The "BRAT" Rack

Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, a major hurdle is done. We now have added another 5 feet to our overall length. Yup, the rig is now a total of 59 ft long. Are we nuts or what? LOL! When I said to my late wife, "I like to get a motorcycle" I had no idea where it would lead. We needed a way to carry it...OK, we'll get a toyhauler...that works.... Oops, need a bigger truck....gee, that Freightliner will do it.... How about some longer trips on the bike...OK, let's get a cargo trailer on eBay... Now how the hell we gonna carry that thing? Aha, the "BRAT" rack.



Our collection is complete: FREDDIE the Freightliner, KAZY the toy hauler, BIG RED the trike, BRAT (Big Red's Attack Trailer) and finally the BRAT RACK.

The BRAT rack is a fairly simple affair. A couple of ramps welded to some square tubes that slide into receivers in the rear of KaZy. Some pins and straps and we go down the road. Sounds pretty straight forward. We contacted a local company in nearby Pharr TX, Camco Wheel and Axle. These folks were recommended by 2 other RVers and by Camping World. After an appointment and some brainstorming by yours truly, the owner and his "free" engineer, we decided on a design.



The first day of the installation, we dropped KaZy off in the shop. Donna and I hopped in Freddie and headed off for some breakfast and later a movie. We saw The International, an adventure/drama with plenty of action. Good movie, we enjoyed it. We returned to Camco to check on progress and take KaZy back to Retama Village. The receivers were just about finished and the rack was "tacked" together. We would have to come back on Thursday to complete the project, something we knew was likely. Here are some pics from the early stages of building the BRAT Rack.



While the crew finished the receivers, James (Camco owner) showed us some of his "toys". He has a couple of street rods that were absolutely fantastic. His brother also works on motorcycles. The pictures here don't do them justice. He told me what the original cars were but I sure can't remember all those details. I only know they were beautiful. After some pictures and drooling, we hitched up and returned to base. [see all photos at SmugMug]



On Thursday we were up early and back to Pharr for the completion of the rack and installation of the receivers on Freddie. Of course, as the project had progressed, I added some some things to the list. I had quickly realized that the rack would be a bit heavier than Donna and I could handle easily, so I had them add trailer jacks to 3 points on the rack. This was so I could roll it to the back of KaZy and slide it it the receivers. I also decided to add identical receivers to Freddie. This added some versatility to using the rack with Freddie as well as KaZy.



We dropped KaZy in the yard and backed Freddie in the shop. Donna and I fired up the generator in KaZy, tuned the satellite and settled in for the day. Periodically, I would be summoned for some last minute decisions on details and by late afternoon we were ready for test fitting and final installation. And....oh yeah, gotta pay the bill. LOL!

First time we tried to put the rack on we were met with some fit problems. The tubes would not go in all the way and once in got stuck. Jesus ("worker bee") and I struggled a bit. The tubes needed to ground down and lubed up...then the whole assembly slid in with ease. The ramps were put down and the BRAT rolled into position. Some straps and a few other storage chores and we headed back to Retama village...a few bucks less in the pocket but we were pleased with the end result.



We arrived at the campground, backed in and rolled BRAT off the rack. Easy enough. Next we slid the pins out of the rack and rolled it out of the receivers, stored the straps etc. and set up the rest of the rig. It was beer-thirty, thank you very much. Oh, all the photos are on SmugMug.

Keep rolling...we will...
Stu

Another week closes....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The time flies by but I don't feel there is much of interest to post here. We're still busy running errands and doing general stuff. I had my last dentist visit yesterday so we spent a little more time walking around Progreso and picking up a few things. We found the CUTEST little pink camo boonie hats for Stu's granddaughters, Livie & Jesse. We also found the perfect lightweight jackets for the beach (remember, we're going to Cabo in late April). Of course they feature Corona...we'll fit right in.....LOL!

We had taken our two motorcycle vests in and gotten our patches sewn on...something that was way overdue. Stu will have more to put on his second vest, the one he'll use for Firefighter rides. Stu is a full member of the Red Knights Motorcycle Club and I'm an associate member. Now we'll be covered for all occasions. He also got a patch sewn on the back of a lightweight denim shirt for those warmer riding days. I had picked up a nice used shirt when we were in Kentucky last fall. It's come in handy several times.

In our last 5 weeks here we got boots resoled, we bought new boots, we shopped, we enjoyed meals & drinks, we bought medication, we got dental work, we got patches sewn, we got boots polished....in general, we took advantage of having Mexico close to us and definitely saved money. In this economy, that's what it's all about.

On Tuesday we take the rig to a local place to see what they can fabricate for us so we can carry BRAT on the back of the RV. That should be interesting and I'll try to capture some photos when we are there...but don't plan on spending the entire day there waiting. LOL! There will be a second visit but we don't know which day that will be. On Saturday we head to Dallas. Monday morning the rig will get left at a local dealer for warranty work while we move to a rented condo for a week (gotta love these $199 specials that Stu digs up).

Once the rig is ready, we're on the road back to Maryland. We hope to be there by March 14th at the latest. Stu's youngest daughter is getting married on April 4th and there is a lot to do before then. The following weekend his best friend is getting married as well (and we did pick up a "special" wedding gift while in Mexico). We'll be house & pet sitting for the week in between.

The LATEST news is that we got tickets and campground reservations of Nashville's Fan Fest (now known as CMA Music Fest). We are so excited! We've both wanted to do this for years and it plays into our plans quite well. Watch for updates as we get more information... Oh, and we'll be staying at the Nashville Country RV Park.

Well, off to do some more de-oozing in preparation for moving the rig on Tuesday....

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

What we've been up to....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yeah, I know...poor grammar there, but good titles can be hard to come by. LOL! We've been staying busy since we got back from Florida. Several trips to Mexico for more dental appointments (still two more to go thanks to a lab mix-up), lots of little chores & errands completed, a few meals out (great dinner at Texas Roadhouse last night) and some lab work for me.

The trip to Mexico yesterday subjected us to the largest number of folks in town & the longest lines. Mondays aren't a great day to visit...LOL! While I was at the dentist Stu went on the hunt for a boot repair shop. He'd brought a favorite pair that needed resoling. $40 and one hour later he had new soles and heels....nice job. I decided to see if I could pick up a new pair of boots for me, I had let mine go when I cleaned out my closet and regretted it. I lucked into a nice pair and they now have a new home in my new closet. Now I just have to learn to line dance....LOL!


It's hard to deal with medical issues when you have no insurance. I lucked out when I was in Branson, MO the fall of 2007 and found a walk-in clinic with appointments for $45. They referred me to a local lab that did a full work-up for $75. Since I take cholesterol meds, I knew I needed a new liver profile but also knew a lab would generally run me into the hundreds for that and the others needed (blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid, etc).

As luck would have it, I was reading the local Winter Texan and found an add for a similar lab here, Medquick Diagnostics, that would do the full women's screening panel for $80. I'll pick up the results next time we go out in that direction (it's on the way to Mexico). I'm sure everything will be within normal ranges but good to know for sure.

Stu's still been picking up parts for BRAT and we finally got an appointment with the local outfit to mount a hitch and fabricate a carrier of some sort for the back of the RV. Our appointment is next Tuesday for the first stage and then back on Thursday or Friday for the final part. We're cutting it close since we are heading up to Dallas on Sunday (3/1) to get the warranty work done on the rig (finally).

We've been catching up on paperwork, partially in preparation for getting our taxes done. We've finally realized that each of us have 2, 3 or more spots for paperwork is part of the reason we let it get out of hand. We're now on the watch for a nice cherry finish 2 drawer file cabinet. It'll sit next to the sofa and will (hopefully) prompt us to stay on top in a more timely fashion.

We finally met our landlord...we had met his wife Danielle a couple of days earlier. We haven't been home too much and every time Jack came over, we were out. We spent over an hour chatting till our respective stomachs urged us into our respective kitchens. ;-)

Not much else new...just enjoying life in general, who can ask for more than that?

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Anne Arundel Firefighter Reunion, Orlando FL

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What a wonderful time we both had....we drove from Mission to San Antonio on Wednesday the 4th, spent the night in a hotel close to the airport, shuttled over the next morning and had an uneventful trip (even had lunch served - thank you, Continental Airlines).

Since there was a time zone change, we arrived about after the "Welcome" but in time for the open bar in the hospitality suite. Stu was overwhelmed with old friends (co-workers) and I was lucky to see three folks that I had met previously (when we spent time in Maryland last fall). Lots of good folks to be introduced to with my glass of Berringer's White Zinfandel in hand (thank you to whoever ordered that for the stock....LOL!). Before the weekend was over, I had made several new friends.

Since there was an "official" photographer, I took no photos....just enjoyed myself. When we get the CD, I'll post a few as well as the group pics. Sorry.....not really, LOL!

Friday was a free day and we took it to head to Tampa area to visit with Stu's mom. We had dinner Friday night, followed by more hospitality suite chatter. Breakfast for the group on Saturday with a final meeting. Most folks came early or stayed late, making the trip more of a vacation. We had Saturday afternoon free and went to visit the local Disney town of Celebration, FL along with friends Danny & Eileen.



What a neat little town, we had a great time wandering, people watching, savoring ice cream at Kilwin's, laughing at the little ones playing in the fountains and walking some back streets. My battery died so I didn't get all the photos I wanted but here are a few for flavor. The rest are at SmugMug.



We got back around 5:30 and rested a bit before deciding to try out the steakhouse next door, Kool's Oak Fire Grill. What a great decision....we both ordered filet mignon and weren't disappointed. The service was superb (and we had a trainee) and we'd definitely go back again.

Sunday we got up early and headed to the airport for the trip back to San Antonio. We had about an hour's delay in Houston and arrived at our hotel in San Antonio just in time for a light supper. We both had pizza & beer on our brain....so Pizza Hut it was. Monday we took a leisurely drive back to Mission, stopping in a small town for a great Mexican lunch in a little local restaurant.

All in all, a WONDERFUL mini-vacation that we plan to repeat as often as possible. Next time we'll plan a longer week as well and take our time while in FL...or maybe we'll be there with the RV and can do more on the bike. LOL!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Molly Goodheads, Ozona FL - lunch with Stu's mom

While in the Orlando area we needed to make a day trip over to the West Coast to see Stu's mom. We arrived around lunch time and opted to find a local spot for lunch. We wanted something that we'd all like and Molly Goodhead's was a favorite of both Stu & his mom - thanks to their Grouper Sandwich.

Since we had a late breakfast we weren't all that hungry but that didn't stop Stu from getting his favorite, as did his mom. I opted for a cup of clam chowder. We weren't disappointed....so we wiled away a couple of hours enjoying our beer, the food and the establishment. If you ever have a chance, try it out!!



Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Addendum to the South Padre Island Kite Fest

I found a photo on my cell phone and thought I should post it. My camera was full and we were on our way out when we saw this little boy flying a kite (with a little help from his big sister). I couldn't resist the shot....



I am working on two more blog updates today, maybe three...got a lot of catching up to do since we headed over to Orlando for the Firefighter Reunion. Bear with me!!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Busy week ahead....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Here it is, already February 3rd...time flies faster every year. We've been staying busy here in Mission and yet getting in a little relaxation as well. On Wednesday we drive up to San Antonio, spend the night in a hotel close to the airport and then on Thursday we fly out to Orlando. We have a retired firefighter reunion going on there Friday-Sunday. We fly back on Sunday, stay at the same hotel and drive back to Mission on Monday.

Thus...no blogs after this one, till we get back... Just wanted to keep everyone in the loop so no one would worry about us...LOL!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

Padre Island Brewery & Restaurant - So Padre Island, TX

Monday, February 2, 2009

On the way to the South Padre Island Kite Fest we passed a brewery that cried out to us to visit later...South Padre Island Brewery & Restaurant. The copper brew tanks in the front window did us in....LOL! So after the event and checking out the island a bit we popped in and boy, we were glad we did.



Once again we tried the sampler....five 4oz glasses of beer for $3.75. In the photo below they are from right to left (numbers 1 to 5): Boca Chica Bock, Padre Island Pale Ale, So Padre Island Blonde Ale, Tidal Wave Wheat, Speckled Trout Stout.



Once again our tastes ran pretty much the same...we both liked the Boca Chica Bock and the Tidal Wave Wheat. Stu liked the Specked Trout Stout but it was a bit too dark/stout for me. I still wasn't a fan of the light ales.....BUT, I mixed half the Boca Chica Bock with half of the Padre Island Pale Ale and wow....loved it! I would never have done something like that before visiting the Abita Springs Brewery...



Next came the food......yum! Great prices and super service....loved our waiter. Stu got a pizza - shrimp & cheese and I got a Pesto Chicken Salad on flat bread. My french fries were nothing to write home about but I was stuffed and didn't need them anyway. LOL!



So, if you're ever on South Padre Island hope you'll give them a try...

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu