FCOC Rally

Sorry for this late post, and its out-of-order status..

This year we are trying a few different RV club rallys,  Freightliner, FMCA and Escapee’s.   This event was put on by the Freightliner Custom Chassis Club.  There were lots of seminars on chassis information but fewer vendors than I expected.   We were all parked together in a large hard-packed gravel lot with full hookups at the Pima County Fairgrounds.   The weather was nice, not too warm and even a couple of cooler days mixed in.  There was even a horse show going on over the weekend we were there.  I especially liked the jumping ring,  Dusty liked all of it.  He got to growl and bark at the horses, especially when they were coming directly at him.

Each night there was a dinner and each morning a breakfast provided by the rally.   There were 50/50 raffles, where half went to the local Ronald McDonald House.   Hopefully Kathy remembers to write up those donations for a tax break next year.

There were vendors hawking all sorts of goods for our RVs and a group touring company that explained their RV tours to Alaska.   We have our sights set on Alaska for next summer (2019) and we  just found out a lot about travel up there from the tour folks.  Even heard about a mod to keep rocks from making holes in the radiator.

But the real reason I decided to go to Tucson was to take a two-day Camp Freightliner class that goes into detail on how to maintain my chassis.  It was held the week prior to the rally.   It wasn’t as detailed as I wanted/expected, but I learned a lot.

We met a lot of new friends while there from around the US.   Hopefully we will get to see them again on our travels.  It’s a really big country, so that may be more difficult than we know.

While we were there, we had our coach weighed on the 4 corners.  To my surprise, we were heavy on the right rear by about 1,000 lbs. compared to the left rear.  I spent the next evening moving about 500 lbs. from the right rear to the left rear and offloaded all the extra clean water I loaded for the weighing.  (they suggested having a full tank of water)  Now we should be very close to even on the rear.

I did purchase a battery watering system that is very nice.  What sets it apart from the others I have seen is little white floats built into each cap.   Now I only have to open the battery door and I can see the water level for each cell in a few seconds, and the best part, without crawling on the ground and opening each cap and peering around with a flashlight.

All in all it was a very good trip!

 

Camping at San Elijo State Beach

We are back from a wonderful week at the beach here in San Diego.  (Actually Cardiff by the Sea)  Just south of Encinitas.    We were dry camping, which means there are no hookups for power, water or sewer.   Since this would be our second adventure without hookups, we were ready and I knew what to expect.

We arrived around 3pm on Sunday (15th) and chose the wrong side of the kiosk to go thru towing the car.  Next time we will stay left of the kiosk, not attempt the right side.    I had called earlier in the week to find out if we should tow the car in or let Kathy drive it in.   Turns out if we didn’t tow it, there is an extra $15 a day for the car.   We towed it in.

Once inside the campground, there was a bit of a traffic jam just before our site.   A guy with a trailer was heading the wrong way on the little campground roadway,  I hadn’t been able tell what he was doing.   It appeared to me he was leaving in the wrong direction.  So we were going to need to back up,  which requires detaching the car.   By the time I got the car free of the coach, the guy had got his trailer backed into his site.  Who knew..

I was now ready to pull the RV into the site so the front was facing the beach at maybe a 45 degree angle, giving a nice view out the windshield and also out the passenger side windows and door.   Also a beautiful sea breeze in the windows!

 

The site was up on a tall bluff as we were at the north end of the campground.   We deployed the slides, put down the outdoor carpet we purchased in Quartzite with the sweet hold-down method I learned while at a rally in Tucson last month.   The new carpet gives us a 9′ by 24′ space to put out the lounge chairs, and they are so incredibly light, packing them away later is a breeze!

After we got everything inside and outside situated and ready to relax, I did a quick walk around the coach and realized the small 14″x 14″ panel that covers the water heater was missing.  Ouch!  I immediately realized that while at home last week, I had removed the anode rod to get a replacement and clean out the hot water tank.  Turns out the rod was still about 98% good, so after cleaning it, I put it back in.   Unfortunately it appears I did not turn the panel’s little keeper thingamajig enough to secure it fully and the panel popped off in transit from home to San Elijo Beach.   So instead of relaxing with a cool one, I had to get in the car and retraced my drive to see if I could spot it.

Drove the 27 miles back home and then 27 miles back to the campground without seeing it.   Once I got back, I asked Kathy to drive it again with me in the passenger seat this time.  We got all the way back home and started heading back. As we approached the freeway on-ramp, I thought I spotted something on the side of the road in the bushes.   Since we were going a bit fast and already on the freeway on-ramp, we had to drive to the next exit and circle back.   On the second much slower drive toward the ramp, Kathy saw the panel to her left!   I jumped out and grabbed the flattened panel.  Sigh!  But at least I found it so I could match the paint pattern on a new panel.

 

Once back to the campground after driving the 27 miles 4 times (108 miles) in the car, I was happy to have found the panel and celebrated with a few cold ones that evening.

That evening I did some research to find a tool to bend the flattened edges back so the panel would fit back into the side of the coach.   Turns out what I needed was a Hand Seamer and found a couple listed in stock at the closest Home Depot.

Monday   I drove there the next morning and couldn’t find it anywhere in the store.  I asked three workers and they all pointed me in different directions, one explaining that he gets asked for them all the time and he says they don’t stock them.  UGH.   Anyway,  I go find a fourth employee and show her the picture on my phone, and she doesn’t hesitate to look it up on her phone.  Boom, she walks me over to a $60 one.  I then ask if she has the $26 dollar one.  She looks that up and leads me to a different part of the store where that model is hanging.  (Why hand seamers would be in two different places is strange merchandising to me).

 

I get back to the beach, the glorious beach, and proceed to test out my new tool.  It works and within an hour the panel is back in its place,  a little worse for wear but covering the big white hole that had been there.  [Thank goodness because there is a blazing flame in that compartment when the water heater is on!]   From more than a few feet away, you cannot see all the dings and dents from being run over many times.  Most of the paint is still there, mainly only came off on the edges that I needed to bend back to 90 degrees.

Kathy is saying I don’t need to replace it.  That’s not going to happen.   Those panels are only $50, so the paint will be the difficult part.  I called Tiffin to get the paint colors and they gave me all 4 Napa paint codes.   It appears Napa also will mix it and put it into a spray can.   I will be trying to buy that next week.

Luckily a buddy I had invited to come down for pizza and beer Sunday afternoon didn’t see that text until late in the afternoon.   We weren’t there much due to driving around looking for the lost panel.    And we didn’t get pizza that night either.  But we did Monday night.   Ordered pies from Pizza Port in Solana Beach and picked them up.   All in all a good day.   And to make it better, the sunset was spectacular!  Perfect ending to the day.

It turns out that SESB only allows running generators between 10am and 8pm.   On Sunday afternoon I hadn’t realized that as I only read the part about 6am to 10pm as quiet time.   So Sunday night I only remembered to turn on the genny at about 7:30pm and had to turn it off a half hour later, meaning we weren’t even close to fully charged for the night, and pretty far from it.   So Monday morning we had a fairly low state of charge (SOC)  to run the coffee maker, toaster, heater and microwave.  Kathy tried to cook bacon in the micro and the inverter faulted and wouldn’t go back on.

 

Turns out I had modified the cutoff voltage from the default and moved it up too high.   As we were at a fairly low SOC, the batteries went below the setting I set, causing the fault.  After a bit, I figured out how to do a hard reset of the inverter and it powered back up.  I called the manufacturer to see if my setup parameters were the issue,  they were.  They suggested I put the cutoff voltage back to the default of 10 volts, explaining that the batteries can easily drop to that during a high current draw (like the micro)  then rebound back to 11 or 12 volts a second or two after the load stops.    I turned it back,  now knowing why it should be set that low.  Everything I had ever read about lead acid batteries was 10 volts was a dead battery.   But there is a difference if its under load,  What they are talking about is a battery in a static state.   Live and learn.

Monday night around 7pm I realized I needed to set an alarm to remind me to start the generator earlier, as they weren’t going to get fully charged again on Monday, but at least they would be around 95% charged instead of 80% SOC like the night before.   I figured I need to start it around 6pm to get a full charge prior to the 8pm cutoff time.

Tuesday we finally got to tour the campground.  I hadn’t realized it was so large, over 160 sites.   We were almost to the north end and didn’t know the south end was at least twice the size.  The furthest sites south are at beach level.  And we found beachfront sites down there, some with full hookups.   We talked to one of the camp hosts as I wanted to understand the length policy and FHU info.  He stated it was a recommendation.  You could bring in any length vehicle, but if it didn’t fit in your site, you were “SOL”, basically out of luck and couldn’t stay.   Some of the sites could fit a 45′ coach and most could fit a 40′ one.

There is a nice little campground store just across from the entrance with quite a bit of stuff crammed in there.  I was surprised they sold beer and wine in there.  Kathy spied the ice cream, so I knew we’d be back soon.    That evening my alarm worked perfectly, alerting me to run the genny around 6pm so we could full charge on the house batteries.  They were almost to 98% when I had to shut it down.   So by Wednesday morning, we had the routine working well.   No issues running all the electric appliances in the morning.   Our only other dry camping trip was in the desert north of Quartzite, where there are no generator run time restrictions, so we could run it whenever we needed it, like when all the appliances were running while making breakfast.

At night we headed back into the coach as the temps dropped into the low 60’s as soon as the sun went down and the wind made it feel much cooler.   I had brought the new season of Bosch to watch, giving us a couple hours of watching after dinner each night in the warmth of the coach.  There were a few hearty souls at other campsites (probably) shivering around pretty large campfires.   Much larger than I would have expected the rangers to allow here.

 

On Thursday after lunch at The Taco Shop we decided to create a list of campsites we could fit into along the beachfront for making reservations for next year, taking into account a few very non-level sites not usable for our RV,  or next to the dumpsters, restrooms or dump station, etc.   I ranked them 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices so when we start trying to make reservations for next spring and summer, we can try to get the best sites.

While we were scoping out the sites, another camp host came over and started telling us which are the best sites and also about the FHU sites that are fair game for our rig too.  Dick was his name, and he is a camp host this summer for 4 months and lives in Palm Desert most of the winter.   He was telling us about his Alaska trip last summer and I am ready to start planning a four month trip starting June 2019 if anyone wants to caravan till sometime in September.    He mentioned it was their second trip to Alaska.   Prior to last summer they went there in 2007 with their previous coach.  It sounded great,  except the part about the big rock getting thrown up from a truck going the other direction in a small town that went right thru his windshield, a couple feet above his head.  Seems like I might want to erect one of those Blues Brother fences… Rawhide!

We were leaving Friday, so we performed out last day ritual,  thoroughly cleaning the coach.  I really love the new Dirt Devil central vac I installed last summer.  That thing could suck the hair off my head if it got too close.

One of my new favorite things is to put out and pull up the outside carpets.   The lag screw and washer holding down for the carpet has made that job almost enjoyable with my little 12v impact driver.   San Elijo dirt is almost as hard as that Tucson gravel we camped at a few weeks back, but the new hold-downs made short work of it.

 

Once we were ready to leave, Kathy drove the car home and I headed over to the dump station.  It was easy in and easy out.   I was impressed how clean the bathrooms and dump station were.   Although, I didn’t camp over the weekend, so your mileage may vary.

 

Dry camping in the Desert of Arizona.

We were dry camping in the desert a bit north of Quartzsite, Arizona.  There are 10’s of thousands of RV’s out here.   Amazing views driving into the area, nothing but RV’s as far as you could see when you crested the hill west of town.

Prior to going out there, it was hard to imagine how many folks would be dry camping out there, all of them camping for free on BLM land.  You only need to check in at the camp host and fill out a form.  You can stay on this BLM land for 14 days at no charge.

We were expecting lots of dirt and sand, but that’s not what we found.  It was all small dark red rocks.  It actually looked like someone had tried to pave the whole area with small reddish rocks.  It was not at all smooth, and walking around in the dark could be face plant material due to the random larger rock sticking up a couple inches higher than the ones around it.

The first night all the stars in the night sky were stunning.  We had figured we would see a lot during our trip last summer, but there was nothing like this, probably due to lots of storms in the evenings.   We had a few very clear nights while we were camping out there in the boondocks.

I was fairly apprehensive about how much water we would use and very apprehensive about how much power we would use from the batteries while there and with that, the requirement to run the generator to charge them back up.   The first few days and nights would help us understand how it would all work.

We arrived fairly late on Tuesday, much later than I wanted to arrive as we had never been out there before and I figured finding it in the dark would be impossible.  We got there right around dusk, forgetting how much earlier it gets dark in the winter and they were one hour ahead of home. I had programmed the GPS coordinates into google maps.  Once we turned off onto Plumosa Road and checked in with the BLM camp host, we set out to find that dot in the desert.   Turns out it was about 3 miles farther out.   About every 1/2 mile there was a dirt road off to the left or right with very small signs stuck into the dirt indicating where different groups were camped.   Since the sun had gone down behind a small mountain west of us, it was getting dark.  It was not easy to read the little signs, so I had to go very slowly when I saw another of them as there were many signs at each dirt road.

I finally pulled over to look at the GPS closely and saw it was still quite a bit further out.  After about 10 more minutes, I finally saw the sign I was looking for and pulled in.   I was glad I didn’t miss it as I was told that was the last dirt road for a long ways and there wasn’t anyplace to turn this rig around out there for miles.

We were camped about 1/2 mile north of the main road on a huge swath of moonscape.   It was good that it was large as we were expecting over 100 coaches to show up.   Most folks would probably arrive on Thursday, so getting there Tuesday evening would let us park fairly close to where the band and bonfires would be.

We met up with the Botts who were putting on the gathering.  David and Brenda are very nice folks.  I first found his blog while I was researching how to connect to Campground Wifi without going thru all the rigamarole I had to work thru during my first nights with the coach. Three different campgrounds where I had to connect each device separately and at two parks had to create accounts for each device. What a hassle that was, and I’m an IT guy!  I knew there was a better way.  After getting back home I started looking for it.

David had a great video showing what he thought was a really good system and how to set it up. I watched it, looked up the devices and thought, that is pretty incredible, and all the parts together were about $80. The devices he specified were commercial type devices. The only drawback I thought of was they weren’t on the newer AC Wifi protocol.  Later I was to find out, only 2 of the campgrounds on our 6 months of traveling even supported AC. So I still haven’t seen a need to update the devices to the newer protocol, but I still may.  We’ve been running AC for a few years in the House.

Anyway, to get back to the week.    We had a great potluck one night and the band David brought in from Phoenix was extremely good. Unfortunately, the band was booked for Sunday night and a lot of folks had to leave Sunday morning, possibly to go back to work Monday morning.  But a good time was had by all who stayed!  The weather even cooperated and the wind died down right before they started to play.

We met lots of fellow dry campers and will be trying to meet up with them again in the future.   We are now fairly confident using the coach as a self-contained unit without requiring any hookups for a week of dry camping where ever we may find ourselves.  (aka Boondocking)

We went into town  and found this small monument to a guy that managed the Camel Fleet for the US Army experiment back in the day.    I also went to see the big tent.   Pretty large area with lots of hawkers like the Fair in Del Mar every year.   Although I couldn’t find the Ginsu knife stall.

After being there 6 nights we left Tuesday morning heading back to San Diego.   What a beautiful week to be here.  Desert camping is pretty nice,  and you can’t beat the price!

Red Bay Alabama

A stop at Tiffinville…   Our coach is a Tiffin and I decided to stop at their service facility a mile from the factory in Red Bay.   I wanted to get a few things fixed I didn’t feel qualified to do myself and to have the windshield replaced.   I had been hearing it was extremely difficult to get a spot there and that arriving early on a Saturday gave you the best chance of being able to camp there.   The campground holds about 100 large diesel pushers and was an old airstrip in town prior to them building a very large service center with about 50 service bays.

Saturday was the day.   We drove up and the sign said they had sites!  (We were there a week, no other days did they have that written on the board again. )  We got a lot of paperwork to fill in and bring back to the office prior to 5pm that evening.   You basically fill everything out and then prioritize what you want fixed.   I had never seen that many Class A coaches in one spot before.

Sunday was the day for Hurricane Nate’s remnants to hit us.  It was a non- starter.  It barely rained and there were maybe 10 mph wind gusts.  Kathy was really worried for nothing that we were going to be in the hurricane or tornadoes!

It was still raining a bit at 6:50 am on Monday morning when I heard a lot of rumbling and got up, looked out front only to see about 50 coaches making their way to the service bay doors as they were being opened in the fading darkness.   I was told later that day, it’s called the Elephant Walk.

We had a leisurely breakfast when all of a sudden there was a loud banging on the coach, wham, wham, wham!!  Turns out every morning someone from the service center inspects any new coaches that have arrived.  That is what they were doing to ours.   They were hammering a screw driver into the wet bay and slide floors to determine if there was any rot.   (They used wood it appears)  And to check the roof rails for cracking.   Turns out ours had a bad wet bay floor.  (That’s under the tanks in the basement)  So glad they found that before it rotted out on the freeway!!

The following day we were in Mussel Shoals overnight to get that flooring replaced early the next day.   They finished it in less than 4 hours and we were off to Red Bay again to find out when we could get the 3-hour express bay appointment .  (aka The Three Hour Tour).  That is where the priority list comes into play.   Late that day, we received a call to be at Bay 7 at 7 am.

Wednesday morning we got to participate in the Elephant Walk as we headed to Bay 7.   I had a complete list, but two of the top priorities were to have the front door adjusted so it wouldn’t pop open when it was cold, and to adjust the driver side front slide.

After about two hours, the techs were finished.  It was then that I found out they were out of windshields for my coach.  That was one of the issues I wanted repaired while we were there.   (A rock cracked our windshield outside of Salt Lake City back in June.)

We brought the coach back to our spot and Kathy noticed the slide they adjusted was sticking out an inch or so in the front.  I walked back to the bay and let the tech who worked on it know there was a problem.  A couple hours later he came by and adjusted the stop bolt.  We thought all was good with the world.   Later that day it was still cold in Red Bay and my front door popped open again as I tried to close it.   I again walked back to the bay to let the other tech that fixed it know.   He came by a couple hours later and fixed it.

Thursday morning it popped open again.   I asked the scheduler if I could have someone else look at it.   Nope.  Had to go back to the same guys.  (Wanda is the service scheduler and it seems her favorite word is NO)   As I was leaving her office, I overheard someone doing tech support on the phone in a cube around the corner.   I decided to ask him about it.  He told me how to fix it.  I did it, and so far, a week later, the issue hasn’t come back.

Friday morning we drove over to the Tiffin Factory to take the tour of them building the RVs.  What a tour that was.   Unbelievable access to everything on the factory floor.  I couldn’t believe it.  There were coaches everywhere in various states of the build process from the chassis being driven in without even a floor to them to being ready to drive to the paint shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not long after we got back from the factory, around 11 am Friday morning, I got the call that the glass was in and could I bring the coach to Bay 46 at noon.  I said yes, of course.   About twenty minutes before I had to be there, I closed up the coach to be ready to drive and the slide that they adjusted would only come in on one side.  OMG.  I coaxed it in and drove to the glass bay, then went back to the guys that worked on it, and they said they wouldn’t have time as there was a coach in their bay for the rest of the day.   They told me to talk to Wanda as I didn’t want to stay over the weekend again.   Wanda said NO,  I had to use them again to fix it.  (three strikes anyone?)

I wandered over to the tech support guy that had helped me the day before, asked him if there was anyone I could appeal that to.  He suggested Pete.  I found Pete, told him my plight.  He said to give him a bit and he would see what he could do.  About 20 minutes later another tech showed up in the glass bay and looked at the issue and said a drive bolt had snapped.    He left to find a place to fix it.

About an hour later he called the glass manager and asked me to bring it into bay 9.    I have never seen a crew work so well together.   They pulled it all apart,  changed out the drive shaft and put in a new bolt.   Then they adjusted the slide to within a sixteenth of an inch.   Now it works better than it ever has for me.

Thanks to Pete and his guys on the A team!!

We were on our way to New Orleans in the morning, thank god.  It was fun to talk with all the people that have Tiffin RVs, but a week on the tarmack was plenty!!!

Heading toward De Tour Village & Paradise Point RV park.

We left early around 8:30 am so we could hit the dump station and still get to the next park at a reasonable time.   Summer Breeze campground was really nice and I almost didn’t want to leave, but it was time to get to a new spot.   The drive was unremarkable till we hit the city (village) limits when a dark, black cloud enveloped the town and our view out the front.   We pulled over so I could check the NWS CONUS Doppler radar web site.

By now the lightning was spectacular out the front window.   Not really a good thing when you consider what that means.    Anyway, I determined the storm was moving southwest and we should be thru it quickly.  Wow,  was I incorrect!   We started to head to the campground and the storm hit us like a brick.   We got to the turnoff for the road out to the point when the rain and wind picked up significantly.   At one point on that small road, Kathy started yelling that she couldn’t see, slow down!   Inconsequential when you realize I was the one driving.

We came around a 90-degree turn and it was like we hit a hurricane,   The rain was horizontal and hitting us dead on, making the wipers on high of no use then.  I was just driving by braille then, hoping not to hit one of the bumps.    I eventually found the dirt road turnoff for the campground.  Now we only had to get thru the locked gate, to which we had a code.    But when we got there, it was raining too hard to open the window to punch it in.

Then out of nowhere a person started walking toward us with a small umbrella.  He was going to open the gate for us.   You need to realize it was a torrential rainfall.  How his umbrella stayed open in the wind gusts was amazing to me.  What he didn’t know was that I knew the code for the gate, but the rain was coming in at such an angle it was streaming down the driver’s window channel on the inside.   I was just trying to keep it from getting on the floor in the coach. I had lots of towels shoved into the channel to sop it up prior to the channel filling and overflowing on the floor.  For the most part it worked.  And the guy opening the gate made it even better so I didn’t have to open that window to punch in the code.   [Thank you, Tony!]

The sun came out just a few minutes after we parked and I learned the name of the good Samaritan.  His name was Tony and his wife’s name was Julie.    He had just purchased his coach a few months ago too.   His license plate was a take-off on Cousin Eddy from the Christmas Vacation movie.  I had not seen that one, but am looking for a download soon as Cousin Eddy had a motorhome.  It was the same year as ours and had done some upgrades to get it just right.

An hour later we were sitting outside watching the water as the sun was slowly making its way toward the horizon over this glorious little bay in front of us.  Large cargo ships were traversing the waterway in the distance, and now that the sun is down, with full lights blazing.

We sat outside talking with the neighbors about their travels and where they were heading till the mosquitoes forced all of us to head into our RV’s quickly.   Tonight was Kathy’s mosquito introduction.   We don’t have mosquitoes in San Diego.

 

 

Iron Mountain in the UP of Michigan

The roads in Wisconsin are pretty rough compared to both Minnesota and Michigan.   I guess fewer tax dollars are coming out of Washington for them, or they are being diverted somewhere else.   Currently we are staying on US 2 while trekking from Minnesota to Michigan and it appears it goes into Canada from Michigan, so we will probably head south toward Detroit.

We stopped in this town to get our fridge’s sensor replaced but that didn’t work out as planned.  Brought it over to an RV place in the next town over, but they didn’t read the requirement instructions prior to me getting there and only then did they realize they needed litmus paper as part of the diagnostics to get the new part from Norcold.   No one they or I could find had litmus paper.   So back to the campground I went.  Doubting I will hear from them, I choose a service center a few hundred miles away in Gaylord, MI, and made an appointment for the middle of next week.  (earliest they had, and I had to lay a guilt trip on the service manager to get that appointment)

While we were in Duluth, Kathy decided the central vacuum wasn’t working to her satisfaction.  [[Actually I have been telling him that all along!]  After a bit I agreed and went into the basement to check the bag and it was fine.  I noticed the flex pipe was kind of collapsing when turned on, but also realized it was hopeless as the angles were too severe and the pipe was collapsing at the 90 degree turn.

I ordered a new Dirt Devil Central Vacuum system while we were there to be delivered to our next stop in Iron Mountain.   And I finally got Intel to help me replace our Motorhome’s DVR server  NUC that crapped out about a month ago.   They offered to refund the price so I could buy a new one.   That turned out to be good for me as I purchased a new one for the same price but the CPU speed had doubled since I had bought it.

So repairs on the road..   The new DVR is up and running and the central vacuum was replaced last night.  What a difference that made,  Kathy was afraid the new one might suck the tiles off the floor. 🙂   I had been anticipating a tough job to replace it, but it was much easier than expected.   [Except a lot of time on the floor and knees, ouch!]  The new unit included a new wall receptacle and a much larger hose from that to the unit mounted in the basement.   Luckily I was able to use the old hose to fish the new hose thru the opening way back underneath the fridge.   That new hose was also a lot more ridged, so it is not going to collapse like the old one.

Thankfully I had my cordless multi-tool with me so I could cut the opening in the wall a bit larger to accommodate the new wall receptacle.  Only took one extra charge of the battery to finish it.  Harbor Freight Rocks!

 

 

Heading for De Tour Village in the morning.

 

Duluth Minnesota

We arrived early to our campsite at a marina near the aerial bridge on the Duluth waterfront yesterday.   I was not sure what to expect, but turns out Duluth is a really cool town.    And as you could see from the real-time camera on the coach, we had a nice view.

We had already been stuck at the aerial bridge twice while sailboats went thru.   It seems the boats blow their air-horns three times – a long, a short and another short – the bridge blows its much louder horn, the same sequence as some sort of tradition.     Those horns are very loud, but I did not hear them at night.  I doubt I could have slept thru that bridge horn.

We spent about half the day at an emergency vet hospital after we got into Duluth as Baxter was not doing well and it was Sunday, so the regular vets weren’t open.   He could barely move about and would not get out of bed Saturday morning.    Had a bunch of tests for a lot of money and nothing was positive, but the vet thinks he caught a tick-borne illness, so Baxter is on Doxycycline for a month.

Today he is already acting like he is feeling much better.  Right now he is sleeping on his back in his bed, making me think he feels a lot better.   His temperature feels cooler.  He wouldn’t even get up for food, so as you can see from the pic, he is almost back to normal.   We had to bring it over to him and he would eat it very slowly.  Both our pups inhale food normally and will jump around while you are fixing it.   Seeing Baxter not move from the couch yesterday was a first for him.  Poor guy had a 104 temperature.

Once he was acting more normal, we decided to drive up to Split Rock Lighthouse, about an hour up the coast from Duluth.   More pretty country all the way up. When we arrived, they were pet unfriendly, so we took turns going to see the lighthouse.   Since it was high on a cliff, it was not very tall and took just a minute to climb to the top.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a balcony to look out, which isn’t the norm I’ve experienced, so it was a short stay in there.   I did look thru the light keeper’s house, which was pretty nice.  There were three homes for them to live in.  Not sure why it took three as I cannot remember seeing that at any lighthouse before.

Those big horns on the top of the building in the pic are fog horns.  I bet they were loud!  As we headed back down to Duluth, we stopped at Kathy’s favorite fast food restaurant, Subway, for a glorious Salad.   I got a sandwich, which I must admit was pretty tasty.   The pups only got a walk out of it.   Poor boys!  Just being abused.

Later that day I was coming back from a grocery run and coming down the hill back into Duluth was a spectacular view of the lake, the town, the spit of land we were staying on, and that huge bridge.   From all the big piles of stuff and large grain silos, I would say the main industry is shipping via freighters in this town.

Speaking of which, we got to experience one of them first hand as a coal freighter was leaving town while we were at the park.  We were still at the park near the bridge and I noticed the bridge was going up as the bells were going off.  I looked back to see it was all the way up.  I had not see that happen the other times I looked when a boat was going thru.  And then the bells stopped with the roadway at the top of the bridge.   I had not heard the bells stop with the bridge open either.

I had to investigate what was going on.   Turns out there was a large ship quite a ways back in the harbor and it was moving very slowly and making a big turn.   It took about 10 minutes from the time I went to look before it was at the bridge…  Those poor folk waiting in their cars.   The ship was over a thousand feet long and was carrying coal to some town in Michigan.   I happened to be standing on the deck off the museum so they announced a lot of info about the ship.

 

 

Our first few “Shake Down” trips around San Diego

Let me start out by saying I am way behind on setting this up.  Needed to get the coach customized for us to make the long trip more enjoyable.

Our first outing was to a small County campground called Dos Picos outside of Ramona CA.   Beautiful secluded park with some very low hanging large (18″)  branches way to close too our coach.   Dos Picos Campground

Our next trip the following weekend was to Santee Lakes,  much closer to home than the previous park.   It’s a very crowded place on weekends, as it’s close to the City of San Diego.     Santee Lakes Campground

 

 

 

The following week we headed off to the mountains east of San Diego.   It’s a good climb, a real test of the cooling system and horsepower as this was the first time we pulled the Jeep and we did one 4000 foot pass on the way.    Potrero was great,  lots of huge California live oak trees for shade.  Our campsite had a 10 acre wooded area for our table and chairs.  It was amazing!   I scoped out some other sites with full shade to maybe come back during the summer months which can be really hot out here.     This is the trip where I almost stepped on the biggest rattler I have ever seen.   Luckily it moved back a bit, kind of the sidewinder coil and I stopped,  yanked my dog back, turned around to get out of there and noticed Kathy was halfway back down the trail.  I guess she only had to outrun me.

Potrero County campground

The final shakedown was to Sweetwater Summit campground south of town near Bonita CA.   Our nextdoor neighbors recommended this place and it lived up to their claims.   We will come back to this place a lot in the future.   Sweetwater Summit Campground