Heading south towards Portland and then on to Red Bluff CA.

We headed south on the 5 freeway toward Portland and our campground in Wilsonville a few miles south of there.   The Pheasant Ridge RV Resort was our place for a couple of days.   I wondered about it as soon as we drove in.  The first set of speed bumps were at a 45-degree angle to the driveway,  so we got to do the wally wobble.   You just need to drive a large and tall RV to understand that’s not a good thing to experience.   Careful opening cabinets and the fridge as stuff will be falling out!

The second thing that made me wonder what was going on here was the clerk said I should detach our toad in front of the office.   I said, I thought we had a pull-thru?  She said, of course, but the roads are too narrow to navigate with the toad attached.  Wow,  sort of defeats the purpose of paying for a pull-thru if you cannot pull thru with your car attached.   Oh, well.

And when we pulled into the site, I noticed a steel fence post at the end of the site on the right side with a piece of PVC pipe over it,  strategically placed exactly where it would drag along the side of the RV if you weren’t super careful getting out onto that narrow roadway.   I bet those folks with the half million dollar coaches will just love causing a few thousand dollars of damage to their rigs so you don’t put a wheel on their grass.

This town had a Camping World and I needed to pick up a few things now that we are back in civilization, so I drove over there.   To my surprise they had some new couches that I believe will work for us to replace the euro recliners we bought back in the spring of 2017 that are just the most uncomfortable chairs.   I checked them out and I think they will fit in the spot the recliners are in now.    I picked up the couple things that I drove there for and headed back to the bus.

We read about a good Mexican takeout place a few miles away that had a San Diego burrito, so I drove over to pick up dinner one night.   I ordered the San Diego burrito, and a few minutes later the owner asked if I like the fries, and I said yes, just not in a burrito and that my son loves California burritos with french fries.   That’s when he mentioned the San Diego burrito is really a California burrito,  and that his friend from San Diego told him about it, so he added it to the menu but called it a San Diego burrito because that’s where his friend was from.

The next day we then drove further south to the 7 Feathers Resort I’d heard of from a few friends over the years.  It lived up to its praises.  Just a very nice place in the middle of nowhere on Interstate 5 about 200 miles south of Portland.   We were walking around the campground and met another couple from San Diego and they mentioned a Mexican restaurant in town and said it was very good.  Later that evening we took the campground shuttle over there and had a couple of great Shrimp Fajitas and  more Cadillac Margaritas!   Very good meal.   I called for the shuttle to pick us up and we took it over to the casino.  I wanted to pick up a players card as it would give us another 10% off our campsite cost, over and above the Good Sam discount.   When we got there, they also explained they gave you $10 on the card to play any of their slots.

It only took a few minutes and we were off to find a machine that Kathy wanted to play.  We eventually found one and sat down to figure out how to play it.   We must have picked the most complicated one to work as it killed our new card in minutes.  It started reporting it as an invalid card.  I had to go back to the cashier and get a new one.  Unfortunately for us, we went back to that same machine and it killed that one too, again telling us it was an invalid card.   I pushed the help button and a woman apparently in a big hurry came over and said the card was fine, but we needed to insert it a few times to get it to read correctly.  What?   Anyway, she was right.  But we still couldn’t seem to get a bet in.

Now, I am old school.  The last time I played slots, you put coins in and pulled a handle.   This machine seems to have required multiple button presses, and all we could figure out was how to bet 88 cents each time.  That took a while to use up the ten bucks.   The whole experience was not fun and we left to find another shuttle back to the campground.   I had them drop me off back at the office and they took another $22 off the bill after giving them the card, which was very nice.  🙂

While in town earlier that day, we looked around for diesel fuel locally but found it was B20 (20% Biodiesel) at the local Mobile station.   So I opened Gas Guru and looked further south and found a reasonable priced place near Medford, OR, just a few miles before the California border, that was reasonably priced and easy to get in and out in our 62+ foot rig.   In California the diesel fuel is $1 more per gallon now that they jacked up the taxes on it,  so  before we reach California,  I wanted to fill up and this place had B2 fuel.  2% biodiesel instead of 20%.  B20 Biodiesel has 10% less energy than real diesel, so the mileage is at least 10% less, but it’s not usually 10% less cost, so I try to never buy biodiesel.

After filling up in Medford, we headed south for Red Bluff, CA.   Along the route Mt Shasta was in all its glory.   No smoke from the top so it didn’t appear ready to pop anytime soon.

We spent a couple of nights at the Durango Resort where it was really warm and windy, Santa Ana’s blowing pretty good both days we were there.    We left there to head to Doran Beach Campground on Bodega Bay for a couple of nights of drycamping and visiting with my Sis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meziadin Lakefront for 7 days over the US & Canadian Labor Day Weekend.

Turns out that Canada’s Labor day is the same as in the US.  Most of their holidays are different than the US’s so we were not expecting this weekend to be a holiday.   I only found out it was while visiting the hardware store in Stewart, BC.  The shopkeeper mentioned they were closing early on Friday to start celebrating for the long weekend.  I asked what the long weekend was and he replied labor day.  I immediately thought I was back in the US and asked him if we were.  We had been crossing back and forth between the US and Canada a few times each day while staying in Stewart.  I was thinking I was confused for a moment.  But I was not.   They celebrate the holiday at the same time.

So we left Stewart around 10 am for the short trek to Meziadin Lake Provincial Park.   Sue and Larry had reservations; but when I checked a few weeks prior to arrival, all the reservable sites were full.  So we were looking for a first-come, first-served (FCFS) campsite on the waterfront the Thursday morning before a holiday weekend.   I had done a bit of online research while in Stewart and saved a  screenshot of the campground layout to be able to find the lakefront sites when we get there.

Their reservation system was a confusing mess, showing some reserved sites as FCFS for Thursday and Friday and reserved for the next few days.   I wrote the camp operator to understand what the deal-eo was.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  (After meeting him I understood why he had no idea what I was talking about)

We got to the lake and we drove right past the 4 waterfront sites that were actually FCFS.  Unfortunately, I had not transferred the campground screenshot to my phone, so I had to stop, whip out my laptop to view it.  Then I unhooked the car and drove back to the 4 sites and found one open, although there was a truck and trailer parked just across from the site.  I walked over to ask what was happening, and they were actually there for another site around the corner. So I got into the car and pulled it in to claim the last available lakefront site.  2 minutes later another RV came by looking for a site.  Phew, just in the nick of time!!

I walked back to the bus and whipped a U-turn and Kathy moved the car out of the spot and I pulled in so the front of the bus was facing the water.  Glorious!

We fully deployed the house and I set up the solar suitcase and then the awnings, outdoor rugs, and all our chairs, the two lounges, and two regular chairs.

I even hooked up the Bill-Turi so the diesel fumes go up and over our RV and the folks next door.

I then drove out of the park about a mile and checked out the local gas station store and a cafe behind it.  The cafe wasn’t like anything I’d seen before.  I walked into what looked like someones mud room, full of dirty boots.  Thru a doorway I could see maybe 8 big picnic looking tables with really thick, maybe 4″ polished wooden tops.   I walked back into the place a bit further and there was another long room with a similar arrangement and probably 5 guys eating steak and creole prawns.

The dinner looked really good to me.  So I asked one of the guys where you ordered food.  He said it was back in the kitchen and pointed the way.  Sure enough, there was a large kitchen and on the wall were a few white boards with food you could order right from the kitchen counter.  I took a few snapshots in case we wanted to eat out while here in river city.

That evening Kathy and I carried our chairs over to Larry and Sue’s coach to have cocktails and a fire.   A fellow camper who  introduced himself as Chris came over to chat and then went and got another chair to sit by the fire.  But it turned out wherever Chris sat or stood, the smoke followed him.   That went on all evening, a few hours.  Now he is known to us as Chris the smoke whisperer.  Unfortunately for us he had to leave the next morning.  We will miss him keeping the smoke out of our eyes.

Friday, second day there, we met Dave and Brenda at Larry’s coach.  They had met L&S in Muncho Lake but later had gone a different route,  similar to our parting with them in Whitehorse to head up to Dawson City,  and we eventually met them in Valdez a month later.   We all talked Friday afternoon and after dinner met back over at L&S’s coach for a fire and more cocktails that evening.

7 am Saturday morning bear encounter in our campsite.  Holy Cow.  Kathy’s trying to take Dusty for a walk and she starts yelling there’s a bear in our campsite, bring the camera.   I take a few snapshots out the windshield and Dusty gets up on the drivers seat to see what all the commotion is about and inadvertently puts his front paws on the horn when he spots the black bear a couple feet away, which startles the bear and it runs around the bushes a few feet in front of the bus.   We did want to see bear,  just not sure them being that close was our intention!

Right after that the trailer in the space next to us left.  It was another FCFS site and the site was a bit longer than ours and had a bit better view, but most of all it would receive more sun than our very shaded site (after 1 pm each day)   So we packed up and moved one space east to Site 31.   Right now, as I am writing this at 2pm, the sun is still shining on our solar panels and generating 20 amps to the batteries.

This afternoon while I was snoozing on the recliner next to the lake, I awoke hearing a new noise.  It didn’t sound like a jet-ski or boat motor at all.  Then I turned my head and a plane dropped out of the sky and landed on the water just in front of us.   It then taxied over to the beach about a hundred feet to our left and parked there.   It was a different type of float plane than the normal ones I had been seeing all over Alaska and Canada.  This one had the floats hanging off the bottom of the wings and the fuselage sat directly in the water like a boat hull.   The prop was up and behind the cockpit, so it pushed the plane instead of pulling it along like most planes we see.  It was there a couple of hours and then took off.   I was astonished how quickly it got up and out of the water, looked like less than 100 feet and it was flying away.

On Monday morning there was a mass exodus from the campground.   We took that opportunity to move to a site that provided electricity.  We had been struggling to get a full charge into the batteries due to the limited sunshine caused by all the shade trees.    After this experience I am considering  replacing our batteries with lithium ion type.  They are supposed to be able to take the full output of our panels, where the lead acid type can only take the full output up to 80% charge, then it tapers off quickly, and all that time the sun is still shining but not going into the batteries anymore.

Moving to a site with power was a good move.  No more issues getting our second cup of Joe early in the morning prior to generator hours.

Tuesday we headed out to find the fish ladder on the outlet of Meziadin Lake.   We found it way down a potholed gravel road that kept getting narrower as we drove further into the forest.   We did find it finally and it was at a large waterfall, and the ladder was just a small opening off to the side of the falls.  There were some fish trying to get up the falls, but we never saw one get past it.   I was talking to the guy that uses a big net to get fish for his village.   He was telling me that the fish from there provides 80% of their food.

We had a lot of downtime here, watching Larry and Sue fly fish, Kathy even joined them in skipping stones in the lake, and we all played Yahtse one afternoon!

The Homer Spit

It was about a 5-mile drive out to the campground on the spit.   The spit is pretty long and you can’t help but notice the many Tsunami zone warning signs.   It would not be a good spot to be after a large earthquake.  We kept our fingers crossed while we were there.

After deploying we, drove the rest of the way out the spit.  We passed lots of boats, tourist traps, restaurants, and businesses that cater to the fishing industry.

While all the way at the end of the spit, there was a small parking area and just offshore on the inside of the spit were thousands of birds making quite a ruckus.   We couldn’t see what was going on in the water, but we guessed there were a lot of fish near the surface that we could not see due to the angle and short distance to them.

Our site at Heritage RV Park was very nice.  50 amp FHU.  You do not find 50 amp that often once you pass the border into Canada and into Alaska.   Most places are 30 amp maximum, and some only had 20 amp service.   They all work for us as long as we don’t need a lot of air-conditioning.  But the best part about this park was the sites along the water were pull-in, not back-in sites,  so our windshield looked directly out onto the Kachemak Bay.  It was a delightful place to camp for a couple nights and the weather was gorgeous.

The first morning we headed out fairly early to do some shopping in the tourist traps, and after spending a while there we headed further on down the spit to the next touristy area, but by then all the parking was taken.  We drove around there for a bit, but there were plenty of other cars hovering to also find a spot if someone was leaving, and after a while we drove off.

Then we headed back up off the spit into old town and found Bishop Beach where they allow you to drive your car onto the beach, but not very far.  They keep you to a small area with large boulders.  We walked around there for a few minutes as it was a lot windier there, making it very blustery!!

We did have the water pump lights in the kitchen go out while in Homer, so I called around to see if I could find a replacement.  There was a “Gear Shed” that said they had some, but when I got there it was not one that would fit my unit.   Called some other marine supply places, but I was not successful.  I moved the working light from the bedroom sink area into the kitchen so we could tell if the pump was left latched.   I’m wondering if the water pump control unit is going bad as if we leave the pump latched on, it uses 10 amps most of the time, even when it’s not pumping water.   So we have been keeping it turned off till it’s needed when not connected to city water.

to Calgary and beyond..

From Milk River we drove to Claresholm and stayed for one night.   It was a really nice community park in the middle of the small town.   Lush mowed grass all around,  a couple baseball diamonds and 22 RV sites.   It was Memorial Day in the States, but this little gem was practically empty.   The town provided the WiFi there, so it was pretty good till it dropped around 5 pm then showed back up at 8 pm.  I guess the AP’s needed a reboot or something.  Anyway, I was planning on staying there for a couple nights, but Kathy had a different idea.  She wanted to get to somewhere we could sightsee.  So the next morning we drove the couple hours to Calgary and are currently staying in a big grass field across the street from the Grey Eagle Casino.   We are boondocking in a pretty large field.  Lots of grass and practically no one here either.   Last night there was one 5th wheel trailer sans truck and two minivans.  This morning we woke up, only 1 minivan left and a Nissan SUV of some sort.   After touring the city, the other minivan is gone, so just the SUV and the trailer are here.

The first morning there, we drove downtown to check out the sky tower and Stephen Avenue.  Parking in downtown Calgary near Stephen Avenue is difficult.  We eventually got a space on the street only a block south and a block from the sky tower. The tower didn’t allow pets, so they weren’t getting our $36 entrance fee.  So we walked over to Stephen Avenue.  It is a few blocks long and mostly blocked off to cars. Oddly it’s not all blocked off though. One of the blocks in the middle had a car pass by us.

We arrived right at lunch hour and the street was packed with office workers heading out for lunch. There are lots of restaurants on both sides of the street and almost everyone had an outdoor patio.  Each one we passed had no empty tables and the food looked delicious!

We found this nice large park at the eastern terminus of the street.  There were lots of kids wading into the huge water feature/fountain.   After all, it was 25 degrees celsius  and everyone was walking around like it was mid summer.   One gal I talked to said we had just missed a snow storm.  (I’m thankful for that!!)

 

 

I did get to stop and talk to the local constable.  I noticed he was packing a Glock and a taser that also looked similar to his Glock.  It appeared to me he was carrying two pistols.  He said they all (the police) carry guns in Canada and are allowed to carry them off duty, but not really.  He mentioned if you do carry it off duty, you will get into all sorts of trouble with the bosses.  Sort of odd, I bet if they stumble upon a robbery while off duty and don’t have their service weapon, they would also catch hell for not having it..  🙂

All the highways in Calgary are under major construction.  At least that is how it seems.  It’s a real mess.  I guess due to the weather it all must happen the few months of the year that it’s warm enough to work outside, but this is over the top.   We were planning on spending tomorrow at the Heritage Park Historical Village, but Kathy just read no pets allowed there either.  Darn, another $58 I am not able to add to the local economy.   Geez, but we liked the free camping.   I really like Calgary… just not all the road construction and detours that go with it.

After we came back to the RV, I decided to get started on the rock guard I am making that goes between the rear of the RV and the front of Kathy’s car we pull behind us.   For today I just painted the 6′ x 1″ square steel tubing, and after that dried I installed a rubber foot on each end so that when it’s mounted and I bang into it, I won’t tear my clothes or legs..   Next I have to drill 7 holes thru it to mount the large U bolt that will hold it to the hitch receiver and 5 eye bolts that will hold down the nylon mesh via many feet of bungee cord I brought.

Drilling the holes is going to be interesting as I don’t have a vice to hold the bar to drill thru it.   Now I am thinking I need to replace my drop receiver with a double receiver so I could mount a vice on the second receiver.   (maybe when we get home.)

I then moved on to hooking the Raspberry Pi (RPI) to the coach’s network so whenever the coach has internet, the RPI will be able to upload all the solar information gathered to the web portal.

Speaking of solar..  Today was really sunny and the roof-mounted panels created all the power to charge the battery to 100% by 7 pm.   Last night the sun didn’t go down here till around 9:40 pm.   If the sun never sets in Alaska, I guess it will keep charging all night.  Now wouldn’t that be really cool!

 

 

Helena MT and on to Milk River, Canada.

We were in Helena for 3 nights.   While there I visited the Lewis & Clark Brewery for a pretty tasty growler fill which came with a free pint!   I also found the most stocked hardware store I have ever seen the following day.  They had at least 5 long aisles filled with specialty hardware.  I had never seen that much in one place.  Reminded me of the McMaster Carr catalog in a store.   Lowe’s sometimes has about 20′ of those trays of special stuff.  This place had over a 150′ of them.   There was a bunch I had no idea what they were used for, and I am a “hardware guy”!

I was able to pick up all the remaining parts I needed to construct my rock guard for the drive to Alaska.  I previously had purchased the mesh and 50′ of bulk bungee cord, along with ends for them,  but not the hardware to hold it all to the rear of the RV and the front of the car, as I hadn’t totally figured out how to do that; but during the first night in Helena I figured out how to make it work.

We stayed at the Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds campground,  22 spaces with electric only.   There was water a few hundred yards away near the office building, so we filled the fresh water tank there prior to parking the rig.   What was odd is there wasn’t a dump station on the fairgrounds, so I started looking for one on the web and found three.  I checked them out in the car the day before leaving and only one would work for us to get in and out of without driving over curbs.   It was just on the other side of the 1-15, a few miles away, and it was our first stop on the way to Canada the next morning.

While in Helena we got to visit the locals’ laundromat.  Kathy got to hear the owner’s whole life story.   His dad owned the bar next door, which I popped my head into and it was truly a dive bar.   Right around even with the worst ones I had ever been in.   There was an odd painting on the wall inside the laundromat, so I had to take a pic.   Here it is:

 

Below are a few pics of the fairgrounds campground.

 

We got out of Helena before 10 am and proceeded north on Interstate 15 toward the Canadian Border.    Luckily the rain waited till we were finished filling the water tank and dumping the other tanks before it let loose on us.

It rained the whole day and only stopped once we crossed the border.   The crossing was interesting as they never asked about the dog or about food we were bringing in.   So throwing out all our fruit and produce was apparently not needed.   For lunch on the way we ate what was left in the fridge… not much..  but it still was a lot to eat.   Reheated a large potato and topped it with spaghetti sauce with meatballs and leftover hamburger meat and leftover chicken tenders.    It was actually pretty good, but the rest of the drive we had that over-stuffed feeling like you get at Thanksgiving.

At the border they only asked for Passports, the RV registration, if we had any alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or guns.    Nothing about food or pets.   He also asked where we were from, and really wanted to know how long we would be traveling in Canada.   He wanted specifics.

After the 8 minutes chatting with the Canadian border guard, we headed a bit further north to Milk River where I had spotted a campground on the map the previous evening.   When I had called, no one had answered.  When I got there, I understood why, really laid back place.  The office didn’t look like anyone had been in it for years.

We spent one night at Milk River, 8 Flags Campground. (I counted 9 flags!)  Right next to the not very busy highway,  ( a car about every 10 minutes) and of course there was a not very busy railroad track just on the other side of that highway.   I only heard a couple of trains go by the whole time there and no train horns were heard.   So a pretty good spot for the night.

There was a sign on the office to boil water, so I didn’t hook that up.  I just connected up to the 30 amp shore power that didn’t have a visible circuit breaker.   I really needed to experiment with that power to see what exactly we can run in the coach at the same time when only connected to 30 amp shore power.   In the states we always seemed to have 50 amp power.  But we can’t do it here as we have no idea where the breaker is and if I guessed wrong, we would be unpowered till I could find someone that had access to the circuit breaker..   (Can we run the heat pump and the micro, toaster or coffee maker? )  I am guessing we can run two of them at the same time, if they are on different circuits; but I currently don’t know which circuits anything is on.

This campground only takes cash; so after finding a spot, I asked around where the nearest ATM was located.   Went there to get Canadian money as you could pay either 30 dollars Canadian or US.   Canadian money is only worth around 75% of US money, so it is a much better deal to use Canadian money.  ($30 Canadian is about $22.50 US)  And of course, most folks probably know this, but the best exchange rate you can get is  from an ATM.   Those money exchange places really take a big chunk of what you convert from cash.   And of course, when you get home, deposit the foreign cash in your bank for a similar very good exchange rate.  Last time, my bank wouldn’t take coins, only the paper cash I had when coming back from the Med Cruise.

The first ATM (and only one I thought there was nearby) said my card was invalid.  I thought I was going to have a real problem in Canada after seeing that message on the ATM screen as Google didn’t know of any banks nearby, and who knows, maybe my ATM card wouldn’t work anywhere in Canada…

I headed off to replace the produce and buy some meat to restock the fridge.   Milk River is a very small town, which means a very small market.   I guess they don’t eat a lot of veggies here in MR as the selection was lacking, and the meat selection was extremely lacking.   We will know more once we hit a larger town or city.   But the best part of going to the grocery store was they had an ATM inside.  You know the ones,  just a small kiosk.   Funny thing I found out, its fees were less than the bank’s ATM fees.  I always assumed those kiosks you find in a 7/11 or other places would really gouge you.   ($3 at the bank vs $2.50 at the kiosk)  So I was able to get cash and pay the campground in Canadian dollars.  Yeah!!   Their money looks really odd.  It’s got quite a bit of cellophane in it, so you can look thru part of their bills.   I guess it makes it more difficult to counterfeit.

The WiFi at our campground was almost nonexistent.   I could see a lot of AP’s from my roof mounted WiFi antenna , Mikrotik Metal AC Router (CPE), but not actually connect to any of them.

I must admit the Mikrotik has the most complicated interface I have ever seen.   Looks like something from the early ’90s.   My laptop could connect to one AP and it had very low power, but it was just enough access to look for the next campground.   None of the other devices could connect.  (iPad or iPhones.)  They couldn’t even see the SSID’s to try to connect.

That next morning we were off to Claresholm, Alberta, Canada

The Indio FMCA Rally

We signed up for the FMCA rally at the Riverside County Fairgrounds for early January 2019. We loaded the coach and set out for Indio, CA. After checking in, we were lead to a large lot of dried grass and parked next to many other coaches already there. Kind of surprising they parked motor homes on that grass as newer diesels have an exhaust system that can get extremely hot during regen process and catch that dried grass on fire. Luckily we didn’t see any smoke. 🙂

After deploying the slides, I got out the carpet and started screwing it down where I found my first goats head sticker in my knee. Those things are nasty, very hard burr like things. Turns out they were everywhere.  Poor Dusty, he found lots of them over the course of our stay. The first morning after getting there I was scheduled to take a bus trip to the Patton Museum which is about an hour east of the Rally. I’ll put that into another post.

After getting back from the excursion that afternoon, I poked my head into one of the new coaches lined up for sale near the drop-off spot. I walked thru a new Allegro Bus. It was really beautiful inside; and as I walked into the back bathroom and stepped into the shower to see how much room was in there, I realized I hadn’t hit my head when stepping into the bathroom, which I did on all the prior coaches with rear bathrooms. The floor was level from front to back. How novel. But I was curious how they did that, so I asked the salesperson who was sitting up front. To my surprise, Tiffin had raised the height of the coach to around 13’4″ from 12’7″. And it also appeared to me they lowered the engine a bit. That change allowed them to make the floor level front to back and also added about 5″ to the height of the basement. Impressive. Except when I was thinking back to a couple encounters with very low branches on our travels back east the prior summer, driving this coach would have given me nightmares of poking holes in the roof or tearing off an air conditioner or two.

The next day the seminars started. They were very similar to what I experienced in Coos Bay last summer. Most of the seminars were just sales pitches for something the person was selling in a booth inside the vendor tents. I am seeing a pattern with FMCA rally’s, which I will need to think about prior to setting up another one in the future.

There were two seminars that didn’t follow that pattern. One was on our coach’s 120v electrical systems and the other on Onan Generators. Both of them were excellent and I learned things I hadn’t known previously in each. Well worth coming over to the desert. In one of the prior seminars I had learned that (according to the speaker) if you set your local TV Satellite channels to Los Angeles, they will follow you all over the country without paying extra for their Distant Network Services I tried that in Quartzsite and it worked, but that wasn’t the best test of it as we were only about 250 miles east of downtown LA. The real test will be when we are in Tucson this March. It’s closer to 500 miles from LA. If they work there, then the speaker was probably correct.

While at the rally we met up with Scott and Tami for a few of the seminars and went out for Mexican one evening to the El Mexicali Restaurant. The restaurant was next to the RR tracks, and when the trains went by, it felt like they were inside with you. The food was excellent (my opinion), the place was packed, and about 1/2 way thru dinner a musician with a harp, of all things, came in and played for the crowd. I think the last time I was around someone playing a harp was at the Cat in the Hat show at the Lowes Resort on the Silver Strand when Chris was very young. Personally, a harp is much nicer than the strolling Mariachi’s at other Mexican places. Especially when they stand right next to you and play.

When the rally was over, we drove only about a mile to Indian Waters RV resort for a couple nights prior to driving the couple hours to Quartzsite on Tuesday. We were able to dump the tanks and fill up the fresh water tank before our next week of dry camping off Plumosa Road’s BLM dispersed camp sites.

On a rainy Monday afternoon we got together with Kathy’s cousin Kay and her family for a wonderful lunch in Palm Desert!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Coeur D’Alene and Blue Lake area.

We drove about 70 miles north of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, to camp on Blue Lake.   It’s an extremely small and deep lake that may have been blue sometime in the past, but was very green while we were here.   It turns out to be in between two busy railroad right-of-ways as both lines have  grade crossings right here.    Can you say loud horns blowing a lot?  I’m not sure how we slept thru the night, but neither of us heard them.   Could have been the wine bar on the patio overlooking the lake that helped that along.

While driving thru Coeur D’Alene up US 95, the traffic lights thru town are synchronized to make you stop at each light for a long, long time,  presumably for you to notice all the chain stores lining both sides of the highway for many miles.   There were so many chain stores along that route, I think every national company must have been  represented.   Thankfully it only took about a half hour to go those 5-6 miles, then we were back on the open road till we hit Sand Point, which looked like a really nice area with a huge lake and lots of folks boating and kayaking.

When we were getting closer to the road to the campground, I started thinking about the guy mentioning the truck turnaround a little ways up the road if we missed the turn.    Turns out the extreme oblique left turn was almost too much for us to maneuver, but luckily our coach has a very sharp turning radius due to its 57 degree cut and we narrowly made the turn without going down an embankment to the RR tracks prior to the actual crossing.  Now I knew the real reason he mentioned the turnaround.   It was almost a straight shot into the turnoff if you were coming from the north;  but coming from the south with a long rig and toad will be a problem for most drivers.   If I stayed there again (which I probably wouldn’t, due to the train noise) I would use the truck turnaround to come in from the north.    Luckily, when we leave for West Glacier, we head north for a bit, so getting out of here should be a lot easier.

Thankfully it’s a lot cooler here than it was in Electric City.    It was in the low 100’s there and mid-80’s here and we are fully in the shade here.

I broke a strap for one of the awnings while at SunBank Resort, so I found an adjustable strap and installed it.   It works but is not a permanent fix.   Will start the search for the exact replacement part and have it shipped home.

When we woke up Friday morning to get the coach ready for the drive to Glacier there was smoke in the air.   The wind was really blowing so I went over toward the windward edge of the park.   I couldn’t see any flame but there was a lot of smoke coming from the south east.  We decided to pack up quick and get on the road sooner rather than later.  Once we were almost ready I attempted to call the local fire department but only got voice mail.  I also checked the local incident web sites but found nothing except a fire at least 80 miles south west of us.   We finished stowing everything and headed out before 8:30 am.   Pretty early for us,  but the smoke was only getting worse so we pulled down the hill a bit to attach the car.   There was a train blocking the only way out of the park when we were ready but it soon finished passing the grade crossing and the four lined up motorhomes pulled out toward the highway,  three made the incredibly sharp right turn to head south on US 95 and we took off to the left toward Bonner’s Ferry then US 2 over to Glacier NP.

Camping at the Hillbilly Hideaway on Silver Lake

The campground was called Streeters Resort and it was right on Silver Lake.   First thing I noticed as we drove up to find the office was the crowds around it.   I can’t remember another campground with crowds around the office,  not one.   I started thinking this place might be a bit different.   The reviews I read didn’t indicate anything odd.   Maybe I need to go back and reread them.

I parked right in front as there were no signs indicating anything at all except Zip Line office arrow, which explained some of the people.  It just seemed to be a hang out spot.   I went inside and talked to Jose.   He asked if I knew my site number.  I did not.   Now I was remembering a review that mentioned they got there after calling where the office said to come over, they had plenty of space, and when they got there, there wasn’t any space for them…    I was starting to get apprehensive now.

I told him I had called earlier in the week and had a reservation.  He asked my name and flipped thru a few loose sheets of paper that had once belonged in a binder but had been ripped out and partially crumpled up.   Concern started to grow.    After quite a bit of time shuffling those sheets, he seemed to find my name and said I was in 19.  I said great,  very relieved!   I paid him and he just pointed in a general direction for a site.   I said I would walk over first, and he said he would bring me there.

We got there and the trailer to the left of our space had strewn paraphernalia, tables, large innertubes for pulling behind a boat, all over, including one of those canopy things screwed into the logs on the side of my parking space.   The gal sitting on the trailer steps told us there was no room and said we would like the campsite two over to the left as there was no one camping there.    We walked back to the office and he was muttering under his breath about “idjits” or something similar.   He also mentioned that we probably wouldn’t like that spot two over as the shack right behind it was going to get loud that evening.

In the office he consulted with the three women inside, and after about 10 minutes, they figured out someone had already paid for the other site.   So I was going to back into  #19    I would have rather pulled straight in as it was 5′ from the edge of Silver Lake,  a very large lake about 30 miles from Mount St. Helens,  but that would have put our door smack dab into their piled-up stuff.    We backed in…

I maneuvered the coach far to the left as possible so there might be space for my slide to extend on their side of the site.   The guy next door unscrewed his canopy back a bit  and moved some other stuff back so there was room for our rig in our spot while I was backing in.

As I got out and started hooking up our electric and water, the guy came around the back of his very large 5th wheel trailer and asked his wife if she knew how to dump the tanks.  She said, “Of course not.”   His reply was he had been talking to me, not her.    I finished up and explained he should open the larger valve first,  the 3″ one,  then after that is done open the 1 1/2″ pipe valve.   He looked at me kind of funny like those sizes made no sense.   I walked over and pointed out what was what.  Then he mentioned he had another set of them.   Turns out he had two sets of tanks, one in the front and the other in the rear.  Who knew?!   I looked at all the piping and suggested he dump the rear one first and then the front.   Then I went back to finishing our setup.

Once I was done with everything, I went back outside to check the basement doors were closed and locked, and the guy asked me if he should move his pig.   Just then I noticed a pig was right behind my coach tied to a small tree.   I said he was OK there as long as he didn’t start gnawing on my tires.   He also mentioned there was a rabbit around there too.   I haven’t seen it yet, but Kathy says she has.

A little while later I saw the pig coming down the 5 steps from inside the RV.   Now that is something you don’t see every day.  It’s not a really large pig, but has the requisite little stubby legs that made it look pretty awkward coming down the stairs.

On the other side of us were a couple of good ole boys with friends drinking all afternoon and evening.   I even overheard one of them on the phone.  Appears he called the wife or gal friend at work to have her bring more beer on the way from work.

I went in to take a nap a few hours after getting here, and I’ve now decided to call the family to the right of us the “loud family.”  Beside the pig and rabbit, there is two large dogs and many children with the wife and husband yelling at the brood to “not to do something” every few minutes.   Remember, there is a lake just a few steps away, a large floating dock with many jet skis and small water ski boats tied up, many flotation devices, kayaks, and lots of kids on and in the water surrounding the dock.   There are even a couple racing type ski boats with huge four or five hundred horsepower motors that make it sound like we might be at the Englishtown Dragstrip.  For any Californians reading this,  think Pomona and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, only on a mirror flat lake…   BTW,  the lake is about 5 square miles of water.

About 5 pm the karaoke shack got loud.   It almost sounded like there was a band in there, so I walked over to peek inside.   No band, just a karaoke machine and a bunch of folks sitting on couches strewn about the place, drinking beer and reading the screen with the song lyrics scrolling by.    Earlier in the day I had walked into the shack over the water.   The floor felt spongy and had miscellaneous pieces of thin plywood nailed down in various places.   In the back of that “karaoke” space was another room strewn with old boat junk.

Dusty got to meet his first pig from a short distance that first evening.   The pig was quite nice and only squealed when the kids got too close and bothered him 🙂

We were packed in like sardines that first night and when everyone lit their fires, the air quality went into the hazardous range of the index.   The shack was pretty loud till about 10:30, but then the people around their fires were loud and rowdy until about 11:30.   I was hoping they didn’t go till 2…   I’m not really a country music fan, although Kathy is.

Seems like we went from the most rigid rules for a campsite to the most lax!!

Saturday morning we took off for the volcano and when we returned, the good ole boys to our left were gone.    It was a beautiful evening and we sat outside enjoying the view now that we weren’t packed in on that side.    Dusty got nose to nose with the pig as you can see in the pics.   Turns out tonight there was a guy with a guitar singing in the shack till around 8:30.   He wasn’t bad.   While we were outside listening, more folks moved into the site in front of the shack and we got to watch a few of them try to set up a one-person tent for at least an hour and a half.   They did finally get it set up, and to my surprise, it’s still standing this morning when I got up!  Although they left their stuff all out and even their car trunk hood up.  I hope the birds didn’t bomb it!!

 

 

 

 

 

We are heading out today (Sunday) to go to an Escapee’s campground outside of Port Townsend, Washington.

PS.  I never saw the rabbit.

 

 

 

Coos Bay, Oregon

At Klamath Lake, since we were right on the river, there wasn’t a sewer hookup on that row of campsites, requiring us to drive over to a dump site closer to the office at 7:30 in the morning.    The not so good part of the morning was that the airbags didn’t fill up, which makes for an interesting ride.   Pretty bumpy driving that few hundred feet on what looked like a smooth gravel driveway.  By the time we finished dumping, the bags filled up, thank goodness!  So I knew I would need to find someone in Coos Bay to help me troubleshoot what was happening.

We took Oregon Highway 138 west off US 97 toward Roseburg, Oregon.  It wasn’t listed in the Trucking Road Map book, so the night before I used www.routeview.org to “drive” it from my laptop.   It looked fine and it was.   The most interesting part was it was all downhill,  about 90 miles of downhill; so the Jake brake got quite a workout,  four and a half hours with lots of 25-35 MPH corners to navigate after downhill straightaways.

We made it to Coos Bay in the early afternoon.  The rally folks lead us to a spot very close to the 101,  with three RVs between us and the highway.   Those logging trucks start really early in the morning and they don’t appear to require working mufflers.    We booked a spot with 30amp electric, but no water or sewer; so we arrived with empty grey/black tanks and full fresh water tanks for the Tuesday thru Sunday gathering.

The afternoon we arrived, we were booked on the harbor tour, which turned out to be a small fishing boat.    It was a nice cruise around the bay, but the tour guide was probably  19 years old and had no knowledge of Coos Bay at all, although he did seem to know about rock fish…  What I noticed about the bay was lots of tugboats,  from very small to very large.   I have no idea why they need so many as I only saw one ship arrive during the 6 days we were there.  It was a freighter that loads sawdust for shipment to Japan to make paper products.   There was the largest pile of sawdust I’ve ever seen right on the side of the 101 a couple of blocks from The Mill Casino,  where the rally was being held.

We were attending an Family Motor Coach Association rally, the first we had been to.   I think I now know why they opened up the organization to trailers.   Most of the folks, about 90+ percent at the rally, were very old, late 70’s, early 80’s.   And from what I gathered from the speeches, the rally attendance has been dropping dramatically over the last few years.    I didn’t see anyone there that appeared to be much younger than me, which was kind of odd to me.

The FCOC rally we went to in Tucson was probably 40% very old folks, a lot of folks my age.    It will be interesting to see what the Escapee’s rally will look like this fall, or even the 49er’s rally in Death Valley this winter if we go.

The casino was a very nice facility, except we had to walk thru it to get to the meeting rooms and it was a pretty smokey place.   Living in SoCal has really increased my intolerance for smoke-filled rooms.     There were a few good seminars, but to me, most were given by vendors hawking products for you to purchase while you were there.   I was hoping for them to be more instructional about our coaches.   I wasn’t really looking for infomercials, although a few were helpful.

Now that I think back, there were a few of those at the FCOC rally too.

The second day we were onsite, I had a mechanic from a local RV/truck shop stop by to look at the air leveling system, and of course it worked perfectly then.   After him poking around underneath, he thought the right front air leveling valve seemed way to easy to make it leak air with even the slightest touch.   I had him replace it, and of course after the fix, the coach also worked perfectly again.

The next morning I had one of the vendors do a suspension inspection.  Par for the course, it took some time to air up.  It finally did and he was able to proceed and found nothing wrong.   He did have some suggestions:   new shocks, an extra rear sway bar, and to put in those small in-line air restriction devices to slow the movement of air into and out of the air bags.  All things I will probably do prior to heading for Alaska next year.

We signed up for the wine walk and to my surprise there were no wineries involved.   Our first stop was a brewery (so I could have a beer!), then a museum, then across the street to a used clothing/musical instrument store.   Eventually we toured a democratic candidate’s HQ (their name and seat they were running for escapes me), and after that we went over to a mattress store, and then into a small hole-in-the-wall  live theater pretty much across the street from the Egyptian Theater where a young buck was going to sing like Frank that evening.  When we went in there, I had no idea what the place was.   Prior to there we had also perused an appliance store pouring wine.  Each place had a couple of wine offerings and I figured they hoped you would buy something while you were there.   None of the washer/dryers looked like they would fit into my coach.

While at the brewery, we hooked up with two couples: Tami and Scott along with Bob and Susan.    Turns out Tami and Scott were from Carlsbad,  very close to home for us.    They retired, sold their house and took to the road in a 37′ foot motorhome.   Something I aspire to do!

After the walk we all headed for dinner in the casino for burgers.    We were hungry after that many servings of wine and very little in the way of appetizers!

On Saturday we went to a few more seminars and then met for dinner Saturday night at the big tent.  The highlight of that last evening was the Foxes won the table centerpiece which consisted of a small slab cut from a tree complete with the bark and an old circular saw blade mounted vertically on it.  An odd prize to give us as we would have to carry it around in a moving vehicle.  The blades were sharp!!

And I just had to include this picture.   It’s got to be the most odd thing we’ve seen in our travels.   That’s a cat in what looks to be a modified birdcage bolted to the side of an RV parked in the RV campground on The Mill Casino’s property. It even has a cat door so he can get back inside the RV.   That was a first.

Scott showed me some mods to their moving house to channel roof water away from the windshield and front side windows.   I will be making that mod to our rig soon.   That was an awesome idea .   Also his slide wiper gasket flippers were a cool idea too.  I liked them so much I went out Saturday morning and picked up a piece of door molding, tried it on one of my slide gaskets that wasn’t flipping over correctly to seal out the elements, and at our next stop it worked like a charm.   Now I have to find more of that molding!   And I added the gutter material to my Amazon wish list.

We exchanged cards so we can keep in touch, and on Sunday morning we headed north toward Salem, Oregon, for an attempt to have our BlueOx towbar serviced at a large Airstream Rally.