Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Monday, June 23, 2014


No pictures today, although I am working on a great set from our first visit yesterday to Yellowstone National Park. It was amazing to use a short, succinct word! I will have a post up shortly of our day in the Upper Geyser Basin.

As it will be four weeks tomorrow since the onset of our engine disaster, I guess it is time for an update. It has been a very long, drawn-out process with Ford Extended Warranty. First they wanted the engine torn down to determine what happened. That was done, and diagnosis was most likely a stuck fuel injector dumping too much fuel into the cylinders, ultimately burning one and starting on another. Ford Warranty then requested a further tear down, and pictures sent. Dean at Young Ford complied with all this, and we waited. Last Thursday they then sent out an inspector to the dealer to do a hands on inspection. Dean told us he took a lot of pictures including pictures of the Banks tuner that Al had installed back in 2011. We were pretty sure at this point that we were going to be denied, and Friday afternoon we received the official word: Denied. The official report seems to be that the computer codes are showing that the Banks tuner caused too much power to flow to the engine causing an over-rev situation which is what blew the injector. Being that the warranty specifically states that any after-market products installed voids the warranty, and they are saying it caused the engine failure, its pretty much tough luck Sherlock. After extensive research, it was pretty much the verdict we were expecting.

We're trying not to let it over-stress us too badly, but I can't help thinking  that apparently we were pretty gullible in trusting the Banks representative when he told us that using the system will absolutely not void our warranty. It does seem as if you need to go out with the attitude that you can't trust anyone, and I hate being like that. We had also done extensive research before selecting the 2008 Ford450 truck, wanting to make the right decision. Did the Banks tuner cause the failure? Some say no way, others say possibly. I don't know that we can ever know for sure. We have to just go on from here I guess.

We have investigated several options. Al has always been a fan of Cummins engines, having had them in his boat for so many years. There is an outfit in Montana that does conversions, putting the Cummins engine into the Ford truck. He talked to those folks for awhile. We tossed around the idea of a totally new-to-us truck, the issue would be finding one that we like, is big enough for our needs, and within budget. Dean our service representative, gave us two options: a rebuilt engine with a one year warranty, or a brand new engine with a two year unlimited mileage warranty.

So: after discussing it with several folks, including a very good friend who is a lawyer; after investigating similar experiences and resolutions on the internet; after learning about how the appeal and arbitration process works with BBBAuto; discussing the overall condition of our truck with Dean at Young Ford; we have come to a decision. We will be putting a brand new engine in our current truck. The truck is in great condition, new brakes, batteries last year and new tires the year before. There is no body damage at all and the interior is in pretty good condition. We are putting less miles on it now that we are traveling with the TB, so we are pretty much just using the truck for towing. We are at 120K miles, and the new engine should easily get us to at least 300K miles. A new engine costs roughly $2,500 more than a rebuilt, but has a 2 year warranty vs. a 1 year and (hopefully) comes with no previous issues. Yes, we will be removing the Banks tuner from the truck as well!

We are maintaining a hopefully happy and healthy outlook about the whole ordeal. It could be a lot worse. We could have serious health issues plaguing us after all. We have the resources to deal with it, although we are not too happy about digging into our savings to pay for it. After all, we could be sitting here wondering how in the world we would come up with the cash to pay for it. By the grace of good friends and employers, we did arrive at our summer positions and have been able to work this summer....we could have been sitting in Evanston WY for the last four weeks twiddling our thumbs! We will be ok and work through this as we do any other problem.

I do wish to offer a warning though, to anyone who has a warranty or extended warranty on their vehicle: read your policy carefully, and be extremely wary of ANY after-market products that offered. Warranty companies look for ANY excuse they can find to deny a claim. Don't believe the sales pitches that claim their products don't affect warranty work....they do! Even having oil changes done at places like JiffyLube can be enough for them to deny a claim (not using the "approved" fuel filters"). Seriously. Another case I read that lost their claim was because someone changed the size of their tires from stock. The auto companies have a lot more lawyers and money than we do and can afford to tie things up in court and arbitration for far longer than we can deal with. So be very very careful about what modifications you do to your vehicle. We've learned the hard way. We thought we were doing a good thing for our truck, but it turns out we ended up costing ourselves a pretty penny.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We Clean "Clean"...and Some Fun Stuff

We've had a very busy first two weeks here at Luton's Teton Cabins. We hit the ground running with two weeks of six day work weeks on the schedule. Whew, that was quite a change to do considering we haven't had a workamping job since Christmas :-)!

Our job here at the ranch is mainly housekeeping. There are 13 cabins and one separate log house that are available for rent. The cabins are set up with 2 separate cabins in one building, 10 two bedroom units and 4 one bedroom units. You can view some interior pictures of the cabins here. Bear in mind that these cabins are 19 years old, most of the appliances are original equipment, and it all looks brand new! Each cabin gets housekeeping each day. There are different levels of housekeeping that we have learned, and also there is a specific process involved. It has been very informative and I do believe I am becoming a much better house cleaner :-).

Our typical day begins at 9AM, unless we're slated for laundry duty when we start at 8AM. Laundry is a whole different ballgame from housekeeping, so I'll stick with the housekeeping for now. We have a morning "huddle" with the entire crew for the day to go over the schedule and what cabin gets what service. Our three  levels of service are comprised of the following:

Make-ups: every day each occupied cabin receives a make-up. We work as a team of three to four workers, each with a task to accomplish. First person in starts cleaning the bathroom; all purpose cleaner on the entire tub and surround making sure all hairs are disposed of; complete cleaning of the toilet, every inch covered with all purpose cleaner; all chrome surfaces are polished with Windex.; Windex is also used to shine the tub and surround; floor is cleaned, by hand, with all-purpose cleaner. Second person in takes the vanity area, cleaning the sink and counters, Windex the mirrors and fixtures, dusting the light bulbs and light switches. Third person does supplies: replaces towels, vanity items (we supply shampoo, lotion, soap, shower cap and make-up remover pads, drinking cups and toilet paper); also replaces kitchen supplies ( Dawn, Cascade, scour powder, sponges, scrubbies, brushes, paper towels and dish rags) as well as coffee filters, and (I think this is a great idea) small tins for grease. One person will sweep floors and dust dining chairs, while two make the beds. Once everything is done, one person does "final check" to make sure everything is clean and in place. It takes about twenty minutes to do a make-up cabin.

Sheet Change Make-ups: Any guest staying more than three nights also gets a complete sheet change on the third night in addition to the regular make-up. Before housekeeping gets in a cabin, the laundry person has gone in and taken out the trash, stripped the beds and taken all used towels out. The night before, baskets have been prepared with the proper sets of sheets for each cabin and delivered to the door so they are ready for us to go in and make up the beds. We also have to vacuum the carpets on sheet change day. Sheet change make-ups will take us about 30-40 minutes to get done.

Check-outs: Big cleaning! The entire kitchen is cleaned after a guest checks out. The refrigerator has been turned off by laundry and the freezer started defrosting. The range is taken apart and cleaned: grids off, burners off, knobs off and all washed and cleaned. The oven is completely cleaned and the broiler, with aluminum foil placed on the bottom of the oven and on the broiler pan to help prevent huge messes. I tell you, the range is sparkling :-). The refrigerator is completely cleaned wiped dry, also the freezer compartment and ice cube trays refilled and put back in. Every dish, glass, utensil and pan is taken out of cabinets and drawers and inspected for cleanliness, cabinets wiped out and everything placed back in the cabinets in a specific order. Microwave, coffee pot, toaster are all cleaned and shined up (with Windex, of course!). Counters and sink are then cleaned and shined. It usually takes one person about an hour and a half to do the kitchen in its entirety, unless the range has been abused....a dirty oven with a boil-over can take a very long time to clean!
The bathroom is completely cleaned, as well as the vanity area, with all the woodwork also being wiped down and cabinets cleaned. All the woodwork in the cabin (window frames, chairs, tables nightstands headboards) are polished with Old English Oil, and the insides of drawers and closets are dusted with a damp rag. Windows are cleaned inside and out. Carpets are vacuumed, checking under beds for hidden objects. Beds had been stripped and remade ( if you checked out the interior pictures, the owner JoAnn made all of the beautiful quilts on the beds), blinds dusted. Last thing is mopping the floor, and we're done. We figure about 1 1/2-2 hours to do a check-out cabin. Of course, things get a bit hectic when the cabin is also a check-in on the same day, and the guests take their time leaving in the morning :-). So far, we've managed to get everything done on time. We've had excellent trainers, a couple who has been coming back every summer for the last nine years.

We are starting to be trained to work in laundry as well, so we'll have that assignment at least one day a week. Laundry starts earlier, and gets in the cabins as soon as guests leave for the day. Trash is taken out, wet and dirty towels are removed, hide-a-beds are checked. Laundry also uses the wet towels to give an initial sweep of the shower to get rid of the bulk of the hair, and wipes down the shower curtain and dries it. If it is a check-out, any leftover food is removed as well, and all the beds stripped. Back in the laundry room we have a commercial washer and dryer and all the linens are washed, folded and put away in a huge linen closet. Its a busy area, and at times the laundry person is hard-pressed to keep ahead of the housekeeping crew :-).

Miscellaneous tasks we help out with as needed included lawn mowing, gardening, some painting at times. The bulk of the spring cleaning was done by the time we arrived, but we did help with the final few cabins and lodge. In spring cleaning, not only the woodwork gets oiled with Old English Oil, but every single log in the cabin and the ceiling are oiled as well. That's a big job!

Well ok, I guess that's enough about our jobs. We have also done some exploring of the area, taken a few hikes and met in person finally Carol and John Herr of Our Trip Around The Sun. They are working in the area as well, for Grand Teton Association. We met for breakfast and a hike last Sunday and had a great time!

We chose the Swan Lake Heron Pond hike, a 3 mile hike at Colter Bay. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was outstanding. We started out along the shore of Colter Bay.

The wildflowers are starting to bloom in great abundance.

Heron Pond

I didn't spot any herons, but there were some white pelicans.

One flew overhead for a good view :-).

There are also a lot of Canadian Geese, there are a few swimming at the bottom of the picture.

John, Carol and Al as we arrived at Swan Lake. There's a pair of trumpeter swans that call this home, but unfortunately they were too far away for me to get a good picture.

The trail led through a forest of tall trees. The trail closer to the shoreline of Swan lake was closed for trail restoration.

Swan lake is covered with lily pads. I bet it will be beautiful in a short while when they start blooming.

Heading back to Colter Bay.

More of the beautiful shoreline of Colter Bay.

We had such a wonderful time with John and Carol that we have made plans to head to Yellowstone together next Sunday. We're going to begin our explorations of the Park in the Old Faithful geyser area. I expect we'll have another wonderful day :-).

Monday was our second day off, and the weather was not really nice like Sunday. It is cloudy, rainy and getting a bit cold, so we took the dogs out for a walk in the morning in between showers, and then went for a drive in the afternoon. We stopped at Mormon Row an historic area of the park, and just had to take a picture of the "most photographed barn in the United States". The backdrop is fairly stupendous, don't you think?

We had driven down here as we have been told there is a den of coyote kits under one of the barns. There was no activity while we were there, but after we left Al's observant eyes spotted  this beautiful adult off in the sagebrush down the road.

We also captured this beautiful picture of a female western bluebird. I'm always so thrilled to get a good picture of a bird :-).

We drove up a forest service road exploring and found this beautiful spot for a picnic lunch. It was too cold and wet to sit outside, but the view was just as nice sitting in the car :-).

A selection of wildflowers.

On the way back to the ranch, we found this stereotypical yet beautiful picture of the bison in front of the Teton Mountains. 

And that's what we've been up to. The work is hard, but not bad, and we have another great bunch of couples to work with this summer...we've been so lucky with that! Its a bonus that as we go in and out of the cabins while working, we have this to look at:
It's not so bad is it??

The End

Monday, June 9, 2014

At The Ranch

I still have a couple more blogs to post about our stay in Moab, but things will be a little out of sequence as I wanted to update everyone on where we are, and what we're doing!

First, the truck update: as of Friday, it was still at Young Ford in Morgan Utah. Ford had decided before they would authorize a new engine, they wanted the engine torn down to find out exactly what is wrong. That, of course, added extra days. Friday Dean called and said that a fuel injector had stuck open, dumping extra fuel into the cylinders, and that cylinder 6 was burned out and cylinder 8 was close. He sent the diagnosis and pictures to Ford extended warranty and is awaiting their decision. He doesn't expect them to deny the claim, but said they MAY send out an inspector to verify the damage. Hopefully not, and work can get started soon this coming week. Fingers and toes are all crossed!

We pretty much hit the ground running here at Luton's. We arrived Friday afternoon, and got settled into our site. Saturday we were off all day and set out to do a brief exploration of this north end of Grand Tetons National Park. Saturday night we gathered at the Lodge to have dinner with the other couples working here, and hosted by our employers, Brad and JoAnn Luton. JoAnn had prepared a great meal of baked ham and sausage, with roasted potatoes and vegetables, dinner rolls and pie for dessert. During dinner they encouraged each couple to talk about where we're from, how long we've been working on the road, where we've been. It was a wonderful introduction to each other, and Brad and JoAnn also participated, telling us their history and how the guest cabins came to be. It's quite a fascinating story.

The cabins as viewed from across the field

Both Brad and JoAnn's families are long time Wyoming families, and the guest ranch is built on a parcel of land originally belonging to JoAnn's family. In 1989 they had to make a decision on what direction they were going to go with the property, and ultimately decided on making a portion of the property a guest ranch, with cabin accommodations for visitors coming to Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park. 

The cabins were all built by Brad and JoAnn themselves, with help from a few family members. They started by getting a permit from the Forestry Service to harvest dead lodge pole pine from the forest ( the trees had been killed by the devasting fires in 1988), and then  felled the trees, hauled them out of the forest, and did the process of "peeling" the logs. All before actually beginning the construction of the buildings! They have a scapbook online, which can be viewed here going into more detail of the process. I found it all fascinating, as well as not being able to imagine the work that was involved.

The cabins have now been in use for 19 years, and as unbelievable as it sounds, they look brand new. Once I go into detail of the cleaning and maintenance processes, you will understand why :-).

This is the office for check-ins, with a cozy room with a fireplace that has seating and plenty of reading material about the area.

The left side of the office building is the Lodge, with dining tables and a large kitchen. In the beginning they used to serve meals, but found it wasn't a service that most people needed or wanted, and was not a breaking even proposition for them. All cabins have full kitchen facilities, as well as an outdoor grill and picnic table, so most guests make their own meals. If there is a large family gathering that needs more room they are welcome to use the dining room to gather for meals. We are also free to use the tables for worker gatherings, game nights and such.

The Welcome wheel as you enter down the long drive from the main road

Casey is in seventh heaven, as outside of the guest area is this beautiful open field where he can run to his heart's content off leash.

Each night we walk out after dinner to visit with the horses. There were cows in the pasture across the street when we arrived, but they have moved to the summer grazing fields. 

The horses are beautiful!

Our sites are behind the cabins. There are four couples, three of us are here and the last one is coming this week.

We walk out of our driveway across the cattle guard (Casey and Honey have learned to walk on the edge like a balance beam, its so funny), then cross the field to the far fence.

We have about a half mile walk down the fence line, and come to a footbridge across the creek...

from there we start going UP! There are miles of trails out here to be explored, and we don't need to even drive anywhere :-). Of course, we ALWAYS carry our bear spray if we go further than the footbridge. It is always a possibility they are out there, and there is also a wolf den somewhere in the area. Al did see a wolf in the distance one morning, but it took off as soon as he and the dogs came in view (a good thing). 

The dogs love poking around the sagebrush, and all the holes to poke their noses into....luckily, there are no rattlesnakes here, so we don't have to worry about that....just bears and wolves :-).

The creek running through the ranch. It also has an offshoot right behind our sites, and I've seen lesser scaups and ruddy ducks back there quite often. I've been told sometimes the river otters travel through, but I haven't seen them yet.

The few spots we've checked out so far include Coulter Bay. This side has Leeks Marina and restaurant, with some pretty tasty pizza.

The other side of Colter Bay has a large Park Service Visitor's Center, marina, campgrounds, a General Store, and a Convenience store, as well as a gas station. It is closer to us than Jackson, but you don't want to do much shopping there, or fill up your gas tank...pretty hefty prices :-).

We drove to the top of Signal Mountain one night after work. These yellow flowers are in bloom everywhere and are just beautiful.

I guess I got a little ahead of myself. Once Sunday arrived, we started work and had six days in a row to start! Training was Sunday and Monday, which are going to be our normal days off this summer, so just the way the schedule ran, we were going to be working seven days in a row. Ouch! The days aren't too long though, starting between 8 and 9 and going until 3:30-4, sometimes later as the season wears on. And by Friday I think they were feeling sorry for us so we had Saturday and Sunday off, so only six days :-). We really haven't done too much exploration, but we did check out a couple of dirt roads already ;-). 

One road was Prairie Creek Road, which led to a hiking trail into the Teton-Bridger National Forest. We saw some elk on the way to the trailhead....

and a beautiful male moose on the way back! The hike was not too successful, as it had rained the night before and the trail was very wet and muddy. Add trail horse riders to the mix, and it was really sloppy going. We persevered though, for a about 3/4 of a mile, slogging uphill most of the way, until we came to a pretty deep water crossing that had no crossing area. We threw in the towel at that point and headed back. I like to think it was because the moose was waiting for us to come and see him :-).

The clouds were covering the peaks today, but lent some nice shadowing to the contours.

Well I guess this is enough for now. It gives everyone an idea of where we are and what is going on. We have so much more to explore. I will also get some pictures of the inside of the cabins and Lodge, they are beautiful. And I'll also go into more detail of the work that we are doing here :-). I certainly feel at this time that it should be a very good summer for us here!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Update on Truck and Arches National Park

A lot has happened since I last wrote. The truck is safely waiting at Young Ford in Morgan Utah. The last we heard on Thursday was that Ford extended warranty had called them and requested an engine tear-down before authorizing an order for a new engine. They are still covering the repair, but apparently want to see exactly where the issues are before authorizing a complete new engine. Our service rep Dean said this would add a few days on to the schedule.

Good fortune has shone down on us though. Of course, with the set back to our schedule, I sent off an email to our boss, Brad, explaining our predicament and that we would let him know as soon as we did an estimated time of arrival. Shortly thereafter, we received a call from Brad. We discussed our options back and forth, and to make a long story short, Brad arranged for a co-workamper couple to head on down to Evanston with their truck, and towed our coach up to the ranch for us. So we are settled into our summer home here at Luton's Teton Cabins, able to start work on time after all, and so grateful to the compassionate and giving nature of our fellow workampers. It truly is a wonderful community.
The view of Grand Tetons National Park from our campsite. Awesome isn't it? We started work today, and after I am caught up from last week I'll post pictures of the ranch and what our jobs are all about this year. But be patient, as we are working the next 6 days in a row :-). Nothing like jumping in right away!

I do still have some catching up to do, as there are two National Parks, one National Monument, and some fun hiking we did that I haven't shown you yet :-). This post will be about our first day visiting one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen, Arches National Park in Moab Utah.

We had arrived in Moab after a short three hour drive from Torrey Utah on May 20. I had tried to get reservations in a really nice RV Park that our friends Steve and Joan had stayed at, Portal RV Resort, but they were all booked up when I called in March. We ended up at Moab Rim Campark which was a nice campground (until the holiday weekend, but the issue wasn't their fault and a different story), clean and just south of town. It is right on the highway so there was highway noise to deal with, but it wasn't too bad. We decided to have dinner out our first night, and had a really good dinner at The Moab Brewery.

Arches National Park was our first destination Wednesday morning. First stop was the Visitor's Center to pick up maps and information. We had the dogs with us that day, so it was just the driving tour and reconnaissance mission :-). They also have a CD narrated driving tour of the park for rent for five bucks, so we did that. It was very interesting, I enjoy taking the audio tours of parks when a ranger tour isn't a viable option. 

After leaving the Visitor Center you start climbing up switchbacks, and the first stop was an overlook of the Moab fault line. The highway pretty much follows the fault line that occurred about six million years ago, causing the east side (that we are on) to sink about 2600 feet lower than the west side (across the highway).

The landscape immediately became stunning. This area is called "Park Avenue". The sheer walls of this canyon reminded early visitors of tall skyscrapers.

The "Petrified" Dunes, with the LaSal Mountains in the background. Petrified implies that they were once an organic organism like wood, but here it refers to sand that has been cemented into rock.

In Cathedral Valley there are several formations that have names. The most popular formation in this group is the three pillars on the left, called the "Three Gossips".

Balanced Rock is one of the most popular formations in the park. It looks like a rock has been cemented on top of a column, but in actuality it is all one formation. A widely told story exists about an elderly gentleman who swore the lighter colored layer was cement, and climbed up there to prove it was. He ended up getting stranded and needed to be rescued by Park personnel!

Cove of Caves area on the way to the Windows formations. Scenes from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" were filmed here. As we swung through the parking area for the Windows formations, it was very crowded and no spaces available, so we'll return to that later!

Salt Valley

The iconic view of Arches National Park and is featured on their state license plate: Delicate Arch. It's down in the left side of the picture, I took this from the lower overlook point. One can take a 3 mile round trip to the base of the arch, but not today: no dogs allowed! We thought about going back and doing it later in the week, but when the rains came through over the weekend it flooded the entrance area and Park Rangers had the area closed.

The Fiery Furnance area, so named because of the way the formation is situated, the setting sun's rays light up the red rocks brilliantly, making it seem like they are on fire. There is a Ranger guided hike through the Fiery Furnace twice a day, as it is very easy to become lost in the maze of rocks. We did inquire about doing this hike during the week we are there, but the Ranger at the Visitor center told us the hikes were booked solid for the next two months. Since the advent of online reservations, he said it's highly unlikely to get a spot by walking in. Shame.

Skyline Arch, on the way to the end of the scenic drive at The Devil's Garden. There's also a campground down here, and we drove through, checking it out. Very nice. No hookups, but what scenery!

Having come to the end of the scenic drive, we decided to head back to the campground, take the dogs for a walk, have an early dinner, and then we would return to the park  ourselves to do the hikes around the Windows area, and possibly get some nice sunset pictures.

This formation is called "Nefertiti"

The Windows section with the LaSal Mountains in the background.

North Window

South Window

Together, they are referred to as "The Spectacles"!

Turret Arch. It's really hard to get pictures without any people in them, but at least the little figures on the right give a sense of scale to the formation :-).

Double Arch

The sun is setting....

and we're done for the day!