Picking up the painted Bus.

Our Bus has been in Puerto Penasco for the last 6 weeks (as of the middle of March 2022),  and today, after driving 8 hours to get here, I am in the bus waiting on my painter to finish the final steps of the paint job:  polishing all the clear coat, touching up areas like inside the fuel filler doors, any small crevices that didn’t get the color coat, etc., then on to caulking all the seams/joints with clear silicon, reinstalling the myriad of parts that had been removed prior to sanding and painting, too.

Something I already notice is the difference in the heat radiated into the coach from the sunshine on the sides of the motorhome.  The top half is pearl white now, not the original browns, blacks and tans of its last 15 years.  The bottom is a deep blue.   It reminds me of my old BMW K-Bike Motosport!    I am really loving the new look!   And now, having the inside walls stay cool instead of the inside wall getting hot because of the sun on the outside is very nice.  I can imagine that the roof A/C’s won’t have to work as hard to keep the inside temp down on a hot, sunny summer day.

Antonio’s crew is reinstalling all the “stuff” that was mounted on the exterior that had been removed for sanding and painting.   He is also using a large buffer to polish the clear coat now that its been curing for over a week of sunshine in his driveway.  That really looks like hard work as I watch a bit.  When he is not doing that, he is using a small air brush to touch up any place that didn’t get painted, like behind the fuel fill door, etc.  I’ve never seen anyone use an air brush, so that is a bit fascinating to watch.   Since his passion is probably the murals he does, he is really good with that air brush!

Antonio had also replaced the small plastic wind deflector by the front door with a metal one.  The original one had broken in a few spots and I had replaced it with another one I purchased from the manufacturer, but it seemed a bit flimsy to me.  I wondered how long it would last.  Now I am not concerned it will crack off like the original anytime soon.

When Antonio’s tio started installing the lights and other things around the coach, I pulled out my new headlights, the over-door sensor light, and new patio sensor lights from Gregg Wilson designs.

After a couple days, Antonio asked when I wanted to leave.  My reply was “When you are done  and not a minute before.”  He seemed happy that he had time to finish it.   Within a couple days of that conversation, he told me it was ready to go.   I dug out the cash from my hidey hole and paid him.  I printed out a receipt and he signed it.   It was March 22nd, 2022,  six weeks to the day after getting it into the paint building.

Within the hour I had pulled the bus out onto the dirt street in front of his home and hooked up the car.  We took a few pictures and I headed for the border.   And that proved to be an interesting adventure.   I will continue that below the pictures.

Here are a few more pictures that you can click on to make the thumbnail larger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive north to the border was uneventful, got passed by lots of cars probably doing 80+ mph on a road that the maximum speed limit was               55 mph.   Almost all were Arizona plates.  But things changed as I got to the US side of the border crossing.

I immediately noticed all the US border buildings’ overhead clearance signs said 12’3″.  That stopped me in my tracks,  much to the chagrin of the agent in the booth.  My coach is 12’7″ high.  I saw that all the openings had the same height restrictions, and all the pipes with that height-stenciled warning were hanging from chains, and the pipes themselves were VERY scratched up with lots of paint transfer from taller vehicles going thru.   I was frozen in that spot wondering how I was getting out of this predicament.  The whole time, (2 minutes that seemed like days), the border guard in the gate house was waving me forward.

I started forward at about 1/2 mph, waiting for the sounds of the pipe dragging over things on my roof; but I got up to the guard shack and there were no sounds.  I had not dragged on anything!  I have measured my coach and it IS 12’7″ fully aired up.   Now I know that those signs are wrong.

The CBP officer asked for my passport and after a few seconds gave it back and told me to drive fast through the tunnel/machine in the left lane.  It was some sort of scanning machine for trucks & RV’s.  He told me to keep the speed up going thru at 5-7 mph.  When I got to the entrance, it was tight, maybe a few inches wider than my mirrors on each side, so driving at 5 mph was going to be a white-knuckle experience with my newly painted rig.  It was not fun, but I got through it unscathed.

After we were out of that machine, the next CBP officer stopped me and asked me the year of the coach and for the registration.  Then after hearing the answer, he asked if it was just painted.  I told him yes.  Then he asked how long it had been down there.  I told him 6 weeks.  Then he asked if I was with it the whole time.  I replied no, I had just driven back to retrieve it.  Then he asked what year it was again, which seemed odd, but I answered him again.

Then he asked me to get out of the bus.  Once I was outside, he asked how full the tanks were.  I wasn’t sure if he meant fuel or water/waste tanks, so I answered with both.   I asked about the low-clearance signs, and he made some remark about “stupid people bringing oversized vehicles into Mexico.”   Then he called over to a couple other guards to come over, and they proceeded to go through the car.  I had to open everything up.  It seemed a bit odd to me as the car had only been there a few days with me the whole time, but the bus was there for many weeks without me.   They never looked inside the bus.   I figured they would want to look into every opening in the bus, but that wasn’t the case.

After about 5 minutes of looking through the car, they told me to lock it up and go.    The first CBP officer moved the big plastic K-Rails out of the way and had me drive off.    No odor detector dogs, nothing.  I guess that machine can see what they need to see.  Not sure why they needed to closely inspect the car I was towing, but that’s what happened.

Once across the border into Lukeville, AZ,  I was a lot more relaxed and headed up the small two-lane highway toward Gila Bend, which is about 80 miles and takes about 80 minutes to drive.   I had researched campgrounds from Gila Bend to Yuma for stopping for the night as I didn’t know what time of day I would be leaving Rocky Point.   I passed the first turnoff of I-8 and determined I would stop near Tacna, which was about another hour of driving.  That turned out to be perfect.   I had mapped out a Passport America place (that was also a Good Sam campground) and it was only $21 a night for a full-hookup, pull-thru site for the night.  It was about an hour before sunset so the timing was excellent.  The pull-thrus were pretty close to a truck stop, but once inside the bus I didn’t notice the noise from them.  Outside you could hear the truck stop, freeway, and even occasionally a long train going by about 1/4 mile north of us.

 

 

The next morning I drove to Yuma, filled up the tank with cheap diesel fuel before heading back into California (and their $1 diesel tax)  and uneventfully drove home from there.

Once I got home, I installed the Tiffin door medallion and the Allegro Bus decal for the front cap.  After seeing the front decal, I ordered a couple more for the sides.  I am probably not going to put one on the rear as the rock guard has it on there; and I will also add the “Roughing It Smoothly” decal on the back cap when I get out the rolling staircase to start cleaning the roof top.

The weeks waiting to go back and pick up the painted bus.

Since deciding I was bringing my coach to Mexico, I had been researching tracking devices to install on the coach.   In the end I had three.  Redundancy is a good thing!  Something to look for is one that either uses satellite or cellular to update the map.  If cellular, make sure it’s 4G, as 3G is being turned off.  AT&T’s 3G went away just this last February.

The first one was a Linxup Asset Tracker.  It only uses VHB tape to stick it to the roof and has a small solar panel that keeps the battery charged.  I had worked with the vendor for a few weeks after getting it to make sure it was working as intended.   I drove it around San Diego while checking the tracking and found it was updating every 20 minutes instead of every 10 minutes as it was supposed to do.  It took a few phone calls to figure out what was happening.

Turns out on their new builds, they changed that to every 20 minutes so long-haul truckers (driving 24 hours a day) didn’t kill the batteries in the winters.   Once we figured that out, they reversed the firmware in my tracker to update every 10 minutes while moving.  (It updates every 3 hours when stationary.)  Linxup Solar Asset Tracker    After I saw it working, I glued it down to the roof of our Bus.

Second tracker was just adding a $32 GPS antenna to my existing Cerbo GX device and that was as easy as plugging it in; but that required having a way to update the VRM website, meaning I had to leave my cellular router in and active in the coach.   GPS antenna I added to Cerbo GX.   I placed this inside the coach as close to the ceiling as I could.  It works perfectly.  I was not sure it would work without being on the roof, but it does!

The third tracker was an impulse buy of an Apple Air Tag.   I wasn’t sure it  would work, but it worked so well I have since bought 4 more and added one to each of our vehicles in case they ever get stolen.  They are cheap, $29, and no monthly fee like the Asset Tracker.  Apple AirTag

Antonio, my painter, provided a 50-amp outlet to plug my motorhome into inside the building, so I did because my solar panels weren’t going to help keep the batteries charged while inside that building.  That allowed me to keep the inverter on and the 120v cameras turned on.  (Note to self:  in hindsight, putting a camera on the wall pointing at the coach would have been a great way to see what was happening while I was back home, but I didn’t think of that until I was almost to the house when driving back.  Next time — err, I hope there isn’t a next time!)   They also had WiFi available, pretty slow, but it worked. 

My Cerbo GX  allowed me to monitor the RV’s power and batteries while it was down there.   The solar asset tracker had no sun for charging for about 5 weeks.  It was down to about 49% battery remaining when the bus got moved into the sun to allow the clear coat to cure.  The folks at Linxup didn’t think the battery could last that long without charging, but thankfully they were incorrect!

The Cerbo GX allowed me to keep track of the batteries while I was away from the bus.  I have it set up to send all the solar/battery & temperature information to their free VRM web dashboard available to me from any device or web browser (and now it had GPS built in).

A few weeks into the job, the Cerbo battery information stopped updating the website, but the cameras were still available to view and hear.   Still, I am not sure exactly why that happened.  The Cerbo stopped sending data on 2/23 @ 6pm and started sending it again on 3/10 @10am when it was being moved outside for the clear coat to cure in the sun.  So for two weeks I was in the dark about the battery’s condition.  I also did not know it had lost shore power.  I will be installing a new Hughes hardwired Power Watchdog  this summer to enable  tracking our shore power.

The Wyze Cams I have installed in the bus allowed me to see things inside the coach and, most importantly, allowed me to hear what was going on.  Since all the window openings and windshield were papered over, the cameras weren’t very useful for video at that time.   A few times a week I connected to one of the cameras and listened to what was going on.  It seemed to me someone was sanding the bus for three weeks, 6 days a week.  I started to wonder if there would be any fiberglass left when they finished.  🙂

Along the way I would message Antonio to send pics and he would send some that night.

The morning the bus was moved, I got a lot of alerts that something was happening and I went to the cameras to see what was going on.  Antonio was driving the bus from the paint building to his home and I could see him going down the road, so I knew what was going on.  Later that evening I called him to turn on the solar controllers allowing the batteries to charge again.  (I had turned them off as they consume about 25 watts and due to being inside did not provide any power to offset that draw.)   It took a bit to communicate that to Antonio’s tio so that Antonio could turn them on in the correct order.

Once the bus cured in the sun for about a week, they started the process of polishing the paint.   It looked good in the pics when unpolished; but once a section was polished, it look amazing!  (I had no idea what a difference that would make.)

I communicated with Antonio mostly via FB Messenger to get an approximate date I should come down.  I picked a day as we got closer so I could be around when all the “stuff” was getting reinstalled on the exterior, including the windows.

I will finish this up in another post.

 

 

The Quest to paint our Bus

I had been researching fixing the peeling paint on my bus for a couple years as the clear coat was failing and it was looking pretty ugly.  I had a couple quotes.  One guy said he could do it in the street in front of my house for around $15k,  a truck paint shop in San Diego quoted me $45k, and a place in Texas quoted $33k and 6 weeks of work.   I even talked to Barney over at Discount RV, and he said they just didn’t have the time to do the job right.

Getting it done outside in front of my house sounded like an awful plan and the other quotes were a lot more than I would consider paying.    I even had a wrap company quote $11k for a wrap, but that didn’t include the required sanding and removal of all the external parts.  (They said the wrap could last 5-7 years)

Then last fall I saw a before and after picture of what was essentially my coach having been painted in a Facebook post.   It had similar issues as mine with the clear coat peeling.   The paint job looked pretty good; so I contacted the coach owner and asked about the paint job and found out they only lived a couple hours north of us.  Later I made up my mind to investigate getting my bus painted by the guy that painted theirs, and I asked if I could come by and look at it.

They agreed to my request.  A couple weeks later we drove up to Chino to look at the job.  It was a really good job!  It wasn’t perfect and the owner pointed out a few issues, but I couldn’t see a couple of them with my eye.  I did notice the striping wasn’t perfect if you look very close, but in truth I wasn’t sure the $33k job would be any better.  For what they paid, it was an incredible job.   And at the time I didn’t really understand what painting these things actually entailed.

I found a graphic artist on Craigslist and sent her off a couple pics and a picture of a rudimentary sketch of what I was looking for.   I should have known that it wasn’t going to work out based on how hard it was to explain to her what I wanted done.   It went bad real quick.  Her end product looked like something an 8-year-old would produce.  Here is her finished product I was supposed to give to the painter.   She had received the exact same sample picture as a starting point as the next designer, but the difference in the deliverable was astonishing.  

 

 

After that first ugly designer experience, I started searching for someone who had previously done design work for other motorhomes.   I found a few, but most were too busy working for companies to do anything for me.   Then I found Xtreme Paint & Graphics in the small town of Nacogdoches, TX.  They told me they could make a design for $650.   I had found this picture and liked some of it, but wanted the white on the top instead of the bottom.   I gave this to the designer and told her I wanted it much simpler and it to be dark blue on the bottom and pearl white on the top. 

 

Her first draft was perfection to me!  That was just prior to Thanksgiving.    Exactly what I wanted.  I told her to finalize that (which took way too many weeks for some reason).  I did have to call her after Christmas to finally get the invoice and final drawings done.

 

I messaged the painter with the pic and negotiated a price.   Setting the date was not as straight forward as expected.  And that ended up working out well for me as right after New Years I caught the flu and was feeling crummy for three weeks.  Once better,  I attempted to get a date from the painter via messenger but received the same vague responses.   So then I just set a date and he said “sure”.

The painter doesn’t speak a lot of English but can get the gist.  The day prior to me heading there (it’s about an 8-hour drive from my home) I wanted to get the exact address to bring the bus.  He kept sending me his home address; and when Google street viewing, I could see there wasn’t a building to put it inside at that address.  It took a bit, but then I did get the right address and could see a building that looked like it could fit the bus inside.

The weekend prior to going, I also bought Mexican insurance as our US coverage isn’t worth the paper it’s written on down there.  My AARP/Hartford motorhome insurance is basically no coverage in Mexico at all,  so I needed full coverage for it.  Turns out 6 months of coverage cost less than 2 months of coverage by a lot of money, so I took the 6 months of coverage.  I also had to negotiate the value.  NADA guide said it was worth $118k and the insurance company would only go to $75k of value.  After some negotiation they upped it to $100k.  It alone cost about $650 to insure.  My car is covered by our home/auto policy and they covered it all down to Senora, Mexico, where I was going; but Mexico doesn’t recognize their Liability coverage, so I had to add that with a Mexican company:  $50 for 5 days.

Also, a note, if you plan on staying in Mexico for more than 7 days, you must buy a tourist visa (FMM).  That was difficult to determine by reading everything I could online.  Luckily for me, a club I belong to had just finished having a rally down in Puerto Penasco the week before I was heading there and I was able to get the requirements confirmed by the leader of that rally.

I was planning on removing the windows when I got down there so the paint would cover everything.  Prior to leaving home, I removed all the valances and the attached roller shades (no small feat in itself!) and stored them in the guest bedroom till I got it back home.

I also wanted/needed to replace a couple of exterior lights (over the door and the patio light).  I also ordered two new headlights to replace the original ones  (exact same look, not projectors as I was thinking about).   I had purchased the new light last year from Gregg Wilson LED’s prior to deciding to paint the coach white and had bought a black one.   I talked to Gregg and purchased one to replace the patio light (including his brand-new patio cover fixture plate) in white and mentioned I had a black one for over the door.  He offered to exchange the black one for a white one.  He was wintering in Yuma, which was on my way toward Gila Bend, and I stopped by his RV and swapped them.  That’s what I call customer service!  I hadn’t even asked for that.  I was asking him if I could paint it white.   I am glad that happened as they blend into the new white paint perfectly.   Saved me from having to try to paint it.

I am driving to be in Rocky Point so I can be there on Tuesday around Noon.  Monday morning I am finally ready to go.  I head toward Yuma for fuel and the light fixture swap, then on to Gila Bend and will make a sharp right and head south to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco, Senora, Mexico)  I researched a few campgrounds near Ajo, Az (that is really the middle of nowhere) and I lucked out finding a newly remodeled campground at a golf course just out of town.  I say I lucked out because it was great, had brand-new full hookups and had pull-thru’s available.  The other two places had no pull-thru’s, and I really didn’t want to detach and reattach the car the next morning.   And even better, when I drove past the other two campgrounds, they were Dumps.  Yes, with a capital D.

I got there a bit after hours that evening, forgot about the time difference between home and Arizona; but the camp host left his cocktail party and guided me in and told me we could settle up in the AM so he could go back to the cocktail hour with some friends.  Camping there was a bit like being in a fish bowl as I had no shades to pull down (they were all back at home).   The place was very quiet and I apparently passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow at 9pm.

The next morning I noticed I hadn’t brought much for breakfast with me.  I had coffee and toast, but butter had been forgotten.  I did have hotdogs, but I didn’t want to think about that for breakfast, so coffee was breakfast.

I headed for the border and got there about 11 am.  After I got to the Mexican side, I was stopped and they asked for my passport and both vehicle registrations.  I had to go back to the car to get its registration.  One of the border officers came into the RV and walked to the back and opened a couple of drawers, then told me I could drive off.

That border town was just as bad, possibly worse than I had imagined.  (I spent a few years working in Maquiladoras for Sony in a prior life)  Tijuana was WAY nicer than this place.   Prior to getting out of the town, there was a police roadblock with a few men holding machine guns.  That got my undivided attention.  But as I stopped for them, they just waved me on through.

As I drove south, I started seeing these signs and wasn’t really sure what to make of them.   They were posted about every 10 Kilometers along the road to Rocky Point.   I got used to seeing them, and I had no issues with anyone on the way down; so I started thinking the signs were a good thing for us north of the border folks, as they sort of implied.

I got to the building sometime after noon.  I was a bit surprised to find all but the main roads in the town were dirt.   Very few paved roads where the locals live.    Antonio (the painter) met me there a few minutes later.  One thing I noticed again, when traveling out of the US, our phones require using different prefixes depending on where you are calling.  It was odd.  I could call home without doing anything different, but for the life of me, I could not call or text Antonio no matter what I tried while I was south of the border.  No issue once back in the US to call him.  I tried every prefix and suffix I could find by googling what to use.  I had switched to Cricket Wireless for phone service before heading to Alaska in 2019, Cricket advertised they allowed roaming in Canada and Mexico.   I worked well in Canada, and now Mexico has been tested and deemed worthy.   Although calling locals isn’t something I could figure out.

I drove the coach into the building through the smallish door, but we fit in.  Something else I noticed, as I missed the correct turn-off for the building and had to go past the turn and took the next right and right again to come back, the overhead wires were very low on the right side of that street.  My radio antenna did its Boing Boing sound, and I immediately stopped, got out and noticed the wires hanging were a bit lower than my roof ACs, but still high enough that the front curve of the AC covers would help them ride up and over.   Note to self:  next time stay left, toward the side of the road with the telephone poles where the wires are a lot higher.

Antonio’s crew got to work within minutes of me leveling the coach and putting out the slides inside his building.   He had two of his guys help with taking out the windows, which was great as there are 15 of them.  It’s kind of amazing how stuff seems to get heavier each year…

By the end of Tuesday, all the windows were removed. There was a bit of confusion on where to put them.  In the end, if you have this done, make sure they get put outside the RV along the wall where they can cover them with plastic prior to the start of the painting process.

Another thing of note:  They will put paper in the windows, and even after I mentioned that the prior coach had a bit of over-spray inside, they didn’t do a very good job and I was cleaning over-spray of the counters and furniture for a couple weeks.  Note to self:  Do that job yourself.  Buy lots of rolls of wide blue tape and thick plastic and double it up.

Here is what the bus looked like with the windows out that Tuesday evening, my first night there.

 

 

 

 

 

And the picture below is the second day after the windows were taped up and the sanding had started.  On the other side, the awnings were being removed and the slide toppers were already off over there.

 

 

 

 

And below is the morning I headed home, the slide toppers are off and sanding has begun on this side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will add another post detailing more happenings after the first day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upgrades to the Bus prior to our Winter Trip to the Desert and Summer 2020 trip

I had quite a long list of changes needed when we got home from Alaska last Fall and I started earnestly on them in November.


The list:
Replace the absorption fridge with a residential electric model.
Replace the lead acid batteries with Lithium Ion batteries.
Double up on the amount of solar panels & Controllers.
Replace the Smart Battery Sense (SBS) with newer Long range SBS.
Swap out the uncomfortable Living room chairs with Theater Seating.
Add a battery monitor with Bluetooth capability. 
Hook it all up with a Raspberry Pi to upload all the Solar and Battery information to an internet web page.
Replace the bedroom TV with a slightly smaller one to fit the space better.
Move that larger TV to over the windshield, make a heavy duty frame to hold it.
Install a second cargo bay rolling tray
Install a shelf over that tray in cargo bay for more storage space.
Install a weather station
New Windshield
Replace windshield camera that died during Alaska trip.
Replace all window shades with new MCD day/night roller shades.

Replace the drivers console tray with new cherry one.

 

Geez, we will be much poorer when done. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferrying over to Friday Harbor

Late Friday morning we headed over to Friday Harbor.   It seemed appropriate to do that on a Friday!  It was to be one of the few days that it was supposed to be sunny most of the day.    We walked onto the ferry for the 90-minute ride over thru the San Juan Islands.  Along the way we went past Orcas Island and many others.  Most of them have houses we could see from the ferry.   Lopez Island had lots of houses that could be seen from the ferry.

It was a quick 90 minutes and we seemed to get there really fast, probably because it was a “non- stop” ferry.   When we arrived, it was overcast and just  after lunchtime so we headed out looking for a place to get something on a patio where Dusty could stay with us.

Fairly quickly we found a small Mexican restaurant just about 100 feet up the hill from the landing.  They had a small patio sans a cover, so we lucked out and it didn’t rain on us even though it looked like it was going to do that any minute.   It was pretty good food, a lot better than expected being so far from the border.

It’s a nice little town and didn’t really seem like the tourist trap I expected.  There were a few gift shops, where I expected everything to be one of those. but it was very low key.  We were only staying for a few hours and wandered the streets for a bit while Kathy perused the shops there were there.  She did find a nice metal sign that may end up in the living room of the RV.

Dusty and I spent a lot of time on park benches while she shopped and he had a lot of folks coming over to pet him and hear how cute he is.   It wasn’t long ’till we saw our ferry approaching the island and we headed over to get in line to board for the ride back to Fidalgo Island.

Along the way we did see a pod of Dall’s Porpoise swimming beside us.  They look like baby orcas with their black and white colors.

Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands

The first morning on Fidalgo Island we drove over to Whidbey Island to check out Deception Pass close to a tide change.   The water was moving swiftly under the old bridge.   In order to get to the northern walkway we had to go below the bridge and climb up the other side.  There is a lot of traffic right there and its a fairly narrow bridge by today’s standards.  Built back in the 1930’s and it looked a lot older than that underneath it.

 

After wandering around there for a while we drove all the way to the south end of Whidbey island to a very small town called Clinton, the road actually ended at the ferry landing with no place to turn around.  I had to make a quick u turn hoping there were no popo watching..

Kathy spotted a place called Island nosh which had a patio to get lunch where Dusty wouldn’t need to stay in the car.   And this place had excellent food.   I had Pad Thai that was as good as any other Thai restaurant I’d ever had it.

We drove back north afterward and took some back roads with gorgeous homes on the Whidbey Island waterfront.   We headed over to Anacortes first to find out where the Ferry Landing was located and the parking situation for our trip to Friday Harbor the next day.

On the way back to the RV we drove into a dry campground next to the large marina in downtown Anacortes.   To my surprise it was a really nice place and within easy walking over to the old downtown and all the restaurant’s and shopping.

We also found a very interestingly landscaped park in Anacortes.  I will let the pictures do the talking.

 

 

While driving around Anacortes we also found another ferry, is was a small one similar to what we used to get from Dawson City over to the Top of the World highway back in June.  The ferry made the short trip from Anacortes to Guemes Island.   We probably should have traveled over to that island but by the time we found it we were in a rain storm and didn’t want to venture out of the car.

The following Sunday we went to breakfast at the Calico Cupboard restaurant which was recommended by one of Kathy’s friends that vacations in the Northwest often.   The place made the best Hash Breakfast I have ever tasted.  Its been added to my special restaurant list!    If you ever find yourself near Anacortes, they make incredible food.

And we found these unusual gutter downspouts when leaving the place that morning.   They were very functional, water was coming out from the watering can spigot as it was lightly raining that morning.

 

 

 

Driving from Meziadin Lake to Smithers and Prince George and to the US border.

We left Meziadin around 10:30 for the drive to Smithers, BC.    Around lunchtime we stopped at a roadside historical site.   It was Battle Hill, and we read the signs and checked out the view.  There was a large staircase built onto the side of the hill we were standing on and it went all the way over the Battle Hill, which looked like it was a man-made hill in the middle of a small field below us.  It appeared to be a great place for a battle if you occupied the top of that hill.  Battle Hill Wiki

After lunch we started down the road toward Highway 16 but made a left turn to check out the historic Totem Poles.   We read that they were over 100 years old, so Kathy got out and snapped a few pictures as Sue and Larry got their wires crossed and didn’t follow us.   All around that area were ramshackle houses.  Lots of them looked lived in, and the odd part was just about all of them had a large window in the front broken, a big gaping hole in the windows.  Hopefully they get fixed prior to winter setting in.

We wound our way out of that area and back onto the main road.   Then we drove the few hundred meters to the turn onto the main highway.   As soon as we made the left, we entered a dusty gravel section of highway that was being worked on.   There was a huge line of cars and trucks kicking up an incredible amount of dust for us to drive thru.   We backed off as far as we could so most of the dust had blown off the highway before we had to drive thru it.  This situation lasted for over a half hour, slowly crawling for miles and miles.

Later that afternoon we made it to our campground, registered and then set up for a couple of days a few miles west of Smithers, BC.   Our plan was to go to get pizza at Boston Pizza.   We arrived there later in the evening.  We ordered cocktails and the only person to get them was Kathy as she ordered wine.  Turns out the CO2 system was broken and there was no draft beer available.  Pizza without a beer, ugh.   But after about 15 minutes the waitress came back and said they had gotten one tap to work so she could bring us a particular beer.  I cannot remember what it was, but it must have been good as the glasses were empty when we left.

While we were there, an RCMP officer sat down next to us with folks that were probably her family.   They left prior to us finishing, but as we walked out to Larry’s car, she was sitting in her RCMP SUV and we had to walk right in front of her.   As we got in the car, we were all mumbling about her knowing our driver had just drank a large beer.   But before we drove off, she pulled out of the parking lot and drove up the road till we couldn’t see her anymore.

While we were in Smithers, we had to go to Canadian Tire for RV “stuff”.   It appears Canadian Tire is a department store that also has a small section of tires for sale.  Who would have known..

Our second night in Smithers we ate at the Trackside Mexican Cantina and had many Cadillac Margaritas.   Those were good as was the food.  I especially liked the prawn tacos!   The Trackside is literally track side residing in about 1/2 of the Smithers Train Depot.   While we were there a fairly fast moving freight train went by very close.   It was pretty long and seemed to go by forever.   Then we heard an engine getting closer, so we assumed it was the end of the train, but it wasn’t.  This was the first time any of us had seen a freight train with another engine in the middle!  All other times while on the roads the trains would have engines pushing from the rear also, but never an engine in the middle of the cars.  And this train didn’t have an engine in the rear.   If you are ever in Smithers, BC, I highly recommend Trackside Mexican Cantina for dinner!!

The next morning we started on the 250 mile drive to Prince George, BC.   From there Larry & Sue would head east toward Jasper then down to Banff and we would head south toward the US border, north of Seattle.

Somewhere  along our journey, Sue mentioned she really liked a movie about King Arthur.   So when Kathy was reading thru the Milepost to find a rest stop along our route, she found one in Tintagle, BC.   That rest stop had a monument that had a stone donated to the city from Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, England, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur.

A few hours down the road we arrived at Sintich RV just south of Prince George, BC.   That night we dined at the Canadian Brewery.  It was a fairly nice sports bar where the CO2 system was working!

 

We wanted to watch the Chargers season opener, but our satellite dome couldn’t lock on to a satellite, being so far north and having a line of trees in the direction the dish needed to be pointed.   At the last minute I signed up for a Hulu live streaming trial account and we were able to watch the last three quarters using Kathy’s Cricket phone as a hotspot for the internet data stream.

On our last evening in Prince George, we headed over to Cimo Mediterranean Grill   and had a wonderful dinner.  I think we all were completely surprised by how good the food was.  I know I was amazed!

The next morning we were sad as we were parting with our traveling companions.  We had met up with them again in Valdez, AK, and traveled together all the way to Prince George, BC, taking close to 6 weeks to get there. We hope to meet up with them again in our future travels!

We headed south, Larry and Sue headed east to Jasper and then on to Banff.

We took highway 97 south to the town of Clinton, BC, where we stayed overnight at a small campground.   The next morning we took 97 further south  till it joined up with the Trans Canada highway, which we then headed west (south) toward the US border.   Along the way we entered the Fraser Valley and gorge.   What a wonderful drive thru Boston Bar and Hell’s Gate.   What a beautiful area.  I would like to come back and explore it sometime as we were in a hurry to keep up with some reservations we made so we would be able to be in San Francisco on a particular weekend.

We got to the border around 2pm and breezed thru it in a couple minutes.   Unfortunately the border crossing we used dropped us into a rural area with very small roads.  I was happy once we found a larger roadway about 45 minutes later.   We proceeded to drive Interstate 5 to the off ramp leading over to Fidalgo Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Stewart and Hyder tourista’s

We registered and pulled into our campsites in the Bear River campground around 3pm.   It was still raining a bit and the roadway was pretty muddy.  Luckily the sites were well- drained gravel and there was nice grass on each side.  They did have a funny arrangement for the utilities I had not seen prior.   Each site was paired with another site.   We were in 16A & 16B.  The B site you nosed in to the site and the A site you backed in.  The utilities were shared in the middle between you.  There was a note that you shouldn’t both dump at the same time.  There were two access ports, but it was just a Y pipe to a single sewer pipe below.   I guess it would be bad if two large tanks were dumped at the same time.   Not something I wanted to test!

Later that afternoon we drove over to Hyder, and the most surprising thing happened:  There wasn’t a border checkpoint on the US side.  We passed a Canadian border checkpoint but nothing, nada, no wall or even a fence was to be seen.    We then kept driving thru Hyder and then on to Fish Creek, which is probably 8-10 miles north of the small hamlet.  I got a chuckle reading this sign on a “store” along the road in Hyder.

They are now charging $5 to enter the boardwalk at Fish Creek, and for $10 you got a three-day pass.   There were so many salmon in the creek, I couldn’t believe there wouldn’t be a zillion bears having dinner,  but we didn’t see one.

We left and headed back toward Stewart.   I had read about a great place to eat, so I drove by it on the way back.   We checked out The Bus.  It didn’t look like much and I wasn’t expecting our compatriots were impressed.   We kept driving and arrived at the Canadian Border crossing.   The gal took our passports and ran them thru her handheld machine and appeared to be make notes as she asked the usual questions:  weapons, alcohol and cannibis products.   After she was finished, I asked her where the good food is in the area and she immediately said it was at The Bus.   She also mentioned the Prince Edward Hotel, but qualified that with, it just turned into a Chinese restaurant.

As we drove off, we started discussing our dinner plans for The Bus.

Each day we made at least two trips to Fish Creek to see the bears.  The fish were starting to die and a couple days in it started getting a bit smelly with all the rotting fish on the banks of the creek.   I think it was the second evening when we finally saw a bear, although it was very briefly as he was eating berries and didn’t get into the water.  He was on the other side of the blue lagoon.

I had been noticing logging trucks driving past the campground for a couple days and decided to take a drive down that road to see where they were going.   It wasn’t far, but there was a port area that had lots of trees piled up, ready for shipment to China and Japan.   One of the workers told me a cargo ship came in about once a month to load them and take them on their way.

I wanted to go to see Salmon Glacier, which was about 25 miles past Fish Creek on a gravel road.   No one else wanted to go, assuming there would be a really rough road.  Luckily for me that wasn’t the case and it was one of the most spectacular drives I had ever been on.  The scenery was like what I’d expect to see in the Alps once we get there.   And at the summit the view was indescribable.   The road did get really narrow at one point, and there were a few areas of potholes, but most were easily driven around.  Most of the road appeared to have been recently graded, except for the narrow area that appeared to have recently had a slide of dirt come down the hillside.  I wouldn’t take my motor home up there, but any car can get there easily.  It’s worth the drive.

The last evening we were going to be in town we drove to The Bus for dinner again (3rd time)  for our last halibut fish and chips.  It’s right up there with the best Halibut I have had.   The first night Kathy and Sue had the halibut cheeks,  what we heard are the best part of a halibut.  The taste was out of this world.

After dinner Larry drove us out to Fish Creek for the last time, and as we came around a small bend in the road, a black bear moseyed out in front of us.  We were going slow (the speed limit there is 20 MPH) and we just watched him cross about 10 feet in front of us.

When we got to the creek, there was the smell again and noticeably fewer fish in the creek.   There were no bears and I figured the one we saw, which was heading away from the creek, was the one we had seen the prior evening.

We headed back to the border crossing for what I think will be the last crossing back into Canada for this trip.

In the morning we headed out in the bright sunshine for the drive up the mountain to Meziadin Jct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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