How Do They Make Those?

Once or twice each month we (folks here at Rover’s Roost RV Park) have what we call a “Tag Along”. We just hop in our car (or someone else’s) and head out on a road trip.

This month about 10 or 12 of us went up to the Dwarf Car Museum just southwest of Maricopa, about 30 minutes west of our park.

Quick trip out I-8 to the museum

A lot of us really didn’t know what to expect .. and boy were we impressed!

Ernie and his helpers have, over the years built from scratch little 5/8 scale automobiles. These are real beauties as the pictures below illustrate. But what is really fascinating is that they are all made from flat sheet stock! They make their own roofs, fenders, door panels along with all the stainless (looks like chrome) grills, trim, headlight rings, window frames …. and more.

They will take a stock steering wheel from a junkyard and cut it down (taking sections of the diameter out) so that it becomes a smaller version of itself. On the dashboard, even though the actual dash is scratch made from sheet steel and stainless … what about the gauges? They use stock gauges but cut out part of the dial (or scale) to make it smaller and then hand paint the markings back on the face plate before cutting down the glass and reinstalling. Painstaking work.

The museum is really more of a shop – Out in the middle of nowhere
How it came to be …

Click on any of the images below to see a larger view

Ernie and his buddies were there the day we visited – there were probably about 35 or 40 of us altogether. I asked one of them what their day is like. He said “we start work at the shop about 7am but then slow down (or quit altogether) when the visitors start to come in.” “Then we start up again late afternoon and work until 8 or 9 at night.” When asked how many hours it takes to make one of these beauties he answered “about 3000” or so.

I commented on how dedicated they are to spend those kinds of hours each day toward achieving the finished product. One of them piped up and said “but only for 6 months – then I go home to Minnesota”. My reaction was one of relief and I commented “that’s good that you get a vacation from this” and he replied “yeah, I go back home to my shop in Minnesota and work on my projects there.”

There is no fee to visit the “museum” but they do accept donations. There is an endless loop video playing in a little theater that shows how these cars are made from the ground up. Seeing this video really gave me an appreciation for all the talent, imagination, and effort that goes into producing these masterpieces. These guys are truly artisans.

If you find yourself in the Phoenix or Tucson take a drive to the Dwarf Car Museum at Maricopa. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see and even more so when you talk with the fellas that make these little wonders.

To see all the pix from our time there, you can follow this Google Photo Album link

Ernie’s Video
We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Another Great Climb .. er, Drive up the Mountain

We met Rob & Michelle when we were working up in Michigan last summer at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park. They were pretty new to the full-time RV lifestyle themselves having retired from work, selling their home and buying the truck and the 5th wheel to live in as they traveled the country.

We were glad to find that Rob & Michelle had made their way from Michigan to Arizona and were staying at an RV park near Tucson for the month of December.

We reached out to them through Facebook and then spent the day together driving up to Mt. Lemmon (about 9000′). It was a beautiful day with temps down in Tucson at about 70+ degrees and the sun was shining brightly. We knew the temperature up on the mountain would be 20-30 degrees cooler.

Mt. Lemmon has a summit at 9159′ and is located in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range of the Coronado National Forest. The Catalina Highway is a two lane paved road that heads north from Tucson and winds it’s way on up to Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley and the little town of Summerhaven that sports a couple restaurants, a general store, and a few other small businesses.

The white squiggly line you see going up from Tanque Verde is the Catalina Highway that takes you to the summit

Summerhaven, although home to a few full-time residents, is mostly inhabited by folks who come up from the hot desert climate to escape from the heat of the summers.

One of the restaurants in Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon

We stopped at most every wide spot in the road to be able to get out and marvel at the sites as we looked at the oddly shaped rock formations and the view of the expanse of Tucson down below.

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see an enlarged view and then you can scroll right or left to see the next picture.

One of the really cool things we found before heading out on our trip was an app called “Mt. Lemon Science Tour“. This app can be downloaded from your device app store (free) and it is an approximately 1 hour narrated tour of the ride to the top. It tells you when to pull over, pause the app and goes on to explain what you’re looking at! It’s a really great idea … but we ended up having too much fun talking about what we’ve all been up to since the last time we were together. Kathy and I decided we’ll go back up sometime and use the app to learn more about what we’re seeing.

As we pulled over at one of the larger roadside parking areas we noticed about a half dozen U.S. Border Patrol vehicles. It seemed odd that they would be chasing after some bad guys all the way up here.

The parking area with Border Patrol vehicles

But as we moved closer to the overlook at the wall we could then see what all the activity was about. They were practicing their rescue techniques having installed hardware to perform a repelling operation. They actually had one of their members in a basket and were preparing to lower him over the edge into about a 100 foot drop to safety. We stayed and watched a while before we moved on.

This first video shows them getting ready to drop him over the edge – head first!
Part 2 video of the repelling operation – he’s about halfway down the cliff

All in all, it was another beautiful day in paradise and it was especially great that we were able to share it with two of our full-time RV buddies Rob and Michelle.

We look forward to maybe hooking up with Rob & Michelle (and many others) when we’re at the Big Tent RV Show in Quartzite the last week of January.

Thanks for coming along and be sure to sign up to get our future blog posts automatically by entering your email address in the little box on the left side where it says “Sign Up To Follow Our Blog”.

You can check out all our RV full-time travel videos at herbnkathyrv on You Tube and click SUBSCRIBE down in the lower right corner of any of our videos.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Arizona Cotton Farm Tour

One of the great advantages of being in one place for a bit of time (in this case the winter season) is that you get to know the other folks in the park and they quickly become your friends, or in many cases .. your family.

Last week a lot of “the family” took a tour of one of the many local cotton farms – The Caywood Family Farm  just east of Casa Grande.

Being that we lived in central Ohio for 30+ years, we were somewhat familiar (but not well versed) in the farming of wheat, soybeans, and corn. This tour provided us with TONS of information about the cotton business. We’ve seen the cotton bales and modules in fields along the road and we’ve become well aware of the cotton transport trucks, but this tour really opened our eyes to the entire process.

Some of the pictures in this post were taken while on the tour, others were taken at fields or at nearby gin, and then a few were pulled off the internet to round out the post.

Nancy Caywood was our tour guide and shared with us that she is the third generation of the Caywood family to farm that property. 

Nancy Caywood

Her son Travis is now actually running the farm and Nancy and her helper Al handle the tour operation.

You can learn more about Nancy and the rest of the crew by following this link.

We learned a lot during the 3 hour tour about the cotton farming business and how hard it is to “make it” given the dire water situation here in central Arizona along with all the government regulations on when they can plant, when (and if) they can have water, how they are required to control dust, when they must have the crop out of the ground and so many more “must” and “must not” regulations.

Here are some of the interesting facts we learned;

  • Water rights are first given to the;
    • Native Americans then;
    • City and County Governments then;
    • Industry then;
    • lastly to the farmers (if there’s any left)
  • A typical round “module” of harvested cotton weighs about 5000 pounds
  • The rectangular modules weigh about 15,000 pounds
  • The harvest weight will be about 2/3 seed and 1/3 cotton lint
  • Crops can be planted as early as late March (weather dependent)
  • Crops MUST be off the field by mid-February (regulation)
  • Crops generally get picked twice each season before the plant is cut and turned under
  • Between field preparation, planting, fertilizing, picking, 2nd picking, cutting, tilling, leveling, and other necessary operations the field is crossed by tractor 15 times or more during a typical season
  • A typical John Deere 4 row picker costs about $650,000 (new)
  • Central Arizona farmers typically grow either Pima (Egyptian) Cotton or Upland Cotton
  • The cotton “modules” are trucked to the local cotton gin for cleaning and separating the seed from the cotton lint and packaging to be transported to storage and ultimate sale to textile mills
  • Cotton or cotton seed is used in; clothing, animal feed, pharmaceutics, explosives, adhesives, oil, toothpaste, currency and hundreds of other applications
  • 95% of the cotton grown in the U.S. is exported to the Pacific Rim (China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and others)
Al and Nancy started off the tour with a little homespun music (play the video)
We loaded up on two wagons for the farm tour

The cotton seed is planted in the spring after the final frost. The seeds begin to germinate and pop their heads out of the ground about a week later. Cultivating is done to minimize weed and grass growth that would otherwise choke out the cotton plant.

The crops are watered by flood irrigation.  The ditches are filled with water from either; on site wells or from canals coming to the area from the Central Arizona Project. The CAP gets it’s water from Lake Mead.  Yes, that’s right … central Arizona gets it’s water from Lake Mead (nearly 300 miles north of Phoenix).  The opening and closing of the irrigation gates to the fields are controlled by government agencies with hefty fines to the farmers should they be caught abusing their privileges.

Typical Irrigation Ditch (gates controlled by government agencies)
The flower has fallen and the unopened boll is exposed

About 2 months after planting, buds begin to form on the plant & in another 3 weeks or so the blossoms open with pale yellow flowers.

In a few days the petals change color to dark purple. A few days more and the flower withers and falls leaving the BOLL that contains the seeds and moist fibers. Eventually, as the seed matures the BOLL bursts open exposing the fluffy bounty. The cotton now is ready to harvest right after it is sprayed with a defoliant. This allows the leaves to fall thereby producing a cleaner cotton harvest.

Now the boll is open and ready for the picker

Here’s a typical hopper style picker.  This two-row picker collects the cotton in the large hopper in the back.  When it’s full, the picker then dumps the hopper into a large rectangular Module Builder

This picker holds loose cotton

Here’s Nancy showing us the head of their two-row picker.  This picker pulls the cotton out of the plant boll and places it up into a hopper in the back.  The loose cotton is then “dumped” out of the picker into a large rectangular cotton module builder that can then be transported to the gin for processing.

Nancy and the Picker Head

Here’s one of the picker heads showing the tall row of spindles (silver horizontal spikes). The spindles are about the size of your baby finger and rotate (very fast) and have little teeth on them that catch and pull the cotton off the plant.  At the same time, the vertical shaft that the spindles are attached to is also turning and moving the spindles under a brush to remove the cotton so it can be blown up into the hopper at the rear of the picker

Inside the picker head showing the spindles and brushes. 
This shows the doffers that pull the cotton off the spindles so it can be blown up into the hopper

Once the cotton is picked it needs to get to the gin for processing .. right?  So the farmer dumps the cotton from the picker into what is called a Module Builder.

The wheels on the Module Builder are mounted on hydraulic rams so that the “box” can be lifted off the ground so it can be towed by the tractor

The module builder is basically a large metal box that is open on the top and bottom, one solid end and a gate on the other end.  It is usually hooked to a tractor to not only move it around the field, but also to supply the hydraulic power for the ram to pack the cotton tightly

The inside of the large module builder.  Note the large white arm that holds the ram to pack the cotton tightly.  The ram is remotely controlled to move from end to end

The walls of the module builder are sloped being wider at the bottom than the top so that the builder can be pulled off the module easily

Here’s a You Tube video I found online that shows how the Module Builder works

After the module is packed, it’s time to pull the builder away and then the transport truck comes to pick up the module and take it to the gin for processing

The wheel hydraulic rams lift the builder, the tractor pulls the builder forward, and the cotton module is left on the ground awaiting transport to the gin

This cotton transport truck drives onto the cotton field, backs up to the end of the packed cotton module, turns on the chain drive track in the floor of the trailer, and backs up …. at the same speed that the chain drive runs.  This picks up the module .. one foot at a time .. and neatly deposits it into the truck trailer where it’s then taken to the cotton gin for processing.

One of the large 15,000 lb modules on the feed conveyor into the gin
Close-up of the conveyor system feeding the gin. The blue bin in the front holds the yellow (round) module wrappers to be compacted and sent to plastic recycling
Just some of the modules sitting in the gin lot waiting to be processed.

The newer and larger cotton pickers can produce their own round modules

A newer 6 head cotton picker that makes it’s own round modules
This picker rolls the cotton into round 5000# modules.  These larger pickers eliminate the need for a separate (rectangular) module builder

The round modules are dropped in the field by the picker and then a very large fork-lift type of truck goes out and picks them up and sets them onto the flat bed trailer for delivery to the gin.

This picture below shows round modules arriving at the gin and being weighed

Round modules coming from the farm and being weighed at the gin (40,000# est)

Look closely below (right side of picture) and you’ll see the tractor placing the round modules onto the conveyor to head into the gin for processing

Modules being loaded onto a conveyor belt that feeds them into the gin
Trucks loaded with the ginned 500# cotton bales to head to storage (for ultimate sale)

Unfortunately, we can’t go into the gin to see the operation first hand (safety issues), but I found this YouTube video online that explains the process very well.  Although this video was done in Australia, the process is very similar if not identical to how it’s done here in Arizona.

An Australian video of the cotton ginning process

The picture below shows the large piles of cotton seed that will be processed further for things like; cottonseed oil, fertilizer, animal feed, soap, glycerin, cosmetics, rubber, and a lot more that we use every day.

Large piles of seed outside the gin. This will be processed further for other products

All in all it was a great day and we thank Nancy Caywood for the very informative tour. Now when we drive throughout Arizona and see all the cotton farms, we’ll have a new appreciation for the crop and the people that work so hard to produce it, especially given the limited water supply.

To learn more about Caywood Farms, you can visit their web site at www.caywoodfarms.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/caywoodfarms/

Thanks for riding along with us. Visit our You Tube channel @ herbnkathyrv to see some of the videos we’ve produced

And remember … not all who wander are lost – J. R. R.Tolkien

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Cactus in Casa Grande

We took a drive over to Avocado Nursery near Coolidge, AZ – only about 20 minutes or so northeast of our spot at Rover’s Roost RV Park.  Kathy had a small Barrel Cactus that she had bought at Kroger in 2016 and it’s been on the dashboard of the coach ever since.  She’s re-potted it a couple of times and our daughter Sara had given her others to add to her collection when we were visiting Ohio back in the spring of 2018.

The (now brown) larger spiky cactus turned brown seemingly pretty fast.  We weren’t sure if it just got too much sun, was infected by some sort of bug, or was just root-bound.

The Barrel Cactus along with the others seemed to be doing ok, but we decided it might be a good thing to get some larger containers and re-pot them into fresh soil with larger surroundings so they could flourish.  We don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to plants and flowers, so that’s why we hit the road — besides, we like road trips – no matter how long or short they might be!

They couldn’t tell us definitively what had caused the one plant to go brown all of a sudden, but they offered to get us some other containers and also do the planting for us.  Ordinarily this would be something we’d do ourselves but living on the road in an RV means if we bought a 5# bag of soil, and some gravel for the bottom we’d still have to lay out a tarp at our site (all gravel and concrete) and we’d most certainly have leftover soil and gravel to deal with getting rid of.

It was just so much easier to let them do it for us.

While we were watching and visiting with the ladies doing the re-potting, I took the opportunity to talk with the owner, Phil.

Phil and his wife bought the 10 acre property in 1980, built their home, and began to build the nursery.  They were both school teachers (Phil taught vocational agriculture and horticulture for 30+ years) and had the summers off and although the southern Arizona summers can be brutal, these two forged ahead and built their home, the greenhouses, and all the other little buildings on the property, all while building the nursery business at the same time.

Although Phil’s wife passed away a few years ago, he and his 6 employees work 6 days a week to keep this retail garden nursery open along with working at their 300 acre wholesale nursery up near Douglas, Arizona.

Kathy and I walked throughout much of the 10 acre grounds and wanted to share some of what we saw.  Here’s a sampling of what we found at this rare find in the desert.  And as always, you can click on any photo to see an enlarged view.

Although you don’t see a lot of pretty multi-colored flowers like those of us from the mid-west are so accustomed to, when we look closely we can see the buds and blossoms on the cactus and see the beauty that the desert has to offer.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Visit to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Spending our 2nd summer as Workampers at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Resort in “Baldwin” Michigan, we again had the opportunity every few days to explore the area of what northwest Michigan has to offer.

We’ve been working 7 days on duty, then 7 days off duty sharing responsibilities with our Workamper co-workers Russ and Mary.

One day Kathy and I took a drive “down state” a little to Grand Rapids to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Burial Site of he and his wife Betty.

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. was born on July 14, 1913.

While Gerald Ford was still an infant, his parents were divorced, and his mother moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she married Gerald R. Ford, Sr., who adopted the boy and gave him his name.

After graduating from the University of Michigan (1935), where he was a star gridiron-football player, Ford worked as an assistant coach while he earned a law degree from Yale University (1941). He joined the navy during World War II and served in the South Pacific, attaining the rank of lieutenant commander and nearly losing his life in 1944 during a deadly typhoon that killed hundreds.

In 1948, the year he won his first elective office, as Republican congressman from Michigan, he married Elizabeth Anne Bloomer (Betty Ford), with whom he had four children—three sons (Michael, John, and Steven) and one daughter (Susan).

He served nearly 25 years as a Representative of Michigan’s 5th congressional district, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader. Serving from 1973 to 1974 as the 40th Vice President of the United States, Ford was the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment. He then became President upon Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, and served until January 20, 1977 as the 38th President of the United States.

Ford is the only President of the United States who was not elected by ballot for his terms as either President or Vice-President. (see below)

The 44,000-square-foot two-story triangular museum is one of the highlights in a 20-acre park complex that includes the Grand Rapids Public Museum along the west bank of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger image with caption

There’s so much to see and so much to read in this museum.  There are lots of typed and hand written letters on display, audio and video recordings of the early years and his time as the leader of our nation, along with an entire display room dedicated to Betty Ford and her contributions to the community, the presidency,  and the nation.

Definitely could go back and spend the better part of an entire day taking in all the museum has to offer.

Living the full-time RV lifestyle presents us with the wonderful opportunity to see and experience so much that we wouldn’t otherwise have had available to us.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Visit to the “Voice Of America”

One of the benefits of attending the Dayton Amateur Radio Association “HamVention” every year is to spend time with my long-time (notice I didn’t say “old”) friends.  Dave, Ed, and I grew up together in the 60’s in Redford Township, Michigan – a western suburb of Detroit.  We played together, we rode bikes together, we got in trouble together and we attended school together (since the 2nd grade) and we also got our ham radio licenses together – all first licensed in 1969.

This year at HamVention we decided we’d like to take a trip away from the main venue and visit the site of the Bethany Transmitting Station of the world famous Voice Of America (VOA) located just off I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati.

VOA Bethany Transmitting Station

The VOA Bethany Relay Station was designed by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation.  Although the actual recording studios were in New York City and later moved to Washington, D.C., the signals were relayed through dedicated AT&T long distance telephone lines to the transmitter site near Cincinnati.

The VOA began in 1942 as a radio program designed to explain America’s policies during World War II and to bolster the morale of its allies throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. After the war, VOA continued as part of America’s Cold War propaganda arsenal and was primarily directed toward the western European audience. In February 1947, VOA began its first Russian-language broadcasts into the Soviet Union.

With the words, “Hello! This is New York calling,” the U.S. Voice of America (VOA) begins its first radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union. The VOA effort was an important part of America’s propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The initial broadcast explained that VOA was going to “give listeners in the USSR a picture of life in America.” News stories, human-interest features, and music comprised the bulk of the programming. The purpose was to give the Russian audience the “pure and unadulterated truth” about life outside the USSR. Voice of America hoped that this would “broaden the bases of understanding and friendship between the Russian and American people.”

The Bethany site encompassed hundreds of acres of land for the huge rhombic antenna farm that could be switched to direct the 1.2 million watts of radio frequency programming to different locations around the world, depending on the time of day and atmospheric conditions.

In one of the pictures above you can see my friend Dave talking to the last remaining employee of the VOA at this site — Dave’s getting quite a history lesson.

Note the windows at the top of the tower in the first picture – It kind of looks like an airport control tower.  I asked our tour guide the purpose of that tower.  His response … “for sharpshooters”.  This Bethany Relay Station was specifically placed here because of it’s distance from the east coast stations where they could be more susceptible to enemy attack.  Even though the Bethany Station was so far west, they still stationed military armed personnel to protect the Voice Of America to make sure the message always got out.

Due to new satellite and internet technology, the need for the high power RF radio broadcast stations has diminished and the station was closed as an active transmitting site in 1994.  Fear not however as the Voice Of America still broadcasts every day from their studios in Washington D.C. and their programming can be heard on the internet and on some local PBS network stations around the country.  Find out more and listen to VOA live at https://www.voanews.com/

And thanks to dedicated volunteers, we were able to tour the museum.  Take a look at the pictures below.

Here’s a few pix of us boys at the Dayton HamVention and at the VOA

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Workamping Fun at Rainbow’s End RV Park Livingston, TX

We are wrapping up our Workamping experience at the Escapees RV Club park known as “Rainbow’s End.

This was the first park built in the system back in the late ’70’s.  There were a handful of die-hard full-time RV’ers that donated their time and their talents to build this park.

This is also the home of the clubs National Headquarters and mail service that serves nearly 10,000 members and handles 25,000 pieces of mail daily.

We arrived October 15, 2017 and Kathy has been working in the office 8 hrs/week checking in new arrivals and taking reservations on the phone.  I’ve been working 12 hrs/week outside maintaining the grounds and the buildings.

In exchange for the combined 20 hrs/week we receive a free full hook-up site and utilities.  Laundry allowance is not provided.

Here’s a 6 minute video that I put together showing some of the amenities of the park and what the workampers get involved in during a typical week.

I’m also learning to use a new video editing software, so please bear with me and some of the features I’ve been experimenting with like; titles, transitions, voice-overs, fade-in and fade-out, and music.

Please remember to SUBSCRIBE to our You Tube channel by clicking on the icon in the lower right corner, and if you’d give the video a “thumbs up” too, that’d be wonderful.

Thanks for riding along with us and we look forward to the time we can meet up down the road.

Although we’re currently in Livingston, TX … we’re heading out Jan 14th for Florida for the month of February, then back to TX the last couple weeks of March, then (through Ohio) and up to Baldwin, Michigan for our summer workamping job, and in the fall of ’18 we’ll be in Albuquerque, NM working at the International Balloon Fiesta for a few weeks before we head to our winter home at Casa Grande, Arizona.

Here’s the video

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Foretravel Coach Plant Tour – Nacogdoches, TX

Winnebago, Avion, Jayco, Fleetwood, Airstream, Coachman, Thor, and so many other RV names were familiar to us.  Many have been around for years and years and enjoy a long history of making quality recreational vehicles.

I recently wrote a post on our Airstream factory tour in Jackson Center, Ohio when we were on our way from our Michigan summer workamping gig to our Texas winter workamping gig.

I only recently (within the last year or so) became familiar with the coach building company known as FORETRAVEL.  I realized we were going to be right past the home of Foretravel at Nacogdoches, Texas.  “So let’s go take their factory tour too, eh?”

Like the Airstream factory, Foretravel also offers low cost ($5/nite) camping for it’s customers and visitors.  We pulled in to the parking area in the afternoon and found that the plant tour would be at 10 am the next morning.  We took the opportunity that afternoon to talk to one of their in-house sales reps so we could look at their used inventory and then we also drove up the street a mile or so and met with Brad at Motorhomes of Texas to see what they had in their Foretravel inventory.

The front of the main Foretravel plant and corporate offices at Nacogdoches

Our parking spot for the night at the factory “campground”

The back of the main building showing the service and delivery prep bays

(The following is taken from “The History of Foretravel” on the corporate web site.)

“The business of building motorhomes came about not due to planning by the Fores, but by the traveling they did in their self-built motorhome.

From that modest beginning in 1967 with the 29’ “Speedy Marie” motorhome produced in the backyard of C.M. & Marie Fore, Foretravel continued to set the standard. Weathering the oil embargos of the early 1970’s Foretravel introduced the first diesel-powered motorhome in 1974.

In addition to the numerous conveniences of a Foretravel, i.e., VCR’s, central vacuum cleaners, icemakers, trash compactors, Foretravel was among the first to use fiberglass instead of aluminum, real hardwood, and a full air bag suspension.”

Foretravel continues to be a top-notch motorhome manufacturer.  At present, they make 2 Class “A” coaches – The model IH-45, selling for about $1,000,000 and the “entry level” coach labeled the “Realm” that sells somewhere in the $800,000 range.

Unlike Airstream that makes about 100 units per month and has about 1200 employees, Foretravel has only about 160 employees and manufactures about only 25 units PER YEAR!  Their paint process alone requires about 2000 man hours to complete.

Also unlike Airstream, the Foretravel factory tour allowed us to take pictures!

The “power” end of the new IH-45 coach

One of the “basement” compartments showing electronic wiring.

Two frame assemblies with basement compartments side by side

Aluminum box frame side wall assemblies ready to be mounted on basement frame box

Front end of the coach frame shows (green) Onan diesel 12kw generator

One of the side slide assemblies that will be placed into a sidewall

An entire drivers side sidewall (front end at right end of image)

Now the wall has been lifted into place on the coach basement frame ready to be attached

Basement pass through storage compartments

Aluminum box frame (front end of coach)

The power end of the coach showing one of the slides extended

Workers installing the one piece windshield

Installing one of the large slide units

Some of the features that the Foretravel coaches have that really appeal to me are;

  1. 8 (or 10 if there’s a tag axle) “outboard” air bags.  They place their air bags at the extreme outboard end of where the axle meets the frame just inside the side wall.  Most coach chassis makers have the air bags inside the wheels so the airbags might be 4 or 5 feet apart whereas with the Foretravel coaches the airbags are more like 8 feet apart.  This gives the coach much better stability and far less side-to-side rocking when driving into or out of a driveway.
  2. No slide gaskets or seals that are exposed to the exterior.  No slide trim panels that overlap the sidewall.  Foretravel uses the HWH expanding bladder to seal the slide to the outside wall.  When the slide is retracted or extended, there is a vacuum placed on the bladder.  Once the wall is completely in or out, then the bladder is pressurized to provide an airtight weatherproof seal.  This system not only provides an airtight seal, but when the slides are closed (retracted), the face of the slide is perfectly and completely flush with the sidewall.
  3. Pass-through basement storage drawers (full height from side to side)
  4. Aqua-Hot heating system uses hot water circulated through heat exchangers in the cabin for warm, quiet heat.  This is diesel powered and also provides hot water to the bath and kitchen.
  5. CAT (on older models) and Cummins 450hp and up engines along with Allison Electronic Transmissions (3000 series on older coaches, 4000 series on newer) along with driver-controlled 4-position transmission retarder.  This style retarder gives the operator far superior speed control during steep downhill grades … better than an exhaust retarder or engine brake.

Here’s a cross-section of the HWH slide bladder seal that pressurizes to seal

These next few photos show Kathy getting just a little TOO comfortable inside the new Foretravel REALM that just rolled off the factory floor.  It’s a darn shame it was already sold … aw shucks.

Here’s that REALM on the outside.  I gotta admit – I do like the paint scheme

Oh, take a look at the steps.  These are not your typical RV steps.  Most motorhomes today use electric RV steps known as Kwikee Steps made by Lippert Industries.  These high-end steps are known as “Executive” brand steps made by Braund Industries.

I was really impressed with these steps when we were at the factory.  Our coach steps are well worn and rattle a lot as we’re going down the road.   So I thought, “boy I’d like to get a set of those steps for our coach”  I did some research online when I got home.  Those steps would cost us about $5000 !!!!     Not Happnin’ !

Here’s a few pix of older Foretravel coaches that we looked at in the $125k-$175k range.  We like to look, but we’ll keep our Airstream for now.

2003 Model U-320 38′ w/ tag axle & 2 Slides

2003 Model U-320 36′ w/ 2 slides

2000 Model U-295 40′ w/ 1 Slide

NOTE: We’re doing some interior remodeling and some performance and suspension upgrades to our present Airstream coach and we’ll be publishing posts on those projects soon, once we have all the projects completed.

Oh, I almost forgot …. when we were in Nacogdoches we asked where we should have dinner that night and were referred to the Fredonia Hotel downtown.  We weren’t disappointed.  Kathy had shrimp and I had salmon.  The food was excellent, the presentation beautiful and the service outstanding.  Hats off to our server Brett.  Here’s a few pix of our delectable delights.

The dining room at the Fredonia overlooking the patio and pool

My Atlantic Salmon dinner

Kathy’s Shrimp Dinner w/ Broccoli Cole Slaw

We were good …. we didn’t take anything off the desert tray

Yes, the lounge chairs are IN the pool

The Front Lobby and Registration Desk

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

What Happens When We Can’t Travel Anymore?

Living full-time in an RV can be exciting, getting to travel across this great nation of ours, seeing all sorts of sights and meeting all kinds of great people.

If you’re a “full-timer” as those of us in this group like to call ourselves, there are things to consider when going full-time like;

  • Where will our “home” be?  Where will we go back to (occassionally) ?
  • What do we do about getting our mail?  (Next post will cover this)
  • What state are we going to be domiciled in for medical insurance?
  • What happens if one of us needs recuperation time after a surgery?
  • What happens when this life on the road just gets too hard for us?
  • What happens to us when we can’t travel anymore?????

This is the question we’re going to talk about in this post.    

Some full-time RV’ers might go “back home” and maybe live in their RV for some time at their children’s property, that is, if they are fortunate enough;

  • 1) to have children,
  • 2) that have property large enough to accommodate the RV, and
  • 3) that have the electric, water, and sewer hookups for the RV.

Other full-timers may have the resources available to buy a home or rent an apartment to allow them to move out of the RV (either temporarily or permanently) so they can get the help they need for daily living.

BUT … If you are an Escapee RV Club member you have another option.

The club founders, Kay and Joe Peterson saw the need for another option for full-time RV’ers.  Joe and Kay were full-time RV’ers themselves and started the club in 1978.  As I understand it, Joe was an electrician and they, along with their 5 children traveled the country following Joe’s work while Kay ran the household and raised the children.

Here’s 3 links to just some of Kay’s many books she wrote while on the road.  Kathy and I had the honor of attending a convention where Kay (at 94) spoke and she was truly a remarkable woman and a wonderful story-teller.  You really should give yourself a treat and read at least one of her books.

I apologize … I digress.  Now back to the point of this post.

So Kay and Joe, being full-timers themselves must’ve pondered this same question .. “What happens when we just can’t travel full-time anymore?”

And as a result, and with the help of many club members and volunteers, the C.A.R.E. Center was born adjacent to Rainbow’s End RV Park and the Escapees National Headquarters office in Livingston, Texas.

Let me tell you about it and what a cool concept it is.  I’m told there’s nothing else like it in the country.

The C.A.R.E. (Continued Assistance for Retired Escapees) Center is yes, a building.  But it’s so much more than just a building.

When an Escapee RV Club member finds the need to get off the road, whether because of the need to recuperate from an illness or medical procedure, or maybe they just need a little help to live comfortably, they can move their RV to CARE.

You say “It looks like an RV park to me”.  Yes, it’s an RV park and again … so much more.

When full-time RV’ers decide to come off the road, they really don’t want to move into an apartment or an assisted living facility – instead (just like anyone else) they want to stay in their own home.  And remember, this travel trailer or motor home IS their own home and very often has been for many years.  They’ve seen the sights, made hundreds of new friends and even now want to live in an area where they can still be around like-minded people.

CARE provides their residents with a site that will accommodate the size of their rig, they provide 3 home cooked meals each day along with weekly laundry service and lots of activities in the CARE Center building.

This is not an assisted living facility, but rather a program that assists those who can still live independently.  Residents walk from their rig to the dining hall for meals and to the activity room for; church services, jam sessions, use of the computer WiFi, exercise equipment, and lots more.

Activity Room with seating for church service, comfortable seating for reading or computer work

Lots of seating can be moved to accommodate musical groups

CARE Center dining room where residents can get 3 great home cooked meals every day of the week

There are CARE volunteers who typically (but not always) live in the park and help the residents with some of their chores like; swapping out propane tanks, repairing sewer hoses, sweeping off their deck, or any number of what we feel are small jobs but might be difficult for the CARE resident.

In addition, CARE provides FREE transportation to wherever a resident might want to go (within 30 miles).  That might be a doctor appointment, a trip to the local grocery, beauty shop, attorney or bank.

CARE operates 5 different vehicles to transport residents wherever they need to go within 30 miles of home

So you’re thinking “Wow, this really seems like a great concept – I wonder what they charge?”

C.A.R.E. is a not-for-profit 501c3 tax exempt corporation. They have a small (but professional) staff and the Volunteer Coordinator (Crystal) does a fantastic job recruiting and utilizing volunteers so their abilities and talents are best utilized. As a result, the CARE Center fees (at the time of this writing) are $1000 per month for a single person and $500 additional for a spouse or partner. The only additional costs to the resident are; electricity, cable or wifi, propane gas (for heat or cooking). Water, sewer, and trash removal is included in the rent.

There is no contract, all they ask is the monthly fee up front. If the resident, for any reason, decides that it’s just not for them, they put the key in the ignition the next month and move on down the road.

All in all, CARE is a wonderful “other option” for those full-time RV’ers that have come to the point of needing a little extra help.

AND, it allows those that have come to love the lifestyle now stay with that lifestyle and live among other like-minded wanderers.

You know what they say … “Not all who wander are lost”

Safe travels to you until we meet again ….

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Visit to Hot Springs Bath House Row (Scary)

We really had no idea what to expect.  We were headed from Ohio to east Texas (1449 mile trip) where our winter workamping job would be and looked for places to stay along the way.

We had just been to the Branson, MO area where we stayed at the Escapees RV Club Turkey Creek RV Park.  We spent a couple nights there enjoyed a great pizza dinner at “Mr. G’s” and then of course (since you’re in Branson) took in one of the shows on the strip.

Kathy’s personal deep dish Chicago Style pizza (Chicken, spinach, garlic alfredo sauce)

Smaller family pizza and sub joint in downtown Branson, MO

So we looked at the map and decided that Hot Springs, Arkansas is where we should be heading.  I read the reviews online and found that the Lake Catherine State Park was reviewed as being a nicer campground than the National Park, so off went went.  We were not disappointed!

Our site backed up to the lake

Lake Catherine was beautiful.  The day we got there, it was super hot and humid so once we got things hooked up, we changed into our suits and jumped into the lake to cool off … how refreshing!  Later that evening we could sit out and watch the ducks and geese along the edge of the lake along with hearing the screams of joy from the children jumping into the water from the adjacent dock.  We’ll definitely be stopping back at Lake Catherine State Park next time we find ourselves in the Little Rock / Hot Springs area.

We stayed at Lake Catherine SP for two nights because we wanted to spend time in Hot Springs.  We really had no idea what to expect.  I looked online (again) and found the National Park site told us that (depending on how much time we had) what we could see in; an hour or so, a half day, or a whole day.  We headed to downtown Hot Springs to hit the Visitor Center and pick up a map.

“Bathhouse Row” is where you’ll find 8 of the early hot spring bath houses built between 1892 and 1923 still standing and two of them actually still in operation.  The ones that are not still operating have become museums, gift shops, etc.

drawing, map of Bathhouse Row today with park land shown in green, private property in the city as tan, parking lots as yellow, streets as white, bathhouse buildings leased in dark purple and the Maurice Bathhouse which is not yet leased as light purple. It shows hot spring water fountains as red dots.
Map of Bathhouse Row

Lamar Bathhouse, now a gift shop operated by the Parks Department

The Ozark Bathhouse is now an art museum

This is the Arlington Hotel where Al Capone and other famous folks stayed when they visited the bathouses

The Hot Springs NPS Administration Building

Hot Spring water (at 143 degrees) bubbles over at many locations along the streets and promenade of bathouse row

The former Army-Navy Hospital (the 2nd one to be built on this site) which is now the Arkansas Career Training Institute

The spring water comes out of the ground at 143 degrees, (over 700,000 gallons a week!) and is collected at the base of the mountain just above Bathhouse Row into spring collection boxes.  You can see these boxes along side the Promenade that runs just along behind the bathhouses.

At the top of this picture is the Promenade level and if you look closely, you can see the steam rising from the water as it comes to the surface. It then cascades down to a pool, where it looks inviting, but still too hot to submerge your hand

The hot water pool at the bottom of the small waterfall

The Promenade runs the full length behind the bathhouses. The spring collection boxes are to the left (above) and the right (below) the Promenade

Here’s just a few of the many spring water collection boxes

The Fordyce Bathhouse was built between 1914-1916 and is now a museum that provides free guided tours.  Park Ranger Kevin was our tour guide and he showed us all the rooms used along with a lot of the equipment used for treatment of the aches and pains of the patients.  Although some of the standard hot water bathing could be taken in by anyone, there were other treatment regimes that had to be prescribed by a medical doctor.  The Fordyce doctor was on the 3rd floor and patients could see him for an exam and interview after which the doctor could prescribe a treatment program for that patients ailment(s).

Upon entry, patients were assigned an attendant who would be with them throughout their visit.  This was for the safety of the patient to make sure they weren’t “overdoing it” and to make sure all the proper procedures were followed and laws and regulations controlling hot springs baths were (are) followed.

Fordyce Attendant

Kevin told us that the attendants, although paid a very small wage, were often tipped very well by their patients.  If an attendant was good at their job, it was very often the case that the patient would request that attendant by name when they set their appointment.  It was also very common to find that there were families of attendants, generation after generation.  For local folks, although the work was hard (on your feet all day in sweltering heat and humidity), the tips were good and the work was steady.

Some of the equipment was pretty scary looking (electro-therapy, needle showers, heat-lamp boxes, ice block boxes, spring water enema table, etc.)  Yet, people in need flocked to the bathhouses seeking relief from their pain.  Remember, there were not the pharmaceuticals that are out there now and medical technology was still in the dark ages.

The Fordyce Bathhouse front lobby (notice all the marble) where patients came for their appointment

The ladies “first room” after leaving the Dressing Room. This is where the “needle shower”, the hot tubs, the sun-ray box and the ice box are located

The ladies “cooling room” after initial treatment (bath, shower, heat, ice) where they come to relax and cool down

The “Needle” shower. Hundreds of very fine sprays of hot water pummel your skin and joints

This is the SCARY room. From left to right … tub for electro therapy, water enema table, ICE BLOCK box, Sun-Ray Heat Lamp Box, water cannons

The Sun-Ray box on the right gets close to 200 degrees, after that then right into sitting on top of a block of ice in the ICE BOX

The mens private bath rooms (see the needle shower behind Ranger Kevin?). This is quite a bit more ornate than the ladies side of the building (statue in the center)

Stained glass skylight too!

One of the doctors therapy rooms (Run!)

The lounge on the 2nd floor adjacent to the ladies dressing rooms

Rows and rows of dressing rooms. One side of the 2nd floor for men, the other side of the 2nd floor for the ladies.

 

We also took a drive up “Mountain Road” where we were able to take an elevator up to the top of the lookout tower where you could see all over town and for miles beyond.

View from atop the Lookout Tower

We had a great time, learned a lot and would definitely go back again to both the state park campground and the downtown area of Hot Springs.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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