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A travelog of our camping adventures in the Pacific Northwest and beyond! Your hosts: Dave & Kristi Smith, Portland, Oregon, USA

Monday, September 18, 2017
We squeezed in a trip down to our favorite Alma Mater Oregon State University last weekend & stayed at Benton Oaks RV Park; our usual haunt in Corvallis. We actually had tickets for the OSU-WSU game in Pullman WA & a space in the on-campus RV parking area courtesy of our friends Ron & Karen (WSU alumni), but had to cancel to keep an eye on our poor cat Gracie. She was recently diagnosed with a 3rd Degree AV Block & needs to be coaxed into eating. We were reluctant to leave her home alone four days with sister Lucy as we were sure she wouldn't eat a scrap, and the cat sitter we normally use couldn't give her the attention required. After considering taking her with us the 6+ hour drive each way seemed daunting, plus dry camping in a parking lot on a busy game weekend are not exactly ideal conditions for convalescence. She's already lost some weight so we thought the 1½ hr. drive would be less stressful & we could keep a close eye on her. I think it was ultimately a good decision, but feel bad for standing up our friends (and throwing away $140 worth of tickets). They were looking forward to taking us out to their favorite restaurant in Pullman for our 39th (yikes!) anniversary on Sat.

Enough of that! We arrived Thursday afternoon & immediately forgot our kitten problems dealing with a hilarious (now) sequence of mishaps worthy of any Laurel & Hardy routine:

  1. After jockeying back & forth into our site (at least 10 times too many according to my copilot) to achieve perfect symmetry with the universe, disconnecting & carefully leveling the trailer within mere fractions of an inch, and connecting the water line complete with new filter; I discovered our 50-amp power cord - for the first time ever - was 24" too short to reach the receptacle! Hmmmm. No problem, I'll just go buy an extension cord - probably should have one anyway - so I set off in search of a place that sells RV accessories. Thirty min. later, after traveling about 5 miles in growing rush-hour traffic, it dawned on me that my journey would take at least another hour IF I could even find a place that sells high-amperage cords; not to mention a 25' length could set me back $75-100. OTOH I could just move the damn trailer closer to the pedestal in about 15 min & be done with it. So I turned around & did exactly that.

  2. After that exercise I was ready to relax with a cocktail only to discover we had forgotten to bring some ice from home. Hmmmm x 2. No problem, I'll just run down to the little convenience store a block down the road & pick up a bag. However I apparently chose the time when every contractor working in the area decided to pick up a beer after work & hang around in the parking lot to chat. All with pickups & trailers that consumed every square inch of parking. Hmmmm x 3. No problem, I'll just run up the other direction to Safeway for some ice, heck it's only a couple of miles.

  3. Once there I actually had the (rare) presence of mind to call back to camp to see if we needed anything else & was informed I was out of Rye. Hmmmm x 4. No problem, I'll just stop by a liquor store & pick up a bottle. I gathered up the few items requested by the missus & headed for the single open express checkout behind a very senior citizen with two short-cases for beer on the belt. 'Jeez, he must be really thirsty' I thought, but my hopes of a fast getaway were soon dashed when I realized he was returning one of the 12-packs because he bought the wrong one the day prior. The clerk, on her second day of the job, was visibly flustered as she could see the darkening faces of the other customers in the line while the gentlemen fumbled with the CC reader & managed to charge the whopping $2.32 difference on his Gold American Express card. "Do you have a Club Card?" she had to ask. Ugh. "Of course, let's see...it should be right in my wallet", a container which apparently has managed to break the space-time continuum because the volume of crap he pulled out could have only come from another dimension! You could almost hear the gathering crowd utter a simultaneous moan when she handed him the return receipt for him fill out with his name & address; which of course as a loyal customer he did so in excruciating detail. At this point I glanced back at my fellow captives & you could actually watch their eyes track his deliberate cursive - up & down, back & forth, dot that i, cross that t. Finally a manager sensing the growing unrest came over & quickly took over, admonishing the poor checker that "returns should always be handled by the customer service desk - not the express line"!

  4. I fortunately had enough consciousness left to ask the manager the location of the closest liquor store which turned out to be almost on my way back; so after being released from my shopping prison I zipped over & picked up a bottle of whiskey. And it was on sale! Doncha just love the OLCC?

  5. Then I was just 400 yds. from the RV park when I realized I had forgotten to buy the ice I originally ventured out for. By this point I was fresh out of "Hmmm's" & resorting to "Oh Shits". After considering the likelihood of the ice cube trays we filled upon arrival having any semblance of solidification I decided to give the convenience store another try; and wonder of wonders the place was bereft of any construction workers so I was in & out in a few minutes. The cocktail was wonderful by the way.
Later we headed down to our favorite Woodstock's Pizza for dinner & toured the old Greek district looking for the new homes of both our fraternities; former next-door neighbors who each managed to mismanage their finances to the point of extinction & only recently re-colonized. That night I tried out my new satellite system, and after figuring out placing the dish on the North side of the trailer to link to a satellite in the Southern sky was problematic it worked very well.

The next day we took an easy bike ride to campus via the Campus Way Bike Path which happens to pass right by the campground. Along the tour I spotted a sign outside of Wiegand Hall advertising "OSU cheese sold Friday only 11am-1pm" so I whipped a U-turn & stopped to investigate. I didn't realize OSU even made cheese, but like other Land Grant universities like WSU with their famous Cougar Gold (that we could have been enjoying that weekend) it made sense; so we picked up three varieties of their finest OSU Beaver Classic™ Cheese. We left the bikes there & walked around the campus which was bustling with activity for the start of classes in a few days. Lots of new buildings & remodeling since we darkened the halls.

Later we had our anniversary dinner a day early at del Alma, a very snazzy Latin-American restaurant that was highly recommended in all the reviews. We ordered a variety of tapas to give us a wider taste profile than single entrees. Some were excellent, some ok, some not so much. We'll give it a another try.

Saturday we drove up to the Bald Hill Natural Area which was very close to the campground for a nice hike along the paved multi-model path & a couple more rustic trails through the woods. Then we headed downtown to Block 15 Brewing for lunch and stopped at The Inkwell, our favorite Kitchen store in Corvallis or Portland for that matter. We know two couples that recently remodeled their kitchens so picked some appropriate cooking gifts. Earlier we decided to blow off the Rhapsody in the Vineyard Wine Walk that evening to stay home with the cats & catch the football game on TV. (Nice to see Dish offer the Pac12 games - DirecTV doesn't). After the rout...er...game (WSU 52, OSU 23) we salved our spirits with a nice Washington Syrah & grilled some Carne Asada for tacos. Happy anniversary sweetheart!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Well, the big event has come & gone. The hype & pricing-gouging was incredible so we just stayed home & invited a few friends over to watch the 2017 Solar Eclipse from our backyard. Portland was going to see about 99% totality which seemed good enough given the dire warnings about traffic, but as it turned out (at least pre-eclipse) wasn't nearly as bad as predicted. I suspect getting home afterwards from points south was a bit of a mess though.

We all enjoyed Mimosa's or Bloody Mary's around 8:30am whilst the camera buffs in the crowd set up their equipment. After the moon began crossing over the sun we chowed down on pastries and a hearty sausage & egg breakfast casserole (snapping a pix every 5 min. or so). Then at totality we celebrated by opening a nice bottle of Syzygy red wine from Walla Walla (thank you Ric & Teresa!) which seemed appropriate since the winery's name basically describes a solar eclipse!

For "photographic history" I used a Harris #12 Gold-coated glass welding filter taped over a Nikkor 55-200mm lens on my Nikon D5200 DSLR; which I put together in a montage (click the thumbnail) of the entire eclipse. All pictures were taken using the maximum zoom & I had to color-correct each to remove the greenish hue the filter produced. The montage layout was done using Microsoft Visio with a circle & 36 evenly-spaced radial guidelines to position the thumbnail images in clockwise exposure order. I'm certainly not a professional photographer, but's neat to see the whole process in one image!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Working on a few mods during slack time between trips. After our recent beach trip where I had to hoist up our cellular booster antenna to grab a good signal, I modified our flagpole so the antenna could be easily attached . If I feel a burning need to fly some flags I can get another pole or jury-rig this one to hang a banner from.

A few other things on the list (all with parts I already bought - no more excuses!):

• Mount the deadbolt lock to the door I've been sitting on for a year!
• Add a couple of grab handles to the wall on either side of the bed so we have something to hold onto when we drag our sorry asses to an upright position. I bought a set of four & used one on the stairway & another in the bathroom for similar reasons.
• Replace the shore power hatch in the door to the cable reel. The little slider that covers the cable hole broke off & was lost.
• Replace the roof plumbing vents with these nifty Siphon jobbers. Should help pull out the fumes you get when using the toilet the first few times after the trailer has been in storage.
• Mount a couple wall-mounted folding drink holders on both sides of the bed. The nightstands are just too low so you have to twist around to reach your coffee the cup - usually knocking stuff off your lap (like a cat) in the process, not to mention the possibility of wrenching your back!
• Replace the cheesy key locks on the front generator compartment door with these paddle latches. Even though I replaced the original wafer tumbler locks with tubular pin locks (Ace) you still have to use two keys to open the door which is kind of a PITA.

Longer-term projects will be fabricating a slide-out drawer for the generator using a pair of these uber-strong XHD drawer slides. With this I could run the genny out in the atmosphere (to satisfy the carbon monoxide police) & gain easy access for maintenance. Also adding more solar panels & a set of four 6v AGM deep-cycle batteries for some serious boondocking! See this great video by Brian from on these batteries!

Monday, August 14, 2017
We finally stepped off on a Dish satellite system so we can get away from the crappy CATV most campgrounds offer (if at all). We used to have DirecTV at home before they drove us away and carried an extra receiver & dish setup in our previous trailer that worked well. I got pretty good at "shooting the birds" by hand but this model is much improved since it finds & aligns to the satellites automatically! And it's HD too!

Amazin had the best price for a dish + Wally receiver bundle so a few days later it magically appeared on my front porch. I set it up in the backyard for a trial run & after moving the little dome around a bit I finally got a clear shot at the satellites. I know it found one because it downloaded some software updates. Then after a quick call to Dish to activate our Pay-As-You-Go subscription ($45/mo with locals, fees, etc.) I was soon enjoying my very basic package of channels. (We can always upgrade to a higher package if 55 channels aren't enough). Picture was very good - sharp, bright, no pixelation or drop-out's for the brief time I watched. Interestingly the colors seemed more "natural" when compared to the Xfinity signal, which seemed "cooler" on the Kelvin scale?

I also bought the ladder mount for those times (hopefully mostly) when our trailer has a clear southern exposure. I'd rather hang the dome on the back so it just peeks over the roof instead of on top where it can get knocked-off by trees/overpasses on our already too-tall trailer. It can stay up there semi-permanently & is relatively safe from sticky fingers. For those times when our site is "satellite-challenged" I got a little tripod mount so we can move the dish around to find a shot & keep everything off the ground. Got to be a little careful with that option as dishes on little tripods tend to walk away; although admittedly nobody ever bothered our DirecTV unit. Maybe it was the NRA sticker & bullet-hole decals I stuck on the reflector? Anyway, some work will be required to route the RG6 cable & HDMI wiring to both TV's: I ordered a switch-box for that. The dish I bought was the Pathway X1 model which will support two receivers so that may be an option someday if we want to watch separate programming.

Monday, July 24, 2017
In our quest to determine if camping with our cats is really feasible we planned a second longer trip at the Oregon coast - 3 days in Newport & 2 more in Depoe Bay about 30 mi. north. This is important because once we're both retired we'd like to take some extended trips and would prefer not to incur the expense of pet sitting nor inflict psychological damage on the girls. I know they say cats have no sense of time or loneliness, but anybody who has owned one would quickly disagree!

Day 1
The drive from Portland to Newport was a pleasant 2½ hrs. & passed through Corvallis where Kris & I met at Oregon State University. We stayed at the Port of Newport RV Park which I think was our third visit (but 1st in the summer). Very busy with every site taken even during the week! We checked in, headed to Fred Meyer for provisions; then made a tasty chicken picatta with penne & butter lettuce salad for dinner. Both cats survived the journey & were satisfied with looking out the door & windows this first night.

Day 2
The next morning we headed over to Pirates Plunder Antique Mall where I always seem to find something I can't live without. This time I scored some nice older but still very usable tools like a Lufkin 100 ft. surveyors tape measure, an English-made adjustable pocket level, some cool chain repair pliers, a Scotchlok crimping tool & a few other items. Pretty good haul for $60 total!

All that snooping around worked up a pretty good appetite so we headed over to Mo's Annex on the Bayfront for some chowdah. This time it was a bit bland but the view of the charter boats docking right outside our window made up for it. (We've noticed inconsistency has always been one of Mo's trademarks so you just have to hope the chowder cook was having a good day - the Shrimp Salad Sandwich was as good as ever!) With bellies full we headed back to the port for our 3pm tour of the Rogue Ales & Spirits brewery & distillery tour. We bought tickets in advance that morning which was a good thing as the tour was packed - the plant is literally right next door to the RV park! An abbreviated tour of both facilities but you did get to sample a couple of brews & spirits and even get to ride in a little train (space permitting). The cooperage was very cool - probably the cleanest wood shop I've seen since high school! I picked up a six-pack of their helles lager, a bottle of Rye whiskey, & a new brown trucker's hat at their gift shop. Afterwards we headed back to the camp to relax & make my Dad's famous camp stew, bacon-braised green beans, and corn on the cob for dinner. This day the girls worked up enough courage to venture outside on their leashes, but usually scampered back inside when someone with a dog walked by (which was frequently).

Day 3
Before anything this morning we had to move to a different site in the park since someone...coughmecough...screwed up the reservation by making for just two nights. The RV Park team did an exemplary job of juggling to get us a spot - bravo! Then we headed into town for our 2nd stop at Fred Meyer for some project supplies, and spent the afternoon on the sand at Nye Beach. Weather was perfect: mid-60's, slight breeze, sunny blue skies. Access to the beach was at Don Davis Park.

Afterwards we hung around the RV park & had shrimp cocktails for lunch made with the Oregon pink coldwater shrimp we bought earlier from Pacific Shrimp Co.. By now the girls would go out & while still wary of the canines didn't rush back inside...a popular spot was under the trailer where they managed to wrap their leases around every possible obstruction! That night we headed over to Local Ocean Seafood for a rare dinner out. We actually stopped by the day before to make reservations for this very popular restaurant in the NE bay front area.

Day 3
Checkout was 11am so we took our time packing up for the short 36 min.
drive north to Depoe Bay on US-101. Our destination was Sea & Sand RV Park where we've stayed once before, which is one of the few Oregon coastal campgrounds literally right on the beach! Last time we had a one of the side ocean-view sites which was pretty tricky to back into with our 28' pull trailer; but noticed the next one down was longer & a straight back-in so we reserved it seven months ago for our fifth wheel. I was told this is one of the most popular times in the park & I believe it since we were only able to get in on a Thursday & Friday! The whole trip was built around this window.

Gotta say it's worth every penny of the $64 rate...so nice we just hung around in our site basking in the sun & warm breeze. Never even made it down to the sand! The cats loved coming out into a more-secluded site on their leashes to watch the activity & found plenty of vegetation behind the site to snoop around in (and tangle their leashes around). After cocktails I grilled some nice Costco prime Ribeyes which we enjoyed with fresh corn-on-the cob, sautéed mushrooms with lemon & chives, and my old standby: Rice-a-Roni. (I know, I know...it's probably horrible for you & will put you into an early grave, but dammit I like it!)

Day 4
This was shopping day at the Lincoln City Outlet Mall where we've always done well. Kris didn't find much this time other than some basics; but I scored at the Kitchen Collection & Columbia Sportswear. Afterwards I found a Pacific Pride right next door to the mall so filled up with diesel & heeded the siren call back to Sea & Sand.

More relaxing with the kitties followed by dinner consisting of Grilled Pork tenderloin (I marinated it before we left), more evil Rice-a-Roni, & some fresh fruit. As the night before the sunset was pretty spectacular. I even saw several whales just offshore - pretty sweet! BTW, the solar eclipse passes right over this area next month - would be great place to view it - if you had made reservations in 2015!

Day 5
With a noon checkout we had plenty of time for breakfast & leisurely packed up for the 100 mi. drive home.

See some pix here. Conclusions about the cat camping:

  • They travel reasonably well. Some fussing - particularly Grace's constant meowing - but Lucy is pretty indifferent & beds down in resigned silence!
  • No problems running the slides out/in with the cats in the trailer. They're easy to keep track of & stay well away from any moving parts. The big slide has no place to trap them so the bedroom slide is the real concern (which they usually just rode in/out on the bed).
  • They adapted well to a single litter box which we place right next to the door behind the recliner. Most of the loose granules from their paws were deposited on the vinyl entry area which is easy to sweep out the door; but I did notice some scattered around the trailer on the carpet. Just need to up the vacuuming schedule. I did place another box outside under the trailer but it didn't get much use.
  • Sleeping arrangements are pretty much same as home - Lucy on the foot of the bed & Grace on a blanket placed on a chair or couch. They actually seem to sleep in more in the trailer - at home they're up & at 'em at 5:30am!
  • Food & water dishes were placed in the kitchen vinyl area & seemed acceptable (other than me occasionally kicking them over with my big feet).
  • As mentioned they seem to enjoy exploring outside. Other than winding their leashes around every vertical obstruction no issues with wearing them. I wouldn't suggest taking them for a walk however as more than likely the collars would be popping off when they decide not to go in your desired direction. Imagine that! Simply clicking the leash onto their regular collars worked fine most of the time as they typically are heading away from you. You just need to exercise care when pulling (ok, suggesting) them in your direction as we leave the collars fairly loose.

Monday, July 10, 2017
Left Coast Cellars was hosting their first annual Great White Wine Festival in early July so we decided to head down to the Amity-Eola Hills AVA with our friends Ric & Teresa. We stayed once again at Premier RV in West Salem.

The festival was pretty low-key with spotty attendance, pretty typical of a new event. Six wineries offered samples of their summer whites including:

1. Left Coast Cellars
2. Johan Vineyards
3. Anne Amie Vineyards
4. Emerson Vineyards
5. Airlie Winery

All were good in their own way! Airlie seemed to be the crowd favorite, but it could have been the location they chose (or were assigned) in a secluded woody area under a huge shady mother Oak tree! There was also a "taco truck" & food prepared by LCC (Salmon Sliders) and a pretty good band playing some great vintage rock 'n roll. Games like corn-hole & a football toss were scattered around but not too many takers...folks just preferred to relax & enjoy the summer day! Weather was great - sunny & warm, but the many trees in the festival area provided welcome shade. All in all I'd say it was good first effort - time will tell if it takes off but I give LCC credit for constantly trying to come up with new ideas!

Thursday, June 29, 2017
We've been members of the Two Mountain “Friends & Family” Wine Club for many years; but just don't get up to the winery that often. Every year they host a Low Country Boil that's sort of become their signature event, and since this year it's timed to their Sauvignon Blanc release we decided to give it a try!

Our campground of choice in the area is Wine Country RV Park located in Prosser WA; about 20 miles from the winery. It's a nice park with upscale amenities, but the close proximity to I-82 renders it pretty noisy during peak traffic hours. The location however is excellent for wine 'research' as there are several tasting rooms & working wineries close by.

Since we arrived on a day early (actually the night before) we decided to check out The Wine & Food Park operated by the Port of Benton just a few miles away. This is one of the first (if not original) wine-specific incubator parks in the area & we've visited a few times over the past 12 years. It's interesting to watch the progression of small wineries grow from a single-wide storefront to their own buildings, although we have noticed some just disappear - the wine business can be tough! So Friday we visited these places:

  • Mercer Estates Winery was a new one for us & located in a new private facility on the east end of the park. Shay poured the flights for us & we discovered several very good wines - especially the blends!
  • Alexandria Nicole Cellars has operated a tasting room here for several years; in addition to others in Woodinville & down at the winery near Patterson, WA. In their case I don't see them in a growth mode in Prosser...more of maintaining a presence so a small storefront is all they need. However they have taken over the spaces on either side so looks can be deceiving! Matt Bergeron was our host & very accommodating - no rigid rules about sticking exactly to the tasting menu. An excellent representative for the winery to be sure! We enjoyed the wines so much we joined their club, which will work nicely for us as our friends Ric & Teresa are also members so we can drive to the Destiny Ridge Vineyard together - saves us 40 miles.
  • Wit Cellars next door was another first & recommended by several people, including our host at ANC. Made up of refugees from Kestrel Vineyards who bailed when the owner handed over the keys to one of their kids who has "initiated a change in direction". Everyone who mentioned them said "they were the one's to watch"! We camped out on the tree-covered patio & left with a couple of nice red blends.
  • Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center is an interesting place. It's not a winery nor tasting room for one but more of an educational center. They are a non-profit group funded by most of the folks in the wine business to promote wine made anywhere in Washington state. That said, they do offer tasting & sales of many types of wines so we sat down for a flight expertly hosted by William Pollard. He lead us on an interesting tour of wines from all over & gave us the scoop on each one - the people, the grapes, the process, etc. It was refreshing to get an education from an unbiased source who had no vested interest in us buying the wine...I'd love to see more of that!
That seemed like enough so we headed back to WCRV to enjoy the afternoon & prepare a nice dinner of grilled lamb chops & asparagus with a couple baked potatoes. Weather was great in the low 90's with good shade on the curbside of the trailer.

Saturday we toured the town of Prosser; first stopping at a favorite: Chukar Cherry Company to load up on their delicious cherry confections. Owned by the Montgomery family since 1988, these people put Prosser on the map! Well, for cherries at least... Then we toured some antique stores, popped into Sixth Street Art & Gift Gallery where I bought an unframed print of the balloons from a previous Prosser Balloon Rally to hang in the trailer. A stop at the local Ace Hardware for a clip to restrain our toilet brush finished up the morning.

On the way back to the park we decided to check out Vintner's Village, which is literally one block away (easy stumbling distance if you get a little tipsy from tasting)! Since the big event was that evening we limited ourselves to just a couple stops here, but they were well worth it:

  • Gamache Vintners used to be located in West Richland I believe, tapping the expertise of Charlie Hoppes to get established. They are now in a beautiful facility in VV & making some excellent wines.
  • Thurston Wolfe Winery is located kitty-corner from Gamache & offers one of the largest selections of wines I've seen in the Yakima Valley. Kyle was our host & surprised us with several unusual (for the area) wines that were quite good. TW also has some of the best prices as well, preferring to make their money with volume instead of exclusivity - bravo!
We planned to stop at Wine o'Clock Wine Bar and Bistro for lunch but they were booked until 3pm - too late for us - so headed back to Prosser to Jeremy's 1896 Public House for pizza & iced tea on their shady deck.

After resting a bit we headed over to Zillah for the Low Country Boil. They had a big tent set up out in the back lawn, live music, a fire pit ready to go, & about a dozen cooks scurrying around working on dinner. We got some nifty Vitas (Riedel) glasses, a pair of TM sunglasses, the de rigueur bib, & a TM sticker in our swag bag. The Sauv Blanc was good, a bit on the sweet side for us but not a bad decker. We sat with a couple of guys from Mercer Island WA who just joined the club & were down for their first event. The LCB itself? Not really my cup 'o tea. It's got to be hard to coordinate the timing of potatoes, onions, corn on the cob, Andouille sausage, prawns, & crawfish cooking in huge vats of boiling water. Some were perfect, others not so much. At least we can say we tried it.

Monday, June 19, 2017
This last Saturday we finally had a chance to use the Groupon we bought several months ago for a tour of the The Gordon House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in Oregon! A fascinating story about how the home was partially disassembled & moved from it's original location in Wilsonville (suburb south of Portland) to it's new home on the grounds of the Oregon Garden in Silverton, OR. The tour was great & we hung onto every tidbit of information our docent offered for an hour - highly recommended for budding architects & seasoned home tourists alike!

As luck would have it the garden was hosting their annual Brewfest that weekend - an event we've attended in the past but is normally held in April. Too bad as it would have been fun to spend a sunny day sampling beers whilst strolling through beautiful gardens, but we just didn't have the time. This year they added onsite camping for the event so we'll definitely put it on the list for next year!

Check out some pix here.

Friday, June 16, 2017
I tore this page out of a Parade tabloid several years ago with the idea we might check out a few of these roadside attractions someday. (I finally got around to scanning it because it was starting to yellow & get beat up). I like the way it lists something for every state.

I looked at the Roadside America website that was credited, which seems to be dedicated to gathering stuff like this. Seems pretty cool...check it out!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
The truck has been bouncing around pretty good lately & while I'd like to explain it away as potholes methinks it's time for some new shock absorbers. Not sure if towing had any effect, but I've gotten about all I can out of the stockers at just under 80k miles!

I've had my eye on the Bilstein 5100 series shocks for a while now so a few weeks ago I checked out my favorite auto parts source & they had a set for a competitive price with free shipping:

Front Shock, 5100 Series, Monotube, Lifted, Ford F-350 Super Duty
Rear Shock, 5100 Series, Monotube, Lifted, Ford F-350 Super Duty

Don't let the 'lifted' designation fool you - the Summit TSR says it will fit vehicles with 0-2" lift. Sneaky.

They've been aging a bit on the workbench whilst I enjoy my new retirement, but today the weather was nice so I spent a couple hours replacing the rear shocks - I'll save the fronts for another day! Once I gathered up all the tools (nuts are metric BTW) & the penetrating oil had done it's job it really wasn't too bad of a job. The shocks come compressed with a nylon strap & the space on the drivers side was little short eye-to-eye so just a simple matter to pry it up with a screwdriver to drive the bolt home. However the other side was a couple inches long so I jammed the screwdriver in place to maintain the shock length & cut the strap - bad idea. It just expanded to it's full majestic length & pushed my puny lever aside like a 6 bottom gang plow running though sand. Crap! Now what? No way my noodley arms were going to compress that shock...unless I had some sort of jacking device? Say...a couple years ago I bought a floor jack from the very same people. That should easily raise that lower eye to the correct height. And it did!

Stay tuned...I'll report back when the front is done to see if (hopefully) there's an improvement in ride quality.

UPDATE 6/13/2017: I got the front shocks installed today. Had to cut the top nut on one side due to corrosion but the other one unscrewed fine. This time I had to use a hydraulic jack to compress the shock since my floor jack was holding up the truck! A quick test drive revealed less bouncing & wallowing over potholes...I'll have to try it on some speed bumps that always rattle your teeth!

Sunday, June 4, 2017
After 14 years we decided it was time to see if our cats could tolerate a camping trip (don't want to rush into these things), so we booked a few days at Stub Stewart state park. Given the location is exactly one hour from our door it seemed ideal & offered the option of bringing them home if it didn't work out. As luck would have it we inadvertently choose the weekend that included Oregon State Parks Day where camping & extra vehicle parking is free once per year - sweet! This worked out well because I pulled the trailer over on Thursday with one cat and Kris drove over the next day with the other (she's still working) so we would have been on the hook for $14 extra vehicle parking. When the ranger stopped by our site Sat evening & handed us half of our fee back it was a nice treat; and after noticing the kitties he hung around to describe the goofy types of pets he's seen folks bring including pigs, chickens, even a "service turkey"! WTF?

On Thursday & Friday morning I took advantage of the time & finished up the control panel for our solar system. Finally can say that's done (for now) & was gratifying to see it producing power to charge the batteries.

The cats actually did pretty well other than the fuss during the drive over & back. Lucy was fairly vocal with me but pales in comparison to her sister Grace who practically howls the whole time. (Luckily for me poor Kris had both of them in her car on the way home so that must have been a pretty noisy trip!) Both did well for the first time on the leashes we ordered - albeit neither allowed us to slip on the little vest harnesses - at least not without a fight. So we just clipped the leash onto their collars & kept an eye open to make sure they didn't slip out. After a while they seemed to like it so much we couldn't keep them inside! A couple of kids playing in the field behind us stopped by & they ate up the extra attention. When they weren't outside then just peering out the screen door or a window was popular - just the right height & lots of activity to watch. We were pleasantly surprised to discover they adapted fine to sharing a litter box, ate pretty well, and slept either on the foot of the bed or a nearby chair just like at home. I'll have to admit it was pretty nice dozing after dinner with a book & a lap cat so we may try this again - but perhaps let them ride in the trailer to keep our angst to a minimum!

See some pix here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
This collection of interesting road trips was sent to me by Nicole Jacobs from Denver, Colorado. She and her parents are planning their first cross-country trip & thought it would be a great article to share! I agree...thanks Nicole!

Unforgettable Road Trips in America

With its varied landscapes and geographic land forms, America offers many different vacation options for people who wish to explore the country. Each state has its own list of scenic landmarks that attract visitors. Taking a road trip is one way to get an up-close glimpse of unique towns and cities. This type of travel can also afford tourists the opportunity to see majestic sights such as mountains, canyons, rivers, and natural desert formations.

Acadia All-American Road, Maine

The Acadia All-American Road is located in Acadia National Park in Maine. This roadway stretches 40 miles, winding its way around mountains, through forests, and along shorelines. Visitors can pull off the road at many different spots to take in vistas or wander off the road to hike on trails. The road also goes through various harbor towns, including Bar Harbor. Allow at least three hours to drive this scenic byway.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway curves and bends through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. Covering 469 beautiful miles, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a part of America’s national park system, and the National Park Service manages and maintains this roadway. All sections of the parkway were completed to connect the entire system in 1987. The northern terminus is located near Waynesboro, Virginia, and the southern terminus is located north of Bryson City, North Carolina.

U.S. Route 1, Florida Keys

The Florida Keys Scenic Highway, also known as U.S. Route 1, is located in southeast Florida. This highway has been designated as an All-American Road. Spanning more than 100 miles, the road allows drivers to look in almost every direction while traveling to see the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The highway boasts plentiful vistas and natural areas that contribute to a feeling of island paradise. The pace is a little slower in the Florida Keys, with people enjoying a more laid-back lifestyle.

Bayou Teche Scenic Byway, Louisiana

Travelers taking the Bayou Teche Scenic Byway in Louisiana will wind their way over a 125-mile highway that features breathtaking landscapes. This trip also gives visitors a unique glimpse into the French Cajun and Anglo-Saxon cultures, which dominate various areas of the byway. Stop at cafes along the way to sample local cuisine. Many historic districts line the way with landmarks and buildings still standing and available for touring.

Great River Road, Minnesota Through Louisiana

The Mississippi River headwaters are located in northern Minnesota, originating with Lake Itasca. This majestic river snakes along or through 10 states on its way down to empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The Great River Road is a scenic byway that travels along the Mississippi River, through the same 10 states. Some sections of this highway have been designated as National Scenic Byways due to the natural beauty that exists along the river.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

This scenic highway runs through Glacier National Park, and it was finished in 1932. Running east and west through the park, the 50-mile two-lane roadway showcases forests, lakes, tundras, and mountain passes. Drivers can pull off the highway to take pictures of scenic views. With its high elevation, this road is only open between late June and late September due to heavy snows.

Rockefeller Parkway, Wyoming

The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway wanders through northwestern Wyoming, northern Montana, and western Idaho. Travelers of this highway see both the Grand Teton National Park and the Yellowstone National Park on their journey. Congress designated 24,000 acres of land in 1972 in recognition of Rockefeller’s contributions to national parks. Visitors will see majestic mountains, hills, ridges, cliffs, rivers, marshlands, valleys, forests, and glades during their drive along the Rockefeller Parkway.

Trail Ridge Road, Colorado

Trail Ridge Road covers 48 miles through Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. With sky-high elevations, this scenic roadway promises to be an exhilarating road trip. Wildlife in the park is plentiful, and visitors can hope to see bighorn sheep, elk, moose, deer, and more. Trail Ridge Road received designation as an All-American Road in 1996.

Pacific Coast Highway, California

This 123-mile highway along California’s coastline promises scintillating vistas, rugged landscapes, redwood groves, and several state parks along the way. Most people take about five hours for the drive. The Pacific Coast Highway has been designated as an All-American Road for the scenic experience drivers will have as they travel it. Cities and towns along the way offer plentiful opportunities for shopping, eating, and exploring.

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Columbia River Scenic Byway in Oregon promises beauty and history for those who travel it. The highway follows the Columbia River Gorge, which is 80 miles long and roughly 4,000 feet deep. Tourists who pull off the highway at any one of the many trailheads can hike the trails in search of waterfalls. This unique environment is also home to abundant wildlife and plant species.

Cascade Loop, Washington

The Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington include a variety of types of rugged terrain, including high peaks, valleys, forests, and grasslands. Visitors wishing to experience the wide range of natural beauty in this area might traverse the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway. Most people take between two and four days to travel this scenic 400-mile roadway. It’s possible to stop along the way to explore forests, waterfalls, and vistas.

Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

Highway 101 is also known as the Olympic Loop Highway. The Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Park provide an impressive backdrop for this scenic byway. The road is a loop that includes a variety of scenic landmarks, including Lake Crescent, Lake Sutherland, Gray’s Harbor on Lake Quinault, and Hood Canal. The entire loop is 330 miles around the Olympic Peninsula.

Anchorage to Valdez, Alaska

Richardson Highway was named after Gen. Wilds P. Richardson, the first president of the Alaska Road Commission. Alaska’s first highway connected Valdez with Fairbanks initially. At its completion, it covered a distance of more than 360 miles, and drivers can travel the distance in about eight hours. Two sections of the highway have received designations as state scenic byways due to the impressive mountains and glaciers visible from the road.

Hana Highway, Maui

Hana Highway on Maui, Hawaii, is 126 miles long. Although the distance may seem relatively short, the hairpin turns and one-lane bridges along the way will slow travel progress significantly. Driving through tropical rainforests and arid deserts, along shorelines and canyons, and within hiking distance of waterfalls will beckon visitors to pull off the road to explore. Tourists can drive the highway in a day, or they can take longer to explore by staying at an inn along the way.

Route 66

The most famous highway for road-trip enthusiasts, Route 66 runs through eight different states and covers more than 2,400 miles. Although it is possible to complete the entire drive from Chicago to Los Angeles in about five days, it’s more enjoyable to travel slowly to enjoy the scenery and the towns along the way. A number of tour guides provide people with tips for interesting stops along the way as they travel Route 66 through America.

Monday, May 22, 2017
Update on the R/C cars:

Dick & I visited Meldrum Bar Park to check out the track. It's really pretty sweet & we had a lot of fun putting around while a couple of 'regulars' were relaxing & working on their cars. However once they took to the track it was pretty obvious they were serious racers & literally screamed around the course. They were flying over the jumps we crawled over - usually taking two at a time. After our schooling we slinked over to the "kiddie track' to lick our wounds & spiritually regress to about 10 years old!

However I feel part of the blame was on our equipment (yeah, sure). In my case the steering was overly sensitive & required constant over-correcting to keep the car on a reasonably straight line. I tried adjusting the multifunction knob on the transmitter which is supposed to be factory set for steering sensitivity but noticed little difference, so I assuming it was changed? But no matter because a quick look at the manual suggested I'd be better off setting the MF to Steering Percentage (Dual Rate). Per the manual:

The Multi-Function knob can be set to control the amount (percentage) of servo travel applied to steering. Turning the Multi-Function knob fully clockwise will deliver maximum steering throw; turning the knob counterclockwise reduces steering throw. Many racers set Steering Percentage so they have only as much steering throw as they need for the track’s tightest turn, thus making the model easier to drive throughout the rest of the course.

Eureka! That should help cure me of the 'drunken sailor' maneuvering; however in order to make this setting one has to navigate through a complicated menu tree using only two buttons & a confusing pattern of flashing lights. From what I could see this scheme was devised by former IRS employees or possibly people who write those software license agreements everybody just clicks through. Screw that - time to buy that Traxxas TQi Link Bluetooth module I've had my eye on! When I bought the transmitter 2+ years ago this was $60, but the price has since dropped to a more palatable $30 (where it should have been all along). However it does sound like a pretty neat gadget, which according to the marketing bloviation performs all these circus tricks:

1. Connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to your Traxxas TQi transmitter.

2. Change the settings on your radio system.

3. Program the Multi-Function knob on your transmitter.

4. Store, view, and manage settings for all your Traxxas vehicles.

5. View Real-Time telemetry.

6. View accurate speed data.

7. Run a drag racing tournament.

8. Turn Training Mode on and off in seconds.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 21, 2017
Way back on 7/31/14 I mentioned picking up a 1/10 scale Traxxas Stampede R/C truck. Since then I've dutifully hauled it along on most camping trips & had a lot fun running it around on the beach or grassy field. My friend Dick is an avid R/C hobbyist & I recently joined him on a visit to Coyote Hobby in nearby Oregon City. The owner Russ Holst demonstrated an incredible depth of knowledge on all things R/C & helped Dick pick out a new HiTec charger. He also mentioned a nearby track at Meldrum Bar Park that we plan to visit soon. Always on the lookout for a fun place to drive these little rascals!

In anticipation of that visit I decided it might be time to move away from the older NiMH battery technology & try out some Lithium Polymer versions - currently the newest kid on the block! My old bricks seem to be crapping out & now only two of the three will take a charge. Not sure if they were faulty or I just mishandled the charging process. Odd since I'very been using NiMH power tools successfully for years! Dick has been running LiPo's for quite a while & seem to provide a lot more power so I took a gamble on a couple of relatively inexpensive (< $100 ttl) Lectron Pro 7.4v 5200mAh 35C Lipo Batteries. These are 2-cell with Traxxas Connector so will drop right into my Stampede. So far I noticed they A) charge much faster than my old NiMH, and B) seem to give the truck a little more pep. If this works out I might step up to a 3-cell which puts out 11.1v - that should really motivate the little truck! Speaking of which, all I had to do for the conversion was enable the Low Voltage Cutoff (LVC) built into the speed control to prevent the LiPo's from discharging too much. Apparently this is a bad thing & could lead to all sorts of disastrous results!

During the process I found this great Guide to Understanding LiPo Batteries which provides a wealth of information on the topic. For my case this excerpt says it all:

LiPo batteries offer three main advantages over the common Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries:

  • LiPo batteries are much lighter weight, and can be made in almost any size or shape.
  • LiPo batteries offer much higher capacities, allowing them to hold much more power.
  • LiPo batteries offer much higher discharge rates, meaning they pack more punch.
But, just as a coin has two sides, there are some drawbacks to LiPo batteries as well.
  • LiPo batteries have a shorter lifespan than NiMH/NiCd batteries. LiPos average only 300–400 cycles.
  • The sensitive chemistry of the batteries can lead to fire if the battery gets punctured and vents into the air.
  • LiPo batteries need special care in the way they are charged, discharged, and stored. The required equipment can be expensive.
Fortunately I bought a HiTec X1 AC+ charger when I got the truck which will accommodate LiPo batteries. That will save me a few bucks until I need a more powerful or multiple port model.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Update on Honda EU3000is generator:

1. The eternal question: Can you run a 15k BTU A/C using a Honda 3000 generator? This has been debated many times on the various forums I follow & nobody seems willing to give a definitive answer. Plenty said a 13.5 was no problem, but for a 15 it was somewhat nebulous. As mentioned below I considered the Honda 7000 to get around this limitation if it's true, but the size & weight were prohibitive. So while working on my solar system install I brought along the new genny to run my heat gun & anything else that needed 120vac. It got pretty warm a couple of the days, and since the generator was already warmed up & running I figured why not find out once & for all? I made sure everything using line voltage was off, flipped the t-stat to A/C & held my breath. And got nothing. WTH? But after an eternity-long 20 sec. I heard the compressor start & the Honda groaned slightly, then the fan kicked on and viola... sweet, cool air blasting out of the ceiling vents! I walked outside & the generator was purring quietly in ECO mode barely louder than idle! Hallelujah! It cycled on & off just fine during the day and I experimented with running other stuff in conjunction. The 1kw microwave did work, but my 1680w heat gun would trigger an overload so I suspect it's right on the edge. I might try turning off the ECO mode to see if that makes a difference.

2. I noticed whenever I fired up the generator & plugged in the trailer power cord (the ParkPower Generator Adapter worked great BTW) my TRC Electra Check Digital Monitor would shriek an audible alarm for a few seconds & display the code GF for 'Open Ground'. I figured it had something to do with the way the genny was grounded & after a little research found this excellent video explaining the situation. I went to the Progressive Industries website to order one of their Neutral-Ground bonding plugs, but they wanted almost as much for the shipping as the plug so I found one at Walmart.com with free shipping if I bought some other stuff. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but will update this blog when I do.

UPDATE 5/21/17: The NG plug worked as advertised - nary a peep from the monitor when I plugged the trailer into the genny.

Monday, March 27, 2017
A few days after we got back from Bend we headed down to Eugene, OR - home of the Mighty Fighting Ducks - to catch the Alton Brown 'Eat Your Science' tour at the Hult Center. We caught his show a couple of years ago in Portland, but dawdled too long this year & didn't feel like sitting in the rafters so booked the night before in Eugene. We stayed at Premier RV Resort which was our first visit to this location. Nice enough, convenient to downtown Eugene, great amenities; but the traffic noise was pretty bad. Located right along I-5. I mean like 30 ft. off the pavement is the park boundary. Too bad, but fine for an overnight stay on the way somewhere. pics

We actually came down a day earlier so we could swing by AM Solar which is based in nearby Springfield (of Homer Simpson fame!) & check out a system for our RV. This will eventually be our primary off-grid power source with the Honda generator mentioned below acting as backup. We left two hrs. later & $1,763 poorer: See mod here.

We had breakfast at the Pour House Tavern which was recommended by the folks at AM & gave them time to gather up the components for our order. Pretty decent food & quick service. Located in the heart of the mill district so lots of guys eating & drinking around their shifts. The afternoon was spent looking over our booty & studying manuals; and dinner later was my infamous turkey chili in the trailer. We found a nice Safeway on Coburg Rd. for all the ingredients. Next day we had dinner with our friends Ric & Teresa in their suite near the Hult Center (they opted to skip dragging down their Airstream) then we all headed for the show.

Alton was sharp-witted as ever, but I thought he strayed a bit too far from the cooking & moved more into pure entertainment, I know he has a band now so there was a fair amount of singing & even some dancing! And some of his famous cooking inventions - while entertaining - seemed a little more like props than than actual working devices in his previous tour. But we had a good time & couldn't help but admire his fancy twin Prevost tour moho's parked in the alley on our walk back to the car.

The next day we met up & headed to King Estate Winery about 35 mi. south of Eugene. To say this place was top-class is a gross understatement...probably one of the nicest tasting rooms & facilities in the state if not the PNW! They were serving a Saturday brunch which made our pitiful toast with ham breakfast look pretty pathetic; but the waiting list was over an hour so we ruled that out. Ric managed to talk them into serving us two orders each of oysters & crab cakes outside on the covered deck, which despite the chill & bouts of rain worked out great! A bottle of their Chardonnay washed it all down nicely, but alas that was the only wine we bought there - none of the other's we tasted seemed particularly inspiring. pics

Next stop was nearby Iris Vineyards which was the old Chalice Vineyards estate. We were quite impressed with their wines and picked up a 2015 Viogner, 2014 Aroha Tempranillo, & 2014 Steelhead Syrah. We also had a very nice cheese & smoked salmon plate (I know - it was 30 min after crab cakes & oysters) to see how they paired with food. pics

Our last stop was Silvan Ridge Winery, one of the oldest wineries in Oregon founded 1979. The whites were so-so but we liked the reds and bought a couple 2013 Elizabeth's Red blends & a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. pics

That night we had R&T over for Flat Iron steak, Baked potatoes, Lemon & soy mushrooms, and Green beans with bacon & onions along with a couple nice bottles of red: a Alloro 2013 'Riservata' Pinot Noir from Ric (who works there) & we contributed a Saviah 2013 'The Jack' Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were great & pared well with the meal. Afterwards we caught the Ducks semi-final game against Kansas in the NCAA March Madness tourney. Even though Kris & I are rival Beavers from Oregon State we support all our teams that manage to make the national stage; so it was fun to watch them make it to the 'Final Four'!

After yet another night of pounding rain (which did help drown out the truck noise) we packed up and were out by 11:00.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
As a reward for finishing our McMenamin's Passports we get six night's free lodging in any of their hotels; so to catch up with family we took a rare RV-less trip to Central Oregon! (Kristi's sister lives just outside NYC in Yonkers & they own a condo in Bend which they use for an annual spring ski trip. Her brother is the sole remaining Bendite & another lives just a couple hours away in Salem). We stayed at the Old St. Francis School which is our third visit (1st free however!). I actually prefer not to tow the FW over the Santiam Pass in the winter so this works out well. Lots of fun stuff to do & see, although this time their famous open-air salt water pool was closed for maintenance - bummer!

We checked in about 3:00 & met up with the local brother in the Fireside Bar for a drink and rousing game of table shuffleboard while we waited for the rest of the gang. Soon we were invaded by Kristi's sister & husband, a daughter attending school in Chicago, and their other daughter living in Baltimore who actually brought her boyfriend to meet the family. Hmmm...sounds ominous. They of course immediately took over the table we oldsters sat back to catch up for a few hours; then the eight of us managed to score an awesome semi-private elevated table at Noi Thai Cuisine for dinner a few blocks away. As these pictures attest the place is pretty special and the food was very good - be sure to try the chicken larb! Kristi's sister spent two years in Thailand for the Peace Corps. so managed to eek out enough Thai phrases to keep the staff engaged.

Back to Francis School for cigars & whiskey at O'Kanes outside by the firepits. There was only a slight drizzle but the roaring blaze keep us all warm. The gang broke up here & we smugly walked the 500 ft. to our room - ha!

Next day Kris & I had breakfast in the Old St. Francis Pub & headed over to the condo to roust the others. Five of us headed out to the old gravel pit off China Hat Rd. for some target practice - Kristi's brother has a recently-purchased Mossberg 12 ga. he's been itching to try out & I wanted to start zeroing-in a new Vortex Strike Eagle scope on my Colt M4. We even got her sister & niece to fire off a few rounds - a pretty incredible feat for a couple of blue-dyed-in-the wool types. Afterwards we grabbed some tasty tube steaks at Bangers & Brews Sausage House which was highly recommended by the Bend brother. Gotta say they were pretty good! More pics here.

The evening activity was the annual intra-family bowling tournament at Lava Lanes where we were assigned a couple lanes in the 300 club section. Given the league play in the main area we were lucky get anything & this turned out to be pretty cool, albeit somewhat distracting with the darkness & movie screens mounted over the pins. The New Yorkers have actually joined a league since our last match a couple years ago which I'm convinced was a ploy to win this event, but the Left Coasters managed to hold them at bay!

After bowling what's better than some tasty Mexican-Peruvian Cuisine? Hola is our go-to place on the Eastside since it's very close to where Kristi's mom used to live. Excellent food & the deluxe margarita's are a real bargain because you get a shaker with a couple more drinks with each one! Try the guacamole made at your table too - needs salt though. More pics here.

We got up early on our departure date & things fell apart at the hotel somewhat. Housekeeping had failed to replenish the coffee filters so I trudged out to the front desk at 7:30 for some, only to have the power to the outlets go out just after the pot started burbling. Apparently they failed to allow enough amperage to handle everyone turning on their coffeemakers at the same time? So I trudged back up to the desk & mentioned the problem as I passed by on my way to the restaurant for some java. The person didn't seem to concerned though, which made me wonder if this was a common occurrence? Power came back on about 15 min. later which was pointless for us by then. Oh well, it's a boutique hotel - these things are what make it "interesting". On the way home we stopped at the Cedars Restaurant & Lounge in Detroit (Oregon) for lunch; a place I haven't eaten at for many years. Typical local pub/restaurant full of pictures of the "Old" & "New" Detroit, which was apparently moved to make way for the lake formed by the Detroit Dam when it was built in 1949-53.

Sunday, February 19, 2017
In preparation for our upcoming retirement (which hopefully will include some off-grid camping because I have definite plans to be a grumpy old man & hate people) we decided to pull the trigger on a new generator. I've been looking at the Honda models for years, first the EU3000is and later switched to the EU6500/7000 because after all, you can always use more powah! When they had a sale this month & I ascertained all dealers were selling them for the exact same price (now that's factory price control!) I stopped at the local Camping World to kick the tires.

The 7000 was nice & would run everything in our trailer at once - 15k A/C, Microwave, TV, Hair dryer, etc. But the thought of dragging almost 300 lbs. with fuel was daunting, plus I wasn't sure it would even fit into our front 'generator' compartment! So at the last minute I switched back to my old standby 3000 which was half the weight & cost, and small enough to fit the available space. I figure if I need more juice I can pick up another 3000 & parallel them for about the same output.

So plunked down my $1,999.99 & tossed it into the truck (with another guy) which seemed surprisingly lighter than expected - good choice! Of course, with me being the anal-retentive 'gotta have all the accessories' nut I had to pick up a few extras online:

• ParkPower 173ARV RV Generator Adapter, female 50A receptacle to 30A twist-lock male plug. This should theoretically let me plug the 4-prong 240vac plug directly into the generator, which I'm hoping will supply 120vac to both legs of the system. If not, I'll have to figure out which leg powers the appliances I want to use & jury-rig a connection to my factory-installed transfer switch.

Aluminum Funnel. Basically a short extension tube that screws into the oil fill to avoid spilling oil all over the floor when it reaches the proper level.

• Honda 32660-894-BCX12H DC Charging Cables for those times when I just have a bare battery that needs some juice.

• Honda 08P57-ZS9-00S Silver Cover to advertise to the world "Generator located here! Please steal me!" Also works to keep it clean & dry in the back of the truck.

I also found a 76 gas station fairly close by which sells Clear Gas. Per the Oregon State Marine Board: "Clear gasoline is defined as a non-ethanol blended gas, generally produced with 91 octane and sold as a premium blend. Clear gasoline is a much better fuel for boats, ATV's, 1990 era and earlier car models, chainsaws, and yard equipment because of the rubber hoses, fuel lines, gaskets, etc. that can easily deteriorate with the use of ethanol-blended fuel." I bought a new gas can & filled up with 5 gals, fueled up the genny, and after hooking up the battery & adding oil it started immediately on the first turn of the key! I've been exercising it for 30 min periods every week to break it in.

Finally, to save my back when moving this thing around, I bought this sweet little jib crane from Tool Planet that fits into your hitch receiver. Material quality & workmanship is ok... (coughchinacough) ...but the design is spot-on so hoping this will do the trick! I plan to add some folding legs similar to this model so all the weight is not being carried by the hitch tube. (I didn't buy that one because it didn't have the winch or telescopic arm). I also bought a hitch extension & U-joint that I'll splice into it to allow me to position the crane anywhere I want around the tailgate. More on this later.

UPDATE 4/4/17: I was buying some tackle boxes at Fisherman's Marine Supply during their 42nd Anniversary Sale & noticed this aluminum seat stand that would work almost exactly as the legs I planned to fabricate! The legs aren't adjustable, but I could bolt a steel plate to the top with the square tube that came with the crane welded to that so I could adjust the height. The tube has through-holes in a few different positions & a couple quick-release pins. Seems a heckuva lot easier than fabbing the entire leg assy!

Saturday, December 3, 2016
Sharp-eyed readers will note my truck was equipped with a Fold-a-Cover G4 Elite folding hard-panel tonneau. This has worked pretty well for a couple years, but lately it's became very difficult for me to fold up or down by myself. Now, I'll be the first to say I'm not quite as strong as I was since I hit 60; but when I needed to start climbing up into the bed to work the cover something is definitely wrong!

The straw that broke the camel...err...tonneau's back was my ripping off one of the panel edges where it connects to the adjacent panel with a full-length hinge. As you can see by this sketch you have to awkwardly lift up the two middle panels from the center to fold the cover. From the ground this is somewhat easier with two people, but by yourself or from the bed it puts a lot of stress on that joint - especially at first. It had finally had enough & the edge pulled away from the panel during our last trip. I was able to "beat it back into position" more or less with a hammer so I could close the lid, but it was obvious something had to be done.

Given the difficulty I've been having I decided to try something that could be opened or closed without snapping my spine so I ordered a soft roll-up tonneau: the TruXedo TruXport from eTrailer for $269 with special Black Monday free shipping (considerably cheaper than the G4 I might add)! It arrived the following Friday & I got the old cover off & new one on in a few hours over the weekend. Seems to fit well except for partially exposing the stake pocket holes along the bed rail covers, so I'll source a new set without holes. Quality seems very good & the design is pretty clever too.

BTW, I figured out why I recently became the skinny kid getting sand kicked in his face by Charles Atlas: when I removed the old cover it weighed a ton...well, not literally 2,000 lbs. but at least 4x the mass from when I installed it. Apparently over the years water has gradually soaked into whatever is laminated between the aluminum sheets (foam?) which obviously adds to the weight. It took both of us to lift the assembly off the truck & Kris was groaning!

Monday, November 28, 2016
(apologies to Monty Python)

This year we and our Airstream friends Ric & Teresa decided to spend Thanksgiving in Walla Walla, Washington in our RV's! So before we could change our minds we booked four days at Blue Valley RV Park - which is not our usual venue in WW, but heck, might as well change everything! See a trip report here.

I realize this may appear on the surface to be a looney idea; but there were a few ulterior motives:

• We are seriously considering moving to this area after retiring next year. No state income tax (Oregon charges up to 9% income tax on our 401k/IRA's & pensions), less traffic, lower property taxes, favorable housing prices, etc.

• It's a great place to visit & taste wine!

• Both couples were in a rare 'fallow year' for family holidays so it seemed like a good time to try something new. In fact, Kris & I have never had a Thanksgiving (or Christmas) that didn't involve parents or siblings during our entire 38-year marriage!

We arrived on Wed about 3:30pm, a day before our friends so we'd have some time to look around & get an idea of the real estate market. After getting settled we headed out for a tour & soon concluded the best fit was on the southern edge of town; which has plenty of open land & great views of the Blue Mtns in Oregon. That night we ate out at T. Maccarone’s which is a nice Italian place we visited before. It was practically empty as regular diners were undoubtedly preparing for the big feast the next day, which was to our advantage. We both started with salads - the Napoli for Kris & Pear for me, which I think was one of the best salads I've ever had! The arugula, mixed greens, parmigiano-reggiano, & pine nuts were showcased by an luxurious creamy white truffle vinaigrette - magnifico! Next she had the Pappardelle alla Bolognese & I ordered the Tagliatelle Italiano. This time she picked the winner, as mine was good but hers was excellent. We washed it all down with a killer Sangiovese from Walla Walla Vintners - definitely got to pick up some that this trip.

Thursday our friends arrived & bbq'd some Costco 'Frenched' lamb chops (we decided to have Thanksgiving on Friday so we'd have more time to cook). I'm not known as a big lamb eater but have to admit these were delicious! Ric did an exceptional job grilling the chops - nice & rare! I set up the propane fire-pit under the nose of the trailer to act as a windbreak (see trip report) so we enjoyed a Manhattan as things cooked.

Friday mid-morning we headed out for a little wine tasting/sightseeing & for lunch grabbed a sandwich at Olive which was tasty, but the service was terrible. They apparently forgot our friend's order so we had an long awkward wait while they scrambled to produce their food; so of course ours was stone-cold by then. Too bad...seemed like a popular place.

For the big meal we brined a 16 lb. turkey & cooked it in the Nesco electric roaster I bought a couple years ago. As always it did a great job, but I wish I'd brought along the SS cookwell I also picked up at the time as it was a real chore getting that porcelain pan clean! Live & learn... We also provided a tasty sausage stuffing which along with the old-fashioned rolls could now be baked in our tiny oven since the turkey was cooking elsewhere. Our friends (ok, Teresa) provided some killer green beans sauteed with pancetta & shallots, uber-rich mashed potatoes laced with butter & sour cream, and a sweet potato dish topped with streusel! Everyone remarked the dinner was one of the best Thanksgiving feasts ever so I guess it was all worth it. (possibly not eating until almost 8pm had something to do with it - at that point an old boiled boot would have tasted good)

After the food coma wore off we headed out the next day for some more wine tasting & visited some old haunts as well a some new places. We had a couple of pizza's from the Why Not Pizza truck parked outside Burwood Brewing to soak up the corn whiskey, later dinner at Brasserie Four for upscale French cooking, known for their excellent Steak Frites! (which did not disappoint)

Le tour:

South WW:

  • Saviah Cellars is right on the Oregon-Washington border & takes full advantage of what I'm told are some of the only native rocky soils in the area (as opposed to the material deposited here by the Missoula Floods at the end of the last ice age).
  • Beresan is just across the street & makes some really nice wines. Tom Glase is the Winemaker who is also the owner/winemaker at Balboa Winery in Walla Walla.
Mill Creek/East WW:
  • Walla Walla Vinters is the home of pioneering winemakers Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri. Myles helped create the Institute for Enology and Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College and he was the Institute’s first director. We had a bottle of their excellent Sangiovese at T. Maccarone’s earlier & Keith Erlebach in the tasting room was gracious enough to score us a few bottles even though it's technically sold out!
  • Aluvé Winery is a brand-new operation just up the road that Keith recommended we check out. Turns out to be the first vintage for the husband & wife team of JJ & Kelly Menozzi. Both are retired Air Force pilots & have built up their operation in a very short time with very little outside assistance! A very friendly & gracious couple.
  • Mark Ryan is always a must-stop for us, & even though his products are on the pricey side they are really gorgeous wines.
  • Tempus Cellars is owned by Joe Forest who is also Patit Creek's winemaker & is gaining some well-deserved attention for his own label. Assisting us in tasting room was delightful young man named Henry, and although still a student at Whitman College is quite knowledgeable about wine. He should do well if he stays in the industry as I think he's a natural!
  • Syzygy where Zach Brettler continues to demonstrate why he chose the correct path away from his native New York career on Wall Street! Pronounced “szz-eh-jee”; the moment of perfect alignment between three celestial bodies, such as that occurring during a total solar eclipse. Seems fitting.
  • Shot in the Dark Distilling was an interesting little distillery that specializes in moonshine - aka corn whiskey. Kevin Hetterley & his wife Betsy have a neat little operation there, producing a half-dozen type of whiskey based on good ole corn squeezin's! The Naughty Pie is a don't miss - tastes like caramel Apple Pie in a glass!
  • Burwood Brewing is a nifty little brewery that managed to pack in a tasting room with benches & tables, the brewing operation, storage, restrooms, etc. into one of those tiny incubator buildings. Not a small accomplishment - and the beer is pretty good too!

Thursday, November 3, 2016
We have a few winter camping trips coming up so planning ahead to avoid freezing our fresh water lines.
  • Since we'll be staying in full-service campgrounds where electricity is available, the heated water hose I bought last year should prevent freezing of the water supply. The tank heaters spec'd when we bought the trailer will take care of the waste & FW tanks.

  • To keep the piping inside the trailer safe I plan to rig up a fan to force heated air (from the portable heaters we use) into the furnace ducting, which I understand routes some airflow down into the insulated underbelly area. This 200mm Silent Fan mounted over the cold-air return & protected by a guard should do the trick! I'll need to figure out a quick-disconnect mounting system & source for 12VDC power - might be able to permanently mount the fan behind the CA grill (assuming there's sufficient room & it won't impede the air flow too much)! 12v power should be available from the furnace. If it doesn't work out I can always use the fan in the Cooler Master HAF XB case used for my last PC build!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
We've been dealing quite a bit with "mother" issues lately - mine (almost 93) recently moved into a retirement center in Gresham after a toilet tank cracked & flooded her home causing many thousands in damage; and Kristi's mom (90½) is in a memory-care unit outside of Salem. So we welcomed the opportunity for some down time over the Labor Day weekend in Bend Oregon at our favorite place: Crown Villa RV Resort.

Unfortunately the hits just keep on coming as the truck had some problems on the trip over. Just as we started to climb up the Santiam Pass it coughed up a Check-Engine light, which according to the OBD reader I carry now after the last ordeal was "P026A - Charge Air Cooler Efficiency Below Threshold" whatever the hell that means! I was able to reset the code but it almost immediately returned every time & then the truck started acting really wonky:

  • The power diminished considerably which I suspect was some sort of limp mode to prevent engine damage.
  • The transmission shifted down into 2nd gear & refused to upshift.
  • Even with the throttle floored the best I could do was 20 mph, so that was the speed we crawled up the passes (which I'm sure thrilled all the holiday travelers behind us).
  • The fan keep cycling on & off with a tremendous roar even though the temp showed normal.
Somehow we made it over (things got better after the road leveled off near Sisters) & once we were settled I did some online research to better understand what was going on. Turns out my truck actually has two complete cooling systems: 2 radiators, 2 water pumps, 2 coolant tanks, etc. The primary system cools the engine itself, and the secondary cools the EGR, intercooler, and the fuel & transmission fluids. The P026A DTC code was trying to tell me the intercooler was running hot, & sure enough...when I looked in the secondary expansion tank it was bone dry - Yikes! Evidently the temp gauge only reads the primary system. I let the truck cool down for the night & next morning drove over to a nearby Baxter's Auto Parts for a couple gallons of antifreeze & a funnel. Took a almost a full gallon of 50-50 mix to refill. Then I noticed it was dripping off the bottom of the engine - oh shit!

We were able to get around relatively-flat Bend as long as I kept the tank filled (which seemed to last about 25-30 mi.) although I'm sure nobody appreciated the puddles of coolant I was leaving everywhere I parked. I finally started using straight water in hopes I wouldn't be killing some poor animal drawn to the sweet stuff - I know cats are particularly vulnerable. For the trip home I filled up both jugs & the fresh water tank in the trailer (good thing) and stopped periodically for a refill. The plan worked pretty well & only threw the same CEL a couple times when I pushed it too far. But the truck seemed to run fine & didn't exhibit any of the symptoms above so we were happy!

BTW, I dropped the truck off at a dealer today & rented a small car thinking they would probably have to pull the cab or majorly disassemble the engine to find the leak (insert cash register sound here), but was pleasantly surprised to get a call mid-morning informing me it was a crossover pipe right in the front of the engine & a simple fix (if you classify $190 as simple). I was in such a happy mood I didn't blink at accepting their recommendation that the front brakes be replaced (original) & rotors turned for another $275, and even threw in the 70K service (oil, lube, filter, etc.) for another C-note. They had to order the part so I'll pick it up tomorrow. Phew! Dodged that bullet!

Regarding the rest of the trip it was less exciting. We managed to get the bikes off for a nice ride along the Deschutes River Trail from Sawyer Park. Also walked down to Old Mill District from Kristi's brother's home in West Bend & had lunch at Craft Kitchen and Brewery (in the former Old Mill Brew Werks space). Had a couple nice dinners in the trailer with BiL & checked out the newly-remodeled Current's restaurant at the Riverhouse motel for an early dinner the last night. Pretty swanky & well overdue! I even found time to get over to the nearby abandoned BLM gravel pit that the locals use for target practice to try out my new Colt M4...pretty sweet plinker & accurate as hell!

Just before we left town I really had to get the truck washed as it was covered in volcanic red dust from the trip over & the ride out to the firing range. We found the Sud-N-Shine car wash just a few miles from Crown Villa that did an incredible job. It's your basic Hanna automated wash; but first two guys power-wash off the abrasive dust & then scrub down 90% of your vehicle with soapy brushes before it goes though. An incredible value at $8 for the basic wash - leave 'em a $2 tip - it's worth every penny! My truck is still clean after 10 days!

Monday, August 8, 2016
We were due to visit Kris' mom who lives in a retirement complex in Dallas, OR; so decided to make a weekend of it by signing up for the inaugural Run for the Oaks 5k walk at Left Coast Cellars. We joined their wine club earlier in the year as it was close to Dallas & has a very nice tasting room/cafe that serves some killer wood-oven-baked pizzas! The wine ain't half-bad either...nothing like a few pops to get into the proper frame of mind to visit a nest of octagenarians!

To round out the weekend we invited along our Airstream friends Ric & Teresa who wanted to taste some wine in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA; so we booked a couple sites at Premier RV Resort which is ideally located for such an adventure. This was our 2nd visit here and the management team of Lisa & Dave Hill provided great service as before. See some pics here.

Everyone managed to get Friday off so we headed down from Portland for the easy 1½ hour drive in time for the noon check in. After getting settled we hit the road and managed to make these three wineries before the 5pm witching hour:

  1. Cubanisimo Vineyards is basically a self-sustaining hobby for Cuban-born Mauricio Collada Jr., a Salem neurosurgeon who also happens to love Pinot Noir! We were expertly hosted by Jenny Bruton – Operations & Marketing Manager - who has a real knack for her profession & is a credit to the operation. We picked a couple '12 Estate Pinot Noir, two '15 Pinot Gris, & they threw in a free '11 Pinot Noir which frankly was very light. I might just chill it & serve as a Rose!

  2. Next up was Bethel Heights Vineyard which has a killer view from their tasting room (temporarily closed for remodeling) and backs that up with an impressive fleet of wines. Rachel Adams, Hospitality & Events Mgr, led us through the flight and I bought a '12 Pinot Noir "Aeolian", '15 PN Rose, & a '13 Estate Chardonnay.

  3. We manged to slip in just under the wire at St. Innocent Winery 15 min. before closing; but since they were hosting a wedding that night we didn't feel too bad. Ric actually works part-time in the tasting room at Alloro Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains AVA near Portland so is quite familiar with people showing up minutes before they lock the doors. Kendra Boren, Lead Tasting Room Associate, was very helpful in leading us along their wine path. Grabbed a bottle each of their '13 Zenith Pinot Noir, '15 Freedom Hill Chardonnay, & '14 Vitae Springs Pinot Gris.
After a nice supper of grilled marinated flank steak, wild rice, & sauteed mushrooms we plopped down with a bottle of good red to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Meh.

Saturday morning Kris & I headed over to Left Coast for the run/walk - runners started at 9:30 whilst us lazy walkers followed at 9:40. Some cute 26-year-old gal from Bellingham, WA won the 8K run with a time of 33:30 - a pretty incredible pace of 6:74/mile considering the hilly terrain! Ah, to be young again... The winner of the walk was another young lady about the same age at 42:48. We on the other hand plodded in at 1:08, a bit slower than normal mostly because we waited to let a group pass that was carrying a blaring boombox. The idea of forced listening to country music out in such a pretty environment was off-putting and we tried to out-pace them, but they just sped up to match so we threw competition out the window & let them by. However once they were out of earshot it did give us & several other "aural refugees" plenty of time to stop for pictures & stuff! Fun was generally had by all so we'll probably do it again next year...perhaps with earplugs!

Afterwards our traveling companions drove over to join us for wine tasting and a nice lunch of pizza & a tasty salumi/cheese plate; then we headed off to visit another winery that was recommended by others: Illahe Vineyards. (Illahe is a Chinook Jargon word meaning "earth," "land," or "soil.") They were located near the end of long gravel road so don't be turned off by the cross-country drive - the payoff is worth it! We happened to arrive just when a bus full of tourists were finishing up their catered lunch & packed into the barn to get "one for the road"; so Bethany Ford (Sales Mgr & wife of winemaker Brad) took pity on us for some tasting off to the side. Later when the bus departed & things settled down Louisa Woodworth (Tasting Rm Mgr) took over & gave us a real flavor of what they're doing up there. We were told the Viognier was one of the best in the state & it was quite good - not your typical offering to be sure. We lazed under their shaded outdoor patio, played a few records out of a pretty impressive vinyl collection, & generally enjoyed the perfect weather with a nice view over their little slice of heaven! Following us home was a '15 Viognier, '14 Estate Pinot Noir, & '14 Bon Sauvage Pinot Noir. Probably the best stop for the weekend!

We had planned on dining out that night but instead opted to cook in so stopped at the Safeway in Dallas for enough supplies to grill some prawn appetizers with a nice Okanagan Pinot Gris from our recent trip, some fresh wild-caught Sockeye salmon, local corn on the cob, & grilled asparagus. With bellies full we watched some more Olympic action & then to bed at a reasonable hour so we could partake in the Sunday breakfast the next morning. The $5 breakfasts served on the weekends are a great perk & Dave Hill is quite handy on the griddle! Besides the 'create you own omelette bar' (Sunday only) they provided link sausages, toast/muffins, a great selection of juices, 3 kinds of fruit, & coffee or tea! Beat that for five bucks! A pretty decent weekend if I say so myself!

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Okanagan Trip, Stop #4: Bellingham, WA (6/16-17, 2016) Pictures Here

For the last stop on our journey we swung by Bellingham RV Park which is located in the similarly-named town about 20 mi. south of the Canadian border on I-5. Our niece & family live here & being this far off the beaten path don't get a lot of visitors so we wanted to make an appearance. The park was just ok; the grass was pretty skimpy for PacNW rainforest belt and sites were a bit short & narrow but it was fine for a couple of days as others noted in their reviews.

We hooked up with Mom & her two daughters at Boundary Bay Brewery for lunch and followed her home after. They live within walking distance of Whatcom Falls Park which was a real treat - hard to believe it's within the city limits!

Later we headed back downtown to Anthony's at Squalicum Harbor to celebrate her oldest daughter's 12th birthday once Dad got home from work. We had a group of about 20 made up of neighbors with a dozen wound-up kids and sat out on the patio despite the forecasted rain. As we enjoyed beverages and the first courses of our meals everyone kept one eye on the ever-darkening clouds; and sure enough right about 6:00PM the sky opened up & dumped rain on our parade! It was comical to watch everyone scramble to get under cover - some clustered under the tables, others hugged the wall beneath the eaves, my personal choice was one of the tables equipped with an umbrella. Fortunately the restaurant staff took pity on us & managed to scrape together enough tables on a very busy night to get us all inside - kudos to Anthony's! A night to remember...

Of note was the route we took from Kelowna to get here. We intersected with the Coquihalla Highway at Merritt; which some readers may recognize from the Highway Thru Hell TV program on the Weather Channel. Its a pretty drive but you have some pretty good downgrades (like 8.5%) as you descend down towards Hope. There's also a pretty good climb on Hwy 97C over Pennask Summit (5,669 ft.) on the way over from Kelowna. I was able to maintain 50-55 mph in 3rd gear at 3300-3500 RPM uphill on all these which was typically about 5 mph faster than the trucks. Just take it easy on the downgrades & use your exhaust brake to preserve the truck & trailer brakes - I kept the truck in 3rd for most of these & only dropped into 2nd on the steepest section of the Coq. The old rule of "come down in the same gear you went up" was really true in this case!

Route per Google Maps:

  1. Get on BC-97C from McCulloch Rd and Okanagan Hwy/BC-97 S.
  2. Follow Okanagan Connector/BC-97C, Coquihalla Highway/BC-5 S and Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 W to Sumas Way/BC-11 S in Abbotsford. Take exit 92 from Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 W.
  3. Get on I-5 N in Bellingham, United States from WA-9 S, Everson Goshen Rd/WA-544 and WA-542 W.
  4. Follow I-5 N. Take exit 258 from I-5 N.
  5. Continue on W Bakerview Rd. Drive to Bennett Dr.
233 mi., 4:05

Converted to SmugMug

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Okanagan Trip, Stop #3: Kelowna, BC, Canada (6/12-15, 2016) Pictures Here

For the actual Okanagan portion of the trip we stayed at Canyon Farms RV Park, a charming little 5-acre "farmlet" operated by Lesley Reid & her husband Michael in the eastern hills above Kelowna in BC, Canada. The RV park contributes to the income along with sale of brown eggs, flowers & plants, & fresh chicken. They have less than ten well-maintained (most are pull-thru) sites & are always booked up well in advance. Check out some reviews to see why!

We met my brother & SiL who booked a very nice apt (via Airbnb) in the lower-half of a home only a few miles away. They live outside of Missoula, MT and originally planned to rent a small motorhome to join us for part of the trip; but the prices commanded are pretty steep...much more than an apt or motel. Fotunately they drove up a few days earlier & scouted out the best wineries to visit in Okanagan Valley BC VQA, which after all was one of the main reasons for this trip. (Apparently the VQA designation is somewhat analogous to the American AVA system). Here's the wineries we managed to visit in no particular order:

  1. 50th Parallel Estate is reputed to have one of the best Pinot Noirs in Canada, but we really preferred their Chardonnay - a perfect balance of Oak with the crispness of a stainless aged wine. Acquisitions: (2) 2014 Chardonnay, (2) 2014 Pinot Noir

  2. Arrowleaf Cellars had a beautiful modern tasting room overlooking the lake. Acquisitions: (2) 2015 Pinot Gris, (2) 2015 Bacchus, (4) 2013 Merlot. (The Bacchus is a Riesling + Sylvaner + Müller-Thurgau cross)

  3. CedarCreek Estate Winery which was sold to von Mandl Family (owner of Mission Hill) a few years ago & is "seeking it's identity under transition". But the wine was very good & they have a nice restaurant. Acquisitions: (2) 2013 Meritage, (2) 2013 Cab-Merlot

  4. Gray Monk Estate Winery Acquisitions: (2) 2014 Pinot Blanc, (2) 2014 Pinot Gris, (2) 2012 Cab-Merlot

  5. Mission Hill Family Estate is by far the biggest, grandest winery in the area sporting a restaurant, outdoor amphitheater, abundant artwork, lush landscaping, etc. Owned by Anthony von Mandl they run a first class operation (but you can't help but wonder if the bell tower is somewhat compensating). Acquisitions: (2) 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, (2) 2013 Reserve White

  6. Mt. Boucherie Winery is a small family-owned operation that must have been typical before all the big players moved into the area. Acquisitions: (2) 2013 Reserve Syrah

  7. Quails' Gate Winery offerred a lovely view of the vineyards & lake and we were served by a cute lass on her second day on the job. She did fine though & we enjoyed the visit. We picked up a couple bars of Knight's Chocolate for our friends...who else..the Knights...which turned out to be excellent! Locally made in Kelowna, it remains to be seen if they will ever get it! Acquisitions: 2014 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

For dinner we ate in 3 of four nights (courtesy of my brother & his excellent sous chef) but managed to make it to Bouchons Bistro for the last night in town. A very proper French restaurant they managed to eat at twice before we got there! Lunch on the first tasting day was at Grapevine Restaurant located in the Gray Monk tasting room. Next day was Blu Saffron Bistro at Volcanic Hills Winery.

Just to prove we didn't spend all our time swilling wine we drove up to the Myra Canyon Trestles up in the hills behind us (about 15 miles) which is part of the old KVR. There we hiked almost all of the (16 of 18) restored trestles on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail before turning back - a nice 7 mile stroll & very picturesque. Don't miss this if you go to the Kelowna area!

Route per Google Maps:

  1. Follow WA-155 N to US-97 N/WA-20 E in Omak.
  2. Continue on US-97 N. Take Okanagan Hwy/BC-97 N to Gordon Dr in Kelowna, Canada.
  3. Take K. L. O. Rd and McCulloch Rd to Field Rd.
199 mi., 4:11 min without traffic

Converted to SmugMug

Friday, June 10, 2016
Okanagan Trip, Stop #2: Electric City, WA (6/10-11, 2016) Pictures Here

For this stop we camped in Steamboat Rock State Park which turned out to be a real gem (judging by these reviews others must agree)! We stayed in the 3rd & newest RV loop, which more than made up for the lack of trees by the widely-separated sites & brand-new amenities. I suppose later in the summer the shade deficit could be a bigger problem, but in mid-June it was fine.

This area of Grant County, WA near the Grand Coulee Dam is dotted with a few small towns as shown on this map:

  1. Electric City, WA is closest to Steamboat Rock with about 1,000 residents. The main industry seems to be tourism, although we had a killer lunch at the Electric City Bar & Grill! The fresh-cut Grant Co. fries are awesome! (I was told McDonald's sources their potatoes from here).
  2. Grand Coulee, WA is a bit father north and similar in size & business. It's also the home of the famous Gehrke Windmill Garden which you can't miss!
  3. Coulee Dam, WA was originally founded by the Gov't to serve as headquarters for the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. It used to consist of the tonier Engineers Town on the west side of the Columbia River & Mason City on the east side which housed most of the workers. It is the headquarters of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and home of one of the world's largest man-made piles of sand, a 12,000,000-cubic-yard, 230-foot-high cone remaining from dam construction. Jeez....that's a lot of dirt!

Route per Google Maps:

  1. Take Kingsgate Way to WA-240 W.
  2. Continue on WA-240 W. Take WA-243 N, I-90 E, WA-283 N, WA-28 E and WA-17 N to WA-155 N in Grant County.
  3. Continue on WA-155 N. Drive to Steamboat Rock Park Entrance Rd
145 mi., 2:35 min without traffic

Converted to SmugMug

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Okanagan Trip, Stop #1: Richland, WA (6/8-9, 2016) Pictures Here

As before in Richland we stayed at Horn Rapids RV Park; in this case for a few good reasons:

  • With nearly all freeway travel the route was the fastest & easiest for our trip, as opposed to winding up Hwy 97 from Biggs to Yakima & across on I-90.
  • The park is literally less than a mile from the B Reactor National Historic Landmark Tour headquarters. I've been wanting to visit this "museum" for many years & now that it's become an offical Manhattan Project National Historical Park it seemed like the right time (before the NPS screws it up)!
  • It's already located on Hwy-240 which is arguably the best route North to our 2nd stop near Grand Coulee.
  • Horn Rapids has an excellent reputation & was fine on our two previous stays. Better the devil you know...
Richland is a nice burg with a decent wine industry. As 1/3 of the Tri-Cities (other two are Kennewick & Pasco) it seems a nice place to live. In fact, a few years ago Kiplinger rated the area among the Top 10 best places to raise a family, and CNN/Money ranked it as one of the top 10 best bets for gains in housing value!

After the reactor tour we headed over to Bookwalter Winery for lunch & wine tasting. One of my favorite winemakers, Caleb Foster, joined Bookwalter a few years ago as their head winemaker so I was anxious to see if his experience from Buty Winery carried over. Too early to tell for sure, but I have great hope!

Route per Google Maps:

  1. Get on I-84 E/US-30 E from Portland.
  2. Follow I-84 E and I-82 W to By Pass Hwy in Richland. Take exit 4 from I-182 E/US-12 E.
  3. Follow the By Pass Hwy and WA-240 W to your destination.
229 mi., 3:23 min without traffic

Converted to SmugMug

Monday, June 6, 2016
Okanagan trip

In early June we took a 10-day trip up to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada that took us in a rough counter-clockwise circle from Portland > Richland, WA > Electric City, WA > Kelowna, BC > Bellingham, WA > Portland. (See a map here) As amateur oenophiles this "Napa of the North" was on our bucket list & we definitely weren't disappointed! Also managed to squeeze in a tour of a historic Manhattan Project reactor in Hanford & another of the Grand Coulee Dam. The stop in Bellingham was to visit with family that we just don't get up to see very often.

As with previous longer trips I'll post in chunks corresponding to each stop. Trip reports & pictures to follow.

Some statistics for the trip:

  • 1,207 total miles driven - some of this was day trips but most was getting from stop-to-stop.
  • We burned 118 gals of #2 diesel with an average price of $3.05 for a total of $353.
  • Average MPG was 10.2 towing a 35' fifth-wheel trailer weighing about 16,000 lbs. Elevations ranged from 200' at home to 5,760' at Pennask Summit on Highway 97C.
  • More costs ($US):
    • $602 dining out, mostly breakfast or lunches.
    • $11 in trinkets like magnets & stickers.
    • $303 for groceries.
    • $447 in wine (you could argue this really isn't part of the trip since it will be consumed over time).
    • $110 for cat sitting.
    • $393 in camping fees.
    • $24 in foreign transaction fees from Chase bank.
    • $73 misc.
For a grand total of $2,326 or $211/day spread over 11 days. As I've said before, it's still cheaper than staying in motels!

Converted to SmugMug

Sunday, June 5, 2016
On the Monday morning before leaving for our big trip (in two days) the truck coughed up a Check Engine light. Perfect! Since I just had it into Landmark Ford the week prior for the 65k service I wondered if that was somehow related; so I headed over to have them decode it for me. Unfortunately, at 9:00AM I was told they wouldn't be able to get the truck into the shop until at least 3:30PM. WTF? I just need them to plug in an OBD code reader & tell me what the problem is so I can decide if it's serious or not - don't the service advisors have one? Apparently not. The guy who was my new best friend just a few days ago just looked at me like I was speaking Klingon & shrugged. Just terrific customer support: Strike 1...

So I headed over to AutoZone who always offers free CEL code scanning (apparently they can afford to equip all their stores with code readers) & in a few minutes got the news: "P0401 Insufficient EGR Flow". Ack! This was the same code I had at 40K miles which resulted in the entire EGR intercooler being replaced to the tune of about $2800 (under warranty which has now expired). And the truck was in the shop for a full week!

I discussed the situation with my friendly AutoZone guy who opined it might be a bad EGR pressure sensor which could trigger such a code...apparently that's fairly common. Unfortunately he didn't have the part in stock (special order) so since the truck seemed to be running fine we decided it's probably something like that & concluded we should be ok to go on our trip. I mean, what's the worst that could happen - some slightly higher emissions? Last time when they replaced the intercooler it was an entirely different experience: the engine had significantly reduced power, extremely poor fuel mileage, no throttle response, etc. I didn't see any of that this time.

That afternoon I did some web research & found out a couple of things:

  1. There is a Ford technical service bulletin for this specific problem: TSB 13-6-5. Not sure if the enhanced emissions warranty would cover this but I'll check with a Ford dealer.
  2. This video explains it all pretty well.
I did want to reset the CEL to see any new alerts if they popped up so decided it was probably time to pick up my own scan tool & bought one of these Innova models from AutoZone (these guys are rapidly becoming my new best friends in automobile service). I chose this version because it's not vehicle-specific & can be upgraded by downloading new data from the mfg. As an afterthought I also picked up a new air filter since the guy in the vid said it could be something as simple as that & I figured it couldn't hurt to have a spare on hand.

That night I reset the CEL - easy enough - and figured I might as well check that air filter since I had one. You can imagine my surprise when I popped the old one out & took a look (pic here) - it was about 90% clogged with oily dirt...all the way down into the pleats! (It almost looked like I had followed some road equipment that spewed an aerosol mixture of road tar & oil, which of course I hadn't). The good news is once I installed the new filter the CEL never came back on during the entire trip or since. Thank goodness I remembered that tip about the filter & bought one! But it was certainly not what I expected to see on a vehicle I've been faithfully taking in for periodic maintenance every 5k miles since it was new - which is less than the recommended intervals BTW. Apparently Landmark has been somewhat lax about giving me "The Works" I paid for & instead switched me to over to a new program called "The Finger"! Jeez...if nothing else you'd think they'd take a clue from the quick-lube people & try to upsell me a new filter every time! In any case I can't believe it got this dirty in just a week so I'm guessing they just looked at the little flow gauge on the filter housing & called it good. Strike 2...

And sadly this was after another black mark against Landmark recently. On the last few service visits the SA mentioned my "rear brake rotors were getting thin" & needed to be replaced as they've worn down almost to the minimum thickness. "They're essentially a throwaway part now" he said & quoted me about $750 for the job. So after the 2nd warning I broke down & ordered a new set of rotors from Amazon & even popped for a fancy caliper windback tool (no more c-clamps for me!). I already had a set of new pads bought previously so I set out on a Sat morning a couple weeks ago to take care of this before our upcoming trips. Interestingly, with the first wheel off I looked at the old rotors & thought "man, those are still really thick!"...in fact, they seemed almost as thick as the new ones. So on a whim I dug out my digital calipers & compared the new & old: < 1/32" or .79mm difference! Say, didn't he say they were down to the minimum spec of 28mm? Not sure what the new spec is but unless my new rotors are undersized I question the value of replacing a set that are less than 1mm thinner! In fact, when I compressed the pucks to insert the new pads I barely had enough room to get them in. Granted, the new pads were HD & probably thicker than OEM but I'll bet if I had swapped those rotors I very well might not have been able to get the pads in! Not that I would ever suggest Landmark was trying to sell me parts I didn't really need... Strike 3 - you're outta there!

Out of principle I'll be crossing them off my list for any future service work or purchases - something they've had a lock on since I bought the truck from them in 2011. I should have seen it coming when the sharp SA I worked with for years suddenly disappeared & was replaced by a "veteran" who has the recommended extra service work for each interval memorized! There's other blue oval dealers & repairs shops in this area.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Summer's coming & time to get ready! Finally got around to replacing that noisy fan in the range hood! See the mod here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016
This weekend I tried out my brilliant plan for pressure-washing the trailer right in the storage lot (as opposed to bringing it home as before) by using a portable water tank for a supply. Check out the mod here!

For background, we live next door to a rental home (oh joy) where the occupants own at least five cars! And since the house has just a single car garage (full of stuff) & equally narrow driveway four of them must park on the street. In front of our house. All the time. Sure, they move them around & really try not put anyone out; but the reality is I'll never be able to park my trailer in front of our place to wash/repair/load/clean it until they move on. Sigh...

After several false starts I was able to finish up the washing Sunday & we loaded up & headed home about 2:30. The only sad thing about this whole ordeal was we were too beat to attend the McMenamin's Cosmic Tripster Party from 3-9 that night, admission to which we had earned by completing our passports. But frankly we weren't too excited about partying on a Sunday night anyway (we still have jobs after all) so it didn't take much to dissuade us from heading downtown. Maybe they'll let us attend one next year!

Sunday, March 13, 2016
We decided to attend the Sip! McMinnville Wine & Food Classic this year (I think the last time was the first almost 23 years ago) and stayed at our favorite RV Park in the area; Olde Stone Village with our friends Ric & Teresa in their Airstream. This had the added advantage of literally being next door to the Evergreen Museum complex with a private walkway leading right up to the buildings!

The event was fine & I really enjoyed poking around the many types of aircraft whilst sipping on a glass of wine. Still, it had a definite "party hardy" vibe like some other wine events we've attended over the years. Guess we must just be getting old, but I'd like to think we've outgrown pounding down wines strictly for the buzz. Granted some of the wines were marginal, but there were some good ones there that deserve more than a slurred "gimme somethin' red" by a 20-something who's going to regret it in the morning! Jeez, I sound like my Dad. Get off my Lawn!

Before we dove into the crowds on Sat afternoon though we decided to check out some new-to-us wineries (& some not so new) in town so squeezed in visits to:

  • Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is located in the old McMinnville Power Plant building recently vacated by Panther Creek. We didn't buy any wines (amazing) but will definitely be back when the weather is nicer for a proper tasting in their lovely courtyard!

  • Eyrie Vineyards where Anne in the tasting room displayed an amazing knowledge of wine & related history - a real treat! We picked up a couple 2014 Pinot Gris & a 2013 Original Vines Chardonnay.

  • Remy Wines is getting a lot of buzz lately & seems well-deserved from the Spanish varietals we tried. We met winemaker Remy Drabkin, a sturdy young gal who practically grew up in the Willamette Valley wine industry; and was demonstrating her small business accumen by hauling around landscaping half-barrels, pouring wine, greeting visitors & answering phone calls/emails simultaneously! I came home with two 2014 Sangiovese (Kiona Vineyards, WA) that Eyrie recommended and an absolute killer 2013 Nebbiolo Riserva (Rosebud Vineyard, WA) that only been in the bottle a few months, but is already extremely good.

  • Ransom Spirits where our traveling companions spent some time early Fri afternoon chatting with Art Tierce, assistant winemaker, tasting room manager, & resident mixologist who has a wealth of cocktail knowledge to share. Couldn't resist picking up a bottle of Single-barrel Old Tom Gin. Good stuff! While we were there I ordered a delicious cheese & meat board from Peirano and Daughters Deli who actually rents the space to Ransom. Probably one of the best boards we've ever had...
The weather was mixed with brief periods of sun between long periods of rain. There was a good-sized storm off the coast this weekend so the winds was blowing pretty well - in fact 50 MPH+ gusts were predicted on Sun right about checkout time, so we hurried to get on the road by 10 AM & fortunately beat them on the short drive back to Portland.

Sunday, February 21, 2016
One project I've thought about many times (usually when parking the trailer) was some kind of device to measure the distance our slides extend, so I can get close to obstacles without actually hitting them. Well, I finally made some nifty "Slide-Out Sticks" to do just that! Check out the Mod here!

Now that the trailer has been "dewinterized" we're going to throw caution to the wind & leave it that way. Got some trips planned that should be fun:

  • Wine tasting in the McMinnville area (Yamhill/Carton AVA) - always a fav.

  • A long weekend at Toll Bridge Park in Parkdale, OR

  • Some time in Bend, OR at Crown Villa RV Resort. If I get on the stick I might be able to squeeze into that tight spring window where we can snowshoe up in the mountains & enjoy dry conditions in town & over the passes.

  • A 10-day loop up through Central Washington state & the Okanagan wine region in BC. We're trying to schedule a tour of the Hanford B Reactor as we pass thru but as of now they haven't opened up the reservation system. My brother & SiL are going to rent a small MoHo & join us for the Canada leg. First time RV'ing for them so it should be interesting to see if they get the bug.
Speaking of reservations, Lakeshore RV Park in Chelan, WA just switched over to a new online reservation system that's turned out to be a disaster! I tried numerous times to book a site for the big trip there & was repeatedly kicked out - usually after entering all my details & CC info. Grrrrr! Called the office several times & finally got through to a very harried lady who obviously was on her last nerve. Poor thing was in the dark & clearly getting the runaround by their web contractor. I'll bet some heads are gonna roll when this very popular campground sits mostly empty this summer because nobody could make a damn reservation! I just gave up & booked elsewhere.

Sunday, February 14, 2016
We had a few things to do in Seattle so headed north last Thursday for the 425-mile round trip. We stayed at our favorite place in the area, Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell for three nights. It was good as usual: the crowd of jokesters poking fun at you when you check in, the geese & ducks announcing their arrivals on a regular schedule, the quiet oasis in the middle of a bustling city, etc.

This was a great location since the primary reason for the trip was to finish up our McMenamin's Passports before the Feb. 29th deadline this year (we missed it last year due to family issues) & we've already obtained most of the Seattle stamps except for locations in the Bothell area. Therefore our first stop that afternoon was the Mill Creek Pub just north of there; where we chowed down on some tasty free burgers for completing the Seattle pubs page. Then it was back to Bothell to the Anderson School complex to finish up the passport (has to be done at a hotel). Very convenient since they're located less than 2 miles from Lake Pleasant!

As the newest hotel property in the McMenamins empire this place is amazing! It's obvious they spared no expense to create a welcoming environment - in fact I believe this is the first redevelopment they've done without self-funding so there must have been some "extra cash". From what we could see the rooms here are superior to most of the other hotels as each has a private bath & are quite spacious, so you can bet we'll be using some of those free nights lodging up here! Some of the highlights were:

  • North Shore Lagoon overlooking an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool. Here we slurped up some "Trader Vic" style tropical drinks, then headed to collect our stamps at the other venues.
  • The Shed was a neat little building located in the courtyard behind the hotel. They apparently specialize in whiskey cocktails judging by the inventory & offer a nice fireplace to warm the bones whist the liquor does the same internally! Outside & dotted throughout the courtyard are a series of open-air warming huts that seat a dozen people or more, warm & dry!
  • The Woodshop is a sports bar built in the old woodshop (duh) building and features a beautiful pair of extra-long shuffleboard tables, along with a number of pool tables & pinball machines.
  • Tavern on the Square is a large pub built in the old cafeteria which serves as the primary restaurant for the hotel I suspect.
After collecting all the required stamps we turned in our passports at the hotel front desk (after solving the riddle) and finally, after almost two years, we've both obtained the coveted Cosmic Tripster Key & all the appropriate swag!

Friday we braved the traffic & headed down I-405 & across Lake Washington on I-90 to the Centurylink Event Center for the Seattle RV Show. I bought online admission tickets in advance so got a free parking pass at the Safeco Field parking garage next door which was nice, but a bit unnerving as the headroom clearance was only 7' - we ducked every time we drove under one of the many concrete beams all the way to the third floor, but managed to make it up & down without being scalped!

The show was good & a bit larger than the Portland version, but it was hard to get too excited as we weren't in acquisition mode. Saw lots of features that were once high-end becoming very common:

  • Front living rooms in fifth wheels. Lots o' room to entertain eight of your favorite guests!
  • Residential refrigerators. Not so great for boondocking but sure nice for FHU campgrounds.
  • Half-baths. Usually in the toy hauler FW or bigger MH.
  • Toy haulers with rear decks. Very slick with guardrails & awnings. Who needs toys?
  • Vinyl plank flooring that looks like wood. Still carpet on the slides though.
  • Aluminum stairs with 4 wide treads.
  • Multiplex switching and/or centralized touch controls. High end models interface with smartphones or tablets.
  • Fancy leather theater seating with center armrests & cup-holders.
Also as part of the package was a free Centurylink Stadium Tour, which was surprisingly fun as this was our first visit to the home of the Seahawks. We got to see the press room with it's wall of Seahawk logos & even pose for pictures at the lectern where Pete Carroll dispenses his words of wisdom after home games. Then a stop in the visitors locker room followed by a walk through the "back of the house" hallways filled with all sorts of stuff. Interesting to see all the huge player murals painted on the walls - apparently many of the players drive their expensive cars right up to the locker room door down those halls. (Can't have them walking now can we? No ego-inflation going on here.) Next a ride up a huge freight elevator that easily held all 30 in the tour group to the Toyota deck which had a great view of the field. Here our guide pointed out various features of the stadium & then we got some great shots of the Safeco Field next door before riding down more elevators to the end of the tour. Well worth the time! The drive back across the lake was neat as the weather cleared that afternoon and was bright & sunny despite the dire forecast.

Saturday was wine-tasting day so after a leisurely morning we drove the short distance to the Woodinville Wine Districts to taste the new vintages & pick up a few bottles for the cellar. First up was Januik where we were anxious to try their '13 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Petit Verdot that was released just that weekend. We got there a few minutes after they opened & the Verdot was very nice so we bought a couple bottles along with one each of their '12 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Syrah & '13 Lady Hawk Vineyard (Horse Heaven Hills) Cabernet Sauvignon. I leaned towards the Syrah which was very soft compared to the Cab Kris preferred.

Next we moved to the Hollywood district & stopped at Amavi-Pepperbridge where had a relaxing tasting round before the crowds began to build. The Amavi wines were fruit-forward & bright vs. the classic Bordeaux style of the Pepper Bridge so we split our purchase with a '13 Amavi Cab Sauv & '13 Amavi Syrah, along with a '12 Pepper Bridge Trine blend & '12 Pepper Bridge Cab. All four were 100% Walla Walla Valley. Both labels are great!

It was time to get some food to soak up the vino & get off our feet so we walked next door to the The Bistro for a nice lunch of lamb meatballs, frites, & a charcuterie/cheese plate. Interesting to note: on our last visit this space was occupied by the Board Track Racer (Mark Ryan's 2nd label) tasting room...things are always in flux here! Then we hiked over to Alexandria Nicole across the parking lot & discovered the crowds had arrived; so we skipped over to Mark Ryan kitty-corner across the traffic circle. Alas, this place appeared to be packed also but managed to navigate around surprisingly well & even found an empty table! Just one tasting here as I knew pretty much what I wanted & we were both getting tired so I picked up a '13 Dead Horse Cab, a '13 Long Haul blend, & a couple '14 NumbSkull Bordeaux blends. (NumbSkull is another new label focusing on Walla Walla Syrah & Merlot.)

Back to the trailer to relax before grilling a couple Filets (love that Costco Prime) w/ asparagus & early to bed at 9:00pm. What an exciting life we lead! The drive home was pretty much what we had coming up - gray & rain - although this time we took I-405 to the south of town instead of I-5 all the way thru Seattle from Bothell. Much better road & the traffic seemed lighter. Converted to SmugMug

Sunday, December 27, 2015
Well, our plans to head over to Bend during the Christmas holidays were thwarted by snowy weather in the North Oregon Cascades. I don't mind crossing the passes if the plows can stay ahead of the snowfall, but since Thanksgiving we've seen some pretty dramatic accumulations - like 48" per day! In Oregon that means I'd have to chain up both the truck and trailer...screw that!

So Hugo will just have to enjoy his time off in the storage yard unless we get a wild hair to head over to the coast or south up the Willamette River valley where conditions are typically moderate around here. I put together a new winterizing checklist when I buttoned him up last Nov. I printed it on heavy photo stock & hung it right at eye level in one of those clear plastic diploma holders. Feel free to plagiarize! Converted to SmugMug

Monday, November 2, 2015
Over the Halloween weekend we took a quick trip down to Silver Falls State Park, about 50 miles south of Portland in the heart of the Willamette Valley rainforest. Our friends Connie & Dick joined us and were anxious to to try out some Fall camping with their new Lance 1985. We had hoped it would be a fun time decorating our sites & passing candy out to the kids as we have on previous Halloween weekends; but this time the RAIN in rainforest was the order of the day!

We arrived Friday afternoon & set up in the rain; which turned out to be pretty continuous all night. It was our turn first to host dinner with my version of Cafe Mingo's Sugo di Carne washed down with a couple of bottles of good red. We tried to hang out under the awning before with a pair of propane fire pits (they bought one too) but the increasing wind & rain eventually droves us inside!

On Saturday we'd had enough of the constant "pitter-patter" on the roof (which at times sounded more like crazed snare drummers) so took advantage of a mid-morning break in the weather for a quick turn around the South Falls Loop & a beer in the South Falls Lodge. Watched an interesting short video about park history & some nut who went over the falls in a canoe. After that we drove into nearby Silverton for lunch & antique hunting at The Red Bench where I scored a vintage flashlight & miniature Christmas tea set for the missus while the rest of group picked up a growler next door at Mac's Place. Boneyard RPM - nice!

Then back to the campground for a tasty white bean chili dinner at C&D's with the beer & white wine followed by a rousing game of Phase 10 as we listened to the frantic rain drops pelting the roof. This was a new type of rummy for us & I managed to win somehow...certainly no skill was involved! Needless to say the we didn't see any brave trick or treaters (or many campers either judging by the empty reserved sites) that night so our plans to don costumes were thwarted. I had ordered a couple of Uncle Milty Travel Vests for Kris & I to dress as "Happy Campers" festooned with all sorts of hardware. Fortunately we can still put those to good use - not sure how much Connie will use her "Minions" outfit!

BTW, it turns out Halloween was Portland's wettest day in four years! We got nearly 2 inches of rain in about six hours - a rarity even in soggy Portland. The National Weather Service said that occurs just once every 10 to 20 years! Saturday's rain brought October 2015 to a total of 3.73 inches.

Update 11/4/15: I just found out they have an annual Halloween Howl & Costume Dinner at the lodge! And we were there! And had costumes! Next time I'm blowin' off the kids & gonna party!
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Sunday, October 4, 2015
Last weekend we headed over to Lincoln City on the Oregon coast with our Airstream friends Ric & Teresa to catch a concert at the Chinook Winds Casino. We stayed at Logan Road RV Park which like the casino is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. You couldn't beat the location as it was a only a short 4 block walk to & from the concert - very satisfying to watch a long line of cars slowly creep out of the parking lot while we styled past. Review to follow.

Faithful readers of this blog may recall Kris & I taking my mother to a Roy Clark concert there a few years ago (a CW fan...who knew?). Not exactly our cup of tea but we generally enjoyed the experience & were willing to give Chinook Winds another try. This time the music was definitely amped up several notches as George Thorogood and the Destroyers closed out their "Badder Than Ever" tour here. I gotta say: for a guy in his mid-60's he can really put on a show! Besides the fact he can effortlessly strum an axe the amount of energy he pumps out was amazing! Other than a few pounds & a little softening of that famous jawline he sounded almost exactly like the rocker he was 40 years ago. My ears are still ringing & we all (as many others) brought earplugs! Everyone in his band & the opening act (Los Lobos) were top-notch musicians who aptly demonstrated a few miles under the belt just means you get better! A quick report card on the venue:


  • Intimate space. (They say 1,264 seats which seems low, but still a pretty small theater)
  • Good elevations. You can see the stage from nearly every seat (see below) to varying degrees
  • Security was very good - the blackshirts were constantly scurrying around keeping the aisles clear, preventing those idiots from crowding the stage & blocking your view, etc. (This could actually be a con if you were 86'd for some infraction!)
  • Pretty hazy due to cigarette smoke pouring in from the casino (no fog machines necessary!). Seems odd they would allow smoking out there when clearly only about 4 in 10 gamblers I saw were smokers. How nice we all got to breathe their exhaust. Wouldn't it make more sense to create a sealed-off smoking area instead of non-smoking & keep them confined? Just sayin'.
  • No beverage sales were available in the theater & no alcohol allowed, although you could bring in as much free soda & coffee you want. The paper cups provided for that were smallish, about cocktail size. I suppose it would be a shame if you accidentally spilled your drink into one.
A warning about seating: be aware the dozen chairs or so on the outer edges will be right in front of some pretty massive speaker banks they apparently use for "high volume" events - didn't notice these at the Roy Clark show. In case you opt for the "best available" like we did & end up in the A-section (rows 1-4) with seats on the end you will find yourself facing a monolith of speakers less than 6' from your face that will 1) block most of the view of the stage, and 2) shatter your eardrums with about 100,000 watts of sound energy! Even with earplugs you could literally feel the sound waves battering your body; which may have been fun when you were 18 but at 60 not so much. Obviously it gets better as you move away from the stage, but still be prepared for an aural assault anywhere along the sideline seats. We were only a couple of songs into the opening act playlist when Ric bailed - I too was already gauging how much I could stand when he returned to summon us to some prime seats right off the center aisle about 12 rows back. He had taken one look at our seating arrangements and being a seasoned concert-goer went straight to the promoter to convince him our original seats were unacceptable; so they "found" these for us. Where were those seats when I bought the tickets? Major kudos to Ric & the CW staff for helping us out.

The weather was awesome as has been most of the summer in the PacNW: a little drizzle Friday night but otherwise sunny blue skies in the upper 70's! (This might have been the last great weekend at the coast for the year as rain & cooler temps were in the forecast for the following week). After a short walk on the beach before the concert we had lunch at the Blackfish Cafe which is apparently the hottest restaurant in LC at this time. Chowder was excellent & the rock fish & chips were very good. After that we stopped at Read's Homemade Candies for salt-water taffy & some great chocolates - the orange sticks were some of the best I've had & more than a few have crossed my lips!

Next stop was Mr. Bill's Village Smoke House located adjacent to the Dory Cove restaurant. Don't miss their smoked jerky, which is really more like strips of brisket than the typical near-cremated stuff. And the smoked fish was moist & tender. On the way back to Logan RV we tried to get some spiced prawns at Barnacle Bill's, but they sold out early & suggested returning in a couple of hours for the next batch. Teresa said they are excellent, but when we returned later they still weren't ready yet (good things take time I guess) so those will have to wait for the next trip.

BTW, what's the deal with all these Bills? Do people change their names when they become smoker kings?
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Sunday, September 20, 2015
We just returned from a 3-day stay at Crown Villa RV Resort (which according to my precise records is our 11th stay there) in Bend, Oregon where the family gathered for our nephew Jake's marriage to his lovely wife Bree.

Speaking of family, this was one of the nice occasions where Kristi's sister & family from New York (and Chicago & Baltimore - the girls are attending college elsewhere) were able to combine their annual visit to Bend with a family event. They encamped in their condo at Mt. Bachelor Village which (shameless plug) is a screaming deal on Airbnb: $135 per night + $100 cleaning for the whole 1400 SF 2-bed/2-bath unit right in the sweet spot overlooking the Mill District. MBV rents these for $425/night! While here they arranged for all new carpeting to be installed, which was sorely needed given the amount this place is booked. Get it while it's fresh!

On Friday night we headed over to the Bend Oktoberfest which fortunately was scheduled that weekend for some German food & brews...trying to fit a party of 14 into any restaurant in town for dinner is a "challenge" so this was a great option. They blocked off Oregon Ave. between Bond St. & Lava Rd. so it was a smallish celebration, but very easy to move around, and the Oompah band was authentic & outstanding. The parking garage right next door was a plus! We did manage to catch the yodeling contest: some were very good, others a little more...interesting. Unfortunately we had to skip the famous wiener dog races the next day because of the wedding. Maybe next year! BTW, this is a fundraiser for the Downtown Bend Business Association; a nonprofit organization that works to keep downtown beautiful and is responsible for the flowers, Christmas decorations, banners, sidewalk cleaning, etc. So you can have fun & feel good about it too!

The wedding ceremony was held on Saturday at the Chapel in the Pines in nearby Camp Sherman where several other members of the family have tied the knot. We were sad to hear that tradition may have to change as the chapel has decided to close it's doors to all but members of the church. They've simply become too popular & the locals are having a hard time booking the church for their own activities! Afterwards there was a reception at Armature in Bend; a neat little artistic enclave that rents out space to help pay the bills. Jake, who is a barrel master at Deschutes Brewery provided a nice sampling of his products, and the event was catered by the cart from El Sancho Taco Shop which kicked out an awesome selection of tasty tacos!

While heading out for a walk at Crown Villa we noticed a mobile RV repairman working on the MoHo next door, & Kris jokingly said "too bad they can't fix our water heater" (which began acting up this summer & wouldn't light on LPG). So I turned around & struck up a conversation with the RV owner; who turned out to be a nice gent who until recently dabbled mostly in ocean-going yachts. I mentioned my dilemma and we commiserated about how boats & RV's are very much alike in that respect - he threw out a joke that I'll definitely use again: "BOAT = Break Out Another Thousand". He highly recommended the repair tech (obviously a repeat customer) so I asked if he could take a look when he was done, and soon he knocked on our door. Jason Wiggers from Accurate RV Mobile Service diagnosed the problem very quickly as a bad low-temperature thermostat (LPG) & had a new part in his truck, so 30 min. & $75 later we were good to go! My neighbor checked in with us the next day & mentioned Jason worked for Bend-based Beaver Motorcoach for many years & was top-notch...I have to agree! This was a great deal as I've been was putting off this job and sure it would've taken me a lot longer & cost more to sequentially replace parts until stumbled across the bad one!

One last last task we squeezed before leaving on Sunday was to drop off a gift card from the Pine Tavern we bought during lunch the day before to Everett at Cascades of Bend Retirement Community (formerly Bend Villa); where Kristi's mother recently lived until moving to a higher level of care in the Willamette Valley. He's a fine older gentlemen who works the front desk just on the weekends and showed all of us a great deal of compassion & care during some pretty tough times. He said PT was one of his favorite places to dine so I hope he & his wife enjoy every penny!
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Saturday, September 12, 2015
Today I cobbled up some rubber spacer blocks for my chocks. Check out the Mod here .

Update 9/29/15: This mod worked great! No problem getting the chocks out as before when they wedged under the tires, and they really seemed to grip the rubber well. Much less cranking involved too. Do this!

Sunday, September 6, 2015
To stave off any future parking lot damage I fabricated some bollards to protect the corners of our trailer. See the Mod here.

If these don't work I may have to resort to motion-activated automatic weapons, drones that launch upon impact & drop bombs, or some other equally sinister products of our Military Industrial Complex!

Update 9/29/15: When we picked up the trailer there was (amazingly) no damage, although I did notice someone had moved the bollards slightly to gain more room to make the turn. I don't get these people...don't they know the exact purpose is to FORCE THEM TO KEEP THEIR DISTANCE AS THEY ROUND THE CORNER? Grrrrr....

Update 10/10/15: I added some 1/2" thick rubber pipe insulation wrapped with "Caution" tape to the top 3' of the poles. This will keep me from pranging the trailer as I move them into position (close call last time); as well as minimize the damage if some jerk bumps them into the coach. The bright yellow color can't hurt either...
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Saturday, September 5, 2015
As promised Joe had the trailer ready so we drove over Saturday morning at 10 AM to retrieve it. State Farm came through with the check in Friday's mail - $3,823.50 as promised. They had the trailer washed & staged outside ready to go, so after we gave it the once-over (the repair & paint job looked great) I signed the check over to Joe. I did notice someone forget to attach the breakaway switch so he quickly grabbed some tools & drove home the one missing screw.

BTW, I have to say State Farm did an exemplary job in handling this claim. Timely response, excellent communications, fast payment. If I wasn't a 40-yr. Farmer's customer paying end-bracket rates I'd seriously consider switching to these folks! "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" is apparently pretty accurate!

Joe was manning the store by himself & it was a nice day so we had a chance to chat a bit. After I saw the excellent caulking job they did on the section of trim that was replaced I asked how much to re-caulk the entire trailer. He pointed it the secret is removing all the old caulking so you get a nice job & admitted it takes quite a bit of time. He guesstimated about $1800 to do the whole coach, which considering the time involved is not that bad. He also mentioned most people don't keep up on that type of maintenance (either because of the cost or lack of time/energy I assume) and can be problematic because once water starts leaking in around the various penetrations it can ruin an otherwise solid RV!

I also mentioned how Quality quoted me about $1K for anyone have their fading cap sprayed - Joe feels that's way too low & said he would have to charge about $2400 for a good base+clear paint job. After seeing his work I would tend to agree you'd get a better result, so there you have your spread: $1020 to $2400. You decide how much it's worth to you! I snapped some pix of his shop & our trailer while waiting for Joe here.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Joe’s RV Collision Center was able to get the paperwork rolling with State Farm last Friday so they were able to jump on it this week. I stopped by at lunch today & they have the hole patched, the entire nose sanded, & plan to spray it this afternoon! With the white striping it will take a little longer but Joe says it will be ready this Fri! The professionalism with these guys is amazing.

Funny thing about those white daggers: Quality said they would have to remove the decals to paint the nose but would replace them with painted facsimiles. When Joe's went to sand them off they discovered Quality just masked off the OEM stripes - no painting required. That's OK I guess but now there's a slight depression where the stripes were because the new paint actually built up the surface. I guess everyone has their methods, but I will admit I'm more impressed with Joe's craftsmanship so far.

Of course, considering their estimate was for $3800 - over twice as much as Quality's quote - I guess they can afford to offer better service!
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Friday, August 28, 2015
I heard back from Quality IR who said they are booked through late Sept. That's not going to work with a few trips we have planned, so I limbered up the old thumb (well...mouse finger) & found another place in Hillsboro that specializes in RV repairs. Joe’s RV Collision Center was only a few miles away from work so I ran over during lunch yesterday & met Joe himself. He turned out to be quite knowledgeable & pretty much specialized in my exact situation. The shop was spotless, neatly organized, & full of a half-dozen RV's in various stages of repair. In the corner was a brand-new paint booth that looked big enough to paint a bus.

Joe was planning a trip out of town Fri afternoon & over the weekend; but said if I could get the trailer in before he left they would send off the paperwork to State Farm that day to get the ball rolling for repairs the following week! So I left the house at 5:45AM this morning to pick up Hugo & got it there by 7:00AM. Later I stopped by at noon & they were in the throes of putting together the quote; so with any luck this issue will soon be behind us by the end of next week or soon after.

No prices from Joe's yet - I'll post when I have the numbers. Quality quoted me $1706.68 (13.5 hrs) so I imagine it will be all of that!
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Ack! Another accident in the storage yard with someone cutting it too close to our parked trailer! We stopped by last Sunday to pick up a few things & discovered a nice 4" hole gouged out of the edge of our newly-painted front cap. Check out the carnage here.

The same thing happened to our Tango about four years ago in the same spot (see 3/29/2011 blog) - the difference being then nobody fessed up which cost us & Farmer's Insurance over $4k to fix it! This time I was pleased to find the guilty party had already called the office to leave his name & number the morning (Sat) it happened; and when I contacted him he had already opened a claim with his insurance company. It's heartwarming to run across people willing to shoulder their responsibilities gracefully.

That said, perhaps it's time to look for another space or facility to store Hugo. Lightning has struck twice now & I'm a believer of things coming in threes! At the very least I'm going to pick up a couple of old tires & cobble up some tetherball poles like we had in the schoolyard. At least one of those on the corners will send a stronger message than a couple of cones that can easily be pushed aside. I can paint the poles Day-Glo Orange & maybe I'll even mount a bunch of sharp spikes & other nasty implements on them!

I contacted the same folks who painted the cap a few months ago to get an estimate for repairs, and hopefully can work it in between the three trips we have planned in the next couple months.
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Friday, July 31, 2015
We managed to squeeze in a trip down to Seven Feathers RV Resort with our friends Connie & Dick; who recently took delivery of a new Lance trailer. Might as well spoil them with a few luxo-camping places before they hit the back woods! See my trip report here.

Interestingly, this blog entry is exactly one year to the day from our last trip with them where they camped in a tent next door to us. I think that experience was probably the impetus to "move up" to a trailer!
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Monday, July 13, 2015
Another fine trip to the Hood River area & Toll Gate Park in Parkdale, OR. See trip report.

Also picked up a cool propane fire pit - see my product review.
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Friday, May 22, 2015
Finally resolved the problem with our fading front cap by having it painted. See the saga here!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Added Fort Stevens trip report.

Thursday, April 9, 2015
In preparation for upcoming trips during our typical Spring rainy weather (although perhaps not as much this year) I decided to replace the "dumb vent" in the bedroom ceiling with a MaxxFan because:

▪ Had no rain cover to keep the water out when open (and is too high on the trailer to accept a regular cover)
▪ Leaks a bit through some open spaces around the screen
▪ Is not a powered vent (duh)

I chose the MaxxFan over a Fan-Tastic because of all the problems we've had with the remote on the unit factory-installed in the main cabin (and the same model I put in our previous trailer. So far a big improvement! See the Mod here.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A creature was stirring... It's been a long albeit mild winter here in the PNW - in fact, according to the National Weather Service "The end of February will close the warmest winter on record in Portland...". As such it's time to plan some camping trips & we already have a few in the hopper:
  1. Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, OR (close to Astoria). This is the largest state park in Oregon & will be a first visit for the Arctic Fox.

  2. Lake Pleasant RV Park in Bothell, WA, which is located in the east Seattle suburban area across I-405 from Woodinville with its rapidly-growing winemaking industry using fruit from Eastern Washington & Oregon.

  3. Toll Bridge Park in Hood River County. Always a fav & located in Parkdale, OR up the valley from Hood River.

  4. Deschutes NF Campgrounds outside Camp Sherman, OR. There are a couple dozen no-reservation campgrounds spaced along the Metolius River in this little central Oregon oasis near Sisters, OR. We'll head over mid-week & hopefully have a fighting chance of scoring a decent site.
But despite the quiet winter break we managed to squeeze in a few non-RV activities:
  • We spent quite a bit of time in late last year in Bend supporting our sister-in-law who was battling ovarian cancer for a couple years. Sadly we lost her in November at 58 & have been trying to visit the family as often as possible to get through this painful period. Then to throw gas on the fire her daughter's under 40 husband was found dead from a freak stairway accident on New Year's Day! Not a particularly jolly holiday season.

  • In an attempt to recover we spent 8 days in sunny Hawaii in late Jan as guests of my brother & wife in a beautiful house they rented in the Ka Milo neighborhood of the Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island. They stayed for two full months (but since they live in Montana I guess they needed extra time to thaw out). Lucky dogs!

  • Our trusty little Acura RDX sport-ute that Kris drives turned eight & with 70,000 miles on the clock I decided it was time to either sell/trade or just keep it until the wheels fall off! Considering the vivid examples above of how life can be fleeting we threw caution to the wind & chose the former; so in Feb we acquired a zippy little 2014 BMW 335i M-Sport sedan to take it's place. Mike Baggs at Kuni BMW in Beaverton gave us a good price on the trade (KBB retail excellent) & was great to work with. It's not all-wheel drive like the Acura but with the F-350 we really don't need two 4WD vehicles, and it's certainly more comfortable on the road. You sit pretty low though...time will tell if our slowly-stiffening joints will allow us to continue falling into the seats! (Actually the biggest hurdle is getting out!) PS: This thing is an absolute rocket!

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Monday, November 17, 2014
As we did last year around this time we took the trailer out for one last outing & spent a long weekend in Lincoln City, OR at Premier RV Resort of Lincoln City for my birthday. Unfortunately we were a week later due to Kristi's trip up to Seattle to attend the Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend tour, so we missed the annual Lincoln City Chowder Cook Off. Bummer as that's always a good time, but I guess my wife's spiritual & mental health is worth it!

On Friday afternoon we stopped at McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub to get our passports stamped & collect the prize (which were some tasty appetizers), then back to the trailer to watch the sun set & whip up a nice dinner.

Saturday we again managed to dump a crapload of money at the Tanger Outlets Mall but did accomplish quite a bit of Christmas shopping in between buying stuff for ourselves. Later in the day we grabbed a couple shrimp cocktails from Barnacle Bill's Seafood Market & hit the beach from the D River Wayside. That took the edge off so we could try to watch the sunset at Fathoms Lounge at The Inn At Spanish Head - this year was a bust because of the clouds. Then back to Hugo for another fine meal before catching up on a few "Breaking Bad" episodes (we bought the complete series & are almost through season 2).

Friday, September 19, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #7: Connell, WA (9/19/2014) Pictures Here

After reluctantly saying goodbye in Missoula we again headed West on I-90 & crossed the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mtns at Lookout Pass (elevation 4,725 ft). The road took us past Pinehurst, Kellogg, Osburn, Wallace, and Mullan & over Fourth of July Summit (elevation 3,081) near Cataldo, Idaho, which is home to the Old Cataldo Mission built in 1853 (where we stopped for lunch). From there we drove through Coeur d'Alene & Post Falls, ID and past the biggest eastern Washington city of Spokane where we eventually turned south on US-395 down to Connell (pronounced "Con Ell" we were told).

Our last stop was at Coyote Run RV Park in Connell, WA, about halfway on 395 between I-90 and the Tri-Cities area of Richland, Kennewick, & Pasco WA. (Not coincidentally this was about halfway between Missoula & Portland!) After a somewhat noisy night interspersed with truck traffic on the hwy & trains we continued south down through the Tri-Cities & picked up I-84, which we followed home to Portland.

Route: 256 mi. West on I-90 > 43 mi. South/SW on US-395 to Coyote Run RV Park. 299 miles, 4:29 per Google Maps.

Some statistics for the trip: (See a map here)

  • 2,038 total miles driven - some of this was day trips but most was getting from stop-to-stop.
  • We burned 207 gals of #2 diesel with an average price of $4.027 for a total of $836!
  • Average MPG was 9.0 towing a 35' fifth-wheel trailer weighing about 16,000 lbs. Elevations ranged from 200' at home to 6,749' at Moran Junction, WY.
  • More costs:
    • $69 in clothing branded with the names of places we visited.
    • $251 dining out, mostly breakfast or lunches.
    • $37 in admission fees.
    • $55 in trinkets like magnets & stickers.
    • $138 for groceries.
    • $200 for cat sitting.
    • $504 in camping fees.
    • $51 misc.
For a grand total of $2,141 or $195/day spread over 11 days. It's still cheaper than staying in motels!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #6: Missoula, MT (9/17-18/2014) Pictures Here

Since we would be going right by Missoula we decided to spend a few days with my brother & SIL who lives nearby. The drive took us up through the Madison River valley past the Hebgen, Quake, and Ennis Lakes. Beautiful drive & the little town of Ennis, MT was cute as a button! Then it was onto I-90 at Cardwell & over Homestake Pass (at 6,329 ft the highest point on I-90) before crossing the Continental Divide just east of Butte & on to Missoula.

After a slightly rough maneuvering job I managed to get the AF backed uphill & around a corner into its assigned parking spot next to their house…even managed to stay out of the recently-laid loose gravel patch in front (that would have made the job a snap if it had been packed down)! During the few days we toured a few of small towns that dot the Bitterroot Valley such as:

  • Florence. Best known for Caffé Firenze, one of my brothers favorite haunts.
  • Stevensville, officially recognized as the first permanent settlement in the state of Montana.
  • Victor, where Hoyt Axton lived for a few years before his death & hometown thespian Tom Hewitt. Victor is also known for the Field of Screams - "Western Montana's #1 Haunted Attraction"!
  • Corvallis, which was named by settlers from Corvallis, OR where Kris & I (and my brother) went to school!
  • Hamilton, the biggest town in the valley & seat of Ravalli County so we spent a little more time there; discovering interesting places like The Wine Cave, River Rising Bakery & Deli, and Robbins Hallmark.
  • Darby where the blockbuster movie Disorganized Crime was filmed. Siskel & Ebert claimed that the film relies on "slapstick and cornball barnyard humor" so lovers of that genre better not miss it!
Route: 114 mi. North/NW on US-287 to Cardwell > 152 mi. West on I-90 to Missoula. 266 miles, 4:03 per Google Maps.

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Monday, September 15, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #5: West Yellowstone, MT (9/15-16/2014) Pictures Here

As luck would have it the road from Colter Bay to our next stop was closed for the season just South of Old Faithful Geyser so they could replace a bridge; which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced us to drive up through the center of the park & across the middle to the West entrance. We went through or stopped at:

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in turned out to be real gem – very nice park & highly recommended! After some of the more “rustic” stops earlier it was great to relax in a four-star RV resort, and the location literally a few blocks from the West park entrance was very convenient.

The next full day we set out for Old Faithful & stopped at the Grand Prismatic Spring along the way – spectacular! Of course we had to watch Old Faithful blow its top after lunch at the Old Faithful Inn. The fancy newer Visitor’s center was interesting also.

Only the way back we detoured onto Firehole Lake Drive & saw several more geysers & hot pools. Back in West Yellowstone we had just enough time to visit the Yellowstone Historic Center housed in an old Union Pacific Train Depot.

Route: 41 mi. North on US-89 to West Thumb > 21 mi. North on US-20 to Grand Loop Rd > 15 mi. North on US-89 to Norris Canyon Rd > 12 mi. West on US-89 to Norris > 28 mi. South-SW on US-89 to Madison > West on US-287 to Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park. 115 mi, 2:54 per Google Maps.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #4: Moran, WY (9/13-14/2014) Pictures Here

The next morning we left a little early so I could stop at the EBR-I museum, but alas it closed the day after Labor Day so we were about a week too late. I shot a few pictures from a distance but vowed to make it back someday as it sounded very interesting. So we pressed on for a beautiful drive along the Snake River all the way to Jackson, WY (a low-elevation route recommended by our British friends who we met in Bend the previous July). During the trip we passed through:

We were hungry & stopped at Sidewinders Tavern in what we later discovered was the Southern part of Jackson. We were frankly bewildered by the lack of “cool historical stuff" we read about & asked our waitress about it. She explained that was all just up the road a bit & centered around the town square with its famous antler archways – the area we were in was more for the locals! Jeesh...rookies! After lunch we continued on into town intending to spend an hour or so in the historic area; but one trip through revealed it was basically an over-priced tourist trap! We saw lots of famous-name boutiques swarming with tourists and since the parking was tight for 50’ of truck & trailer we decided to push on to Moran about 25 miles farther North.

Colter Bay RV Park is one of the only parks within the Grand Teton National Park with full hookups & was a pretty good-sized campground. This park is operated by GTLC, a vendor who seems to have sewed up all the attractions in the Park – or perhaps I should say the National Park Service has turned the keys over to them. As such it was efficiently run, but seemed to lack the “soul” we’re used to seeing in the local & state parks in the Pacific NW (which other than the reservation system has managed to hang onto managing the resources).

Regardless, we managed to squeeze our 8’6” trailer into the 12’ site & get settled. The next morning we set out on the Teton Park Road which a NF Ranger at the visitors center by the CG recommended. He was dead-on as we drove up Signal Mountain off the road for a spectacular view of the Tetons on one side & the Jackson Hole valley on the other. Also stopped at Jenny Lake & ended up at Jackson Lodge for a cocktail at the end of day.

Route: 73 mi. East on US-20 to Idaho Falls > 88 mi. East on US-26 to Hoback Junction > 54 mi. North on US-89 to Colter Bay RV Park. 215 mi, 3:53 per Google Maps.

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Friday, September 12, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #3: Arco, ID (9/12/2014) Pictures Here

We left the Boise area around noon & continued East to our next destination of Arco, ID. Along the way we passed through:

Arco turned out to be a nice little burg of about thousand souls located on the West side of the Idaho National Laboratory. It’s a huge scientific research facility but is best known to me as the place where in 1950 Hyman G. Rickover fanatically developed the prototype for the propulsion plant that would power the world’s first nuclear powered ship, USS Nautilus. As if that wasn't enough, in 1958 they followed up with the prototype for USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier!

Mountain View RV Park is a nice little oasis tucked behind their own cafe serving breakfast & dinner during June, July & August. The sites are all pull-thrus & huge with plenty of grass between the gravel driveways. We didn't use the restrooms but they're rumoured to be spotless. WiFi is available, but we were advised upon check-in that the "speed had been downgraded due to abuse"...apparently someone likes to stream movies! We used our MiFi instead.

Route: 52 mi. East on I-84 to Mountain Home > 102 mi. NW on US-20 > 42 mi. NE on US-26 to Arco. 196 mi., 3:07 per Google Maps

Rest Stops:

  1. Castle Rock #353/Goodale's Cutoff #305 historical Markers.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #2: Boise, ID (9/11/2014) Pictures Here

After tying up the loose ends in Bend we headed East across the middle of the state & passed through a succession of small burgs:

Boise River RV Park is located right on the Boise River (duh) just outside of town in Garden City, ID. It's literally right next door to the home field for the Boise Hawks (farm team for the Chicago Cubs)! I imagine it gets pretty exciting around there on game nights, but during our brief stay it was pretty sedate; so that evening we drove a short distance to the Crooked Fence Brewing Barrelhouse for some tasty brews & probably one of the best Prime Rib Dip sandwiches I’ve ever enjoyed!

The next morning we headed into the city for a quick tour & were pleased to find a very urban, bustling town of about 600K people (in the metro area) & home of Boise State University. The Boise Riverwalk basically divides the city from the school and while we didn’t have time to actually walk it; we did manage to find a frontage street on campus that allowed us to drive quite a distance along the river. We also spent some time tracking down & photographing my parents first house they bought in 1948 (where my two brothers were born) & were pleased to see it still standing, which my Mother says still looks pretty much the same!

Route: 258 mi. East on US-20 to Cairo Junction > 5 mi. North/NE on OR-201 to I-84 > 32 mi. South on I-84 past Ontario, OR & Caldwell, ID to US-26 > 20 mi. West on US-26 to Garden City, ID. 315 mi, 5:33 per Google Maps.

Rest Stops:

  1. Brothers Oasis Rest Area
  2. Buchanan Springs Rest Area

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Yellowstone Trip, Stop #1: Bend, OR (9/9-10/2014)

I'm finally getting around to posting about our recent 10-day trip to the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone National Parks that took us in a rough counter-clockwise circle from Portland > Bend, OR > Boise, ID > Arco, ID > Moran, WY > West Yellowstone, MT > Missoula, MT > Connell, WA > Portland. To make this easier to read I'll post in in chunks corresponding to each stop. Trip reports & pictures to follow.

We originally planned to start our trip by staying in La Grande, OR and possibly squeeze in a factory tour there at Northwood Mfg. (who built our Arctic Fox); but family matters intervened so we instead spent a few days in Bend, OR. Our accommodations were Crown Villa RV Resort as usual & it was pleasant as always. Paying the high-season rate of $84 a night was a bit hard to swallow, but where else can you stay in town that’s as nice? Scandia RV is a bit “too rustic” for us & Tumalo Falls State Park is on the extreme Western edge of town which is not an ideal location for activities in Bend.

Route: 33 mi. South on I-5 to Salem, OR > 80 mi. SE on OR-22 to the "Y" junction just before the Santiam Pass > 46 mi. East on US-20 thru Sisters, OR to Bend > 5 mi. SE on US-97/Bend Parkway to Crown Villa RV Resort. 164 mi, 2:57 per Google Maps.

Monday, August 18, 2014
Some pictures of our Arctic Fox 5th wheel as requested:

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Thursday, July 31, 2014
We finally made it to Barview Jetty County Park on the 2nd try! (we tried a few weeks ago but the truck was uncooperative). An interesting weekend as our friends Connie & Dick were giving tent camping one more try before deciding if they wanted to commit to an RV, and if there was ever a good place to seal the deal it would be there! We we unaware that Barview is the 2nd largest campground in the state at 300+ sites and the place was fully-occupied that weekend. An interesting feature of this campground are the large number of sites large enough for groups (but are not necessarily group sites) so there were huge packs of family gatherings constantly roving around! And many were different nationalities so we felt like it was some kind of United Nations campground as you could hear conversations in Spanish, Japanese, Korean, & several other languages as they walked by.

The site next to our trailer happened to be one of a few tent sites located on the ends of each RV pull-thru row so it worked well for us - in fact that's the main reason we choose our slot. Guess the little bits of wooded space were too small for a trailer so they sprinkled these tent sites around to use up the land. They did have running water & electricity though so that made for pretty luxurious camping! We actually felt guilty watching them deal with the coastal winds & cool mornings so spent a lot of time outdoors in their site; but the convenience of a private bathroom & shower was not lost on them - you can imagine how taxed the restroom facilities were on a busy weekend with over a thousand people trying to squeeze in!

Since Dick is a big R/C hobbyist & planned to bring along a few toys I decided it might be fun to have something to play with too so I popped for this cool Traxxas Stampede electrically-powered truck from my local hobby shop. What a blast we had racing these around on the beach! Can't wait to get more gadgets & gizmos for it...

While we were in the area we stopped at the Tillamook Country Smoker for some delicious jerky & sausage sticks. Their factory outlet is located in an old gas station next to the factory & is stocked with every variety of the freshest products - we left with $65 worth of stuff & were by no means the largest consumer of the group!

Then we stopped at the Blue Heron French Cheese Co for more delicacies including some killer buttermilk blue cheese. Skipping the attractive Bay Breeze 18-hole real grass putting course we had planned to visit (to avoid baking our expensive cheese & meats in the hot car for a few hours) it was onto Pacific Seafood for a quick lunch & then back to the campground to lounge around.

Saturday, July 19, 2014
When I was recently dealing with the truck issues our service advisor noticed the Transfer-Flow 50 gal. auxiliary fuel tank in the bed & strongly recommended I install some additional fuel filtration & water separation. He said Ford may deny any claims for damage resulting from water in the fuel & every case he's seen the owner had an auxiliary tank. He actually sent me a link to this filter kit that another customer installed. Somewhat concerned, I snooped around on the web when I got home & gathered this info (with the usual disclaimers):
  • Ford uses the Bosch CP4.2 high pressure fuel injection pump on my 2011 model year F-350 & there have been some failures due to water contamination in the fuel. Apparently at the pressures it's capable of producing (up to 28,000 psi in the rail at full throttle applications, but typically around 10 -14,000 psi) any water will flash to steam & wreak all kinds of havoc in the fuel system as the pump grenades. It also may rob the pump of the lubrication it needs from the fuel & trigger some abnormal wear or flaking of the cam surfaces with similar disastrous results. Combine this with the lower lubricity of the new ULSD fuel (which allegedly doesn't meet the minimum SCAR rating required by Bosch) & you have a real recipe for disaster!

  • Estimates of the price tag to repair the engine can approach or exceed $10k and yes - if any evidence of water is detected in the fuel system - Ford can & will deny warranty coverage! Chevrolet uses a slightly different version of this pump & has also seen some problems, but I understand they are much more accommodating with regards to covering the repair cost.

  • I've seen postings for a few years on the various truck-related newsgroups I follow on this topic & apparently there are a few cases of this exact scenario happening. One fellow in particular who goes by the username of "Ricatic" seems to have dedicated his life to bad-mouthing Ford at every opportunity for the way he was treated. He may have good reason if Ford is taking a hard line, but I'd like to see all the facts in his case before drawing a conclusion!
Given even the slightest possibility this may be reliable information & the dead-serious way my dealer's service guy mentioned it; I swallowed hard & ordered this DieselSite fuel water separator. It wasn't cheap - $700 + shipping - but very well engineered & quite easy to install. Check out the original installation video & the supplement for their new billet upgrade (which I received). You can also see some pictures of my installation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Over the Independence Day weekend we headed over to Bend to visit Kristi's mother who lives in a Retirement facility there. Her oldest brother has also called Bend home for 35 years, plus a younger sister owns a condo in town so there's always family to visit! We stayed in our usual haunt, Crown Villa RV Resort, which was nice as ever. Apparently they're under new management so perhaps some of the inconsistencies we noted previously have been corrected...time will tell!

Since Kris was unable to leave work early on 7/3 I headed over that afternoon about 3:30 to beat most of the holiday traffic and took our usual route down I-5 to Salem, then East on Oregon Route 22 which merges with U.S. Route 20 just before the summit over the Santiam Pass. Just outside of Bend I passed through the quaint little town of Sisters where Kristi's parents used to live until her father passed away a few years ago. Lot's of construction in progress as they were installing new sidewalks & curbs to deal with the heavy traffic that passes through each summer. She followed the same route about three hours later, and while it was lonely drive for both of us I have to admit it was nice to have a "normal" car to park in town instead of that behemoth truck!

For the holiday weekend Kristi's younger brother & wife from Salem rented the single Park Model at Crown Villa which is located just across the street from our site. Around noon on Fri we picked up Kristi's Mom & brought her back to Crown Villa where the little cabin turned out to be an excellent place to gather the family for a 4th of July BBQ! It's really a pretty slick alternative to a motel room and is equipped with a good-sized deck to lounge on. Later that night we took her Mom back to her place located right at the base of Pilot Butte & we all enjoyed the Fireworks that were launched off the top of butte - a better viewing location is not to be found!

On Sat the four of us staying at CV headed to the Mill District for a mid-morning walk along the Deschutes River on the short 1.3 mi Centennial Loop that connects Riverbend Park to Farewell Bend Park. Afterwards we grabbed a great burger at Red Robin where we sat outside watching an incredible flood of people floating down the Deschutes river! In the afternoon we met the older brother & SIL at Old St. Francis School to pick up some Passport stamps (see previous blogs) & claim our prizes. Turned out the off-the-beaten-path location was a great place for cocktails & a light supper as by then the trendy Mill District was swamped with tourists - we heard of wait times exceeding an hour just for lunch & 2x that for dinner!

Sunday morning we met up again with the Bend brother for a little target practice at an old gravel quarry he knew about just outside of town that's become the best-kept open secrets in the Deschutes National Forest. I have a new Springfield XD-S 4.0 purchased a few months ago & had yet to run a single round through it. Kind of a neat place: the gov'ment apparently decided to designate this as a "sacrifice area" & just let the local shooters have free run at this place. Judging by the amazing amount of discarded brass, shotgun shells, & target flotsam I'd say it gets a lot of use! (I know we went through five boxes of 9mm that morning!) Later we took Kristi's Mom to a nice lunch at Anthony's at The Old Mill District, then over to Mt. Bachelor Village to pick up a few things stored in the sister's (lives in NY) condo garage. After we dropped Mom back at home we relaxed & prepared a nice meal of penne al sugo di carne for our shooting companions that evening.

Interesting story: when we returned to Crown Villa there was a Arctic Fox 32-5M parked right next to us. The same thing happened almost one year ago to the date only it was on the opposite side. While dinner was simmering I chatted with the owners, who turned out to be a lovely retired couple from England who have been spending the Spring & Summer in the states for the past few years! They bought a 1-ton RAM pickup that they keep in Jackson, WY when back in the UK & the Fiver is winterized & stored at the dealer in Idaho. What a great adventure! We exchanged emails & I hope to see some pictures of their travels. On a side note he was running an Andersen Ultimate 5th wheel hitch & sang great praise for it's performance. I'm considering one of these to reduce the chucking from our Reese & he says it's non-existent with the Andersen so I'll undoubtedly be picking his brain on this topic.

Monday we reluctantly had to return to the real world so the morning was spent packing up & after one final stop at the Village Baker to stock up on our usual supply of their awesome Striatta bread; we hit the road around 11:00 for the four hour drive home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014
The F-350 has been running great all week since it's Monday hissy fit! In fact, even better than before now that most of the EGR system has been replaced with new and/or improved parts. I'll very interested to see how it goes with the trailer when we tow it home for it's pre-summer wash - 18 miles by Interstate should give us a pretty good test.

I had asked Our Landmark service adviser for a quote on a Ford extended service plan earlier last week in the throes of our service debacle, who passed the request on to their Finance Mgr. A few days later he came back with: Platinum plan coverage, 3 yrs/36000 miles from date of agreement: $1832.00 + $149 UVI (used vehicle inspection) which I actually thought was fairly reasonable considering the repairs I just had under warranty probably totaled $5k or better. People who know me would claim blasphemy as I'm not one to normally sucker for extended warranties; but given the potential financial impact of repairing today's technically-complicated (e.g. expensive) vehicles I have to admit it may actually make sense. Big difference between a $53k truck & $750 dishwasher I guess.

We still have two years left on our 5/50,000 Powertrain warranty & also a 5/100,000 Diesel Engine supplement; but I may seriously consider an ESP after the Powertrain coverage expires if we keep the truck. There is also some question in my mind if this is actually a official Ford ESP (which are named "PremiumCare", "ExtraCare", etc.) or some third-party offering. I don't see "Platinum Plan" in any of Ford's literature, although admittedly these things change more often than a stoplight!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Here's an example of why problems with modern computer-controlled vehicles are so hard to track down. Today the truck started up just fine and exhibited normal power & performance all the way to work! No bucking, no lack of boost, accelerated strong - pretty much like it has the previous 40,000 miles! Go figure. Maybe there was some crud in a vacuum line that needed to get sucked out. Or perhaps it needed to cool down & release something that was binding. Or it could be as simple as needing to be "hard booted" by turning of the engine & letting the capacitors drain down overnight. Whatever. I'll keep an eye open for a MIL & take the trailer out for a test drive this weekend to see if it still balks under load.

Update: at noon it ran fine when I went out for lunch. Plenty of boost...even managed to jump a couple rice burners! Also, the drive home was similar, so I'm hoping it was just a fluke on Monday with the trailer. Still, I plan to hook up & go for a test drive on Sunday - I've got to be sure it's not going crap out when we head over the Cascades later this summer & the Rockies in early Fall.

Monday, June 16, 2014
Well, a mixed bag to report today. The trailer was fine when I arrived at work just before 7AM...that was a relief! Apparently the roving bands of Mad Max marauders decided to take the weekend off. I sent my now-customary email to my SA who wrote back a few hours later to say the truck would be ready at 4:00, so I hightailed it over there in the afternoon to pick her up. He was clearly embarrassed by the whole sordid affair & couldn't apologize enough - no worries - these trucks are only slightly less complicated than the Space Shuttle so I feel their pain! I headed back to pick up my stranded trailer & some good luck smiled at me as I managed to slip between the numerous thundershowers we'd been getting most of the day while I was hooking up. The truck seemed to run fine, but was hard to tell in the heavy traffic - no place to pour on the coal to gauge the power level.

But things went sour when I headed back to the freeway towards the storage lot - the truck's power output was still meager at best & I struggled to merge into traffic. It actually bucked several times when I hit the accelerator from the on-ramp & even though I had the pedal to the floor it could barely manage 40 mph by the end of the merge lane! And the mileage was terrible - I managed no more than 7.4 MPG all the way to the storage yard. It settled down somewhat after a few miles but still not normal...obviously still some issues to work through but at least I got Hugo safely locked away in his parking spot!

I'll be on the lookout for the inevitable "Check Engine" light & more DTC's tomorrow! This time I think I'll try a Mustang loaner...

Saturday, June 14, 2014
We got up early (no surprise there) today & lounged around in bed until it was a reasonable time to have breakfast, which we did at Mcmenamins Grand Lodge in nearby Forest Grove, OR. Since we were stuck in the area we decided to salvage the day by collecting some McMenamin's passport stamps at some locations we don't normally visit. In addition to the Grand Lodge we managed to squeeze in visits to Cedar Hills, Rock Creek Tavern, and Cornelius Pass Roadhouse & Imbrie Hall although the latter was packed with people setting up for a wedding so we weren't able to get any stamps.

By 3PM we were done & not willing to endure the noise again we reluctantly locked up the trailer & headed home. I'm crossing every digit & limb in hopes nobody decides to ransack the trailer as it is parked in a pretty vulnerable location. Frankly with this string of bad luck it's a tossup: we're either though it now or still firmly in the grips of misfortune. I'll report back next Mon or Tue - stay tuned!

PS - some good news: I called Barview Jetty Park on Fri after it was obvious would wouldn't be able to make the trip. I knew it was too late to cancel Friday night's reservation but possibly could release Saturday. There wasn't any way to cancel online, rather just instructions to call a number in that situation so I did so and to no surprise got VM as it was after 5 PM. Without much hope I left my name, number, & sob story and to my amazement an email popped up in my mailbox mid-morning advising me a credit was issued for almost $49 of the $97! I take back all the disparaging remarks I've made about government employees over the years...

Friday, June 13, 2014
I got a message Friday that a couple mechanics had stayed late & the truck would be ready mid-morning so I headed over at 10:30AM, dropped off the loaner, grabbed the truck & headed straight to the storage yard for the trailer. After hitching up in record time I headed back up through town & dropped the trailer on my company's parking lot so I could pick Kris up later at the rail station a few miles away. Then the plan was to drive back to work, hook up, & go...but alas, it was Friday the 13th and fate was still not on my side. I had noticed a distinct lack of power while towing the trailer into the office - almost like the turbo wasn't working, but wrote it off as having to re-teach the ECU my driving habits. (I noted the radio presets were gone, which means they disconnected the batteries at some point during the repairs). My worst fears were realized however when once again the Check Engine light came on just as I climbed into the cab to disconnect from the trailer. Crap! Back to AutoZone for another look-see - this time the code wasn't in their database, but a search on the web identified it as a "waste gate problem, A buddy at work said he had a stuck waste gate on his Super Duty and it had no boost (check) & got horrible fuel mileage (I was getting 6 MPG) so back to the dealer!

OK, now I'm getting worried - I need to pick up the missus at 4:45 & we have to hit the road by 7PM to make the coast with enough daylight to set up. I headed back down to the dealer & met up with my SA just coming back from lunch at 1:30. Needless to say he wasn't happy to see me, although to his credit he was very apologetic throughout this whole experience, Hoping it would be something simple he drove it into the shop & after 30 min had good news - a broken vacuum line was causing the waste gate to stick open (imagine that) & they would have it fixed within the hour. Ok, so far so good...I can still make it. But a half hour later he was back with an undertaker's look on his face: "we found a coolant leak under the EGR cooler & think maybe some O-rings or gaskets were not seated properly in the rush". By then I was willing to take the truck & just top off the coolant occasionally until I had time to let them pull everything back off; but he was unwilling to let me drive it in that condition.

So another fire drill & technicians swarmed my truck like crazed ants - I walked out to the shop for a prognosis & was told by the head mechanic "we plan to get this done in two hours"! Hope springs eternal...I might still pull this off! I was issued yet another loaner so I could pick up the wife & headed to work to sweat it out for an hour before heading to the train station. Then...the call: now he actually sounded like an undertaker. Turns out the leak was not related to bad gaskets but in fact due to "extensive corrosion on the mating flange between the inner & outer EGR cooler"! Apparently bad enough it couldn't hold pressurized coolant so the outer needed to be replaced (inner was replaced Thurs), but the parts wouldn't be available until Monday. Sigh.

This was a major bummer because A) we had prepaid camping reservations that night & next day and were inside the cancellation window - kiss that $97 goodbye. And B) our trailer was now parked in an unsecured lot alongside the highway & I have no way to move it back to the storage yard! I picked up Kris & we decided to spend the night there because by now the traffic home sucked and also to keep an eye on the trailer. We cooked our planned dinner & tried to make the best of it; but you cannot believe how loud the traffic noise from a six-lane freeway just 20 ft. away can be! And amazingly it doesn't appreciably diminish throughout the night - just as loud. at midnight, 3AM, 5AM, etc. as it was at 6PM the night before. Don't ask me how I know. Where the hell are all these people going?

Thursday, June 12, 2014
I drove into work today with no mishaps, but during my noon drive to grab lunch the ominous Check Engine light came on - Ack! Fortunately a new AutoZone just moved in a block away from the office so I stopped by & got a complimentary MIL light test (Malfunction Indicator Light) - the error code pointed to a "restriction in the EGR flow". Not wanting to risk delaying our upcoming camping trip I headed straight for the dealer again & had them take a look. An hour later the diagnosis was a plugged up EGR cooler - an issue covered by yet another service bulletin:
  • TSB 13-6-5: Some F-Super Duty vehicles equipped with a 6.7L diesel engine may exhibit a malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) with DTC P0401. This concern may be caused by a restricted exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler core.
Fortunately, they had the parts in stock because of a growing number of these problems, but it was an 8 hr. job so back into a loaner with a promise time of Fri mid-morning. I had planned on picking up our trailer after work tonight & driving into the office tommorow with it since I'd be halfway to the beach (and past the pre-weekend rush hour traffic), but I'm flexible. He promised me a Noon completion on Fri so I still could make this trip work!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Picked the up the truck last night after work with fresh oil & squeaky clean inside & out! Since I'm such a lazy-ass I popped for Landmark's $40 interior "mini-detail" which cleared out all the crumbs from many lunches...money well-spent IMHO. Happy to report the moaning sound I've been living with for a few years was gone...no more funny looks from camping neighbors for us! No diesel smell either, but that was intermittent so no surprise there - time will tell on that one!

BTW, they gave me a 2014 Fusion for a rental car: a nice little ride but way too small for me, especially when compared to a Super Duty! It was comical to get in as I literally had to "fall into the seat"...getting out wasn't nearly as funny however. So Tue I stopped by & switched to a 2014 Flex Limited (a slick crossover I really like but Kris hates - a common boy/girl reaction I've observed). That fit me much better and was pretty swanky...really hated to turn it in!

Monday, June 9, 2014
I fixed a liitle mishap we experienced on the last trip out when a drawer slid open behind the slide-out & ripped off part of the face frame when we tried to open it! Fortunately the missus heard the crunch & stopped before too much damage was done! Kind of expected this to happen eventually given you can't see what may be potentially obstructing the slide towards the back (due to the slide itself blocking your view) & you can't get back to the Kitchen to eyeball it. I may install some additional catches on that drawer & both pantry doors to prevent this from happening again. Here's some pictures of the carnage & subsequent surgery.

Good thing too because we have a trip planned to Barview Jetty County Park this coming weekend as an exploratory trip for another visit later this summer with some friends. In preparation, I dropped off our F-350 at Landmark Ford this morning for the 40K service & mentioned a few issues I've been living with for awhile.

Specifically, I've noticed an occasional diesel exhaust odor in the cab that I thought my be due to a leak somewhere under the hood, and it's been making a funny noise after shutdown since it was about year old. A quick search on the Ford Truck Enthusiasts Technical Service Bulletins site turned up these two that seemed to fit the bill:

  • TSB 11-6-22: Some 2011 F-Super Duty vehicles equipped with a 6.7L engine and built on or before 2/16/2011 may exhibit an exhaust leak or odor from the exhaust pressure (EP) sensor tube-to-exhaust pipe connection. It may also be possibly TSB 10-22-9 but I didn't see any error codes.

  • TSB 13-10-7: Some 2011-2012 F-Super Duty 250-450 pickup trucks equipped with a 6.7L diesel engine may exhibit a buzzing noise from under the hood while the engine is running and/or for up to thirty (30) seconds after the engine is shut off. This concern may be due to the waste gate control valve vacuum harness causing the waste gate control valve to resonate.
The Service Advisor contacted me a few hours later & confirmed the abovementioned TSB's would solve my problems, but wouldn't have all the parts in time to finish that day so I caught a ride over after work to pick up a free loaner car. As it turns out it took an extra day to get everything so I won't pick up the truck until Tue afternoon - no worries.

Monday, June 2, 2014
We took last week off to take advantage of Memorial Day & headed South for a few days camping with our Airstream friends Ric & Teresa. First stop was the deluxe Seven Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville on Wed-Thur; a place we've stayed at least four times & always a treat! We had some Groupons for Wildlife Safari in nearby Winston that we thoroughly enjoyed - our last visit was several years ago in early March and very few animals were visible. Next stop was a visit to Abacela’s new tasting room/winery complex just a few miles down the road where we had lunch & managed to escape with (only) four cases of their excellent Spanish-style wines! Then we headed over to McMenamin’s Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery to get our passports stamped and collect a nifty black T-shirt as a prize!

On Fri we headed up to Elk Haven RV Park in Idleyld (pronounced "Idle-Wild" by the native Umpqua tribe) for a couple days. This place turned out to be a diamond in the rough as the main reason we were in the area was for a "Guest Chef & Winemaker Dinner" at the Steamboat Inn about 20 mi. upriver and wanted to stay somewhere close. But we found the campground to be nicely-run by a couple who moved down from Everett, WA after he retired from their police force. Very friendly folks & clearly animal-lovers judging by the menagerie of animals from horses to goats to chickens...and rabbits...lots of bunny rabbits! It was hoot to laze around & be constantly surrounded by fluffy bunnies munching away on the grass. Review to come.

The dinner that evening was hosted by Earl & Hilda Jones (founders of Abacela) and the chef was Scott Dolich who operates the Bent Brick & Park Kitchen restaurants in Portland. The meal was fantastic & paired with the wine beautifully BTW. See the menu here.

On Sat we packed a lunch & headed back upriver to explore the Susan Creek Recreation Area we noted the evening before. After checking out several day-use areas we found a nice picnic facility overlooking the river & settled in for a snack. Lots of fishermen out that day looking for spring Chinook - said to rival the famed Copper River Sockeye in flavor & richness!

Earlier in the week I had a chance to replace the bathroom sink in the AF. Never really liked that dinky brown plastic job. See some pictures here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
We headed down to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA Spring Tasting last weekend - our third time at this event which seems to get better each year! Old Stone Village RV Resort was our domicile as usual & great as always. Hard to beat the accommodations & with the Good Sam discount the price is quite reasonable. The place was full for the weekend - business is good!

Poor Kris came down with the 24-hr. flu the morning of the event so stayed behind in the trailer while I bravely attended with our traveling companions from last year. We all met up with more friends & relatives at Anne Amie, the event host. Also a great time to pick up the Spring shipment for their wine club which we joined last Fall. Our tongues were "worn out" by 2:00 (doors opened at 11:30) so we stopped back at the park to see how the patient was doing - better - before heading to downtown Mac for chocolates & a stop at the salumeri.

The rotochoks I've been obsessing about in recent posts worked well, although next time I think I'd make the side plates about 1/2" wider as they pulled to within 2" of touching which seems a little close. I also noticed some minor delamination on the sidewall under the Kitchen window right where that faucet leaked last year, so I'll have to deal with that. Lot's of chatter on the web about this problem so it's apparently fairly common - guess I was lucky on our previous TT (or it was built pretty solid)!

Monday, April 21, 2014
Spent most of Easter Sunday swapping out the 7-way umbilical for the new one that includes a junction box with integrated terminal block. In my 3/3/14 post I mentioned installing a new plug to mitigate the problem caused when the molded-on OEM plug separated from the cord. At the time I noted the cable was simply connected to the trailer with a bunch of crimp-cap connectors & wrapped up in a copious amount of electrical tape - a situation I felt could be improved. See some pictures here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
The Rotochok rebuild is finished! See pictures of the process here. A few comments:
  • I decided to recess the carriage bolts on both sides instead of just the nut end. Seems a little neater but frankly not sure if it's even necessary on either side!
  • All the side plate edges were wrapped with 3M non-skid tape. Should give me a better grip on a wet tire!
  • All the bolts were upgraded to 18-8 stainless steel...found some in the rare 3-1/4" length online at FMW Fasteners.
  • I found these cool T-Knob detent pins on Amazon to replace the stock aluminum "curly" pins. These won't be able to be locked but frankly I'm not too worried about that. I've got some more of that 1/16" aircraft cable I used on the jack pins that can be used to make a couple of lanyards.

Monday, March 24, 2014
Well, I got the new side plates for the Rotochoks cut to size last weekend. Unfortunately, I discovered a slight miscalculation because in my zeal purchased exactly 1/2 of material needed for two complete chocks...Doh! Each chock has four plates dummy - two for the top unit & two for the bottom. I guess another $20 won't break the bank. Sheesh...damn kids!

While I was in a chocky mood I decided to pick up a couple "dumb" chocks to use when hitching/unhitching. It's really not worth hassling with the Rotochoks just to keep the trailer from rolling away when unhooking & these Maxxtow HD rubber chocks look just like the ones the truckers use at our loading dock. I have them outside airing out right now as they give off that distinctive "Chinese Rubber" aroma, but that will soon pass (I hope!).

And while I was on Amazon I looked for & ordered this cool Bedrug Folding Track Mat I saw on some website. I seem to have inherited my father's tendency to rest on one knee when doing anything close to the ground (like dropping jacks, chocking tires, etc.) & my jeans are taking a beating! I have several pairs that are pristine except for the worn-out knee area on the right leg - hopefully this will save my pants (and kneecap) for further damage! Looks very promising & is certainly softer than concrete, blacktop, or gravel!

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Before the next trip I upgraded our traveling video setup to the latest WD TV Live Media Player version as we've been having some stability issues with our old WD TV Live+. For those unaware of our system I use the aforementioned media player in conjunction with several bare 3.5" hard drives plugged into a docking station. The drives hold our DVD library of movies & TV series that I ripped into VOB files (about 100 movies on a 1Tb HDD), and the Western Digital media player's are the only reasonably-priced units that can handle those types of files.

I connect the two components together with a short 18" USB 2.0 cable to reduce clutter & store the drives in these nifty DriveBox Hard Disk cases that look like a smaller-version of those old durable VCR cases. Everything goes into a compact carrying case I pirated from some old laptop or camera that holds a half-dozen drives, the player & docking station, transformers, cables, & remote - very easy to transport from home to RV & back!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I received the used set of Rotochoks ordered from IRV2 classifieds & they look very good. The hardware is the same design as the 1st chock I bought, which is a couple years old. Not sure how many generations they had, but I found at least two online that appear to be earlier versions - the most obvious difference is the locking bar (mine is a length of aluminum flat stock that slips thru a slot milled in the shaft). You can see the older versions I found here.

The plastic side plates are way too small as expected, but I found a product called StarBoard® at TAP Plastics that looks like the same stuff they made the originals with. Interestingly, they said UHMW isn't really available anymore, having been replaced by a new generation of polyethylene products. $20 for a 3/4" x 6" x 24" chunk should be plenty for some larger side plates. I disassembled the Rotochoks to salvage the hardware & it looks like it will be fairly simple to replicate the hole patterns.

I also picked up another Camco 10' Premium Drinking Water Hose from Amazon & several new Brass Quick-Connect Fittings to replace my current mishmash collection. These don't have the integrated shut-off valve so should flow much more water.

Monday, March 3, 2014
Spent the weekend (actually Sat & Sun nights) in Corvallis so Kris could attend a sorority function. Both of our respective fraternities (ΑΣΦ for me, ΑΟΠ for Kris) just across the street from each other folded at Oregon State University since we met there almost 40 years ago. Mine was resurrected in a new chapter house several years ago & hers is going through the same process now. I guess there's some new life returning to the Greek system after a few decades of falling out of favor?

As such she was pretty busy so we didn't get out much. Had our usual pizza binge at Woodstock's (gotta have the Spicy Beav) on Sat, then did some grocery shopping at the old Fred Meyer we frequented in our post-fraternity apartment years. Still run-down and busy as ever with an assortment of NW Corvallis kooks talking to themselves, cash-poor older students, & packs of foreign-exchange students striding four-wide down the aisles. We bought ingredients to make a batch of my infamous 5-pepper turkey chili for dinner, had a bottle of wine while it simmered, and hit the sack at 10 for a 7am wakeup call for the sorority festivities Sun.

After I dropped off the missus at the CH2M HILL Alumni Center the next morning I decided to spend my couple free hours tracking down all the 120vac circuits in the trailer (Hey…beats reorganizing the spice drawer!). My experiences with the new heater repeatedly popping the breaker demanded I spend some time figuring out just what outlets were on what circuit. By noon I finished that task & a few others so buzzed Kris for an ETA...she was just finishing up & would soon be heading for lunch! So much for "it should only take two hours"!

With my new-found time I figured that 7-way plug on the trailer wasn't getting any better (the molded connector had pulled away from the cord - only a matter of time before the wires start breaking off) & since I already had a replacement might as well go for it. I had high hopes for the new Hopkins Endurance Die-Cast Plug; but it was was pretty fiddly & a real PITA to stuff all the wires in - guess I picked a bad day to forget my third hand! But I got it buttoned up enough to get us home…was pretty committed once I snipped off the old plug! Already ordered a different 7 Way Trailer Cord with Junction Box that should be easier to work with & will replace the clumsy tape-wrapped bundle of wires stuffed up inside the pin box! A rare miss for Northwood who I've come to expect better!

I was finishing up that project when Kris texted that she'd had enough (how many cutesy songs & secret handshakes can you take in a day for chrissakes?) so I picked her up, then headed for Safeway for a few more items for our Academy Award feast later that day (who woulda thunk Freddy's no longer sells bulk shrimp?). We were both glad to settle in for a cozy evening watching Ellen D. poke fun at overpaid Thespians trying to act like 'normal people' while we munched on shrimp cocktails, cheese fondue, & other party fare - all washed down with a nice Tamarack Syrah.

Later that night the skies opened up with a vengeance & it rained like a bitch - whoever said "there's no better sound than rain pattering on the roof" was either deaf or delusional! Or perhaps this event did not meet the pattering standard - I'd liken it more to crazed elves pounding on my roof with baseball bats! We finally dropped off to sleep in the wee hours just in time to be yanked back to consciousness by the dipshit parked right across from us. He apparently wanted to get an early start so fired up his 1964 Hupmobile motorhome at 3:15am, complete with squeaky fan belt & fist-sized hole in the muffler! And since it wouldn't hold an idle he had to sit there for an eternity-long 15 min. revving up that sweet motor just to keep it clattering along. A sound only dwarfed by his screaming at his hapless traveling companion who apparently had a lobotomy earlier that morning & forgot every single task required to break camp. "Unplug the electric cord!" "Huh?" "The electric cord!" "What cord?" "That big black thing!" "This one?" "No #$%&'% - that's the sewer hose" And so on. These types of people actually make the Griswold's RV relatives in the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation desirable! What a fine example of neighborly consideration....is it just me or are these nidjits actually following me around?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Had no luck getting the Rotochok people to return my calls or emails so I can only assume they're out of business (or out to lunch customer service-wise). I found a pair of used chocks that appear to be in good shape on IRV2 that I can rob the hardware from, which is the most important part anyway. The side plates are too narrow but I think I can get some 3/4" black UHMW & fab some new plates to match my existing Rotochok. Normally I'd just order new plates from the factory, but...

Sunday, February 16, 2014
Spent the weekend down in McMinnville, OR for some wine-tasting & relaxation. Got the first part, but the weather didn't help much with the second as we encountered some pretty heavy rain & winds! See Olde Stone Village RV Resort trip review.

I did get a chance to try out my new Camco Premium Drinking Water Hoses which worked as expected. These are quite robust with heavy-duty braided 5/8" ID tubing, plated machined fittings, spring reinforced ends, etc. I ordered both 10' & 25' versions from Amazon & in this case was able to use the shorter one. These are really nicely made & will definitely replace my existing hoses. I may pick up another short hose to have 10', 20', 25', 35', & 45' options.

Also got to try out my new-to-me Rotochok as mentioned below. This thing is awesome - built like a Swiss watch & very effective at keeping the trailer stable. I noticed it was also resistant to getting stuck between the tires when the trailer moves around during leveling or unhitching after chocking like others I've tried. Unfortunately the factory seems to be unresponsive to my calls & emails so I may be forced to buy another used chock. I understand the founders of this family-owned company both passed away recently & a younger generation may be in charge...hopefully they pick up some business savvy PDQ or I'm afraid "Rotochok" will be just another fond memory!

Another task completed just before this trip was installing a drain valve on the hot water heater. As you may know the Suburban models require you to unscrew a combination plug/anode rod to drain the tank. This can be a real PITA during the cold weather when you try to use your trailer year-round - dragging out the socket set to drain the tank whenever a freeze is forecasted is not particularly convenient! By using a brass tee I was able to retain the stock plug & it's galvanic protection, and now just have to twist a 1/4-turn knob to drain the tank! See pictures here.

Also got some pix of the infrared heater mentioned earlier.

Monday, February 10, 2014
We're starting to dig out of some messy winter weather that affected Western Oregon for the past four days. Most of this area has been in a cold-soak from frigid air dropping down from Canada for a good week; with daytime highs in the high-20's & the teen's at night (unusually cold for the temperate Willamette Valley). That, combined with a warmer moisture-laden storm from the West running over the top gave us several inches of snow topped with some freezing rain for good measure! A great recipe for an Atlanta-style traffic quagmire given our lack of snow removal equipment & inexperienced drivers.

We were actually planning on a quick weekend jaunt down to McMinnville to keep our commitment for a minimum once-per-month outing to keep Hugo limber so obviously that will have to be rescheduled. Things are warming up quickly however & it's expected to hit 55 by Thurs. Go figure.

On the RV gadget side I picked a single used Rotochok from a former NW owner who recently upgraded to SOB. He still stays active on the NROA group though & I saw his posting about needing to get a larger size to fit his new rig so had an extra one. We worked out a good deal so I'm now the proud owner of a ML size chock - these things really are the Cadillac of chocks! Now, if Rotochok will ever return my call I'll order another for the other side!

Also ordered a couple Rome's #1705 Square Pie Irons to go with our Rome #1905 Dog n' Brat cooker I picked up a few years ago. These are pretty slick to make a tasty lunch or snack over the campfire & damn near indestructible! Since I was feeling flush I popped for a Pie Iron Storage Bag to keep them corralled (& the trailer clean as they get kinda sooty) and even a Pie Iron Recipes Book!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Back from sunny Bend! The sky was clear & blue during our visit with daytime temps in the low 50’s & overnight lows in the mid to upper 20’s. The Pacific NW in general has been experiencing below-normal levels of precipitation this year & Central Oregon is no exception. The snowpack in this winter playland is woefully low everywhere but the heights of Mt. Bachelor & even there is marginal. We meet some family at the West Village Lodge for lunch one day who reported the snow was icy (probably artificial) & nothing like the famous powder that usually coats the mountain!

The new infrared heater worked well to keep us comfortable, although at 5200 BTU pretty much ran all the time. Not really a problem as it’s fairly quiet but I did make up a stout (12-ga) six foot extension cord to replace what was supposed to be a heavy-duty version that was getting warm. Anticipating this I bought supplies from Home Deport before the trip to install a recessed floor outlet right behind the heater location to eliminate the need for an extension; but didn’t have time to work on that. I also plan to run the outlet to a dedicated ParkPower 15 Amp Power Inlet I got from Amazon that can plug into the normally unused outlet on the pedestal to off-load the extra amperage from the trailer’s electrical system. It will also help balance the load on the circuit I was using which includes the Kitchen & Bathroom outlets – turning on the coffee maker, toaster, or hair dryer along with the heater popped the breaker every time! I need to see if these two locations can be split onto different circuits as that seems pretty short-sighted. Guess I need get my “fox & hound” tracer busy and map out all the outlets to their respective circuits to see how things were wired!

The only temperature-related problem was a leak that appeared under the Kitchen sink the first day. (We actually discovered it when I noticed some water dripping from under the trailer – apparently my auto leveling system needs some adjustment as that side was low & kept the water from leaking out onto the floor where we would have seen it right away!) Initially I assumed the freezing temperature that night must have burst a water line, but further investigation revealed water was actually leaking out of the bottom of the new faucet I installed last summer! Obviously one of the internal copper tubes in the faucet had frozen & split; which seemed odd since A) the overnight temp of 25° should not be cold enough to do this & B) the trailer was heated to 65° all night. My suspicion is that the week-long cold soak we had in Portland last month where temps got down to 10-15° and no higher than 25° did the damage to those tiny tubes – I must not have opened the Kitchen faucet when I blew out the lines - and only when I hooked the trailer up to a water source did this little problem reveal itself! A quick trip to the nearby Ace Hardware for a new Moen faucet and all was well in a couple hours. I mopped up what spilled water I could & stuck a couple Dri-Z-Air units I normally sprinkle around the trailer when in storage under the sink – hopefully no long-term damage was done!

One thing I noticed while working under the sink is there are no shutoffs for the faucet; which forced me to turn off the water for the entire trailer & drain the lines slightly. Kind of a PITA so I ordered a couple of these Brasscraft 1/4-turn Straight Stop Valves that I can splice into the plastic feed lines. On the expensive side because of the unusual 3/8” compression fittings on both ends, but should be a relatively quick & sanitary way to solve this problem.

Monday, January 13, 2014
We're about to head off to Central Oregon for a few days in Bend for a family reunion of sorts. The forecasts are all calling for mild, zero-precipitation weather for the next week so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to test out the highly-touted "Four Season" capability of our Arctic Fox! We’ll be staying at Crown Villa RV Resort which is offerring some great off-season rates right now - $49 for a Platinum tier pull-thru!

To help keep the chill off we picked up one of these nifty Infrared heaters from the local farm & ranch supply on sale for $150. Our oil-filled unit normally does a fine job; but at night temps in the mid-20’s I thought we could use a little fan-forced assistance! An especially nice feature of this model is the cabinet that’s built to resemble a piece of furniture – the wood veneer finish blends in nicely & will simply replace the small table that sits between the recliners!

I also upgraded the tires on the truck with a new set of Toyo "Open Country" A/T II tires. (The original Michelin LTX's were getting a little thin at 35K for snow duty & frankly that’s about the useful life of these tires in my experience…especially under a truck weighing in at 8400 lbs. Great tires for traction & handling, but I suspect the rubber is softer to give you that performance so tire life suffers). I was out the door at Les Schwab for $1400 including an upgrade to a pair of their HD tire chains.

I’ll report back on the performance of the heater & tires at a later date!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
We had a bad spell of unusually cold weather for Western Oregon recently...lows in the 12-15° range or lower with daytime highs below freezing. For us that's pretty darn cold so I tried to prep the trailer as best I could beforehand by draining the fresh water tank, emptying all the water filters, & running compressed air through all the lines, etc. I even dumped a few cups of antifreeze in the drains & toilet for good measure! Lastly, I removed the HWH drain plug to empty that and noticed a fair amount of corrosion on the anode rod so ordered a couple Suburban Magnesium Anode Rods from Amazon. CW had some aluminum versions, but I prefer the less-noble Magnesium rods - rather have those rot away quickly than risk eating away at the tank!

Time will tell if I did enough, but I feel good about it at this point. It's warmed up now to the mid-40's during the day & high 30's at night so hopefully that's it for freezing weather for awhile.

Monday, December 2, 2013
As promised I made an appt. and stopped by the CC PSTC last Friday for my CHL "interview". We were all moving kinda slow after gorging ourselves the night before on turkey; but they managed to take my picture & fingerprints so their whizbang machine could spit out my shiny new CHL card in less than 15 min! Guess I should put some bullets in my gun now...

Monday, November 25, 2013
Well, I took the required class for an Oregon Concealed Handgun License (CHL) last weekend so will be applying for one soon. Not that I plan to pack around a pistol; but it will make it easier to carry one in the truck or trailer! And since I don't think you can have enough training & practice with firearms I'm planning on taking the whole series offered by the Clackamas County Public Safety Training Center. Rogue cougars, wild dogs, & unscrupulous people consider yourself warned!

Monday, November 18, 2013
Kris & I attended our very first gun show at the Portland EXPO Center last weekend. I decided to add another layer of protection to our camping adventures (given the wild animals & people that seem to be proliferating) so have been shopping for a handgun for awhile now. Picked up a new Sig Sauer P226 Mk25 9mm semi-auto at a good price. We were both pleasantly surprised with the crowd at the show...half expected a bunch of belligerent crazies festooned with various weapons, "Live Free or Die" tattoos, etc...but for the most part were just "normal" folks looking to beef up their security a bit.

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Had a free weekend so headed to the beach for my birthday! Check out Premier RV Resort in Lincoln City.

Saturday, October 12, 2013
I picked up the trailer yesterday & towed it back to the storage yard...and am happy to report the brakes were 1000% better! Amazing how much better you feel driving in traffic with 16,000 lbs. pushing you along knowing you can actually stop quickly if the situation demands it! I had forgotten how well our previous trailer worked with the Ford Tow Command system & have just been compensating with the new rig for several months I guess. Now, back to our regularly scheduled RV programming...

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Curtis Trailers called this afternoon to advise me the repairs have been completed, a road test performed, and the brakes are now operating at optimal efficiency! They worked directly with the factory to handle all the paperwork so we'll drive over this Sat. to bring Hugo home. Nice example of multiple players in the RV industry coming together to resolve a customer issue...like to see more of that!

Friday, October 4, 2013
I towed the AF over to Curtis this morning, who promptly plugged in a test box before I left & told me "brakes are working fine...must be your truck?" I pointed out it was a known fact the brakes are working because you can feel some drag when they're applied - the problem was they provide very little stopping power! The SA told me they would take it out for a road test & call me if they found anything else; so I left with a sinking feeling they were dismissing this as a "problem between the owner's ears".

However I was vindicated when he called back about 4PM to report "all the brakes were saturated & need to be replaced"! I confirmed he meant saturated with grease/oil so felt oddly relieved that my brakes were trashed! At least I can still diagnose a problem! They will contact NW for authorization to proceed with repairs.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Dave Mann from Northwood Customer Service wrote back an hour later (didn't get a chance to post this until next day):

Dave, I would take this in to a dealer and have them check it. I talked to a customer two weeks ago with the same issue. It turned out to be #4. have the dealer call us or al-ko axle and we'll take care of it.

Very impressed so far with their responsiveness! I made an appt. with Curtis Trailers in Portland who have done some repairs for me before late next week. Mr. Mann's comment about "greasy brakes" confirmed my theory - hopefully Curtis can get to the bottom of this!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Well, adjusting the brakes didn’t seem to have any positive effect, so on a hunch I rigged up a rope to the breakaway cable & yanked out the pin in the parking lot while coasting along around 20 MPH to see what happens. As I suspected the stopping power was the same as manually applying the brakes, which is contrary to my past experiences where the wheels virtually locked tight after doing this. To me this rules out any problems with the truck’s controller or umbilical wiring as it’s supposed to send a full 12-v. directly from the onboard batteries to the brakes. Time to contact the factory! Here’s what I sent to the Arctic Fox Service Dept:


We purchased a new 29-5K in March of this year and for the most part really like the unit – seems very well constructed & solid and we have had very few problems in over 10 trips so far!

One issue I’d like to discuss however is the brake performance – from the first trip home (to Portland) over the Blues I noticed the trailer doesn’t seem to have a much stopping power, at least not like our previous two trailers. When I apply the brakes manually you can feel a slight drag but nowhere as much as the others - on those I felt I could actually lock up the wheels if I wanted! The truck brakes (2011 Ford F-350) are quite powerful so I really didn’t worry too much about until we did some in-town driving recently and I was sweating a couple of slow-speed (< 30 MPH) stops where I wondered if we would make it! So I did a little research & seems like there are a few possibilities:

  1. Brakes were not adjusted correctly from the factory.
  2. Connector-to-brake wiring is undersized & not allowing full voltage to get to the brakes (seems unlikely).
  3. May be a broken/shorted connection that’s preventing one or more brakes from being applied.
  4. Wheel bearings may have been over-lubed & have contaminated the brake shoes with grease.
  5. Could be a problem with my Ford Tow Command controller (although worked fine with the previous trailer)
I contacted my dealer (Thunder RV) who suggested the brakes might need adjustment, so that was done which didn't appear to make much difference. To rule out any problem with the controller I did an emergency brake test by pulling out the breakaway switch at 20 MPH in a parking lot – no appreciable difference in stopping power!

Obviously that was disturbing since it means my trailer may not stop itself in a reasonable distance if it broke loose! Do you have any suggestions as to what I should try next?

Regards, Dave Smith

Keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, September 23, 2013
Added Toll Bridge Park trip report. Did a few mods while there, notably added some more clip rails in the bedroom closet & a ventilated "shoe shelf" under the folding steps. See pictures here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013
On Labor Day (last Mon) I tried my hand at adjusting the electric brakes on the AF. I haven't been satisfied with the stopping power for the last few trips - in fact, the trailer has never seemed to be contributing it's fair share of the braking duty since we brought it home! I asked Wayne at Thunder RV about it & his first guess was the brakes needed adjusting, and even mentioned he's seen a few units come in with loose brakes lately. So I decided this would an excellent opportunity to upgrade my leaky Sears floor jack & ordered this 3.5 ton Sunex model from Summit Racing - even came with a free pair of jackstands! The weather was good so Kris helped me load the jack into the truck (which weighs in at a svelte 154 lbs!) & we headed to the storage yard. After a few false starts I figured out it was best to slide the jack under the U-bolts from the opposite side of the trailer. After each tire was off the ground enough to spin freely it only took a few min. work with the adjusting tool to crank out the shoes so they just started to drag. Can’t wait for the next trip to see how much better it stops - if not could be time to think about converting to disc brakes!

Sunday, August 18, 2013
A beautiful still morning in Bend, OR at Crown Villa RV Resort! We drove over last Friday to visit Kristi's mother who lives here in a retirement complex. The weather is a bit cooler this weekend after a long string of pleasant 80's days with some rain & thunderstorms (which are sparking some wildfires - bummer); but it looks like back to nice weather next week.

Our stay here has been somewhat disappointing - see my trip report (coming soon) with the gory details but bottom line: a RV resort that consistently advertises itself as a top-tier facility (with rates to match) should not have issues like we experienced. 'Nuff said!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Spent a few days last week in Bothell, WA (East of Seattle above Bellevue) to do some wine tasting in the nearby Woodinville area. We stayed with our friends Ron & Karen at Lake Pleasant RV Park which they discovered last year on a similar trip. Very nice facility - literally an oasis in the middle of a city!

Sunday, July 28, 2013
We're in Salem, OR at the Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort and the night after Kris attended her 40th high school reunion here in town. I'm writing this in bed because our neighbor woke us up before 7:00AM by warming up both his rigs for nearly an hour - a growling diesel pusher MH & a clattering diesel Jetta (which someone apparently drives since he pulls a cargo trailer). So much for sleeping in...I just love these kind of campground neighbors!

The resort is nice albeit a bit noisy from the freeway & trains nearby. The missus had an OK time at the party...unfortunately lots of people she wanted to see were no-shows: in fact only about 75 of a class of 500+ made it! Fortunately her classmate & childhood friend Karen drove down from PDX to pick her up here so they didn't have to face those first "and then all eyes turned to the door" steps alone.

Tried new vacuum head which actually worked fairly well. Not a ton of power but enough for the job & 100% better than before. It is just a trailer after all...

Saturday, July 27, 2013
The check arrived from Thunder last Thursday! Very nice dealing with them on the new purchase & now sale...highly recommended! The dough is currently resting in the bank until we make some earth-shattering decisions: genny vs. solar, Honda vs. Yamaha, etc. Stay tuned...

On the gadget front I picked up an air-powered brush head for the built-in vacuum system from Starks Vacuums. The anemic flat nozzle that came with the Yellowjacket is really best suited for hard surfaces, so hopefully this will do a better job on the carpet. If not, I'm not out a lot of money.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Well, our Tango has been sold - apparently. Caleb at Thunder RV said the buyers had looked at it once before & came by for another look - once they heard it would soon slip out of their grasp they committed to buy it "no matter what". After a mad dash to arrange financing the check must have cleared since I heard the the happy new owners towed it away last Thursday! I'm expecting a check any day now...hopefully no problems in that area (but I'm keeping my fingers crossed)!

Now: what to do with the money? Some will go into our rainy-day fund, but I had budgeted $2k for a generator - probably the Honda EU3000iS - but I'm having doubts if that has enough power to start/run our 15k A/C unit. I've run across conflicting posts during my research, some say "No problem", others "No way", still others "Depends". What's a poor boy to do? I don't relish dropping $4k on a 6500 & even a few said that's not enough! Jeez...

Maybe I'll abandon the genny idea & get a serious solar system installed. Never really liked hearing generators when boondocking or staying at a ZHU campground (but so many others have them now I was thinking "why not?"). Perhaps a trip down to AM Solar down to Eugene is in order - it's only a couple hours South of Portland.

Sunday, July 14, 2013
After over three months of Thunder RV unsuccessfully trying to sell our Tango on consignment, we decided to bring it back & try to peddle it in Portland. Caleb was advertising it on RVTrader,com but I suspect the location of the unit in LaGrande was hurting him - only a potential buyer in a reasonable proximity would be interested in looking at it. There are other dealers in Portland & we felt better about having the trailer nearby, so I broke the news to Caleb & made some travel arrangements.

We planned to drive to Pendleton Friday night after work (about 3½ hrs.) & stay at the Oxford Suites motel, then make the 55 min, drive to LaGrande in the morning. After gathering up the trailer we'd swing over to Prosser, WA for a night at Wine Country RV Park for (what else) some wine tasting - no sense making the whole trip strictly business! I asked Wayne earlier in the week to install a new battery because the original was probably dead & make sure the Reese WD hitch I was selling with the trailer was still around. All was set until Friday around noon when Caleb called: "I think I sold your trailer!".

Hmmm. A fortunate happenstance don't you think? Apparently someone who had looked at the trailer before came back for another peek & hearing it was leaving the next day decided they had better sign on the dotted line! So far no more news from Thunder so I assume the deal went through - I'll call Monday to see & if not I guess we'll be heading over next weekend...stay tuned!

Monday, July 8, 2013
We took a week off & spent a few days in Astoria, OR during the Independence Day holiday at Lewis & Clark RV Resort. Got a few mods done before the trip:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
We got out for a few days at Stub Stewart state park; not because we love that place so much (which we do) but to let a colleague use the AF for the weekend & that park is only 30 min. from the office. His 11-year-old daughter had never been camping so this seemed like an easy way to introduce her to the “sport” without a lot of hassle…we just booked 5 nights & they showed up on Fri after work to spend a long weekend.

While I was there I got the anti-rotation plates installed on the genny door (which stabilized things a lot), but I think I’ll eventually get a couple Trimark latches to match the other baggage doors.

Also during this trip I experienced an interesting event...while setting up the trailer (alone thank goodness - the missus would have freaked out!) & running the leveling system through its paces the lock pin on the left front landing gear snapped off! I heard a loud bang & the trailer suddenly dropped about foot on that corner – actually seemed to be teetering back & forth on the remaining landing gear & the opposite set of tires (but I doubt it because the rear jacks were grounded at this point). Since I was standing right in front of the utility compartment when our 15,000 lb. trailer decided to do the Hula in my direction you could conservatively say I was “surprised”.

Fortunately I carry a 10-ton hydraulic jack so was able to lift that corner high enough to slip something through the jack leg (the remaining section of pin after removing the spring barrel & hack-sawing off the “nub”) so I could raise the nose high enough to back the truck under to stabilize things & take stock of the situation (and change my shorts). I had a spare D-clip pin in the toolbox so I raised the LG to the travel position to re-synchronize them, replaced the temporary pin, and re-leveled the trailer which worked fine the rest of the trip. More on this soon!

Friday, June 7, 2013
The 2nd coffee table/magazine rack I ordered from Thunder RV arrived! We wanted something to place in front of the sofa for guests to use & had been looking around for a small piece of suitable furniture. We had used the table that came with the trailer, which worked fine but then it was out of reach for people in the recliners. After not finding anything the right size or shape we decided to (duh) just get another stocker that will match perfectly & certainly is the right size. Wayne sold us one for $50 plus shipping which I doubt we could beat in a furniture store!

However so much for planning - when I unboxed the new 2nd coffee table it was completely different in style & finish from the one that came with the trailer! It was taller, has a larger top, a different design, and finished with a much lighter color stain! But actually that's not a problem as the mismatch seems more like you would see in a sticks & bricks home. In fact, Kris likes it better...go figure!

Also received the cam lock anti rotation plates - I think they'll work fine.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Spent the Memorial Day holiday in Bend, OR with stereo mothers! Nothing like hanging out with a a couple Octogenarians in an Arctic Fox! Actually, they were fine…my mom stayed with us & Kristi’s mother lives in Bend. The AF worked great for entertaining and at one point held nine people comfortably – never would have done that in the old rig. Weather was generally crappy for Central Oregon in late May with off & on rain and temps about 10° below normal. But Crown Villa RV Resort was great as always so there was plenty to do. Funny thing – as we strolled through the park we were disappointed to see only one other AF; but on Saturday we saw a brand-new 325M in the check in lane. Of course we had to rush over to welcome them & it turned out they were a couple from Utah who just picked up their new trailer from Sumner RV & were working their way back home! And they were booked in the site right next door, so we represented the brand well down in our end of the resort! We chatted a few times during the weekend but I tried to leave them alone – nothing more annoying than a campsite neighbor who wants to be your new best friend! Very nice people though – they participate on the NROA forum so I’m sure our paths will cross again.

On the Mod list I finally got the towel bars installed & worked on the generator compartment door latches some more. I ordered a dozen anti-rotation plates which should help firm these up.

Saturday, May 18, 2013
I replaced all the 751 locks on the battery compartment & power cord doors with the new ACE locks from Amazon; but the diamond plate skin on the genny door is preventing those from tightening down properly - still pretty sloppy. I think I’ll have to resort to grinding down the “nubs” so the locks can sit flat & seal better. Also plan to rivet a couple of SS fender washers with a Double-D hole to the skin to prevent them from turning.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The new ACE cam locks from Amazon will do the trick! The quality is actually pretty good & better than the stock locks. I swapped out a couple after work today & will do the rest as time permits. BTW, I'm replacing the non-locking thumb latches too so there will now be two keyed locks per door instead of one - seems like it will make it harder to pry open if you don't give 'em a head start! Unfortunately with the new tubular locks you can't remove the key in the unlocked position; so I'll have to use two keys to open the door - sort of like a ICBM launch sequence! But that's a small price to pay for the added security of not granting access to any of the 50 million people who have a CH751 key!

Also replaced the dump valve switch & it now lights up when open! Nice to see my detective skills haven't completely evaporated!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Got away last weekend for another shakedown trip 40 mi. down the valley to McMinnville. On the project front:
  1. Costco had these WaterRidge kitchen faucets on sale for $60 ($20 off) in April, so before the trip I installed one. I figured it couldn’t be much worse than the stock faucet and in fact turned out to be much better! Being made in China I’m sure parts will be hard to find & getting them to honor the “Lifetime Warranty” difficult; but for this price I consider it a throwaway item! Installation was fairly simple & it looks great (I prefer the brushed Nickel vs. the applied bronze finish of the stock fixtures). The reach & height of the spout is about double & the hose is 30% longer. See this guy’s YouTube review for more info.

  2. I received the cam locks from Amazon which finally look like they’ll work fine – the usable thread length is 1-3/8” & the baggage doors are 1-1/8” thick.

  3. Also got the replacement dump valve switch from Northwood. They even included the wiring harness so it's a simple plug-n-play! Nice!
Guess I’ll be spending a day this weekend puttering in Hugo!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Well, got the new cam locks from Reid & they won't work either. Too bad because they were beautifully made in Turkey no less. I almost kept them just to admire but bit the return shipping bullet & sent them back. Found some on Amazon that I'm 99% sure will work so ordered six. I saw these before & was holding off due to cost & possibly quality issues but I guess there's not a lot of choice for locks of that length!

Friday, April 26, 2013
Pinged Wayne about the replacement dump valve switch as it hasn't shown up yet & we have a trip scheduled for next week. (I still have the switch out but was planning to wait for the new one before reinstalling) He said NW was taking inventory all week & nothing was being shipped, but thinks it might arrive in time - if not I'll just use the original switch as it still operates the valve ok. BTW, if you have the same problem it's not necessary to remove all the wires from the switch itself. I discovered it has it's own wiring harness with disconnect plugs that you can access from the power cord compartment directly behind the mounting location! Doh!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Yesterday I tried to install one of the new cam locks purchased from Camping World to replace those dreaded CH751 units (which apparently everyone in the civilized world has a key for). Unfortunately, even though these are the same length as the stockers (1½") the threads stop about ¼" short so are buried in the door & unable to reach the nut that holds them in place. Bummer! I packed them up to send back today & ordered a few of these from Reid Supply, which hopefully will work. If they do, they have the added bonus of a turn knob in addition to the key lock. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I ordered some vinyl letters with Hugo's nickname and our names & home town from FastSIGNS who made them for our previous trailers. My plan was to slap one the front & hopefully cover up that nasty rock ding mentioned below. Actually turned out pretty well except for a bad color match (which was my fault). Unfortunately there was also slight mix-up in the sizing & quantities as our name came out in gigantic letters & I only received half the order. But Andy (owner) was gracious enough to remake more for me in a more sedate gray color & correct font size so I'll apply those as time permits.

Friday, April 19, 2013
Last night I removed the #1 gray water dump valve switch (that one that won't light up when open) & ran some tests with my DVOM & a spare 12-v. motorcycle battery. The DPDT terminals check out OK, but there's an extra pair of brass-colored terminals (rest are silver) right under the LED so I'm assuming these feed that. Applying 12VDC to them in either polarity does nothing so I'm concluding the LED is bad. I emailed Wayne again who replied a few minutes later (at 9:30 PM - how's that for service!?!) advising he would have NW ship me a new switch ASAP! Let's hope that's it because I don't relish opening up the belly to get to the sensor on the valve!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The shakedown trip wasn't without incident: on the way home a thumb-sized piece of gravel was launched from the opposite lane on I-5 straight into our front cap! I actually saw it out of the corner of my eye & certainly heard it as it ricocheted off the trailer and ploughed a nice scratch on the powder-coated top of my auxiliary gas tank! As I was stowing the trailer I noted a couple of pretty good gouges in the cap (must have hit twice? Or two rocks?) and actually found the offending rock laying in the bed looking smug. Figures...10 years of towing & nothing worse than bugs until the first trip with our new trailer...

On a happier note, I sent some pix of that spattered center cap to Wayne Barnes (Service Manager) at Thunder RV & he said NW is shipping me a new one.

Sunday, April 14, 2013
We took Hugo out for his first real trip last weekend (that night at Thunder really doesn't count) down to Corvallis - a short hop less than 2 hrs from home. The weather was cool & wet so we spent a lot of time indoors which gave me time to get a few "improvements" done. (Pix in the mods gallery)
  • Added key hooks to master control panel door
  • Installed spring clips in coat closet
  • Installed wine glass holder under Kitchen cabinet
  • Installed grab handles in toilet room & along stairs
  • Mounted TV in bedroom
  • Installed door push bar
  • Attached Keurig coffee maker to counter
Everything worked well for the most part except for few minor issues:
  1. Indicator light on #1 gray tank dump switch is not illuminating. The valve is working because I can hear it & the tank empties, but the "valve open" light just refuses to light up like the other dump valve switches.
  2. Found some rusty welding/cutting spatter on one wheel center cap
The auto-leveling system was very cool & worked great! Gets easier every time I use it (although I suspect the laminated checklists I made with step-by-step procedures are partly responsible). One thing I noticed was the trailer dropped a little on the left side over time...probably all that weight cantilevered outwards by the slideouts is compressing the ground under the jacks, or the suspension is settling a bit, or both! Next time I'll try a re-leveling sequence after a day or see if I can just raise the jacks on that side manually?

Thursday, April 11, 2013
I ordered a couple more courtesy lights from Wayne at Thunder RV to match the one installed in our bathroom. I plan to mount them on the wall adjacent to the stairs leading up to the bedroom. Seems pretty obvious after just one night that additional light would be useful there - in fact Wayne said enough people have asked about these the factory is considering including some in the standard build!

Sunday, April 7, 2013
Spent the weekend moving the rest of gear into "Hugo", our new Arctic Fox 295K fifth wheel! (aptly named we think because he's pretty "Huge-O"!) I'm trying to purge out stuff we've been carrying around for the past ten years & never touched - gotta keep that GCWR down! How did we manage to collect so much stuff? Even managed to squeeze in a few mods:
  • Mounted outside shower wand clip in wet bay
  • Installed chain limiter on upper cabinet door over coat closet
  • Labeled all light switches
  • Installed carpeting in generator compartment
I also took some time to look the trailer over in more detail & found a couple things that could have been done better and others that were done exceptionally well. (Sigh) The perpetual ying-yang of piece rate manufacturing...

Monday, April 1, 2013
Made it home from Thunder RV without mishap. We spent last Sat night in their locked yard & spent most of the evening stowing away the stuff we prepacked from the Tango - at least most of it anyway! Took a few pictures while it was set up in the yard. Headed home on Sun and the new AF towed very nice - the fuel mileage even went up 1 mpg - could be a fluke but I'm optimistic! No problem making it across the Blue Mountains, but I can see I'll need to be careful on downgrades -8% in this case- as I'm packing a lot more weight than the old trailer. There was also a little surging (or "chucking" as I understand is de rigueur) detectable, but in fairness the highway was pretty rough in places. I also think the 5th Airborne pinbox could use some adjustment - according to the skimpy information I've been able to find, the placement of the bolts securing the air bag are set for the heaviest pin weight. I'll move them forward in their slots about halfway & see how that works for the next trip.

Monday, March 25, 2013
Hooray! I just got a call from Caleb at Thunder advising the new trailer is ready to pick up! It's been a long seven weeks but I guess that's not bad as some people have waited 12 weeks or more! We plan to drive over to La Grande this Friday morning - weather forecast looks good, which is important since the Blue Mountains can & have been pretty dicey in the winter months.

I joined the NROA (Northwood Rv Owners Association) and have been posting away in the interim - very classy group of people.

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Well, time moves on...after several months of research today I placed an order with Thunder RV in La Grande, OR for a new Arctic Fox 29-5K fifth wheel! We ordered several non-typical options so it had to be custom built for us & should be ready sometime in March.

Wally was a fine rig for our first TT but lacked a few of the creature comforts we'd like to have for our "Golden Years" (e.g. a pair of recliners, freestanding dining table & chairs, a real closet, etc.) Now I finally get to use that factory fiver hitch & towing capacity we've been wasting for a couple years! More later.

Sunday, December 30, 2012
Walla Walla was calling us (or perhaps it was the lack of bottles in the cellar) so we headed over to Washington's version of the Napa Vally for a quick visit!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
We recently took a ten-day trip through Eastern Oregon to see some of our state for the first time (even though I'm a native & Kris was practically raised here - born in Seattle, Washington). The loop followed a rough clockwise circle (see map) from Portland to the Eastern border shared with Idaho, down to the Oregon-Nevada line, and back up through the Bend area in the center of the state. We managed to squeeze in five stops that were about as different as you could imagine - check out the trip reports here:

Thursday, August 2, 2012
Squeezed in another visit to Old Stone Village RV Park so Kris could go wine-tasting with some sorority sisters. I stayed back at the park to finish up "leak eradication" on the auxiliary water heater.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012
More on my investigative reporting about Pacific Coachworks: (Updated 12/30/12)
  1. In this RV.Net post last October of 2011 Bob Hanover is trying to join the Tango club & did done some serious sleuthing! He & others confirmed a lot of what I mentioned below - Good job Bob! I really hope you can find a new <2011 model squirreled away on some dealer's lot - given this economy I'd say your chances are pretty good!

  2. From that post & some online searches I found out where most of the former management team landed after getting the boot by the new owners:

  3. The Press-Enterprise says Pacific Coachworks was bought by Brett Bashaw and Mike Rhodes of Silver Creek Industries, a modular building manufacturer!

  4. In an earlier PE article Tom Powell sounds pretty upbeat! Either good acting or the grim reaper was still hiding in the new CEO's closet!

Friday, March 30, 2012
Wally is stirring! Or at least we are. This Spring looks to be a repeat of last year with temps in low 50's & constant rain right thru April - then Summer bursts on the scene! Gotta love this El Niño/La Niña weather! I had some work done on improving the comfort of the sofa & dinette since it looks like we'll be spending quite a bit of time indoors for the next few trips we have planned!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Status of Pacific Coachworks & Tango trailers? Apparently some big changes in Riverside based on their website & some news headlines I've listed below.
  1. My conclusion is that Tom Powell and Dane Found & son Ray were swept out during the Oct 2011 "restructuring" (which must be industry-speak for "sale") and a whole new management crew appeared. I hope they can deliver the same higher level of perceived quality & customer service or PCW will just become another faceless RV maker.

  2. Tango models appear to have been reclassified as Towlite, Ultralite, & Elite. The first two now have simple rounded-body noses & the latter retains the Centrex front cap. (Our 276RBS is now a 26FBS Towlite...WTF?)

  3. There is now another product line named Panther, also with three levels: Ultralite, Widelite, & Premier. In an article below they are referred to as "premium", but looking at the brochures they seem to be very similar to the Tango line. Not sure what the intent is here...perhaps they plan to drop the Tango brand?

  4. All the fifth wheel models seem to be gone, but there are references to new models coming soon.

  5. There are now two levels of toy haulers: Powerlite/Powerlite XL & Sandsport/Sandsport SL.
Seems like the someone over there likes "lite"...which pretty much describes their much-weaker web presence! I guess Spenser Kalnin (Marketing Administrator) is gone too!

Recent News Postings (© linked sources)

  • February 22, 2012 - Pacific Coachworks Rolling Out SandSport Fivers
    “The new fifth-wheels will complement the already successful SandSport toy hauler trailers which were first released in the fall of 2011,” said General Manager Jeff Daily in a press release. “The demand for these new products has far exceeded our highest expectations.”

  • December 27, 2011 - Pacific Coachworks president responds to RV Daily Report editorial
    "Contrary to your comments, Pacific Coachworks continues to produce and continues to innovate. Through the months of November and December, the factory has been operating at full production. Also, in the last year, we have introduced three new product lines including two toy hauler lines. Additionally, our toy haulers have features that our design team created which are completely new to the industry of which will soon be copied by our competitors."

  • December 13, 2011 - Innovate or instigate: Successful companies can't do both
    "Thirty-six months. That's how long I give Pacific Coachworks before it disappears from the RV landscape following news yesterday that the company's employees voted to unionize in a move upheld by the federal government."

  • July 12, 2011 - Dealers Turning Pacific Coachworks’ Panther
    " Riverside, Calif.-based towable builder Pacific Coachworks Inc. reported initial sales of its recently introduced Panther series of premium travel trailers."

  • July 7, 2011 - Pacific Coachworks Debuts Panther Towables
    "The Panther product lineup will consist of three tiers of products designed to “meet the needs for every RV consumer,” said General Manager Jeff Daily. The line will include the Panther Xltralite, Widelite and Elite series trailers, each offering its own “exclusive set of standard and optional items based solely on consumer demand.”

  • April 26, 2011 - Len Longo Joins Pacific Coachworks Inc. Team
    "Brett Bashaw, CEO/president of Pacific Coachworks Inc., today (April 26) announced the addition of industry veteran Len Longo to the company’s sales team."

  • April 13, 2011 - Bobby Combs Joins Pacific Coachworks Team
    "Industry veteran Bobby Combs has joined the product development team at Pacific Coachworks Inc., Riverside, Calif."

  • April 6, 2011 - Jeff Daily Named GM of Pacific Coachworks
    "Jeff Daily has been promoted to general manager of Pacific Coachworks Inc. Daily will be responsible for all items directly related to both sales and operations for the Riverside, Calif.-based RV manufacturer, Brett Bashaw, president and CEO, stated in a news release. The addition of Jeff Daily is representative of the aggressive moves that Pacific Coachworks is making in the market since the company was purchased in October 2010."

  • October 11, 2010 - Pacific Coachworks Announces Restructuring
    "Riverside, Calif.-based Pacific Coachworks Inc. announced today (Oct. 11) it has sold a major interest in the company. The significant capital infusion will allow the company to establish a new operating line to fund current and future products, according to a release."

  • August 2, 2010 - Canadian Closes California RV Dealership
    "Bruce Urban, owner and president of Western RV Country Group of Companies in Alberta and American All-Star RV, said in late October 2009 that he chose Riverside to be close to manufacturer Pacific Coachworks, whose travel trailers were some of his biggest sellers in Canada. The dealership hadn’t sold any new travel trailers in 2009 and sold just nine in the first five months of 2010..."

  • July 9, 2009 - RV Maker Sees Pent-Up Demand in Western U.S./Canada
    "The company, which builds the Tango and Tango Twist brands of travel trailers and fifth-wheels that can be towed, laid off most of its 150 employees in December. Executives plan to rehire 85 workers immediately."

  • July 2, 2009 - Pacific Coachworks Resumes Full Production
    “I don’t want to say that things are ‘rosy,” said Dane Found, president of the Riverside, Calif.-based builder, “but I think we are optimistic that the RV industry is recovering perhaps faster than some other segments of the economy. We’ve got a decent backlog of orders to build right now, and we will continue to act on that during the next couple of months.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Got out of town for a few days & avoid driving on New year's Eve.

Friday, October 28, 2011
Camped at Silver Falls SP for Halloween weekend. (Nov 1 is when this park switches over to winter mode & closes about 1/2 the RV sites; so we try to make it here for one last "Hurrah" before the rains set in!) Usually people decorate their sites with Halloween pumpkins or Fall-themed lights & the kids go trick-or-treating, but this year the 31st was a Monday so no little ghosts & goblins. Plenty of rain though all Sat night & Sun morning. See my earlier trip reports to this campground for details.

Friday, August 12, 2011
Camped again at Stub Stewart - weather was great & lucked out by booking the weekend of the Persied Meteor Shower, but the Moon was too bright to see anything. Bummer...

Saturday, July 16, 2011
Spent a few days on the Southern Oregon coast for July 4th. Very nice CG & decent weather (finally) but a bit windy. Not bad considering it was one of the busiest holiday weekends!

Saturday, June 18, 2011
We finally managed to get into Toll Bridge Park above Hood River after delaying our reservations twice due to bad weather. Camping in the snow is fine during the winter, but gets a little old in late April! The spring in Oregon sucks this year!

Monday, May 30, 2011
Just got back from the maiden trip for the new truck & freshly repaired trailer and other than the goofy weather (which seems to be affecting most of the country) it couldn’t have gone better! The F-350 pulled Wally effortlessly & managed to deliver 11-12 MPG crossing the Coast Range to Cannon Beach RV Resort; which I consider pretty respectful considering it only had about 1200 miles on the odometer when we started out. Everything I’ve read says the fuel economy on these diesels does nothing but improve over time so I’m thinking this was a good move.

Curtis Trailers did an excellent job repairing the parking lot damage – it actually looks better than new as they applied the trim & caulking much better than the factory! I take back all the snide remarks I made and am here to recommend their work to the world…well, at least to my loyal readers…all three of them. Turns out the crating & shipping charges to get that new front cap from Riverside was over $800, so they had to submit some additional billing to Farmers which pushes the total repair cost for this "little bump" to almost $3600! They also did a fine job flipping my axles, taking the initiative to replace bolts & shackles where necessary & applying a fresh coat of paint on the modified areas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Well, the trailer repairs are supposed to be finished tomorrow. After an incredibility frustrating experience (more later) with Farmers we finally got a check overnighted to us so we could pay Curtis off. I also had them flip the axles & repack the bearing while it was in the shop since I don’t really have a flat, traffic-free area to do that work myself. I’m crossing my fingers that they did a decent job…there was some concern when I discovered the trailer parked outside in the rain after they pulled off the corner trim for inspection. “We live in Oregon” I said, “It rains here occasionally and I’d sure hate to add water damage to that claim!”. When I picked the trailer up a few days later for trip we had planned (and still waiting for parts) they had installed a temporary trim piece – the service agent said he had them put that one after I mentioned it. I wonder if they would have done anything if I hadn’t?

Just in time as I was supposed to pick up a new 2011 F-350 pickup we bought to replace the Tundra today. Apparently they discovered a problem with the 4WD system when they shuttled it over from the dealer in Newport, OR who had it in stock. Parts were ordered & they promised it would be ready tomorrow afternoon so the delay wasn’t too much of a burden. Still, have to wonder why a brand-new truck has problems before the customer even drives it home! BTW this is my first American-made vehicle in over 25 years…I hope I didn’t make a mistake!

Speaking of poor quality, my experience with Farmers was a real eye-opener. After faithfully paying them for coverage on two cars, house, & RV for 32+ years with very few claims I was essentially given the bum’s rush on this one. It all started with some CSR in Florida who took the initial claim – which was called in by my wife (who incidently has nearly 25 years experience in handling claims for Nationwide, Aetna, & other large carriers). Apparently the poor girl had never heard of a travel trailer let alone handled a claim on one before & kept asking such important questions as “is it driveable?” and “where is the damage – on the passenger or driver’s side?”. I think her solution was to drop the file on someone’s desk who was on vacation since we never heard a peep for several days. I finally called my agent & jacked up his blood pressure; who did the same with some Farmers higher-ups; and eventually our paperwork was handed off to their Foremost Insurance subsidiary (which actually provides the RV coverage). Unfortunately that restarted the clock so we had to wait for several more days for it to work through the system, and after some more crabby calls they settled for $2710.91 less my $500 deductible (thanks mystery asshole). But of course, then the check was lost in the mail because I had to call again a few days before the trailer would be ready and was concerned about how I was going to pay for this. Another round of saber-rattling & Foremost sent a replacement check Next Day Air (which actually took two full days) so we’re good to go. Believe it or not I’m actually starting to consider those Good Sam RV insurance offers we get about once a week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Some new developments in the "hit & run" saga. Curtis discovered a crack in the ABS front cap that materialized sometime between towing Wally from the storage yard to home, then to Curtis (about 25 miles). The theory is the corner trim that was pulled away from trailer created pressure points at each screw that went through the trim & edge of the cap beneath as it was stretched. The movement of trip must have "released" the stress in the form of a crack which is rapidly traveling across the front of the cap like glass. They recommended replacing the cap rather than trying to repair it & I agree based on experience with ABS body parts on my previous trailer - just ain't worth it! Curtis also didn't feel the trim would cover the the broken-off section of FG sidewall so they need to do some bodywork (my original plan to use some trim with a longer leg was impractical because you can't smoothly bend it without kinking). These extras have now pushed the estimate to $2700 not including crating & shipping the cap up from Riverside, CA and the bodywork sublet. I expect the total bill will be approaching $3500 whe it's all said & done. Obviously this has morphed into an insurance claim...oh joy! Now I get to continue paying for this moron for years in the form of increased insurance rates (because I no longer qualify for the accident-free discount)! May the jackass who did this suffer a thousand blowouts!

Due to the long leadtime to ge the parts from Pacific Coachworks, we actually had to ask Curtis to apply a temporary patch to the damaged corner so we could take the trailer on our scheduled Eastern WA trip.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
A disappointing weekend for us. We took some stuff over to Wally parked in the storage facility yesterday & discovered the “sweet end-of-the-row parking spot” I bragged about last Dec. may not be so sweet after all – someone had cut the corner a bit too tight & clipped poor Wally's nose! As far as damage goes it wasn't major, but it did peel back the corner trim & opened up a hole into the wall cavity beneath. Since our last visit was about a month ago this may have occurred anytime in the last 30 days; and given that we've had quite a bit of rain lately it WOULD have been nice to know about this so I could cover up the hole! Of course no note either; so somebody is either A) incredibly clueless & never realized they did it or B) simply a chicken-shit asshole who could care less about anyone else!

Fortunately I found some parts of perp’s RV on the ground so I at least know he/she/it sustained some damage too – a broken baggage door clip, pieces of a running light – plus judging from the force needed to pull that aluminum extrusion off the corner I’d guess a pretty good gouge in their sidewall! I walked around the yard looking for somebody with fresh damage on the driver’s side at that height – nothing found, but there were a lot of vacancies because it was the last weekend of Spring Break in Oregon & I suppose they could still be traveling.

I called the owner of the yard on Monday to ask if anyone reported the hit & run – no – and he was quite pissed about the situation also. He said in eight years nobody has failed to own up to something like this…guess I’m the lucky one who gets to welcome in a new generation of spoiled rotten bastards with absolutely no moral fiber! He planned to look around also & if he finds the offender will 86 them from the lot. Later in the week I stopped by after work to look around again in case the dickhead finally returned from Spring Break…still nothing but I did notice a lot of brand-new ADCO covers on rigs. Hmmm...seems like a great way to hide some damage – but I’m not going to stoop to this guy’s level & snoop around under somebody’s skirts. On the way out I stopped at the office and talked to the owner again who had no luck either but doesn’t plan to quit – he doesn’t want this type of tenant in his yard!

I took some pictures & sent them off to a few RV repair shops in town – all came in just under or over $500 to replace the corner trim on both sides (so they match in color & profile) IF they don't have to repair the cracked corner of the sidewall. Fortunately the front cap appears to be unharmed -replacing that would have really upped the ante! Of course, my insurance deductible is – surprise - $500 so I guess I’ll be picking up the tab for this little "oops"! I did some research and can buy the trim & supplies I’d need to fix this myself for about $150-200; but frankly with all the rain predicted for April I’d have to find space under cover to work on it. That alone would probably cost at least another two hundred bucks so I might as well just have someone do it, therefore I have an appointment to take Wally into Curtis Trailer on 4/12. Frankly, I'm nervous - from what I can tell by reading some online reviews I get the impression RV service technicians around here rate somewhere between superb and cluelessly incompetent! But Curtis is definitely the big dog in town & been around since the late 40’s so I’m hoping they still believe a good service reputation is an asset. Next time I think I’ll just hang my wallet on the corner of the trailer & let this moron take his $500 in cash – much easier than having to deal with the repair logistics!

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Went to the Portland Spring RV Show yesterday with some friends. Seemed much better than the one we attended last year at this time - a lot more RV's and people seemed to be opening their pocketbooks! I was impressed by the number of factory reps buzzing around in each dealer's area...always nice to get "real" information not run through a salesperson's filter!

We spent most of the time looking at the 5th wheels, which is probably going to be our next step in a few years. My Tundra lease is up at the end of June & I need to decide if we're going to buy it or look for another truck. At this point I'm 75% leaning towards a Ford F-350 diesel so we'll have the capacity if & when we decide on a fiver.

Stopped by the Apache Camping Center display to check out the Tango's & was pleased to see our 276RBS model had some nice improvements:

  • New faux wood-strip flooring that looked very nice.
  • Counters are now Corian®-type with rounded edges.
  • New graphics outside - similar but more black.
  • Slam-latch baggage doors that are a full 1" thick with integrated hinges.
  • Wood medicine cabinet in bath.
  • Different radio/CD/DVD/MP3/iPod player brand - ESTOne (never heard of these).
  • Different microwave brand - Hamilton Beach - didn't know they made MWO?
  • SS kitchen sink with single pull-out faucet.
  • Sliding glass shower doors (this may be an option for the show).
  • Outside utility hookups grouped in left rear corner - electric & CATV plus a handy light to see at night when hooking up. Water & San-T-Flush still on the back.
  • Open section in overhead over bed - for displaying stuff I guess - didn't like it.
  • New "barn door" style sliding wood panel separating bedroom instead of a curtain. Stores against wall & requires offset TV mount to clear door. Takes up valuable space at foot of bed which is already pretty tight. Frankly, I prefer the curtain!
  • Larger TV cavity over dinette. Still don't like the TV that high up so I think this was a wasted effort plus you lose some cabinet space.
  • New Dometic digital thermostat.
  • Different faucet in tub/shower. Requires spacer so it sticks out further into tub.
  • New simulated tile tub surround with shelves in the corners. Nice!
  • Different brand of electric awning. Guess they gave up on the A&E & the "no-tilt" fiasco!
  • Different radius-front steps.
You can see my pictures of most of these here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Jeez, it seems like this winter is going to last forever! Had a few trips planned for Feb. that we had to cancel due to weather - both involved crossing either the Coast Range or Cascades through passes that got slammed with fresh snow right before we had to leave! Still, we have several trips coming up in the next few months that hopefully the weather will cooperate with:
  1. Tollbridge Park in Parkdale
  2. Cannon Beach RV Resort
  3. Winchester Bay RV Resort in Reedsport
  4. Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend
  5. LL Stub Stewart State Park
After that we'll start hitting the no-reservation national campgrounds in the heat of the summer and maybe some dry-camping in Central Oregon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011
I'm trying out some embedded Picasa slideshows on the Trip Reports tab to see if they're more useful that the simple button that takes you to my Picasa albums. Leave me some feedback on the forum tab if you like, dislike, or have any problems using them!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
As mentioned below we've moved our trailer to a new (to us) storage facility. Gotta admit the drive-thru parking spot is sweet compared to the old place. We checked on Wally a few times this month & so far he's survived the cold temps, heavy rain & high winds intact! You can view some pictures here of the old & new places.

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Not much to report as we settle in for the winter. Trailer has been winterized & filled with Damp-Rid canisters to keep it sweet. On a related note, we'll be moving into a new storage facility this weekend. The current facility has worked well for almost three years; but what spurred us to look for alternatives was the space next to us. Since we first moved in it was occupied by a 34’ trailer that just barely fit, but they were gone frequently & even when parked the 2’ between our rigs made backing in no problem. But about a month ago we returned from a trip to find their slot stuffed with a brand-new 8½’ x 40’ Toy Hauler – yikes! This thing was literally jammed against the fence in the back & still hung over 5’ from the curb in front of the slots! Talk about squeezing 10 lbs. of sh*t into a five lb. bag!

I was happy they got a new rig, but soon discovered the extra width & big snout poking out the front made my parking task a real PITA. Because of the orientation of the planting bed that separates the storage yard from the adjacent road I actually had to back in at a slight angle, and always depended on using some of the space in front of my neighbor to do this. But with that huge overhang cutting off my wiggle room the pucker-factor went up about 200%; so the next week I called the facility manager & asked how soon this guy would be moving his obviously too-big-for-the-space trailer to another location. Not unexpectedly they had no idea – in fact were just as surprised as I was – but planned to find out ASAP.

A couple of weeks later I was there winterizing so I asked again and was told he had no plans to move. When I asked about him jutting out of his space they didn’t have a problem with it – I guess the 35’ allowance was merely a “suggestion”! This response suggested they were more interested in renting storage units than RV spaces & clearly told me it was time to look elsewhere. We were very fortunate to stumble across an alternate location just a few days later that actually offers some significant advantages:

  • Dedicated to RV storage vs. a sideline to renting storage units.
  • 100% paved parking vs. gravel in the space itself.
  • End pull-thru slot so no issues with maneuvering & full door side access vs. back-in space along one side of a rental storage facility. Apparently these spots don’t open up often & we just happened to catch one!
  • Nearly the same distance in the opposite direction: 8.8 mi./20 min. vs. 9.7 mi./18 min. according to Google Maps.
  • 24x7 security-gated access vs. 7AM to 10 PM x 7 access.
  • Cheaper at $72/mo. vs. $99/mo.
I’ll report back later if we decide this was a bad move but on paper it’s a no-brainer. I'm sure some motorhome will jump at the chance to grab our vacated space in the old storage yard!

Sunday, October 17, 2010
Back on the anti-mouse project: I brought the trailer home & picked up a new creeper from AutoZone to help me move around underneath – in fact once I slipped a few boards under the tires to get the axles high enough it was fairly easy to maneuver around! After pulling out the chewed-off hose & comparing it to the new one I decided to look for a more substantial version to ensure the little meeses won't do a repeat performance! Home Depot sells some swimming pool vacuum hose that's much thicker & better armored than the typical RV hose so I picked up 10' on my next trip. At 1½” ID it doesn't fit quite as tight as the original 1⅜" replacement hose I bought but a few wraps of Eternabond tape around the fittings seem to tighten up things. To seal up all the holes in the underbelly I used a can of expanding foam & some patch tape from Interstate Metal Fabricators (who just happens to be about 10 mi. from my house!). That stuff worked great but what a PITA to apply – major stickiness that wants to grab onto anything within reach!

To address the upcoming cold weather I ran a strip of 2” aluminum tape all around the bottom edge of the fresh water tank to act as a heat shield for the plastic & help ‘spread the warmth’. I also wrapped the ½” PEX feed line to the pump for the same reason. Then I centered the EasyHeat trace cable on the applied tape & laminated it with some more alum. tape. I was able to figure out a pattern that used up the 30' length exactly, which was fortunate since you can't cut this particular cable. The last few feet was run along the PEX & attached with zip ties & the thermostatic switch was also attached to the side of the tank with aluminum tape. I was concerned the heating cable would get too hot based on the one & only time I tested it stretched out on the floor as well as some comments on the RV.Net forum; but that turned out to be unfounded. Even when the temperature dropped to the low 20’s overnight the cable was barely warm to the touch and did a great job keeping everything from freezing (not that you would have a problem at those relatively warm temps). I suspect the thermostat is much better at controlling the temperature when abutting a tank full of water than simply exposed to the air as with my test! I’ll write this up as a modification with pictures & more info, but I gotta say it turned out better than expected!

Thursday, October 7, 2010
Eeek! A mouse! Well, evidence of one anyway. Yesterday I swung by the trailer to see if I could figure out a way to use my heat tape to keep the tanks from freezing. We're heading over to Central Oregon soon & the night lows are already in the 20's. We'll have electricity, but need the onboard water for cooking & bathroom. I looked into getting some tank heaters but decided to try the heating cable first. My plan is tape it to the side/bottom of the tanks with aluminum tape & zip-tie it to any water lines that need it.

But I digress...what about the mice? While I was crawling around under the trailer I followed the fresh water line back to where it penetrates the floor. Since that was hidden by the underbelly forward of the axles I pulled that section loose & literally got smacked in the face with piece of hose about 1½" dia. WTF? I realized it was the fresh water filler hose & it looked like it had broken off where it also penetrates the floor on the way up to the filler inlet on the side of the trailer. But upon closer inspection I realized it hadn't broken but had been chewed apart - probably by some rodents (who also had been rummaging around in the insulation cavity above the Darco membrane judging by the loose fiberglass). Apparently the membrane wasn't trimmed very well when it was cut at the factory for the hoses & the foam insulation they used to seal around them wasn't enough to stop the little critters! Hopefully they didn’t follow the hose back to the tank & drowned there! Yuk!

I was able to buy 8' of new hose from Curtis Trailer a few miles away and will need to bring Wally home this weekend to replace the old hose & work on the heating cable. Needless to say I also plan to seal up any holes in the underbelly I find to discourage the mice. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast for the next several days so I'll probably be laying on my back in some water. More later…

Sunday, October 3, 2010
Kristi's older brother & wife joined us for a trip down to Portland-Dayton RV Park last weekend for some wine tasting/shopping in the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA. As mentioned before, this facility is ideally located for these adventures & once again did the job; although our guests (who have a Chalet A-Frame popup like we had) reported the restroom cleanliness was so-so & even lacked hand soap! Good to know & something we wouldn't have noticed as our onboard bathroom served our needs (he says smugly).

We set off around 11:00 for Amity but didn't realize many wineries had switched to winter hours, so to kill some time we detoured to the Brigittine Monks to buy some of their delicious fudge & truffles. After satiating our sweet tooth we managed to squeeze in visits to these wineries:

  • Coelho Winery had an excellent 2008 "Paciência" Estate Pinot Noir that I think will be superior to their 07 & 06 vintages. We also liked the 09 Pinot Gris.
  • Amity Vineyards offered a dozen tastes for only five bucks - the clear bargain in the valley! After the dust settled we ended up with their 2008 Croft single-vineyard Pinot Noir & tasty 2008 WV blended Pinot Noir.
  • Solena Estate has killer Pinot, but has priced itself too high for our budget. Perhaps they need to pay for their beautiful new winery outside of Carlton, but we reluctantly decided not to renew our membership.
  • Troon Vineyard is based in the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon & has several great warm-weather varietals. We picked up a couple of Syrah's (2007 & 2008) and a nice 2006 "Spirit of the Rogue" red blend. I even tossed in a bottle of their 08 "Insomnia" Tempranillo port for those cold winter nights!
  • Scott Paul Wines make great local pinot & imports lots of wine from Europe. We decided to stay close to home and bought a couple bottles of his 2007 La Paulée Pinot Noir to drink now & a 2008 Dom Denise Pinot to cellar.
  • Tyrus Evan/Ken Wright Cellars is must-stop on our trips to Carlton. Their Clarets are stellar & available with either Eastern WA or Southern OR fruit, however we lean towards the former so this time we opted for the Red Mountain. Also got a bottle of their nice crisp 09 Pinot Blanc for an aperitif or summer drinker (if it lasts that long!) Interestingly, for the first time since we've been going there TE was offering a flight of Ken Wright's signature Pinot Noir for tasting. Normally all his wine is sold on futures or to the trade (and typically all spoken for) so this was a rare treat. As expected all were awesome, but as they were only available in six packs we decided our wine budget had been pushed as far as comfortable this day so had to pass. We were told it was because 2008 had such a abundance of fruit he was able to offer this deal; but I wonder if the poor economy had something to do with it as well? ;-)
  • After closing down the tasting rooms we met up with Kristi's younger brother & wife from Salem for dinner in downtown McMinnville. That little burg has really come alive in the past 10 years & offers dozens of interesting bistros & restaurants along 3rd Street! Unfortunately, it just happened to be Family Weekend for nearby Linfield College and most of the eateries were packed; so we ended up at a mediocre Mexican place. But it was a pleasant evening, the company was good & a fun time was had by all!

    As promised, here's some pictures & my theory for the water leak I mentioned last week. Time will tell if I'm right, but it sure looks plausible!

    Monday, September 20, 2010
    Added Tollbridge Park trip report. Rained almost the whole time we camped there and exposed a serious water leak related to the awning. Basically the arm acts like a gutter when the awning is open during heavy rain & directs water down to a large hole stamped through the mounting rail attached to the trailer. From there it can follow the holes for the mounting screws just below if they're not sealed well & into the wall. I think it's fixed now - we'll find out on an upcoming trip in a few weeks. I'll post the details under modifications later. Always something...

    Friday, July 30, 2010
    Added Stub Stewart SP trip report.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010
    We spent another four days at Cape Disappointment State Park in Ilwaco, WA earlier this month. Turned out to be a nice time at the coast basking in the mid-70's while it was nearly 100° in the Portland area part of that time & high 90's the rest! Trip report is pretty much the same as last time except a different site.

    Great campground as usual, but unfortunately some jackass decided he needed my ice chest more than I did as we awoke the 2nd day to a empty spot in the grass! When I reported it to the Ranger he mentioned four other poor souls suffered the same fate that night which made me feel a little better; but the cost to replace that Coleman SS cooler will be close to $200. I guess it was due: in our 37 years of adult camping this is only the 2nd time we've had something stolen from our campsite (the other time was in Vancouver BC in 2003). Guess I've have to start chaining up stuff at night to "keep the honest people honest"!

    Then the next night we had to listen to several idling diesel emergency vehicles at 3 AM in our loop as they dealt with a domestic issue. After about an hour they fnally hauled away a drunk/high/mentally-despondent woman who felt the need to scream bloody murder at the top of her lungs whenever someone tried to touch her. This happened about 25 ft. from the front of our trailer - how nice! Later that morning the Rangers showed at 7:30 AM and evicted the remaining camper(s) from that site - first time I've seen that happen!

    Sadly those two incidents soured us on this place a bit - more accurately I should say "exposure to human idiots" has - the beautiful park & wildlife had zero input on this experience! We'll undoubtedly give it another chance, but it might be time to spend more time boondocking...

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010
    We spent our annual 7-day vacation last week up in the NE tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state! Lots to do in & around Port Townsend and the surrounding islands.

    Sunday, May 23, 2010
    Took a week off for some long-overdue trailer projects. Weather was uncooperative for the outside tasks, but I got a few things cleaned up inside! Coming attractions: replace bath fan with Fan-Tastic model, Eternabond roof penetrations, Repaint tongue & front X-member.

    Friday, April 30, 2010
    Added Silver Falls trip report.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010
    • Website improvements: Deleted "Calendar" and "Coming Attractions" tabs. The calendar was really for my use anyway & not visible to visitors. (I've switched to Google Calendar for scheduling events, which is a far better tool than something I could build!)
    • Website improvements: Added "Things to Do" tab. This seems more realistic than the Coming Attractions idea because I really intend to do these things!

    Thursday, March 18, 2010
    • Website improvements: Added inline style capability (Bold, underline, links, etc.) to forum postings

    Sunday, March 14, 2010
    We attended the Portland RV Show yesterday and were pleased to see a pretty good turnout by the local dealers! (We didn't attend the 2009 show but we overheard lots of people saying it was much better this year)

    We were also happy to find several Tango's on display - in fact right inside the main entrance were several - and inside one we ran into Dane Found, President & COO of Pacific Coachworks! Now that's a pretty good example of manufacturer support! (We actually bought our Tango from Dane's son Ray at this very show in 2008).

    I noticed there wasn't a Tango equipped with their new Kitchen Slide-Out on display & asked him about it, which seems like a no-brainer at a show like this. He said the new dealer (now Apache Camping Center, was Johnson RV Sales) “didn’t order any” which suggests the market in Portland is still pretty soft if a dealer doesn’t want to bring in any new inventory. In fact, that seemed to be pretty typical with all the dealers at the show: lot’s of new 2009 models & 2010’s equipped with conservative options. Nobody wants to risk getting stuck with unsold inventory & I don’t blame them one bit!

    Our mission at the show was to ferret out the new ideas & innovations to see if I could incorporate some of them into our trailer; but as suggested above there really wasn’t anything exciting. Komfort had a new model called the "Resort" which had a slick new exterior color scheme; sort of a tan/gold accented with black stripes & utilities (I've been curious about these because I drive right by their factory in Clackamas on the way to where we store Wally and finished inventory is right out front!) Not a lot of accessory vendors, probably less than two dozen, and most seemed to be selling time-share campsites. Curtis Trailer had the biggest display with one complete building out of the three in use, which is understandable since they are the big gun for RV’s in this area.

    While we weren’t seriously looking for the next rig we were very impressed with a couple of Cardinal fiver’s we toured, in particular the 3150RL & 3625RT. The fit & finish on these was exceptional and the floor plans very livable for a retired lifestyle – something we hope to do in within 10 years!

    There were quite a few class C Motorhomes which were nice, but the more we looked the more we think the 5th wheel might be the better option. Also noted a lot of price slashing on these rigs – we were actually standing in a couple when a dealer rep climbed in & scratched in a new price! Guess they really want to make some sales! A write-up in the local Oregonian suggests they may be doing something right!

    Friday, March 5, 2010
    Regarding the manufacturer's logo's along the bottom of this website: someone suggested I'm trying to get people to come here in order for me to make money. Oh if that were only true! I'll admit when I created this site that thought was in the back of my mind, although it was more to cover the monthly hosting costs (about $25). However I've never followed through and set anything up with these suppliers - in fact I'm not even sure they would be receptive!

    I just list companies who I feel make a decent product that I typically have patronized. (The exception is Honda since I've yet to pick up a generator - are you listening?). The web hosting stuff on the right side of Welcome tab does earn me points if anyone signs up with Alentus; but frankly the possibility of me actually getting any help defraying the hosting costs is pretty slim.

    So to answer those who think I'm shilling for these companies - nope! The reason I frequently post a link to something on this site on the various forums I follow is simply out of laziness: why spend the time to write up a bunch of stuff when someone can come here & see it in detail complete with pictures! No sense reinventing the wheel all the time! I think anyone who visits this site regularly will realize I’m giving out a lot more than I receive!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Monday, March 1, 2010
    • Website improvements: The previous greeting statement has been combined with the update log to create a workable date-stamped blog! Expect to find comments about website updates, recent trips, product reviews, and anything else that comes to mind here!

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009
    • Website improvements: Forums are now active.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008
    Your Hosts: Dave & Kristi Smith, Portland, Oregon, USA

    Hello and welcome to our camping blog! This site is intended to chronicle our adventures with “Wally”, our Tango travel trailer and give me a place to document some of the things I've done to (hopefully) improve it! We gave up trying to keep a separate trip diary, photograph libraries, product recommendations, campsite reviews, etc. and instead just stuffed it all here! That way anybody can browse to their heart's content and all we need to do is send them the URL!

    As you can see in the Links tab I built a similar site for our previous trailer and people really seemed to enjoy it; so hopefully this new one will achieve the same level of success! You'll quickly discover I'm a fairly active DIY guy and pretty much fearless about tackling nearly anything (often to the dismay of my better half), This trailer is my latest creative outlet and I enjoy puttering around with the modifications nearly as much as actually camping!

    Some background: Kris & I are both in our mid-fifties and have been camping in the Pacific NW from a young age - I was about five when my family started dragging me out to the woods! We've been married 30+ years and tent-camped the first 25; then got tired of sleeping on the ground so we moved up to a Chalet folding A-frame trailer in 2004. After enjoying the hell out of that little rig we wanted some more civilized creature comforts (i.e. bathroom, full-time bed, clothes storage, etc.) so last year we bought the Tango at the Spring Portland RV Show. In retrospect it probably wasn't the ideal time to take this plunge because soon after gas prices went through the roof and then the economy tanked; but we're not looking back and have a full itinerary of trips planned this year!

    So feel free to look around! I try to keep this site up to date often and always welcome your constructive feedback. I'll even try to keep my acid comments to a minimum.


    PS: for you technical types, this site is a data-driven (SQL) Reentrant Active Server Page that allows online additions & editing. That basically means everything you see is stored in a series of tables - text, URL's to links & pictures, code for the little widgets, etc. - and is rendered into HTML when you view the page! So theoretically once I finesse the core code that performs all this magic I can update this site from anywhere in the world (with an Internet connection of course) without having to remember a bunch of programming. And God knows how hard it is for an old duffer like me to keep up with that stuff (in web years I'm like 118)! Of course, since this is about version 20 that may be more of a goal than reality!

    PPS: Wally got his name because of a tendency to…well…wallow as we motor down the road! Seemed like a natural to us…