Life Is Beautiful

Scratchy passed last night.  Peacefully and in our arms.  It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced and it was exactly how she was supposed to go.  Surrounded by Laura, Rudy and myself.  Even Baby Jane was snuggled up with her.  She took her last breath and was gone.

Born December 10, 2002, Scratchy was a gift to us from an old employee of ours named Gene.  We had just gotten Liberty in October and we were talking with Gene at our Christmas Party, when he mentioned that his English Lab just had a litter of pups.  He told us we could have first pick of the littler for free, since Libby needed a playmate and sister.  Excited and anxious we were.  Gene lived up near Los Angeles, so when the day came to pick her out, we all loaded on the car, including Libby and we made the 2 hr trek.

I remember reading up on puppy selecting and trying to educate myself.  They call it puppy-testing and it’s not much more that educated guessing.  There are little tricks and ways to act around a pup, to see if they are timid, too aggressive or just right for your needs.  In our case, the pup had to get along with Libby, first and foremost.  Lib met with all of the pups and interacted and got along great.  From there we started to weed out the boys and concentrate of a baby sister.  We did a bunch of other little tests, but I’ll never forget the one that assured me, this was our little girl.

One at a time and completely away (and out of sight) from all other pups, I would take one, set her down on the grass, walk 6’ away, get down on my knees and call her over.  Only one puppy came to me.  This little black fuzz ball with this fresh, red scratch, right across her nose.  When I asked Gene what had happened, he said that she was the runt and got her nose scratched while fighting for mom’s nipple.  Scratchy was our new baby.

We have a million memories with her.  She’s traveled with us to over 40 states, 5 Canadian Provences, dozens of National Parks, countless rivers and lakes and endless nights on our laps at home.  “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.  She was to epitome of love.

Goodnight Scratchy.

I need a drink

There’s an old(er) movie with Steve Martin called My Blue Heaven.  And there’s this line that has stuck with me since I first saw it, almost 30 years ago.  Holy crap, it’s been almost thirty years already.  (Sorry, I just had a “moment”).  I don’t know why but it just resonates with me.  It’s very Daoist.  He says, “Into every life, a little rain must fall.  Even in San Diego.”

I’m very keen to the fact that I shit sunshine.  Or at least I try to.  I’m an imperfect person, but I always try to find the beauty in everything, regardless of the outcome.  But every now and again, I need that rain to slap me in the face and say “hey asshole, find the beauty in this.”  Today was one of those days.

So with the older dogs onboard, they have to sleep in the front of the RV, where the tile floor is easy to clean-up, if you know what I mean.  Rudy, Laura and I alternate nights sleeping up front with them.  Every 3rd night, is my turn.  Last night, was my turn.

Stardate 96314.04   My nose, knows.  Even Laura is amazed at how I can sleep through an earthquake, but wake to a fart.  I can literally go from REM stage 4 sleep to wide awake, in 2 seconds, if I even think I smell dog crap.  Yes, Scratchy took a crap in her bed, at 2am.  And let me tell you, old lab poop smells like death.

Stardate 96314.21    WTF is that smell, again?  Wait!  The aroma is just a little different.  Still deathly but with a hint of coconut.  LIBBY!

Stardate 96314.35    Libby, you need to go out again?  Thank you for waking me this time.

Stardate 96314.43    The hell with it, they’re both up again?  I’m never getting any sleep tonight.  Let’s check some emails….

Final Score:  3 dog poops (2 inside):  1 unusable blanket (mine), 1 smeared bed sheet (mine), 5 hrs of random sleep (mine), 2 K-Cups of French Roast and 6 emails.

Just like Billy Mayes always said, “But wait, there’s more.”

So after a lovely breakfast, that included a giant Bloody Mary, Laura and I proceeded to take a drive and explore the area.  About 5 miles out of town, on the 14W headed into Yellowstone, the Cruiser started to loose power.  A moment later, engine died.  On the side of the Shoshone River, at a scenic turnout, we hit a new low.

Now, I’m a mechanically inclined guy.  I can figure out most devices, given enough time and without much pressure.  But when emotions take over, they cloud the mind.  I’ve known this.  And thankfully, my ninjas skills kicked in and reminding me of this.  After 5 minutes of staring at the engine and wondering if this trip was cursed, I took a deep breath, a step back and tried to objectively evaluate the situation.

Bonnie Tyler, thank you.  Willie Nelson, thank you.  Dalai Lama, thank you.  Just then, a local hunting guide named Matt Dowd, pulled-up and offered a hand.  Now I know I made a cowboy reference in my last post, and I hope you found it funny.  But today, this actually happened.  The universe has a very funny sense of humor, if you’re given the opportunity to see it.  This cowboy gentleman had the clarity in his mind and metric sockets in his tools box, to recognize that I just overheated, as he pulled the engine thermostat, to see that it had malfunctioned.

He was in his mid-50’s, had an ashtray full of dead butts, two cans of generic Skoal on his dash, a 24-pack cube of Busch beer (unopened), 4 hunting rifles, a 30y/o Craftsman tool box (thankfully), a 12-day beard, Stetson straw hat and a Cool Hand Luke sense of confidence.  Yup, I’ve got a man crush.

Eventually, we made our way back down the hill into town, where we found an auto parts store and ordered the new t-stat.  He followed us the whole way.  Even gave us a ride back to the RV, after we left the cruiser in the lot for the night.  I knew he would never accept a dime for his help, but I had something even better.  Brand new and unopened, this man deserved my finest bottle of Rye Whiskey.

Cheers to you Mr. Dowd.  🥃🥃  May you forever find green pastures and great hunting.  Thank you for your help and kindness, wherever you may roam.

Now here I am, celebrating a really unique day.  One that won’t soon be forgotten.  One that reminded me of lessons forgot and kindness to be given.  Cheers to y’all too.  Pay it forward.

(Yes, I’m drunk typing 🍻😂)


Hey, I got an idea 🤪

Look at me, getting all out of order here.  I’ll need to take you back a couple of days, before my compass broke, to Casper, WY.  I know they say Montana is Big Sky Country.  But so is Wyoming.  Man, those evening sunsets are beautiful and ginormous.  They just seem to go on forever.

Well, the Toyota dealer had diagnosed the oil leak as coming from the valve cover gasket.  Yea, an easy and much less expensive fix.  But my attempt to preorder parts, to prevent any delays, didn’t quite work out as planned.  Before we left Breck, I had Spector Off Road (largest Landcruiser parts supplier), send a complete engine gasket kit, overnight, to Casper.  I know how tough it can be to find parts for older vehicles, especially in remote locations.  Everything arrived before we did and I was confident that we were set up for success.  Just remember, if you fail to plan…. you plan to fail.

Little did I know, that a chain of events was set into place, 10 years ago when I restored the Cruiser.  Yes, I said ten years ago.  Tony had this great idea when he was getting a variety of parts, chrome plated, during the re-build.  And it is/was a fantastic idea.  Just a few touches of chrome, really make the truck pop.  I even got the valve cover chrome plated (how cool is that?).  When you opened the hood, it was so pretty.  A Weber carb, Dual headers, Chrome valve cover.  You know, man candy.

So while the engine was getting rebuilt, I went on-the-line and bought a valve cover from another FJ40.  Sent it to the chrome shop and when it was done, gave it to the mechanic who was rebuilding the engine, to swap-out.  Fast forward 14 years.  I just discovered that I bought a valve cover from a later model FJ40 and those sneaky little engineers over at Toyota, changed the gasket type on those models.  They may have lost WWII, but this gasket espionage game they play, will tear apart the fabric of our society, one engine at a time.

So we left the FJ in Casper and made our way to Mt. Rushmore.  They eventually got the correct part and I’m happy to report that my baby is up and running again and we’re headed back to pick her up.  It’s Saturday morning now and we’ll have her hitched up in a few hours and camp the night in Buffalo, before heading into Cody on Sunday.  “Oil’s well that end’s well” – Popeye

I must also take some time to give credit where credit is due.  We got a little bored, waiting around Casper for a couple days, so Laura did a little research on some local hikes.  She found a beauty.  The Garden Creek Falls was a perfect day hike.  Depending on the path(s) you take, you can hike anywhere from 1 to almost 10 miles.  All loops, all connected and all with fantastic views of the Town of Casper.  The waterfall was still running, even this late in the season, and there wasn’t but 2 or 3 people anywhere to be seen.  On the way back to the RV, we took a detour and drove through downtown Capser.  (By the way, we rented a car, just in case you were wondering how we’re getting to all these places).  

What a cool place this is.  Like lots of Middle-America towns, it still has that time-capsule effect.  Lots of very old buildings and their accompanying old businesses ( mixed with a young, entrepreneurial spirit of outdoor adventure seekers, craft foodies and artist garages.   Think Woolworth, Sear Catalogue and Benjamin Franklin meets Steady State, Brian Malarkey and REI.  Now picture the 80 year old cowboy in a red and blue plaid shirt, tucked in to proudly display his chrome buckle.  Square toed ranching boots, still dusty from the days work.  Lee denim jeans, 2.5 gallon hat and a slight bow to his gate.  A light shade of brown mustard framed down the middle of his silvery white mustache, thanks to all those years of Lucky Strike and the low horizon of his gaze.  His hands and skin like leather and just as tough.  A handshake that reminds you of what a handshake should be.  And a sense of deeply rooted American pride because he served, like his daddy, and his daddy before him.  Bumping into some entitled douche bag with a man bun.  Yup, that’s Casper.


Go with your gut

I’m sure we all have that “funny feeling”.  That “little voice”.  A “6th Sense” that tells us, before “it” even happens, that something is off.  Something just ain’t right.  Personally, I refer to it as my Compass.  It’s not always a life threatening situation or in any way, a big deal.  Sometimes (most times), it’s just a little thing.  An inconvenient thing.  We all have a certain level of balance in our lives and if you’re in tune to it, just the slightest tip can sway the scales.  That tremor can take a long while to settle back and while you’re waiting, you just keep second guessing.

It’s the end of summer and the end of the tourist season here in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Which means its the best time to visit.  The roads are open, the crowds are gone, the weather is perfection, our favorite campground is still full to capacity, the wildlife is….. wait what?  Why the hell are the campgrounds still full?!  Don’t you people have jobs to go back to and kids that need to be in school?  Crap, I’l have to find another site, let’s see what Yelp has to say.

Wow, what do you know?  Our favorite place, Rafter J Bar Ranch is rated #1.  Doesn’t surprise me, I always did have good taste.  What’s this one here rated #2?  Pictures look nice.  4.4 stars with over 100 reviews.  OK, let’s call them up.  “Hi, yes, we need a site for a few days.  You do?  Wonderfull.  We’ll be there in 2 hours”.  Click.

2 hours later….

“Dad, where’s this road take us?”  

“Tony, are you sure you’re going the right way?” 

“Dad, there’s no cell signal out here.”  

“Hun, slow down, I’m getting sick.”


Ever shoe-horn a 40’ RV into a can of sardines?  Well there’s a first for everything (and a last).  Welcome to Horse Thief RV Camp.  Home of 15’ wide RV’s in 20’ wide spots, parked sideways on a 30% slope.  Sure they have Wifi, it just doesn’t do anything.  Sure you get a cell signal, if you send your phone up in a weather ballon.  Sure they have 5 acres of grass fields with nobody (I mean NOBODY) around.  But the second you let your dogs run and play, the leash nazi pops up like a whack-a-mole, to bark at you about it.  Wait, why the efff do they have so much prime grass camping fields, but we’re all crammed in these dirt pads?

I really, really try hard, not to be a complainer.  I believe you are responsible for your situation, no matter what, so suck it up and deal with it.  So I’m not complaining about this, I’m just getting back to my original point.  When I saw the Yelp page, when I made the phone call, when I arrived in the Black Hills, when we first lost cell coverage, when we pulled into the registration, I had that “feeling”.  I even went so far as to call Rafter J again, before we pulled in here, just to see if there had been any cancelations.  My compass was off, I knew it, and I ignored it.  Now I’ll own it.

So here I am, getting caught up on the blog, at 5am.  We’re leaving back to Wyoming today and looking forward to better (camping) horizons.  We will miss the Black Hills.  We always do.  This area is truly magical and if you ever get the chance, please don’t miss it.  Look past the tourist t-shirt shops and biker bars.  Take a long, slow drive along Route 16a.  Bring a picnic and marvel at the scenery.  I’ll personally refund your trip if you don’t like it.

RIP Bandit

Ain’t that some shit?  Burt Reynolds was a man’s man, a ladie’s heart-throb and a true mustache ambassador.  His talent, charm and smile will be missed by all.  Cheers to you Bandit 🍻

Well we made it into Breckenridge, but not without some sad news.  The CRUI5ER took a big hit.  You see, the drive up the 70, from Grand Junction to Breck, is not to be missed.  You don’t sit in the car and read a book, look at a map, play games on your phone or take a nap.  You stare outside the window and marvel at the beauty before you.  It’s only 3 hrs (going at RV speed), but it goes by in minutes.  Rudy asked to take the Landcruiser and drive it, instead of us towing it.  To be honest, I was so jealous.  What a perfect truck for the drive.

Well, by absolutely no fault of his, we had a major malfunction.  It wasn’t until we pulled into our RV site, did we notice oil EVERYWHERE, from under the Cruiser.  As it turns out, the oil pressure going over that 10,662 mountain pass, was just too much for that 47 year old rear main seal.  Thar she blows!  The best news it that (so far), no damage was done to the engine.  It turns over and runs.  But there is little-to-no oil left in it.

I’m currently working on getting replacement parts shipped overnight to the Foss Toyota in Casper, WY, where we’ll kick around for a couple days to see if everything gets taken care or.  We’re optimistic that things will work out OK.

So about Breck.  Gorgeous.  The Historic District, which basically is all of downtown, is a shoppers heaven.  Boutique stores, alpine gear, cheese mongers, craft distilleries, french bakery and plenty of restaurants to fill your belly.  You could spend a very long day, just lingering through it all.  It’s a very dog friendly town and for the most part, people friendly too.  We’ve seen the occasional “I’m a local and you’re a tourist” attitude, but you get that anywhere.  Water off a ducks back.

Working from the road is what it is.  We’ve got all of the technology we need to keep the biz operating, but it’s nothing compared to having the right people back home, who are actually running things.  Those guys are the absolute best.

So, the whole “four dog” thing.  Under normal circumstance, it’s not an issue or consideration.  Having two dogs at 16 years old, just means a change in our daily routines.  No big deal.  Dogs are wonderful and they follow the lead of their owners.  If you are neurotic and uptight, they will be.  If you are mean and abusive, they will be, if you are fun and easy going, they will be.  Regardless of the age of our fur babies, all they want to do is chill and be by your side.  If loving up on you is a “bad habit”, then I don’t want them to be right.  

Mech One, Inc. Global Headquarters 

Happy Labor Day 🇺🇸

Greetings from Grand Junction, Colorado.  We had a perfectly uneventful 6 hr drive yesterday, along one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America.  The I-70 from Ritchfield to Green River, Utah.  It’s one of those drives where you can’t stay in your lane.  Eyes forward Geist!

Downtown GJ is just as quaint as we remembered.  It’s not without it’s issues though.  Because of it’s mild weather and relaxed attitude, the town plays host to an abundance of homeless and seekers.  But that’s all just part of the vibe here.  It’s a great foodie scene, plenty of kitschy bars and breakfast nooks and friendly eyes everywhere.

Our much awaited dinner at Bin 707 did not disappoint.  Their food and handcrafted cocktails are so good, I wish there was a direct flight from San Diego.  Who knew smoked beets and gin tasted so damn smooth?  Well, truth be told, I did silly, that’s why I ordered it. 😉

Today is going to be awesomely uneventful as well.  Some corn hole games, ice cold beers, BBQ and a ton of dog poop management.  Have you any idea how much …. is produced by four dogs?  Take my word for it, a lot!  We really don’t mind though.  They are all really good travelers and they LOVE the RV.  I always stage and cherish the moment when they first see the RV parked out front of the house, before we leave.  It’s like watching your kids come down the stairs on Christmas morning.  They Go Nuts!  It’s so adorable.  They can’t wait to climb onboard and find their spots.  And they travel so much better than the kids ever did.  There’s no fighting with each other, no bathroom breaks, no asking 8 times “are we there yet”, no car sickness and no eating all of the junk food in the cabinets (Rudy 😡).

Good times.

There’s always a stop at the Walmart.  Just not always with a sunset so pretty.

Rudy and I made this roll-up dog fence to keep the pups nearby without those stupid leashes that are always tangling up.  Plus they can go in and out of the RV as needed, if you know what I mean…  Brilliant!



We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Let me know when your comfortable.  Get yourself a coffee or cocktail (preferably the later).  Lose the distractions, the kids, the spouse….  Wait, sorry.  4 people told me they read and like these posts, and it’s gone to my head.  I’ll just keep to the meat and potatoes of it all. 😉

So last we spoke, we were coming back from Okinawa after spending some time with Rudy.  Well, Rudy is back from Oki, out of the Air Force (honorably) and spending some time back at home until his next venture.  He finished just over 2 years of service, gained a wealth of knowledge, his GI Bill, lots of other great benefits and the respect and thanks of his Country.  (Did I mention he’s living back at home again?) 😳

Maddie is still living in Brooklyn.  She doesn’t live at home. 😇

The dogs are awesome, but not without their issues.  Libby and Scratchy are now 16 years old.  With  that comes physical struggles, like standing and walking.  Libby is about 80% blind and Scratchy is about 80% deaf.  And they both like to poop in the house.  Not because they enjoy it, but because they just don’t even know it’s happening.  It literally just falls out.  We had a rough evening last Wednesday when Libby had a 2 minute seizure.  This scared the crap out of us, because we’re already “thinking” about the inevitable, but all of a sudden, we’re thinking “is it now?”

The great news is that her x-rays and blood work came back astonishingly awesome.  The Doc said she’s never seen a 16yo, this healthy (from a  medical standpoint).  So with that, we were able to put her on some anti-seizure meds.  Fingers crossed.

The Doodles still light up our life.  While we were away in Asia, we had sent them off to a training/boarding school.  No, they did not wear little uniforms.  (But how cute would that be?)  They did however,  learn some manners.  They’re still pups at heart, and we never want that to change, but they are much more responsive now, they walk great, obey fairly well, and just want to love, love, love on you.  They will always live at home. 😍

Now the reason we’ve been apart from each other for so long, is because of that dirty little 4 letter word.  W O R K.  Yup I said it.  Work.  And lots of it.  No complaints, it’s been a very (and I mean very) busy year.  But we’ve kept our heads down and hands busy.  No time for play when the work is this plentiful.

This trip we’re on now had been planned for a few months now but we’ve had to postpone it 3 times.  Finally we said, we need some time away.  As always, we’ll continue to work from the road.  But the change of scenery is going to do wonders for our souls.

Day 1 is in the books.  An 8 hour cruise to St. George, Utah.  We’ll crash here at the KOA for the night then head into Grand Junction, Colorado tomorrow and stay for the Labor Day Weekend.  We’re big fans of GJ and can’t wait to revisit one of our favorite little restaurants, Bin 707 and spend a couple days there.

You know what?  It just dawned on me that I haven’t told you where we’re going or what we’re doing.  Hmmm, maybe later 😂

Ta Ta for now.


OK, here’s a couple pix of Rudy, for those who haven’t seen him in a while.  One of my oldest friends, Andrew Lee, is the Proprietor of Paloma Barber Shop.  He also just happens to be one of the best damn Barbers EVER.  Look him up if you need your cabbage cleaned.