Saturday, December 14, 2019

Roads We've Traveled

We've been busy... relaxing, helping out family, discovering rare birds and camping now and then.  Needless to say, the blog has not been a priority.

So, here's a quick blurb to keep it somewhat active...

From the time we started wandering we made note of the roads that we traveled on each trip.  We are preferred shunpikers (which means that although we do drive the highways now and then) our preference is to travel the smaller back roads to our various destinations.

Tracking our driving has led to quite a map when all of the roads are recorded in one place!

The red lines are roads that we traveled for a few years pre-Annie.  The blue lines are all Annie.  When a blue repeats with a previously traveled red we go ahead and switch it to blue.

So, what do you think?  Despite exploring our 48th contiguous state this past year, looks like we've still got a few spots left to check out. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Birds of Penitente Canyon

As we continue to enjoy the typical FLA fall temperatures (at just below 90 degrees) we are still looking back to a wonderful summer Campground Hosting at Penitente Canyon in Colorado.  Our latest installment talks about our birding experience over the four months that we lived in this beautiful area. 

Click HERE to read all about it!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Friends, Butterflies, Birds, Insects, Flowers, Trails and Caterpillars

Even though we are still posting photos from July... in real time, our volunteer position at Penitente Canyon ended September 30 and we have made a last minute mad dash to check in on Family in FLA. 

In a matter of hours we went from a high temperature of 73 to a high temperature of 103. The awesome temperatures peaked at a 'feels like' of 106 in Alabama as we moved on through. 

After four months of evening lows that never got out of the 40's it was pretty crazy to be experiencing evening lows around 86! 

So.... in between family and basking in some good ole Air Conditioning, we'll do our best to get ya'll caught up. 

Be back when we can. Meanwhile, click HERE to check out our latest share.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Flowers, Bugs, Critters and "Stuff" at Penitente Canyon - Part II

We've been blog lazy lately.  It all started two weeks ago when we came to town and (once again) the public internet was non-functional).  Then we just got busy.  Taking care of the campground, relaxing, having lots of visitors, hiking, climbing, raising caterpillars, bird watching... etc. 

So, despite four days off where we came to town and the internet is actually working we only have one post for you this time around.  Sorry about that.  In two weeks time though we will be internet rich for many months to come and perhaps we'll actually finish up everything to do with our time at Penitente Canyon. 

Meanwhile... this is what we have for you now.  Hope it holds you for a few more weeks.  Click HERE to see it!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Flowers, Bugs, Critters and "Stuff" at Penitente Canyon

We've got some random stuff for you today.  When we return to town in another few weeks we'll have more random stuff and some other more specific stuff.  Stay tuned for that...

Meanwhile... Click HERE to see the latest.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Los Hermanos to the Iglesia de San Juan wrapped up by the Blue Sky

We have recently heard from a few of you that our latest postings are difficult for you to open or read.  Sorry about that.  Given our current situation with internet there is nothing that we can do about it at this point in time.  For now we will keep posting for those who can read them and see what we can do for the others when we are done with our current volunteer position in October.  Meanwhile, hang in there.  We are still out here having a great time, enjoy sharing it with you and appreciate your emails when we do get to town every two or three weeks.

This latest post can be found by clicking HERE.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Decisions, Decisions.... Let's take a drive.

This is our latest installment.  Internet is still a rare occurrence for us.  We appreciate you following along and keeping in touch via email.

Click HERE for our latest post.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Walking The Penitente Canyon Trail - Practice Makes Perfect

Can't believe we are getting to post this!  The internet in the three nearest towns to use was down this morning and so we went shopping first.  That now means that we have only an hour and a half before the 5 p.m. shut down. 

Without further adieu - this post will start us off on our summer at Penitente.  Better a month and half late than never!

Click HERE to check it out.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Colorado Travels - Part 6 - Dispersed Camping At A 'Reasonable' Elevation

YEAH!  We have reached the final installment in our month of Colorado travel before settling into our current camphost position at Penitente Canyon.  We are absolutely LOVING Penitente and look forward to sharing it more with you after this post.  We love it so much that our normal two weeks between town visits stretched to three this last time and even then we begrudgingly started Annie and departed for the day.

Anyway, click HERE for the final installment of our Colorado explorations before Penitente.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Travels In Colorado - Part 5 - The Million Dollar Highway

We are still wrapping up our pre-Penitente Travels.  So, click HERE for the latest installment of our month pre-Pen.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Travels In Colorado - Part 4 - Gunnison Black Canyon National Park

Click HERE for Part 4 of our travels in Colorado prior to starting our current volunteer position. 

We'll see ya in another week or so.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Travels In Colorado - Part 3 - Driving to Gunnison

Click HERE for Part 3 of our travels in Colorado prior to starting our current volunteer position. 

Part 4 will be posted soon....

Friday, June 28, 2019

Travels In Colorado - Part 2 - Wildlife Refuges and Russell Lakes

Click HERE for Part 2 of our travels in Colorado prior to starting our current volunteer position. 

We are back in the canyon but have a few more posts scheduled to upload so watch for them over the next few days.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Travels In Colorado - Part 1 - The San Luis State Wildlife Area

Click HERE for Part 1 of our travels in Colorado prior to starting our current volunteer position. 

Also, stay tuned for several others that will post over the next couple of weeks while we are back out in the canyon.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Penitente Canyon For The Summer

Hopefully, this worked last time.  If not, we'll try to fix things when we get to town in a couple of weeks.

Click HERE for the link to a .pdf about our new camphost position in Colorado.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Quick Trip Through New Mexico

BLOG NOTE:  We are trying something new this time around.  It is not perfect but hopefully will work o.k.  You may have to provide it plenty of time to load so be patient. 

If you have trouble viewing the document let us know and we'll work on a different approach.

Meanwhile, click HERE for the .pdf link and hopefully you'll be able to read it.

See ya in two weeks! 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

YEAR SIX is complete!

On April 1, 2018 we started our sixth year of vandwelling and rubber-tramping.  As usual, there weren't many set plans other than visits with family at certain times.  In between those visits we would glance at the map and choose new roads to roam and discover new places to see and things to do.

Our sixth year of travels began near the Atlantic Ocean in Stuart, FL, ventured as far north at the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and as far west as Yellowstone in Wyoming and found its conclusion on the Gulf of Mexico in Olivia, TX.  

We traveled through some part of 24 states:  Florida -  Alabama - Georgia - North Carolina - Tennessee - Virginia - West Virginia - Pennsylvania - Ohio - Michigan - Wisconsin - Minnesota - South Dakota - North Dakota - Montana - Wyoming - Nebraska - Kansas - Missouri - Illinois - Kentucky - (a return to Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama) - Mississippi - Louisiana and finally Texas.  Also during our sixth year of travel North Dakota received the honor of being our 48th Contiguous State to visit. 

This was our first time traveling with bicycles and we enjoyed discovering the world of Rail Trails (long abandoned railways that have been converted to multi-use trails).  We also enjoyed exploring dirt roads we were parked near and appreciated the ability to travel further than our legs would have carried us sans wheels.  Our bicycle stats were 326 miles on 18 different trails during the past year.

As for Annie, she turned 30 years old just as our return to full-time travels began, has recently marked her 31st year and continues to amaze and enthrall us.  No matter how many other rigs or vans we see, we continue to remark that there are none that could ever replace our girl.  After all of these years she's still a 'work in progress' aesthetically speaking but holds her own mechanically and continues to thrive with close to 75% of her original equipment.  During our sixth year of travel she carried us 12,268 miles which brings our full-time mileage total to 59,870 miles.

We put together a quick video of our sixth year of van living.  Sure hope you enjoy it as much as we did.


Meanwhile, we have been exploring a portion of Colorado for the last month.  It will be our home for the summer as we excitedly return to volunteering.  We'll catch you up on all of that when we get a chance.



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Texas... The LIFER State!

We were pretty excited about our visit to Texas this time around.  With plans to head down south toward the border it seemed we just might spot ourselves a few LIFERS

Six National Wildlife Refuges, a few county parks, one library, a Wildlife Management Area or two and several side of the road experiences later and we had added 41 Lifers (and that's just the birds)!  We also added 11 Butterfly Lifers along with several flowers, insects and reptiles, as well.

The journey was way more than we ever expected and on some levels we are still recovering from the overwhelming numbers of new critters seen.

We had hoped to put them all into one video but with such high numbers it seemed a split into Part One and Part Two would be a better idea.

Both Part One and Part Two are linked below - enlarge them - turn on your volume (for what sounds there may or may not be) and enjoy...



Sunday, April 21, 2019

Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges #2 Bayou Savage, #3 Mandalay, #4 Lacassine and #5 Sabine NWR plus Beach Time

Next up for Louisiana we checked out four more National Wildlife Refuges. 

After that we made it down to the Holly Beach area.

Shortly there after we ended our visit to Louisiana this time around and crossed into Texas. 

We had a great time and even managed to spot a few lifers in Louisiana. 

Check out our experiences in the video below.

See ya next time!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Louisiana Wildlife Refuges - Visit #1 - Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

We were looking forward to reaching Louisiana.  There was a bicycle trail that we wanted to ride and several Wildlife Refuges we wanted to visit.  The bicycle ride was thwarted by rain and we were too excited about the refuges to stick around and see if the weather cleared.

So, off we went. 

The video below is of our visit to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana - one of five that we visited in the state during this drive through.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Leaving Florida And A Stop In Biloxi, Mississippi

Around the middle of March our winter in Florida came to an official end and we did the Walmart Waltz north and then west through the panhandle.  We crossed the tail of Alabama and landed for a few nights near the water in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

It was enjoyable to relax by the water.  We took a few photos and some video clips and put them together into a short video.

Enjoy this latest installment! 

Friday, March 29, 2019

February Visits to Riverside Park and the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse

We took a few days in late February 2019 to explore Riverside Park and the trails of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse with Alex.  These were the last adventures of our winter in the Sunshine State.  We had a wonderful time visiting with family, venturing and exploring. 

We hope you enjoy the latest in our recent video installments.  If google and blogger ever decide to like each other again we will go back to some photo posts.  For now, videos are the best way for us to share everything with you.

At the present, it is now the end of March and in 'real time locations' we are a good ways from Florida.  We are excited about our upcoming plans so stay tuned for more on that. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

February Explorations and Birding at Three Lakes, Merritt Island, Joe Overstreet and Cruickshank

Early February 2019 we set out for some more explorations of Florida's public lands and parks.  This time around we incorporated a little more relaxing into our ventures.  Still, as usual, we took plenty of photos and a good deal of video while exploring the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge as well as a few birding specific areas like Joe Overstreet Landing and Lake Kissimmee, Double C Bar Ranch and the Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary to look for Lifers.

** A big Thank You! to those of you who stuck with us through our unsuccessful Red Cockaded Woodpecker hunt in the last video... hang in there just a little longer!

Check out the first part of our February travels below and come back soon to view the second part in a few days. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

South by South West Florida Explorations January 2019

Our second short wander-about took us south to the Everglades National Park and the Shark Valley Trail, through the Big Cypress National Preserve then west to Bonita Beach and Sanibel where we toured the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  Then, we turned our sights on seeking out the Red Cockaded Woodpecker and spent time at Webb Lake and Dupui Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) before making a stop at Pine Glades and Cypress Creek Natural Areas. 

Although things had cooled down somewhat, the wonderful South Florida winter weather continued to cooperate and made for some truly enjoyable explorations. 

One of these days we'll get some better audio.  For now, bear with us and our simple equipment.  This time around, the winds were blowing and with the exception of a few clips that is all that could be heard.  So, we edited out the wind and tried to leave in some natural sounds now and then.  Feel free to turn up your volume and keep an ear out for the occasional sounds of nature (including a little wind now and then).

The Tube that is You prefers that we post videos of a shorter length and so we have split this journey into two parts.  Both are linked below so after watching Part 1 be sure to return to this page to view Part 2. 

Click play and enlarge and enjoy our January 2019 South Florida travels.  Thank you for coming along with us.



Saturday, January 19, 2019

South Florida Explorations December 2018

Since we had so much video and so many photos this time around we threw together a short movie to share our South Florida Explorations from December 2018.  During the last month we visited Grassy Waters Preserve, Frenchman's Forest, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Green Cay Wetlands and Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  There were a lot of classic South Florida sightings as well as several exciting LIFERS spotted.  The beautiful and yet somewhat warmer than usual Florida winter weather provided us a great opportunity to get out and enjoy some beautiful areas and a lot of local wildlife.

As usual, the video is primarily a silent one.  Although the critters were quite vocal so were the other visitors to the areas thus it was not easy to grab a clip with only animal noises. 

Click enlarge and play below to watch the video.  We hope you enjoy the tour...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Annie's 2018 Wrap Up

Last we spoke of our girl, Annie, we mentioned that we were increasing our travel pace back to GA due to a new fit she was having between 30 and 45 mph. 

Although it had all of the hallmarks of a u-joint failure, our usual tests indicated this was not the case.  We were starting to question the possibility of the transmission slipping between 2nd and 3rd.

There are band adjustments that can be done on the tranny.  Some recommend doing them every fluid change but we don't follow that belief and since the tranny had never given us trouble the adjustments have never been done.  So, we were hoping that perhaps it was finally time to do the adjustment and it would be all that is required. 

A few months back, when we were in WY, we realized that we needed to replace one of our idler arms but were putting it off until we were in a solid location.  Since loose suspension parts can bring about a shimmy we made it a priority to shore up the front end before addressing a possible transmission issue. 

Our readers may recall our post back in November where we let you know how the replacement of this one idler arm turned into a much longer project of:

1) Two idler arms
2) Two upper control arms (includes four new bushings and two new ball joints)
3) Two lower control arms (includes two new bushings and two new ball joints)
4) Two new front coil springs
5) Four new shocks
6) Four new brake pads (with integrated shims - no more shim slip!)
7) Painting of all new parts including nuts, bolts, washers and whatever old parts we had off

If you don't recall that post you can read it again by clicking HERE.

We had already shared some of our decisions and the reasons behind them in the previous post but we hadn't shared too many photos so we'll do that now.  Painting underbody components is something that Nicole had wanted to do for a long while now and since the ordering of parts had become such a cluster it seemed like a good time to tackle the project during some of the waiting. 

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (2)
A shot of the Sway Bar and Strut Rods pre-prep.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (3)
Here's the strut rods with one sanded to bare metal and ready for priming and the other not yet started.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (4)
Both strut rods are stripped and ready to prime.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (19)
A neat way to strip the inside of bolt holes - wrap sandpaper on the bolt and twist, twist, twist.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (9)
Here are the strut rods hung, primed and waiting on paint.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (16)
Here's the sway bar hung and primed.

2 Paint - Sway Bar Strut Rods (17)
The sway bar is painted and ready for re-install.

Although new parts often come 'coated' we have learned that this coating is not the equivalent of a good paint job and they begin to rust almost immediately.

2 Paint - Control Arms (5)
So, the new control arms got a scuffing and several coats of paint.

2 Paint - Control Arms (10)
Here are the lower and upper control arms with strut rods all painted and ready to install.

2 Paint - Coil Springs (2)
New coil springs and old original nuts and bolts all got several coats of paint, as well.

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (2)
The bolt straps on these jounce bumpers got sanded to bare metal

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (3)
primed and painted

2 Paint - Sway Bumpers (5)
then put back together and are ready for re-install.

2 Paint - Sway Link (2)
These sway bar links (one on the right has been stripped) are getting ready for paint.

2 Paint - Sway Link (3)
Here they are with all of the metal parts painted and ready for re-install (rubber parts are fairly new - albeit dirty and will be reused).

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (2)
Here's a before and after stripping shot of the top

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (3)
and bottom of the sway link holders.

2 Paint - Sway Link Holder (8)
Here they are all sweetened up with several layers of primer and paint.

Almost everything Nicole painted was done in pairs (one for each side).

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (2)
When it came to the rotors though she only had time to do the passenger side.

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (7)
But what a difference it made!  At least in this instance only getting the one side done will be a good test of our paint choice in relation to the heat generated on this part.  If it tests out fine we'll get the other one painted in a few months time.

Another part that we didn't have time to paint this time around was the brake dust shield.  We did have time to clean it up though.

2 Paint - Rotor Dust Shield (12)
When you find this much brake dust on your dust shields it seems you might could say that they are working?

The clock was ticking on our time and the deteriorating weather in GA so it was time to get Annie back together.

The upper and lower control arms are in and ready to receive the coil spring and spindle.

A trick for when you don't have a coil spring compressor is to use a jack.  Just be sure your jack will hold until you've got the ball joint nuts on or you'll be in for a not-so-good surprise!

The coil spring is in and the ball joint bolts are torqued and cotter pinned. 

The strut rod and sway bar link parts are all installed and the spindle is lubed and ready for the rotor.

Before we installed the rotor though a long standing issue was corrected.

We don't know when this lug bolt got changed to a longer one we just know that we didn't do it.  Either way, despite it not impacting the way the lug tightens on the rim, we always noticed that lug nut sticking out more than the others.

So, before the rotor was put back onto the van, Nicole cut that lug bolt down to the same height as the others.

Before we put the rotor back on we made sure to clean up, inspect and re-lube the original bearings and related parts.  Everything was looking good.

We put new wheel seals on (left) as the old ones (right) were losing their shape and not locking into the rotor as they should.

Then it was time for the rotor, brake caliper, pads and tie rod to be installed.

Finally, after several months, it is time to put the wheel back on. 

It was a pretty exciting moment until a wheel bearing check (rocking with hands at 12 and 6) revealed a problem.  At the time we were installing it the rotor did not go on as expected or as it typically does but it did go on so we went ahead and put the wheel in place.  However, upon removing the wheel again it was obvious that something had gone awry when the bearing would not come off of the spindle.

It did eventually come off but removal required a bit of destruction.

So, a new bearing was bought and packed and Nicole set to trying to figure out why this problem happened.  What she found was the tiniest of burs on the spindle.  Really tiny! 

When she had originally checked the spindle for burs the weather was in the 30's and so after cleaning and sanding it she didn't think to take her gloves off for a check.  This time around, after again not finding anything with gloves on, she took her gloves off and that is when the tiny bur was discovered and properly dealt with.

The passenger side rotor and wheel then went on without a hitch and the driver's side rebuild was also completed.  

Annie was lowered and sat on all four feet for the first time in several months.  The sway bar and sway links were then installed.

Before we could drive our girl though it was time for an alignment.  So, we went to setting up an environment that would allow us to do that ourselves.  Yes, we did our own alignment! 

We were excited to get Annie out for her first road test.  Our girl felt great and drove straight as an arrow.  Boy did the return to OE suspension make a difference in her feel and how she read the road.  It also significantly softened that vibration that we had been feeling.  Softened but did not fix. 

So, with only a couple of days left before we were due to depart GA we planned to look into doing a transmission band adjustment and hoped that would be all she needed.  We awoke to a day of pouring rain which resulted in a call to a friend who let us utilize the lift inside his garage. 

As soon as we had the weight off of all four wheels you'll never guess what happened! 

The driveshaft (which houses u-joints on each end) was able to be wiggled all over the place by hand.  Good thing we had already bought two that we carried with us 'just in case'. 

Lesson learned... our original u-joint tests with all four wheels on the ground does not reveal a problem when it is caught very early.  Nicole's ear is so finely tuned to Annie and her nuances that she often catches parts AS they are failing instead of AFTER they have failed which can make typical diagnostics a challenge.  So, from now on, if we suspect a u-joint problem causing a vibration but not failing our usual tests, we will also jack up the rear wheels and repeat those tests.  With weight off an early catch is more likely.

And, for those of you who managed to stick around for all of that, here is some visual relief.

DSCN4382 Banded Wooly Bear Caterpillar - Pyrrharctia isabella (13)
In between work on the van we spotted this Wooly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) Caterpillar. 

With Annie sitting dormant for so long the Harvestmen (and women) decided the tires were a great spot to mate.

Not quite sure how this threesome turned out.  Interesting fact:  As part of their courtship some male harvestmen produce a “nuptial gift”— a source of food produced from his chelicerae that the female consumes during mating.  Yum!

All of that mating can make an Opiliones thirsty!

While working on the van two members of the family Geometridae visited.

DSCN4479  Twig Mimic Looper Caterpillar (2)
These cats are known for imitating twigs

which has a little more effect when they are in a tree or bush as opposed to on the van or its parts.

We're pretty sure this is a lifer for us but the jury is still out...

IMG_2269 Green Darner (Anax junius) Dragonfly (3)
This pair of Green Darner Dragonflies (Anax junius) requested a bit of privacy.

IMG_1845 Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius) Butterfly (9)
Finally, in the Lifers category we were pretty psyched to see this new-to-us Brazilian Skipper Butterfly (Calpodes ethlius).

If you are still with us then we'll end everything by saying that we departed GA as planned to celebrate a late Thanksgiving with Nicole's family in FLA the first week of December and are enjoying a shorts wearing winter in the Sunshine State.

Ciao for now...