November 7th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I write this post sitting in the parking lot of a repair shop on Washington. I’ll be here until Monday since they are closed on Sunday.

I was heading back out on the highway this morning and a problem arose. It was windy. I have driven in winds before but my trailer has never gone down the road crooked so when that happened I thought it was odd. The winds just weren’t strong enough to make it do that and it just didn’t look right.

Then I saw something that looked like smoke trailing behind me, but my windows were dirty so I wasn’t sure. Finally I saw it WAS smoke so I thought I’d best pull over.

Smoke was billowing out of the passenger side tire on the trailer. I had stopped in the nick of time. It could have caught fire, locked up and caused an accident…any number of things – and all of a bad nature. Wheel bearing is cooked and the wheel is sitting odd:

This tire SHOULD be straight up and down…

So, lemons and lemonade and $590 later I’m staying in the trailer in the parking lot since the lot is not secured. I just replaced the battery in the trailer so I should be warm overnight with the furnace running. There’s no shore power so I am boondocking for a few nights and charging the trailer battery from the truck. Even more fun is the trailer is not level; it’s nowhere near level. The ground was already sloped…and it’s up on a jack stand! Yes, I have supports out to keep anything from happening. I’ll be sleeping with my feet downhill (I guess if it rolled over I’d basically end up standing up). Just another part of the adventure.

Oh, the things that happen to me. I usually just shake my head at them in disbelief, smile a little, and go about my day.

So, anyhoo, I left a few days ago to come back over. It was odd leaving; it’s never easy leaving any of the kids and grandkids and it certainly wasn’t any easier after being there a while. I needed to move along and take care of some things. Winter was getting ready to have another go so I needed to scoot while I had the opportunity. I pushed my luck far enough and I’m not much for winter these days. I got into a few rain showers in the mountains on the way over but no issues. From the pictures I saw at Meghan’s house this morning I’m glad I left when I did.

I brought a few extra things with me so I don’t have any extra room be it truck or trailer. I’m constantly moving stuff around on and off the bed, but it’s just a temporary thing. I’m going to find a small storage unit when I get there and put a few things in there to help with the clutter. I did a little rearranging this morning and got a bit more room.

I decided to hang here a few days to let the rains pass. I considered going over to the Oregon coast but not sure yet so it gives me time to ponder. There’s not a way over there without backtracking a bit and I really don’t want to do that. I’d like to avoid Tacoma so I will weigh my options. Thinking back eight years, I actually went over to Astoria and went north. I drove down from Mt. St. Helens and went over through Longview. There’s two really tall bridges along that route. I also remember I got a speeding ticket down in that area too.

Winter on the coast can be stormy so that’s another consideration. I would love to see a storm on the coast. I am not sure if I care to be in the trailer out there during that stuff. It’s pretty vicious. I have seen big surf but nothing like what’s out there.

I don’t really have a major plan yet. I do have things to fall back on so I’ll be fine and I have a place to be. I don’t know how things will unfold but I always have a roof and a meal. Never an issue these days but it’s been a little, shall we say “interesting “ at times. Had a few rough times here and there but always made things work out for the best.

August 21st, 2020

Just things, Music, Uncategorized

My first taste of Scotch was in the early 1980s when I was a stagehand at the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.

The Uptown was (and still is as far as I know) a beautiful old theatre. It was built in the 1920s and opened in 1928. It is adorned with balconies, columns, and a black ceiling with “stars” (lights) to emulate an outdoor nighttime setting. It was a movie house in the grand tradition and had a proscenium stage with big maroon velvet curtains. It was like many other theaters back then; some, like the many Fox Theatre venues still left in the country, were owned by the studios. It is a special place and holds a spot in my heart.

Back in those days the Uptown was a very busy place and was staging several shows a week. I had started there without any experience after losing my job in 1980 (given a job out of compassion by a big burly guy named Jimbo). I had earned my place as a regular on the crew through hard work and perseverance and worked many shows through both of my stints there (second run was in the late 80s in charge of the lighting rig and as house electrician).

The shows ran the spectrum – Toots and the Maytals, Johnny Rivers, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls, Nick Lowe, Steppenwolf, Jean Luc Ponty…and so many, many more. It was also the place I met and hung out briefly with Robin Williams. It was a great, intimate venue for a show.

One show in particular in the early 80s I got to have a conversation with a guy in one of the bands that came through. He was one of the nicest people I ever met when I was doing stage work. Between the years that have passed and, well, it WAS the 80s, I cannot remember the date or the two or maybe three acts that night; I narrowed it down to these bands: it could have been Dokken, Streets (Steve Walsh’s band after he left the band Kansas), or Strange Daze (a great Doors tribute band who I was asked to tour with in Europe but the tour unfortunately fell through), but I am thinking that it was Dio on his first solo tour after leaving Black Sabbath. Thinking back a little more in depth I think the other bands I mentioned were all together on another show there.

At sound check, the drummer for the opening act came up to me as I was standing off stage left near the monitor console and we started talking. Not like rock star talking, but as two guys just talking about topics now long forgotten (again, the 80s). I know from being around this type of work for several years and being on the road it’s nice to just have a conversation without the star struck condescension, and that’s what this was. Human interaction.

As a stagehand you pretty much know to be a wallflower. It’s unprofessional to be star struck; your job is to make the show happen and stay in the shadows. You would get a “how’s it going?” or an unsaid “thanks” sometimes via a nod or smile, but you don’t approach people. To have someone come up to you and strike up a conversation was very out of the norm. If you think about it they are surrounded by fame, drugs and people kissing their asses constantly – all leeches and posers. I would think just having a normal conversation with someone was not very common and something longed for those in the entertainment lifestyle.

He went onstage to do his sound check and came back by. We chatted a bit more and he asked me if I liked Chivas Regal. I said I don’t even know what that is. He said to me “It’s Scotch and when I come back for the show I’ll bring a bottle and we’ll have a toast!”. I said “Okay”, thinking it was “rock star talk”.

The doors open for the show and we are all putting on the final touches dressing the stage. I get back in position by the monitor console again, ready to run onstage during the concert to fix something if need be (as I had to do about 90 minutes later in the middle of the Dio show and during other shows).

The guy I was talking with earlier walks up to me, and sure as hell he had an unopened bottle of Chivas in hand. He cracks the seal and hands it to me. I give him a toast and a nod and take a big hit off of it. I hand it back to him. He gives me a toast and a nod and takes a big hit off of it, we smile and shake hands and he hits the stage with that bottle. They were on fire that night and had the crowd in their palms. They left and we passed each other, nodded and smiled and I told him “Great show!”. Since I was getting the stage ready for Dio I did not have time to talk.

The band was Quiet Riot. The guy’s name was Frankie Banali.

I write this story because Frankie lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. I had read articles lately about him being sick and it made me think about that special moment all those years ago.

I have read many tributes to him and everyone says he was such a nice guy. He really was a nice guy that night to some lowly stagehand.

Rest peacefully, Frankie, and thanks for the Chivas and the memory.

August 13th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

Heading south out of Livingston, MT toward Yellowstone NP – a beautiful drive!

Another day…another road trip.

I got another late start today, but it kind of hit me at the last minute to go for a drive late this morning. Actually, that is usually the case so I can’t lie. I could not sit in the trailer again. The fires are picking up and the air has gotten worse. I needed to get away and see some scenery.

I wasn’t sure where yet when I started the truck but I ended up stopping a few miles down the road and looked at the atlas before I got to the highway. I decided to go east this time. I thought about going to Billings and then taking the scenic route back through the central part of the state. I needed to be back by a 6:30 P.M. or so. As I drove along eastbound on I-90 I thought about it more and that meant going to Billings plus the route back might be a hurried trip to get back in time so I stopped in Livingston to reassess my “plan”.

I decided, instead, to go south and do the northern road in Yellowstone NP, entering through Gardiner and exiting through West Yellowstone, then heading north on 191 the way I have driven several times lately. I decided on this route because of time constraints plus it is usually the least busy part of the park. It is also a great drive with mountains, meadows and the incredible terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

I went through the Gardiner entrance, which is the classic entrance with the arch.

Original entrance to Yellowstone through Gardiner was through the arch

I remember man years ago driving through this arch to go in and out of the park, but they have re-routed the road now and it is off to the side. I, for one, think this should have been left alone. For one, it was the traditional, original entrance. It is history; leave it the hell alone. If memory serves me right, it looks to me like they re-routed the road to go through more downtown shopping than it used to since you have to go around a loop to now go through it. This should have never been allowed to happen.

The area around Mammoth encompasses not only the terrace hot springs, but also lots of touristy shopping, food, and the Park HQ. It was very busy, but honestly I think I have seen it busier in the past. Needless to say I did not stop though. Not going into crowds for one, but I am just wanting scenery from the privacy and socially-distant interior of my truck; I have done all this stuff a time or two in the past anyway.

It’s amazing how when you drive in this entrance you start going up, then down. It has not been that long ago that they realized that the park is actually a giant caldera of an ancient volcano.

Thermal feature – one of countless natural wonders in Yellowstone

That means when you go up and them come back down you have actually entered the volcano. As you drive along you will see signs for various natural and thermal features and to stay on the trail or you can die. Even this lake had a small fumarole on the right side of it (but it is out of camera range):

I did not see many animals along the way. Other than touristas, I only saw one deer and a few bighorn sheep and that was about it. No bear, moose, antelope or even bison.

There are a lot of beautiful meadows in Yellowstone, mountains, and rivers along with the animals and geysers.

Classic Yellowstone, a classic among America’s National Parks

The trip north out of West Yellowstone is one to really avoid right now. There are MANY miles of road construction going on along the roads in the extreme NW corner of the park on 191. I took 191 this time because I was going to make a stop along the way but it took me about THREE HOURS just to get through the construction so I could not make the stop I wanted to make after all.

A better alternative (at least for now) is to go 287 through Hebgen Lake area and Earthquake Lake toward Ennis. I wrote about this route a few months ago and it is quite spectacular. In fact, it really is a much more beautiful, varied, and interesting drive than 191; I would recommend this route as opposed to 191, which goes on the outskirts of Big Sky and follows a river through the canyons – pretty but all the same. Whenever I am down that way I will take the 287 route from now on.

So that was today’s adventure. Not too far away and plenty of scenery. There were a lot of people out, but not the usual Yellowstone craziness.

See you next time!

June 28th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

Great news! I think I found the problem with the carbon monoxide issueand the water heater.

After checking a few forum posts the last few days I saw people mentioning a few things that could be the potential cause – something as simple as a gap in the seal where the gas line comes in or even a screw falling out in the burner assembly could cause enough of a misalignment it could create problems with the exhaust.

I know I did not have a problem before I ended up going down that rough road in Nebraska National Forest so I anticipated this was probably the root of the problem. It made me think that something was probably shaken loose during this off-road adventure and therein was the problem.

A few days ago I thought I would see if I could try to figure out the issue myself. With labor at a shop probably running $100+ an hour and a new tank around $400 we are talking a sizable bill to fix (and you know they are going to tell me I need a new one). If I can fix it great; if not, then at least I tried and I’ll be making my wallet much thinner.

I opened the cover on the outside of the trailer to look for missing screws. I did not see anything missing but what I found was an old mud dauber wasp nest right in front of the burner tube and igniter. Apparently it was built inside the burner chamber before I put the insect screens on there a couple of years ago. I never thought to clean it out being a newbie at this trailer life. The rough road knocked it loose and it fell in the perfect spot to cause a problem.

The other part of this is the way it is put together and installed. The water heater is installed and secured, then a trim ring with the door is attached to the heater body to pull it in tight against the outside of the trailer and has a flange that goes inside the heater housing. This is supposed to seal the interior from the firebox and burner and works fine as long as everything else is okay. I think that this joint is where the fumes were leaking in when there was nowhere else for them to go. There was no positive pressure to push the fumes out through the exhaust grate on the door.

I busted the nest apart and vacuumed it out and looked around for any other potential problems. I fired up the water heater and let it run the cycle, leaving it on for hours. There was no alarm! I even tested the CO detector to make sure it was working okay and checked the memory settings and no warnings. It looks like I just saved a bunch of money.

I have emailed the manufacturer about the issue and see if this could, indeed, cause the problem. I also want to find out of there should be some sort of seal around that flange where it slides inside the heater housing. It looks like it from the diagrams I found but I want to make sure. It could be the trailer manufacturer did not install it correctly.

I don’t know much about these but I am definitely learning. I would, obviously, rather fix the things I can myself to save money and leave the things I can’t to the professionals.

June 20th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Scotty Hilander, Travel, Uncategorized

I decided to do more reorganization today. Okay, I really just wanted another Meday. I’m finding a few things not very practical the way I had it packed, though, so I decided to revisit it once again after coffee and breakfast.

No I don’t have OCD. With limited space you have to really think about convenience – just like spending two weeks in Europe with nothing more than what’s on your back. You can constantly shuffle stuff around or you can look at your workflow and simplify it to move as few things as possible.

After living with the organization I did the last time for this trip I knew I needed to remove/relocate more stuff. I took a few more things out of the trailer (like all the plates and bowls except what I can get by with) and packed them into a rolling tub in the truck bed (it’s just me right now). More space in the trailer for what I actually need but still available if needed. I think I am going to need to go back to a suitcase for keeping clothes organized. It will stay in the truck. I was able to pack things in the bed of the truck more efficiently and it will be more useful as well.

I found the chlorine bleach I had stashed away so I finally got the water tank sanitized again, rinsed, and refilled. This place must be on a well – it is some great-tasting water. Good place for a water fill up!

Changing to the other bed has helped quite a bit, and the packing changes I made earlier will work out best for either bed being set up as a bed or seating area with a table. I think I will set up and take down the front bed/dinette each day for even more space and see how that goes (it’s actually fast and easy compared to the rear dinette). The dog won’t know what to think when he sees it. There’s a lot more room for him to stretch out and it’s less cluttered.

After getting things wrapped back up for what will hopefully be the final time reorganizing. I am now sitting outside in the shade again. I just finished up a bowl of pasta and am rather enjoying doing nothing in particular. Wish I woulda grabbed a couple of beers.

During my breakfast I got a plan figured out for tomorrow to at least get into Wyoming. I just don’t know yet where I’ll end up. I want to boondock away from people so bad but with the furnace acting up I cannot risk it. It has been nice having utilities (“hook ups” really doesn’t sound very good – hahaha) while getting things like organizing and some minor mechanical things worked out without having to worry about how to stay warm/cool. Soon after I get back I will be looking into getting the furnace inspected so I am back to staying dry and warm with clean-burning Strickland propane.

As I was sitting here enjoying just sitting here I was looking up a bird on my birding app and discovered it was a Bullock’s Oriole. I started playing the calls and songs on my app and they all came over to the tree above me to see who the new kid in town was. It was fun and I got to see them closer but they have a chatter that is annoying. I was very careful when looking up!

Everyone in this RV park seems pretty nice. One guy stopped by asking about the trailer then came back over to ask more questions. Unless I have someone traveling with me I am pretty much a loner on the road so when people “pop by” it’s weird if it is more than a hello and a short conversation. I have gotten several questions about the trailer while out on my adventure.

The conversation went on too long – I could tell what his political leanings were when he started spouting out bullshit. Then the questions about being retired – “…you must be doing well”. “You got something going on you’re not telling.”. You get the drift. I wasn’t having it. When this stuff came up I decided I had enough and went to have supper and finish the water system. He said he’d be back later so I avoided that situation.

As far as politics and religion, mind your own damn business and keep it to yourself. Quit forcing your beliefs and dictator on others, and just like my financial situation, none of it is any of your concern. I could see through this guy’s BS from the start and hoped he would cut it short. He didn’t so I did. I don’t want to be an a-hole but I am not putting up with it.

Mysteriously the carbon monoxide detector went off again but neither furnace nor fridge were running on propane. However the propane water heat was on and the widow above it was open since I had just flushed the system and was heating water for a shower. I am thinking it may have sucked the fumes in through the window, at least perhaps this time. I cannot remember if the window was closed or anything was running that first time but I think the first time it went off it may have been the same as today. The second time I am not sure. I will still get everything checked thoroughly when I get back.

Last bit of housekeeping was, well, housekeeping. Sweeping out the floor and shaking the rugs. The Scotty is clean and ready to go to the next spot tomorrow.

I have been able to sit out in my little courtyard the past couple of days, safe in knowing that just two spaces east of my spot is an honest-to-goodness member of the Zombie Outbreak Tactical Response Team.

No, Seriously.

I. Don’t. Know. I. Just. Don’t Know. This country is truly going insane

I don’t really know what else to say right now…