Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Know What You Are Buying

This is taken from Dogster -- please, please make sure what you are buying and do what you can to end this cruelty. I normally watch videos such as this so I can keep myself informed on such outrages but today I just can't as I am SURE I would lose it but I am going to do everything in my power to ensure this practice stops!

That “faux” fur trim on your coat — or your “faux” fur coat itself — might be made from dogs who lived and died in deplorable conditions in China, warns the Humane Society of the United States.

Most faux fur is indeed that. It’s fake. But an ironic twist of fate, because of a loophole in the Federal Fur Products Labeling Act, people seeking to be kindest to animals may actually be wearing man’s best friend.
The HSUS says one in seven fur coats is not labeled as fur, according to a
KCRA report. In addition, the HSUS claims that retailers, including Burlington Coat Factory and Loehmann’s, have been falsely advertising real fur as faux fur. The fur may be from any fur-bearing animals, including dogs.

And no, the dogs are not simply brushed every day and their shed fur collected for coats. “Animal welfare groups, including the HSUS, have documented extremely cruel conditions under which fur-bearing animals—including dogs, cats and raccoon dogs—are raised and killed in China,” reports the HSUS.

We will not provide a direct link in this article, but if you want to witness the horror first-hand, click on the link to this article, and then click on the hyperlink on the words “extremely cruel conditions.” I could not bring myself to watch more than a few seconds, but it might prove a rallying cry for any Dogsters brave enough to view it. But be forewarned: It is not for the faint of heart. It is apparently graphic in its depiction of brutality.
This practice has to stop. For now, one way to try to put an end to it is by not buying these products. Today Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, plans to introduce AB 1656, which would require manufacturers to identify fur when it’s used in a garment. Five other states have passed similar laws, according to KCRA.

We can only hope this dog's collar is "faux"
We wonder, though, is this really enough to halt this brutal practice?
And what if you own something with “faux” fur? If you want to be able to tell if it’s real or fake, try to separate the fur, advises Pierre Gryzbowski, of The HSUS. “Most of the time, if the fur is fake you will see stitching. If it is real, you will see skin,” he says.
The HSUS Field Guide To Telling Animal Fur From Fake Fur provides excellent detail of how to perform the inspection.

For now, if you want to be extra sure you’re staying away from wearing dog or other fur, just don’t buy or wear anything that looks or feels remotely like real fur. And don’t rely on labels or salespeople. As you can see from this fascinating investigation by CBS-Los Angeles, labels don’t have to divulge certain information, and salespeople usually just don’t know.

Nightmare (As Usual) With Chase

I just had to write about the nightmare that we are experiencing with Chase Bank and trying to do a loan modification on the house in Pickerel. I am going to start by saying that when we started this mess, Bill had a 750 credit rating and I had a 701 after dragging myself up from the damage the lawsuit inflicted on my number. We had not been late on our mortgage or any other bills for that matter for years. So by no means are we slouches or non-payers. I had spoken with our personal banker in Antigo and he said to qualify for loan modification we had to be late in payments so he suggested not paying on time for the month of September but paying before the 28th of October as to not ding the credit ratings. We had tried to refinance to a lower rate as we are paying a ridiculous 8.35% but they wouldn't go for it although we have great credit ratings our documentable income isn't great. That is the dilemma that self employed people run into...if you deduct down your income (legally of course!) to pay less taxes, you don't have that much to show a bank for a loan. So before we left Wisconsin, on October 14, we went into the branch and filled out the paperwork with a personal banker.

Sometime during the middle of December I called the 800 number that the banker had given me to check up on the application. I was told that our application had not been assigned to anyone. When I expressed my displeasure I was told it would now be "expedited". On Thursday January 14 I call again. It had still not been "assigned"! But wait, this gets better. On Monday January 18 I get a call from a woman with Chase in Dallas. She tells me that my loan is late...uh HAS to be for loan mod. She then looks and says that our "hardship letter" is missing. I said she needs to check again as we had filled it out in the banker's office in October. She says that was a "hardship statement", not a letter. Umm...tell me the difference? In between being on hold with her I get a call from a Chase rep in Phoenix in collections! I say that I'm on the phone with Dallas. He then tells me that our entire APPLICATION form is missing. You've got to be kidding me! I called TWICE since October and no one told me this! I tell this guy that they aren't getting anything more until this paperwork screw up is taken care of. So this guy tries to play hardball and tell me that they "have ways" of getting the money out of remember at this point we are only 2 weeks late as we were told to be. I then tell him that he is blowing smoke as Chase has stopped foreclosures so what is he going to do? He then says that his area is the only ones that can fill out the application for load modification. Huh? WHY were we not told that in October? So I tell him fine, do the paperwork. He then says the clock starts ticking again from Day 1...what a bunch of bull. He THEN says that we have to agree to automatic deduction from the bank account for the next four months...this month the regular payment and the next three months will be 25% less. So under duress, as I absolutely HATE automatic withdrawals, we agree.

So this week we had more money as Bill's new unemployment program kicked in and he got his normal payment. Yesterday I go to make a partial payment and the online system would not let me pay less than $1200 and change...huh again? You won't take what you can get? So I call the Antigo branch and speak with Cindy who is basically one of the only reasons that we keep our smaller accounts with Chase. She takes $200 out of the account leaving me the rest to pay today. I go online this morning and the system lets me make a partial payment...go figure. So I call the loan mod office to tell them to take off the automatic payment as I have already made the payment. And you know what? I get all sorts of grief that I made the payment early! I was asked why I did that - ummm..because it was due and I like to control WHEN it goes to you, not you...I was then told that we were over 30 days late when the payment was not DUE until January 28. One guy even had the balls to say that "I would have to pay the price if the payment would get lost if you do it yourself"...HUH???? I AM TRANSFERRING FUNDS ON YOUR WEBSITE!! How would it be MY fault if "the payment got lost"? So basically I get attitude when I want TO PAY AHEAD OF TIME!! Then the guy actually says "You are coming to us for help", I don't NEED your help, I just want the loan modified...look at our past history, you jerk. We have never, ever had so many problems trying to give a company my money.

To top things off, about an hour after arguing with the loan mod department we get a call from the 602 area code which is Arizona. Bill answers and gives it to me. It is someone from Chase telling me that my account is past due. I ask him if he sees that we are in loan modification. He's .... get this "NOT SURE"! I ask him if he can see my payment today...again "NOT SURE"! WTF??? I tell him "Never am I failed to be amazed at the lack of communication and overall ineptitude of this bank." I tell him that he needs to get ahold of the loan modification department as this is ridiculous and I hang up on him. How can such a large "profitable" company be run so stupidly?? And we gave them billions more in bailout money when they can't even get their information straight?

My biggest questions is this - if we are being treated like low lifes and being harrassed by incompetent, poorly trained employees with credit scores in the 700s, how are those people who credit has fallen even farther down through no fault of their own being treated? The financial and economic situation in this country today is absolutely disgraceful! We citizens who have worked to pay our bills and keep up our credit ratings are getting the shaft by those who caused this meltdown - namely big business and the government. We bail out the banks and then they act like it was their money to start with and make it impossible to modify the terms of our loans. There are very few times that I can say I am not proud to be an American or that I do not love this country but this may be one of them. Like a bumper sticker I saw many years ago - I love my country but I fear my government. We can add banking institutions to the list of feared or hated entities now too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Welcome to Our Morning

The coyotes were a bit restless last night. I heard them doing their group yipping about 3am with their "celebration" call...I imagine at 3am they were celebrating finding at late night snack or breakfast so I always get up and make sure all the Monsters are in the rig. Of course, if they are doing the victory dance it would be too late but I check anyway. Then at 5am Dozey had another seizure. This time he was on the bed and the beginning force of it threw him onto the floor in the hallway by the bathroom. Normally he only pees a little bit during the seizure but today it was no doubt his entire bladder. On the positive side, it didn't seem to last as long as normal and he came out of it somewhat quickly. He is pretty much on a once a month schedule for the seizures which is why medication will not help. The best that is normally hoped for with meds is to get the frequency down to once a week or less and he is already there. So we just ride it out.

Then when I turn the generator off this morning I hear running water. I go into the bathroom and the hot water tap is running full force. Not only does it waste LP, it wastes fresh water which we have to get in 10 gallon jugs two at a time as well as filling up the gray tank. And fill the gray tank it did...Bill went in there a little while later and the cat box was floating in the tub where the gray water had backed up. So we had to dump some of the gray water and take out the soaked rug that goes under the box.

Finally, the refrigerator is just not working on LP at all. We can hear it kick in but it is not cooling anything. We called around yesterday for a mobil RV tech and some of them are out of their mind. We finally found one in Yuma that had an opening and only charges $45 for a service call which is then rolled into your repair if you go that route. We called around to see if we could get a better price and another service in Yuma wanted $90 an hour and the one if Quartzsite wanted $190 for 2 hours minimum and the clock starts ticking when they LEAVE their location...not when they walk in your door. So we are going to head to Yuma tomorrow so that the service down there can check out the fridge on Thursday afternoon.
I called and have made dentist appointments in Algodones Mexico for both of us. Within a four block radius in Algodones there are more pharmacies, doctors, dentists and opticians than a similar four block area anywhere else in the world. The vast majority are US trained but the services are so much cheaper. For example, Bill had an estimate to do some root canals. The estimate in Crandon was over $800 for three while the going rate for root canals in Algodones is $130 each. I have also made an appointment with a fibromyalgia specialist/chiropractor. Adjustments will be $30 each which is much cheaper than the $50 or so they want in Yuma. We have appointments on Friday so on Thursday afternoon we will go to the Quechua Casino right near the border crossing and boondock there overnight and walk across in the morning.
Saturday we will head to Phoenix to stay until Thursday. Nick is on his way down. He called from Iowa after having been stuck there overnight due to a bad snowstorm and the closure of I-35. Bill's birthday is Sunday and they will no doubt go golfing and I can finally go shopping by MYSELF!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ramblings and Causes

The last two mornings have been in the 30s down here! 30s! Right now it is 36 degrees and feels like 32! Ugghh! But at least there is not the snow and sleet that everyone up there is contending with right now.

We went to Blythe (pronounced Bl-eye-th) California on Friday for some work. West of town it sure looked like a tornado had touched down with signs blown over and trees split. A gas station that we had to audit had some windows and doors damaged. It is just very fortunate that the tornado did not hit over in Quarzsite with the thousands upon thousands of people in RVs and no where else to go.

Speaking of thousands living in RVs, I thought you would appreciate this video . It is amazing out west here the amount of people that just pull over on the side of the road and park it and camp. Of course, good weather, or mostly good weather, has something to do with it as well as an abundance of federal land where you can stay anywhere. I imagine it is quite the shock for some people if they head east in their RV to find that there is hardly any land to do that on. Granted we can do that on the national forest land, but how do you get a rig in between all the trees on land that has stumps and don't. That is one of the advantages to boondocking in the desert.....lots of flat land to put a rig on.

Bill and I have gotten into gardening rather heavily the last two years before we left by planting fruit trees and adding raised beds out on the Eagles Way side of the property. That is the hardest thing for me being on the road, besides missing my hot tub and king sized bed -- not being able to plan and improve my garden. I have looked into getting a Master's in permaculture which is "a system of perennial agriculture emphasizing the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems". This is definitely a career path I NEVER thought I would be considering! LOL...But I feel strongly that more and more chemicals and genetically altered food is NOT the road we should be on. If you feel the same, here is a link to a free bumper sticker to display in support of the family farm as well as a link to where you can take action and join the campaign against Monsanto

I also wanted to highly recommend a program that Disney has going called "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day". Here is the link Do a search and find an event or a charity in your area where you would like to volunteer. Sign up through the link on the Disney website. Follow the directions to report that you volunteered and get a 1 day 1 park pass to either Disneyland or Disney World. You can also choose to donate your free visit voucher to a charity such as the Make A Wish Foundation. With the corporate greed and corruption that is all too rampant today, I believe this is an awesome initiative by Disney and a role model for other companies to follow. You win by helping others and getting a day at a theme park, Disney wins by improving their corporate image and of course the charity wins big with more volunteers.

And while I am on my soapbox, please remember the animals of Haiti. Yes, people are important and I know everyone is stretched thin here but if you are looking for a way to help the Haitians, helping the animals is one way. Make sure you are donating to a reputable organization like the Best Friends Animal Society which is part of ARCH, the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti. As the moderator of one of my groups put it, "Even if you don't believe that money and effort should be spent on animals when people are suffering, this effort is necessary for the safety and continued economic viability of the PEOPLE of Haiti.Keeping the animal agriculture of Haiti functioning is vital in recovery. The diseases caused by free roaming, injured, uncared for animals include rabies, leptospirosis are a real threat to people.You really can't separate animal health from people health, there are just too many zoonotic diseases to ignore one." If donating to this cause interests you go to and know that your donation will be used as it was intended to be used.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Survived The Storm

Last night was wild and nasty to say the least. We were pounded by rain and wind until about 4am. It was so loud I could not tell if we had the generator on or not. The RV was swaying like the ship did when we were on the cruise near Honduras. Needless to say Dozey and the monsters were not extremely happy all night.
Here they have school closures because of rain! This was the worst storm to hit Arizona in 17 years and the governor declared a state of emergency.
The wind was so bad it overturned semis near Yuma and I-40 between Kingman and Winslow is closed...of course at that elevation they are getting snow and not rain. They have gotten 3 feet of snow since Monday with 2 to 4 feet more coming by the weekend...crazy, crazy....The water in the wash in front of our rig is totally gone which is tells you just how extra dry this area has been, if you can believe - a drought in the desert!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rocking In The Wind

Here is a view from the door this cloudy you can't even see the mountains and standing water in the desert! Right now the RV is rocking back and forth in the winds and we rescheduled the Yuma run to Saturday due to flash flood warnings as the road down there has many dips in it with flood warning signs. Bill went to rescue some aluminum cans that were blowing around and the wind on the door almost ripped his arm out of the socket. They are saying the wind will be 40 to 50mph this afternoon. Hopefully the wind will die down somewhat later and we can go get some laundry done. Bill tried to do some yesterday during the late morning and of course it was jam packed. We have found that the best time to do laundry is about 5pm as all the older folks are either at dinner or at home for the night. The show even closes at 5pm which is very strange to us. All shows that we have been to have ran into the evening but possibly that is due to the fact that they were inside a building mostly during the winter. We have been saving on dryer costs by using the outdoor clothes rack but today might not be the best of days to use that. We are sitting in the RV trying to catch up on some back paperwork and taxes as well as internet stuff. Of course, everyone else around here is doing the same so the connection is slooooowwww and sporadic. We just heard that there are tornado warnings over by Blythe California which is about 20 miles west of here. With this many RVs and people in the desert right now, there is no shelter that would be close enough or big enough for everyone to get into....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stormy Night

Anyone who says that it doesn't rain in the desert was not in the truck with us yesterday trying to get back to Quartzsite from Phoenix. It began to rain really hard about 6pm and driving on the freeways was a bit scary. Not many people wanted to slow down and must have never heard of hydroplaning. We were worried that the low spots in the road near our camp site would be unpassable but it appears to not have rained so hard or so fast here in Quartzsite. You can't tell today that we have nasty weather coming again tonight and tomorrow but El Niño is at work again. Of course, even though I hurt a bit from the rain I would much rather have rain than snow and cold!

Pro Shade stopped by this morning to measure the awning that had ripped in the high winds in Coffeyville. They will be able to install the new blue canopy on Friday for us as it is something Bill is not quite sure he would get right the first time. We are also in the middle of laying down peel and stick tile in the rig. The carpet was not my favorite color of green and cleaning up the pet hair was next to impossible! The Dirt Devil handheld we bought that said it was good on pet hair - wasn't. The removable hose is great for getting litter out of the tub so it doesn't clog up the drain but the brushes do not roll at all on the main part. I called customer service to complain and the rep got snotty with me as I said the product was horrible. She said I would have to take it in or mail it in to be repaired. We actually found the best way to get the hair out of the carpet was for Bill to slide the soles of his hiking shoes and drag it all up into big piles. It is a pain to take up the old carpet and vinyl as Winnebago builds the rigs where they put down the flooring before the walls and furniture are in. So the vinyl goes first, the carpet on top of that and everything underneath the slide, the cabinets, the sofa etc. When we finally got some of it up I said I would rather have had plain plywood than the carpet and white looked much better! Here is the before...note the ugly green carpet and even uglier white vinyl.

And here is our "in progress"....we are buying the tiles here and there at hardware shops so it will probably take a bit to get enough to finish the entire coach.

We are going to paint the ugly white confetti squiggled walls with a khaki color. By taking the carpet out the bear area rug will go under the slide perfectly now instead of being an exercise in contortionism trying to make sure it doesn't roll up under the sofa.

New Blog

Welcome to our new blog! Although I really liked the map feature that traced our route on My Trip Journal, I was not happy with how the website inserted pictures as well as the size of the pics. Plus we will be investing in a digital camcorder soon and the website did not allow for enough video to be uploaded. For anyone who hasn't read our route up to today the link to the old blog is where you can read about our meanderings starting on October 15, 2009 when we left Wisconsin up to last Saturday.

We are on our way to Phoenix to work as I am writing this. The days in Phoenix are always quite long so we both rather dread them but unfortunately they can't be helped as that is where most of the work is. We are getting the hang of navigating around the 14th largest city in the country...biggest issue - NO left turns out of parking lots! And of course, the GPS is always telling us to turn left. We are also getting used to a new GPS. We upgraded over the holidays from a 5 year old Tom Tom which looked like a CRT monitor to a Garmin Nuvi 855. It was funny as I found a good deal on Amazon for the unit for $159.99 while Bill was working there. Of course it did not ship from Coffeyville but from Illinois and of course we couldn't take UPS delivery so it went all the way up to Pickerel and then Carol had to ship it down here with the mail box. So we are just nicely starting to play with it. It has voice activation and lane assist which we have not yet figured out how to turn on, but which will be a huge help with the 6 lane highways down here. It has some features that we do like though such as it automatically looks for cities only in the state you are in and it tells you which side of the road a location is on. Whether or not it is better at finding addresses than the Tom Tom we can't be sure as we don't know the area and the streets. The Tom Tom was sold old that it did not show parts of Hwy 10 that were new heading towards Stevens Point.

Quartzsite had weather warnings supposedly for this week due to El Niño. There was supposed to have been a year's worth of rain in a 5 to 10 day period. Well, not sure if the weatherman is crazy but today is sunny and 70. We did have some rain Sunday night into Monday and Monday night but not any of the flash flooding that we had been warned about so far. RVs from the LTVA which are in a wash have been "flooding" (no pun intended!) to the Plomosa Road area and higher ground. The groups normally pull in and do what Bill calls "circling the wagons"...putting all the RVs together in a circle. We had one group pull in behind our rig. They are lucky as we bought a really quiet, small Honda generator at the show yesterday because I was up at 4am today and the engine battery was too low to run the internet plus I wanted coffee. So outside I go in the dark and turn on the small generator. If it would have been anytime earlier I would have had to turn on the big generator which is quite noisy. Oh well, some of us still have to work for a living!

We have a system down now for handling situations like the dead battery, water and dumping. We have two 10 gallon collapsible water jugs and we take them, along with the hose, to the Love's Truck Stop on the west side of I-10. They have a free water tap so we fill up every time we leave. Bill then takes his drill and a special drill pump we bought and then empties the jugs into the water tank. We had been filling up at the Flying J in Ehrenberg but it took about 5 minutes per jug. We had to be pumped out for the first time last week. The pump company we called charges $20 per dump and we can usually go almost two weeks before we have to be pumped. The gray water which is sinks and shower usually fills up faster but that can always be let out a little on the ground if necessary. We try to conserve as much water as possible by using a dish pan and dumping it outside, turning off the shower while soaping and washing hair and stuff like that. It really is not that hard or that much of an inconvenience. As far as electrical goes it is a little more of a PITA. In the morning I get up first and want coffee so that takes the generator as it will not work on the inverter we run off of the coach batteries. I also like to run a heater on my feet in the morning but that really uses a lot of juice so for right now that is a no no. When I am doing paperwork I was having to turn on the big generator every time I wanted to print and then turn if off as it costs about $3 per hour to run. With the small Honda we can run it about 8 hours on 1 gallon of gas so I won't necessarily have to run outside and turn it on and off when I am wanting to print. We have to be very careful to keep the cell phones and the computers fully charged while the generator is on for something else or while we are in the car. When Bill wants to watch TV at night is a good time to also charge everything else up. At least now the small generator is so quiet that I can sleep while he stays up till midnight. With the large generator there was no way I could do that as it was right under the bedroom. So basically all it takes is a little conservation and a little planning and everything works as it should. No it is not as easy as just flipping a light switch and running the TV, microwave and furnace all at the same time, but the pluses of waking up in the desert at a free campsite and not be in the city or pay for somewhere to stay far outweigh the inconvenience. It may sound a lot like living in the dark ages for many of you but it works for us!