Petroglyph National Monument

During our stay we ventured out to find the Petroglyph’s which were almost in Albuquerque itself.   Its spread out over a large area so we hit the visitor center first and checked out the map.  After looking at all the sites in the area we chose the one they allowed dogs on the trails which was quite a few miles north of the visitor center.  We drove  thru lots of neighborhoods getting there.    When we finally got there we were kind of surprised to see the trailhead was in a housing development and right behind a small store.   We parked and headed out on the trail.  Luckily for us it was nice and cool for the uphill hike.   There was no shade anywhere in sight,  I bet its blazing here in the summer months.   I was amazed how many drawings were on the rocks, there were hundreds,  probably thousands of them.   It made me wonder if the parents of the people doing this to the rocks were unhappy akin to the parents of today’s taggers?

This was a nice walk thru the desert just west of downtown Albuquerque.   We finished the loop and then headed back to the car.


Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

This post has been a long time coming..   We arrived at the Balloon Fiesta a few days early to join up with the Escapees’ group,  a first time with that club.   Our area was at the extreme south end of the Balloon Fiesta RV camping lot.   Really it’s just a big dirt lot that we were told in prior era was the Albuquerque dump.   There were a lot of plastic pipes strategically placed sticking up a few inches for someone to open and monitor what was going on below.   When we received the park rules prior to arriving, I was wondering about the rule where it was a requirement to keep your generator or BBQ two feet off the ground.   Now, with the understanding of potential methane seepage from the ground, it all made sense.

You couldn’t believe how close everyone was parked to each other!   Our spots were 20′ wide, but they seemed much smaller.   We lucked out as the coach to our right (passenger side) decided to park way over to the right of their space, giving us about 4 extra feet of space on that side.   I had folded our outdoor carpet so we didn’t go past our space’s sideline; but when the next motorhome pulled in a few days later, I went back and stretched our carpet back out to its full width and still had a couple more feet of room for the patio.

We also got to get some real world testing of the new solar panels,  installed just prior to heading to this event.   They worked better than expected except for a lot of nuisance tripping of the 50 amp breakers I had installed.   Those breakers just weren’t up to the task and kept tripping at around 30 amps of power going into the batteries.  I had a difficult time finding new flush mount circuit breakers while here in ABQ, but eventually found some in stock at an unlikely place called Sportsman’s Warehouse.   Turns out, what I needed was also used for trolling motors and were found in the fishing department of the store.   I installed them and the tripping issue disappeared.  The only problem I found with the new breakers was I could not manually trip them.  So I ordered a new  Bussmann CB185-60 breaker from Amazon when we got home.  These have a way to manually trip them when I want to disconnect the panels from the batteries.

Anyway, back to the Balloon Fiesta.    Our group had a tent where they served breakfast and dinner most of the days we were there.   As the balloons go up starting at dawn, the breakfast serving began at 5am.   Very early for a retired guy to be awake.   But we did make it for about 1/2 the morning breakfasts,  or at least I did.  🙂

. The opening day of the fiesta we took the shuttle bus over to the field.  Thankfully the buses have a road of their own to travel back and forth from the campground to the launch field.  If they didn’t, it might have taken hours to get there.  The traffic was astonishing for that time of the morning,  everyone trying to drive there in their cars at the same time.

We walked onto the field.  It was utter chaos, there were so many people packed around hundreds of balloons trying to inflate and many others already inflated.  I have never seen anything like it.   It was like some of the old music festivals I attended back in the day, there would be 1/2 a million folks on a large field.   This felt like that plus the hundreds of balloons in different states of getting ready to fly.

Then the balloons started to take off in two’s and three’s and then many more were going up at the same time.  It’s an awesome sight to see from below.   All around us were flight “zebras” blowing loud whistles letting the balloon pilots know when it’s safe to take off as the pilots cannot see anything above them due to the very large bag of hot air above them.  I guess it could be disastrous if they rose quickly into another balloon.

We took so many pictures and videos, I filled up my phone the first morning; so when we got back, I pulled them all off including all the other photos and videos to make room for lots more to be taken during the next 10 days.

If only the pictures did justice to the experience.   There were just so many balloons taking off, it was truly a spectacular sight.   I especially liked the special shapes.  I think my favorite were the three honey bees that appeared to be holding hands during their inflation.   They were a mom, dad and baby bee.  The pilots were so skillful they were able to rotate the mom and dad to make them kiss just prior to liftoff.

The Wells Fargo Stagecoach balloon was fantastic, but we never saw it fly.  Seems they just inflate it, but as far as I know it never took off any of the days.   Yoda and Darth Vader were very cool and appeared together often.  There was a large stork and a giant statue from the mountains above Rio.   My guess is there were close to 100 special shape balloons.   The big green boot was probably the oddest of the bunch.

A few of the mornings and evenings there was a lot of wind out here in the desert and the balloons didn’t fly in those conditions.  Luckily the festival has an app for your phone that lets you know what is happening so you don’t traipse over to the field at O’Dark Thirty on a morning that proves to be too windy to fly.   There were lots of other things going on next to the field after the flights, one being a chainsaw carving tournament.   After the Fiesta was over and while we were camped at the Cummins dealer, I met one of the chainsaw carvers as their coach was having turbocharger issues.

Most of the days we chose to bring our chairs over to the edge of the field next to the Escapees tent where lots of balloons end up landing when the wind was just right.    From there you can get a better perspective of the amount of balloons flying at the same time.   They told us there were 555 balloons going up.   I didn’t count them, but it looked like there were more than that.

One of the days we were over there, a balloon came back down onto the takeoff field at a very fast clip.   The zebras were frantically blowing their whistles and running around to clear out all the people from the emergency landing area before it could make its hard landing on someone’s head.   It came down with a loud thud and I didn’t see anyone get hit.  Had someone been under there, I bet there would have been a lot of broken bones to deal with.   As it was, I was wondering how the folks on board that gondola fared.   We didn’t stick around to see if any ambulances arrived, but I didn’t hear any sirens as we continued to wander around the field.

We dry camped there for 12 days, our longest boondocking so far.  When we arrived at the campground, it was very warm in the afternoons; but within a few days, the weather became quite brisk early in the mornings.  A few days it didn’t get much over 50 degrees the whole day; and a couple of the days it rained, and we got to experience some thunder and lightning.   As you know if you’ve read our past blog entries, that’s not something we get to experience much living in San Diego!

Each night after the balloon Glows there was a sky diving team dropped above the field that somehow shot off fireworks as they descended.  I had seen smoke used at other events but never fireworks.   I’m not quite sure how they were doing that, but I would imagine that it could easily go very wrong for them.  After they landed on the field, a few minutes later there were 15-20 minutes of fireworks shot off from the launch field.  We brought our chairs over to the club tent and watched them with the 30 or so Escapees members.

The last day of the event was too windy for the balloons to launch and almost too cold for a couple of San Diegans!   Everyone in the campground, about a thousand RV’s, were supposed to vacate before 11am unless you made prior arrangements to stay one more night there.   I was thinking about doing that till the weather forecast predicted “snow” for late Sunday and Monday.     I had called a bunch of local campgrounds to find a place to stay, but no one had a spot available.  Seems like quite a few of the RV’s leaving the balloon fiesta campground on Sunday morning weren’t traveling very far.

We got out of the campground around 10am and were pleasantly surprised there weren’t any issues on the roadways or even much of a line to get thru the traffic signal at the entrance.   Within a few minutes we were pulling into the local Cummins dealer’s parking lot about 6 miles south of the fiesta grounds and there wasn’t another coach in sight.  I had been wondering if it would be packed due to all the campgrounds in the area being full.   I will need to keep these types of places in mind when needing electric hookups during future travels.  We already posted  about our troubles with the coach during this trip.

Next post should be about our visit to the Petroglyph National Monument.






Breaking Bad props..

While we were camped at the local Albuquerque Cummins dealer awaiting our new radiator to come in we ran across the breaking bad motorhome in Old Town.

We snapped a few pics, I especially liked the bullet holes in the door covered over with duct tape.  Afterward we decided to go find the car wash from the show.   I was curious to see if the cash was still there.

I couldn’t believe how large that car wash was.  It was massive!  I’m pretty sure you could fit a Saturn 5 rocket in there with room for a space shuttle or two.

I looked all around while we were in Albuquerque but never saw Bryan Cranston or even Mike in his old Chrysler.

Issues encountered while going to the Balloon Fiesta

During our Tuesday afternoon drive from Silver City, NM,  we pulled over in a rest area near Socorro, NM, about an hour south of Albuquerque.   I did my usual walk-around prior to getting back on the road.   When checking the toad connections, I noticed some red fluid on the ground under the coach.   I was hoping it was from a prior vehicle parked in the spot; but when I looked underneath, I saw fluid dripping down.  I thought it was transmission fluid as it was red; but when I got a little between my fingers, I realized it wasn’t oily.  Ah Ha.. it was coolant.

I looked into the engine compartment and could not see where it was coming from.   I was hoping it was a hose leaking.    I found a bottle of extra coolant I travel with and poured it into the tank so it was high enough to see in the site-glass again.   Then I headed the hour north with my eye on the engine temp gauge while I called the ABQ Freightliner dealer who proceeded to tell me it would be days before they could get me in to look at it.

My second call was to the ABQ Cummins shop whom I was able to get them to say bring it right in.  I drove there, and Charley, the guy I had talked to, called over the service supervisor, Josh to check it out.  He immediately was able to see where it was coming from and got out his camera and snapped a picture.

We could see it was a hole in the radiator, not a hose as I had hoped.  They wrote up an estimate of $4,700 to replace it.  Holy Cow!   I called my extended warranty company who told me they needed to talk with the mechanic, not me.  Of course he was no longer in sight and I had to hang up as they wouldn’t hold.

Once they came back, I gave Charley the number to call and the account numbers info.   He called them and they wanted a quote for a re-core, not the new radiator I had specified.  (My radiator is likely 12 years old like my coach, so a new one was in order to make it less likely to happen again from metal fatigue)

Charley called them back, and the insurance company argued that a re-core would cost $500 not the $1,800 he was quoting.  (The new one was $2,000)  The claims adjuster appeared to be living in 1972 pricing land.   We left as the insurance company, which is in Florida, closed so Charley was going to rewrite it up with a re-core and submit it the next day.

We drove off to the RV parking at the Balloon Fiesta to wait knowing the part was about a week lead time.   Fast forward to the following Monday,  I called Charley and he said he hadn’t heard back from the Ins Co.  I called them and they said they were still waiting for the quote with the re-core.    It appears Charley never called them back.  I should have figured he might not and should have called him that next day to remind him.  So we were going to pay the price.

I called him back, and he then called and submitted the new quote.   Now we had lost about a week.  Charley called me back to tell me they were going to send an adjuster to look at the problem and they would write up the claim after they got his report.   The adjuster, an independent guy in the area, had 48 hours to be there.   So the next morning we packed up and moved the coach to the Cummins parking lot to camp for a couple of days waiting for him.   While there, I used their dump station and also filled the water tank since we had been dry camping for a week already.   That was good as the Balloon Fiesta had contracted with a company to bring trucks around to the coaches and pump them out for $30 each time and another truck for water refills for another $30.   So by taking advantage of the Cummins stay, we avoided paying that $60.

Around 2 that afternoon a tech knocked on the door and said the adjuster was there.  (Sweet!)

Mike was his name and I told him we needed to find Josh, the service mgr, who had diagnosed the issue and had pics.   He asked the tech to find Josh and send him out.   Josh came out a few moments later and he started discussing  the problem he had seen and showed Mike the pics.   Mike agreed there was a radiator leak, but he needed to know why the radiator was leaking,  was it corrosion or a rock.   That was an interesting conversation,  as Mike proclaimed he was an “expert” and I realized this was probably a hopeless issue for me.

After that I provided a couple rubber mats for him to lie on and he snapped a few pics with a small camera.   He was quite a character and kept repeating he needed to know why it was leaking for the insurance company.   It sounded like he expected the Cummins shop to remove the radiator first so he could inspect it.   That, to me, was a worst-case scenario as we would be “motorhomeless” for a long time and potentially miss the last week of the Balloon Fiesta.   Once the radiator was removed for inspection, the coach was an immovable object, stuck in the repair bay.   And we knew that getting the new radiator was a week afterward.

Mike left saying Charley should hear from the Insurance company before  10 the next morning.   We decided to pack up and go back to the Balloon RV parking lot and wait for the insurance company response.   At least our tanks were empty and the water tank was full again.

The following morning around 11 am I got the call from Charley.   He said the insurance company had authorized the repair for the re-core but would not pay the miscellaneous charges.   So they would pay a little less than $4,400, I authorized Charley to buy the new radiator, which was only $200 more than the re-core, and they ordered it.   I texted a buddy who has had a bit of coach issues recently and I said I should play the lottery after hearing they will pay.  He texted back that I had “already won”.

I called back the next day to see if it was ordered, and he told me it was now 7-10 business days away.  Previously it was 5 business days.   So that put our Halloween party bus night in jeopardy and also my academy training class for volunteering with the SDPD starting on the 29th.

Once the Balloon Fiesta was finished on Sunday morning, we packed up and drove back to the Cummins parking lot to camp there.   They provide 50 amp electric service to 4 spots in their parking lot.   It’s like luxury after two weeks of dry camping using the genny and our new solar panels to recharge the batteries.  (That will be another post about using the solar while dry camping there)

I had called around and there was no availability for camping near ABQ the day the event closed.    Around 800-1,000 RVs were leaving that Sunday morning.   We could have stayed one more day if we wanted to by paying a small fee, but the weather forecast was for snow on Monday.   I didn’t think it would be a great idea to be on the road if it really snowed that morning, so we packed up and headed to the Cummins shop hoping there was a space still available.

When we got there all the RV parking spaces were empty.  Nice!!

We parked it , deployed the slides and hooked up to the 50 amp pedestal, keeping my fingers crossed they didn’t power them down on the weekend.   I plugged it in, flipped the breaker and there were lights on my SurgeGuard.  Sweet!

That night we realized it wasn’t a great area.  Lots of homeless folks in the distance around us.     The next morning, Monday, I asked if there was a tracking number for the shipment.   They didn’t have one but gave me the number of the Freightliner dealer they ordered it thru.   I called them and was fortunately transferred to the receiving dock.  The guy there was able to find the tracking info and said it would be there tomorrow (Tuesday 16th)  Our repair was scheduled for Monday the 22nd, and I hoped to be able to push it up a couple days since the part would be here so soon,  to be able to make it home for the Halloween party; but as the week progressed, we could see how jammed they were.   Lots of RV’s were going in and out of the place.  We met one couple with a 2008 American Tradition coach that had just had their second engine installed at a cost of $33,000.  Yikes.. I asked if they had an extended warranty to cover that but he said no.   Double Yikes!!

We had been having intermittent air leveling issues since our Northwest trip and it started up again on the cold morning at the fiesta campground.   That’s when I realized the problem only occurred when it was below 60 or so degrees.   The cold morning leaving San Francisco,  a cold morning leaving Klamath Falls, then in Coos Bay, and Salem Oregon.  After that it hadn’t occurred till now.   After we left the west side of the Cascades and headed toward the desert of eastern Washington, we hadn’t experienced it again.

Fast forward to this week,  the wind really started to blow hard and a tree behind us started scraping on the roof, so I wanted to move the coach up a foot to prevent that, and the coach wouldn’t level up again and I could hear a lot of air leaking near the rear wheels.

I went inside the Cummins service and asked if they had time to look at it.  That was a negative, so I called the Freightliner dealer and this time they said to bring it right over, which we did.  I finally got it aired up to about 100 lbs, which aired up the bags enough to allow driving it there.  I could still hear the air escaping, but the on-board compressor was just able to keep up enough air pressure to let us drive over there.

After a bit they brought the coach in and were able to find a bad elbow joint, a $2 part was leaking big time.  It seems that when it was warm, the metal must have expanded just enough to lessen the leak so we didn’t notice it.   But it was really cold when we got it there, so they found it almost immediately.   Once that was fixed, the tech stayed underneath and sprayed soapy water on every other fitting he could reach to checking for other leaks.   None were found, and we drove back to the Cummins shop to wait..

It’s Saturday in Albuquerque and our repair work will be starting on Monday at 7 am.   We are going to rent a hotel  Monday night, hoping they will be finished by Tuesday evening so we can stay in the coach Tuesday night and get a really early start home on Wednesday morning.  Or maybe leave late on Tuesday to go up a steep grade to give the work a good field testing.   The camping spots started to fill up in earnest Saturday afternoon and by Sunday there were 5 coach’s plugged into the 4 pedestals.

Monday morning around 7:30 Daniel the mechanic who was assigned to R&R the radiator drove our coach to the furthest bay in the building and backed it in.   We stuck around in case there were any questions, and I asked Josh to let me know when the radiator was out so I could see in there.

About 8:30 the next morning I got the call that the radiator was out and I could come over to look at it.  I was glad I did as I had asked them to replace all the hoses while the radiator was out and they had said all the hoses were straight so nothing needed to be ordered.   When I popped my head under the coach that was high in the air I noticed a molded hose right away and pointed it out to Josh.   He found one other so we were going to need to order them.   Of course there were none in stock nearby so we had to airfreight them and they wouldn’t be there till sometime on Wednesday.  Oh well another night in the hotel would be required.

Wednesday afternoon we got the word that the hoses had arrived and they should have it all finished by 4pm.    Daniel pulled the coach out about then and we got all the paperwork done and headed out on the road thinking we could get a couple hundred miles south before sundown.  But within an hour I realized the sun was going down before we got the 80 miles to Socorro NM.   We tried calling a couple of places but all we got were busy signals.    We drove to one of the places as it was just about dark and the place was sparsely occupied.   I checked in and pulled into a spot with the car hanging out into the interior roadway as that pull thru was meant for something 20 feet long.   We setup for the night and were asleep by 9pm.   The next morning we rose early and were on the road by 8am (7am pacific)   I was planning on getting to Tucson for the night but when we drove thru there at 2pm I decided to try to make Yuma for the night.  We arrived at the campground Kathy called at 5pm checked in and setup for the night.  (Thursday)

The next morning we got on the road at 9am and were parked in front of the house at noon.  Success!    It was warm in San Diego, of course, we had to start unpacking as the coach heated up.





The Gila Cliff Dwellings

On the early morning drive from Silver City to the National Monument, Kathy remarked that this might be a disappointment after the other spectacular cliff dwellings we visited last year.    It took an hour and a half to drive the 44 miles to the park.  Most of the roads were 25 mph due to how narrow and windy with lots of sheer drop-offs.

We visited the visitor center to get a map and also to upgrade my metal water bottle to a nice plastic one with the Gila Logo.   It was much lighter than the metal one I had brought.    Afterward we drove to the trail-head and talked with the ranger about what to expect on the trail.   The first thing you cross is a fairly large metal bridge over the Gila River.    The trail is a loop, and the ranger said to take the first left to go up the valley.

We started out early in the morning as it was predicted to be in the high 80’s that day.   We were pleasantly surprised that 2/3rds of the hike up was in the shade and a perfect temp for a hike up a hill.   Then we came to the switchbacks and of course they were in full sun.   Lots of steps carved into the rocks, probably only about 180′ vertical, but in the sun it felt a lot longer.   We took advantage of a couple of strategically placed benches in the shade going up the rock face.

Once we got to the first opening, there was a small staircase to get up inside.  Obviously it wasn’t there when these were occupied.  The site was spectacular and really a lot more fun as we got to climb in and around the whole place.  The other sites we visited  last year were highly regulated where you could not get too close to the outside, let alone go in them.     So I was not “disappointed” at all.

The brickwork wasn’t as nice as the Cliff Palace, but being able to touch it was pretty cool.


The inside of the dwelling felt like it was air conditioned, a perfect place to live in the summer months.   The roof of the biggest chamber was black with soot making me wonder what it might have been like to breathe in there when fires were going.   I bet no one with asthma lived in there.

We wandered all around and went into a few of the rooms that were easy to get in.  One of them had a mural painted and some carving into the adobe bricks.   The mural was difficult to see, but if you got the right angle to the sunshine, you could just make it out.   Probably the first American wallpaper!

After we thoroughly explored the place, we climbed down the ladder to finish the loop trail back to the trail head.   This part of the trail was completely in the sun and by this time it was around noon, so it was toasty.  Luckily it was all downhill, except it was much steeper (shorter distance back)  and was stairs most of the way.   Pretty slippery going.   By the time we got all the way down to the bridge, my knee was starting to bark at me.  (Almost a year healed from spraining the MCL).

On the way back we took another route that we had passed the junction maybe 10 miles prior to the park.   It looked like a much better road but was about 10 miles longer to get back.    It was a good choice although Kathy wasn’t so sure.   There were some gorgeous homesteads/ranches along that way.  We hadn’t seen anything like them on the way up.

Just prior to the turnoff to the different road back, I pulled over and let some cars pass us, one beautiful convertible Porsche and a gaggle of BMW motorcycles behind the cars.

On the road back we passed a huge open pit mine with its overlook fenced off.   Not sure what was up with that.   It also had an out-of-place overpass built across the highway.  Apparently the large mining trucks needed to get to the other side was my best guess.

Just prior to the turn off to the RV park, I saw the same BMW motorcycles heading the opposite direction.  So the extra 10 miles on the better road we went on the way back  had about the same travel time!



Driving to Silver City NM

We got a late start as we didn’t want to spend too much time in the desert heat.   We drove all the way to Dateland, AZ, which is halfway between Yuma and Gila Bend.    The campground was far enough off the freeway that you could only see the vehicles, but not hear them.   You could barely hear the trains go by as they were about 100 feet closer than the highway.   Even though there was a grade crossing maybe 1/3rd of the mile away, we never heard a train horn, just the low rumbling from the distant trains.

It was HOT in Dateland, 104 in the shade.  We plugged into that 50 amp circuit immediately to get those AC’s online!    We were the only people in the campground that night probably as the end of September is still summer here.  Once the sun went down, it was only 102 degrees!  Balmy.   But there was a very nice sunset as you can see by the panorama picture below.

The next morning we decided we didn’t want to spend another night in the desert, so instead of stopping a couple hundred miles down the I-10, we went for the 380 mile drive to Silver City instead.    Glad we did!  It was only about 80 when we got there.  About 25 degrees cooler than the place we were going to stop.

And we had a great sunrise this morning over the Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City


Modifications to the RV prior to leaving for the Balloon Fiesta.

After getting back from the NW trip I had a list of things I wanted changed or added before departing for the Balloon Fiesta trip.   First modification was to move  the living room TV/Couch from the driver’s side to the passenger side, thus allowing the chairs to be moved to the larger slide behind the driver.  This switch simplifies the tasks needing to be done when arriving and departing.  Also allows someone to sit in those chairs while driving now that there are seat belts although the ottomans are normally seat-belted in.  Currently those seat belts hold on to the ottomans.  I’d hate to get hit by one of those in an emergency stop.

Next thing was to install a motion light by the inside stairs.  I happened to find something on Amazon that now after using it a few days is the perfect solution.  Motion LED light.   It’s rechargeable via a micro USB cable.  And to make it even simpler to install, it has a metal plate with 3M tape to mount it to your surface.  Then you can remove the light at any time to charge it as it’s magnetically attached to the plate you installed.   It only stays on 18 seconds, which is perfect for entering or leaving the RV.  It’s affixed to a flat surface under the passenger-side pullout drawer.  I like it so much I want to buy more, so I am trying to figure out where I need them first.

After installing that, I tackled installing some drip channel above the windshield.  A buddy told me he had done that and it really helped keep that huge piece of glass clean while parked.  Prior to adding this, water and dirt from the roof would streak down the windshield after just a day or so, making it necessary to clean it almost every day.   Since adding that a week ago, I haven’t had any dirt streaks on the windshield at all.  Now if I could only figure out a way to keep the bugs from splattering while driving!

I then drilled a large hole in the dining room cabinet to install a power tower that can pull up or close down when not needed.  The only outlet in that area was under the table, very difficult to get a plug into.    Power Pop-Up Station, three outlets      I also installed a small 8″ square piece of sheet metal on the roof to act as a ground plane for our  Cell Phone Signal Booster

The last thing I accomplished during the time between trips was to install   640 watts of solar panels on the RV roof.   Last year I installed a Bogart Trimetric Battery Meter that measures amps into and out of the house battery pack.  That helped me determine how much energy needed to be put back into the batteries after a 24-hour period,  giving me a starting point to determine what I might need.  First I built a 200w portable suitcase, documented in an earlier post last spring.   I sorted out the controller details and approximately how much wattage I needed.   I then installed a controller in the coach that was sized for the panels on the roof; but while I did more research on what panels to buy, I could use it for the portable panels I have stowed in the RV basement till I pulled the trigger on the roof- mounted panels.

Fast forward to now.   I first tested each panel with a voltmeter laying in the back of the pickup truck to see if I had any DOA panels.   Then I did what I call a “sidewalk test”, laid them out on the side walk one morning and hooked them up to the coach’s controller to see if they put out amps.

I installed 4  Renogy Flexible 160w mono solar panels, all serially connected to keep the amperage low and the voltage high, allowing for much less voltage drop on the 35′ cabling runs from the roof to the controller via the rear cap.   I wanted to line them up along the passenger side edge but there were some things sticking up on the roof that would create shadows on the panels so a couple of them were moved further inboard the others.

I used 2 tubes of Sikaflex 252 for gluing down the panels to the fiberglass roofing.  Renogy recommended that as it would stick to their ETFE material.   All in all it was a simple process to install and cable them.  The only actual difficult part was fishing the cables down thru the inside of the rear cap.   You cannot see what you are doing as all you have is a 1″ hole and it’s not a straight shot to the bottom.   I eventually found a 1/4″ x 10′ piece of threaded rod that was stiff enough and flexible enough, and long enough to come out the bottom.   Everything I had that might have worked was only 6′ long.  Not enough to come thru the bottom of the compartment where I could grab it and pull it further down and over to the Controller storage compartment.

It’s all done and it generates a lot of power!   Next week we will be dry camping at the Balloon Fiesta for 12 days.   That should give me a lot of empirical data to work with for any future modifications.

Yes,  flexible panels were more expensive than rigid panels; but after I figured in the costs of the mounts and extra time it would take to install, not to mention the piece of mind while driving down the freeway that those heavy rigid panels might have become decapitation projectiles to an unlucky car following behind….  I am very happy with my decision.   The rigid mounting brackets I wanted to use were from AM Solar, and they were about $80 per panel.

We will see how they hold up over time.

The North by Northwest Trip.

Now that the trip is over, here is the map of states we have visited so far and the map of all the places we stayed this trip is below that.    Once we are back from Beach Week, I will be buying and installing 600 watts of solar panels on the roof of the coach before the Balloon Fiesta trip.

The long haul from Boise to San Diego..

We left Boise on Wednesday morning for an overnight in Winnemucca, NV.    The ride was pretty uneventful and desert dry.  Leaving the Boise area meant leaving most anything that was green behind us for a while.   Winnemucca is a very hot and desolate place.  The RV park was nice but mostly empty except for a few RV’s that, like us, did not detach their toads so they could get a jump on the next days drive.

We left Winnemucca pretty early to drive to the next campground south of Carson City Nevada,  another very hot place.    Unfortunately when we pulled in and registered for our pull-thru, the clerk said we would need to detach the toad prior to him leading us to our site.  When I asked why, he mentioned his pull-thru’s were only 45′ long.   Technically it was a pull-thru, but not what was expected when they charged us more for a “pull-thru” site.   I think most folks would expect a pull-thru to allow them to leave the toad or truck pulling a trailer attached.   That was not the case here.   And the roadways between the pull-thru’s were barely 8′ wide, making me wince as I passed long trailers and coaches with only inches between my mirrors and their rigs.    I would bypass the Silver City Resort if you have a larger coach or trailer.    I had the same experience on the narrow roadways when leaving in the morning for the drive to Lone Pine.

During the drive south on US 395, we experienced a lot of smoke coming from the Sierra Nevada mountains.   It was especially dense near Mammoth Lakes.    In Lone Pine we pulled in to a very nice campground with quite a few trees in this very desert-like area.  We had a true pull-thru and even had some shade.  The trees weren’t the best for shading us, but anything is better than nothing.    We left the campground before 8am so we could bypass a stay near Victorville where I assumed it would be even hotter as it’s pretty much in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and August in the Mojave is a pretty painful place to be.

We made it home by about 2pm on Saturday afternoon (Aug 4th) and it was really hot here too.  UGH!   We unloaded a few things from the coach that would be needed, like pillows and a few other things.   On Sunday morning we started the real unload till around 9am by which time it was toasty again.   It took us till Tuesday morning to get it fully unloaded and clean so I could bring it over to the storage lot that afternoon.   Just in time to start gathering stuff to stay a week at the beach!

Boise, Freak Alley, Warhawk Museum, Snake River and Vicinity.

We arrived in Caldwell, Idaho, in the early afternoon Sunday and got the couch set up to live in.   It was over 100 when we got there and it got hotter as it got later.   We drove over to Susan and Jeff’s house in the late afternoon and had a great dinner with the family.

Monday morning I booked campsites for Winnemucca,  Carson City, and Lone Pine,  for the drive home.   Still need to make a rez for somewhere near the Cajon Junction, but I never did make one as we just wanted to get home and not cook another day in the desert.

We then drove over to see Jeff’s construction site.  It was a huge project with 22 large apartment buildings, 290 units, way larger than what I was thinking.    We went out for burgers at a place called Famous Dave’s.  I had never heard of him, so maybe he isn’t as famous as he thinks.   After lunch we dropped Jeff at his office and we headed over to the capitol building, which was gorgeous inside with all the white marble, then the Old Penitentiary and Botanical Gardens.




The riverfront park or Boise Greenspace,  as it is called here, is pretty incredible with its 25 or so miles of pathways for walkers and bikers next to the Snake River.  There were lots of folks in rafts and tubes floating by while we were there.

After hanging in the shade of the Greenspace for a while, I wanted to drive down to the basalt cliffs southwest of town, but I missed the turn and stumbled on a very large earthen dam on the Snake River just a few miles from Boise before we could find a place to make a U-Turn.  It was complete with a hydroelectric power station.  We drove over the top to the boat launch area.   It was a big lake with lots of power boats pulling kids on rafts and tubes at high speed.

On the way up to the top of the dam, we spied a large cove at the bottom with a big water jet spraying up maybe 50 feet in the air and lots of people all around on kayaks, rafts and tubes trying to keep cool in the high heat of the afternoon.   We drove down there, but ended up turning around as all the signs said no pets allowed.   As we got close to the kiosk at the gate, one of the signs even said no pets allowed in the car either.    So we turned around and drove back toward the cliffs I had come to see in the first place.    Just prior to the turnoff for the cliffs, I spotted a small dam, so I stopped to take a look at it.   Kathy wouldn’t get out of the car it was so toasty outside.  She stayed in the air conditioning and I walked over to it in the sweltering heat.

We also found a diversionary dam further back the way we came.   It appears to take some of the water from downstream of the dam and divert it into irrigation canals.   We snapped a few pics of the basalt cliffs and headed back into town to find Freak Alley.   Kathy told me it was closed today, but that sounded a bit odd to me.  How would they close an alley?    It turned out to be one of the most interesting places in Boise.   What Kathy had read was closed was a place called Freak Alley Gallery, a store next to one of the entrances to the alley.

It was a great place to spend twenty minutes walking thru and looking at all the crazy paintings on the building walls.  There are some excellent artists’ paintings there.  The alley is about two blocks long.  I am sure my pictures won’t do it justice, but if you are ever in Boise, it’s a must see.


On Tuesday I headed out alone to see  the Warhawk Museum.   On the way I mapped out a much needed car wash for the toad.   To my surprise, it took a long time to find an actual full-service car wash.   Each “full-service” spot I drove to was self service, but included some free time on the vacuums. Appears that is what they call “full service” here in Idaho.   I had almost given up when I happened to drive past what looked like a regular car wash.   Pulled in and it was!    They did a great job getting all the dead bugs off the front of the car.   Now that I think of it,  we hadn’t washed it since leaving home.    The interesting part of the car wash was the gas station, regular gas was $3.35 a gallon and next door to them regular gas was $2.91.  That’s a pretty large difference for two name brand stations next to each other.

BTW,   I wanted a full-service place since it was about 106 degrees outside.

The Warhawk Museum is a small place crammed full of stuff from WWII.  Planes, vehicles and small vignettes with personal stories of GI’s.  The most amazing thing I saw in the museum was a glider from the D Day invasion force.  I didn’t know any had survived, and from the looks of this one, it may be the only one.  It was in pretty bad shape but really gave you a sense of how small and vulnerable to gunfire they were.
























Sure hope it’s a lot cooler back in San Diego as we should be there in less than a week!  (It wasn’t)

Heading for Winnemucca (the armpit of hell it turns out) in the morning.