Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blogging past my grief

If you just read my previous post, you will know that we've had a rough couple of days, with the passing of our beloved dog Opal overshadowing all else. Nevertheless, life goes on, and I committed to myself some years ago that I would update the blog from each new location. Since we've moved twice since my last update, I'm overdue, and having a routine is a comfort right now.

One of our dirty little secrets here aboard Odyssey is that this blog is as much the ship's log book as it is a way to keep our friends, family, and other readers up to date on our goings-on. As such, I post a lot of mundane minutiae here that I am sure, over the years, has driven a number of otherwise patient and forgiving readers away. But it often comes in handy when we need to refer back to some previous stop, years later, to find out what was right or wrong with the place, or just exactly when we had to replace some recalcitrant part of the engine, or whatever.

So in that vein I will tell you that we are parked on the street in front of Star Power Equipment, the local Kubota engine dealer, in North Las Vegas, Nevada (map). Ben and Karen are parked right behind us. Why and how we came to be here is something of a story in itself.

After my last update here on Tuesday, Ben and Karen returned from Hawaii with some happy news: they are engaged to be married. We fully expected them to be too jet-lagged to get together Tuesday, but it turned out they were heading to the strip anyway, to exchange the engagement ring for the proper size. Apparently, popping the question was such a well-guarded surprise that Ben had to take a SWAG at the ring size in Hawaii. They were quite happy to get together afterward, and they picked us up behind Planet Hollywood and we all trundled off for cocktails at the Foundation Room followed by dinner at the Border Grill, both in the Mandalay Bay.

The ring was stunning, and they were both very happy. Eventually, though, the conversation came back around to the subject of their cantankerous generator, battery woes, and the fact that our remaining time together would be limited by our own deadline in Death Valley. They had other commitments for Wednesday, but we agreed to get together on Thursday someplace where we could test the generator setup in real-world conditions, since the cooling system had just been gone over by the radiator shop before they headed off to Hawaii.

I spent part of the day Wednesday figuring out just where that might be, and came up with basically three options. We could go back out to Lake Mead, where we had all parted company two weeks earlier; we could go to one of the two casinos we'd patronized in that time, or we could go back to our newly-discovered "pseudo-boondocking" site on an empty parcel south of the Walmart, seven miles or so west of the strip. We settled on this third option because, unlike the casino lots, we could pull the generator out and work on it at will there, and unlike the lake, if we needed any hardware or parts it was a short walk to Walmart or a short drive to hardware or auto part stores.

We spent the rest of the day Wednesday getting some of our own paperwork in order, specifically our passports are just about to expire and we needed to file the renewals, and we also needed to submit paperwork to open a new mailbox in South Dakota. This latter item is necessitated by the fact that we have decided to change our legal domicile to that state from our current home of Washington before we ultimately buy a boat, and this is the first of many steps in that process. Opening a private mailbox requires a notarized form, and, conveniently, there is a UPS Store with a notary in the Flamingo Hotel just across the street from where we were parked.

I also had to take another 12-mile scooter ride out to the lone post office that accepts general delivery, where I was surprised to be handed, in addition to my own package, a collection notice also address to "Sean Welsh" at that same general delivery. It's not that uncommon a name, actually, but what are the chances two of us would both be using that same general delivery address? I handed that back to the clerk, who marked it as being not for "Sean L. Welsh". I am guessing the debtor to whom it belongs will not actually come to pick it up. On the way back, I stopped at a wholesale foam distributor to look at alternatives to our aging mattress.

Thursday morning I stowed the scooter and we got ready to leave the strip. Just before we were ready to leave I snapped a photo of the new hotel "Hi" -- actually soon to be the Hilton Elara. We watched them carefully lower some of the letters from "PH Westgate" the first week we were in town, one three-story letter at a time. Today they were hoisting the new letters equally carefully, presumably after a couple days' delay from the winds. Hilton Vacations Club apparently bought the property from Westgate, deleting the Planet Hollywood branding.

By mid-afternoon Thursday we were in quarters at the dead-end south of Walmart (map), and Ben tried to fire up his generator. It quit in short order, and needed to be bled, which had been the problem all along. I had a gallon of distilled water aboard, and after a bit of bleeding and priming we got it running, and it ran fine for a few hours.

We all went to dinner at a nice restaurant, Panna Thai, a few blocks away. Just before bed, they started the generator up again and it again quit. The generator was still a bit warm from the earlier run, and after bleeding it and restarting it, in the cold and dark of the night, I could now easily see steam in the exhaust -- not a good sign. Before Ben took it to the radiator shop, I had ventured that one possible explanation for the constant gas bubbles in the system might be a broken head gasket or cracked head. We had to rule out air ingress in the cooling system, first, and I would have hoped that the radiator shop would have done a proper pressure test, which would also have pointed to any head problems.

Unfortunately, I learned later that the shop only left the pressure tester on for a few minutes at most -- a crack in the head or gasket might take a half hour to reveal itself at such low pressures. After seeing how much steam was being generated even after a half minute of running, we shut the unit down and plugged their bus into our buddy plug instead. I gave Ben the numbers of some Kubota shops and suggested he call around Friday morning to see if someone could get him in.

Star Power here is the subcontractor for the regional Kubota Power authorized service. They were busy Friday but said they could look at it first thing Monday. Friday afternoon we ran our genny for a few hours so Karen could make a delicious risotto for us and their local friends Steve and Maria who also dropped by. We even set our chairs out in the little gravel strip for cocktails al fresco.

Yesterday Louise and I piled into the Mini with Ben and drove the 20 miles here to scope out the parking situation. I did not want to bring the coaches all the way here and then find out we'd have to stay at the Morton's Truck Stop (formerly the Flying-J) a mile away. Fortunately, the on-street parking looked fine and there was also another dead end just a block away as a backup. We decided to move the buses over last night, as Ben had to be out today teaching a seminar.

Of course, we had to deal with Opal in the interim, and so we did not get rolling until sunset. We all pulled in here just at twilight, then drove over to a nearby Mexican joint where Louise found a coupon. It was a great find, as they had the best salsa we've been served in quite some time. It was good to have a goal, some focus, and friends with whom to break bread after our emotional trip to the emergency vet.

Ben left for his seminar this morning, and we are keeping Karen company (and providing her with power) until the shop opens tomorrow morning. Ben will still be out, so if their Prevost needs to be moved into the yard, yours truly will have to do it, as Karen does not drive the bus. But at least we are already here and I won't have to drive it from some distant spot, putting Louise in the driver's seat of Odyssey.

We are due in Death Valley on Thursday, and if all goes well we will leave Las Vegas on Wednesday, spending the night in Pahrump where we will also get fuel. If Ben and Karen still need the help, we can delay our departure to Thursday morning and do the entire drive in one day.

So I am hoping that whatever is wrong with the Kubota -- my fingers are crossed that it just needs a gasket -- will be resolved tomorrow, and I can help Ben get some new batteries, which are also end-of-life, into the coach on Tuesday at the battery dealer a bit north of here. Between getting the generator repaired and some fresh batteries in place, that ought to give them a great deal more independence, and perhaps the next time we meet up it will be in more pleasant and remote surroundings.


  1. Oh you guys, we send our condolences, we are out of the loop and didn't know about Opal's passing.

    Our hearts go out to you, we know how hard it is to lose that one special heart dog. We hope that the memories you shared can bring you comfort when you remember how much you loved her.

    {{{{hugs}}}} Jim & Rene

  2. I too have been somewhat out of the loop, and that's just a failing on my part. I don't always check in...
    I'm sad.
    Opal has been such a part of your experience, it will be a long time before the hole is healed.
    She had an outstanding life, and that's something you can be very proud of. You'll have all those photos and videos for eternity.
    The scooter videos were especially awesome.
    My heartfelt condolences.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of Opal's passing. It is so hard to lose a furry family member. You are in our thoughts.

  4. Sean and Louise, so sorry to hear about your loss.

    We will be thinking about you in Death Valley and the fun time we had in Shoshone a few years ago.

    Jim and Pat

  5. I knew Opal wasn't doing well but haven't been following you guys recently. The only thing harder than loosing a loved pet is to loose a child from what I know. Thank God, the later hasn't happened to us. But, pets, yes. I'm still a bit weepy about "Buddy" a 12 year old golden retriever who died 10 years ago. We have another rescue golden, and two others, but Buddy was a saint. You both have my sympathy about your pet.

    I hope you're looking in shelters for another pet you can love who will share life with you. I found Logan, our golden retriever, in a shelter the day after Buddy passed. We've had others, but Bud was so unusual. He and I were firmly attached at the hip according to Karen.

    Logan was waiting for me at the door to go for a walk by the way. I adopted him right away, and then we got Thor from a family who couldn't even pay his vet bill. (A dachshund on steroids). Karen had Oscar by that time. He's a silky terrier. I do not recommend the breed by the way. He's a biter, dislikes all dogs, etc., etc. Had to take him to a doggy shrink to learn how to handle him. Never had one like him before.

    Again, you have my sympathy and understanding over your pet.

    Regards, Ed Thomas


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!