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Friday, March 30, 2012

White Mountains Camping

We left Tuscon and headed to the mountains last week. We mountain biked at Catalina State Park then went by Biosphere 2 to check it out. They wanted $20 per person to tour it, so we just looked from a distance and left.

The drive through Salt River Canyon was breath taking. And then we worked our way to the forests near Show Low and Pinetop where the night time temperatures were in the low 40's (probably colder on the mountains where we camped). They had a blizzard the week prior which left snow patches and mud in many places. Most of the AZ state camp grounds where closed so we had to get creative in finding legal but nice overnight camp sites.

After about 4-5 days of hiking/biking we are now on our way through Alpine and towards the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Since many of the upper roads were closed due to snow we had to skip some of the more impressive camping areas in the 9000+ elevation area. We were really disappointed, but we had to leave Mexico because our Visas were up which forced us to be here a little too early in the season.

At least the weather has been very nice. In the 60's during the day and 35-45 at night (brrrr!) with a bright sunny sky.

Ok, we've borrowed this WIFI connection long to hit the road!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

US Border Crossing Closed Down by the WTM

When that "Charge" light kept turning on after the engine warmed up, I decided to just wire the solar panel into the engine electronics. With all the sun down here we turned the WTM into the WORLD'S FIRST HYBRID TOYOTA MOTORHOME. The solar would run the fuel pump and the electronic ignition and keep the battery charged up enough to crank over the engine once or twice a day. Our goal was to get to the US where the car parts are a lot cheaper.

In Guaymas we stopped to visit friends and I noticed the belts were really loose on the engine. Since the alternator failed to charge after the engine got hot, I wondered if the belts were just slipping. So I tightened them and we pressed on.

Well, it was obvious after about 30 minutes when the charge light came back on that the belts weren't the problem. We pushed on. A new alternator in Mexico is almost 2x more than in the US and we only had about 400 miles to go.

All was great with the sun shining brightly on us powering our electronics. However at the US side of the border everything changed. They made us pull into the Agricultural Inspection Area that is covered (no sun!) and shut off the engine. Without the solar power we couldn't get it started again. Ok, we really block the whole border. But we did shut down our line (1 car behind us). The officers said it happens all the time and since I had cables, we got the car next to us to jump us.

But now that we've got a new alternator all is good (we hope!). Only $80 here, instead of $140 in Mex...that's why we rigged the RV to run off solar until we could make it back to Tuscon...almost worked.

Changing the alternator was a classic WTM moment too. We parked next to O'reily Parts. Went inside, verified they could test everything and they had a rebuilt alternator in stock. Then we proceeded to strip out the old alternator in the parking lot -- it's not like we could really disable our only car anywhere else.... The job required removing some cooling hoses (and draining the coolant) and taking off several brackets and plates. Once we could squeeze the alternator out it of course passed their tests. Since it normally takes about 20 minutes for the alternator to stop charging (measured at the alternator), we opted for the new alternator assuming the problem was intermittent. Then we put all the pieces back in and refilled the coolant system.

Not as quite a WTM moment as when we changed all the shocks last year in the NAPA Parts parking lot with a huge floor jack we rented, but it is a close second! Installing the shocks with the RV blocked up was quite a crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Add Google Maps to

I've updated some of our Web Tips so they support the new templates. So if you're using a free blog from goggle and you want to put a map on your blog and be able to post way points on the map via your posts, then check out

You'll have to edit your template, so if HTML scares you off then don't try it. There are two basic steps you need do to insert the HTML code into your template. And you need to get a key from google maps for your blog, but it isn't too hard. Take a look at to see it in action.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Wild momma caught

Like 6 years ago when we here last, the cat population has exploded. One cruiser, Bill, had most of them fixed, except one particularly wild momma kitty. She managed to pop out 3 litters and we found homes for them, but we were never able to catch her.

In fact, like crazy people with nothing better to do than talk to cats, we sat for hours trying to coax her into the trap with fresh dorado, canned tuna and cat food. Four weeks and no luck. So we decided to wait until she got pregnant again and really hungry.

When she appeared to have swallowed a football, we set up camp again. Since we are leaving soon, this is our last chance to sterilize all the cats, because if we don't do it, no one else will and her offspring will breed fast. When that happens we usually see cats getting poisoned. So it was do or die for this momma.

After several days with her still being too smart to get in the trap, we decided to mix it up. We got a giant net, put the trap out, loaded with food while I walked around trying to get the cats accustomed to me moving with the net. After about an hour of careful manipulation, I manged to get into a good position to try springing the net.

BOOM! She exploded into the net in a wild furry fury. Teeth, claws were everywhere with both Sherrell and I standing on the edge of the net to keep her from escaping. She writhed and twisted violently, but we had no choice but to find a way to trap her. We secured the net with some rope and then carried her in it all the way to the vet. She was thrashing in protest and the vet was really impressed we actually caught this one.

Here she is during transport. It's the only photo I have. She's trying to wiggle under the car seat while being entangled in the net.

She didn't seem to worse for the experience when we released her -- all things considered. But we haven't seen her since and she's probably happily avoiding humans for a while.