Saturday, April 28, 2007

Protech awarded RVRN Certification; Benton, KY

On April 25, 2007, after three days of training, Ed received his certification from the RVRN(Recreational Vehicle Refrigeration Network) Association. Protech Mobile RV Service and Repair will now specialize in rebuilding RV refrigerator cooling units.

The RVRN trade organization was started by Roger and Onna Lee Ford of Ford RV Refrigeration located in Benton, KY. The Fords have been in business for 23 years and have developed procedures for rebuilding RV refrigerator cooling units. These systems are ammonia based, unlike Freon-based systems in our residential refrigerators and freezers. When the coils that hold the ammonia corrode, they develop leaks, requiring either a new refrigerator or a new cooling unit. Most dealers don't repair RV cooling units. Instead, they install new ones that cost over $1100. They will generally give a one-year warranty. But by rebuilding the unit using the Ford procedures, the cooling units are better than new. So good, in fact, that the warranty is five years unlimited, including parts and labor. But the best part is that the customer saves hundreds of dollars on the repair.

Roger and Onna Lee founded the RVRN to teach the procedures that they have perfected over the years to other technicians. They have already trained over 300 techs. The goal is to have a complete network across the country that will honor the warranty. Once a tech is trained and has joined the RVRN network, he has a 100-mile radius protected territory. Protech Mobile RV Service is the exclusive distributor for Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Ed's training was abbreviated since he already holds Master Certification in RV Repair from the RV Industry Association. These photos were taken during Ed's written and practical tests. Here Onna Lee is getting Ed set to begin.

This is the charging board, one of the specialized tools that Roger has developed. Each make and model of RV refrigerator has its own formula for the ammonia solution. This tool ensures that the correct charge is applied.

Exacting quality standards and rigorous testing set the RVRN system apart from other rebuilders. Any leak in the steel evaporator is repaired by welding.

Ed and Roger are comparing cooling units from Dometic and Norcold, the two major brands of RV refrigerators.

Ed and I believe that this specialty is a perfect fit with his mobile RV repair business. Now that Ed has the training and the tools, our next step is to get a shop location in CT where he can do the work. Then we have to get the word out. So...don't throw that camper refrigerator away! Call Ed at 860-803-2359 or visit for updates and more information.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moor's Resort; Benton, KY

From Oklahoma City, we traveled on I-40 through Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. Between the two, we had an unscheduled overnight stay in the tiny town of Forrest City, AR. The motorhome lost its serpentine belt and we had to get towed off the highway. We spent the night in the parking lot of the repair facility but were on the road by 10:30 the next morning. Since we were a day behind, we just had a quick overnight in Memphis. We stayed at Tom Sawyer RV Park, right on the bank of the Mississippi River and went into the city for some delicious barbecue (something in short supply in the Southwest!)

We are now in Benton, KY, at Moor's Resort, enjoying a beautiful view of Kentucky Lake from our campsite, for only $25 a night.

The lake is 165 miles long and, along with Lake Barkley, was formed when the mile-long Kentucky Dam was built on the Tennessee River. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area protects the area from development and preserves it for the people to enjoy fishing and boating.

We'll be leaving here tomorrow and will be making a bee-line for Connecticut, about 1100 miles to go. In my next post, I'll explain about the RV refrigerator reconditioning training and certification that Ed received here from the RVRN through Ford Refrigeration and what it means for Protech's future. We're excited!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Twelve years ago today, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P.Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people died as a result of his act of terrorism. In place of the building, a memorial park now stands. 5th Ave., where the rental truck exploded, is covered by a shallow reflecting pool of water. Out of ashes came beauty.

168 empty chairs are laid out in nine rows. Each chair was cast individually and the name of a victim of the bombing was cast in each seat. The nine rows stand for the nine floors of the Murrah building.

Granite monuments guard each end of the memorial park. One is engaved with the time 9:01; the other with 9:03. The time inbetween, 9:02, marks the minute the bomb went off and changed everything for the people in the Murrah building, Oklahoma City, and America. It was the first act of domestic terrorism that we had ever known.

The chainlink fence that was erected in the days after the bombing became a place of tributes laid to the victims. It was decided to make a section of this fence a permanent part of the memorial.

These photos and notes brough tears to my eyes.

The purpose of this national memorial is engraved on the outside of each of the two monument gates. It says, "We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity."

Ironically, the day of our visit here was the same day of the massacre at Virginia Tech. And we felt the impact of violence again.

St Joseph's Church, across the street, was heavily damaged in the bombing. The church erected this statue of Jesus, with his back turned away from the bomb site, with the inscription, "And Jesus Wept." And so Camille and Ed did the same.

But this Dutch elm tree, although damaged, somehow lived through the shaking. Over 100 years old, it is now called "The Survivor Tree". It still stands, overlooking the memorial park as a symbol of hope.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Weather changes our itinerary

From Moab, we had planned to pick up I-70 and visit Colordao, Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky. Well, Mother Nature had other plans. A blizzard in Colorado forced us to turn south and plan a return via I-40. The front that brought tornadoes to Texas and South Carolina and the huge nor'easter to New England started in the West. We decided to hole up in Gallup, NM for a couple of days. Due to our time frame for being in Benton, KY for Ed's training at Ford Refrigeration, we had to make tracks from Gallup to Tucumcari, NM and Oklahoma City, OK. Future stops will be Little Rock, AR and Memphis, TN with arrival in Benton by Sat. 4/21. We will leave Benton on Thurs. 4/26 and be back in CT by May 1.

Arches National Park; Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah, is a haven for mountain bikers and ATV riders. The myriad off-road trails cut through red sandstone known as slickrock. But Arches National Park, five miles north of Moab, is reserved for hikers and bikers to explore petrified sand dunes and rock formations known as fins.

Fins sometimes become arches when the salt bed, deposited 300 million years ago when a sea covered the Colorado Plateau, erodes from harder rock layers.

Many of the park's 2000 arches can only been seen by hiking to them. On the day of our visit, it was so cold and windy that we toured the 18-miles scenic drive by car. We were able to see the most famous arch, Delicate Arch, from about 3/4 of a mile away.

Balanced rock will make you scratch your head, trying to figure out how it seems to defy gravity!

The Cove of Caves contains arches and some future arches-in-progress.

The La Sal Mountains provide a glorious background.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dead Horse Point State Park; Moab, Utah

The concentration of national parks and monuments in the "Four Corners" region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah speaks to the geology of the area. Canyons and mesas sculpted by the Colorado River and erosion of sandstone by ice, water, and wind have created a unique landscape. This region is known as the "Grand Circle". Some parks, including the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Cedar Breaks, were closed in early April. At 8000' elevations, they were still snowed in. But while in Utah, after Zion and Bryce, we decided to visit Moab, gateway to two more parks - Arches and Canyonlands.

Our home base was Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse Point sits atop a 6000' elevation plateau left between canyons carved by the Green River and the Colorado River.

The view from the promontory of the point is extraordinary. Two thousand feet above the Colorado River, Canyonlands National Park goes on seemingly forever.

In the other direction, a view of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. These mountains also provide the backdrop to the formations of Arches National Park, our next stop.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Zion Mountain Resort ATV Tour

Ed & I are not what you would call avid hikers. But there is another way to experience the beauty of Utah's red sandstone canyons. Miles of public lands are open to all-terrain vehicles, otherwise known as ATVs or four-wheelers. Ed thought it would be a lot of fun to try it...and he was right!

We made a reservation for a 2 1/2 hr. personal guided ATV tour offered through Zion Mountain Resort. Our tour guide, Brady, showed Ed how to work the controls of the ATV and we took a practice run around the barn. Soon we were ready to pass by the horse fields and the buffalo meadow and head towards the forest.

The trail along the ridge led through a pine-scented forest of juniper and pinyin.

We took a break to get a view of the east side of the cliff face that we will be descending.

We also get a look down into the valley that is our destination today.

During the break, Brady took the time to describe some of the flora and fauna of the desert landscape. Ed tried chewing the leaves of "Mormon tea", reputed to contain an ephedra-like substance. He pronounced it "not bad". Early Mormon settlers boiled the herb and drank the tea, since they abstained from regular tea and coffee.

As we descended into the canyon over alternately rocky and sandy trail, the rock and soil turns from white to coral pink.

Finally, we reached the end of the trail. We parked the ATV and walked out to the edge to get a view of the Virgin River flowing through the canyon.

Brady took a souvenir photo of me and Ed. The white cliffs in the background are a part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

If we lived in Utah, we would have to get our own ATVs. They are a fun way to get off the beaten path and enjoy awesome scenery on our public lands.

Bryce Canyon National Park; Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is located about 85 miles northeast of Zion. The major difference between the two parks is that the scenic drive is along the rim at Bryce, as opposed to down in the bottom of the canyon at Zion. To reach Bryce from Zion, you have to travel through the tunnel on Rt.9, then follow Rt.89 north, and then head east on scenic Rt.12, climbing all the way from 4000 ft. to 8000 ft. Temperatures are about 10 degrees cooler because of the higher elevation. Considering this, we decided to take a day trip to Bryce from our base camp at Zion rather than move the motorhome to Bryce.

The trip up took us about 2 1/2 hours and was so well worth it. Photos and videos can't do Bryce Canyon justice. But I'll share the photos that I took from various overlooks along the plateau rim, in order to show as much perspective as possible.

The best known section of the park is the Bryce Amphitheater, a semi-circular section of the eastern side of the canyon with the most spectacular hoodoos, pillars of rock created by erosion. The amphitheatre lies behind the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge.

We walked along the Rim Trail behind the Lodge and reached Sunrise Point for our first dramatic views of the hoodoos. This and other photos are best viewed by clicking on them to enlarge, then using your browser's "back" button to return to the blog.

From Sunrise Point, we decided to follow the advice in the tour booklet and drive to the far end of the 18-mile park road which ends at Rainbow Point. Views of southern Utah extend 100 miles on clear days.

Working our way back from Rainbow Point, our next stop was Black Birch Canyon. This close-up gives a better view of the sandstone hoodoos.

Look at the persistent tree growing up at the top of this hoodoo at Agua Canyon.

Natural Bridge is really an arch. It was formed by rain and frost erosion from the top of the rock, not flowing water underneath.

Back at Bryce Point, we have reached the opposite end of the Bryce Amphitheater from Sunrise Point, where we started our tour. At the end of this walkway, views extended almost 360 degrees.

The Under the Rim hiking trail connects Bryce Point with Rainbow Point. We opted to hike down a small section of the Navajo Loop Trail from Sunset Point, also part of the Bryce Amphitheater.

The trail switchbacks all the way down to Bryce Creek.

We opted not to hike all the way to the bottom. But Bryce is a hiker's paradise. We appreciated this view from below the rim.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; Kanab, Utah

About 40 miles southeast of Zion, off Rt.89 south, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon, about 5 miles north of Kanab, Utah. I don't remember exactly where I first learned about this organization, dedicated to saving homeless dogs, cats and other animals. But about five years ago, I must have read something in the newspaper about Best Friends. Since then, I have been a member. Now, I jumped at the opportunity to learn firsthand how this organization has grown to support over 600 each of dogs and cats, as well as horses, birds, and other animals.

Our tour began with a short film at the Welcome Center, shown below.

The film featured Michael Mountain, President, talking about the growth of Best Friends over the last twenty years. Started by 25 concerned people who wanted to help abandoned animals, Best Friends now employs over 400 staff members. A nationally renowned organization, they provide disaster relief aid, helping thousands of animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Best Friends provides training for shelter workers from all over the country in areas such as starting a sanctuary, fundraising, behavioral training for dogs, and public relations.

After the orientation film, eight of us piled into the Best Friends van. Pam and her own rescued pet dog, Callie, took us to tour the facilities.

Pam drove us several miles back from the main road, past the horse pasture where we met a couple of horses grazing. Pam explained that horses are often given up when they can no longer be ridden either due to medical problems or old age. As we drove along, Pam shared that Best Friends owns 3000 acres and leases an additional 30,000 acres from the BLM. The space provides a great buffer between 600 barking dogs and the neighbors! We also drove past Angel's Rest, the pet cemetery. Hundreds of wind chimes tinkle in the breeze donated in memory of cherished pets. The graves are marked with stones. Pam warned us to bring a box of Kleenex if we visited the memorials with very moving inscriptions.

Our first stop was the Cat Headquarters.

We met some of the special needs kitties - blind kitties, tailless kitties, incontinent kitties, disabled kitties. Some were shy but most responded to our petting and demonstrations of affection.

Kitties are free to roam inside or outside. Attached to the buildings, enclosed patios have high rafters for kitties to stroll across, toys, kitty condos, and hide-aways.

Next stop - Dogtown. Thanks to a generous contribution from a couple from CA, the dogs have wonderful housing. Octagonal buildings contain separate pens, each pen holds a pack of four dogs who are matched for temperament to live together peacefully.

Dogs can go in and out as they please. Evaporative swamp coolers keep the building air-conditioned even through desert summers.

Back in November 2006, I wrote about our two week stay at Desert Haven Animal Refuge in Williamsburg, New Mexico. Desert Haven is modeled on Best Friends, although on a much smaller scale. I was inspired to help Eliana Aubin, President of the Sierra County Humane Society, by revamping their web site. Check it out at Both Best Friends and Desert Haven need donations and volunteers. But Desert Haven doesn't have the high profile of Best Friends. If you go to southern Utah, check out Best Friends. In New Mexico, check out Desert Haven. Best Friends has just installed two RV sites and Desert Haven has a small RV park on the property.In either place, the animals need you.