The eventful drive to Tillamook.

I decided at the last minute to drive down the coast to Tillamook that morning and that appeared to be a bad decision about 10 miles outside of Astoria when we heard a loud pop and we lost almost all engine power going up a small hill.   After a few seconds, we were only going about 5 MPH up the hill on a two lane highway with lots of vehicles stacked up behind us.   I had instinctively pulled on the emergency flashers to give the folks behind us a heads-up.   There was a wide spot in the road about a quarter mile ahead and we pulled over to see if something in the engine compartment looked odd or sounded odd.  Nothing looked or sounded out of place.   All I knew is that after the popping sound, it was like we had a 5 horsepower lawnmower engine propelling us very slowly along.

I called my 24/7 Freightliner support number and almost immediately they told me it sounded like the flex hose popped off the CAC (Charge Air Cooler).  I was wondering if he was just trying to get me off the phone, but later I realized he was correct.   To see that hose, I would need to pop open the hatch behind the bed, and the only way to do that was to open both bedroom slides to gain access to the bolts holding it shut.

We finally made it to Astoria and drove toward a diesel mechanic shop we found on Google with lots of reviews.   I drove there without calling.  Everybody is so busy that if you call them, they often tell you they are weeks away from an appointment being available; so I now usually just drive to a place to ask them in person.   This time it didn’t work.  Then I called every other place listed in the area and all the way down to Tillamook where we were headed, at least an hour away at full speed, no one wanted to touch it.  But a mobile mechanic in Tillamook said they could, but it would be that night after 7 pm.  (it was currently around 11 am).

We limped over to a Walmart parking lot so we could put out the slides and open the hatch to see if we could find that flex hose.   I popped the hatch, and there it was, plain as day, the flex hose was disconnected from the pipe that goes to the intake manifold.   What that actually meant was the turbo’s boost pressure was just leaking out there and no high- pressure air was going into the manifold, which is now clearly known to be very needed.

Figuring we would be waiting the rest of the day in that parking lot, I called our next campground down in Tillamook to let them know we probably wouldn’t be getting there till the next day. Pat, the host, mentioned an RV place not far from us in Warrenton and I called them.  They didn’t do chassis work, but told me to call Rod’s Marine and Automotive.   Rod said he would be glad to help and that as soon as his mechanic finished his current work, he would send him over.   I said I could drive over, but very slowly, and he mentioned he had just come from that direction and said traffic is moving very slowly anyway.  So I just dropped the hatch cover back on and brought in the slides, then drove over.

Within a few minutes, the mechanic came down out of a small gill net fishing boat and the owner came out and they were discussing what voltage a particular device on the boat needed to be hooked up to.  They weren’t sure.  And the owner (his name was not Rod) told the mechanic to look at my issue while he looked up the voltage requirements for that device.

He crawled under and immediately saw the hose and went back inside to get some tools.   Within a few minutes he had it reattached and was able to use the same clamp to tighten it back on.    We did the paper work.  They charged me ~$50 and we were on our way to Tillamook!!

I found long ago that driving these things in the dark is not fun.  You can only see straight ahead.  Seeing anything to the right and left is impossible due to the flat glass reflecting any (and I mean any) light like it’s a mirror.  Even after turning off all dash lights, it was still like looking into a mirror.  That was in 2017, early one morning when we needed to get to a facility for a 6 am appointment in Mussel Shoals, Alabama.

The day after getting there, we visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory with friends Tami and Scott.   It was an interesting self-guided tour from up above the factory floor, and of course it ends up in the gift shop like most attractions.

That evening we actually went out for dinner inside a restaurant.  It seems like years since we have eaten inside a restaurant.   Las Margaritas in Tillamook had very good Mexican food!

We also checked out the Air Museum just outside of town in an old WWII Blimp Hanger.   An interesting place.  The video they ran in their theater was something I had not heard about.  I had no idea the Japanese Military attempted a coup de ta the night prior to the Emperor’s releasing his recorded capitulation speech to the Japanese people.

The last day at Tillamook we drove down to Whale Cove and to my surprise we saw lots of whales.  We wanted to each lunch at the Whale Cove Inn, but the restaurant didn’t open till 5 pm, and we were there on a Saturday.

Missoula 2022

We arrived in Missoula the Thursday afternoon before my niece’s wedding.  I had gotten a last-minute reservation at the local KOA, so I was a bit apprehensive about the site we would get.   A couple weeks prior they had no openings for our stay; so when I called back and they had something, I was very happy.   We had originally thought we might stay at the ranch or at the local hip-camp.   When we drove over to the ranch to help set up for the next day’s event, I was surprised by the 10-ton bridge weight limit I would have had to cross.  We are close to 20 tons…

It turned out we really lucked out and the KOA gave us a very nice campsite with a very big tree for shade!

We had been struggling with our toad’s A/C only blowing cold air from the defroster and floor vents for about a year since last year’s Mississippi River trip.  When originally calling around to get it fixed, the dealers were talking thousands of dollars in repairs as the whole dashboard needed to be removed to get to the system to fix it.

Recently I had re-posted my question about the issue on a Chevy forum, and someone answered that my issue was a bit different than what the Chevy dealers were quoting; that the Mode Door Actuator was the problem and it was a lot simpler to repair than what the Chevy dealers were telling me about.

I then watched a Youtube Video on the repair and knew that was my issue with the A/C.  I must have called 20 places while in Wyoming and Colorado and was only hearing they had no openings for weeks.   I finally decided to call the Chevy dealer in Missoula a few weeks prior to getting there, and the service gal told me they could do it, but had no openings till the week after we would be leaving Missoula.  Then she said if I brought it in early the day after we arrived, she would squeeze it in.  YES!

That morning I brought it in and they fixed it in a few hours.   Two weeks later and we still have air coming out of the dash instead of the defroster!!  Wow.  It’s been really hot this summer and it took a long time for the car to cool off with the cold air blowing everywhere but at you!

We drove over to help with anything we could for the wedding on Friday afternoon, mainly moving things like beverages, chairs and coolers around the barn and adding ice to the coolers.

The wedding was a fantastic event, and the weather totally cooperated.  I did learn something new at the event.  I asked someone why all the cowboys where wearing sunglasses and was told, no one wants to see cowboys crying.  🙂


The next day we went with Chris and Shelly for lunch at Notorious P.I.G. restaurant downtown in his rented model Y Tesla.   It’s a pretty nice car.  I really liked the display showing all the cars around you.  That may be a feature of the self-driving mode which it had.  Chris said he used that during the drive from CDA to Missoula the day prior.

We headed over after lunch on Sunday to help with the cleanup.  There was a lot to move from the barn to the house and a small truckload of borrowed tables/chairs and cooler to go back to Julia’s work.   After that we went back to the bus and passed out.



The rest of the time in Missoula we mostly visited with the family that was still there and cleaned the inside and outside of the bus.

On Thursday morning we headed northwest to CDA to visit with the new in-laws.



Denver Colorado Sideshow

Pulled into the Henderson Cummins dealer around noon on Sunday for its free hookups to wait till 7 am the next morning to see if we could get a diagnostic on the check engine light we had a few times while traveling around the Rocky Mountains.  When I went back into the monitor to download the info to an email, I noticed the error codes stopped on July 10th, 8 days prior to now.   We will see what transpires with the service person this morning.  The service guy convinced me the problems were just from the altitude, so we headed out to St. Vain State Park that Monday afternoon after making a reservation for one night.   We left the next morning to head for Estes Park, and the CEL light came on while still on the flat ground (although 5,000+ elevation)  We drove to Estes Park with it coming on and off fairly often.  [Very nerve wracking drive in the mountains!]

After a week touring RMNP and Estes Park, CO, we headed back to Cummins.  Only one CEL light happened and that was during the initial engine start. We arrived that Tuesday afternoon (July 26th)  and they were going to take it in 7 am the next morning.

On Wednesday they ran diagnostics all day, checking the fuel system all the way to having the injectors fill a beaker to make sure the flow was correct.  It was double the minimum, so that wasn’t the problem.

Late that afternoon two techs did a road test with their computer hooked up and surprisingly were able to reproduce the issues.  (That never happens!)  That evening they sent all the data to Cummins Engineering and the next morning (Thursday)  were told to install a test ECM.  They did that and after lunch asked me to take it on a long test drive.  (so I didn’t need to pay them $200 an hour for that)  We drove it about 3 hours and not one CEL appeared.

One of the nights while there, I went out to pick up Mexican takeout and saw this Skoolie on the way there that had a mini split mounted up high in the rear.  I had not seen that before but seemed like an ok spot to mount the condenser.


The next morning (Friday) they replaced the test ECM with a “new” one, and I then made reservations near Grand Lake, the supposed headwaters of the Colorado River.   Since it was already Friday afternoon, I realized that getting a reservation was going to be a problem for that night and the rest of the weekend, so I started with the highest priced place, figuring that would be the last place to fill up, and of course they had an opening.

We headed out after 2 pm on Friday and took 1-70 west into the Rocky Mountains.  (July 29th)   It was about a 2-3 hour drive, and about half way there the CEL came on and the engine would barely run if the RPM’s were between 1100-1400.  This was a new problem and not a good one to have driving in the mountains.  It had just started raining, and when I turned on the wipers, my driver’s side wiper just disappeared, dropping down where I could not see it.  My thoughts were it fell off.   I asked Kathy to stand up and see if she could still see the wiper.  She could, it was just below the windshield propped on the right-side wiper; so at least I didn’t need to find a new wiper assembly!

It started raining harder, so I had to find a place to pull off and see if I could fix that new problem.  I saw a spot and pulled over on the freeway, never fun.  I took the wiper off and it seemed to be ok.  I put it back on in the right spot and tightened it up good.  Turns out the painters had put it back on but did not tighten it all the way; so me putting it back and giving it a good turn worked and should continue to work.

Not long after we got back on the road, the sun came back out and it was dry the rest of the way to Granby, CO.

Unbeknownst to me, Granby was on the other side of a very high pass, and that pass turned out to be a couple thousand feet higher than we had ever driven the Bus since we got it close to 6 years ago.  There were a lot of switchbacks on the way up to the 11,307 foot pass and again on the way back down.   Having the engine cut out in the 1100-1400 RPM range made that climb very interesting!  (And not in a good way.)

We made it to the RV resort in Granby and settled in for the weekend.  I sent some emails to Cummins informing them of what transpired (not the wiper issue)  and asked for an appointment on Tuesday morning.

We arrived Monday afternoon (August 2nd) and before I set up the coach for staying the night, I went inside to make sure we had an appointment for the morning.  The gal said the techs were waiting for me and wanted to look at it as soon as I got there.

They pulled it in and put it back on the computer.   Afterward they brought it back out so we could stay in it till the morning.

They took it back in around 7 am and pulled out the muffler so they could see and work from underneath more easily this time.   A couple hours into the process, one of the techs came out (Maximus) and said they found a loose ground wire attached to the engine block and were going to test it on the dyno to see if that had fixed it.

It had fixed it!!  Then we left for a few nights in Cheyenne, WY,  (August 3rd) about $4,000 poorer from the whole experience.   Quite a bit of money for a  loose ground wire, in my opinion.

We ended up staying in Cheyenne for some extra days, and we both tested positive for Covid the day after getting there.  I was feeling pretty bad, so we went to an urgent care where the test came back positive.  They did one for Kathy even though she was not sick and she tested positive too.  I then had to get my PCP to prescribe Paxlovid as the urgent care wouldn’t do that.  They wanted you to be able to follow up with your regular doctor.

A couple days later Kathy started feeling sick and she got a 5-day course of Paxlovid too.     It’s a weird drug, actually two different drugs, 6 pills a day, and it gave me the worst metallic taste in my mouth for the 5 days I had to take them.

I avoided Covid for so long, I was thinking I must be immune… stupid me..




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.

June 9th thru 14th.

The Homer Spit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Boondocking experiences after installing Solar on the RV

Let the testing begin!    Our first camping trip after I installed 640 watts of flexible Renogy solar panels and a Victron 100/50 charge controller was at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta campground October 3rd till the 14th.     We had signed up for an Escapee’s HOP (Head Out Program)  late last year when I couldn’t find more than a couple days in a row of available reservations.  Turns out they open the Balloon Fiesta Camping reservations up about a week after the last one ends so I was a couple months late to the party.  Luckily I found the ad for the HOP and they had a few openings.  I reserved a spot right then.

Fast forward ten months and we were camping there with our barely tested new solar panels charging our house batteries.    First thing I noticed was around noon the first full day there, they stopped charging the battery.  I checked the side compartment with the charge controller and I saw that one of the breakers on the battery side of the controller had tripped.  The devices I bought were supposed to be 50 amp breakers,  but from what I could tell, it tripped around 30 amps.  Not a good sign.  I clicked it back on and we started charging again.  

I started researching breakers and determined that I probably should have bought 60 amp breakers for that part of the circuit and better quality ones.   So I started calling local distributors, but none had them in stock, so I gave up for a bit.  

Next day it happened again, the same breaker tripped.  I could see this was going to be a chronic problem unless I replaced it.  Again I started looking online for a replacement and at the same time wondered where I could have it delivered.   After all, I was in a sea of RV’s.  No way for UPS to find us. 

A few  days went by while I called just about every electronic and electrical supply house within 90 miles of Albuquerque.    I also kept googling.  And then unexpectedly about 30 pages of results later, I found an ad for a 60amp breaker at an unlikely place called Sportsman’s Warehouse.   I called their local store, and to my surprise, they had a bunch in stock!   That afternoon I drove over and bought one immediately.   Turns out they were in the fishing section of the store for trolling motors, MinnKota MKR-19 Circuit Breaker 60A.   I replaced the faulty breaker that afternoon.  

Of course, once that was in place, the next day the breaker I had previously installed on the negative side of the circuit tripped.  I had only put that breaker on there as a switch so I could turn off both the negative and positive sides of the circuit.  Humbug!  So I went back to the store and bought a second one and installed that on the negative side of the circuit.   The issue with these particular breakers for me was no button to trip them manually, which is one of the main reasons I bought the problematic ones.  They had a button to press to trip them, so in effect they were also a switch.   I had seen other solar install pictures online where those same cheap breakers were used for solar hookups, so I figured they would work.   Geez,  was that a wrong assumption.

By now we are just a couple days from the end of the fiesta, so I decided to shop for one online that had the manual trip lever to install prior to us leaving for our next trip.   I eventually pulled the trigger on the Bussmann CB185-60 breaker and had it shipped to the house once we arrived back home.   I will be leaving the MinnKota on the other side of the circuit till I can find a suitable surface mount switch.

Now that I was no longer tripping breakers, I could really see what the panels were capable of.   One of the days I happened to look at the console and see over 540 watts of power being generated and almost 40 amps going to the batteries.  That was pretty amazing because the panels are flat mounted on the RV roof and the sun was getting low in the sky as it’s the middle of October.    Solar panels should be angled toward the sun for optimum production, but I decided early on in my research that I wasn’t climbing up on the roof to tilt them up and put them down each time we moved.   Once I committed to flexible panels that was fairly moot anyway.

While we were there, I experimented using the generator in the morning to charge the batteries up to around 80% SOC (state of charge), which is around the point the onboard charger drops out of bulk charging mode.  At that point I shut the generator down to let the solar panels attempt to top the batteries off during the rest of the sunny day.  Only using the generator while the charger is in bulk mode should be the most efficient use of the diesel generator.   Once the charging switches from bulk into the absorb charging mode, the charge amperage drops fairly quickly.  Even when the charger is only pushing 10 amps into the batteries, the generator seems to be under the same load as when it’s charging them at 125 amps in bulk.

I am now starting to more fully understand the difficulty of fully charging our batteries via solar . Adding more panels will help, but in reality I probably can’t fit enough panels on the roof of my RV to get it done in the middle of winter. 

The chemistry of batteries prevent them accepting the full amperage of the panels once they get above 80% charged state where the controller shifts into absorption mode.   More panels will get you to 80% quicker, but then the battery chemistry kicks in and effectively starts pushing back and the controller starts dropping the amperage going to them.  So if you calculated you could push 40 amps for 4-6 hours of the day (240 AH) and less AH before and after those hours, then in theory I figured we can push all those AH into the batteries during those six hours,  but that’s not reality.  As soon as those batteries hit around 80% SOC, the amount of charge accepted quickly drops.  So if your batteries are depleted below 80% SOC,  say at 60% SOC, you can really push in those amps for a while; but when they hit that 80% threshold, the amps  drop, and they drop in an almost linear line down to just a few amps and then hit float charging.

My experiment running the generator in the morning was my charge controller switched from bulk charging to float charging way too quickly, almost no time was spent in the absorb phase of charging from the panels, which should be the bread and butter of solar.   I started to search for an answer to that, and what I found out so far was the amount of time the charge controller stays in absorb is determined by the voltage the charge controller sees when it wakes up due to first sunlight in the morning.  The higher the voltage it sees when it wakes up, the shorter the time it stays in the absorb phase; and the generator made the controller see much higher voltage when it woke up, so the absorption time was cut to almost nothing.  

But that was learned a bit too late in the game, so this will continue when we dry camp in Quartzsite the middle of January.


Salem, Oregon: tow bar service at the Airstream rally

We headed toward Salem as I wanted our tow bar serviced by the factory tech after reading it should be done every 10,000 miles and I was close to 17,000 miles since I had done it myself right after purchasing it used off Craigslist early last year.    I had called the factory to see what rallies they would be attending this year near me.   Salem was the only one, and it was an Airstream rally.  I was thinking that might be an issue to get into.   Turns out, It wasn’t.

I drove down to Salem Monday morning, and after a bit was able to find the entrance to the facility.   There was no one at the gate, so I drove in, not having a clue where to go.   I saw a guy in a cart a couple of fenced lots to my right and drove over to him and asked where I could get a day pass.   He told me that wasn’t necessary and pointed to a white building and said I should pull my car over to there and nose it in.

After parking it I walked thru another building and over to the area with more Airstreams.    I had to ask where the vendor building was as there wasn’t a sign to be seen, and that included out on the roads getting in.    Once I was pointed in the right direction, I found the Blue Ox booth and asked the guy if I could get my tow bar serviced.  He said, “Absolutely!” and had me fill out the service sheet.

At that point I was figuring I was going to have to carry that heavy thing all the way from the car, which was probably a half mile.  He told me they normally just come to your coach and service it while still attached to the receiver.    Just then the service tech walked in and I was added to his list after a couple other service calls.   To my suprise, the tech named Josh, had me get into his cart and we drove right to my car, and he attached my tow bar to the receiver on his golf cart and within 15 minutes I was on my way.

Now, I had done almost the same service he was doing last year, but it took me about 3 hours to do what he did in 15 minutes.   I never thought of installing it in the coach’s receiver to unbolt everything.   The perfect workbench for that job, it turns out.    So I was done so fast I couldn’t believe it.   I thought I would need to drop off my bar and come back some other day as it seemed was the norm in Quartzsite.  I had gone there, but they were already fully booked for tow bar service when I arrived.   The sales guy mentioned that in Quartzsite, folks are spread out over a huge area and the techs would have no way to find anyone’s coach, so only there do they require you to bring it to them.   Normal rallies are in a very small area like a fairground.

Unfortunately I was in and out of there so quickly, I never thought to take a picture with all the shiny Airstreams.  There were about 1,000 of them shining in the sun!





Coos Bay, Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Heading for a week at the beach

I’ve spent the time since getting back from Tucson checking into maintenance items I learned about during the Camp Freightliner class, and other chores, like  working on the sprinkler system and putting in some flowers and new plants in the renovated front yard.

I watched a video and proceeded to drain my generator’s coolant and replaced that and the radiator cap.  I then decided to look into why the power steering was acting a bit odd when parking and turning the wheels to their stops.  Turns out I was very low on power-steering fluid.   This diesel actually uses motor oil for its power steering fluid.  That was very odd sounding to me and I was concerned that might be incorrect.  After a bunch of phone calls and a post on a Tiffin forum, I was assured it did use motor oil.  I also confirmed that by opening the reservoir and dipping in a paper towel.

That tank was very low, almost no oil around the newly discovered filter in there.   I bought a new filter and a gallon of oil, changed the filter out and poured the gallon of oil in.   Hmm.  Looks like I need another gallon of oil to fill it.. (not quarts).   I went back to the store and bought two more gallons.  Geez, in a car you are usually talking pints…

I filled it up, ran the engine for a bit and turned the wheel a bit to get the fluid moving around.

Today we are loading up the coach to head out.   I had just unloaded it completely as we thought the next adventure wasn’t until June.   But a buddy had reserved a site at San Elijo State Beach and now would be out of town.  He knew I had never camped there and offered the reservation.  I drove up there to look at the site as the max length listed was 35′ and that wouldn’t work for our coach.   I scoped out the site.  It was very large and overlooked the water.   But I wasn’t sure I could fit my RV in there and was about to send a text explaining I probably couldn’t use his reservation.  Just then as I was driving away, I spotted a large Prevost bus driving in, so I turned around and followed him.   He pulled it into the site next to the one that could be mine.  That Prevost looked as long as my coach, so I got out and knocked on the door, asking the driver how long he was.  His reply was 40′, and that he has camped there many times and he thinks most of the sites will fit his coach.

Needless to say,  I texted my buddy and bought that reservation from him.    It’s dry camping, no electric, water or sewer, but a beautiful view!

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!!!