Salt Lake City sideshow

We headed to SLC early on Thursday morning to get on the service list at the Freightliner dealer to have our exhaust manifold repaired.  I had talked to the service manager the afternoon prior and he said he could do it as soon as I got there.

When we arrived fairly early that wasn’t the case.  They told me they were too busy to look at it, and I should try back on Monday (4 days away) to see if they had time then.   It was then I realized that dealer had been bought out by the same company that owned the San Diego Freightliner dealer.  (that company should be called Darth Vader Enterprises)   I will not use those dealerships unless it’s an actual emergency as they are not what I would describe as “competent”.   Apparently when they buy out the local dealerships, all the good people leave.

Literally across the street was the Cummins dealer.  Needless to say, I drove over there next,  walked in and talked to Lacy, the service writer, and she said she could have a tech look at my manifold around 2 pm that day.  We hung out in the parking lot till then and I made reservations at the SLC KOA.  We had camped there twice before, first time on our first big trip in 2017, and again on the way to Alaska in 2019.

He arrived just after 2 and took the bus back into the shop.   After a while I went back inside to talk to Lacy and the tech happened to be there explaining what he found.   It was a blown gasket, and he also found the turbo charger bolts were very loose.  (so loose it was barely attached to the manifold.)

I told them to order the parts, and a new manifold, as I read it was a very common problem to have the manifolds warp on my model engine.  (ISL)  They thought I could bring it back in for the repair on Monday.

I had re-injured my back in Nephi and all the standing around at the dealership had not made it any better.   The ride that afternoon to the campground after the diagnosis of the problem was excruciating.   The next day, after a lot of pushing from Kathy and Cousin Frank, we scheduled a chiropractor visit.   After getting an adjustment, I felt much better!   I scheduled another follow-up for the next week.

I was able to order groceries from a local Smith’s store for pickup.   That turns out to be a really great convenience.  I think it might even save money as there aren’t any impulse purchases that happen when you wander thru a grocery store trying to find what you need.   I had been using our local Ralph’s while home, and in SLC, Smith’s is the Kroger affiliate.   Kroger’s app is great for informing them when you are leaving to go pick up the order and letting them know when you arrive.  But I use the Website to place orders as it’s easier to spot things ordered in error.   I don’t think I’ve ever waited in the parking lot for them more than a few minutes, probably because of the app allowing me to communicate to them when I am on my way.  Often they are there before I am ready.

Monday came and the manifold wasn’t there yet, but was expected later in the day.  We made an appointment for the next morning at 7am.   That afternoon I went back for the other chiro appointment.   The regular doctor was there and her adjustment was nothing like the first one I got.  I thought this lady had broken my back with what she did to me.   The drive home afterward was almost as bad as the drive back from the Cummins dealer on Thursday evening.   But by Tuesday, I felt a lot better and still feel pretty good a few weeks later as I write this up.

We packed up the coach Monday night and we drove over to the Cummins dealer and parked in one of their overnight spots.  They have 50 amp electric.   Doing that allowed the engine to cool off overnight, and in the morning the tech would only drive it a couple hundred feet and they could shut it off,  making it a lot cooler to work on when you need to do all the work from the top of the engine where the exhaust manifold is located.   In the morning the tech said thank you for that.  He said he cannot remember anyone purposely doing that in the past to make his job just a bit easier.

I had been quoted 12 hours labor and was hoping we could get the bus back before they closed for the evening so we didn’t have to go to a hotel for the night.  So we packed up all our clothes and items we would need in case we did.

We left to find a place to have breakfast and then drove a few miles west to the Great Salt Lake State Park ,which of course was right on the lake.   The potholed dirt road for about a mile was not nice.  And after that experience, they charged us to get in.  Otherwise it was a nice park and we walked around for about an hour.

After that I searched Google Maps satellite view for a nice small local park to sit around in the shade for a bit and Dusty could poke around all the trees and grass for a bit.   He might be deaf and cannot see much anymore but his nose is just as good if not better than it used to be.  That dog can sniff stuff for hours if you have enough patience to stand there forever.

Sometime after noon I was checking out the Fido Friendly App and picked Uinta Brewery for lunch.   Just after finishing and paying the check, I got a text from the bus saying it was moving.   I opened the Linxup App (GPS asset tracker)  and sure enough our bus was back into its parking space the tech had picked it up from about 6 hours prior.  I hoped that was a good thing but didn’t want to get my expectations up in case there was a problem and that’s why they pulled it out of the bay early.

We drove back over to the Cummins dealer and were pleasantly surprised to find it was done.   The only unpleasant part was they still charged me for the 12 hours, saying they charge the standard rate for that repair, even if it takes half the time of the estimate.   That seems like the standard time estimate is extremely flawed.   I don’t care how efficient a tech is, he should be able to shave off maybe 20% of the time,  finishing in half the time just means the standard estimate is a bogus figure.   And what was going to get reviewed as a 5-star experience on Google turned into a 3 star, and almost a 2,  with me feeling cheated.

We stayed that night (Tuesday 14th) at their hook-up sites and drove off for Green River State Park the next morning.

The warm slog to a very small rally in Nephi Utah.

We had planned events at home in May and those plus finishing up the bus we got a late start on this years summer trip,  it was quite a bit warmer than last years April shove off.  Most of the way north is really a desert of various elevations some places were a lot warmer than others.  Barstow for the night was pretty warm, but the next day we got to Vegas for the weekend and it was hot.

Lucky for us it was supposed to get even hotter the day we left for the rest of that week there.   We ordered Amazon Fresh groceries delivery while at the Oasis Resort and they delivered them right to the coach’s front door.   We left early to beat the heat and get fuel in a truck stop just north of St George Ut.  This truck stop was the worst I ever experienced anywhere.  It was an unattended Sinclair truck fueling station, with a single pump for cars & gas.   The craziest thing with these pumps is the stopped at 17 gallons.  Not some even dollar amount, each time the dollars were $95.38 and exactly 17 gallons.  The pump took about 60 seconds to pump in 15 gallons, then it slowed to less than a crawl and took 5 minutes to hit 17 gallons.  Needless to say, I had to restart the pump 6 times to get a full tank.   It was excruciating at best to get a full tank.

 

We ended up in Beaver UT for the night, cool weather, such a nice break from the heat.  I wanted to stop in Beaver as I thought we had an exhaust leak and I had used a diesel mechanic shop there on our way to Alaska a few years back.  I was impressed by them at the time.   The next morning I drove the coach over and the owner crawled under the engine and after a bit popped out and told me it wasn’t an exhaust leak, but a manifold leak.   He said they were very understaffed and barely could keep up with their mobile service so they couldn’t do the work.   (I wished it was an exhaust leak!)  So that morning we headed off to Juab County Fairgrounds for the rally in Nephi.   It was a goodsam rally,  prior to finding it online last winter I didn’t even know there was such a thing.   We arrived, setup and then I got on the phone with places to have the exhaust manifold looked at.

I called a few local shops and they all said they could do it, but I decided it might be smarter to have a mainline shop in Salt Lake City do the work so I called the Freightliner shop and they said to bring it in ASAP as they had time the next day.  We left without ever attending anything at the rally.  Although we did get to experience someone testing the loudspeaker mike @ 6am.  Insistently tapping for about 10 minutes.  He must have been deaf, as it was extremely loud and seemed to go on forever.  Lucky for us,  we were already awake, others weren’t as fortunate.

Getting ready for this Summers trip..

After getting the bus back home, I had to get the TV Lift/Bench/Fireplace moved to the top of the to-do list as I had sold the couch on Craigslist that originally filled that spot.

I finished up the drawing and bought the needed Cherry wood.   I went for quarter sawn as I really love the straight grain.  I ripped it down to get rid of the sapwood and realized I didn’t have access to a joiner anymore.  I started researching where I could use one.   I discovered MakerBook.io and was able to schedule a joiner use session less than 10 miles from my house the next morning.   It worked out great and I think cost me $50 for about an hour with a helper.

After the boards were jointed, I was able to glue them up and use my hand planer to flatten them.   I was used to a wide planer and wide-belt sanders, so this was a real chore to get the glued-up boards flat.

While in the middle of that, I had to order new casters for my table saw and miter saw cabinet.  The 20+ year old phenolic wheels had just been disintegrating for years, and  as I moved them out for this work, they totally broke.  I ended up buying steel wheels this time, so hopefully they will be the last I need to buy and install.

I built the cabinet and installed it in the RV.  So we now have a fireplace (that can produce heat too, what a novel concept) and a TV lift that works much better than my old one.  And the best part is when the slides are in, like during travel, there is plenty of room to walk by another person.

 

During the winter I had completely redone the wet bay’s fresh water piping and also the black tank wash connection so it doesn’t route up into the living quarters. I moved the vacuum break to the hose end.   While doing that, I decided to add a second water filter in the bay to give me a 5 Micron and .5 Micron filter.  When I finished that part and tested it a while back, the fittings in the filter housings leaked like a sieve.  I was so bummed as the engineering required to get two into that small area,  no small feat.

So now that the TV lift was completed, I needed to get those fittings fixed.   I was googling a bit, trying to find out if I should be using something other than Teflon tape to wrap the threads, and that’s when I discovered that I was supposed to wrap them 5-7 times, not the 2 times I had always done during my life.  Who knew?  I’m not a plumber and have never worked with one.   This winter I will probably replace the existing L-bracket concoction I made with standard L-brackets I could find in stores with a single L-bracket with steel thick enough to hold them.  I will also remake the top brackets with something more substantial than the Simpson ties I used.  They worked for this summer but are not sturdy enough to last many years.

I took it all back apart, re-wrapped the fitting threads, and then tried to buy new wall brackets for them as the original brackets that came with them prevented a really tight fit for the water fittings.  I ordered a couple and none of them were the correct size, so I bought a few Simpson ties, drilled and sawed openings for fittings to fit, and they are working to hold them up.

The wet bay is finally completely dry again!   Check out these pictures of what someone had done to add an accumulator to the system.  I had never seen stainless hose clamps rust and start flaking apart before.  I only thought stainless turned brownish in color, nothing like these.   They had used the wrong inside diameter flex tubing.  I found the right stuff so was able to use the normal Pex cinch clamps and they should outlast me.

We got on the road Thursday, the 2nd of June, a little late in the afternoon.   That lateness added a couple hours to the drive to our stop for the night in Barstow, bumper-to-bumper traffic once we hit Riverside, and almost all the way up the Cajon Pass.

But we were on the road again!

I also replaced the chassis batteries, and while doing that, added a heating pad below the lithium house batteries to use if needed in the future.

And we replaced the potable water hose on the reel as the old one kept springing leaks and had been cut back a few times to get rid of the holes.  It had gotten pretty short over the years.   The new hose seemed great till we got to the cool weather in Colorado this summer and it’s almost too stiff to reel up and out.  I will need to find another one.  Maybe I will go with one of the collapsible fabric ones if I can find one safe for potable water.

 

 

 

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.