Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thieves Steal More Than Stuff

At home in Fort Worth...

Arriving home from work a couple of weeks ago, I turned the key in the front door and found it was unlocked.  This was highly unusual, as I knew Sandy was gone and that she is a stickler for locking all the doors and setting the burglar alarm.  However, thinking this was one of those rare omissions on her part, I opened the door, only to hear the unmistakable beeping sequence from the burglar alarm indicating that it had been tripped.  If I had had my wits about me, I should have gone outside immediately and called the police, for I didn’t know at the time if some unwanted person was still in the house.  Obviously, I hadn’t accepted what the alarm was telling me, for I simply walked over to the keypad, entered the code and shut off the urgent beeping. It was when I walked into the den and saw the back door ajar with remnants of the door latch strewn across the floor that I began to realize what had happened. 

Stupidly, I still didn’t leave the house, even though the intruders could still have been in another room waiting for me.  Instead, I calmly began to look around to see what was missing.  I noticed that none of the electronic gear or computers had been taken and that a new pistol in its case was still on my desk in the study.  Walking into the master suite, I noticed that the drawers in Sandy’s jewelry case were strewn about the floor, all empty.  It was only then that I called 911, wondering why the police had not already arrived after the alarm was tripped.  I later learned that, while the alarm system activated the interior siren upon the break-in, the system failed to contact the alarm monitoring center.  The company immediately sent out a technician who replaced the controller that had malfunctioned.  This revealed another mistake: I had not tested the alarm in a very long time.  It was probably because the siren was sounding that the thief (or thieves) went only for the jewelry and didn’t look for other valuables.  I’m told a burglar knows that he has about six minutes on average before a police response to the location is likely.

While waiting for the police, I called Sandy, who was en route home herself, and told her what had happened so that she wouldn’t be alarmed to see a police cruiser in front of the house when she arrived.  She was mortified, of course, over having our security violated and the loss of jewelry worth many thousands of dollars, almost all of which I had given her on special occasions over the past 36 years.  It was not until we began taking an inventory of the pieces that were missing and assessing the replacement value that we realized how imprudent we were for not having nearly enough insurance for this kind of loss. 

After moving through several stages of shock, anger and grief, we realized that it was just stuff, after all, and that we were not harmed was what was important.  What will never be the same is a sense of security.  We now realize how vulnerable most of us are, considering how easy it was for a thief to gain entrance with one kick to the rear door.  It was all the more shocking because no one in our neighborhood could recall any trouble of this kind for many years. 

We installed a new, stronger door, of course, along with a barrier bar, and we upgraded the security system with an outside siren.  We also installed cameras on all sides of the house and at the entrances with a digital interface for the images to be visible from our smart phones.  I’m not sure what will be gained from this, other than having the capability of watching a break-in in real time, but maybe it will provide some kind of deterrent and perhaps help in identifying criminals if, God forbid, something like this happens again.  

Even as I am writing this, it is difficult to accept that our culture has come to this.  Growing up in the fifties in a small town in east Texas, we had no concept of crime.  Our doors were never locked, our parents often left the car keys in the ignition when parked, and my friends and I roamed the neighborhoods at will with no fear of any evil befalling us.  The answer is fairly simple, however.  Considering the degree to which God has been pushed out of our institutions and our lives, it is no surprise that ungodly things take His place.  I am very fearful for our children and grandchildren.

I read the blogs of many fulltimers out there who have jettisoned their S&B houses and don’t have to worry about criminal mischief at their residences while they are gone.  I envy that freedom, but I’m thinking now that we’re not really safe anywhere these days. I suppose that feeling will lessen over time, but I really miss the days of my youth.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stuck at home? Why not buy more toys?!

At home in Fort Worth... 

I enjoy a fairly generous leave allowance in my government job, but I burned a good deal of it recovering from hip surgery. Until the leave balance accumulates again, I will be on a pretty short leash in terms of time available for travel in the next several months.  This means we will be restricted mainly to short trips taken over extended weekends.  We took Phannie to San Antonio recently in a caravan with Bubba and LouAnn in their new coach that he has named “Woody.”  (You’ll have to ask him about the name; I’m not going there.) 

We enjoyed the trip immensely, and it was my first time driving Phannie after rehab.  The only casualty was a broken end cap on the entrance door awning, that damage having happened as we left home and struck a low hanging tree limb not far from our neighborhood.  The awning still works, but the broken end cap is being ordered by Bobby, my new mobile RV service tech.  If you ever find yourself in need of a first class RV repair service in the DFW area, I strongly recommend Bobby Dowdle at (972) 697-6325.  He’s also an expert satellite TV technician.

Corralled as I am by the leave gods, I am using this time to add more improvements to Phannie.  (What better thing to do with my money since I’m not spending it on diesel fuel right now?) 

The first “toy,” as Sandy calls these things, was a Pro Fill battery watering system, sorely needed in Phannie because Tiffin didn’t see fit to install the batteries in a pull-out service tray in 2006 Phaetons—in my book, a major oversight! This makes checking the water levels in the house batteries very difficult and the engine batteries almost impossible, because these are even further out of sight behind the house batteries!  I'm thinking about having the engine batteries moved to a small compartment adjacent to their current crowded location.

The Pro Fill System

Phannie's crowded battery compartment with Pro Fill installed

The next improvement was to replace the cockpit map lights.  The cheap plastic ones with tiny bulbs that Tiffin installed at the factory were almost useless in terms of brightness.  The only value of these things was perhaps to enable you to find a map; you certainly could not use them to make out any map details.  Lighting a candle would have been an improvement!  I ordered a couple of nice LED lights from Camping World, and they fit perfectly in the space available over the front cockpit seats.  They cost about $100 for the pair, but they are obviously of high quality and provide more than enough light for map reading (not that we do much of that now, with GPS and all).

The original two-bit map light over copilot's seat; Tiffin should be ashamed.

The solution:  About $50 from Camping World

Installation - A Snap!

Light galore - What an improvement!

The next “toy” was an induction cookplate.  I had been reading about these for some time, waiting for the prices to come down and, being a gadget freak, I just had to try it.  It is truly a marvel, and I’ve added a video here.
Induction Cookplate

So, what’s shaping up here with Phannie and all of her new accouterments is a very expensive static display.  We've got to get on the road so we can try out all the new stuff!  By the way, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned retirement day in a while.  The date I had set is not far off!  Will I actually take the plunge?  Who knows… I can’t wait to find out!