We hitched our Transit

We tow our Ford Transit on a car dolly behind our motor home (it can’t be flat-towed).  I usually look for RV parks that have pull-through sites so we don’t have to unhook our dolly.  Over the last year or two however, we stayed at some RV parks where the sites were either all back-in or too short to leave our dolly attached.  There have also been a couple RV parks were I had to take the car and dolly off the motor home a distance away from our site and then somehow drag the dolly the rest of the way by hand.  The car dolly weighs around 750 pounds and trying to get it uphill or through gravel can be real hard work.

Anyway, I had an epiphany a short time ago and tried to think if there was a reason we couldn’t put a tow hitch on the Transit and use it to move the tow dolly around when we had to.  I checked with a local installer and they actually had tow hitch kits designed specifically for the Transit (go figure, the manual says you really aren’t supposed to tow anything with a Transit) and yesterday I had them install it.

Transit_Trailer_Hitch_2015-04-23

Theoretically, the trailer hitch is rated for towing up 3500 pounds but I’d never try that with the Transit, and since there is so much room inside the Transit anyway, I’m not sure why we’d need a trailer in the first place.  But what it will do is make it much, much easier for us to drop the Transit and the tow dolly off a distance away from our site and then use the Transit to move the dolly wherever it needs to go.

Pima County Fair

The Pima County Fair is at the (where else) the Pima County Fairgrounds about 25 miles from where our motor home is parked and since it’s been a while since we last went to a county fair (not counting the Big-E which is a multi-state Fair) we decided to take it in.

Pima_County_Fair_02

We went on a weekday and missed most of the crowds.  One of the local TV stations has been regularly doing their evening news broadcast from there, we’ve seen that it is much more crowded during the evening, both because it is cooler but also because the kids are out of school.

Pima_County_Fair_01

What it mostly reminded us of was a carnival.  At least three-quarters of the fair was devoted to a Midway with lots of games of chance (certainly not games of skill, we saw several times where the games look easy at first glance but when you looked closer you could see some tricks that made winning almost impossible) and various rides.

Pima_County_Fair_09_House_of_Horrors

Off to one side however, we found an exhibit from a local club, Power from the Past, which had all sorts of old steam and gas engines.

Pima_County_Fair_06_Steam_Tractor

There were lots of tractors, of all different vintages, in all different conditions.

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Saguaro SKP 25th Anniversary Parade

This is our second winter at the Saguaro SKP Park in Benson, Arizona.  The park was established by a group of Escapee’s and the first dirt was moved in 1989.  Much of the work was done by the first leaseholders who established a strong volunteer ethic that has been the hallmark of the park ever since.

This week has been the 25th anniversary of the official opening of the park and there have been a number of events and celebrations.  Yesterday was the park’s first parade and Susan was a participant.

Cowboy_Susan_2015_03_22

There were over two dozen vehicles in the parade.

Sauguaro_SKP_Parade_Start

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Making some repairs

A number of small and not-so-small items that need to be repaired have cropped up.  We were fortunate about a couple of them.  Our front shade stopped rolling up and would only roll down but that turned out only to need its controller to be re-programmed.  Our generator would start like it should but we weren’t getting any power inside the motor home but that only needed a circuit breaker to be reset on the generator.

Our toilet has been more of a problem.  About a month ago the cable that runs between the foot pedal and the valve mechanisms broke.  I replaced it but a week ago it stopped working again.  At first I thought the cable had broken but when removed it and took a close look at it it was the foot pedal that was broken.  Strangely enough it was actually broken by the replacement cable.  The original cable that was installed at the factory had two broad ends, one which fit in the pedal and one that fit into the valve mechanism.  The replacement cable had a broad end on only one end and a collar with an allen screw for the other end.  The allen screw-collar end went on the pedal end (that’s what the replacement instructions said) but what happened is that the collar is a bit narrower than the original end and it ended up reaming our a new hole for itself through the pedal (which is only plastic).   This split the pedal and when I tried to repair it, it broke off flush with the hinge.  When I replaced the pedal, this time I put a broad washer under the collar so it spreads the force out and the collar will not pull through the pedal again so we have a functional toilet again (I was having to hand-flush it by reaching behind and twisting the valve mechanism).  I’ve also gotten pretty good at taking the toilet out and re-installing it which is not a skill I expected to acquire.

Our toilet upside down on my work bench
Our toilet upside down on my work bench

Our entry door handle also broke and I ordered a new one from the Tiffin factory.  I finally arrived and today I replaced the old one.

Broken_Door_Handle

There were a lot of moving parts behind the panel, but I took photos at every step when I disassembled it so I’d know how to put it back together.

What's behind the door panel.  The handle and lock are in the lower right-hand corner.
What’s behind the door panel. The back of the handle and lock are in the lower right-hand corner.

It turned out to be relatively straightforward.  I took off two rods, unbolted the old handle and lock assembly, put the new one in its place and re-attached the rods.  I tested it and everything works fine so we now have a functional door handle again.

I’d thought we might have to stop by the Tiffin factory in Red Bay again but that’s pretty much all that needed to be done and I was able to do it all myself this time.  I’ve learned a bit more about how things work and feel more comfortable tackling any future repair projects.   There’s a local Freightliner facility so we may have our annual service done there this year and not bother to stop by Red Bay at all but we’ll have to wait and see if anything serious crops up.

We are going to replace our tires this year before we hit the road.  They are about eight years old and that’s about all that’s safe.  I’m also considering replacing the house batteries (a bank of four deep discharge batteries that power everything inside the motor home when we’re not connected to power and aren’t running the generator).  They’re also reaching the end of their useful life and the couple of times that we’ve needed them lately they seem to discharge too fast.   I’m going to wait until April however, before we do these things.

Partial Rainbow

It’s been rainy all day and we just had a short downpour.  I happened to look out front and when I did I saw this rainbow.  We’ve had a bit of rain during the last couple of weeks and have seen rainbows several times, but this one was particularly bright and there was only this short segment so I went outside and took this photo.  Less than five minutes later it was gone.

Rainbow_2014_12_18

International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell NM

How could we visit Roswell, New Mexico and not see the International UFO Museum and Research Center?  We are not believers but we couldn’t pass it up.

To give them credit they did have all the material involving the Roswell Incident on display.  There were newspaper clippings galore and signed testaments of the those involved.

Roswell Incident

There was some balanced reporting as well since other explanations of the events were displayed.

Roswell Incident 2

But most of it was pretty hokey.  A lot of the displays were devoted to different UFO and alien sightings, as well as to UFO movies.

Susan and the Aliens

 

Richard and Susan and Gort

The admission was $8 for the two of us and I suppose it was worth it to be able to say we went.  It wasn’t on our bucket lists and realistically it wasn’t worth the drive from Ruidoso, but that’s okay.

We’d give it a C for handicap accessibility partly because the only parking was on the street and Susan had to get up and down the curb before getting in and out of her wheelchair, but mostly because the entrance doors were very narrow and Susan’s wheelchair got hung up in the entrance both getting in and getting out.  Once inside everything was level and easy to get to it was just the while getting in and getting out thing that wasn’t too great.

Roswell Museum and Art Center

We are camped in Ruidoso, New Mexico and yesterday we drove to Roswell which is about 70 miles east of us.  We went to the Roswell Museum and Art Center mostly because it had a section devoted to Robert Goddard, the rocket pioneer.

We’ve been to art museums in different parts of the country and have been disappointed almost every time.  I’d hate to think this is because we are old fashioned and “out of it” but I have to say that most “modern” art doesn’t do much for us.  I think that this is in part because too often abstract art is like a Rorschach test, it is what you make of it.  I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that but I tend to think this is a cop-out on the artist’s part.  We both prefer art where the artist definitely says something.  We may not like or agree with what the artist is saying but at least we can understand it.

We were more than pleasantly surprised by the Roswell Museum and Art Center.  It had a very eclectic collection of art, mostly ranging from the mid-20th century to now, and most of the displayed art had something to say.

Ken Saville - S.A.N.C.H.E.Z.

Ken Saville – S.A.N.C.H.E.Z.

3-D Collage
3-D Collage
Peter Hurd - Gate and Beyond
Peter Hurd – Gate and Beyond

There was an entire gallery and one hallway devoted to the works of Peter Hurd.  He was born in Roswell but studied art in Philadelphia.  He returned to the Roswell area to make lithographs in the 1930’s.  He eventually settled in San Patricio and his gallery there is now a state historical site.  A lot of his landscapes were of local farms and ranches and in our travels through Texas into New Mexico we saw a lot of farms and ranches that looked exactly like his landscapes.

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World’s Largest Pistachio

Just outside of Alamagordo, New Mexico, there are a number of pistachio orchards.  We just had to stop at the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch because it had the World’s Largest Pistachio.

Susan and the Worlds Largest Pistachio

They had a store with a lot of touristy-type stuff but there was also testing table with over a dozen varieties of flavored pistachios.  They were very good but expensive, even so we still bought a pound of regular shelled pistachios and a half a pound of shelled garlic pistachios.

New Mexico Museum of Space History, Alamagordo

We are camped in Ruidoso, New Mexico which is in the mountains about 50 miles northeast of Alamagordo.  We drove into Alamagordo today to visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

The Museum is a 5-story glass building set on a hill above Alamagordo with a great view of the Tularosa basin below.   When you first arrive at the museum there are a number of rockets and related items on display out in front.  The upper four floors are devoted to exhibits but two of the floors were undergoing renovation and most of the exhibits on those floors were closed or nonexistent. Even so there were a lot of interesting things on display.  The White Sands Missile Range is nearby and the Space History museum reflects much of the work that was done there.  Like any museum it has areas of expertise and I would say these are rocket sleds, small ballistic missiles and inertial guidance.

Rocket sled used for testing motors and aerodynamics
Rocket sled used for testing motors and aerodynamics
The first rocket sled with a human on board that broke the sound barrier
The first rocket sled with a human on board that broke the sound barrier
The end of the rocket track where the sleds were stopped
The end of the rocket track where the sleds were stopped

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