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A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Jeff and I will do anything for a friend in need.  I’d give the shirt off my back and walk around in my bra if a friend needed my shirt.  Recently Jeff and I helped a friend who is going to be moving to Texas but couldn’t afford the high cost of a moving van, plus gas, food and lodging.  So when we heard of our friend’s plight we said, “Hey! We’ve got a 33’ toy hauler just sitting around.  Why don’t we load her goods into the trailer and take a road trip to Texas! We’ll make a little vacation out of it!” So that’s what we did.  Little did we know, this would be an adventure on so many different levels!

It started with prepping the truck and trailer.  We haven’t used our toy hauler since we sold all the motorcycles and ATVs.  We used it once to take the Jeep out to Joshua Tree, but other than that, it’s been sitting in storage for four years.  To prepare, the truck gets a tune up, oil change and finally the seal of approval.  The trailer gets a cleanup, tires inspected, water tank filled, battery charged, poopy chemicals applied to the blank tank and it’s also ready to go.

Adventure #1:
The first day of our vacation is actually Memorial Day and we head down to our friend’s house in San Diego to load up.  She lives in a small house so we weren’t too concerned about running out of storage room in the trailer.  Heck if we fit the jeep in the trailer we can fit her small supply of household items!  So after all her boxes, night stands, dressers, boxes of clothes, kitchen stuff and various odds and ends are loaded we finish the load with the mattress and box spring.  The tailgate of the trailer is raised the inside boxes are secured and we’re just about ready.  We’re about to leave and I’m worried about the trailer backend hitting the house as we turn to leave.  So I get out and spot for the house.  We never even considered looking up!  It’s just been so long since we’ve used the trailer… So Jeff starts pulling away and he clears the house but little did I know that the trailer’s ladder hooked a cable line from the power pole above and it rips the ladder off the trailer.  Oooops.   The powerlines, telephone and cable lines are swinging wildly.  So Jeff gets out, throws the broken ladder into the trailer muttering profanities and away we go.  My bad!

Adventure #2:
We start heading out on the 8 east.  We’re laughing and having a grand ol time just shooting the shit as we drive.  The plan is to continue driving until we get to Tucson.  Well we’re just outside of Yuma Arizona when we hear an explosion.  Jeff quickly checks the dash of the truck, everything is A-OK. I look in the mirror and our trailer tire has literally exploded and is sending trailer fender and tire shrapnel all over the freeway.  So we pull over on a flat spot and begin the process of installing the spare tire.  We had these tires balanced and inspected by Discount Tire!  F%#K! Now we have an exploded tire, a broken fender and two bent supporting trailer frame brackets!  After the new tire is installed we have to make a committee decision.  Do we continue on to Tucson or drive back to Yuma? Technically we have one more spare tire as the truck uses the same bolt pattern as the trailer; so IF we continue and get another flat we’d still be good.  The other option is to head back to Yuma and get a new spare.  The consensus is to continue on to Tucson.

Adventure #3:
No sooner as we all pile back in the truck and begin our journey to Tucson, we hear a “Bing Bing Bing” and the Truck’s check engine light comes on.   MOTHER F%#KER! We have no idea what’s going on with the engine, all we envision is being stranded in the middle of the Arizona desert in 104 degree heat.  We make the decision to head back to Yuma and get new tires and have the truck checked out.  Unfortunately it is Memorial Day and 6:00pm at night so neither Chevy nor Discount Tire is open.  I found an RV park nearby and we stay the night.  Discount Tire opens the following morning at 8:00am and Chevy opens at 7:00am so we drop the trailer off at Discount and take the truck over to Chevy.  Two hours and $600 later the trailer has four new tires and the truck has a $125 inspection report that reads bad O2 sensor.  The technician clears the fault and tries to get the truck to duplicate the error and nothing happens.  We get the thumbs up from Chevy that the O2 fault must have been an old code and we finally head east.

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Adventure #4:
The road through Arizona’s desert is beautiful.  We make it without any troubles into New Mexico where we come across a train wreck.  There are two injured people in the derailment. I have never seen a train derailment in person and there are rail cars everywhere.  It’s truly a sight to see. I’m just glad that nobody was killed.

Adventure #5:
Just before Las Cruces New Mexico, we stop at the rest stop and I cook a spaghetti dinner.  We are all sitting out on the park benches of the rest stop enjoying dinner.  We see off in the distance a huge volume of black storm clouds accompanied by flashes of lightening.  We turn and in the opposite direction is another bank of storm clouds.  We pull up the MyRadar app and all we see are these two storms in red converging on one another.  The sheer scale of red “severe” weather is alarming.  So we finish dinner and begin to head out just as drops of rain are starting to fall.  HOLY MOTHER OF GOD; THE WIND!! THE RAIN!! THE LIGHTNING!! THE HAIL!!!  I have NEVER in all my life actually seen a storm of this magnitude.  Cars are driving at a crawl or either pulled over to the side of the road with their hazard lights flashing.  Our truck’s windshield wipers cannot keep up with the deluge!  The hail hitting the windshield and the hood is so loud we have to shout to each other to hear.  I would have taken a video of the storm but my hand was “white knuckled” on the Oh Shit bar of the truck.  As the hail continues to pour down, Jeff shouts “I hope our bathroom skylight isn’t broken!” I’m thinking, I hope we don’t die! Thankfully we emerge from the worst part of the storm after 20 minutes of pure hell.  Now we’re just getting a steady rain with the occasional flash of lightning.  To say we were all “Scurd” is an understatement.  There was definite pucker factor going on big time!

Adventure #6:
As we leave the outskirts of Las Cruces, I lean over to look at the gas gauge; to me it’s reading pretty low.

I ask Jeff, “You want to stop for gas? Do we have enough?”
Jeff replies “Oh we’ve got plenty.”
Skeptically I say, “Really? You Sure?”
Jeff scowls “We Have Plenty”

Little do we know that the road to Dallas Texas is NOT flat.  We’re approaching uphill after uphill and I’m seeing that gas gauge inch closer and closer to E.  Finally it’s pretty clear that we are not going to make it to Van Horn Texas.  Unfortunately there are no diesel gas stations around that could fit our 33’ trailer and 20’ truck, so reluctantly Jeff pulls off the freeway and into an abandoned gas station.  Luckily we are carrying seven spare gallons of diesel. While Jeff is filling the tank I get out of the truck and stretch.  I look up at the trailer and see that the aluminum siding skin has peeled off the trailer at the front and runs about 6 feet back.  It looks like the peel of a banana except so much worse. I say to Jeff while pointing up, “That’s not good!”  Jeff looks over and his jaw just drops.  He states, “That isn’t good.”  So since our trailer ladder got ripped off in San Diego, we have no way to easily fix the trailer skin.  Jeff improvises the use of six used tires, stacks them up and uses them as a wobbly platform.  I’m trying to steady the tires as Jeff clambers up and attempts to fix the skin. And people wonder why women live longer.  So with seven gallons in the tank and the skin of the trailer tucked back in the seal, we make our way to Van Horn Texas.

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Adventure #7:
We find a really nice RV park and spend the night without any drama. Back on the road we go.  I use the app Trucker Path to find a diesel truck stop.  I step out of the truck and let Bogie take a pee.  While Jeff is fueling up I look at the trailer.  Once again we have banana peeling trailer skin in the same location.  Jeff’s temporary fix was indeed temporary.  So I walk over to Jeff and tell him the siding has come loose again.  While telling him this I see another part of the trailer skin that has separated.  I say to Jeff while pointing, “That’s not good.”  Jeff just says “SHIT!”  So we finish fueling and thankfully there are no wobbly tires around for Jeff to almost kill himself on, but there are these nice cement streetlight platforms that are not only high enough for Jeff to each the trailer top but are also steady!  So with power drill in hand and a couple of screws, Jeff once again clambers up and fixes the trailer.  Then with the remaining screws fixes the trailer on the other side.  Once repaired, back on the road we go!

Adventure #8:
Finally we make it to Grapevine Texas five minutes before the storage yard was about to close.  We unload our friend’s goods into her storage garage and away we go.  The plan is to stay the night in the driveway at our friends’ boyfriend’s house in Flower Mound. We pull into the driveway and set the trailer up for a much needed rest after a long day of driving.  The next day Jeff detached the truck from the trailer and we head to Home Depot to get supplies to make some serious trailer repairs.  Sealant – check, longer screws – Check! Back to the trailer!  So with a borrowed ladder the permanent repairs are made much more easily. That evening we make plans to visit with our friends in Fort Worth.  Along the way, Jeff spots one of the places he’s been dying to go for over three years!  It’s a truck stop called Buc-ees.  Buc-ees is HUGE!  There are 36 gas pumps!  There are even shopping carts for the store portion.  But this ain’t no normal convenience store!  HOLY HELL this is the mecha of all convenience stores.  Jeff’s face is showing a blend of pure joy on the verge of orgasmic to absolute amazement.  We’re walking around the store and Jeff finds a true gem.   It’s a t-shirt that reads “Got Beaver Nuggets?” On the back it reads “Be a lot cooler if you did”.  Jeff is in heaven.  So we get some snacks and a couple of shirts and away we go to meet our friends.  I must admit I really wish we had Buc-ees in San Diego, they really are amazing places.  From country nik nak decoration stuff to clothing to fudge and hot food, Buc-ees has it all.

Adventure #9:
Friday morning we are scheduled to head back west to San Diego.  As we’re leaving Flower Mound I’m checking the Doppler radar and all I see is a HUGE patch of red and yellow Doppler warnings all throughout Texas and New Mexico – This should be interesting.  While it did rain hard almost all the way to New Mexico it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first storm we had been through.  However it was strong enough to damage the trailer AGAIN!  This time the fiberglass siding under the 5th wheel hitch has come loose.  We pull into a Loves truck stop and Jeff climbs into the back of the truck with power drill and screws in hand and screws the fiberglass back into place.
I comment to Jeff, “I think this is a sign to retire the trailer”
Jeff says reluctantly, “I think you might be right”

 

Adventure #10:
We have driven through New Mexico and are in the high desert of Arizona approaching the mountains.  We took the scenic route and it truly is beautiful! The landscape goes from high desert scrub to majestic pines in just a matter of miles.  As we head through the mountains we get a text message from one of our San Diego friends: “Hey we are at the San Diego airport heading to Scottsdale!” We text back “Meet for lunch in Scottsdale?”  So a couple of hours later, the timing is just right and we meet our friends for a quick sandwich lunch.  What a small world!

Adventure #11:
As we leave Phoenix and are crossing the desert plains we hear that familiar, Bing Bing Bing, and again the check engine light comes on.  Jeff rolls his eyes and I heave a deep sigh. “PISS ANT MOTHER F$#KER!” This time we agree, we’re throwing caution to the wind and continuing through the desert ignoring what could be impending doom.  Thankfully that doom is a mere inconvenience in gas mileage.  We were getting around 14 MPG before the check engine light.  After the light it dropped to around 8 MPG.  Probably the O2 sensor again.  Our plan is to make it our river place in Yuma and have an actual bed to sleep on.  Surprisingly that plan comes flawlessly into place and we arrive at Hidden Shores without any further engine problems. So the next morning we leave Yuma and head back to Alpine where we store the trailer.  Thankfully the truck didn’t give us any further problems and thankfully the trailer didn’t decide to shed anymore skin along the way.

Even though our trip was funded by the National Lampoon Vacation fund, I can look back on it now and just shake my head in amazement of all we experienced.  Through all the adventures; the ladder, the tire, the engine, the trailer continually wanting to get naked, it still was a fun trip that I’d do all over again if a friend needed us to.  I think next time however, I might bump up my life insurance before I do…

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Thanksgiving has come and gone and my family and I truly have reason to be thankful.  For 2015 Thanksgiving J and I decided to have Thanksgiving at our river place in Arizona.  I really didn’t want it to be a big deal, just a nice relaxing place to celebrate and afterwards do some shooting, off-roading, golfing, biking and kayaking.

 

Thankfully my work closed down on Wednesday at noon which allowed J and me to get ready for the river sooner.  We got to our river place four hours later and were shortly joined by my parents.  The plan was to wake early on Thanksgiving Day and go shopping for the items we’d need for the feast.  Here was our “planned” menu…

 
Salad
Prime Rib
Sautéed Mushroom and Butternut Squash
Cranberry
Bacon Smashed Potatoes
 

So in the morning we sent J off to the store to get what we needed.  When he returned and I started sifting through the various goods, I noticed that the Prime Rib didn’t look like normal prime rib.  It had three strings tied around it.  Prime Rib normally doesn’t have any strings.  I look at the label of the meat: “Top Round Roast”.  TOP ROUND ROAST?!  WTF is TOP ROUND ROAST???  Apparently after googling, Top Round Roast is considered the poor man’s prime rib!  HAHA.  J said that there was no more prime rib at the store and that the clerk said the top round was the closest thing to prime rib.  I personally think J saw the price tag of Prime Rib and saw the price of Top Round and said “YUP! Top Round It Is!” HAHA

 

Since I had never cooked Top Round before, I quickly googled how to cook this cut of meat.   It’s funny when cooking quality cuts of meat, if you think you’ve salted it too much, you haven’t used enough salt.  And it’s true, I had that meat covered in a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, and chili pepper, to the point that I thought it was overboard.  But the end result was amazing!

 

So after the meat was prepped and resting on the counter to get to room temperature, the real fun began.  It started with just a quick flicker of the lights.  My mom and I were in the kitchen and noticed the lights and we both looked up and though “OK that’s weird”.  Then the lights got extremely bright.  I’m talking WOW bright.  One of the overhead kitchen light burned out as a result.  Then the lights went back to normal.  Hmmm weird.  So we tell J who thinks it may be the park itself having issues.  So we continue to cook.  We were warming up some water in the microwave when the lights flickered again, then went bright then everything just turned completely off!  It was then that we started smelling something burning.  Not like firewood burning but like electrical burning.  We yell for J who starts trying to diagnose the problem.  There’s smoke come out from our breaker box in the back bedroom.  YIKES!  Even with the power out we’re still smelling electrical fire.  Instantly the outside pedestal main breaker is turned off and we try to see what’s going on.  J checks with our neighbors to see if they are experiencing the same problem. Nope – they’re all good.  Since it was getting dark and J wasn’t finding the source of the problem, we all decided to keep the power off and deal with it in the morning.

 

So it’s now 5:00 and my mom and I are cooking on the stove in the dark with portable battery powered closet lights.  Thankfully the way I cooked the “Prime Rib” was to preheat the oven to 500, put in the roast and drop the temp to 475 for 28 minutes.  After 28 minutes you completely shut off the oven but let the roast cook in the ambient heat of the oven for three hours.  Thankfully after the power went out it didn’t affect the cooking process of the meat.  Our gas stove wasn’t affected by the power outage so we continued to cook the butternut squash and potatoes on the stove.

 

Around six our meal was finally ready and although it was too dark to eat inside, we set up a nice folding table outside and since it was only our trailer power that was out, we used our awning’s lights to see.  I was actually nervous that the meat would be cooked to medium with it being in an oven without any heat for three hours.  But after I had let the meat rest for 5 minutes and started slicing, it turned out the temperature of the meat was absolutely perfect!  Just the perfect amount of pink!  Awesome.  As we tasted it, sure enough Top Round Roast does taste exactly like Prime Rib!  Note – If you don’t want to spend a fortune on Prime Rib but want that prime rib taste and tenderness, buy a Top Round!  The meal really was fantastic!

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Image stolen from internet but mine looked just like this!

Everything was delicious for being made in the dark.  That night was frigid!  Even though our river place is in the desert of Arizona the nights are freezing!  With no heat to take the chill out of the air we used every blanket we had.  I even had to wrap Bogie up in a blanket on his bed to keep him warm.  The next morning we called an electrician who would come out in the afternoon.  When the electrician came out he started at the outside pedestal and worked his way in.  Eventually he found that the pedestal had sent a surge which fried our connector.  It literally fried our connector.  There are char marks on the connector and on the underside of the trailer.  Pretty damn scary!  The smoke we saw and smelled was the arcing and resulting fire of the connector plug.  We were so lucky our place didn’t burn down!  So the electrician installed a new connector plug and checked our other electronic items inside the trailer.  The surge killed our microwave, CO2 Monitor and may have killed the electric thermostat of the oven.  When the killed items were uninstalled and removed the electrician attempted to flip the main pedestal breaker.  Power should have been restored to the trailer once the main breaker was flipped but after the flip nothing.  That meant that the main breaker on the pedestal itself had failed.  That main breaker should have tripped once the surge happened which would have prevented all the damage to our place.

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The main breaker on the pedestal was replaced and power was finally restored.  We all breathed a giant sigh of relief after an hour went by and not seeing or smelling any smoke.   We really were lucky as we had removed the fire alarm earlier from the kitchen because it always goes off when cooking bacon.  Had the electrical fire happen while we were asleep I’m not sure the end result would have been as good.

 
2015 Thanksgiving was truly a very thankful and grateful event.  Thankful that nobody was injured or killed. Thankful that we were actually there to prevent the fire from destroying our home and/or other people’s property.  I’m truly grateful for the eye opening experience it really was.  Sometimes you need those serious reminders that life is precious and to be thankful for what you have and for the family and friends in your life.

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Weekend River KeyGate

Usually going to the river is a stress free event; full of relaxation and fun activities.  This past weekend? Not so much.  We had friends come into town from Texas and since they were driving from Texas to San Diego we invited them to take a break in Arizona at our river place.  Everything was hunky dory on Friday afternoon, we loaded up the boat and enjoyed a wonderful day out on the sand bar, after all the stress and chaos at work, this was a much needed break.  Saturday was a completely different scenario.

We dubbed Saturday “KeyGate” and as you guessed it, yes it involves keys.  So Saturday morning J launches the boat and I tool around with the boat in the marina until he parks the truck and trailer and returns to the launch ramp to get picked up.  Normally when I motor back to the ramp to pick up J he wades out a bit so that our boat doesn’t hit the cement or any rocks.  As he stops my forward momentum in the boat he usually gently tosses the truck keys to me.  I stress the word “Gently”.  This time however, that gentle toss was given a little too much oomph and the truck keys flew up, hit the Bimini top, slid across the Bimini top, dropped down on the side edge of the transom bed, bounced up and out of the boat and into ten feet of water.  The next thing I heard was the word FUCK being shouted at the top of J’s lungs just as he dove into the water to the approximate place where the keys fell into the water.  Thankfully this wasn’t a very busy weekend with other boats lining up to launch.  So J is diving back and forth trying to feel for keys that are somewhere in 10 feet of water with a gentle current.  You can see the panic in his face every time he surfaces for air.  One of our guests hitches a ride on a golf cart to the store and purchases a diving mask for J.  In the meantime I moored the boat on the sand bank and rushed to the house to get another diving mask.   J has been searching underwater with his mask for now 30 minutes and just as I get back to the boat ramp and put on my mask, I hear J surface and scream “YES!!!” with the truck keys in his hand!  Disaster averted; lesson learned –Put that key floaty on the Key Ring and install Hide-A-key on truck!

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Jeff bobbing for the keys

So after the fiasco in the morning we finally get on the river and motor up to a quiet sandbar.  Along the way up we see some elusive big horn sheep on the mountain sides which is an awesome sight!  We knew from weather reports that the Mexican hurricane was making its way northwest and could create some unusual weather on the river.  Around 12:00 we started seeing evil black clouds making their way slowly towards us.  In a matter of an hour those clouds started producing lightning and thunder along with some gusts of wind so strong our chairs were blowing away.  So our afternoon on the river was cut short as the lightning moved closer.  But motoring home with winds blowing on a shallow river system is not an easy task.  Anyone who goes to the river knows that a shallow river plus winds can cause sandbar disasters.  Usually underwater shallow sandbars are easy to spot and avoid by the color different or by the disturbance they cause on the water surface.  However when you have winds blowing and heavy cloud cover those clues are gone.  You have to solely rely on your memory of the river sandbar system in these cases.  Unfortunately for two boaters their memory wasn’t so reliable.  But paying it forward we stopped and pushed both boats that were stuck up on very shallow sandbars back into deeper water.  We definitely got our workout for the day and some very sore muscles the following day.

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Snatched from the internet to show what a boat stuck on a sandbar looks like.

Eventually we made it back to the boat ramp and back to the house.   At some point during the late afternoon our guests had wanted to get into their vehicle.  Unfortunately for them, the key to their vehicle was nowhere to be found.  NOWHERE!  We searched everywhere for those keys, we even emptied out the trash and recycle bin piece by piece.  Our guests searched every piece of their luggage and nothing.  They were in panic mode as they needed to be in Anaheim on Sunday evening.  We contacted the guard shack and asked if anyone has turned in keys- Nope.  Lost and found? Nope.  We decide to call the search off for the night and resume in the morning.  After a sleepless night of stressing, more morning searches revealed no keys.  We also learned that NO Chevrolet service centers are open on Sunday to get replacement electronic keys.  You can see the stress and panic in our guest’s faces.  Again we check with the store to see if anyone checked in lost keys found.  No luck, but they did give us the number of a guy that can reprogram digital keys for vehicles and he’s only 30 minutes away.  Perfect!  So our guests schedule the guy to come out and after an hour of taking apart the ignition system and a credit card charge for $250 the Tahoe was reprogramed with a new key.  There was a huge sigh of relief as the technician started the truck with the newly programmed key.  Another lesson learned – Install hide-a-key!

Overall it was awesome to spend some time with our out of state friends.  Granted the weekend could have gone a little smoother and with a little less stress, but overall we had a great time and can’t wait to get back out there “distressing”.

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