Spyder Suspension Upgrade

Thursday was a rainy day – in fact, it poured down at times. The sky was overcast all day. When the rain would stop, you could tell it was just a temporary break. We spent the day indoors. I finished a novel I was reading and started another on my Kindle reader. I signed up for a free month of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon and downloaded the book for free!

Thursday evening Donna made a meatloaf – one of my favorite comfort foods. She added a twist this time by lining the top with thick-sliced peppered bacon. Yummy!

Meatloaf with bacon

Meatloaf with bacon

Friday morning we had mostly cloudy skies, but it was dry. The forecast called for an increasing chance of rain in the afternoon. I got to work on the Spyder while it was dry. My project was upgrading the suspension. While I worked, Donna went for a bike ride to Blue Lake and back – about 28 miles.

Upgrading suspension components is one of the best performance improvements you can make to a vehicle. I always upgraded my motorcycles. I would send my forks to Jim Lindemann at Lindemann Engineering and he would rebuild them to perform in accordance with my weight, riding style and tire choice. He would also build a rear shock with an appropriate spring and valving. Jim was a suspension guru. He started out working at Fox Shox in the ’70s, then opened his own business.

Jim tuned suspension for world-class racers but remained humble and was always helpful and willing to share his suspension knowledge. Most of what I know about suspension tuning, I learned from him. The last time I saw Jim was at Laguna Seca for the Moto GP races. I think it was 2008. I learned of Jim’s battle with cancer a that time. He was completely bald from chemo and clearly wasn’t well. But he was as cheerful and helpful as ever. I had completed cancer treatment six years before and I knew how much he must have been struggling, but he didn’t let on at all.

His battle with brain cancer went on for the next three years before he died in October of 2011. I thought about him as I went about working on the Spyder suspension. I was replacing the stock shocks and springs with a set of Elka shock absorbers custom-valved and with spring rates designed for my weight and riding preferences. The stock equipment is a one-size fits-all design by necessity and doesn’t have much useful adjustment.

Stock front shock and coil spring

Stock front shock and coil spring

After removing the front body work, I started by loosening the upper and lower mounting bolts for both front assemblies. Then I used a floor jack to lift the front of the Spyder. With the weight off the front suspension, I removed the mounting bolts. Then it was a matter of jacking the Spyder up to a point where I could work the shocks out of the mounts.

Stock front suspension and Elka custom set-up

Stock front suspension and Elka custom set-up

Installing the Elka suspension basically involved repeating the steps in reverse order. It took some finagling with the jack to get the shocks into position, then lower the Spyder slowly until the mounting points lined up.

New Elka front suspension

New Elka front suspension

I thought the rear would be a little harder to handle. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be straightforward without any tricky steps. The shock literally fell out of the mount when I removed the bolts!

Stock rear suspension

Stock rear suspension

Elka compared to the stock suspension

Elka compared to the stock suspension

Putting the new shock in place was just a matter of jacking up the Spyder to get the swing arm angle right so the mounts would line up. I bolted the shock in place and installed the bodywork. Job done!

New rear suspension

New rear suspension

There were two shortcomings I was addressing with the suspension change. The stock front shocks suffered from a problem known as stiction. When I would go through a smooth, fast sweeping curve, the outer front suspension would compress as the body rolled while the inner suspension would extend. This would create low speed movement of the shock rod and piston. When we talk about shocks, low speed and high speed refer to suspension movement speed, not necessarily vehicle speed.

When the stock shocks traveled through low speed movement, there would be sticking points caused by friction of the piston and seals and uneven tolerances. This would cause the travel to momentarily stop, then it would release and continue to compress or rebound. This made a fast sweeping curve an exercise in constant corrections – kind of like connecting the dots through the turn.

The stock rear suspension worked fairly well but the spring wasn’t easily adjustable for pre-load and didn’t handle a passenger well. It also had too much rebound damping and would pack down with a passenger on board.

I took the Spyder out for a test ride. The difference in turning capability was incredible – very little body roll and it cornered like it was on rails. Fast sweeping curves were a breeze with a smooth arc easily controlled. The front shocks are set up nearly perfect. The rear felt a little stiff – I expected a plush feel. I’ll wait a bit and see if it loosens up before I start fiddling with the adjusters. The rear damping feels fine. I may just take a little pre-load off. Custom tuned suspension bits are expensive, but to me it’s well worth it.

We had a passing shower or two in the afternoon. When I was working on the Spyder I managed to split my left thumb nail. It never fails – I can’t turn a wrench without bruising a knuckle or tearing a nail. I went to Walmart and bought a tube of super glue. I glued the split in my nail. It should stay together until it grows out – no real harm done.

We had five packages show up at the office. They don’t notify us of deliveries here – we have to stop at the office and check. I didn’t know Donna had ordered so many things. One of the packages was a new folding table from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s compact and also height adjustable. I grilled honey-sriracha chicken for dinner and we dined outside at the new table. That’s a pleasant way to spend the evening!

Today’s forecast calls for abundant sunshine and temperatures reaching the upper 70s. I hope they called it right!

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Street Food in Portland

I tackled a minor repair on Tuesday. Most states require trailers with a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or more to have trailer brakes that automatically engage if the trailer accidentally separates from the tow vehicle. Our trailer is equipped with a breakaway switch that activates the brakes if a pin is pulled from the switching device. A length of cable connects the pin to the tow vehicle. If the trailer comes loose, the cable pulls the pin and the brakes are applied.

Breakaway pin and cable ends

Breakaway pin and cable ends

The cable has a loop for the pin and a loop on the other end that I connect to the receiver hitch with a carabiner. I’m not sure how it happened, but the cable must have dragged on the ground at some point and wore through, separating it into two pieces.

Steel cable separated

Steel cable separated in the middle

When I went to Walmart the other day, I saw a fisherman’s supply store. I stopped in and bought some nylon covered stainless steel leader cable and some double barrel crimp connectors.

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

This made it easy to create a new breakaway cable for the trailer.

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

That was easy – job done!

In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder down NE 33rd Drive and found the store Ray told us about. It’s called New Season’s. It’s similar to Sprouts – a store chain we like in the southwest. It’s an upscale store, so you have to shop carefully as the prices can be good or they can be high. Donna had defrosted the refrigerator in the morning and now it was time to restock it.

On Wednesday morning, we rode the Spyder to Beaverton to visit with our friends, DeWayne and Marlo. They live in a co-op housing development which is basically condominiums with shared community areas. Residents sign on to teams to develop and maintain community property. They have shared garden space, community meeting rooms, a woodworking shop and more. DeWayne runs the wood shop and also leads the building repair and maintenance team.

Part of the community vegetable garden

Part of the community vegetable garden

Compost bins Dwayne built

Compost bins DeWayne built

After giving us a tour, DeWayne had a project to work on and I left Donna and Marlo to their girl talk. I rode the Spyder over to the Hillsboro airport where I wanted to check out an aviation museum. When I got there, I was disappointed to see a closed sign in the window. I looked at the hours on the door – it said 9am to 4pm Monday through Thursday. A woman inside saw me looking and came to the door. She pointed at a guy out front spraying weeds.

The guy came over and introduced himself and told me they were in the process of moving the museum to Tillamook. All but one of the flyable airplanes had already been moved. He offered to give me a tour of the remaining aircraft and parts, but warned that things were in a bit of disarray.

I took him up on the offer and we spent about an hour looking at old planes and parts. They have mostly military jet aircraft from the 1950s to the 1980s. The owner has a number of contacts in foreign governments and wheels and deals for airplanes. A number of their aircraft came from Taiwan. They also had Soviet airplanes from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Axial flow jet engine

Axial flow jet engine

J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

General Electric J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Mig-21

Mig-21

I rode back and picked up Donna a little past noon. It was a short visit for the girls, but they were happy to catch up in person.

Marlo and Donna

Marlo and Donna

Instead of riding the freeways home, I took us down Burnside Street into downtown Portland. We stopped on Alder Street where all the street food vendors are located. There are dozens of food trucks and small stalls lined up over two blocks. We arrived a little after 1pm and missed most of the lunch crowd. After walking down the street and looking over the offerings, we both went for Thai food. It was a tasty lunch on the street.

Street food vendors

Street food vendors

After we came home, I retrieved a couple of packages we received at the office. One was a chair that Donna ordered from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but it wasn’t what she expected so it’s going back. Another package was our mail from our service in South Dakota. This package included new license plates for our coach and Spyder. The design on our current South Dakota plates was first issued in 2006. After 10 years, some of the plates are deteriorated and hard to read or have lost their reflective properties, so South Dakota decided it was time to issue new ones.

I took a photo of our new plates and made a discovery. When light is directed at the plate (in this case via the camera flash), a squiggly line appears in the middle from top to bottom. I suppose this is an anti-counterfeit feature.

New license plate design for our coach

New license plate design for our coach

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Donna went for a bike ride as she continues to aim for her 250-mile Great Cycle Challenge goal while I installed the plates. After I put the plates on, I had a message telling me another package arrived at the office. It was the Elka suspension I ordered for the Spyder – custom made shock absorbers and springs. I paid for expedited shipping since they came from Canada. I didn’t want them to get delayed in customs and have them arrive here after we’ve moved on. Timing of package deliveries can be a challenge on the road.

Last night Donna made baked shrimp with fennel and feta for dinner.

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

I paired it with an Imperial IPA from Hop Valley Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. It was delicious – the shrimp I mean.

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

We ended an excellent day by starting season two of True Detectives. It appears that season two has no connection with season one – we’re starting a whole new story line with different actors.

After a few days of great weather, rain moved in last night. We have a heavily overcast sky this morning and expect rain off and on all day with a high temperature only reaching the low 60s. I’m chomping at the bit to install the new suspension on the Spyder, but it looks like that will have to wait.

 

 

Road Bike Ride

Donna had another article assignment to complete on Monday. While she was doing that, I made a run to Walmart to pick up a few groceries. While I was out, I also picked up supplies for two upcoming projects. When I came home, I found a Yamaha FJR motorcycle at our site. Our friend Ray, who we met in San Diego through Kris and Tom Downey, stopped by. He and his wife Kathy live nearby and knew we were here via this blog. We hope to get together with them this weekend.

I went to work on another project before lunch. The rear end of the floor in our trailer has a metal trim. The original trim was stamped aluminum sheet – very thin and mostly decorative. A while back when I was loading the Spyder, I had a little wheel spin as I was backing in. The tire gripped the trim and tore it away from the floor.

Trim damage due to wheel spin

Trim damage due to wheel spin

I cut the damaged portion away and overlaid a 36-inch section of extruded aluminum trim that’s 1/16 inch thick. This is much heavier than the original stamped sheet aluminum and should stand up to abuse.

Extruded aluminum angle trim installed

Extruded aluminum angle trim installed

With that job done, we had lunch and headed out on our bicycles at 2pm. I don’t remember when I last went out on my Orbea road bike. We headed east on Marine Drive and picked up the paved bike path. It’s been a while since Donna and I rode bicycles together – my mountain bike can’t keep up with her road bike. We first met in a cycling club in Mesa, Arizona where we rode together almost every weekend.

My Orbea is a full carbon fiber road racing machine. As such, it handles much quicker than my mountain bike. It felt lively and a little skittish at first. When I ride my mountain bike, I wear hiking shoes and the pedals have small studs that help me grip the pedals. On my Orbea, I have Speedplay pedals that I clip into with special cleats on my stiff Sidi bicycling shoes. To unclip from the pedal you have to twist the rear of your foot away from the bike and it will release. At one point on the trail we stopped to admire the view. I forgot to twist my foot and my right shoe was caught on the pedal. I fell slowly into the weeds on my right shoulder. It probably looked comical, but it wasn’t fun.

After that, I quickly became reacquainted with my road bike and settled into a rhythm. East of the I-205 bridge we stopped to look at Mt. Hood and take a selfie. I’m not too good at shooting selfie type pictures.

Not too good at selfies

Not too good at selfies

We rode about 10 miles east, then turned around. This stretch of the Columbia River has a number of uninhabited islands. We saw people on the island beaches that they reached by boat. We also saw an old shipwreck – a sailboat that must have broken loose in a storm and ended up beached on an island.

Bike path view - Government Island and McGuire Island on the left

Bike path view – Government Island and McGuire Island on the left

On the ride back, we saw an osprey struggling to gain altitude with a large fish in its talons. The osprey was a large bird – its wingspan had to be nearly six feet. The fish was weighing it down but it slowly circled upward and away from us.

We wanted to grill steaks on the Weber Q for dinner, but I realized I was out of propane. I made another run to Walmart and picked up four propane canisters. While I was there, I also found another local IPA to try. It was from Pelican Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon. It’s an IPA that’s brewed with a single hop variety – Ella hops from Australia. They use this hop type in the boil and then dry hop twice with them.

Umbrella IPA

Umbrella IPA

This was solid example of west coast IPA. It went well with the bacon-wrapped filet mignon. While I was grilling the steak, Donna prepared sauteed mushrooms and onions and sides of rosemary and garlic roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Bacon wrapped filet with sauteed mushrooms and onions

Bacon-wrapped filet with sauteed mushrooms and onions

It’s been awhile since we had steak and Donna said she was craving it. All in all, it was meal fit for a king (and queen). After dinner we took a walk through the RV park and then settled in to watch another episode of True Detective. This series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaghy really keeps you guessing as to where it’s heading.

Ozark the cat wanted to recline in front of the refrigerator but apparently the floor isn’t comfortable there. She pulled out the little rug in front of our shower and made herself a bed.

Ozark making it comfortable

Ozark making it comfortable

The weather forecast calls for another nice day with a few clouds and highs in the upper 70s. I have one small project to complete on the trailer. Donna is defrosting the refrigerator – something we haven’t had to do in nearly eight months. After the refrigerator is defrosted, we need to stock up on groceries. We want to check out a few stores that Ray told us about.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

 

Last Day of Spring

Sunday marked the last full day of spring and it was a fine one. We had mostly clear skies and the temperature reached the upper 70s. It was also Father’s Day. I started my day by writing a post, then watching the Formula One race from Baku, Azerbaijan which I recorded.

Around noon I pulled Donna’s bike out of the trailer. She rode her bike to a coffee shop about nine miles from here to meet her friend, Marlo, and listen to a trio of sisters sing and play guitar, violin and cello. Donna was amazed that her entire route was through residential neighborhoods and had bike lanes or bike right-of-way of markings in the streets. That’s Portland for you!

Meanwhile I cleaned some of the dust from Sunriver off the Spyder and rode to Jantzen Beach on Hayden Island (map). Jantzen Beach is a shopping center – Hayden Island is on the Columbia River and is part of Oregon. It’s accessed from I-5, being in Oregon means no sales tax, so Jantzen Beach is a popular shopping destination for residents of nearby Vancouver, Washington.

I wanted to pick up a couple of items, but first I rode to the east end of the island past Hayden Bay where it’s called Tomahawk Island. I was looking for river access, but it’s all private condos, hotels and marinas. I got back on track and went to Staples – I wanted buy laminating kits to laminate our Elks cards. The cards they issued in Mesa are paper and won’t hold up very well. Laminating them in clear plastic will make them much more durable. I also picked up a three foot section of 3/4″ extruded aluminum angle trim for a repair I need to make on the trailer at Home Depot.

It was such a nice day out, I rode past the RV park and continued east on Marine Drive to look around. It was clear enough out to see Mt. Hood in the distance.

Mt. Hood behind I-205 bridge spanning the Columbia River

Mt. Hood behind I-205 bridge spanning the Columbia River

I went all the way to Blue Lake before I turned around. On the way back I stopped at a small park with river access and a boat ramp. It was called the M James Gleason Memorial Boat Ramp. I parked and took a look around. There was a beach area with people sunbathing and a slew of sail boats, presumably from the nearby Portland Yacht Club or the Rose City Yacht Club.

Beach area and sailboats on the river

Beach area and sailboats on the river

There’s a paved bicycle path that runs next to the park along Marine Drive. Donna and I are looking forward to riding this path.

Paved bicycle path along Marine Drive - Mt. Hood in the background

Paved bicycle path along Marine Drive – Mt. Hood in the background

Donna came home from her visit with Marlo a little before 4pm. We decided to get take-out for dinner from a restaurant a few miles away called Pon Thai. I paired my chicken pad thai with another local beer I hadn’t tried before – there are so many breweries in the northwest I doubt if I’ll ever be able to try them all. This time I had an IPA from Burnside Brewing Company.

Burnside Brewing Company India Pale Ale

Burnside Brewing Company India Pale Ale

This IPA is brewed in the English style with a maltiness that isn’t over-powered by hops. It was good, but didn’t stand out. We finished the day with another episode of True Detective. A fine final day of spring.

Today is the summer solstice – the longest period of daylight for the year. We’ll also have a full moon tonight. I’ve read that this is the first summer solstice with a full moon since 1967 – the Summer of Love.

We’re expecting another fine day with the temperature reaching 80 degrees. The forecast says zero percent chance of rain, but I just heard a few rain drops on the roof from a passing cloud. Hopefully that zero percent holds true for the rest of the day.

Contingency Plans

It was nearly 2pm by the time we pulled out of Celilo Park on the bank of the Columbia River on Friday. While Donna worked on a project, I changed our fuel filter before we packed up and left. I change the fuel filter annually and always mark the month/year with a permanent marker so I know when it was changed.

Diesel fuel filter

Diesel fuel filter

Before I changed the filter, a COE employee stopped at our rig. He asked how long we planned to stay. I told him we would be leaving in an hour or two. He said he expected a lot of wind surfers to arrive for the weekend and said we were taking up too many parking spaces to stay over the weekend. Good to know for future reference.

We planned a short drive of about 35 miles to the Walmart in Hood River. I had looked at it on Google Earth, the lot looked large and I could see a few RVs in the image. When we got there, the lot was large enough, but it was posted “No Truck or RV Parking.”

The thing is, you never know when the Google image was taken and things can change. We had a plan “B”. We would continue west on I-84 to Troutdale, a suburb east of Portland. We stayed at the Fairview RV Park on Sandy Boulevard there two years ago and saw RVs overnighting at the Walmart. It was another 45 miles away.

The parking lot at this Walmart was a nightmare. It was busy and I had drivers in cars cutting me off, other drivers stopping and waving me through when I couldn’t possibly get by them – I even had a car pass on my right when I had my right turn indicator on and swung wide to make the turn. It’s a good thing I checked my mirror or I would have pinched the car.

Then we saw that the lot was posted – no overnight parking. Donna called the store and was told a city ordinance had been passed prohibiting overnight parking in public areas. I could go on a rant about politicians taking control of corporate business decisions. On the other hand I’ve seen too many people taking advantage of Walmart by setting up long-term, not just overnight. Bottom line: we needed to find an overnight spot.

Donna phoned the Columbia River RV Park to see if we could move our reservation up one day. No dice, they didn’t have any open sites. Next, I called the Elks Lodge across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington. They very friendly as always and told me they had one back-in site with electric and water open or I could dry camp in their lot. The lodge was about 15 miles away.

It was 4pm by then and the rush hour traffic was building. I was already feeling tired from maneuvering through Walmart lots. The bumper-to-bumper traffic getting on I-205 didn’t help. The 15-mile drive took about 40 minutes. I missed the entrance to the Elks Lodge – it’s hidden in what appears to be a residential street. I made a loop through a residential area and found the lodge. We went inside and were welcomed to stay in their lot. I paid a dry camping fee of $10.

When we’re traveling and winging it, looking for cheap or free overnight stays, it pays to be flexible and have contingency plans. If the Elks hadn’t worked out, I’m not sure what our next move would have been, but we would have come up with something. There are a number of state parks along the Columbia River, but we’re too large for most of them. Sometimes a smaller rig can be advantageous.

We had dinner in the Elks Lodge – it was a busy Friday night there. The lodge is next to I-205 so we had traffic noise throughout the night, but other than that, we had no complaints.

Ozark the cat has been acting strange the past few days. When we were at Celilo Park, the passing trains with their loud horns frightened her. She took to hiding behind the vanity in the bedroom slide or hiding behind the sofa. We had to entice her out before I could pull the slides in. I won’t move the slides until I know where the cat is. The slides are powerful and trapping the cat in the mechanism would not be good.

Donna went out for a quick bike ride in the morning and then we left the Vancouver Elks Lodge a little past 11am and arrived at the Columbia River RV Park just past noon. It’s off Marine Drive, right on the river west of the airport. We’re looking forward to biking on the paved paths in the area. Checking in gave me a moment of concern. The guy behind the counter asked for my last name and said, “Mike, right?” Then a cloudy look came over his face and he said, “Uh-oh.” The sign on the door said no vacancy – I wondered if they overbooked and our confirmed reservation maybe wasn’t so confirmed. Then the woman at the counter said we may have to wait as check-out time is noon and they had to see if our site was available.

It turned out the people had already left site 109 and we had a choice of taking either 109 or 101. We looked the sites over and decided to take 109 – it had more space for the trailer. The site is a 50-foot pull-through. The concrete pad for our coach is level, but it’s narrow. There’s a shorter pad beside it for the trailer.

I pulled all the way through, then Donna directed me as I backed the trailer in place and dropped it. Then I backed the coach into the site. We had a few obstacles to overcome. There’s a four-inch steel pole protecting the electrical box that extends at least 12 feet high. Our first position would have the bedroom slide hit the pole, so I moved back. Now the slide was clear, but I couldn’t open the wet-bay door. I need to open this door to hook up water and sewer and access it when I dump.

I ended up parking the coach at an angle that gave me clearance for the slide and wet-bay. Then I moved the trailer slightly by hand to allow us access to the large basement compartment on the passenger side. It’s tight but it all worked out. Our neighbor was impressed by the way we dropped the trailer and got everything positioned.

Steel pole on utility box

Steel pole at utility box

Not much room

Not much room

Trailer and coach staggered to allow basement access

Trailer and coach staggered to allow basement access

The skies were overcast all morning and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we started to back the trailer in, the skies began pouring rain. By the time I had the coach positioned, it stopped raining. Donna was drenched from directing me and I was wet from disconnecting the trailer.

After we set up, I went for a walk in the park. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a coach that was painted black with spray paint. I thought it was the Black Coach Guy from Mission Bay that I wrote about two years ago. I also saw a rig I recognized two sites down from us. It belongs to Eric and Brittany Highland (RvWanderlust). Eric has a Facebook group called Full-time Diesel RVers. I met them at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last October. Their car was gone, so they must have been out for the day. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to visit before they leave.

Could it be the Black Coach Guy?

Could it be the Black Coach Guy?

Later, when I took out trash to the dumpster, I met a long term park resident. He told me the black coach had been there for two years and was occupied by two women. So, it wasn’t Black Coach Guy, but it had a similar paint job.

Today the weather forecast looks good. Partly cloudy with zero percent chance of rain and a high in the upper 70s. Donna plans to write an article this morning, then ride her bike to meet up with her friend Marlo at a coffee shop. I’ll start with the Formula One race from Baku, Azerbaijan. Then I’ll get my bike out or explore on the Spyder.

 

 

Celilo Park

After looking at our options, we pulled out of our boondocking spot on the Biggs-Rufus Highway around 11am. I looked at the Google Earth image of the Elks Lodge in Hood River again and decided it would be too tight for our rig. We didn’t want to risk getting into a place we couldn’t exit from.

One of the places we found is a small Corps of Engineers (COE) park on the Columbia River called Celilo Park. It’s off exit 97 from I-84, between the interstate and the river. Celilo Falls is a place of historical significance to northwest native Americans. There were a series of waterfalls, pools and eddies here where the Columbia River squeezed through basalt formations. This created a natural choke point for salmon swimming upriver to spawn. It’s said the native Americans gathered here to fish for 15,000 years, using dip nets or spears to catch salmon. This ended in 1957 when the COE completed construction of The Dalles Dam. The dam flooded the back water and covered the falls.

The drive westbound on I-84 to exit 97 was only about seven miles. We pulled into Celilo Park and found a large paved lot with parking stalls for RVs about 40 feet long. The lot was mostly empty. We checked the sign boards and found the eastern end of the park and lot were for day use only. The west end has free camping for up to 14 days. There’s also a boat ramp.

We had to park across a number of the painted lines marking the parking stalls – we’re too long to fit in a single stall. There weren’t many people here, so we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. The view is great and the park is well-maintained. The downside is noise. On the south side, between the park and I-84 are two railroad tracks. Several trains come down the line – day and night. The tracks cross the road at the park entry. Due to the road crossing, the engineer is required to blow the train horn – two long blasts and one short – 15 to 20 seconds before crossing the roadway. That puts eastbound trains right at the end of the park when they blow the horn. There’s also a train track on the Washington side of the river, but it doesn’t contribute much noise.

Train track run next to the lot

Train tracks run next to the lot

Noise notwithstanding, we thought it was a beautiful spot and decided to stay for the night. Donna had a project she needed to work on, so we settled in. There were a couple of tent campers when we arrived, but they packed up and left around 1pm. One tent was left behind. It seemed odd. Several RVs – motorhomes, fifth-wheels and travel trailers stopped in the lot in the afternoon, but they only stayed a short while then moved on. One other RV stayed overnight – a Volkswagen Rialta van conversion by Winnebago. These were made in the ’90s.

I went for a walk through the park and saw barge heading upriver. The tow had two barges pushed by a tugboat. It’s nothing like the huge barge tows I wrote about on the Mississippi River. Barges have transported goods on the Columbia River and Snake River since the 1800s. Until the dam system and locks were installed, barges had to be off-loaded and goods portaged to another barge above the falls at a few points on the Columbia – including Celilo Falls.

Columbia River barge

Columbia River barge

We had nice weather – a few high clouds at times, but it was mostly sunny. We’ve dropped nearly 4,000 feet of elevation from Bend-Sunriver. The elevation here is less than 300 feet above sea level. Using the standard calculation of three degrees temperature drop per thousand feet of altitude, I would expect it to be about 10-12 degrees warmer here under normal conditions. Sometimes the standard calculation doesn’t work out due to atmospheric anomalies like temperature inversions and such.

The color of the clouds before sunset was reflected off the river. It was gorgeous – I shot a couple of photos but really couldn’t capture the beauty of it.

Looking up river - that's Washington on the far bank

Looking up river – that’s Washington on the far bank

Looking down river toward The Dalles

Looking down river toward The Dalles

The wind blowing from the west made small white caps on the water in the afternoon – it looked like the river was flowing east as the white caps were pushed along the surface. Of course, the Columbia flows westward to the Pacific Ocean.

When I took the photos just before sunset, I looked at the tent that was left behind. No one had come out of or into the tent all afternoon. I wondered if someone was inside, maybe ill or in need of assistance. I walked next to the tent and called out, “Hello.” After walking around a couple of times, I pushed against the sidewall with my foot in a few spots. I thought I felt something or someone inside. I opened the door zipper a few inches to take a look. No one was inside, just a pile of bedding and clothing. No one came that we saw in the night and the tent is still here this morning

We’ll hang out here for a while, then we’ll move on west after lunch. The weather forecast calls for another 70 degree day with a possibility of rain showers in the afternoon. We’ll look for a spot in Hood River for the night before we move to the Columbia River RV Resort in Portland tomorrow.

Can’t Stand the Cold

With the temperature still in the 30s at 9am on Wednesday and continued cold and wet weather in the forecast, we made the decision to move on from the Bend-Sunriver Thousand Trails campground.

I had much to do. All of our gear – chairs, Traeger, Weber grill, awning mat and bicycles needed to be put away. I also needed to remove and store the front window covers, water filters and hoses, check tire pressures and load the Spyder. This took some time. It was close to noon by the time I finished, so Donna fixed a plate of leftovers for lunch before we pulled out of our site.

Before leaving the campground, I spent another half-hour at the dump station dumping and flushing our holding tanks. We hit the road with empty holding tanks and a full fresh water tank. We had three more nights available at Thousand Trails but felt it wouldn’t be good to hang around. With cold, rainy weather we wouldn’t be doing much and I would have to pack things away before everything got wet anyway.

Flexibility is one of the keys to this lifestyle. We don’t have a reservation in Portland until Saturday so I found a couple of boondocking options and we winged it. We drove up US97 about 150 miles to Biggs, Oregon where US97 and I-84 meet. After filling up at the Pilot/Flying J we drove west on Biggs-Rufus highway a few miles to the Deschutes River State Recreation Area.

I crossed the Deschutes River bridge and pulled in at Heritage Landing. Looking at Google Earth, it appeared to be a likely boondocking spot. But, it had signs prohibiting overnight camping. So, I drove back across the bridge and pulled into the recreation area campground. Sites were $10/night but they were too small for our rig.

We drove back toward Biggs and pulled off in a large, level gravel lot overlooking the Columbia River. We found a nice spot in the back of the lot with trees protecting us from the wind. We thought it would be a good place to spend the night.

Boondocking site for the night

Boondocking site for the night

A train track runs between our location and the Columbia River. There’s another train track on the Washington side of the river. There were a few trains in the night but it wasn’t too bothersome.

View from our boondocking site

View from our boondocking site

It was windy but much warmer than Bend. Last evening Donna went out for a walk around 6pm and it was 65 degrees out. It’s 50 degrees at 8:30am this morning. Much better than the overnight lows in the high 20s at Sunriver.

Today we plan to move on to Hood River. There’s an Elks Lodge there that will allow us to overnight in their parking lot. It looks a little tight on Google Earth, but if it works out, the location is good – right in the heart of town with restaurants and a brewery within walking distance.

 

Deschutes Brewery

We rode to Bend on the Spyder Tuesday. We left the Sunriver Thousand Trails park around 11:20am so I could take Donna to the hair salon for her noon appointment. When people ask us about health or dental care while we’re on the road, we joke that it’s no problem, but finding a hair stylist for Donna can be troublesome!

Blasting up US97 at 65-70mph in 50-degree weather makes it a cold ride. After I dropped Donna off, I went to a motorcycle shop and bought warmer gloves. From there I went to the Deschutes Brewery tasting room, where they have brewery tours. I knew the 1pm tour was fully booked, but I thought I might be able to get in if there was a no show. I also thought I could get lunch there.

It turned out the tasting room doesn’t serve food – just beer tasters, T-shirts and knick-knacks. I sampled four barrel-aged beers that aren’t found in stores and really liked three of the four. I also made it to the tour – three people didn’t show up. They allow 15 people in each tour.

Our tour guide was a native Oregonian from the Willamette Valley named Joy. She was very knowledgeable about beer in general and their operations at Deschutes Brewery. We started the tour with a brief discussion of the four ingredients needed for beer – water, malt, hops and yeast.

Every thing you need to make beer

Everything you need to make beer

This discussion took place in the employee break room. The break room looked like a small cafe with tall chairs around a bar-like table, refrigerator, stove and food supplies. One of the guys was on break and had made a delicious looking pastrami sandwich. I was wishing I had eaten lunch – it was after 1pm by then.

The break room had a large closet that was converted to a small taproom. Employees are allowed one pint of beer at the end of their shift.

Employee taps

Employee taps

This has to be good for morale! The company believes good beer in moderation is beneficial to health.

We took a look at hop storage. Deschutes only used whole hops, no hop pellets or extracts. They store about three days worth of hops in a temperature-controlled room in 200-pound bales.

Hop bales

Hop bales

They were doing maintenance, cleaning a lauter tun. The lauter tun is a large vat that’s used to strain the liquid (wort) from the grain mash.

Lauter tun maintenance

Lauter tun maintenance

We walked along a cat-walk above the brewery and looked down at the operation. Things were running at full speed below us.

Cellar process

Cellar process

Fermenters and bright tanks

Fermenters and bright tanks

Although Deschutes Brewing is not as large as the Sierra Nevada operation we toured in Chico, they still make a lot of beer. Their Black Butte porter is the number one selling porter in America, even though they only distribute in 27 states. I won’t go into all of the brewing process steps as I outlined that in the Sierra Nevada post.

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

It was after 2pm by the time I left after buying a couple of bottles of barrel-aged beer and of course I needed the T-shirt. I rode back to the hair salon to pick Donna up. When I got there I saw a message on my phone from Donna. The hair stylist only accepted cash or checks and Donna had neither. So, I got back on the Spyder and rode a few blocks away to the bank to get cash.

When I came back and picked Donna up, I was famished. We rode over to the 10 Barrel Brewing pub and ordered food along with a pint. From there the ride home was much better with warm gloves. We stopped at the Sunriver Village to fortify ourselves with another pint at Sunriver Brewing. Donna really likes the Sunriver Village. It’s a resort, so almost everyone there is on vacation and seems laid-back and happy.

Back at home, we prepared a whole chicken to roast on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. We had a late lunch, so we didn’t start the grill until about 6:30pm. Donna prepared garlic scapes which I grilled on the Weber Q and she also made roasted brussel sprouts in the convection oven. I used the same seasoning blend that I used on the baby back ribs last weekend and the chicken was great!

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Grilled garlic scaipes

Grilled garlic scapes

Paper plate dinner

Paper plate dinner

This morning I woke up at 6am. I was warm under our comforter, but I could tell it was colder than usual in the coach. I got up and saw the thermometer read 50 degrees in the coach. I turned on the heat pump but I got the propane furnace instead. Heat pumps aren’t effective when the outside temperature falls much below 40 degrees. Our system has an ambient temperature sensor – when it’s too cold outside, it automatically fires the propane furnace instead of the heat pumps. I looked at my phone and read the outside temperature was 28 degrees. Yikes!

This cold spell is forecast to last until Sunday. We might pack up and move to the Columbia River Gorge for a few nights before we check in at the Columbia River RV Resort in Portland on Saturday. I don’t want to stay in an area that’s as cold as it is here right now.

Biking to Sunriver

We started our Sunday on the pickleball courts. Donna’s friend, Chelsea and her son, Dakota came to learn. They were beginners, but Chelsea had tennis experience and picked up pickleball pretty quickly. There was a broad mix of ability levels at the courts making it difficult to have competitive games, but the cold morning quickly turned into a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed our time on the courts.

After pickleball, Donna and Julie decided to ride bicycles over to the bike paths at Sunriver. Julie’s bike is a townie – a cruiser style bike – so Donna thought she should ride my mountain bike as it would be more compatible with regard to pace. I set up my mountain bike and lowered the seat post for Donna, but the bike was too large for her and she wasn’t comfortable. She ended up riding her Trek Madone road bike. They rode to The Village at Sunriver (map) and hit the paved paths there, stopping at various points along the way. They had lunch at El Caporal – a Mexican restaurant at the village. Donna said the food was good. They were out for hours and put in about 17 miles.

Meanwhile, back at the coach I had a task. Our Dometic Penguin roof top air conditioners recirculate air. The fan draws air in from inside the coach through grills equipped with a filter. The air is blown across the evaporator coils which cools it in the cooling mode or heats it in the heat pump mode, then it’s ducted through a series of vents in the roof and sent back to the cabin.

Air conditioner intake grill

Air conditioner intake grill

Over time, dust and whatnot collects in the intake filters. These filters are sponge-like synthetic material that traps the dust. Periodically I remove the grill covers and wash the filters. That was my big chore for the day.

Sunday’s dinner was pan-seared flank steak. Donna also cut zucchini in quarters lengthwise which I grilled while she cooked the steak. She served the grilled zucchini with a mixture of finely chopped lemon zest and sea salt and we had roasted curry sweet potatoes as a second side.

Seared flank steak, grilled zucchini and fried sweet potato

Seared flank steak, grilled zucchini and roasted sweet potato

It was a simple, delicious meal. We’re still using paper plates to conserve water. Fewer dirty dishes means less gray water production. I opened a bottle of Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA to go with the steak. Pyramid was an early craft brewer – they’ve been at it since 1984. Their IPA is brewed to style – no gimmicks or latest fads – just good old fashioned IPA made with northwest simcoe and centennial hops.

Pyramid Imperial IPA

Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA

Donna worked at her laptop on Monday. I thought I should take my mountain bike out for a ride. I haven’t ridden it in a long time – I don’t know why I stopped riding. Every time I get back on my bike I remember how much I enjoy being on two wheels.

I followed the route Donna and Julie took the day before through Caldera Springs to Sunriver Village. After stopping at the bike shop at Sunriver for an energy bar, I turned around and headed back. On the way back I rode through some of the paved and unpaved trails that wind through Caldera Springs. Caldera Springs is a community of vacation homes and rental cabins set among pines trees. There’s a creek fed by natural spring water and a couple of man-made lakes. It a beautiful setting and nice place to ride a bike away from any traffic.

Obsidian Lake at Caldera Springs

Obsidian Lake at Caldera Springs

Vacation home on a spring-fed creek

Vacation home on a spring-fed creek

We left the RV park at 3:30pm and rode the Spyder to Bend. Our destination was Tomo Sushi. On Mondays, Tomo opens at 4pm and their menu is half-price. We pulled into the parking lot for an early dinner a few minutes before 4pm. There were already a few people waiting at the door and a line formed behind us before they opened. Lance told us that he’s waited as long as 40 minutes for a table there.

We enjoyed the sushi but honestly, the prices are inflated so the half-price menu isn’t that great a deal. Two pieces of nigiri was shown as regularly priced at seven to nine dollars. We usually pay four to six dollars for nigiri. The prices on the rolls were a better deal. While we were in town we bought a few groceries and were home by 6pm.

Lance and Boni stopped by last night to say their goodbyes. Julie stopped by this morning. They’re all caravaning this morning along with Mike and Michelle and their respective families to Seaside. They plan to return here after a week. We’ll be here until Saturday, then we’re off to Portland.

This morning I woke to the sound of rain drops on the roof. We had brief showers that lulled me back to sleep. It’s cold this morning and the forecast calls for a high in the mid-50s. Brrr. The weather forecast for the rest of the week isn’t too promising – cool temperatures with a chance of rain.

Today I’ll take Donna to Bend for her hair appointment. While she’s having her hair cut, I plan to shop for motorcycle gloves and maybe pick up an interesting beer or two.

 

A Pump-Out and a Potluck

Friday was pump-out day. When I scheduled our pump-out with La Pine Septic, I was told they would be at our site between 8am and 9am. Then, on Thursday I had a call from the woman that I talked to at La Pine – she said she had the schedule wrong and they wouldn’t be here until noon or 1pm. Later, I had a voice message from the driver telling me he would be at the park at 8am and had several stops scheduled – he would here sometime in the morning. At that point, I had no idea when to expect him.

I wanted to be there when he arrived so I could watch the process. I wanted to know for sure that my tanks were completely drained without any issues. The truck pulled up at our site around 10am. The connector on the end of his pump-out hose was too bulky to fit directly on our drain. I used our sewer hose on the drain and he attached his hose to the other end of it.

The system uses a motor-driven pump to pull the waste water out and dump it into a large tank on the truck. It works pretty quickly but still took a few minutes as we had nearly full tanks after 11 days without dumping. Our gray water tank holds 100 gallons and our black water capacity is about 90 gallons. We should be good for the rest of our stay – I’ll hit the dump station when we leave here on the 18th.

Later I rode the Spyder to town to pick up a couple of things and I also wanted to check out some possible boondocking spots in the Deschutes National Forest for our friends, Jeff and Deb Spencer (RollingRecess). It was a cold day – the temperature never rose much above 60 degrees. The ride on the Spyder had me chilled. I checked out a few areas and found a couple of possibilities. I didn’t find all of the areas they asked about – the forest service roads are poorly marked.

When I got home I was chilled to the bone. I should have dressed with more layers for the ride. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get warm and read a book. I didn’t feel warm until I took a hot shower.

For dinner, Donna made a spicy shrimp dish with garlic oil served over squid ink pasta with a tomato and onion salad on the side. Squid ink pasta uses squid ink instead of salt for the pasta and has a unique flavor and a rich, dark color.

Spicy shrimp over squid ink pasta

Spicy shrimp over squid ink pasta

Yesterday was another cool day – slightly warmer than Friday but we didn’t see 70 degrees. We made plans for a potluck dinner with TJ, Julie, Lance, Boni, Mike and Michele and their kids. We found out that Julie and Donna’s friend Chelsea and her husband Preston were coming to the park with their kids for the night, so they were invited as well.

I rode the Spyder to the Cash & Carry store in Bend. Julie said it was a good place to find meat. Before I left, Donna found a liner for my motorcycle jacket and I put it on under the jacket. Much better – I didn’t freeze this time. I found a three-pack of baby back ribs at Cash & Carry – about nine pounds total. The ribs were cut a little shorter than I usually find which was good because I could fit three racks on the Traeger.

When I prepare baby back ribs, I always start by removing the tough, thin membrane on the bone side of the ribs. To do this, I use a regular table knife – a sharp knife isn’t good – it will cut through the membrane. You want to separate it from the bone – I usually start somewhere near the middle – by sliding the knife between the bone and the membrane. Once it’s separated, I use a paper towel to grip it and pull it off of the ribs.

Membrane on the bone side of a rack of ribs

Membrane on the bone side of a rack of ribs

The last time I made baby back ribs, I used Pappy’s Choice Seasoning for a dry rub. I thought it was flavorful but a little too salty. This time I mixed two parts of Pappy’s Choice with one part of Sweet Rub O’Mine in a shaker and dry rubbed the ribs with it. This was a good combination – nice flavor without the saltiness. After leaving the seasoned ribs in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, I fired up the Traeger. I smoked/grilled the ribs for about three hours and then tented them under foil for about 20 minutes. They came out great.

Three racks of baby backs ready for the potluck

Three racks of baby backs ready for the potluck

Tables were set up loaded with food at Mike and Michelle’s site. The feast was on!

Potluck dinner with friends

Potluck dinner with friends

We ate and talked for hours – it was after 9pm by the time Donna and I came home. Another day well lived.