How to lift a 14.5k lb trailer by hand

After several days at Fort Davis we decided to head east.  So we got around in the morning (takes us forever) but were on schedule to hit the road at 10:00.  One of the last steps is raising the front end of the fifth wheel using the powered landing gear so we can hitch up.  All was going fine until I heard the motor start struggling and then the clutch started clicking and we weren’t going higher.  We were still a few inches from being high enough to hitch up.  So I started investigating and realized that I had sheered a pin off the shaft of the front left landing gear.  So the right leg was trying to do all the work and started getting the trailer cattywompus and bind up the landing gear.  I started thinking “well, at least this is a nice place to stay a few more days”…but at the same time I got into McGyver mode.

I started looking for something I could use as a pin.  Stubby screwdriver?  Nope, didn’t fit.  Some wire?  Doesn’t seem strong enough.  I had some wood screws so I stuck one in and it fid dit!!  I wrapped some electrical tape around it to hold in in place and hit the motor button.  Click click click click.  Crud!!  Then I remembered the guy we bought the trailer from said “don’t loose this bar/crank…its for manually operating the landing gear.  But I sure hope you never have to use it!”  Well, it was my day to use it.  I started cranking…it was HAAAAARD.  And its geared so low you can’t even tell its moving.  But after awhile it started getting easier…”maybe I’d gotten past the binding point!” I thought.  So I hit the button and the sweet sound of a happy motor hummed along as it lifted the trailer.  WHEW!!  By the time the gear was up my screw had been completely chewed up and spit out in 3 pieces. So much for leaving at 10:00…but, we don’t have any schedule or reservations so we just go with the flow!  Glenn came over to say goodbye and wish us well.

We swung by an Ace hardware on the way out of town and I got a couple bolts to use for a more permanent solution.  I installed the new bolt while we filled our guts with lunch at a rest stop on I-10. I think the landing gear is back in business.

Ft Davis

Honestly I didn’t expect our first stop to be all that exciting. I figured I would like Austin and San Antonio and really enjoy it once we got to the coast.

It turned out I LOVED Ft. Davis! There is so much to do around this small town out in the “middle of nowhere.”

First experience: Unexpectedly in the laundry room at the RV park just on the edge of town. I was trying my best to rush around and multitask – get kids started on homework, run over and do some laundry. Repeat. First a permanent resident told me to use up the remaining time on her dryer money. Then Melinda came in and introduced herself. She and Glenn were volunteering up at the Star Party we were going to on Friday night! That was really nice to have some people to look forward to seeing up there. But I apologized as I needed to get back and make sure the kids hadn’t been lured onto their screens. The permanent resident told us about some local sites to see and told me she would get me the papers she created for the library.

Second experience: Ft. Davis Historical Site. I like museums, but I usually have a short attention span. The Fort was so great! It still had a lot of the original buildings and also a lot of remnants so you could see what time and the elements do to the structures. They did a great job presenting information in a fun way. The Jr Ranger booklets helped too and were well done. Overall our favorite was the Hospital (oddly no pics – too busy having fun!). But I was excited to learn about Buffalo Soldiers! Another song where I knew the words, but not the meaning. Then the Ranger was so kind and fun to talk to. She was an elementary science teacher in the mornings, so she was great with the kids. I loved her!

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Third: All the people are so kind and friendly. It is a small town. At the RV Park and in town, the people all wanted to talk and share information about the area.

Fourth: The Library. Cool because it looks Old West but otherwise unassuming on the outside. Then we walked in. Thank goodness my kids LOVE books and libraries because I would hate to miss this one! Immediately we were all struck by the quaintness and quirkiness. It had a lot of old things mixed in with the books. Even a plinky old piano with a little sitting area. Everywhere we looked there was something interesting. Then one of the ladies said the kids could check out a book on her card if we returned it tomorrow. I was floored! She didn’t know us. She knew we were only passing through. But she wants kids to read and she was willing to take the chance that we were good people. Huck had a call and told us to go on, but the kids really wanted to sit and read, so they did.

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Fifth: The Courthouse. One of the first stops on the tour was the courthouse. A lady had told us to ask to go to the top. They don’t let people up there because it is high up and doesn’t have proper safety guards. Ding dongs dangling legs over the edge, etc. have made it so people can’t go up there except during certain times. We asked but they said no. So instead we asked a couple ladies to tell us why Texans have so much pride in their courthouses. Turns out the 2nd set of ladies – one was the Justice of the Peace – and she was more than willing to give the kids a LOT of information. Did you know the Texas flag is the only one allowed to fly at the same height as the USA flag? It’s because Texas was it’s own country before joining the Union. Both the ladies told us about sites in the surrounding area we should visit. And they mentioned we should go to Sonora Caverns as a halfway point to our next destination.

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On the walking tour I LOVED walking into the Presbyterian church. My Grandpa Robbins was a Presbyterian minister and the early part of my childhood was spent attending a Presbyterian church. The stain glass windows are so beautiful. This one had a reed organ, and the familiar dark red pew pads. It felt so comforting. Caden said he loved that church too.

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Sixth: The Drug Store. The description on the tour said it had long been a hang out for the locals. Walk in and there is an old fashioned soda fountain and counter. The one thing that would have made it better would be homemade ice cream. Blue Bell was fine. This was the end of the tour, so between the 5 of us, we had some malts, ice cream and a vanilla coke. As weird as it sounds I even loved the bathroom! The toilets were all 2 steps up and for some reason it seemed so Old Saloon like. The dividers were old doors. The sink was even old looking, yet not gross old.
Upstairs are some hotel rooms, each a little different and the layout of the hallway and rooms reminded me of the hotel I stayed at with my MIL and sister in laws in Fairplay. Memories.

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Seventh: The Star Party. We really enjoyed it! We learned so much. I wanted to take notes as I knew I wouldn’t remember half of it, but that would ruin everyone’s night vision. I do remember learning about the Zodiacal line (and corresponding glow). It was of course fun to see so many constellations and nebulae in the various telescopes. The volunteers usually had lots of information to teach while we were waiting in line. We learned about Messier and various others. And it was fun to see/talk to both Melinda and Glenn. The best part though was the magnificent shooting star that lasted a long time and followed the outline of a nearby hill. Brielle was soooo excited and the lady manning the telescope we were at said how excited she was to be a part of Brielle’s first shooting star!

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We also enjoyed a short drive into the Davis Mountain State Park. We found a geocache and enjoyed the beautiful views.

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I would highly recommend visiting this small town in Texas. There were so many other sites nearby that we didn’t have time to explore: The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Marfa and the unexplained Marfa lights. Alpine (a bigger town nearby that probably had a decent grocery store), Balmorhea (it has a hot springs pool that we stopped and looked at, but it was very cold that day, so no swimming for us!) I know there are more I’m forgetting, but put this on your list as a good resting stop if you are heading through Texas.

There’s diamonds in them thar hills

Today we took a little drive up to Davis Mountains State Park just outside of town.  We really wanted to camp here but heard that Verizon data was hard to pull in without a booster and that campground wifi was spotty.  It would be an awesome place to camp though.  We drove out Skyline Dr which had some nice views and an itty bitty geocache.  After snagging a few pics we went back to the trailer for an early dinner.

There was a very nice couple at the same RV park as us that came over and introduced themselves to us.  Glenn and Melinda.  Steph had met Melinda earlier in the day at the laundry room.  Glenn and Melinda volunteer at McDonald observatory where we had reservations for a Star Party.  So after dinner we headed back up into the Davis Mountains to check out the millions of twinkling diamonds in the sky.   We were given a constellation tour by a very well informed dude with this awesome laser pointer he could use to point out stars and constellations.  Then they had 7 telescopes set up looking at different things: Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy, M1, the Pliadese and some other star clusters.  The volunteers manning the telescopes were super nice, knew their stuff and they loved having kids interested in astronomy.  Melinda and Glenn each were stationed at one of the telescopes and it was cool to “know someone”, our “neighbor”, there at the star party.  It was a perfectly clear night and really not that cold for January.

I am always totally amazed by the vastness of space and how insignificant it makes me feel…but I find great comfort in knowing that the same One who placed every single star, planned every supernova and stirred up every nebula also created me uniquely and purposefully from scratch!

Downtown Fort Davis

We are camped at the MacMillen (or McMillen, I’ve seen it spelled both ways here) RV Park just 1/4 mile from Fort Davis town center.  Its a full hookup site and has good wifi!  It gets below freezing at night so we’ve just been running off the fresh water tanks and dumping as needed.  The sewer inlets sit about 6 inches above grade which made for a great science lesson for the boys as we proved the theory that poop doesn’t run uphill.  If you are a seasoned RVer you have this little contraption that looks like a model train bridge that elevates your sewer hose on its path to the sewer inlet.  If yer a cheapskate like me you use the ol’ lift-it-in-sections technique.  But with the contents weighing about 5.5lbs per foot in a container with the rigidity of a slinky this technique should not be relied upon in the future.  But enough about that, the fun part of the day was exploring the  downtown metropolis of Fort Davis!

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Fort Davis

After spending the morning and early afternoon  doing school and work we headed over to Fort Davis National Park.  The location was really nice as its set back in some Texan mountains (or, Colorado hills).  The kids got their Jr Ranger books and we explored.  Its a really well done park with great displays and a cool history.  Our favorite part was the hospital and seeing all of the really crazy tools the doctors used like the esophagus dilator  (a long stick which they could put increasing larger diameter doo dads on and stick down your throat).  Brielle liked the horse drawn ambulance.  They also had different bugle calls every 10-15 minutes and they gave us a cheat sheet to know what they meant.  It sounded really cool as it echoed off the rocky bluffs and brought the otherwise deserted grounds to life.  The kids took their Jr Ranger oath and received their patches.  But we forgot their National Parks Passports back at the trailer….DOH!  Its just a few miles from our campground so we’ll swing by another day to get stamps.

Sibs in a swing

The original RV

Dacen as a soldier

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What are big brothers for?

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Outside the commissary

Outside the commissary

Brielle by the old chapel

Fort Davis panorama

Another Jr Ranger badge

Exploring Fort Davis parade grounds