Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We Shoulda Got When the Gettin' Was Good

We picked up the motorhome yesterday from Frank's Heavy Duty Truck Repair.  He did all he could do.  I asked him to check the furnace, but he couldn't get anything to work inside the RV.  We then dropped it off at Alpin Haus RV to have them go over it.  I don't need much, but I want heat, at least until we get to Florida.

The motorhome seems to run great, but it's a real bear to drive.  We had a bit of a breeze which blew it around on the highway pretty good.   I got it up to 50 MPH once, and it was white knuckles until we got to the bottom of the hill.

The only problem that I saw, which was a little unnerving, was when we stopped to drop $100 worth of gas in the tank.  That got us a half a tank, but that's really not it.  I put it in "park" and the "auto park" light came on.  I got up out of the driver's seat and Pamela started screaming "We're rolling.  David, we're rolling!   DAVID!!   WE'RE ROLLING!!!".

I jumped back in the driver's seat and stomped on the brake.   What the heck?  We were in park.  I took my foot off the brake and we started rolling again.  I put the parking brake on and that stopped it.

Dave at Alpin Haus was very nice and took all of our information.  I told him about the problem with autopark, but he informed me that the mechanic that knew about those things had retired and no one else knew how to work on them.  He then asked me questions like "does the generator work", "are the house batteries OK", "did Frank check the dates on the tires...".

I knew none of this, of course, and I explained that my experience with the RV consisted of driving it from Frank's to there...  dates on the tires?   What dates on the tires?   Dave explained that motorhome tires can't be older than seven years.  Great.  Just great.   I think I know the answer to this one.

I get an Intellicast email every morning with a five day forecast.   This was yesterday's.  Check out Friday.

Today: AM Clouds/PM Sun, High: 26 F, Low: 5 F

Tomorrow: Snow Showers, High: 22 F, Low: 7 F

Wednesday: Partly Cloudy, High: 16 F, Low: 8 F

Thursday: Snow, High: 10 F, Low: -1 F

Friday: Snow, High: 0 F, Low: -11 F

Not only will it be cold, but we're due for a major snow event on Thursday/Friday.

Next year, we head south right after Thanksgiving!

Meanwhile, I'm not an RV expert or a mechanic, but I'm pretty handy with google.  I learned that RVs over 16,000 pounds don't have a locking transmission like a car does.  It has a hydraulic drum brake that grabs the drive shaft.  The parking brake actuates the same brake.  Autopark was developed simply to allow folks to put the RV in park, just like a car, and not step on the parking brake.  The microswitch in the shift lever is probably bad, but no big deal as long as I remember to step on the parking brake.

Many of you know that I'm enjoying the lack of light pollution and am taking night time photos here in Bleecker.  On January 1st, there will be a "super moon", when the moon will be between the sun and the earth.  It will be a great time for taking milky way photos if there's no clouds.  Meanwhile, this is last night's view from Bleecker...

Monday, December 30, 2013

More Snow...

Ugh.   Earl and Judi were right in high tailing it out of here at the beginning of December.  We were forecast for a rainy snowy mix, but got mostly heavy wet snow yesterday.  At least a half a foot's worth.

The photo below looks a bit blueish.   It's what my photo editing software said it should be.  It's really not blue here in Bleecker, but I left it, only because I liked the effect.

Yep, another mess of a snowfall.  Today, I'll have to hie myself over to Earl and Judi's driveway and plow it out with Bessie the Tractor.  I'm getting low on gasoline, so I'll have to take Jerry the Jug to Stewart's the Convenience Store in Audrey the Kia to get more gas.  About one more week until we head south.

We've laid out a cruising plan, with each day about 300 miles or so.   We'll probably average 50 MPH with stops for gas and food, so that's about six hours of driving each day.   That will be a tolerable amount of time for Jeremiah the Horse to be bounced around in his horse trailer.  It will take us about a week to get to Florida, and we'll have stops in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and then Florida.  Hopefully it will be an uneventful trip, but those of you who have been following our two blogs, Drift Away and Bleecker Mountain Life, know better.

So do I.  I'm looking forward to this trip with a bit of trepadation.

I'm not sure what our internet access will be, but you can be sure that I'll update our travels as best I can.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do you have a Twin?

While each of us is unique, it's been said that we all have a twin, or at least someone really close in appearance.  That would be my childhood friend Bob and me.  In high school, we were the same size and weight (skinny).   We were in the same grade level in class.  We both ran cross country.

Later, we both attended SUNY Plattsburgh, where I met my first wife.  For the first couple of weeks after we met, when she passed Bob or me, she didn't know for sure who it was.

Well, we went our separate ways and fell out of touch for a few decades.  We found each other on Classmates.com and reconnected.  It's amazing to me that after all this time has passed, we still look much alike.

I don't know if Bob saw me change my Facebook profile pic to this one below, or saw it on this blog, but he emailed me the photo below mine.

Both bald, with a beard and moustache.  Both about the same weight, although I might be a little skinnier now since I lost so much weight, first from my Bleecker Mountain Weight Loss Program (picking up rocks) and then losing my appetite after my accident and concussion.

Our political views are almost identical.  No, I won't post them here.  No one reads this blog to listen to me rant and rave about politics.

We also live in similar places.   Bob has a beautiful house on a small lake in the mountains outside of Troy, and Pam and I are living in our Unabomber Cabin in the woods.  We both started our blogs about the same time as each other, Bob's being Rensselaer Plateau Life.

We both have this need for data.  While I have a small, inexpensive weather station so I can tell the temperature, wind speed,  and humidity at a glance, Bob has a professional grade weather station.

As many of you know, I love art and I'm really into photography.   I'm not sure about Bob in this area, but Bob's dad was a wonderful artist.   Bob must have some of that in his genes.

We both are on our second marriages, and we both have college educated kids that are doing well.

Believe it or not, we didn't get together this year after we laid up Drift Away in Jacksonville and drove north.   First I was busy with the property, and then I was laid up with a broken neck, and then it was the holidays.  Next year for sure.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Google Chrome: Malware Ahead

If you use Google Chrome as a web browser, as I do, you've probably been getting a warning that this blog is infected with malware.  While I suppose it is possible, it is highly unlikely since this blog doesn't use any scripts.  I don't know where the malware would come from.  I've checked into it and all the advice that Google gives has to do with disabling scripts, and since I don't have any, I can't really do that.  Of course, if you're a Chrome user and you're reading this, you've already figured that out.  You've already clicked on "advanced" and "proceed at your own risk".

Pam met up with friends yesterday while I plowed.  Ruby came home with a coat from Auntie Kim...

which she loves and hasn't taken off since yesterday, and growled at Olivia when she sniffed it.  I also received a wonderful present.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty no doubt realized the competition he had here and settled things up with A&E very quickly.

Our motorhome should be ready next week, and we're set to head south anytime after Thursday.  We only need a weather window of a couple of days of clear weather.  The next big question to resolve is whether we maintain our adventures on this blog, or our Drift Away blog, or a new blog?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dashing Through The Snow

We got another half a foot of snow yesterday.  Not your normal low pressure snow, but lake effect snow from Lake Ontario.  Not too far to the west of us is Boonville, whose nickname is "the snow capital of the east".  They really get hammered with snow every winter, and it often extends to Bleecker.

Regardless, Jeremiah the Horse was out of hay, so off we went with Audrey the AWD Kia Sorrento towing the flatbed trailer.  The roads were very bad, and our top speed was 32 MPH, with the trailer trying to push us around.  It took about an hour to make what is normally a 20 minute drive.   We fetched 20 bales of hay, covered it with tarps, and then drove up the mountain and into Earl's unplowed driveway.  It was covered in six inches of snow on top of ice.  We got stuck in no time.  We unloaded the hay into the horse trailer, unhooked the trailer, and I was able to get the Kia unstuck by locking the differential.  

I love this car.  I can only imagine how good it would be in snow with snow tires.

Yes, when we got home from our three hour hay fetching errand, we both enjoyed a victory beer.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

God Bless Us Everyone...

Our friend Bill came over for Christmas dinner, and brought along Tiny Tim, the "Chorkie" (Chihuahua/Yorkie) puppy we gifted him.  While he's getting big, he's still a very small dog...

but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have a big dog attitude towards food...

or Bleecker's designated beer...

or towards our vicious pit bulls.  Talk about a big dog attitude!  Ruby and Chevy brought toys to Tiny Tim to play with, and he did...

even when the toy was bigger than he was.

But Ruby was the dutiful momma, and watched carefully over Tiny Tim, making sure that he was safe.

Overall, it was a nice Bleecker Christmas, full of Christmas ham, apple pie, Genesee beer, frozen pipes, good friends, and all.  I hope you all had a very merry Christmas.  We did.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Silent Night

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, was a nice day.  Our family gathered at a club we belong to where we could cook lots of food in the three ovens and enjoy a toasty fire in the fireplace.

After exchanging gifts and making merry, we drove back to the Unabomber Cabin.  It was a crystal clear night, and I took a few pics.

I took 99 photos in sequence to create a star trail photo, but I either hit the focus ring or perhaps the cold temps frosted things up, but they were all out of focus.

If it's clear tonight at 6:27 PM, I'm going to try to get a shot of the international space station, which will be passing by.

Meanwhile, it's 15 degrees now at 2:30 PM, and our pipes are frozen.  I fired up the kerosene heater, and it's 56 in the pump house now.  We're getting a trickle of water, so we should be good for showers in another hour or so.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Blessings

I love Christmas.  Who doesn't?

I want to wish all of you a very joyous Christmas.  I hope you spend this upcoming special day with family and friends.  And yes, even though tomorrow is not the actual birthday of Jesus, it is the thoughts and emotions behind it all that matters.

As I get older, there are fewer and fewer of my friends and family to celebrate with.  Look around you, to your friends and family, and cherish them, for they are not with you forever, nor you with them.  If you are the last of your close friends and family, and are alone this holiday, you get yourself to Bleecker to spend tomorrow with us at the Unabomber Cabin. No one should be alone on Christmas Day.  Christmas is one day of the year that we actually show our love for our friends and family and the joy of being together.

Like  you, I have  so many wonderful memories of Christmases past, spent with loved ones who have since passed.  But each Christmas we make new memories to cherish, and often new friends to make them with.

Merry Christmas!  Pam and I gift you with a wish of good health and happiness, and the joy of things that money can't buy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dealing With Firewood

Our only source of heat is firewood.  We don't have a gas or oil furnace, nor electric heat.  Wood it is.

We had a good supply of firewood, but with the extreme cold we had in November and December, we realized that we would run out before we left for Florida.  At the beginning of December, we ordered a full cord of seasoned wood from the local Bleecker business R&R Firewood for $240.  We stacked most of it in the woodshed attached to our Unabomber Cabin, and the rest went outside, covered with a tarp.  Well, we've gotten to the point where the woodshed wood is gone, and it's time to burn the outside wood.

I don't care how good you tarp your outside wood, it's going to get wet from rain, from snow,  and from frost.  So what to do to burn it?  Bring it inside and dry it by the wood stove.

Yep, we bring in the next day's supply of wood the day before to dry it out so we can burn it.  Seems odd, I know, but it works.  During the day, we turn and rotate the pieces so they dry thoroughly.  By the next day, the wood is dry enough to burn.

Pam and I moved the wood from outside to the inside of the woodshed.  Even though it's wet, it might dry a bit under good cover.  This is where it was...

and this is where it is.

Barring a really cold spell, that should last us until we head south.

In other news, the creek by the cabin is still running high...

and the critters have a bit of cabin fever.

Sassy, the small female cat, has been attacking Leo Pard, the big black male cat, on a regular basis.  Leo, on the other hand, spends much of his time outdoors.  He even plays with the dogs.  While the dogs wrestle in the snow, rolling each other over, Leo watches for any opportunity to join in.  He sits close by, taunting the dogs to chase him, which eventually one of them does, and he arches his back and hisses and then scampers away.  These are strange cat and dog games.  I wonder what reindeer games involve?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

5,012 Photos

5,012 photos.  That's how many photos I've posted on my two blogs, Drift Away and Bleecker Mountain Life.   I only know this because Google (who owns Blogger) sent me an email letting me know that they've backed up my photos.   That's a lot of photos in two years.  But it is something I really enjoy doing.

I started out with a simple Fuji point-and-shoot, but when I left that out in the rain after working on our dinghy in Savannah, Pam persuaded me to buy a DSLR.  I didn't want to spend $1,000 on a camera, but she talked me into it, as she does everything.

We've had some very warm temperatures here, accompanied by quite a bit of rain.   We even have flood warnings.  We have a creek that runs along side the Driveway of Death below it, and one that runs along side above it.  Both are running very high, so I decided to go out with my camera, tripod, and ND filter to shoot it.

The ND filter is a darkening filter, meaning that I can slow the shutter speed down to blur moving things, like flowing water, without overexposing the shot.

I took the ND filter off when shooting Ruby because she wouldn't look good blurry.

The dogs love to play in water, and they don't care if it's winter.  Ruby, being Ruby, pulled a small log out of the creek.

She got it.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's official. I am an Idiot.

As many of you know, I'm an old fart.  And being an old fart, I like old farty kind of things.  Things like my 1952 Ferguson TO-30 tractor.  This thing is a marvel.  At 61 years old, it's still a tireless workhorse.

Bessie the Tractor was stuck at the bottom of our driveway.  Our all-wheel-drive Kia Sorrento couldn't climb up our steep driveway, so it was no shame that Bessie couldn't do it, even with chains and big iron wheel weights.

Today was above freezing, and the driveway was softening up.  I need to plow Earl and Judi's driveway so we can fetch hay for Jeremiah the Horse, and to get the horse trailer out so we can take him to Florida with us.

I checked Bessie's gas tank and it was about a third full.   I fetched the 6 gallon red gas jug.  It had four or five gallons in it.  I poured it in Bessie's tank.  She fired right up.  I was letting it idle to warm up a bit, and it suddenly stalled.  Huh?  Bessie never does that.  I started her up again, and she ran for a minute and stalled.  I started her again, and she ran for a few seconds and stalled, and then refused to start.  Crap.

I went inside the Unabomber Cabin.

"Did you get the tractor out?" asked Pam.

"No.  It  stalled, and now it won't start," said  I.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know.  That was gasoline in the gas can, right?"

"You put that in the tractor??   That's kerosene for the kerosene heater.  Don't you remember sending me out for kerosene and handing me that jug?"

I just stood there  with a deer-in-the-headlights look.  Our yellow kerosene/diesel jugs are over on our property a mile away, and the red one was right there...

"I can't believe you did that!" said Pam.

I can.  I do stupid stuff all the time.  It's who I am.

So I wandered back out to Bessie.  I removed the sediment bowl and let the gasoline/kerosene mixture drain into a bucket, and removed the drain plug from the carburetor.  I then had to drive off the mountain to Meco to buy gasoline.  When I got back, the tank was empty.  I put the sediment bowl back on, put the plug back into the carburetor, filled up the tank with gasoline, and Bessie fired up instantly.

What a relief.

I then drove the mile to Earl and Judi's and plowed their driveway.  I'll write about the experience of plowing with a tractor some other time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Birthday Cupcakes

Yesterday was daughter Megan's 27th birthday.  She wanted tacos, corn, rice, and cupcakes.  Being a mom, that's exactly what Pam did.  I didn't take any pics of the tacos, corn, and rice, but I most certainly did of the cupcakes.

 I really dislike using a flash when I photograph.  If I have a choice between harsh shadows from a flash and grain from a high ISO setting, I'll take the high ISO setting and the grain.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Trudging Begins

Since we got our Kia unstuck, we're parking it on the landing by the road with the Buick.  What that means is that we're now schlepping stuff up and down our long, steep driveway.  Like two big loads of laundry.  Thankfully, daughter Megan is here to help.

Pam and Megan went shopping.  One thing on their list was toboggans.   Try carrying a 40 pound bag of dog food down that long driveway!   Unfortunately, they couldn't find anything big enough, just little tyke's toboggans.  I have to go out today, so I'll look.

Apparently, the ceiling/roof of our Unabomber Cabin isn't too well insulated.  Check  out these icicles.

And, within minutes, Google added snow to the above pic.

But it is kind of cool when the Christmas Tree lights reflect off the windows, eh?

We have icicle lights.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Pam got the Kia stuck in our Driveway of Death a few days ago.  I got it unstuck, and promptly got it stuck myself.   Not only did I get it stuck, but worse.  I had it on the edge of the driveway, ready to slide off into the toulies.

We tried digging it out ourselves, but to no avail.  I called AAA, and the first guy who called only had a flatbed truck.  I described our driveway, and he decided to pass.  Later, I had a surprising knock on the door of our unabomber cabin.  It was tow truck guy #2.  He walked down our driveway to tell me he wouldn't dare drive his truck down here.

Pam put a may day call out on Facebook, and within ten minutes had a response from her friend Stephanie.  Her boss, Brian Manzer, runs a sand and gravel pit in nearby Northville, and Brian would come over.

I was up on the highway shoveling where the tractor had been parked, before I got it stuck down the Driveway of Death, to make it bigger for the Kia when Brian arrived.  I had him park on the road and walk down the Driveway of Death to take a look.  He was concerned, but figured he could do it.

First Brian plowed out a bit at the top of the driveway, which isn't too steep.  Then he backed down, spreading sand as he went, and plowing a bit here and there.  He stopped his truck, attached a nylon tow strap to the Kia and his truck, and yanked the Kia out.   The Kia only moved a few feet when the nylon strap came off, but Pam drove the all-wheel-drive Kia out right behind Brian's 4x4 truck.

When we all got to the road, Brian then plowed out where the Kia would go on the landing.   When he finished, I asked how much I owed him.  Brian just smiled.   No really.  I can go to the cabin and get my checkbook.  Brian just smiled some more, got in his truck, and drove away.

Such is life on Bleecker Mountain.  Neighbors taking care of neighbors.

Our Kia is now parked on the landing by the road, and we will walk up and down the Driveway of Death until we leave for Florida.  It is a small price to pay to live in our small patch of paradise.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


If you remember this pic from yesterday's blog, our Kia was snowed in.

I managed to get Bessie the Tractor running, and I made one pass down the driveway with the back blade.  Even with iron wheel weights and chains on the back tires, Bessie couldn't make it back up the driveway.  Yesterday, Pam decided to try to drive the Kia out.  The Kia is all wheel drive and really good in snow.  This is where it was.

And this is how far Pam got.  I got a shovel out and dug all around it and got it unstuck...

while the dogs romped in the snow...

and this is how far I got.

I had a visit from an AAA tow truck guy, but said there was no way he could drive down our driveway, and it's in too far to use the winch on his truck.  He had his partner call me last night, and they're going to get some different equipment and maybe try again today.

Pam called a friend with a plow, and he's going to come by and take a look.  Maybe he can plow it for us.    If AAA can't get it out, I'll hook up Bessie to the Kia with a chain and tow it out of there.  We'll shovel the driveway if we have to.

And lastly, this is interesting.  I went outside last night to take a few night photos.  The moon was almost full and illuminated the snow laden trees nicely... and I got this shot.  Look closely.  Do you see it?  About five o'clock, just to the right of the pine tree?  

No?  Here, I'll enlarge the photo for you.

After close examination, the object is squarish, with a red light at the pointy end.  It is obviously Santa's sled with Rudolph leading the way, no doubt out on a dry run, or a reconnaissance mission.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow Storm!

Yep.  We got about a foot of snow Saturday night and into Sunday.  This is what I woke up to yesterday.


That's our screen door that's stuck open because of frost heaves.  Thankfully, the Bleecker Black Flies are minimal at this time of year.

Poor Ruby went outside to go potty.  She's a pit bull.  She's very muscular and broad, but built low to the ground, if you get my drift (pardon the pun).  Where to... umm... squat?   Also note that not too many birds will be eating suet from that feeder today.

Poor Aud, the Kia, snowed in real good.

This was Leo Pard's first big snowfall, and he seemed to revel in it.  Those two Madonna-looking things to his left are our wood splitting stumps, each about 18 inches high.

Ruby, still looking for a place to squat.  

Ugh. It was time.  I walked up our long, steep driveway and started up the tractor. The hydraulic lever for the plow was still frozen, so I couldn't raise the plow.

Plan B. I walked a mile to Earl's house, fed the Jeremiah the Horse, and started Earl's plow truck. Nope, I don't know the truck's name.  I need to get this  information from Earl.  I let it warm up while I brushed the deep snow off it with a windshield wiper blade I found in the cab because I couldn't find a snow brush. I got in, hit the lever to raise the plow, and nothing happened. The plow didn't work.

Plan C. I walked the mile back to our cabin, got a candle, a lighter, and some aluminum foil. I tented the hydraulic lever with the foil and put the lit candle in. I left it to warm up for an hour or so and then see if it unfroze.  It did not.

Plan D. Shovel.

Shovel we did. Pam wasn't feeling well, but being the trooper she is, she came out to help shovel anyway. Afterwards, she wound up on the loveseat to snooze. Poor Chevy wanted to snuggle, but there was no room.

While shoveling out the Buick, I let Bessie the Tractor run.  That did the trick.  The PTO of the tractor uses the same hydraulic fluid as the transmission, and it warmed up enough to free up the lever.  I got the tractor plowed out on the landing on the highway, and then attacked the head of our driveway.  In the course of doing that, I got Bessie stuck.  I managed to get her pointed down the driveway, and made one pass down the steep Driveway of Death, plowing a narrow pathway.  Long story short, Bessie could not climb back up the Driveway of Death for another pass or two.  I even tried backing up it, hoping that with wheel weights and chains and front wheel drive (backing up), I could make it.  Nope.  So I had to shovel the top of the driveway by hand, which I paid for last night and this morning.

As Earl would say, I'm too old for this shit.

Pam has to go to work today, so she's going to see if she can get the all wheel drive Kia Sorrento out of here.  If she can, she can park it up on the landing by the highway and just walk up and down to the Unabomber Cabin.  We're only here for a few more weeks.  No big deal.

Today's weather forecast is a high of 15 and a low of -1.  Maybe it is a big deal.