Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"AnniMaBir" Month in Rochester

Early in our married life, my wonderful husband realized that he had a big problem. The month of May would always be a bit "stressful" for him as it included three big gift-giving occasions: our anniversary, Mother's Day and my birthday.

Knowing that he was bound to forget one or more of the special days, we proclaimed the month of May "AnniMaBir" month.  No big gifts/celebrations needed ... we just enjoy the everyday blessings of family, friends, and each other ... everyday of the month. I was so happy to be in Rochester during my "AnniMaBir" month this year as it provided many opportunities to celebrate these everyday blessings!

Celebrating the gift of church friends
We were happy to be able to spend Sunday mornings with our hometown church friends. We have only been gone seven months, and already my sweet church kids are getting taller than me!

Although for this year at least, I'm still taller than my Godchild Ella!

Celebrating the gift of biking friends
Rochester has many fabulous bike trails, and we were grateful to be able to bike along the Mayowood Trail to see the bluebells in bloom.

A ride on the Douglas Trail with our Outspokin' bike group brought us to the Better Brew Coffeehouse in Pine Island for some delicious homemade pie and lively conversation. 

Celebrating the gift of work friends
The original reason to spend a month in Rochester was so that I could work the required shifts to keep my employment status active with my former employer. While returning to work may not be considered by some to be a great way to celebrate, I enjoyed the chance to refresh my nursing skills as well as reconnect with my work family! Happy hour (even at midnight) is a fun way to recharge after a busy shift!

Celebrating the gift of TRAM friends
When Doug and I were more serious bikers, we participated in The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM). TRAM is a five day, 300 mile bike ride that raises money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The money raised supports those affected by this devastating disease that affects young people like my cousin. While we no longer ride, we were happy to support the "Kreb Cyclers" as they work to maintain the title of the top "fun" and "fund-raising" team. To find out more about the ride and/or to contribute to a great cause, click here.

The gathering included a silent auction ... I was happy to take home a basket of "consumables" from the local co-op.

Celebrating the gift of girlfriends
I enjoyed many meals and gatherings with special girlfriends. It is always good to know that no matter how long it has been since we last saw each other, the smiles and support are still there for me!

Celebrating the gift of new RV friends
While in Rochester, we stayed at Autumn Woods RV Park. Other than some highway noise, the campground proved to be a comfortable place to call "home" for the month. The owners keep the grounds, showers and laundry area pristine.

Located nine miles south of the Mayo Clinic, the campground provided a relaxing atmosphere for patients seeking medical treatment as well as their supportive families. We were delighted to meet new friends Robin and Glen, and celebrate her successful surgery.

Celebrating the gift of "great outdoors" friends
Biking along the Cannon Valley Trail
We were happy to be able to continue another "tradition" by spending Memorial Day weekend camping with friends at Lake Byllesby Regional park. Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer in Minnesota, usually brings some rain and cold. But that doesn't stop us "hardy northerners" from enjoying the great outdoors!
Serious Dominos competition
Bella and Paige give two thumbs up for Doug's peach dump cake!

Celebrating the gift of my lifelong friend
Keeping busy at work and with RV projects took away from something that we have come to take for granted ... spending time with each other. What a great gift to arrive at Lake Byllesby a day before the busy weekend crowds and enjoy the quiet beauty together!

We had the campground and hiking trails all to ourselves ... Yes, the best "gift" is still time with each other.

I ended my "AnniMaBir" month on a special note. We moved on to our next "home" at Baker Park Reserve on Memorial Day, and I was able to enjoy a combined Birthday/Mother's day celebration with our sons! We look forward to spending more time with them as we explore their current home of Minneapolis in the next month. With Father's Day approaching, I suspect that there will be some brewery tours in our future!

Until next time ... appreciate the gift of others ... and enjoy the adventures in your life! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rochester, MN - Destination Project Center

Home of the Mayo Clinic, our former hometown is referred to as "Destination Medical Center". But during our visit the last few weeks, Rochester became more fondly referred to as "Destination Project Center", as Chris' personal RV fix-it man (me, Doug ... not so skilled and woefully underpaid) worked hard to repair some of the Wildebeest's ills.

While Chris was busy visiting friends and working at Mayo to earn enough diesel to satisfy the Wildebeest's huge appetite, it became my "job" was to tackle the many RV repair projects that had accumulated over the last several months.

Job number 1 - get the electric side of our water heater working.
The electric portion of the water heater hasn't worked for almost a year, and Chris finally put her foot down and insisted that this needed to be fixed. After all, we were back in the north, and it can get REALLY COLD some mornings.

I knew this would be a significant job, since people that design and build RVs hate the people that have to maintain them. For the water heater, this means that you place a high failure rate item in a location which is totally inaccessible unless you remove the entire water heater. So, I had to remove the water heater and disconnect the plumbing to get it out in order to access the heating elements. 
As expected, numerous plumbing issues resulted when trying to get everything back together without leaks ... I got to know the local plumbing store REALLY WELL! After three days of RVenturous repairs, the job got done, and now we have hot water via the electric element ANY TIME THAT CHRIS WANTS IT rather than solely when we turn on the propane to temporarily heat up the water. Some pictures of the "great water heater repair job" are below.

Back of the water heater exposed so that I can get to the electric element. Fortunately, the engine coolant hoses were long enough so that I didn't have to remove them.

The water heater hanging exposed out of the Wildebeest.

Another view of the water heater.

Doug working on the water heater.

The failing parts. I think it was just burnt wiring that was the problem, but since I took the trouble to remove the water heater to get to this stuff, I replaced it all - thermostat, emergency cutoff, wiring, and heating element.

Burnt wiring.

The electric water heater element. I think it's still good, but it gets replaced anyway.
I think I had to take the water heater out and put it back in about seven times during the process of getting this little problem resolved. At least I know that I'm all caught up on the task of flushing my water heater!

Job number 2 - Find and repair the leaking roof
We had been getting some water in the RV around the area of the window over the front door. Fixing this problem actually started in Pensacola, FL where I decided that the problem may be the condition of the caulking of the unused satellite dish on the roof. I decided to remove it and seal the holes in order to fix the problem.

Satellite dish is gone!

Here it is ... I ended up selling it on Craigslist.
Well, the next hard rain showed that this did not fix the problem. So, when we got to Rochester, I took apart a bunch of stuff inside the RV so I could have a better view of where the problem might be.

The Wildebeest with a lot of panels removed.
I also decided to remove two old CB antennas and seal the holes in order to eliminate those as potential problems, although it didn't appear that they were a problem. But, with the new streamlined Wildebeest I'm sure that I'll get a great increase in diesel mileage! I'll also no longer hear them wack into tree branches as I am coming into campsites.

When re-caulking the front caps, I removed some downspouts and found some pretty suspicious looking screw holes. So, after re-caulking those, I had high hopes. Alas, the next large rain proved that I still had a problem to solve.

The next suspicion was the awning over the front door. I definitely did not like the looks of the rivet holes that were holding that awning in place. Why, oh why do they attach awnings with rivets! It must again be the hatred of the RV manufacturer against the RV owner/repairer. So, off with the awning and proceed to patch the holes ... I still need to locate paint which will match the existing "Wild Berry" color scheme of the Wildebeest. Some of the nail holes did not look very good, so I had high confidence going into the next rain the I would no longer see any water. Alas, I was proven wrong again.

So, I am running out of possible culprits at this point. The two most likely remaining possibilities were the TV antenna and the window itself. I decided that the window was the most likely, so I removed the window and reinstalled it with some new butyl tape caulk. I make this sound easy, but it was not. I had a couple of screws which were rusted in place, and I broke the heads off trying to get them removed. There was also a screw which needed a special low profile screwdriver in order to access. So, a few trips to local hardware stores were required to get some new tools (including a dremel) and screws, in order to get this job done. In the end, I got the window out, re-taped, and re-installed ... and got some COOL NEW TOOLS in the process! SCORE!!

We've had some rain over the last couple of days, and I am no longer getting any drips. But I haven't quite declared victory until we survive a multi-day soaker.

Job 3 - Cleaning the Wildebeest's roof
The roof of the Wildebeest was really dirty, and for some reason I thought it should be cleaned. This would also give me a chance to do a good inspection of the roof of the Wildebeest since I intended to do the cleaning by hand. It was not easy to get the job done in between the rain and wind storms, but it eventually did get completed, and I think it looks really nice. Of course, it's very hard to see how nice it looks unless you are up on the roof ... but, you never know ... it may become Chris' new favorite hangout spot!

Why does the roof of RVs need to be cleaned?? Not really sure, but maybe I'll get some better diesel mileage with the smoother surface! Not likely, but at least I can get satisfaction in knowing that it looks nice. My cleaning method: squirt some Clorox cleanup down, wipe with magic eraser (scrubbing a bit where there are stains or gunk stuck to the roof), wipe up with shop towels, squirt some Windex where I just wiped, and then wipe that up with some fresh shop towels. I should probably wax it before it gets dirty again. It took a number of hours of labor, but it sure does look nice! Tours are available if you want to check it out in person, but if not, here are some pictures:

8 feet done

Closer look at the 8 feet where the satellite dish used to be.

More done!

All done!
Job 4 - Bike maintenance.
I spent some time tuning the gears on both of our bikes. My bike was no longer getting into seventh gear since a stick bent the derailleur while mountain biking in Florida. Chris' bike also had problems getting to all the gears, plus her brakes needed adjusting ... badly. It also turned out that both of our chains were at the end of life. So, I spent a couple of days getting everything working again and also replacing the chains. They both run much better now, and we were able to enjoy some longer rides on the beautiful bike paths ... and a few gravel roads of Rochester.

Jobs 5 and 6 - Check battery water levels and run the generator. 
These tasks should be done monthly in order to ensure that you have no issues. However, if I get these done every few months it will be a miracle. I did manage to accomplish each of these tasks while I was in Rochester, and set up a system where my phone task list will remind me to do this every month. We'll see if that helps.

Then there is the never ending "Honey-Do" Jobs ...
Clean the carpet ...
Biking with friends ... 
And taking Chris out for our favorite caramel pecan french toast
So, my task list has all been accomplished by the end of our Rochester stay, and I'm feeling that things are really working well now. I'm pretty sure that this state will not hold for very long ... but in the meantime, I will reward myself with a cold one on the patio with my sweetie!

I (Chris) am continually amazed and grateful for the knowledge, patience and and skills that Doug has in order to keep our "house on wheels" a comfortable and well functioning "home". 

Until next time ... Keep everything in the state of repair ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!