Monthly Archives: September 2011

Our Iowa Week with friends and NOMADS

Last year we joined a volunteers in mission group, NOMADS. We knew a little, but not much, about NOMADS when we joined. An amateur radio and airstreaming friend, Suzanne K5UUU, first told us about it and we filed the info away.

We were luxuriating in the comforts of our home (on wheels) in south Florida during February last year. Remember what happened in Haiti? We watched with horror the helplessness and needs of the Haitian people. And we realized we could do more than just sit on our duffs all the time.

So we joined SATERN, an emergency radio network operated by Salvation Army, and NOMADS, a volunteer mission group of the Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries. We’ve not done much with Salvation Army other than check into their nets occasionally. But we’ve completed two three-week mission trips with NOMADs and are interested in more.

This year’s NOMADS annual meeting is in Forest City Iowa, kinda sort of on our way from North Carolina to Arizona. We signed up for a 3-week mission trip in southern Kansas and arranged to be in northern Iowa for the annual meeting. We’ll let you know how the mission trip turns out, we start in two days. But first we drove from NC to Iowa and headed for Slater IA to see friends.

We were lucky to spend four days in Slater Iowa, just south of Ames Iowa, with snowbird friends Janet and John. They are perfect hosts, sharing their house AND letting us plug our trailer into their water and electricity. Okay, they actually went way over the top — they arranged tennis every day for us. How great is that?

It was fun and wonderful to have time together, sharing meals, getting to know one another a little better. We met three of their wonderful grandchildren (and their son, Jeff). They showed us around Ames, Slater, Ankeny, and Des Moines, loaned us out to friends Loren and Becky, and Raj and Chris who we also know from Towerpoint Resort in Mesa. We had a great time with everyone and wouldn’t give anything for the four days together.

One hundred miles northward and we arrived in Forest City and the Winnebago/Itasca Travel Club activity grounds. The activity center is the largest factory-owned RV site in the world, capable of hosting the entire WIT membership group at their annual Grand National Rally with up to two thousand Winnebagos and Itasca motor homes visiting.

Our NOMADS annual meeting group size is only 160 RVs so we had lots of space to spread out in the rally activity center. We parked on Sunday afternoon, met the neighbors, checked in at the registration table, and rested up for a busy tomorrow.

Our Winnebago factory tour bus

Monday morning we hopped on factory tour buses and spent almost three hours touring the factory and campus of Winnebago’s tremendous production facilities. Wow! It is just amazing how vertically integrated they are, how much automation they employ, and how nicely put together the Winnebago motor homes are. This is a really neat company making a high quality product — we are very impressed.

George Stockman house by Frank Lloyd Wright

We spent the afternoon in nearby Mason City Iowa touring a pair of Frank Lloyd Wright projects, the Stockman house and the City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel. We started in the FLW interpretive center then walked to the nearby Stockman house. The Stockman house is a wonderfully restored Prairie house. The River City Society for Historic Preservation provided us a wonderful guided tour throughout this historic house.

Okay, free time is over, now the show is on. We’re here for the annual meeting of NOMADS, Volunteers in Mission. We’re first-timers, don’t really know what to expect. Didn’t matter. From the first session onward we can tell, this is a gently- but well-organized group. The meeting agendas are fully developed and the group stays on schedule. Leadership is calm, the organizing committee has done their job wonderfully, and the meetings went without a hitch.

What did we meet about? Each morning started with spirited singing, then a devotion. The NOMADS Board of Directors presented us a brief seminar each of three mornings on various topics, each topic presented by one or two different board members. So we heard from numerous directors. The most enlightening presentation was the Treasurer’s report. Cliff Shornick kept it very short and engaging: “Remember these three numbers, 15, 70, and 150.”

He explained briefly the significance of each of these three numbers in terms of financial goals and performance of NOMADS. Then he stated, “NOMADS has enough money, at the current rate of spending, to continue operations at least three or four years.” That’s all, that’s the treasurer’s report to the general membership. And why do we want to hear more? He hit the four key indicators, and anyone wanting more information can go read the annual financial report to the Board of Directors. Very refreshing!

We attended eight seminars, choosing from thirteen possible topics. Couldn’t attend all, wouldn’t have wanted to. We attended some together, split up a couple of times to cover competing time slots for two good seminars. We attended seminars on painting, sheetrock finishing, skilsaws, convection and microwave cooking, and insurance and tax tips for RVers. A broad range of topics, the seminars were well-organized and presented.

Yesterday the Board adjourned the meeting at 10:00 a.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule. We had already made our list of many things we needed and wanted to accomplish before departing today for Arkansas City KS for our three-week mission project. So we headed out from the grounds in our truck for downtown Forest City.

Hansen Hardware: going for 200 years?

Our first stops included visiting Hansen Hardware store for a saw blade, stopping at the gas station to refuel the truck, and to Farmers’ Coop to refill one of the airstream’s propane cylinders. The hardware store was the highlight of the morning’s errands for us. Hansen’s has been family-owned and in business for 100 years and is still a vibrant and well-organized store. We found the saw blade we wanted, a blade wrench (nice surprise!), and enjoyed browsing the various departments of this general store.

We re-installed the propane cylinder on the trailer and walked to the nearby WIT Club and Winnebago Museum building. We spent our first hour browsing the open motor homes and trailers outside the visitor’s center. We already mentioned the quality we found throughout the manufacturing processes. These were evident in the models we toured too.

Our favorites are the Winnebago View, a 24′ motor home on a Mercedes Sprinter diesel-powered chassis, and a 28′ and 30′ Itasca motor home with full-time beds and all the features we would want if we moved into a motor home. No, we have no designs on changing from our wonderful 25′ airstream home. But we do like to look and the Winnebago brand has a lot of good stuff to look at. We spent another hour browsing the museum and visitor center and enjoyed learning a little about the background and founder’s history.

But we had to scoot, it was time to play tennis. We had rain and very windy days all week until Friday and also only then gained free time to play. This worked out perfectly — the weather was in the low 60s with no wind and sunny skies. Just right for hitting tennis for an hour on the Forest City rec park courts near Waldorf College campus.

the only thing nicer is what's inside the cups

Then off to Cabin Coffee before they close — why close at 4:00 p.m.? Because they can? And hey, we can make it there in time, if we don’t stay too long at something else. Apparently this was true for a lot of other people too — Cabin Coffee had a fine and boisterous crowd of teachers, businessmen and RVers stopping in for a cup of the best coffee in northern Iowa. Thanks to Herb and Lois for recommending Cabin Coffee to us.

Nice way to end a great week!

The week ended, NOMADS’ annual meeting adjourned, and the sun set on our Forest City experience. Although we only were there one week we felt already at home. We were with 300 wonderful fellow NOMADS, we were in as friendly a town as we’ve ever visited, and the weather turned nice at the same time we gained free time to enjoy it. This sunset in Forest City is part of our warm memories of our visit, and we’ll look forward to returning.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

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Love those red shoes!

Two weeks ago I bought a new pair of tennis shoes to replace my couple of pairs of NIKE Max Air tennis shoes. The Max Airs were ruining my toes and just didn’t feel good. Found a really comfortable pair of new sneaks at our tennis club in Concord NC (SportsCenter) and made a good deal on a racquet and the shoes. The only color he had was red. I’ve never had red tennis shoes but now I do.

We are enroute from NC to Iowa and stopped overnight in Dayton OH to visit friends, eat pizza at Marion’s, rest up, and go again. While in Dayton we knew we could find local parks with tennis courts — Ohio is great at state parks and they are great with city and county parks. Our friends gave us helpful directions and we found nearby courts in very good condition.

NIKE max air sneaks

Debbie and I hit some tennis this morning at Walther Park in Kettering, a ‘burb of Dayton OH. I wore the only pair of tennis shoes I now own. You know, full-timers don’t keep a lot of extra stuff so the NIKES (with great tread and uppers still) are now for sale at the local Value Village.

After tennis we found the local SuperCuts and trimmed our haircuts. The truck’s gas tank was down to the last 1/2 inch of gasoline (seven gallons spread out on 7′ X 1’ bottom surface area) so we were pumping fuel into it.

A voice speaks from somewhere within the gas pump, “I love those red shoes!”

I look around, see no one. Not many people are pumping gas in red sneakers, right? I realize it has to be the attendant inside the convenience mart and he’s talking to me. So I say, “Thanks”.

Then he says, “what kind are they?”

At this point I really should have gone inside, let him see these sneaks close up. The sneakers are great looking from sixty feet. Think how good they look from six feet. Really great! But I was just beginning pumping almost forty gallons gas into our tank and another car had pulled in almost under our bumper. Need to stay with my truck a few minutes.

Babolat Propulse 3 tennis shoes

I holler back to the gas pump microphone, “These are Babolat tennis shoes, like Roddick wore!” And if I had gone inside I could have talked with the guy a few minutes, found out if he likes tennis shoes or just red shoes. I could have told him these are Babolat Propulse 3s, have Michelin tread with a six month wear guarantee. And how much better these are for my feet than my Nike LunaPros even though I have narrow feet. I love these red shoes!

I wish I had gone inside, if only to thank him for the compliment on my really cool tennis shoes. The Babolat brand and Andy Roddick name might not have registered with the guy, or he might be a sneakers aficionado. Who knows, there may be a spike in Babolat shoe sales in Dayton OH. Do you think they might buy the white ones instead? No one ever comments on white sneakers, right?

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

We Only Wanted To Adjust The Airstream’s Brakes

We’re leaving today for a Carolinas Unit of NC airstream club rally in Mt Airy NC then Sunday for points west and way west. The preparations for today seem to have snuck up on us although we’ve known all summer we’d be leaving this week. We forget how much there is to do when you unpack the trailer and move out of it for a little while (like all summer, off and on).

Jim planned two not-so-major tasks for yesterday afternoon, having already lined up almost everything else. He only wanted to refill the fresh water tank we drained last night and adjust the Airstream’s four drum brakes. Neither job is complicated and neither takes much time, maybe an hour total for both.

We’ve been clicking along really well this week, marking things off our list each day and feeling pretty good about everything. Wednesday Jim thought he should run the little Yamaha 1kw generator an hour or so just to keep it happy. Unhappily, it wouldn’t start. Seems Jim has fallen down on monthly test runs on the poor little genset and the gas just went bad.

Happily there is a new outdoor equipment place only one block away from where we’ve been staying all summer. Time passes so quickly on some things — we had no idea we had been using (mostly carrying around) this generator since 2006. It has worked so well, always starting right away whenever Jim pulls on the cord. And Thursday afternoon Kannapolis Power Equipment gave us the generator with an oil change, a new spark plug, new gasoline, and a cleaned-out carburetor.

But back to the breaks. I mean, the brakes. Jim adjusted the two street-side brakes and started on the curb-side rear wheel brake when he saw he needed to reattach the water heater’s propane gas line under the trailer and replace a missing rivet in the belly pan nearby. He completed these and adjusted the brake without incident.

When he prepared to adjust the front curb-side wheel’s brake he noticed the shock absorber was missing the washer and nut at the top mount. Jim tried to reach over or around the tire and just couldn’t get access to the mounting with the tire in the way. But also cannot remove the wheel while it’s in the air because cannot break the lug nuts loose on a spinning wheel.

Jim lowered the trailer to the ground, loosened the lug nuts, raised the trailer, and removed the wheel. He used a thick washer and a nut from his junk box to refasten the shock to the mount and realized he would need to check all three other wheels for the shock absorber mounting. Guess what he found?

The other curb-side wheel’s shock also was missing the washer and nut at the top mount, although the two street-side wheel’s shocks were fully attached. Again with the loosening of lugnuts, removing the rear curb-side wheel, installing another washer and nut while again busting knuckles in the tight clearance of the wheel well.

We don’t know when these shock absorber mounting nuts came loose or why. Jim used Loctite threadlocker blue on these two repairs so they will hopefully be good until time to replace shocks.

And we’ve added another inspection point on our trailer’s annual brake inspection and bearing lube job — check shock absorber mounts, top and bottom. We might encounter no surprises when we only want to adjust the Airstream’s brakes, eh?

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Test Tubes Find Buyers

We should have started months ago and the sale was coming up Saturday morning. So many tubes, so little time. Jim was talking to Deb’s father about the huge number of vacuum tubes in the basement. Deb’s father liked the idea of taking tubes for sale at a local ham fest.

How does one go through over a thousand glass and metal electronic tubes and get them ready for sale? We started with a look at some web sites showing retail and wholesale prices for certain tubes. Pop’s collection included many of these desirable tubes. His business was building, evaluating, and maintaining sound systems and he had a lot of audio tubes. We knew where to start sorting and trying to make sense of so many pieces in the shop.

Jim set up a couple of tube testers, really cool old-school test instruments, and started going through the first batch of tubes from the list. Pop and Jim worked side-by-side a few evenings sorting, testing, cleaning, and re-boxing the good tubes. Ninety percent of the tubes were good, a credit to Pop keeping up with his stuff back in the day. Many of the tubes, despite their age, are in high demand for guitar amplifiers, stereo amplifiers, and ham radio amplifiers.

Two testers and a bunch of vacuum tubes

Pop and Jim would spend hours working each day, sometimes together and sometimes singly, through the piles of tubes to cull the poor ones and shine the good ones. By Saturday morning they had gathered two full tube caddies (wood boxes with fold-open sections for carrying and organizing tubes) and several cardboard trays and boxes full. The offering for a ham fest comprised several hundred vacuum tubes with manufacture dates over the past four decades.

We weren’t sure how to price the tubes for sale. Our goal was to find a new home for the tubes without giving them away. We couldn’t readily find valid comparables for this inventory of tubes. The inventory is older stock than many people still have. And without calibrated tube test equipment we weren’t confident we could compare these tubes to what we found offered elsewhere. The value of something can be determined by what someone will pay for it.

Pop and Jim took the tested inventory to the Shelby Hamfest Saturday morning. Great thanks to the Dixie Rebels Contest Club for sharing their flea market space with us. Pop and Jim opened the car trunk and before they could get the tube caddies from the trunk several interested customers were trying to sift through the tubes. We didn’t realize the anticipation caused by our casual announcement two weeks ago of tubes for sale we would bring.

Jim insisted on putting the tube caddies onto the nearby tables along with trays of tubes he and Pop had brought. Undeterred, the customers were examining the tubes and asking questions about provenance and condition. One fellow who had driven up from Rock Hill SC decided within five minutes to offer to purchase the entire lot of tubes.

Pop and the man agreed on a price, the buyer made a down payment, and promised to return quickly with his car. Jim and Pop had expected to spend all day Saturday and possibly some part of Sunday morning at the hamfest showing off the tubes. They instead packed their tables into the car by 08:30 a.m. and had time to wander the show two hours and still get home in time for lunch.

The tubes sale paid for parking, two ham fest tickets, rental of a flea market space to show the tubes, a few gallons of gas to get there and back, and had cash left over. This worked out great. We found the tubes had plenty of value to someone and generated a lot of interest among many other shoppers in the very brief exposure.

What’s next? Ideally we find someone who will come to the house and take the remaining inventory and test instruments and assorted gear without our sorting, cleaning, boxing, pricing, and showing. More likely we will be going through the processes again and looking for motivated buyers. It’s a win-win deal — we organize and clean shop space and someone else finds purpose for these things. It all works if we test tubes and find buyers.

Jim and Debbie

P.S. For those interested, we used (or tried) these tube testers:
Hickok Model 533 (started out great and petered out)
N.R.I. Model 70 (the only one to withstand the week’s work)
TV-7U (worked fine until we blew a fuse we couldn’t replace)
Weston 981 (we have some work to do on this one)
Jackson 648 (we have some work to do on this one too)
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Jim

©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

A Woodstock Tennis Pilgrimage

We heard from another tennis player at Hilton Head of this great tennis retreat in the Catskills. The food, lodging, locale, and tennis, we heard, were a really good deal. Last week we drove thirteen hours from NC to NY following a beautiful route on I-81 through Virginia and Pennsylvania, then I-84 and I-87 into NY. This is as pretty a drive as we’ve done anytime, routed through farmlands and wooded areas of really pretty states.

Saugerties Village NY is pretty

Saugerties, New York derives its name from Holland Dutch, Zager’s Killetje. Zager (meaning sawyer or sawmill), and Kill meaning creek or stream, with the suffix “t j e” to indicate small or little. The sawmill was on the Esopus Creek. Saugerties Village is ten miles from the village of Woodstock but over fifty miles from Yazgur’s farm where the Woodstock music festival was held.

Seamon Park an uncommonly nice picnic place

We drove around the village of Saugerties and to the Waterfront Park, a nice area with playground and beach with swimming area. We arrived midday Sunday to Saugerties and found Seamon Park, a pretty little stream-side picnic place. We ate the leftover (and large and wonderful) half of pizza from last night’s dinner at Booty’s Place in West Hazleton, PA.

The park has several interesting features. The first we noticed are the paint colors on the playground equipment — vivid primary colors on all the iron and wood. Some group spends a lot of time making this playground fun-looking. Second, the campfire ring with a stone monument at its center. Third, the not-so-old ruins from a mill’s sluice box and wheel house just below the parking lot and above the stream. Saugerties takes really good care of their park and we appreciated it.

A little mystical, eh?

The campfire ring was built in 1929 by the Campfire Girls and has been lovingly maintained. The stone ring includes three stone fireplaces, each with an engraved center stone. The effect is suggestive of years of good times for many area girls. Campfire Girls originated in Maine just eighteen years earlier and was probably in its heyday during the building of this stone campfire ring and fire places.

Out of the way place outside Saugerties

We arrived several hours too early for check-in at Total Tennis at the Katsbaan Lodge a few miles from Saugerties Village. Since we were so close (nine miles) to Woodstock we drove through beautiful countryside and found the village teeming with pilgrims, so many baby-boomers with silver ponytails. The week before was the 42nd anniversary of Woodstock Festival, looked like it attracted extra pilgrims.

It still was too early for the 5:30 p.m. check-in to the Katsbaan Lodge so we spent an hour sipping coffee and enjoying free wifi to read emails and do a little work. Finally we had allowed enough time for check-out by the prior period’s tennis campers. The 4 p.m. check-out policy is really generous, allowing tennis through the afternoon lessons and time for a hot tub soak and shower before packing and departing.

An old Catskills lodge converted to great purpose since 1978

The Katsbaan Lodge consists of six buildings, a swimming pool, eighteen outdoor tennis courts, and an indoor tennis building. Our room was in the “new” building and was snug but perfectly adequate. We didn’t drive thirteen hours to sit in our room. If we wanted to bag the tennis we could hang out in the main lodge’s comfortable lobby or living room. We attended Total Tennis for three days of tennis and Total Tennis is the perfect place for it.

Our lodge at Total Tennis

We moved into our cozy little room, unpacked, and cleaned up. The room is a little more than ten feet by ten feet. We had a comfortable double bed with bedside lamps and powerful ceiling lights over the head of the bed. The bathroom was very compact with a nice corner shower with a narrow vanity to one side and on the other a commode. Like our Airstream’s, the bathroom is serviceable and appropriate to the amount of time we spend.

We walked a few hundred feet to the main lodge for the seven o’clock dinner bell. A lot of folks had been visiting in the living room and swept into the dining room as we walked in. The lodge serves food cafeteria style and the food is extraordinarily good. We enjoyed roasted beets, roasted carrots, chard, tofu, quinoa, squash, onions, tomatoes, corn, and a wide variety of tasty meats. The abundant fresh organic vegetables are from the resort’s nearby farm. And the variety, presentation, and flavor of food impressed us.

The vast majority of campers seemed to be from “The City”. We shouldn’t have been surprised but we thought we’d find more people from out of NY. One couple from Virginia, one FL woman (visiting her NY son), one Aussie couple living in Japan, a couple of Connecticut couples, the remainder principally from The City.

We sat with Kenny and Wendy, Stephanie, and Melissa. Kenny and Wendy are from Long Island, Stephanie and Melissa from Manhattan. Everyone at our table at every meal was a lot of fun — maybe they came here to have fun, relax, and play a lot of tennis? We think so. Dinner was hamburgers, bbq, chicken filets, sauerkraut, salad bar, blond brownies, beer and wine. After dinner we sat around talking awhile then retired to our room for the night.

Meal times were excellent for us. We became acquainted with many more people from FL, VA, NY, CT, and Australia, enjoyed talking tennis, travel, and family stuff. The dining room atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, encouraging enjoying meals and making new friends.

Monday morning we joined the whole crew for breakfast of granola at 7:30 then met at the bleachers at 8:30 for assignment to our instruction groups. The program director asked us to pay close attention to his descriptions of the USTA skill levels ( NTRP 2.0 through 4.0) and join the appropriate group for our abilities. Debbie’s was pretty easy, advanced beginner. Jim took a lot longer to get sorted into the right group.

Debbie and two to three other players worked all six sessions with a young pro from Colombia. They liked their instructor and the consistency of working with one pro. Jim, on the other hand, worked with Lydia for one session, Sajiv and Tony for a session, Francisco for two sessions, then Sajiv and Tony for two sessions. Jim may have received the best diversity because each pro sees and offers something different.

We survived!

We’ve had a few opportunities to hit since we returned from Total Tennis. The lessons are still perking, we’re trying to incorporate what we learned into our regular hitting and play. This will take awhile but we have time. One of Jim’s high school classmates used to say, “what better to do with your time?”. Amen.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr