David and Sharon stopped over for a bit, and we made plans for a campfire that evening.

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They were wondering who the couple was all bundled up on the beach, when they realized it was US!  Hey, our Michigan blood has thinned to a Florida viscosity.  🙂  That night we enjoyed a nice campfire and some excellent company, complete with several songs from David and his guitar.

The next morning was our travel day, but not before a sunrise meetup on the beach.

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I spotted them taking photos, so I took a few of my own.  We all headed back to camp, and Diana and I packed to leave. As we stopped by to say our farewells, David greeted us with his guitar.

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He sang us one of his ballads to see us on our way.  What a fitting and perfect ending to our time together.  Travel safely friends, we will see you down the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Who?

As we were exploring Charleston, we kept coming upon a name that sounded familiar to us:  Charles Pinckney.  That was due in large part to our Michigan lineage, as there is a town in the Wolverine state named Pinckney.  I remember it well, as I did a 50 mile bicycle ride there one day with some friends.  After some research, it turns out that the South Carolina Pinckneys appear to not be related to the Michigan clan.  But who was this Charles Pinckney, and why does he have a national historic site in his honor?  Well, it turns out that there were several people by that name in Charleston.  In this post we are going to focus on the one who is honored at Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.

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Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824) came of age in a wealthy family as the people of the English colonies in America prepared to declare their independence from Britain. As a young man he fought in the Revolutionary War.  He was captured during the battle of Charleston and was taken prisoner until after the war ended.  Over his career, he was a four term Governor of South Carolina, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative, and an ambassador to Spain.  But his biggest claim to fame was as a member of the Continental Congress when the U.S. Constitution was drafted.  On May 29, 1787, he submitted a plan to the convention that was called the Pinckney Draught.  It was similar in many ways to the Virginia Plan, calling for the following:

  • Three branches of government: Congress, Judicial and Executive branches.
  • A separate House and Senate.
  • A President shall inform Congress the conditions of the nation (State of the Union).
  • The President shall be Commander-in-Chief.
  • No state shall coin money, establish tariffs, keep troops, or enter into a treaty.
  • Only the House shall have the power of impeachment.

He also exclusively came up with the idea that no person should be held to a religious test to hold any elected office in the United States.

Eventually, ideas from all of the plans presented were woven into what became the United States Constitution.  Pinckney spoke often during the convention that was responsible for the creation of the instrument, and his signature is on the final document.

So how did his country plantation become a national historic site overseen by the National Park Service?  At first glance, the answer to that is a bit confusing…as the 1820’s era home that occupies the site was built by a subsequent owner.

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It turns out that the property had been sold to developers in the latter half of the 20th century.  Most of the original 715 acre estate was turned into a golf course, homes, and such.  US-17 even runs through it.  When the builders began to prepare the final 28 acres for development into 42 individual home sites, a group of local preservationists led by two women came to the rescue.  In 1986 they negotiated a $2 million purchase price, and proceeded to raise the money to cover it.  In 1990, they donated the property to the National Park Service.  The park opened to the public in 1995.

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The grounds are beautiful, with several paths winding through the property.  Over 150,000 artifacts have been unearthed from the site, along with the foundations from the original buildings.  The visitor center has many displays regarding Pinckney’s life of service, several of the found artifacts, and an interesting display on the Gullah culture along the lower Eastern seaboard.  Gullah is a language developed by the slaves that has an English base with West African influences.

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A fantastic example of the language is this Bible they have on display.  The English translation is on the sidebars.  I found it mesmerizing.  They actually let visitors page through it.

As with our other recent National Park visits, we completed our Junior Ranger books and earned our badges.  Having to search the displays for answers really makes sure we read each display carefully.  While the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site wasn’t a major attraction, we were glad we made the effort to go there.  We now have an appreciation for the man and his contributions to our nation.  As we see his name in the future, we will have a better understanding of who he was and where he came from.

Next up: A serendipitous assignment of campsites in Myrtle Beach.  Be sure to see the amazing meetup that resulted from that, and the friendships that came about as a result!  🙂

Jekyll and St. Simons Islands

When we left you last, we had explored northern Florida in an area that had been contested by the French and the Spanish back in the 1500’s.  On Thursday, we moved a mere 70 miles up the road to Brunswick, Georgia.  Here we found stories of the pre-Revolutionary British, the Civil War, the early 20th Century elite, and modern day foreign trade.  With only a few days here it was not only a lot to discover, but it was hard to keep it all straight!

We began by pulling into our first Boondockers Welcome location.  This is a program where people allow you to camp on their property for free.  This particular location was hosted by Leslie and Skipper, and they were just super to us.  We even hung out with them one evening around their fire pit, and got to know them and their neighbors over cocktails.  To show our appreciation for their hospitality, we gave them a small gift bag with some goodies from Michigan.  🙂

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They lost several trees during Hurricane Irma.  Fortunately, they all fell across the driveway when no one was home.  Thank you again, Leslie and Skipper!

On Friday, we headed out to St. Simons Island.  This particular barrier island is home to Fort Fredrica, an 18th Century British outpost and townsite.  The settlement was put into place under the watchful eye of James Oglethorpe; a soldier, member of Parliament, and a visionary.  His plan was to establish somewhat of a Utopia for people in debtors prisons back in England, all the while creating a buffer between British colonies to the north and the Spanish to the south.  A fort was erected along the Altamaha River in 1734, and a fortified town was laid out just behind it.  There were 84 lots, most of which were 60 by 90 feet.  Each family also received 50 acres in the surrounding countryside to raise crops.  As the town began to spring up, the Spanish to the south took notice.  Sensing the rising tensions, Oglethorpe sailed back to England and brought back a regimen of over 600 soldiers.  In 1740, the British went on the offensive and set sail for St. Augustine.  The ships bombarded the Spanish fort for two weeks straight to no avail.  Details as to just why that was, can be viewed in our post on St. Augustine by clicking here.  The British headed back to Fredrica and the Spanish followed not too long afterwards.  They brought an army of 2000 men with the intention of taking the fort and town.  Unfortunately for them, the British were more familiar with the area and their troops and townsfolk  used guerrilla tactics to chase the Spanish soldiers back south.  Without too much bloodshed, the skirmish ended and order was restored.

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When we arrived we requested our Junior Ranger materials, and enjoyed the movie and displays in the visitor’s center. Not letting the fairly steady rain deter us, we headed out through the town-site to the fort.  The river has changed course, so much of the location of the fort is now underwater. A couple of magazines remain above ground. The foundations of many structures have been unearthed by extensive archaeological studies, including the storehouse which John Wesley lived above.  We were able to make out the earthen berms that were the base of the fort’s walls, as well as footings of many of the homes.

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The town’s streets were well marked, as were each of the foundations.  After we received our badges, we went to explore the rest of the island.

Across from the fort is this monument and memorial garden to John and Charles Wesley.

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John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist Church. Diana is United Methodist and was pretty excited to walk the same ground as John Wesley, especially on Good Friday.  He made five separate trips to Fredica from England in 1736 and 1737.  It was after leaving Georgia for the last time that he began the Methodist Church.  There is a large Methodist conference center and museum on the island.  We drove around the beautiful campus, but were too late to tour the museum.

We also visited the St. Simons Lighthouse.

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This impressive structure looked very familiar to us.  It turns out that the engineer responsible for it was a man named Orlando Metcalfe Poe.  He was General Sherman’s chief engineer who accompanied him on his March to the Sea near the end of the Civil War.  After the war, Poe became the chief engineer of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. He developed this style of lighthouse and St. Simons was constructed in 1872.  Just prior to that, Poe was promoted to become the Great Lakes lighthouse chief engineer, as the region’s burgeoning shipping industry required sentinels to keep them safe.  He oversaw the construction of 8 lighthouses on the Great Lakes that used this same design.  He also designed the first of the Soo Locks, which was named after him.  He was injured during its construction and died of a subsequent infection in Detroit shortly afterwards.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His lock, which he never saw completed, was totally rebuilt in the 1960’s to allow 1000 foot freighters to pass between Lake Superior and the lower lakes.  They kept his name on it. 🙂

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The view from the top is outstanding!  The original 3rd order Fresnel lens is still in use.

While we were at the top of the tower, we asked a local woman about the ships pictured above.  Brunswick is home to a huge port that deals with ‘roll off-roll on’ cargo, in other words…vehicles.

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This is a screenshot of the port from Google Maps.  The five rows in the area circled in red contains over 3000 cars and trucks.  Considering all the other vehicles in the lots, there has to be well over 50,000 of them there!  We saw several of those ships coming and going while we were in Brunswick, so they must really employ a lot of people to move those cars.

On Saturday, we made our way to Jekyll Island for a bike ride.  We had scoped it out on Thursday evening, and we found the paths on the island to be favorable for our TerraTrikes.

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That day, we visited Driftwood Beach.  In the photo, I am looking across the water at St. Simons lighthouse.

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We also toured the historic district that was established in the late 1800’s.  The Jekyll Island Club attracted the wealthy elite; names like Rockefeller, Morgan, and Vanderbilt.

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Here is the Rockefeller ‘cottage’.  🙂

So on our return trip, we set out to circle most of the island.

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We rode through the historic district…

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…over the marshes…

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…and along the seashore.  It was good to be back on the trikes!

That wraps up our time in Brunswick.  Our next destination is Savannah, but not before a quick stop to see a good friend.  Stay tuned for that adventure!  Until then, safe travels to all.

 

 

 

The ‘To Do’ List

Every fulltime RVer accumulates a list of things that need to be done around their rigs, in hopes of finding a place that they are sitting still long enough to do them.  For us, Florida ends up being our place where we are able to get things done.  The weather in Melbourne Beach is favorable from November through March, and we have plenty of stores in the area to pick up needed supplies.  We usually write our items that need to be done on a 5″ x 8″ lined notepad as we travel, but it quickly became apparent last year that we needed to transfer that to a legal pad.  Granted, the list included clerical items like taxes and budget, most were little things that had either cropped up, were general maintenance,  or that we wanted to upgrade.  The ‘to do’ list grew to 61 items by the time I finished up at UPS after New Years Day.  Clearly, it was time to focus!

A couple of the items on the list were to have the transmission filters and fluid changed in both vehicles.  After we had the truck serviced, we scratched 4 items off the list by simply buying Edsel 2, our new Escape.  (Wash, Wax, Transmission filter, Oil)  Wow…that was easy!  Other items were small jobs like giving our bearing buddies on our new axles a couple shots of grease and replacing the batteries in our tire pressure monitors on our valve stems.  Most jobs were small enough that we were able to do more than one a day.  With that being said, there were two exceptions to that this year.

The biggest job was waxing the rig.  This is an annual job that I prefer to do myself, as the Fiberglas on our 2007 fifth wheel requires the use of oxidation remover before waxing. If it isn’t done carefully, it can leave swirl marks and end up looking worse than if it had been left untouched.  Go ahead, call me persnickety….I will own that.

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As you can see in the photo above, there is a big difference in the part that is done and not done.  That is only the oxidation remover in that photo…no wax had been applied yet.

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Here it is after waxing.  Our neighbors needed sunglasses after that step was completed!  Needless to say, the waxing process was tackled over several days….

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…with trips to the beach interspersed in between.

The other major project we completed was something our neighbors Mark and Val had done two years ago. As you can well imagine, several months at the beach means several months of salt air wreaking havoc on any exposed metal.  Mark and Val leave their rig here year-round, so they really noticed the wear and tear.  They replaced every screw on their rig with stainless steel, and dabbed a shot of clear silicone in the hole before driving the new screw in.

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The white painted screw heads were rusting, and even the threads were beginning to rust on some of them.

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Six hundred screws and three days later, we finished that job!

Back before we went on the road, we had noticed that our black tank would leave an odor in the rig after we had driven all day.  We found a product at Camping World called  Cyclone RV Plumbing Vent, which swivels with the wind and draws the odors out through the vent on the roof.  It worked wonders on the black tank.  We had also noticed a similar problem with our bathroom grey tank, so we purchased an additional Cyclone for that vent also.

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Even sitting still, we’ve noticed a big difference.

Another little upgrade we did was to replace our CH751 locks on our compartments.  Most every rig before the advent of slam latches used the same lock, meaning anyone that wanted to could get into our trunks with their CH751 key.

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A few years ago, Howard and Linda Payne from RV-Dreams replaced theirs with uniquely keyed locks.

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I contacted Howard and asked if they were still happy with them and who the supplier was.  He told me the company was called Industrial Lock and Hardware and that they were very satisfied with their locks.  We purchased enough of them from ILH to secure our big compartments.  While not making the door completely theft-proof, the new locks at least keep the honest thieves honest. 🙂

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‘Who are you talking about ….ME???’

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‘Well, he certainly wasn’t referring to me!’

We are currently at 42 of 61 items complete.  Most things will be finished before we leave at the end of the month, but a couple of them can wait until later.  It never hurts to have a few items on there to give the pad of paper a purpose.  😉

When is it that you find the time to tackle your ‘to do’ list?  Any cool upgrades that you’ve done this past year? We would love to hear about it!

 

Golf Cart Delivery – The Scoop

A few posts ago, I mentioned that UPS had taken me on as a seasonal delivery driver.  You may recall that I use a golf cart to distribute packages that are brought to a central pod that is located on the edge of my route.  Today I am going to detail the job as it has unfolded, as some of you may be considering doing this in the future as a way to bring in some holiday cash.

On the surface, driving around a gated community on a golf cart and bringing parcels to homes sounds easy, right?  Well, for the most part, it is…

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…except when you are zipping along at 20 mph on a 50 degree rainy day.

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On days like this, I am reminded of the U.S. Postal Service motto:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

That motto applies to UPS and FedEx also.  But most days are sunny and warm here in Florida, and weather has not been a major factor.  What has been interesting is the reactionary nature of this business.  By that, I mean that UPS has to react to whatever is thrown at them, which means that they need to be flexible.  That ability to switch gears at a moment’s notice occurs at all levels of the company, including my job.

When I started out, they had me deliver packages from my pod only, which is designated by a three letter code.  (For security purposes, the codes I use are not the real codes.)  My pod is ABC and the pod next to mine is AB-2.  I would deliver my packages and finish up by around 1 PM, depending on the day.  On a weekday, a route is somewhere in the vicinity of 85 stops, with some houses getting multiple packages.  The package count is right around 130. AB-2’s driver also works nights at the terminal, so he shows up at noon.  If he has a lot of deliveries and requests the help, I can log onto his manifest and help him out.  That has worked extremely well.  On occasion, I’ll get a call from either my trainer or the terminal, requesting me to go to another pod after I’ve finished mine.  I’ve always accepted the challenge, as the variety keeps it interesting.  The first time I did this, I was beachside (as in, I was on the barrier island, instead of the mainland where ABC is located).  The neighborhood was not gated, and could best be described as ‘beach funky’.  The previous driver had quit. Coming in cold without knowing the neighborhood wasn’t a huge problem, as it was 5 east/west streets with 7 cul-de-sacs descending off of the southern road.  We will call this pod BCD.  There is a GPS map feature on the phone they gave me to use…which works well…but I also like to print myself a map for quicker reference. That way, I can pre-sort my packages into the order I am going to deliver them.  That is actually faster than fumbling with the phone on the route, as we are told to put the phone down when the cart is moving.  Going to a new route mid-day doesn’t allow me to print that map, but I have learned to print one if I know I’m going ahead of time. Also, my friend Rod taught me an invaluable trick that he used last year.  With all of the writing on a label, it is sometimes hard to find the address quickly.  What he did was to write the address on the top of the box with a Sharpie, using the first two letters from the street.  For example:  2180 Maple Street would be written as ‘2180 MA’.  That makes finding the correct box a breeze, especially when you are peering under a tarp in the rain.

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Approximately 50 stops worth of parcels.

On Saturday, December 2, they had us come in to deliver any parcels that were in the pipeline for Monday.  That amounted to two cart-and-trailers worth of stuff for ABC (around 30 stops), and I was done in less than two hours. AB-2’s driver texted me and asked what his pod looked like, so I stated it was light….25 stops.  He asked if I would run it for him…which I agreed to, just to make my trip to the pod worth it.  I finished his and then got a call from my trainer, asking if I would go to another pod (CDE), as the person working there also quit on them.

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CDE was a really nice neighborhood.   The homes were older than ABC’s and the community wasn’t gated.  Also, the landscaping was more established, offering me plenty of welcomed shade.  The downside was, it was a huge route with 55 stops…a LOT for a Saturday.  The roads were twisty-turny, and there were a lot of small cul-de-sacs interspersed throughout.  Remember, I came in cold without a map.  Luckily, the cart was extremely fast, as someone must have removed the governor.  About 4:30, I received a call from the terminal asking if I was going to get the job done…as I think they lose a lot of people at the end of the day.  “Don’t worry, I’ve got this!” I said.  The last package was delivered as the sun hit the horizon.  🙂  I ended up logging 7.25 hours that day…which is all time-and-a-half, regardless of how many hours you have during the week.

This last week, I returned to BCD on Tuesday, then was sent to another new route, DEF.  That route required patience.  Again, a person had quit…and this time, I sympathized with them.  The neighborhood was decent, but it involved a busy two lane connector road with no cart path…and it was under construction.  The pod door was facing south, and it was 85 degrees.  Needless to say, sorting was a cooker!  Also, it was located at the back of an apartment complex in a storage area, so it was not very convenient.  While the cart was fast like CDE’s, it had a major issue getting started.  Every time I pushed on the gas to take off, it would squeal for 10 seconds before the engine would start and I could begin to move.  That cut into my time a lot.  I informed the terminal and they sent a driver out to take some of the work off my hands, but there wasn’t any way of fixing the cart yet that day.  To be fair, if the cart would have worked well and the connector road had been fully opened, the route would have been somewhat decent.  I even stopped for a minute to compliment one of the homeowners on her landscaping, which she was busy draping Christmas light on.  After all, I was getting paid to ride around on a golf cart. 🙂  As far as all the folks quitting; I guess they would rather receive packages than deliver them!

On Wednesday, the terminal texted me before work and asked me to start at BCD, then head over to ABC.  10 minutes later, they switched me from BCD to a new route, EFG.  This route could be best described as ‘funky…without the beach’.  Luckily, I was still at home, so I printed a map.  I got there and saw I only had 45 stops…which for a weekday, was very light.  I sorted the pod, loaded the first run and took off.  Two stops into the run, my trainer called and said they had a glut of drivers that day, and that I needed to take the cart back to the pod and let someone else complete it.  So that is what I did.  I went to my ABC pod and completed that in my normal amount of time and called it a day.  Of course, my rate of packages was really low for the amount of time I was clocked in, so I was called on it by the afternoon dispatch.  I explained what happened, and that whoever was fortunate enough to run EFG, probably had a great rate, as I had completely sorted it for them.  Once dispatch realized what had happened, she breathed a sigh of relief.  🙂

snoopy

Since then, there has been enough drivers to cover all the routes.  The driver at AB-2 and me have been doing our trade-offs, but that’s been it.  I get to enjoy the Christmas decorations on the ABC route and….

sandhill

…the wildlife!  These two Sandhill cranes were standing a few feet from where I needed to walk, so I calmly talked to them and they let me pass by.  🙂

A few other things I wanted to mention:

amazon box

Amazon boxes hold up extremely well, while…

target

…a particular competitor’s boxes do not.  I see it time and again.  The competitor uses much lower quality cardboard and tape.  Also, delivering packages is a dirty job.  By the time those pretty boxes come from the packers at Amazon and make their way to Florida, they’ve picked up a fair amount of dirt, which transfers to me and my clothes.  In addition, some of these boxes are quite heavy.  I delivered a Schwinn Airdyne and a Total Gym, both of which were too heavy to lift.  I slid them to the edge of the pod and tipped them into my trailer, then reversed the process at the home.  My hands and low back definitely let me know they are hurting after a day’s worth of deliveries.

So there you have a rough idea of what’s involved in my fun little job with UPS.  Will I do it again?  Most definitely.  Any job I’ve ever done has had its pitfalls, and this one has had a few of its own.  But the people I am working with are dedicated and very nice, and like I said two posts ago, the people receiving the parcels are happy to see me at their door.  That makes for a very fun day, indeed.  🙂

ups

 

 

 

 

Life at the Speed of Prime

“You want it when???”

you

Back in the 1970’s, this jewel of a cartoon began appearing in workplaces all over the world. As lead times have decreased since then, many people have looked at this drawing at their work stations and smiled, after customers placed unrealistic delivery dates for them to meet. In my management career with a hotel furniture manufacturer, I’ve felt the stress of demanding customers pushing me to get them their product quickly. In turn, my vendors and our manufacturing team had that pressure transferred from my shoulders to theirs. I’m sure many of them hung up the phone, looked at this image and laughed at me.

Back in those days, my world view was focused between our company’s vendors, workers, and customers from my desk in Holland, Michigan. Sure, I’d think about how my demands affected their personal lives, but the constant pressure on me never allowed me to look much further than that. Retirement to lives as fulltime RVers has expanded Diana’s and my views to help us understand the bigger picture of how our world is speeding up. Two post-retirement jobs in particular have really driven that point home: packing boxes for Amazon and delivering packages for UPS.

When the two of us first walked into Amazon’s fulfillment center in Campbellsville, Kentucky last year, I literally had to fight back tears of joy. To totally understand why that is, you have to go back to my upbringing in the neighborhood that surrounds the Ford Rouge plant in suburban Detroit. I was one of the fortunate few who took the old tour of the facility in which I saw the iron ore being unloaded from a ship at one end of the plant and a finished Mustang being driven off the line at the other end. That was a pivotal day in my life in which I saw what an efficient process could do in getting product to the consumer quicker. I would spend my career striving to streamline everything I did, often keeping Henry Ford’s beloved Rouge complex in the back of my mind. When we toured Amazon during our orientation, everything I dreamed of achieving…and more…was happening before our eyes! Orders that hadn’t even been placed yet when we ate breakfast, were being packaged and sent to waiting trucks before we sat down to eat our lunches. The concept that is Amazon Prime…where an item ordered online will be delivered in two days…had become our daily duty.  Clearly, Jeff Bezos & Company had built upon Mr. Ford’s dream and had polished it to such a model of efficiency that even Henry would be awestruck.

Fast forward to this holiday season and my job delivering packages for UPS. I’m seeing how the Amazon Prime culture is affecting the shipping business. Melbourne’s little UPS distribution center…while quiet most of the year…sees not only a huge population increase as the snowbirds arrive in town, but also in the amount of items those people are buying online during the holidays. FedEx and the US Postal Service sees the same thing. Imagine trying to run a business within those parameters. On a system-wide scale, more airplanes and semis are needed this time of year…not to mention the increases needed at the local level. While I haven’t seen it with the other shippers, the seasonal golf carts is how UPS has addressed the onslaught of Christmas deliveries. Evidently, they use them throughout the U.S. in places where snow isn’t an issue. For the price of a golf cart, trailer, safety vest, gasoline, smartphone, temporary driver’s wages and a rental pod, they can cover a residential area of a half square mile or more. Also factor in the hiring, training and supervision of the temporary employees. For trainers/supervisors, they are using senior and retired drivers to fill those positions. For hiring, they are advertising on indeed.com and using county employment agencies to physically handle the amount of people applying for these jobs. All of these resources are tangible and can be relied upon year after year. For a worker like me looking to pick up some extra cash, the job is a good deal. And for a young person wanting a career, its an outstanding opportunity to get a foot in the door.

Change is happening in places other than the shipping industry, because of Amazon.  Since Prime was introduced in 2005, retailers have either closed their doors or adapted to the change.  Malls stand empty across the country, as do many big box stores.  Walmart has accepted the challenge online by offering free two day shipping without the subscription fee that Amazon charges for Prime.  Target, Kohls and many other brick-and-mortar retailers are also stepping up their online presence.  They have to in order to survive.  Groceries will no doubt be next, with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.  What comes next is anybody’s guess; it could be a pharmacy retailer, a home improvement chain or any number of things.

I have faith that solutions will be found for companies like UPS to adapt to life at the speed of Prime. Being able to observe them pull it off fascinates me to no end. I look forward to see the next big innovation and the changes it will bring to our world.

What ways have you seen that Amazon Prime has changed your world?


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Johnny Cash Museum

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.

Most people over the age of 50 have heard that line, followed by the tune Folsom Prison Blues…as that is how Johnny would open his shows.  Whether or not a person is a country music fan, they most likely know a song or two by the performer.  The Man in Black, so named for his trademark clothing shade, had a career that spanned six decades.  He sold over 90 million records during that period.

When we met up with our friends Jodee and Bill last year in Nashville, they had just visited the Johnny Cash Museum. Bill Miller, a former resident of the same small town in California where Jodee and Bill grew up, had recently opened the attraction.  Bill Miller’s son had also opened Nudie’s Honky Tonk.  The bar is a tribute to Nudie Cohn…the tailor who specialized in the rhinestone-covered suits that country stars so often wore.  We checked out Nudie’s and the Country Music Hall of Fame with Jodee, but missed seeing the museum.  With that in mind, we set out to see the tribute to Cash this year.

Located just off of Broadway, the Johnny Cash Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Nashville.  Not long after it opened, Miller debuted the Patsy Cline Museum on the second floor of the building.  Just yesterday…on the 50th anniversary of the release of the song Sing Me Back Home, Rolling Stone Magazine announced that Bill and his wife were opening the Merle Haggard Museum next door.  Needless to say, this is fast becoming a popular spot!

We learned that Cash was given the name J.R. by his parents.  When he was in the service, the Air Force told him he had to have a full name, so he chose John.  He was a Morse Code Intercept Operator assigned to monitor the Soviets, and was the first person in the west to learn of Joseph Stalin’s death.  Prior to the service, he worked for a whole two weeks in an auto plant in Pontiac, Michigan.  Sure glad that job didn’t pan out!

Once out of the service, he began his musical career, quickly finding his way to the top of the charts.  The museum walks the visitor through his career in chronological order, with many interesting artifacts from his life, including this Gibson guitar, which was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  All of the good and bad aspects of his life are presented, though the focus is more toward the positive. There are several videos that show the entertainer along the way, which we really enjoyed.

This orange duster and the Guild guitar featured on the cover of Rolling Stone were gifted to Bill Miller by Cash, as a token of the friendship they had built up over the years.  Bill visited Johnny just 6 days before the singer’s death.

From there, we walked up Broadway a couple of blocks to Nudie’s.  

We enjoyed lunch and a drink at the longest bar in Nashville!  When one of the band members came around with the tip jar, he asked if we had any requests.

Our choice of the Johnny Cash tune Ring of Fire was played for the second time that day, another tribute to his continued popularity.  😊 We once sang a “spectacular” version of this song, led by our friend Mike, while in a traffic jam after the fireworks in Traverse City…windows rolled down, of course!

If you make it to Nashville, be sure to check out the Johnny Cash Museum and Nudie’s Honky Tonk.  It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon!

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Norcold Hinge Repair

While prepping for dinner the other day, our Norcold refrigerator delivered us an unwanted surprise.  As I opened the door, it fell completely off and into my hands.  Luckily, I sensed that it was going and was able to grab it before it landed on my toes.  Upon further inspection, I noticed that the hinge portion on the door is made of plastic, of all things. Having spent the majority of my life in a house, I am well aware that residential refrigerator manufacturers use a fairly substantial piece of steel for their hinges.  I also know that RV manufacturers strive to save weight by using plastic where they can, but I incorrectly assumed it wouldn’t have been in a place that bears as much weight as a refrigerator door does.

This is the piece that broke off.  Imagine a door full of condiments and whatnot riding on this small plastic part.

This is what the hinge looks like from the factory.  I am showing the undamaged freezer hinge as an example, which is identical to the refrigerator hinge.  The bracket extending off of the body of the refrigerator is metal, but the door portion is plastic.  There is a piece that pivots on the metal pin that hangs off the door and is totally unsupported.  It is an intergal part of the door and is not replaceable…you need to buy the entire door. My first thought, as I was holding the door, was ‘this really should have a metal piece underneath it.’  I also thought that this was probably a common problem, and that there might be an aftermarket repair piece out there that I could purchase.  I was correct on both counts, but the aftermarket piece available through Norcold…in my opinion…didn’t have enough surface attached to the door to support the weight of a loaded door.  Besides, they wanted $27 for this little gem!

They also stated that this piece only be used on a door that had not yet broken.  In other words, it was only to be used to reinforce their poorly engineered stock design.  Hmmmmm…….

I then saw a YouTube video where a couple of guys took a 2″ piece of aluminum and fashioned a crude plate that extended further along the bottom of the door.  I chuckled throughout the video, as the narrator was quite vocal about how he felt that Norcold designed the piece to fail, and the only recourse was to replace the entire door.  Diana can attest that he was using the same colorful language that I used in the description of the engineering team at Norcold when I was holding the door in my hands.  😉

With a rough idea of what I needed to make a plate, we were off to Menard’s!  


We picked up a 6″ corner mending plate, some flat head screws, and a can of flat black Rustoleum.  With us being on the road without a vise, I knew metalworking was going to be difficult.

I ended up attaching half of the bracket to a board.  That allowed me to cut the plate and round off the corner with a file.

I then drilled a hole to accept the pin that the door rides on.

I gave the top side a coat of flat black paint to help it blend in with the refrigerator.

After using super glue to put the plastic piece back in place, I lined up the bracket as shown. I left the bottom of the bracket unpainted, as it can’t be seen and the zinc coating provides plenty of protection.

Here is the bracket screwed into place.  Time to head inside and mount the door!

I removed the hex nut/post from the top hinge, slid the door over the bottom post, then replaced the top hex nut/post.

Here is the repaired hinge at the bottom of the door.  The superglued plastic piece isn’t supporting any weight; I put it there to keep dirt out of the hinge and for asthetics.

For the cost of a mending plate, a can of spray paint and a package of screws, our refrigerator is back in business, stronger than ever.  It sure beats the cost of a new door!  If you have this setup in your rig, you may want to consider beefing up your hinge before it fails. It might prevent some broken toes. Diana was busy slicing vegetables at the time. If she would have been the one who opened the door when the part failed, this story may have had a different ending!

Heading East Across Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

In the weeks that followed the eclipse, the wildfires in Oregon became much worse.  As a result, the smoke from them caused us to change some of our travel plans on our trip back east.  Not only was it difficult to breathe, but the scenery was less than appealing.

As we drove through Boise, the late morning sun could barely get through the smoke.  There was only one thing that would remedy this….

…a meet up with Fluffy Dog!  Tessa and her parents were doing the same thing we were, and so we pondered our options over dinner in Idaho Falls.

It’s always a good day when we get to see Jodee and Bill (and Tessa too!). 😀. 

The next day, they headed southeast and we drove north into Montana, then east. Our first stop was Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.

This is where I discovered my family connection to the Lewis and Clark expedition that I detailed in my previous post.  We also spent time the next morning exploring the town on Three Forks, which is the location of the headwaters of the Missouri River.

In the center of town is this beautiful sculpture of Sacajawea and her baby Jean Baptiste.  

A little east of town, the Madison and Jefferson Rivers merge to create the Missouri.  That’s the Jefferson at the top, and the Madison is coming in from behind the brown weeds at the left.  The Missouri flows off to the right.

The next day found us in Bozeman to see the Museum of the Rockies.

This museum mainly focuses on dinosaurs found in the area.  They have more T Rex skeletons than any other museum in the world…13 of them!  Not all are assembled though.

This progression of Triceretops skulls was really interesting, as it showed the bone structure at the different ages during their lifespans.  These are all real skulls!

Here Diana is thanking our tour guide, Maury.  He was a fascinating gentleman who had accompanied famed paleontologist Jack Horner on several of his digs.  It’s always fun to listen to someone who can bring a subject like this to life. 😊

The next day, we headed east to Pompey’s Pillar.

This is a large sandstone tower along the south shore of the Yellowstone River.   It was given the name by William Clark, after his nickname (Pomp) for Sacajawea’s son. It also has the historical designation of having the only physical evidence from the Lewis and Clark expedition on the trail….

…as it is where Clark became a graffiti artist on July 25, 1806.  There is a protective glass case covering his signature.

From there, we turned south for a bit.  First stop was the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

This is where George Custer and 700 troops charged into a native camp containing upwards of 2000 warriors, based on incorrect information as to the size of the gathering.  It was a huge defeat for the American army, to say the least.  White markers denote where soldiers fell, and red granite headstones were placed where the natives died.  

Here is where George Custer made his last stand.  We found this battlefield to be a complicated, interesting and unsettling place…one that requires more study on my part.

Our last stop in Wyoming was a little place in Newcastle called the Anna Miller Museum.  We have a friend name Anna Miller, so we had to stop and check it out!

The Newcastle, Wyoming Anna was the wife of the Weston County sheriff before he was killed in the last Indian battle in the area.  She went on to become an influential citizen in the community: serving as a teacher, their first librarian, and as their school superintendent.  The community named their historical museum in her honor.

It was a nice collection of Americana…definitely worth a stop!

With that, we headed east towards South Dakota and a really fun couple of days.  Stay tuned, as we will detail that in our next post!

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!