Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hello again from Algodones, NM

Hello again from Algodones, NM

Saturday Morning March 27, 2010 (Fourth travelogue of this trip).

We wrote our second post of this travelogue from this same location last Saturday. As we noted then, it is a fun, convenient, inexpensive place to stop. We are staying here two nights to wait out a snow storm that is hitting Denver. Besides we need to relax after a rather hectic show!!

The FMCA rally was a mixed bag. For the attendees, it sounded like it was a royal pain. The show was at the fairgrounds, but the camping was at the Balloon Fiesta Park, several miles away. The ran large commercial buses between the two facilities, but that must have been a logistics issue for the folks in the park. On the last day of the rally, there was a rollover crash on I-25 that had traffic virtually shut down. We could really see the impact at the show, as there were very few folks in the vendor area and 3 or 4 ladies missed Pat's craft session (after they had paid for it).

In addition, Albuquerque is over 5000 feet in elevation and the aging membership includes many folks who have health issues at that altitude.

Albuquerque was our first trade show in 2004. It was a disaster for us, as we were not prepared and we were located in the Balloon Park. At the time FMCA said they would not be back. I don't know what changed their mind, but they again held it in mid-March when the weather is really iffy. I think the attendance reflected the lack of enthusiasm for the location by the membership. FMCA always publishes the attendance, but they did not this time. We believe they were quite embarrassed. We have a semi-official count of less than 1700 coaches. That is, by far, the lowest attendance at an “International” rally. Attendance has been declining over the past few years. We attended some of these rallies before we started vending and went to several that were well over 5000 coaches and a few that were over 7000.

In spite of the bad attendance we did OK. We had quite a bit of interest in our fire suppression system and sold a reasonable amount of other product. Probably not enough to pay for the total cost of the trip, but better than many of our shows. It might sound strange that we don't cover the cost of our trips, but our philosophy is that we are “paying our dues”. With our kind of product, people need to build their confidence that we are trusted vendors. We have begun to see a bit of an up-tick in system sales that we attribute to contacts at the shows.

The booth had potential customers in it almost all of the time. Often there were several at one time. That is the good news. The bad news is that we were on our feet on hard concrete for most of the three days of the show. We had to get up before 6:00 each day and often got to bed well after 10:00. Not complaining, as we know the “drill” going into the rally. However this rally was harder on us than most. Hence the need to relax here at the casino.

In the last post we had a link to the map of our location at the fairgrounds. If you look closely, we were a couple of hundred yards from Central Ave. This is the old Route 66. We have talked a great deal about Route 66 in the past. It was a highway that ran from Chicago to LA. It was first planned in 1926 and finished in 1938. It has been immortalized in music, books, movies and TV. One of the best sites for the history of the highway is here.

I would love to quote all of the page cited above, but the following excerpt will give you an idea of some of the compelling content:

In his famous social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the "Mother Road." Steinbeck's classic 1939 novel, combined with the 1940 film recreation of the epic odyssey, served to immortalize Route 66 in the American consciousness.”

We have held off establishing a trade show/travel schedule pending resolution of the bus problems. Now that it appears that we are “back on the road” again, we will be firming up our schedule. The shows and rallies we are looking at are very exciting.

That is all for now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello from Albuquerque, NM

Hello from Albuquerque, NM

Tuesday evening March 23, 2010 (Third travelogue of this trip).

We are currently parked in the vendor dry camp area at the fairgrounds (map). This is the sight of the FMCA International Rally. In the “good old days” these rallies would attract over 7000 motorhomes. In the last few years, that number has dropped to perhaps 2500 motorhomes. It is rumored that there are only 1600 motorhomes here. We will get the official numbers in the next day or two.

When we last posted there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground. By noon, most of it has melted and later in the afternoon, I was able to wash the bus and service truck. Since then the weather has been very nice. However, it is supposed to rain late tonight and most of tomorrow. There is some mention of snow as well.

Sunday we moved from the Hollywood Casino to the fairgrounds. The parking went very smoothly (not always the case). In the afternoon we got most of the work done setting up the booth. Yesterday Pat was at the welcome center selling tickets to her two craft classes (sales were not as good as has been the case in the past). I did quite a bit of running around and a bit of rubber necking of the new motorhomes.

Today was the first day of the rally for vendors. In spite of the reported small attendance, the vendor area was pretty busy. We had a few sales and several good contacts with customers who are interested in our fire detection and suppression system. Pat did the first of her two craft classes. There were 15 people in the class including one man. Tomorrow I will do my seminar and Thursday Pat will have here second seminar.

We have two more days of vending and then we tear down on Thursday evening. We will pull out on Friday and head back to the Hollywood Casino. We will then pace ourselves to miss some storms that are predicted for the Denver area. We do not have to be home at a certain date, so we will make sure we travel in good weather conditions.

Sunday we had dinner with Gary and Karen – great friends. We then went to the Kirkland Air Force base where they are camped in the “Fam Camp” for retired military personnel. They have a beautiful Prevost bus conversion that is new to them. It is an amazing bus!

One of our readers, and best friend, pointed out that I spelled Pat incorrectly in the first post of this trip I spelled it Par. I often spell her name Pay (I think that is a Freudian slip {{{big grin}}}).

That is all for now.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hello from Algodones, NM

Hello from Algodones, NM

Saturday Morning March 20, 2010 (Second travelogue of this trip).

We are at the campground at Hollywood Casino (also called San Felipe's Hollywood Casino) map. Their website is here. It really is a hole-in-the-wall casino with a so-so buffet. However, it is conveniently located and their campground has 50 amp power at each site as well as water and dump station remote to the site. To top it off, it is only $10 per night.

In our last travelogue I talked about the light at the end of the tunnel. The jury is still out on the source of that light. The weather is still not good and the bus had a couple of minor issues yesterday.

We have about 2 inches of snow and darn cold weather here this morning. I guess I should be glad that we are not home where the TV reports 2 feet of snow in Conifer! I have included a photo of the bus here in the snow.

In addition, the electronics in the engine/transmission caused some problems yesterday. There is a connection between the two that allow them to “talk” to each other. The technology is called J1939 for the “techies”. Before we left I got an error code that the connection was “broken”. I played with a connection and the code went away. However yesterday it occurred two times. Same connection. The connector is a premium quality special unit designed for the rather critical communication process. I have closely inspected the connector, used contact cleaner and di-electric grease. Still the problem. Fortunately it only takes a minute or two to pull and reconnect the connector and that seems to cure the problem for a while. Worst case, I can probably eliminate the connector as a temporary fix.

We think Pat has to be at the fairgrounds tomorrow to sell tickets for her classes. We had planned to move to the fairgrounds in the bus today, but we will probably stay here again tonight and take her in the service truck tomorrow. She needs to be there early in the morning. I will then come back and drive the bus to the vendor parking area.

That is all for now.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hello from Wagon Mound, NM

Hello from Wagon Mound, NM
Subtitled: What is that light at the end of the tunnel?

Thursday evening March 18, 2010 (First travelogue of this trip).

Let's talk about the sub title first. I have wanted to make many posts in recent months, but either Pat or I vetoed the content – it was just too negative. Since our bus experienced its engine problems in July of last year, the events of our lives have been considerably less than what would be contained in a fairy tail. Maybe a nightmare type movie would better describe our lives. Bear in mind, that it probably seems worse, since the rest of our lives have been mostly trouble free and we feel very fortunate for that.

First was the real downer of not having the bus. In some of our travelogues, we detailed our disdain for traveling by more conventional means and staying in Motels. Hugely costly and often very frustrating.

Getting the bus repaired was a true nightmare. We could not afford to rebuild the engine and had to settle for a reasonably good used engine (I hope – it was rebuilt about 220K miles ago – not much mileage for a big truck diesel engine). I won't go into all of the sordid details, but I have been working on it pretty steadily since September and just got it on the road last weekend. As most of you know, the engine and transmission are huge and that makes everything more difficult (see photos). In addition, both the engine and transmission are fully electronic and I have had some serious issues with both units. Lastly, all of the work was done in my shop. Many days the temperature outside was below zero and even with my torpedo heater, it would usually only get to 35 degrees many days.

Our next downer was the weather this winter. I have lived in Colorado all of my life and I don't recall it ever being this bad. I wrote about our big Oct. snowstorm (here). That snow is still on the ground – even in the open areas and on our deck. Every time I needed to test the bus, it snowed. It has been generally very cold most of the winter and our heating bills are off the map.

Next downer was been the economic issues that we are all having to deal with. I keep thinking it will get better, but I don't see it happening.

Lastly, our daughters and their families have had some pretty serious health issues. Those issues really eat at your psyche.

Now, what is that light at the end of the tunnel that I mentioned? I can only hope it is that beautiful sun the we crave so badly. Hopefully it is not a train headlight. So, lets talk about why the light might not be a train. The bus is running and we left on our first trip today. The weather is slowly getting better. It has been nice in Evergreen for the last few days. However, we had to beat a path today to get out of a snow storm that is predicted to dump a bunch of snow in the Denver area. The economic issues are still not good, but we are not alone in that area. And, most importantly, the health issues seem to have gotten much better.

So, maybe our painful eight months will be something in the past.

Now to Wagon Mound. We are (here).  According to Wikipedia: Wagon Mound is a in Mora County, New Mexico, United States. It is named after and located at the foot of a butte called Wagon Mound, which was a landmark for covered wagon trains and traders going up and down the villageSanta Fe Trail and is now Wagon Mound National Historic Landmark. The shape of the mound is said to resemble a Conestoga wagon. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 369.

We are parked in a vacant lot next to a gas station. The town used to have two restaurants, but they are both close. It is about 70 miles south of Raton, NM. We drove about 300 miles today, leaving about 10:30.

Tomorrow we will drive to a favorite stop: Hollywood Casino just north of Albuquerque. That is a short 150 mile drive. We will stay there a couple of days before we drive to the fairgrounds where the FMCA rally will be.

BTW, I was a nervous as a whore in church today, but the bus did very well. Hope that continues.

That is all for now.