Monthly Archives: July 2014

Day’s End at South Bend

The RV parking area at Cabela’s worked out fine for an overnight stop. Donna was bothered a bit by the road noise from I-5, which is just to the south of the parking lot. I didn’t notice it much and slept well.

Donna went out for a power walk before we headed out. We hit the road around 10:30am. We stopped at Uhlmann RV in Chehalis to see if they had the proper size bolts for the loose compartment door. Uhlmann was the highest sales volume dealer for Alpine Coach. They didn’t have any idea of what size bolts were needed.

I backtracked a few miles to Home Depot. I guessed the blind holes the bolts came out of were either 6mm (if metric) or 1/4 inch. I bought two of each size with lock washers and tried them in the parking lot. The 6mm bolts threaded in, but the threads felt loose. The 1/4 inch bolts didn’t fit. I think when the original bolts came loose, they vibrated and shook in the threads enough to partially strip them. I tightened them as much as I dared, but I wasn’t confident about them holding. I left the temporary safety wire fix in place.

While I was doing this, Donna fixed a green salad with leftover roasted chicken for lunch. Then she looked at the Escapees’ Day’s End Directory for a place to stay. She found a promising free boondocking spot about 60 miles west of us, near the coast.

We decided to detour west and check it out. The Day’s End Directory is updated by Escapees members and is only available to Escapees members. The directory is the only way we would have found this place. Because of that, I don’t want to give away too much detail of the location. But finding places like this in the Day’s End Directory makes the Escapees membership worthwhile.

We drove west on WA6 and followed the Willapa River to the town of South Bend. We found the gravel lot described in the directory and parked in a fairly level spot. There was a sign stating that overnight RV parking is allowed.

The Willapa River flows southwest from the nearby town of Raymond. It quickly picks up volume from tributaries and then it abruptly bends to the northwest before emptying into Willapa Bay. The small town of South Bend is located at the southernmost point of the river, right at the bend.

Donna and I took a walk across the street and found a small park and the city boat dock.

View upriver from the dock

View upriver from the dock

View down river toward Willapa Bay with Donna on the dock

View downriver toward Willapa Bay with Donna on the dock

We walked along the dock and saw an interesting looking boat tied up to the dock. When we came to the boat, we saw the owner sitting on the aft bench. He was waiting for family members to arrive for a boat ride down to the bay.

Steve Rogers and his Ranger Tug

Steve Rogers and his Ranger Tug

His name was Steve Rogers and he’s lived her all his life. He’s a Pacific County councilman. South Bend is the county seat. Steve told us a few interesting facts about the town. South Bend, WA is undergoing a period of renaissance after being sleepy for a number of years. They are encouraging tourism and are also profiting from the legalization of marijuana in Washington.

New boost to the local economy

New boost to the local economy

The population has remained steady at around 20,000 people, but the local economy is growing. One of the things that held growth back was the lack of wastewater treatment. This has been addressed through a cooperative effort with the town of Raymond. A new wastewater facility has been built, which has allowed the town to issue more new building permits.

Harvesting oysters from Willapa Bay is another driver for the local economy. Steve told us that the bay holds 10,000 acres of oyster beds. Oysters are processed at Hilton’s Coast Seafoods, a few hundred feet downriver from the dock. South Bend modestly calls itself “The Oyster Capital of the World.”

After we left Steve, Donna and I walked about a half mile down the road to the city boat launch. They allow RV dry camping in an area there, right on the river for $10/night. It looks like another good find. Last year we drove through this town but didn’t have a clue about how RV-friendly it is.

Steve's Ranger Tug passes by as we walked to the city boat launch

Steve’s Ranger Tug passes by as we walked to the city boat launch

We walked back into town from the boat launch. We were thirsty, so we stopped at the Chester Club and Oyster Bar. It’s a small tavern and oyster bar. I had a Dick’s Pale Ale from the tap while Donna had a Bud Light. We decided we should eat. Donna loves oysters, so she ordered half a dozen oyster shooters. I’m not so much of an oyster guy, so I had fried halibut and chips.

Oyster shooters

Oyster shooters

The oysters were fresh from Willapa Bay. Donna said they were the freshest oysters she ever had, big but delicate. The oysters in Willapa Bay are farmed. Local oystermen began seeding the bay with Pacific oysters from Japan in 1928 after the native oyster population crashed. I’ll have to try the oysters while were here.

Today, we want to explore the town. The weather at this time of year is near perfect. The forecast for today is a carbon copy of yesterday – sunny with a high of 72 degrees and an overnight low in the 50s.

We’ve decided to move to the city boat launch later this afternoon and stay for another night, right on the river!

$50 Flip Flops and Free Blackberries

Yesterday was a bittersweet departure day. Gabi was mostly quiet as she hung out in our coach playing Subway Surfer on her tablet. Lainey woke up with a badly swollen eye that needed medical attention. Alana had to get to work.

We had breakfast with Gabi and Alana before Alana left for work. Alana’s stepfather Jerry picked up Lainey and took her to the clinic in Darrington to have Dr. Schillhammer check out her eye. This was her second episode in recent weeks. It turned out to be an infection in her eyelid. A course of antibiotics should be the remedy. It’s a good thing that it happened today. Tomorrow, Gabi and Lainey are flying to San Diego for a two-week visit and she might not have been able to get immediate attention.

Pulling out was an emotional moment for Donna. She had set up projects for Lainey and Andrea on Monday to help her with some upcoming book projects. At least this will keep them in touch. The bittersweet part of it for me is the excitement and anticipation of getting back on the road at the same time coupled with the realization that I don’t know when we’ll be together again.

On the way out of Arlington, I stopped at Island Crossing and topped up our fuel tank. I like to keep the tank topped up to prevent condensation and moisture from collecting in the fuel.

I-5 south through Seattle was the usual nightmare. Traffic slowed to a crawl on the Ship Canal Bridge, even though it was midday. Through downtown, there’s a section where you need to move over to the left lanes or you’ll end up on I-90 east. I saw a gap in the lane to our left and indicated a left turn. As I pulled into the lane, a car in the next lane over decided to occupy this space at the same time. I heard the driver honk as he panic-braked to avoid hitting our trailer.

The road surface from Tukwila to Puyallup was appalling. It was a washboard surface with a series of rollercoaster whoops. In places, I could see where the concrete surface had worn down to the rebar reinforcement. It’s hard for me to accept how badly the infrastructure of our great country has deteriorated.

We rolled through Tacoma and made our way to Lacey, just east of Olympia. We found Cabela’s there after a missed turn and recalculation by Nally (our GPS).  Donna spotted a semi-tractor trailer rig in the lot to the west and we headed over there. I found a level spot to park. Then we saw a “No Overnight Parking” sign.

We went inside the store to get something to eat for a late lunch. I asked the greeter about parking overnight. He said he didn’t think it was an issue, but he directed us to the customer service desk. The gals at customer service were super-friendly and told us we were fine to stay the night where we were.

After we dined upstairs in Cabela’s, Donna stayed behind to work at the table on her laptop. I went downstairs and found a great pair of leather Teva flip flops that are anatomically shaped with arch support. It kills me to spend $50 on flip flops, but I wear them more often than I wear regular shoes and wore out my last good pair. Good quality, anatomically shaped flip flops make sense for my lifestyle.

We had a SNAFU that we found once we parked. There’s a compartment on the right side of the coach, behind the entry door. It’s not a storage bay. It’s a compartment that’s bolted shut and houses the holding tanks.

When we arrived at Cabela’s, Donna noticed this compartment wasn’t secure. The bolts that normally hold it closed were gone. Presumably, the pounding on I-5 between Tukwilla and Puyallup shook them loose and they departed the coach. By the way, I had fun quizzing Donna on the pronunciation of the many Indian names of towns around here, such as Tulalip (Too-LAY-lip) and Puyallup (PEW-al-up).

I wired the compartment closed with safety wire. The bolts that secure it thread into blind holes. I’ll have to find the right size bolts. I think it’s going to be either 6mm or 1/4 inch. I’m hoping I can figure this out when we reach Chehalis today.

Donna rejoined me at the coach around 6pm after doing some shopping as well. We took a short stroll and found wild blackberries growing along the edge of the Cabela’s parking lot.

Wild blackberries ripining on the vine

Wild blackberries ripening on the vine

Donna picked a container full to have for breakfast with her cereal and who knows what else. She mentioned something about making a wild blackberry galette.

Container full of wild ripe, wild blackberries

Container full of ripe, wild blackberries

Our itinerary is open for the next couple of days, before we check in at the Fairview RV Park in Portland. We’ll just play it loose.



Until Next Time

It seemed like everyone believed the forecast for a warm, sunny weekend as the Lake Goodwin RV Resort was packed with campers by Friday night. The forecast was correct – the temperature reached the upper 70s on Saturday and well into the 80s on Sunday.

Alana and Gabi visited on Saturday and enjoyed the lake while Lainey and Andrea took the bus into Seattle with some friends. We grilled fresh wild sockeye salmon and halibut Saturday night. Gabi stayed overnight with us.

On Sunday, Donna and Gabi drove Alana’s car to Arlington. They picked up Alana, Lainey and Andrea and they all went to the farmers’ market in Everett. Donna brought back lots of fresh vegetables. She made an outstanding salsa verde from tomatillos she bought there and roasted on the grill. She also picked up organic Walla Walla onions, raspberries and peaches.

I stayed home and watched a very entertaining Formula One race at the Hungaroring in Hungary. The girls enjoyed the lake again in the afternoon. Alana grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a spicy rub and orange glaze for dinner. Later, we built a campfire and the girls made s’mores.

Donna, Andrea, Gabi, Alana and Lainey with S'mores around the fire

Donna, Andrea, Gabi, Alana and Lainey with s’mores around the fire

The campground cleared out by Sunday evening as everyone went back to their workaday world.

On Monday morning, we prepared to move on. The trailer was in the storage yard, so it made it a bigger job to get packed. Once I had everything loaded in the trailer, I put the wheel on the front jack. The maintenance guy hooked the trailer to a tractor and pulled it over to a gravel lot by the exit. This made it easy to hook up to the motorhome on our way out.

We drove about 10 miles to Alana’s house and parked in her driveway. Her driveway was long enough for me to back into without dropping the trailer. Alana’s landlord texted her this morning to tell her he saw the motorhome in the driveway and wanted to let her know that there’s a 30-amp hook-up in the garage!

Overnight accommodations at Alana's house

Overnight accommodations at Alana’s house

While Alana, Donna, Lainey, Andrea and Gabi went shopping at Costco and Target, I took a walk through old downtown Arlington. The thermometer hit a high of 87 degrees!

Donna came home with lots of goodies including a three-inch memory foam mattress topper from Costco. We had a thick mattress pad, but it wasn’t foam and both of us have been waking up with sore hips. We figured we needed some extra padding.

We added the mattress topper last night and it made a huge difference. I slept soundly and comfortably. It was well worth the $110 price. Gabi stayed out in the coach with us. Since I didn’t put the living room slide out, she slept on the sofa. This morning Donna and I woke up to the sound of a loud bang. Gabi had rolled off the sofa, onto the floor!  No damage done, she climbed back onto the sofa and went back to sleep.

This morning, Donna, Alana, Gabi and I ate breakfast in our coach. Alana had to go to work, so we said our goodbyes until next time. There’s always a bit of sorrow when we have to say goodbye, especially when we don’t know when we will get together again. It was great spending time with the girls over the last two weeks. I’m sure Gabi will always remember her ride in the motorhome and the nights she spent with us at the RV park.

We’ll pull out around noon. I need to fuel up and I want to get through Seattle and Tacoma before there’s too much traffic. Seattle can be tough to get through. I’m not looking forward to that part of the drive. We’ll boondock for the next few nights before we check in at the Fairview RV Park in Portland, Oregon.

Sunny Outside, Frosty Inside

The blue skies and warm weather returned yesterday. Summertime in western Washington – hooray! We had a chore to attend to though.

RV refrigerators are usually a heat absorption type instead of the household compressor type. This allows operation with electricity or propane. However, this type of refrigeration tends to build up frost on the cooling fins.

The climate here in western Washington has a high level of humidity. Humidity increases the amount of frost build-up in the refrigerator. I noticed the frost accumulating at an alarming rate since we arrived here. Something wasn’t right. I inspected the door seal and found a problem.

Door seal deformed and not sealing

Door seal deformed and not sealing

The door seal was deformed. It looked like something must have been caught in the seal and the deformation set. We had to wait a few days to reduce the amount of groceries in the refrigerator before we could defrost it. Yesterday, Donna and I emptied the contents of the refrigerator into coolers and turned off the unit.

Frost build-up on the cooling fins

Frost build-up on the cooling fins

After Donna cleaned the inside of the refrigerator, I made a temporary repair on the seal. I used two short sections of rubber tubing and glued them into the groove on either side of the seal where it was deformed. The rubber tubing forced the collapsed section of the seal in place.

Rubber tubing forces seal back into shape

Rubber tubing forcing seal back into shape

While the refrigerator was defrosting, I checked the outside drain tube to make sure it was draining outside. These tubes can come off the fitting behind the refrigerator and the melting ice will drain on the floor under the refrigerator. I placed a cookie sheet on the shelf under the cooling fins to catch ice falling from the fins.

Hopefully my temporary seal repair will slow down the frost. Meanwhile, I’ll try to find a replacement seal. I certainly don’t want to replace the unit. Our refrigerator is a Dometic New Dimensions side-by-side unit. Replacement cost is about $2,700!

While the refrigerator was defrosting, Donna drove to Arlington and picked up our granddaughter, Gabi. When they returned, they went for a walk through the county park. Later, Gabi and I walked down to the lake and went out on the dock.

Gabi on the dock

Gabi on the dock

Alana stopped by after work. We watched an old Austin Powers movie (Austin Powers 2). Gabi stayed the night. We didn’t pull the hide-a-bed out this time – she crashed on the sofa.

The forecast for today calls for another warm, sunny day with the temperature reaching the mid 70s. Donna’s going for a bike ride this morning. Later, I’m sure Gabi will want to spend some time in the lake. I’ll get started on organizing the trailer. We’ll be leaving here on Monday.

RV Awnings and Wind

Yesterday was another rainy day. We spent most of the day indoors. There was a short break from the rain around midday. Donna took advantage of the break by taking a walk on East Lake Goodwin Road. I drove Alana’s car to Costco and picked up a few items.

While I was out, I thought about wind. Although it’s been raining for two days, we haven’t had much wind. Wind can be a powerful and devastating force. This was demonstrated yesterday when a tornado touched down in a Virginia campground. RVs were overturned and trees were blown down. Two people were killed and more than 30 were injured.

I also saw a post on Facebook yesterday about a marina destroyed by a storm. There was a photo posted showing part of the dock on top of a boat.

The reason I was thinking about wind was because I left our awning out while Donna and I were away from the coach. Wind can quickly destroy an awning and damage an RV. I usually pull the awning in if we’re going to be away from the coach. I’ve become too complacent about it. With the rain, the awning is a nice convenience. It keeps the area around the door dry, making it nicer to exit and enter the coach while it’s raining.

Our awning is an AE WeatherPro power awning. The awning is electrically operated and opens or closes with the touch of a rocker switch. It isn’t hard to operate.

I prefer not to close the awning while it’s wet. If I have to close it while it’s wet, I’ll open it at the earliest opportunity to allow it to dry and prevent mildew. Although the fabric of the awning is mildew-resistant, dust and dirt can build up on the fabric and quickly create mildew if it’s rolled up wet.

The AE WeatherPro awning is supported by articulated arms. The design is clever. The support arm has a joint (the manual calls it a knee) about two and a half feet away from the coach. There’s an air spring that maintains pressure on the arm to hold the awning open and pull the fabric tight.

If the wind catches the awning, it billows up like a sail as the arm articulates at the knee (maybe they should call it an elbow), compressing the air spring. Once the wind passes, the air spring extends the awning back into position. This is a clever “bend don’t break” approach.

Linkage supporting the AE WeatherPro awning

Linkage supporting the AE WeatherPro awning

Our old coach had a manually operated awning. The arms were rigid and locked into place. I’ve seen people tie down or hang weights on the ends of the arms to keep them from banging around in the wind. In my opinion, if it’s windy enough to need tie downs or weights, the awning should probably be pulled in.

With a manual awning, I would extend one arm out higher than the other. This caused the awning to tilt to one side. When it rained, water would run off the lower end of the awning instead of pooling on the fabric.

The AE WeatherPro has different spring rates on the air springs. When water pools on the fabric, the spring on the left arm (the one with the lower spring rate), collapses up to nine inches from the weight of the water and the water runs off the left end of the awning. This happened many times over the last two days!

The AE WeatherPro comes with a wind sensor. This device will automatically retract the awning if sustained winds above 18mph are detected (that’s the factory default setting and it’s adjustable). Our wind sensor was turned off when we bought the coach. I’ve read many complaints on forums about erratic wind sensor operation, so I never bothered to activate it.

After thinking it through, I think I’ll activate the wind sensor and see how it works. The AE WeatherPro manual says that erratic operation is most likely due to an obstruction blocking or partially blocking the sensor.

That’s what I know about RV awnings.

Last night, Donna thawed a package of sea food medley, marinated the seafood for five minutes in lemon juice and then sauteed it with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and white wine. She served it over whole wheat pasta. With a little grated parmesan and fresh basil, this simple meal was delicious.

Lemon - garlic seafood medley

Lemon-garlic seafood medley

This morning, I had written about 500 words of this post when it disappeared from my computer. I don’t know how it happened or why I couldn’t call up an autosaved version of it. All I could do was start over. Oh, well. I won’t let that ruin my day. Sunshine is in the forecast for today and the rest of the weekend.

First Year on the Road

Yesterday marked our first anniversary of hitting the road as full-time RVers. I’ve written 277 blog posts since then and I’ve slept in our motorhome every night for more than a year (we moved into our Gulfstream before we actually hit the road – we sold our bed the week before).

Leaving the sticks and bricks for the last time

Leaving the sticks and bricks for the last time

The early days on the road have become a blur. We had planned to take a vacation to upstate New York to visit Donna’s family and also visit friends during the Lake Placid Ironman week. When I moved up my early retirement date, we carried on with our vacation plan. The only difference was that we didn’t return to Michigan. We took our home with us.

So we started our journey in the Northeast. From there we headed west. A month or so later, we were in the state of Washington. A month to get from New York to Washington may seem like plenty of time. But we learned that traveling by RV means you should plan for short hops and try to stop for at least a couple of nights at each place. Staying for a week or more in an interesting area is even better.

We utilized an America the Beautiful Pass to enter national parks along the way. We visited so many beautiful places and even had a few wildlife encounters. Posting this journal has kept the memory of these places and the people we’ve met fresh.

It’s also gratifying to know that this blog has inspired others to enter the RV world, just as other blogs inspired us to hit the road. We’ve been told that we inspired at least two couples to make the plunge into the full-time RV lifestyle.

By the time we made it to the Washington coast, the rainy season was looming. After visiting family for a week north of Seattle, we hit the road and headed south. We traveled down the coast through Oregon and northern California much too quickly, but still couldn’t beat the rain. When we finally made it to San Diego in late September and settled in, we found our groove.

Our first two months were exhilarating, but at the same time exhausting. We learned the ropes and could set up or break camp efficiently. We also realized that our choice of coach wasn’t ideal for our full-time lifestyle.

Three months in San Diego allowed us to get re-energized. I enjoyed re-connecting with old friends. Donna and I also have immediate family in the area which made our home feel even more like home. We plan to be there again this fall.

We’ve learned to dry camp – whether it’s an overnight stay at a casino or WalMart or in a state or county park or on privately owned land like Mumbro Park. Taking what we learned and researching coaches on the market, we found a coach that met our needs in Mesa, Arizona. We traded the Gulfstream in for an Alpine Coach.

Mesa was another long-term stay (for us anything over two weeks is long-term) of three months. Again, we were able to re-connect with friends there. That’s the beauty of the nomadic lifestyle. We can travel to great places and spend time with friends and family.

When we left Mesa in the spring, we had a better idea of how to plan our itinerary. We had reservations scheduled in places where we knew we wanted to spend time. We also had open dates between these reservations which allowed us flexibility and spontaneity. So far, it’s worked out great this summer.

We had an opening in our calendar recently that we filled with a stay in Winthrop, Washington that Donna said felt like a vacation. A week after we left there, the town was threatened by wildfire. People were evacuated from the area. There’s no electricity at this time for many of the small towns east of the Cascade Mountains. More than 150 homes have been destroyed by the largest wildfire on record in Washington. The fires have burned more than 250,000 acres of forest and towns.

We’ve had a mix of weather here at the Lake Goodwin RV Resort. During the first week of our stay, we had temperatures well above average. The weather deteriorated last weekend and we had a few showers. Yesterday we awoke to a thunderstorm. It rained all day and the temperature stayed in the low 60s. The rain made it to the east side, helping the fire fighters. With so much groundcover gone, the next threat east of the Cascades is flash flooding.

The park is becoming a pond

The park is becoming a pond

We spent the day indoors and played games with our eight-year-old granddaughter, Gabi. Alana stopped by after work. We ate fish tacos and visited for awhile and then she took Gabi home with her.

Gabi couldn't stay overnight without her little friend, Beary

Gabi couldn’t stay overnight without her little friend, Beary.

This morning, the rain is still falling. I don’t have much of a plan for today. We’ll move out of Lake Goodwin RV Resort next Monday after a two-week stay. We might move over to my daughter, Alana’s driveway for a night or two before we head down to Portland, Oregon.


Friends and Family Time

Monday started off with a heavy overcast sky. While I caught up on the RV blogs I follow, Donna went for a walk. She started out on West Lake Goodwin Road and followed it south all the way to the end of the lake. At the south end of the lake, the road curves back and becomes East Lake Goodwin Road. She made a loop of the entire lake, a distance of just under six miles in about 90 minutes. Donna said the distance wasn’t bad, but the rolling hills made it challenging.

While Donna was out walking, the temperature rose to the upper 60s. The humidity made it feel sticky and much warmer.

Alana and the girls (Gabi, Lainey and Andrea) came over around midday. Alana brought lunch fixings. We sat at the picnic table and made sandwiches with sliced deli turkey meat and cheese on hoagie rolls. After lunch, the sky cleared. It was partly cloudy and the temperature rose to the lower 70s – not such bad weather after all! We spent the afternoon outdoors.

Donna had a pork tenderloin in the slow cooker all day with a barbeque sauce. So for dinner, we had BBQ pulled pork with grilled potatoes, peppers and onions and homemade corn muffins. We all sat together at the picnic table and enjoyed good food, good company and pleasant weather.

Andrea, Lainey and Alana on the left, Gabi and Donna on the right

Andrea, Lainey and Alana on the left, Gabi and Donna on the right

Pulled pork plate

Pulled pork plate

Yesterday, I was out of bed by 8am. Once again, the skies were overcast. I had a 10am appointment at Adventure Powersports in Monroe, to replace the rear tire on our scooter. After 5,400 miles, the original rear tire was knackered.

The ride to Monroe was a little over 30 miles from Lake Goodwin. The route I took made it a 50-minute ride. I rode through a couple of light rain showers on the way.

While the work was being done, I phoned my friend, Dan Wolanski. Dan lives a few miles away from the Adventure Powersports shop. He invited me to come to his place around noon. Dan and I spent a lot of time together in the ’90s. We were flying partners. We practiced flying aerobatic routines with giant-scale radio-controlled airplanes. Although we were both sponsored by Futaba and were close friends, we competed against each other.

Dan has a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan State University. He and his wife, Jen, moved to the Seattle area and Dan went to work for Boeing. Today, Dan owns a company called Mag-Knight. Back in the day, Mag-Knight produced magnetic motorcycle tank bras through a proprietary, patented process. Dan worked from a shop behind his home. We also built our giant-scale airplanes in his shop. He built up the Mag-Knight business and eventually left Boeing.

It’s been at least 10 years since I last saw Dan. In that time, he built a new house about a mile away from where he used to live. He also built a larger workshop behind his new house.

The Wolanski's new 4,200 square foot home

The Wolanski’s new 4,200-square-foot home

Although the Mag-Knight company still makes magnetic tank bras, the business diversified into die cutting and laser cutting. This is where the bulk of the business is today. Dan has several contracts as a supplier to major corporations. One of the products he manufactures is a ceramic fiber seal used in fuel cells. Ceramic fiber is heat-resistant and replaces asbestos in many applications.

Workshop behind Dan's house

Workshop behind Dan’s house

The die-cutting machines Dan uses were sourced from China. He told me the machines work well mechanically, but the software isn’t the best. It’s an area he’s put a lot of time into. He also bought a laser cutting machine. To learn its capabilities and shortcomings, he made a few hobby projects. One project was a model of the Seattle Space Needle. Another, more complicated model is a Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel has an electric motor operating a ring-and-pinion gear cut from plywood!

Seven foot tall model ferris wheel

Seven-foot-tall model Ferris wheel laser cut from plywood

Like me, Dan eventually burned out on the radio-controlled aerobatic competition circuit. He hasn’t flown an RC airplane in years. He still has a passion for airplanes and flying though. He earned his pilot’s license and bought a Cessna several years ago – I think it was a 172. Since then, he’s become instrument-rated and replaced the Cessna with a speedy Cirrus SR-22. He flies regularly out of Harvey Field in Snohomish.

After catching up with Dan for an hour and a half, it was time to hit the road. I considered riding to Snohomish, where Alana, Donna and Gabi were poking around in the shops. It started to rain as I donned my helmet, so I decided to high-tail it home.

Alana, Donna and Gabi came home around 4pm. I drove Alana to her mother LuAnn’s house and brought her car back to the park. The plan was for us to come over for dinner at LuAnn’s at 6pm.

LuAnn’s husband, Jerry, is retired from the US Forest Service. During fire season, he’s often called back under contract to work as an administrator at wild fire sites. So far, this has been one of the worst fire seasons on record in the Northwest. Jerry is working at a fire site in Oregon. It was his birthday, so we raised a toast to him in absentia.

We enjoyed cocktails on the back patio as the rain showers had moved on early in the afternoon and the sun came out. LuAnn grilled alder-planked sockeye salmon and roasted a medley of fresh vegetables, many from her garden, as well as the bunch of garlic spears we bought at Pike Place. Donna also brought a couple of bottles of wine and a freshly baked marion berry pie she picked up earlier in the day from a bakery in Snohomish.

Dinner served buffet style

Dinner served buffet-style

It was a very enjoyable evening. We had after-dinner drinks and talked well past 9pm before we headed back to the RV park with Gabi in tow. Gabi spent the night with us on the fold-out queen-size hide-a-bed.

This morning we woke to the sound of heavy rain and a couple of thunder claps. The forecast calls for a rainy day. It looks to be an indoors kind of day.


Laid Back Sunday

Last week’s hot weather disappeared over the weekend. Under heavy, overcast skies we dodged showers all day on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we had a few showers early, but the rain stopped by 9am. Still, the clouds hung low all day.

I dropped Donna off at Alana’s house at 10:30am. Her plan was to ride her bike to Snohomish and have lunch with her colleague, Laura Leist. The ride to Snohomish on the Centennial Trail is about 23 miles each way. They met at Todo Mexican restaurant and enjoyed lunch on the deck overlooking the Snohomish River. Laura is an organizing and productivity consultant, speaker and author. She’s one of 25 leading organizing experts interviewed in Donna’s latest book, Secrets of Professional Organizers.

I came home and spent some time writing yesterday’s long-winded post. I put a pot pie in the oven and sat back to watch the Formula One race from Hockenheim, Germany, on the DVR. It was a great race with several battles for position, but I won’t spoil the outcome in case a reader hasn’t seen it yet.

At 3:30pm, I fired up Alana’s 2014 VW GTI. Just as I was exiting the park, Donna sent me a message saying she should be at Alana’s house in 15 minutes. Perfect timing. In fact, as I pulled into Alana’s neighborhood, I saw Donna riding up the street 150 yards ahead of me.

Last night, Donna made a pot of chili. We ate and watched the first episode of the 3-part mini-series, Klondike. I fell asleep before the end, so we’ll have to replay half of it. It was a long episode, but I think it’s worth another look.

We have cloudy skies this morning. The weather guessers are calling for a partly sunny afternoon. The forecast for the coming week isn’t too promising though. We may see more rain by Wednesday.

First Saturday Club Anniversary

My last post was a short blurb on Thursday, July 17th about computer trouble. I think this is my longest stretch without a post. My laptop runs hot. Several months ago, Donna bought me a Targus Laptop Chill Mat with fans to circulate cool air under the laptop. This seemed to help. Last week, my laptop started shutting itself off. When I restarted it, the laptop displayed an error message about a cooling fan not working and an overheat error message.

I bought this laptop about a year and a half ago. On Thursday, I rode down to Best Buy and talked to them about the issue. The warranty is only good for 12 months. They said they would need to send the laptop to their service center and it would take about 10 business days before I would get it back. The estimated cost to replace the fan was $150 minimum, plus any heat damaged components they find. This sounded expensive considering the laptop (HP Pavilion G6) costs around $300 new.

I was afraid to use the laptop. If it overheated and crashed, I might lose all of my files. On Friday, I talked to my friend and former colleague, Khaldoon Tufail. Khaldoon is very computer savvy. He told me fan issues more often than not are caused by dust and debris build-up on the fan itself. The fan is located underneath the keyboard. His advice was to start by trying to blow the area out with a compressed gas duster. If that didn’t work, I would have to open the case and replace the fan. I found instructions for this on YouTube. It requires nearly complete disassembly of the laptop.

I bought a couple of cans of compressed gas and blew gas through all of the vent openings for the fan and through the keyboard. After doing this several times, the laptop seems to function fine. In fact, I think it’s running cooler than ever. Thanks, Khaldoon!

My daughter, Alana, had Wednesday and Thursday off work at the hospital. We spent both days together with her and our granddaughters and their “adopted” friend, Andrea. Andrea is about Lainey’s age and she is currently living with them.

It was hot and sunny both days. They bought some floating mattresses on their way out to the lake. I cut the stem of a Presta valve out of an old bicycle tube and made an adapter to fill the mattresses with air, using our bicycle tire pump. This was better than trying to blow up four mattresses. The girls enjoyed time in the lake and we grilled dinner both nights.

We loaded Donna’s bike in Alana’s car and Alana drove Donna to her house on Thursday so she could ride the Centennial Trail, which passes near Alana’s house. The roads around Lake Goodwin aren’t wide enough for safe bicycling. Donna took a ride on the trail and put in 30 miles or so.

On Friday, Alana picked us up after work. She took us to a brew pub called Skookum Brewery near her home. We sampled a few brews and had nachos. Afterwards, Alana gave us her car for the weekend. We dropped her off at home and drove her car back to the Lake Goodwin RV Resort.

Donna enjoyed a hefe while Alana tried a sample flight

Donna enjoyed a hefe while Alana tried a sampler flight

Yesterday, our friends from Portland, DeWayne and Marlo Nikkila, were passing through the area. They had visited relatives in Bremerton and were taking the Bremerton-Seattle Ferry to continue their travels to Wyoming and South Dakota. The ferry would drop them off in Seattle at 11am.

We arranged to meet at an Indian restaurant called Bombay House. It was right on their route, just off of I-90 in the Eastgate area of Bellevue. DeWayne and Marlo are vegans and they love Indian food (as do we), so this restaurant fit the bill. We met at 11:30am and had lunch. I haven’t seen them since we visited them on a motorcycle tour back in 2010. They were living in North Bay, Ontario at the time. Donna and I rode our BMWs on an extended motorcycle tour that took us through Ontario. Since then, they’ve lived in Hawaii, where DeWayne was stationed, and now Portland. The last time Donna and Marlo were together was at a convention in Las Vegas in 2011.

We sat at our table and talked for over an hour. DeWayne is a retired military man now. We talked about adjusting to The Saturday Club (every day is Saturday).

Marlo and Donna

Marlo and Donna

After we left them, we drove west on I-90 to downtown Seattle. I was a little concerned because there were signs warning of lane closures on I-90 and traffic delays. We took our chances and found the traffic was so light (everyone else must have heeded the warnings), we didn’t have any problems.

Our first stop was at the Esquin Wine Merchant south of the city center. This store is in an old warehouse. They have aisle after aisle of wine – great selection and great prices. Donna picked out a few bottles.

From there, we drove downtown and parked on the corner of 2nd and Pike. We walked down the street to Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original farmers’ market. It first opened on August 17, 1907. It’s located on a steep hillside overlooking Elliott Bay. You can find great prices on some of the freshest seafood there. Most of the vendor stalls are in a large building with six levels. The building houses vendors with everything from seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables to tourist trinkets, T-shirts and fine art to restaurants and bars. You name it, you can probably find it there.

Saturday crowd at Pike Place Market

Saturday crowd at Pike Place Market

There’s one fish monger in particular with a large selection of fresh fish. They always draw a crowd. While we were standing in front of their display, someone bought some fish. One of the employees hollered, “Four black cod!” He then picked up a large, whole black cod from the crushed ice and threw it to another guy behind the counter about 15 feet away. The second guy made the catch and wrapped the fish. This was repeated until all four of the fish purchased were caught, wrapped and delivered. It was a good show.

Fish monger

Fish monger

More seafood

More seafood

We stopped at a fruit and vegetable stand and found garlic spears. These are like the garlic scapes we bought in Coeur d’Alene, but they are from elephant garlic plants. Donna bought a bunch.

Fruit and vegetable stand

Fruit and vegetable stand

We wandered among the stalls until I was feeling claustrophobic from the crowd. We walked outside the building and shopped across the street. Donna bought handmade cheese from a small store.

Fresh flower arrangements - from $5 to $20

Fresh flower arrangements – from $5 to $20

After we left Pike Place, I drove us up to Ballard, a small fishing community north of downtown. I wanted to show Donna the Chittenden Locks (also known as the Ballard Locks). These locks are part of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The locks connect the fresh water of Lake Washington and Lake Union to the salt water of Puget Sound. The locks maintain the fresh water levels 20-22 feet above the mean low tide level of the sound. This prevents salt water intrusion into the fresh water of the lakes.

We crossed the locks and went to the fish ladder. This is a unique ladder due to it’s location at the confluence of fresh and salt water. When the Corps of Engineers built the dam and locks, they blocked the natural flow of fresh water to the sound. The fish ladder provides flow from the lake for salmon and steelhead trout to return from the sea to fresh water. These fish hatch in fresh water. Then they migrate to the sea. At the end of their lifespan, they return to the fresh water to spawn.

The fish ladder has 21 weirs (or steps). The weirs are like large, square concrete buckets of water overflowing into the next lower weir. Each weir is about a foot higher than the previous weir. The fish are attracted to the weirs by the smell of the fresh water flowing through them. The fish jump up each weir, climbing to the level of the lake to continue their journey to the rivers, streams and creeks they originally came from. We could see fish in the weirs from the walkway above. We walked down to a special viewing room. Some of the weirs have a plexiglass wall, allowing us to look into the weir like an aquarium. We saw steelhead trout and Coho (silver) salmon working their way up.

Yesterday was a landmark day for me. Friday, July 19, 2013 was my last day of work at the office. I walked out the door, joined the Saturday Club and haven’t looked back. The time seems to have flown by. Paradoxically, it also seems like we’ve been so many places and have seen so many things, it couldn’t possibly have fit into a span of just one year. Wednesday will mark one year since we locked up the house for the last time and hit the road.

We ended the day by watching an old movie, Witness, starring Harrison Ford.  All in all, it was a great anniversary of my induction into The Saturday Club.