Saturday, January 30, 2016

One Month Down

It's hard to believe, but the first month of 2016 is almost behind us. So far, it's been a year of mixed emotions for all of us here at the Green Acres Garage. Our camping was GREAT, but things have been a bit weird since we've been home. Gary and I have been fine, but my buddy Dodge got sick unexpectedly, and Casper the cargo van suddenly lost his transmission. Both vehicles have high mileage, and both are always reliable, especially Dodge. Having any kind of mechanical problems simply doesn't happen. It really baffled us. Gary searched the internet and repeatedly read Dodge's service manual trying to figure out what was wrong with him. There were lots of possible things that could be wrong, but there were no definitive answers. All I could do was to try to remain positive and be supportive. A little bit of work was done on Dodge each day. With every part that got replaced or adjusted, there was hope that Dodge would recover from whatever illness had befallen him. He still ran, but very poorly. In addition to working on Dodge, other projects around here were getting done or getting started. Connie the conversion van, who sits on the driveway with my sisters Jackie, Caroline, and Bernadette, got a much-needed bath. Gary bought her as a non-running van, and he hasn't gotten around to working on her very much. Everything around here eventually gets mildew or mold on it, and Connie had more than her share. She's a pretty van, but she wasn't looking too good until Gary spent close to three hours cleaning her up. My sisters are equally dirty, but there hasn't been time yet to give them their baths. Casper was towed to American Transmission Center here in St. Augustine. Danny, the owner and rebuilder, gave Gary a reasonable price for fixing Casper's transmission. In less than three days, he was home and better than ever. I sure am glad that Danny knows what he's doing. All of those transmission parts look like a big jigsaw puzzle to me. Danny had a code scanner for diagnosing automotive problems, and checked out Dodge as well. The scanner said that Dodge's throttle position sensor was bad. Gary bought one and replaced it, but it didn't seem to make any difference. A re-scanning was done, and the code for the bad throttle position sensor was gone, so that was definitely one of the things that was ailing Dodge, but not the only thing. Danny recommended another nearby repair shop that might be able to find Dodge's problem, and within a few minutes, that's exactly what they did. One of the brand new spark plug wires that Gary had installed was defective. What a surprise! With the wire replaced, Dodge was back to normal, and running perfectly on all six of his cylinders. So, if Kryptonite can cripple SuperMAN, a bad sensor and a bad spark plug wire can cripple our SuperVAN. Gary and I are SO thankful that he is back to normal. A bunch of wood has been cut (some of it pictured here) for some shelves that Gary is planning to build. That is piled in front of me here in the garage. There is also wood being stored under me, and lots of other odds and ends are blocking me from being able to roll out of here. It doesn't look like I'll be going anywhere for awhile. Casper also got a REAL trailer hitch installed last night. He only had a wimpy bumper hitch before, and that wasn't sufficient to pull me or any of my siblings. While Gary had Casper's rather beat-up bumper off to install the new hitch, he did his best to straighten the bent-up bumper brackets. He didn't fully succeed, but the bumper is much more level than it used to be. The hitch looks REALLY good. February is just hours away, and it's my FAVORITE month of the year. Gary and I will celebrate our birthdays, and all the vehicle woes that happened in January will be over and done. I'm going to flip that calendar page RIGHT NOW!!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Mechanical Mysteries And The Mid-Month Update

When we got home from camping last week, we were all healthy and happy and life was good. Dodge was getting his reward (some rest) after another successful journey to north Georgia and back. We were also celebrating the fact that Dodge had reached the milestone of 250,000 miles. Everything was great, or so we thought. Gary went downtown to get his mail at his PO Box in Casper, the white 2003 Dodge Cargo Van. The trip there was uneventful, but Casper's transmission started slipping badly on the way back. It took him a LONG time to get home with Casper constantly slipping in and out of gear. Luckily, he made it back without having to be towed. Casper sat for a few days while Gary scrambled to get ready for another trip, one that I reluctantly wasn't going to be a part of. In five short days from when we got home from our camping trip, Gary had planned to take Dodge, along with Henry the S.L.U.T. (Serro Lawn & Utility Trailer) up to his sister's farm. A large glass display case, a fence gate, and a trailer dolly were going to be hauled from our house to the farm, and forty sheets of rusty sheet metal that Gary is storing up there was scheduled to be brought back. Henry has never been far from home, and he has NEVER had his wheel bearings packed in the time that Gary has owned him. That was something that needed to be done before taking an 800 mile trip. As it turned out, Henry's outer wheel bearings were not in good shape. New ones were purchased, and they were much more expensive than any wheel bearings that Gary has ever replaced. Henry has an oddball axle, so the parts are pretty pricey. Henry's tires were also questionable for a long trip, so Gary decided to use my left side tire and my spare for Henry. You may recognize those red wheels and hubcaps. I'll have to admit that they look pretty good on him, but I want them back and SOON! I'm not too fond of balancing on a jackstand 24/7. With Henry ready to roll, Gary gathered everything else he was going to need for the trip. Everything was going well until the unthinkable happened. Dodge, who hadn't moved since we got home, was started up after his long rest. The unthinkable part was that he went from running great when we got home, to running badly just a few days later. Dodge ALWAYS runs good. What the heck happened? First Casper's totally unexpected transmission problems, and now Dodge's running issues. Mechanical mysteries for sure. The scheduled trip was cancelled. Casper got towed to AAMCO transmissions for an estimate on rebuilding. Unfortunately, the estimate was higher than what Casper is actually worth, so he returned home unfixed. He is now inside the garage with me, and Gary is using him for an indoor storage shed on wheels. It's really crowded in the garage with four vehicles, two trailers, and TONS of Gary's stuff, but we'll manage. Dodge runs, but not well. Gary is no mechanic, but he is doing his best to try to figure out what is wrong with our old buddy. There are no answers so far. More news (hopefully better) as 2016 continues.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Special Day For Dodge

Our final round of camping for this season was a great one. Yes, we suffered through a lot of rain and had our pink plastic flamingos stolen, but we will always remember the good times much more than the bad. We camped at 5 state parks in Georgia, and traveled a total of 1556 miles. Well actually, Gary and Dodge traveled the entire 1556 miles. I was with them for 981 of those miles, and hung out the rest of the time at all the various campgrounds. All good things must come to an end. With our camping season in the rear view mirror, we headed back home to St. Augustine. Fourteen miles from home, we stopped one last time at the southbound rest area on I-95. Just as we were pulling into the rest area, Dodge's odometer rolled over to the milestone mark of 250,000 miles. I was so happy that all of us were together on such a momentous occasion. Gary and I wanted to celebrate right there on the spot, but Dodge shrugged it off as just another mile. He still had work to do to get us home, and wanted to get at it so he could rest when we got back to the Green Acres Garage. After two weeks on the road, he was ready for a break. He's been resting comfortably in the days since we've been home. Dodge is my best buddy with four tires. He's loyal, he's reliable, and he's never let us down. Life just wouldn't be the same without him. Congratulations, Dodge. You've got 250,000 reasons to be proud of your accomplishments. You ROCK!!!

We Got Our Bricks!

Way back in late 2013, Gary bought two bricks at General Coffee State Park. The park was selling the bricks (still is, actually), to benefit the farm animals that live there. The bricks were to be used to form a sidewalk in front of the park museum. A minimum order had to be placed with whoever is making the bricks before they could be produced. It took a long time for that minimum order to get placed. We have visited the park several times since the bricks were purchased, but there was no sign of them. We were THRILLED to finally see them in place when we visited this week. WOO-HOO!!! My "blog brick" is right in the center on the top row of the small sidewalk. Our "happy camper brick" is just to the right, also on the top row. There are nine personalized bricks in place so far, and hopefully many more to come. We feel that helping the animals is a GREAT cause. Now that there are some bricks in place, we're hoping that others will see them and order a brick or two of their own. For Gary and I, the bricks commemorate our visits and our love of the park. A bit of shameless self promotion on my part doesn't hurt anything either, I guess. I think the bricks are AWESOME! If you go to the park, be sure to stop by and visit our bricks. Better yet, buy one for yourself. All of those sweet little farm animals will thank you for it.

One Night At General Coffee State Park

I'm never in a hurry to get home from a camping trip. Since this was officially the last round of our camping season for the year, I don't think that Gary was in any big hurry to get home either. When we left Georgia Veterans Memorial, we could have headed south on I-75, then east on I-10 to Jacksonville, then made our way home from there. But what fun would that have been? I originally thought that was Gary's plan, but when he made an east bound turn on state road 32 off of I-75 in Georgia, I knew EXACTLY where we were heading to......General Coffee State Park. We LOVE it there. It's not the most picturesque park in Georgia. It doesn't have any waterfalls, enormous lakes, or spectacular views, but somehow it has a comfortable feel about it that makes it seem like home. One thing it has that no other park can claim, and that is all the AWESOME farm animals. It's been almost a year since our last visit, and we were wondering how the donkeys (Poncho and Jenny) were doing. As you know from all my posts from General Coffee during past visits, Gary ALWAYS brings carrots for our donkey friends. This time, he also brought sliced apples for Molly the mule. She is very old and doesn't have her back teeth anymore. She can't chew whole carrots, but the sliced apples are perfect for her. Poncho and Jenny would eat carrots all day long if they could. Pepper the horse tries to push the donkeys out of the way, so Gary has to distract her to get most of the carrots to them. Horses are nice, but the donkeys are our favorites. The carrots are mainly for them, and Gary makes sure that they get their share and then some. They are always VERY grateful. While Gary was off feeding the other animals, I was busy feeding a very persistent squirrel that was hanging around our campsite. He wouldn't leave me alone, but that was alright with me. I LOVE those furry tailed little guys. It was a fun but very short visit to General Coffee this time, but we are booked for a few more days next October. It's a good stopping point on our way back to St. Augustine from wherever we've been. I've got more exciting news from General Coffee coming up soon, and I want to tell you about Dodge's big day too. I'm tired of typing for today, but I'll be posting again in the not too distant future. Thanks for reading!

An Overnight Stay At Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park

The lack of rain at the start of 2016 was a GREAT thing as we traveled the Georgia highways on our way towards home. When we left Red Top Mountain, we had no idea where we were going to stay for the night. Gary generally makes reservations everywhere we go, but this time we were just planning to wing it. Since it was a Sunday, we knew that finding a place wouldn't be a problem. That might not be the case on a Friday or Saturday when most of the parks are full with weekend campers. The fastest route south would have been directly through Atlanta on I-75. That's much too chaotic for us, so we decided to bypass Atlanta completely by going around it on smaller roads on the west side. There were what seemed like a million stoplights and many, many turns, but we finally got far enough south of Atlanta to merge back onto I-75 and make up some time by picking up the speed. We putzed around at Red Top and got a very late start, so we didn't get as far south as we had hoped to by the time our day ended. We took a break at a rest stop near Macon around 3PM. Gary checked the map, and figured we could make it before 5PM (the normal closing time for most of the state parks) to Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park near Cordele, GA. So, we made our way there, arriving around 4:30PM. We checked in at the office, and drove back to the campground. Campsite number 23 was where we chose to park for our brief stay. We camped at Georgia Vet last January for three nights, and it was so foggy the entire time, that Gary didn't get to take very many pictures. This time, the weather was nicer, but we weren't going to be at the park very long. I never even got unhitched from Dodge. My power, outside light, and cable TV got hooked up, and that was all. Gary cooked dinner, took a shower, and we watched Sunday Night Football together. The next morning on our way out, Gary snapped a couple of pictures of me near the park's museum where the airplanes and tanks are on display, but that was basically the extent of the picture taking for this visit. Next stop: St. Augustine, or maybe not. Did Gary have something else planned?

Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville, GA.

Well, it rained all the way from Fort Yargo State Park to Red Top Mountain State Park. Not an enjoyable ride getting from one place to the other, but we arrived safely and that's all that matters. At this point in our trip, the amount of rainy days we encountered was three to one over sunny days. The bad weather was getting old, but we were still having fun. At least we finally found some much cooler weather as we reached Red Top, and that's one thing we were hoping for. As we always do when we arrive at a new park we are unfamiliar with, we cruise through the campground looking for what we consider to be the perfect campsite. At Red Top Mountain, we chose campsite number 28. It was up on a hill, and there were large boulders surrounding it. I like big rocks as long as they are on the same level as I am. When I'm at the bottom of a hill and they are up above me, it scares me to death. I have so many fears that I'm surprised that I don't wear at Gary's patience. He must REALLY love me to put up with all my odd ways. It rained lightly during our first two days at the park. Gary went antique shopping to pass the time. I got hooked on a TV channel called BUZZR (yes, that's the way it's spelled). They show old game shows 24/7, and I got to see all kinds of shows that I have heard of but never saw. Some were made well before I was born. What fun! The wind was blowing pretty hard, and it was downright cold as 2016 arrived. The rain finally stopped on January 1st also. YAY!!! Gary decided to participate in the 3.5 mile First Day Hike. So did a lot of other people. He counted 65 people that started the hike. Some wimped out as the hike continued on, but 3.5 miles is nothing for Gary anymore. He often walks 8 to 10 miles a day in downtown St. Augustine when we're home. When the hike was over, he earned his First Day Hike badge, and felt like he had started the year off on a positive note. He spent most of the rest of the day taking pictures in the park and hanging out with me. When we arrived on Wednesday, nobody was camping near us. By Friday, the loop was filled. There were at least a dozen screaming kids, and that was a bit unnerving. We highly suspect that the kids were responsible for stealing our pink plastic flamingos that have traveled with us for years. Gary searched for them all around the park, but could never find them. In all of our years of camping, this is the first time that anything has ever been stolen from us. I'm going to miss our little pink camping buddies. Gary's sister and her husband visited with us on Saturday. Late in the day, Gary drove into Cartersville for supplies and ice, and stopped by to see Kevin and Joyce Laird. Kevin is a Facebook friend of Gary's that he has never actually met. They had a nice visit. We headed south from Red Top Mountain on Sunday. It was too long of a ride to come all the way home to St. Augustine. We didn't know exactly where we were going to end up for the night. Our plan was to stop wherever and whenever we felt like it. I'll tell you where we stopped in my next post.