Category Archives: Alpine Coach

Last Weekend on the West Side

Donna and Sini planned to go to a house concert on Saturday. House concerts are an interesting concept. The host opens their home for the performance and will usually offer local transportation and lodging for traveling musicians. People attending the concert bring food to share and, in this case, pay $20 each which goes to the performer. About 30 people attended the concert.

House concert

Charlie Imes performing

We used Alana’s car and drove down to Edmonds where we met Sini for lunch. We had lunch at Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke. I had an episode that ruined lunch for me. I chronicled my battle with throat cancer in an earlier post and won’t rehash it here except to say I have permanent damage from radiation treatments. It left me with a chronically dry throat.

Sometimes when I swallow food, it becomes lodged in my esophagus. This was one of those times. I had a piece of fish caught in my throat. It was terrible. I excused myself and went outside the restaurant. It was painful and I knew there were only two possible outcomes – either the fish would continue to move down to my stomach or it would be expelled. After about 10 minutes of hiccuping, it moved on and I was able to finish my meal.

Donna’s plan was to go with Sini to the concert, then spend the night with Sini at her friend’s house. Sunday morning Sini was going to the Tulalip Casino with a friend at 11am and I met them there and then Donna and I made a stop at Best Buy where she bought a new laptop.

I wanted to watch the Moto GP race from Assen but my satellite reception failed in the night and the program didn’t record. Luckily there was an encore showing of the race at 1pm. I started packing the trailer, then took a break to watch a very interesting race. It was about 100 degrees in the trailer but I managed to get it 90% packed and figured I would finish up Monday morning when it would be cooler before we headed out.

We were invited to have dinner at LuAnn’s house at 6pm. LuAnn had spicy shrimp and crab legs as the main entree and a large selection of veggies from her garden to make salads.

Salad buffet spread

I brought along a bottle of IPA called Crikey from Reuben’s Brewery in the Ballard district of Seattle. I hadn’t tried this one before, but I liked the name. It wasn’t anything special, just a typical west coast IPA.

Crikey

We sat in the backyard until the mosquitos started biting – the sun doesn’t set until well after 9pm this far north at this time of year. Back at the coach, I watched the Formula One race from Azerbaijan which I had recorded during the afternoon.

Monday morning I finished packing the trailer and we headed out by 10am. It’s always a little sad to say goodbye, not knowing when we’ll be back to see my daughter and grandchildren again. We know we’ll be able to see Lainey when we return to San Diego in October – she’ll be there attending college at San Diego State University.

We went west on WA530 to the truck stop at Island Crossing. I wanted to top off the tank as I didn’t think we would have an opportunity to fill up until we were in the Spokane area. The fuel price was very reasonable at $2.49/gallon.

Then we drove east on WA 530 up to Darrington where WA530 hooks north to Rockport. At Rockport we hit WA20 – the North Cascades Highway. This highway snakes its way along the Skagit River up to Diablo and Ross Lakes. It’s one lane in each direction with lots of twists and turns and has become bumpy in many places. The North Cascades Highway closes in the winter – generally from mid-November to mid-May. They cannot keep the road clear of snow in the dead of winter. There are still some very big snowbanks along the road and lots of snow on the surrounding mountainsides.

Climbing up the west side of the Cascades, the terrain is rugged and heavily forested. Big, moss-covered fir trees dominate the terrain with blackberries and beds of ferns so thick you cannot see the ground on the forest floor. Once you cross over to the east side, the firs are replaced by pines and the forest opens up considerably.

We crossed Rainy Pass at an elevation of about 4,900 – we started out at 300 feet above sea level in Arlington. Then we dropped down a bit and climbed again over Washington Pass at 5.477 feet above sea level. At the summit, Donna noticed something in the driver’s side rearview mirror. She pointed it out to me and I saw we had a basement door open. I pulled over and found the rear compartment just ahead of the rear wheels had popped open. I keep my portable compressor and accessories in there. Everything looked to be intact – nothing spilled out onto the highway. I always check the doors and make sure they’re locked before we move. The latch was in the locked position, but something is worn and if I give the door a yank, it pops open. Hitting a bumpy section of road must have made it pop. It’s on my “to do” list now.

WA20 took us directly to Winthrop. There’s a four-way stop at Riverside Avenue which is the main drag through town. Going right keeps you on WA20. We wanted to go straight ahead up Bridge Street to Castle Avenue, but Bridge Street was closed for construction. We were directed to go left to the north side of town where we found the end of Castle Avenue and doubled back to the Pine Near RV Park.

Pine Near doesn’t have much in the way of amenities, but it has large pull-through grass sites and is located on a bluff overlooking downtown Winthrop. Winthrop has a population of about 400 people in town with about 2,000 permanent residents in the area. It’s a western themed tourist destination.

A few rain drops fell as I was setting up. The owner of the park, Anna, told me not to worry – it would pass quickly. She was right and the thermometer stayed at 89 degrees!

From Pine Near RV Park, I walked across Castle Avenue through the Shafer Museum – a collection of pioneer artifacts – and down a terraced boardwalk into town. Meanwhile Donna was working on an article – she has a few assignments to complete while we’re here.

Terraced boardwalk

As I walked through town, I found a new plaza called Confluence Park. It’s a small square with landscaping, paver stones and benches overlooking the confluence of the Chewuch and Methow Rivers.

View of the Chewuch joining the Methow River at Confluence Park

The park was dedicated last October – it wasn’t here when we stayed in Winthrop last summer. I made a stop for a cold one at Schoolhouse Brewery.

Pine Near RV Park – site 11

Last night I enjoyed an IPA from Elysian Brewery called Space Dust.

I had it with dinner in a pint glass Alana gave me as a Father’s Day present.

Around 9pm, I stepped outside and shot a photo of a pink sunset.

Pink sunset in Winthrop

This morning I walked down to the Rocking Horse Bakery across the street from the terraced boardwalk and picked up breakfast sandwiches for Donna and me. That’s one of the things we like about this RV park – everything is within walking distance, yet it’s still very quiet and has a country atmosphere.

Rocking Horse Bakery

We’re thinking about extending for an extra day here, but that will mean we have to move to another site. I don’t like making a move within a park – I have to secure everything just like I was going to head out on the road. We’ll see how it works out.

Not So Simple Repair

Our granddaughter, Lainey, is through with high school and also had the day off work on Thursday. After lunch on Thursday, we took some time to have a discussion on safe handling of firearms in preparation for a trip to the gun range. Back in the 90s, I was a certified Washington State Hunter Safety instructor. I also taught a class at Darrington High School on safe handling of firearms. The focus of the class was how to handle a firearm and also to recognize unsafe handling if you are ever in situation where someone is showing a gun.

After going through the safety lesson, we went to Norpoint Gun Range, about three miles from here. Lainey got to shoot a handgun for the first time. She found it much harder to shoot accurately than she imagined – it’s not like on TV! Donna also practiced and I had my share of rounds down range. Altogether we went through 250 rounds of ammo.

Lainey at the range

I’m putting a group into the top bullseye

Lainey had fun learning to handle a gun. I think it’s an important skill to have. Anyone can can encounter firearms and if you don’t have a clue about how to safely handle or operate one, it can have tragic results.

There was another project I’d been putting off since we arrived here at my daughter Alana’s house in Arlington, Washington. The cord for the pull start on her lawn mower broke and needed to be replaced. I wasn’t putting it off so much as I was waiting for a day that wasn’t dark, dreary and raining. Working on the mower in a dark, cold garage wasn’t my preference – I was hoping for a sunny day to tackle the job in the driveway.

The weather took a turn for the better Thursday afternoon. I dove into the lawn mower repair. Replacing the pull-start cord seemed like a simple task at first glance. Well, as usual I had to start peeling the onion. First I took the plastic cover off the top of the Briggs and Stratton engine. Then I found the sheet metal housing for the starter pulley was riveted in place. I was hoping for sheet metal screw or bolts. I’m sure the rivets are used because it makes manufacturing simpler – no tapping threads for bolts and not enough clearance for screws.

Once I drilled out the rivets and had the starter pulley assembly in hand, I could see this may be challenging. I needed to wind the recoil mechanism of the starter pulley to tension it and then feed the pull-cord through two holes. Holding the assembly – which comprised the sheet metal housing, pulley and internal recoil spring  – upside down in my hand, I didn’t pay enough attention to which way it was winding. It only provided sufficient spring tension in one direction, so I tensioned it and used a small punch tool to hold it in place while I installed the cord.

Sounds simple, but the cord was a little frayed and nearly impossible to pass through the two holes I needed to get it through. I tried cutting it clean and using a little super glue to stiffen it. No go. Then I used a length of safety wire and attached the wire with the thought of pulling the rope through. I got about halfway through then it was stuck. I had to use a small punch and hammer to get it through.

I temporarily attached the assembly with two rivets – instead of all four – to try it out. No go. The spring didn’t pull the start cord back – it was turning the pulley in the wrong direction. By then I was through. I figured it was best to attack it fresh on Friday morning. The weather forecast for the next several days is good.

Clear skies at sunset on Thursday

On Friday morning, I got after the mower project again. I drilled out the rivets I’d installed the day before and went through the assembly steps again. This time I worked the recoil spring in the right direction, but it didn’t feel right. When I turned counter-clockwise as I should, it would provide some tension then it seemed to slip. In a clockwise direction, it increased tension with every turn. Puzzling to me. I managed to get the rope holes aligned with the peak tension in a counter-clockwise direction and went through the agonizing steps of threading the rope again. This time I got a little smarter and wrapped the frayed end of the rope with tape, then cut through the tape with a knife to make a clean, tight end.

Top of the mower disassembled

I put it all together and installed two rivets to test it. No go. It wouldn’t reel in the pull-starter cord. There wasn’t sufficient tension. I took it all apart again. This time I went deeper and pulled the pulley assembly down to it’s component pieces. I found the problem. The spring inside the assembly was shot. Apparently when the pull-start cord broke, the pulley assembly rewound without any resistance and the spring was damaged. The spring is supposed to be a flat section of spring steel wound like a main spring on a mechanical watch. What I saw was a spring folded back on itself with random wavy areas.

Here’s the problem

I went to Arlington to the mower shop there – about two miles away. They didn’t have the part. They said they usually stock it and would have some on Tuesday. No good. We will leave on Monday and there’s no way Alana can reassemble what I took apart. The guy there told me the only other possibility was 20 miles away at The Shop in Mount Vernon.

I called The Shop in Mount Vernon, but only got voice mail. I took a chance and rode the Spyder up there. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the 70s under blue skies. I went up SR9 to Lake McMurray, enjoying the sunshine and views all the way. This two-lane highway meanders through woods and the traffic was very light. From there I went west and up I-5 to Mount Vernon.

When I got to The Shop I found what I was looking for. They told me they try to always have this part on hand as it’s a common replacement.

New spring and pulley

I also bought five feet of cord thinking I shouldn’t be using the old cord to pull-start after this ordeal – after all it broke once and would likely break again sooner than a new one.

With all of the practice attempts at completing this repair, I had it back together in short order.

Repaired assembly riveted in place

A pull test had the mower running in three pulls. It worked perfectly and retracted the pull-start cord as it should.

Job done!

While I was working on the mower, I had another strange thing occur. In my last post, I ranted about Amazon not making good on a guaranteed delivery date. They offered me options for return and refund, but I thought it best to wait and see before I took up the offer for refund.

Friday morning I looked at the tracking info again and it showed out for delivery – scheduled for Monday June 26th. This didn’t make sense to me. If it was out for delivery, why wouldn’t it deliver that day? Well, the UPS guy showed up while I was working on the mower. He had two large boxes on a handcart and two smaller ones. I recognized one of the smaller ones as something I’d ordered, the other was for Alana. The two large boxes turned out to be an error as they were addressed to someone else.

He said, “Wait, I must have grabbed the wrong boxes, I show two more at this address.” He came back with the tires I ordered for Donna that were guaranteed to arrive Friday but showed they would arrive on Monday. Apparently it was a problem with the UPS tracking – the tires arrived on time.

What’s wrong with this picture – hint – I took this shot on June 23rd

Donna was out with Alana while I was working on the mower. They stopped at the computer repair place where the guy transferred the data from her hard drive to an external drive so she can easily set up a new laptop. Then they shopped at WinCo and Costco.

I grilled wild Alaskan sockeye salmon that Donna bought and we dined at the table in the front yard. Warm, sunny days are so much nicer than the weather we had last week!

Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon

We have another sunny day ahead and the temperature should reach the 80s. Donna and I plan to meet Sini for lunch in Edmonds. I need to start prepping the trailer for travel. We plan to pull out Monday and head over the North Cascade Highway to Winthrop for our next stop.

Mishaps and Miscommunication

I haven’t posted for a few days as I haven’t had much to say. Sunday was a cloudy day with periods of rain. My middle daughter, Jamie, along with her significant other, Francisco and family hit the road. They planned to go back to Texas via California so they could visit Francisco’s cousin along the way. It was great having some time together and hanging with her family.

Monday was another gloomy day. There was a thick, low overcast ceiling. Although some sunlight penetrated the cloud cover, it was diffuse light and the clouds were so thick you really couldn’t pinpoint the position of the sun. A light mist fell most of the day punctuated by occasional large rain drops.

In the evening, we went over to my ex-wife’s house for dinner. LuAnn grilled fish burgers and also had hot dogs for the kids. We had a send-off for my youngest daughter, Shauna, as she had a red-eye flight back to Washington D.C.

Tuesday’s weather was more of the same. The daily high temperature only hit 64 degrees – a few degrees cooler than the previous days. With the damp mist it feels colder than recorded. My oldest daughter, Alana, had to report back to work after having six days off. She was back to 12-hour shifts in the emergency room at Providence Hospital in Everett.

I spent most of my time indoors reading books. I don’t get on very well with the sunless, wet weather. Donna managed to get in a couple of bike rides when the rain stopped for a couple of hours.

Donna had another laptop mishap Sunday night when her wine glass toppled right into the keyboard of her laptop. It was up and running at the time but shut itself down. We let it sit and dry out for a couple of days but couldn’t get it to work. It sounded like the hard drive was spinning and we could see the power indicator light up, but the screen remained dark. On Tuesday afternoon when we had a break in the rain – it was still misty out – we rode the Spyder to a computer repair place in Marysville. The guy there was able to get the laptop to boot up using a remote keyboard and monitor.

We took this as a good sign. He said oftentimes when liquid is spilled into the keyboard it remains there as the bottom of the keyboard has a plastic liner. If that was the case, he could replace the keyboard and check everything out and she would be back in business. We crossed out fingers and left the laptop with him for an assessment.

Wednesday morning the cloud cover persisted. The computer repair guy called with bad news. Liquid had damaged the motherboard and fried a cable for the display. It wouldn’t be cost effective to repair the laptop.

Meanwhile I was having a couple of customer service challenges. I needed to replace the jack on our cargo trailer. If you’ve been reading my posts you might remember how I mis-judged the severity of a dip at the Elks lodge driveway in Palmdale and damaged our jack when it dragged on the pavement.

I called the TrailersPlus outfit in Marysville Tuesday to see if they had a replacement jack. When I asked the person on the phone for the parts department, I was put on hold for a minute. When they came back on the line they said there was no answer in Marysville as everyone was tied up with customers. They took my number and said someone would call me back shortly. I realized I wasn’t talking to someone in Marysville, I was talking to the TrailersPlus call center, wherever that may be.

A few hours later, I hadn’t received a call back so I phoned again. This time I was told the Marysville store is extremely busy and they’re operating on reduced hours. Really? When the store is extremely busy you shorten the hours of operation? He said it was necessary so they could handle paperwork and not be serving customers all the time. Wow! What kind of business model is that?

After lunch on Wednesday, I borrowed our granddaughter Lainey’s car. I had to pick up Donna’s laptop and I also wanted to see if I could find a jack for the trailer. I stopped at an RV and trailer supply store nearby in Arlington. They had jacks but not the one I needed. I was told they would have it on Thursday if I wanted to come back. The price was $61.

After I picked up Donna’s laptop, I stopped at TrailersPlus since I was nearby. I went in the front entrance and found an empty lobby area. I looked around and found a couple of empty offices. I walked through a door into the shop area. Outside the shop, I saw a couple of guys shooting the breeze and smoking. They asked me if I needed something. I told them what I was looking for and one of the guys said he would get someone to help me.

A couple of minutes later, he came back with another guy that motioned for me to follow him. We went back into the front lobby area. I told him what I was looking for. He hit a few keys on a computer and told me he had the jack and it was $29. Deal. I bought the jack and a new sand pad – the old pad was bent when the jack dragged. While he was entering the sale, I heard the phone ringing on three occasions. It was ignored by everyone. A few employees walked in and out of the lobby area but as far as I could tell no one was doing anything useful. This store is definitely in need of competent management.

Damaged jack on top, new replacement below

When I came home, I was able to change out the jack in short order. I was a little leery of the threads tapped into the frame for the jack mount. The mounting bolts took a mighty whack when the jack was pulled across the pavement. I used thread locking compound and was careful not to over tighten the jack mounts.

Job done!

The other customer service story was totally unexpected. On Monday, I ordered a new set of tires for Donna’s bike with my Amazon Prime account. At checkout, before I proceeded to finalize the order, I confirmed the shipping info. It said “Delivery Guaranteed Friday June 23.” I placed the order.

I received an e-mail Wednesday from Amazon telling me the order had shipped and it had tracking information. When I tracked it, the arrival date was Monday, June 26th! We are booked at the Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop on Monday. I called Amazon customer service. The representative I talked to definitely wasn’t a native English speaker. I was pretty sure I was talking to someone in India and his accent was so heavy, I had to ask him to repeat his question a few times. He couldn’t get the address I gave him or the order number right – he kept transposing the numbers and I had to repeat the info several times. It made me think of the times I was in Germany and tried to communicate with my rudimentary language skills – I think the phrase I most often used was “nochmal langsam bitte” or “repeat slowly please.”

After we got through my account information – which took about 15 minutes – I explained the problem with the order and the delivery guarantee. He put me on hold a couple of times saying  “Please on hold” and returning with the phrase “Thank you for on hold.” He said I would receive the items on Monday. I explained again how that wouldn’t work for me and they had guaranteed Friday delivery. He said it was “in shipment” and nothing could be done. I hung up frustrated.

To Amazon’s credit, I later received and e-mail giving me return options. I think I’ll wait until Friday to see if the items miraculously deliver before I choose a return and refund option.

On Wednesday afternoon, the skies cleared and we had bright sunshine. Donna rode south on the Centennial Trail and got 26 miles in. The forecast calls for much warmer temperatures with highs in the 80s by the weekend. This is more like the weather we’re used too – just in time for us to prepare to leave.

Lainey’s Graduation and Party

We drove with my daughter Alana to the Xfinity Arena in Everett Thursday evening for the Arlington High School graduation ceremony. It was hard for me to believe my granddaughter, Lainey, was graduating from high school. Every year seems to whiz by faster and faster.

They had 350 students graduating – the ceremony lasted a little over two hours. Afterwards we made our way through the crowds and met up on a street corner to shoot a few photos. I had my camera bag and my trusty Canon 10D – I haven’t used this camera in a few years. I mostly just point and shoot with my smartphone. We were able to shoot the pictures before the rain started falling again.

Lainey and Alana

By the time we finished up with photos and headed out, it was after 10pm. We met up at Buffalo Wild Wings at Smokey Point and had a few beers and food. We didn’t get home until after midnight – I don’t stay up that late usually.

The rain moved out of the area Friday afternoon. Things were looking promising for the graduation party on Saturday. Donna was able to get a bicycle ride in, then we took Alana’s car and shopped at WinCo Foods.

Saturday morning we stayed dry and the weather forecast called for zero percent chance of rain. Everyone got busy preparing for the party at LuAnn’s house. I grilled marinated chicken thighs on the Traeger that was then chopped into pollo asado taco meat. I had to make three batches as the grill wasn’t nearly large enough for the amount of chicken I grilled. Meanwhile Alana and Shauna were grilling marinated beef at Luann’s house.

I pulled the last of the chicken off the grill and we walked over to LuAnn’s house a little past 2pm. The house was all decorated for the party.

Props for selfie photos

The dining room table was made into a large taco bar with tortillas, meats, beans, rice and all the fixings.

Taco bar

There was enough food to feed an army. I don’t know for sure how many people came – people filtered in and out all afternoon. I think there had to be at least 40. We hardly made a dent in all the food – lots of leftovers were sent home with guests.

Backyard party

Remember that zero percent chance of rain forecast? Well, this is western Washington in June. I don’t think there’s ever a zero percent chance of rain here at this time of year. A few raindrops started falling. Looking at the Radar Express app on my phone, I could see a large area of precipitation to the south of us.

Zero percent chance of rain!

When the rain started to come down steadily,a couple of EZup canopies were quickly deployed.

Party on under the canopy

After lots of food and too much beer, we called it a night and headed back to our coach. I was done in.

It rained again this morning but the weather guessers say no rain this afternoon. We’ll see.

All Together in Arlington

We’ve had a mixed bag of weather the first half of this week. It’s been relatively chilly – highs in the low 60s – and rain showers off and on with brief periods of sunshine.

My daughters are all here now. My middle daughter, Jamie, left with her family from the Corpus Christi, Texas area Saturday night at 10:30pm local time. They pushed through the night and ended up stopping at a hotel only once before they made it here to Arlington, Washington early Tuesday morning. Their trip was more than 2,300 miles!

On Tuesday evening, we got together at LuAnn and Jerry’s house and had beer and pizza. LuAnn is my ex-wife and mother of our daughters. Jerry is her husband. We all get along very well.

Later that night, Alana, Jamie and LuAnn picked up my youngest daughter, Shauna, who flew in from Washington D.C. So we’re all together again for the first time since May of 2015 in San Diego for Shauna’s graduation from law school.

Wednesday was breezy and cold. I ran the heat pumps in the coach several times during the day. The girls went out to get their nails done and do some shopping. In the afternoon, Donna ran into town and over the hill to the Safeway grocery store. She bought a few things and loaded them in a backpack and walked back. She likes to do this whenever she can as a way to to combine exercise and an errand.

When she got back, she made turkey burger patties with green chiles and cumin spice. I grilled 16 patties on the Weber Q – two sets of six and one batch of four. We all sat on the lawn and talked and ate. The breeze made it feel much cooler than the actual temperature of about 62 degrees.

After burgers on the lawn

We decided to move over to Luann and Jerry’s place – a couple of blocks away – as they had gas heaters in the backyard. We sat and talked over a few beers and the kids played badminton – Donna joined in a game as well.

Some of the extended family – Alana and Kevin facing the camera with our graduating granddaughter, Lainey on the right next to Donna

Jennalee, Donna, Gabi, Shauna and Jerry

When we arrived here last Saturday, there were a few packages waiting for us. Donna had ordered a bathing suit and I had three folding Spyderco knives. In the last eight months, I’ve ordered seven Spyderco locking blade folding knives.

One of the knives I ordered is a diminutive Spyderco Dragonfly – a small knife with a blade length of 2.25″ that weighs less than and ounce and a half! I bought this knife for Donna as she had difficulty handling some of the larger knives.

Donna has been carrying the knife every day in her pocket or clipped to her shorts and has found it to be very useful. The blade is very sharp and made of VG10 steel – so it’s durable too. Before, when she needed to open a package – whether it was a cardboard box or plastic wrapper – she would retrieve scissors. Now she just reaches for her knife and says she doesn’t know what she did without it!

Spyderco knives

Collecting knives is a lot less expensive than say high-end watches or cars (something I’ve done previously) and they don’t take much space. My assortment of knives is somewhat eclectic at this point.  Pictured above are the seven Spydercos.

I’ve gone for a variety of blade steels, handles, scale material and locking type. From left to right is a Paramiltary 2 with CPM S30V balde and G10 scales with a compression lock for one-hand operation. Then there’s a Manix 2 LW with a CTS XHP blade and Fiberglass Reinforced Co-Polymer (FRCP) scales. Next is a Manix 2 LW with CTS BD1 steel and FRCP scales – the Manix knives have a caged ball bearing lock. Next is a Tenacious with 8Cr13Mov steel and G10 scales and a frame lock. Then there’s a Delica 4 with VG10 blade and Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon (FRN) scales. Next up is a Chaparral with CTS XHP steel and carbon fiber scales and last is Donna’s Dragonfly with VG10 steel and FRN scales. The last three all have back lock mechanisms.

If I continue to collect Spyderco knives, I need to decide on a direction. Do I continue to find different types or do I focus on something more specific? One guy on a forum started collecting a year ago and now has 23 versions of the Paramilitary 2 – all with different blade and/or scale combinations.

Tonight our granddaughter Lainey graduates from Arlington High School. The graduation is thankfully indoors at an arena in Everett. It’s raining out and under 60 degrees as I type this. The forecast calls for rain to continue through Friday. Hopefully the weather guessers have it right for Saturday – they call for warmer temperatures and only a 10% chance of rain. Lainey’s graduation party is planned for Saturday in LuAnn and Jerry’s backyard.

 

June in Washington

Our plan for Donna to take advantage of the bicycling opportunity in Vancouver, Washington didn’t pan out. It rained off and on while we were there. That’s June west of the Cascades in Washington!

We pulled out of the Vancouver Elks lodge before 10 am and headed up I-5. We planned on a short drive of about 105 miles, stopping at Cabela’s in Lacey. I didn’t want to drive through Seattle on Friday afternoon. We thought it would be better to stay overnight in Lacey, then head up to my daughter Alana’s house on Saturday morning.

We’ve made overnight stops at this Cabela’s store in the past. They have a large lot and allow overnight parking in the west lot. They also have a dump station. Nally – our Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS – directed us to exit at Martin Way and follow it west to Carpenter Road NE. This wasn’t a familiar route and I wondered how it would work out. It was a different way to Cabela’s because Britton Parkway had been extended to join Draham Street. In the past, we couldn’t get to Cabela’s from the west side, we had to continue east to the Marvin Road exit and backtrack west to find Cabela’s.

We found a few other RVs and a couple of 18-wheeler trucks in the west lot and claimed a space. Donna and I went into Cabela’s and had lunch in the restaurant there. We shopped for a bit then I headed back to the coach while Donna continued shopping. It was pouring rain when I went back to the coach.

When we stayed here before, later in the season, Donna picked blackberries in the woods to the west of the Cabela’s lot. Not this time – we were here too early for the blackberry crop. Saturday morning Donna went back to the Cabela’s store and bought sandals. Her receipt showing her purchase entitled us to a code for the use of their dump station. If you aren’t a Cabela’s credit card holder or haven’t made a purchase during your stay there, it costs five bucks to dump your holding tanks.

I dumped our tanks and we were out of Cabela’s lot before 10am. We had another 110 miles to go before we reached Alana’s place in Arlington. It was a good choice to avoid Friday afternoon traffic in Seattle. Saturday traffic was bad enough. On the south side of town where I-90 meets I-5, there’s always a traffic tie-up. It’s one of the most poorly designed stretches of interstate highway I’ve ever encountered. There are four lanes of northbound traffic plus a carpool lane. The carpool lane ends, forcing that traffic into the left lane of northbound traffic right where the left lane becomes an exit only lane to downtown Seattle. At the same point, the far right lane becomes and exit only as well, forcing all northbound through traffic into two lanes. This is followed by traffic exiting I-90 coming into I-5. What a nightmare.

There’s a similarly flawed design north of Everett where the trestle from US2 joins I-5. Left lane must exit followed by right lane must exit while traffic is merging from US2.

We pulled off I-5 at WA530 and I took a right turn at 59th Avenue. This is the back way into Alana’s neighborhood and I found it easier to navigate in our big rig than the usual way of coming in from 211th to Ronning Road. What I didn’t think about was the direction we would be facing when I backed our rig into her driveway. I had to get us turned around to get the trailer into the driveway. This isn’t easily done here as all of the side streets are dead ends. I was able to pull into a side street and make a three-point turn to get us oriented in the proper direction.

Alana’s driveway is long enough to accommodate our 64′ length. We were set up by 12:30pm.

Our moochdocking spot in Alana’s driveway

When we stayed here last year, I wired up a 50amp electric service plug to her panel in the garage, so we have electricity and don’t need to run the generator. The four nights of boondocking to get here resulted in about 20 hours of generator run-time.

We’ll be moochdocking here for a couple of weeks. Our granddaughter, Lainey, graduates from high school this Thursday. Alana has a graduation party planned for Saturday at her mother’s house which is only a couple of blocks away from here.

As soon as we were set up, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to the Boys and Girls Club where our other granddaughter, Gabi, had a softball game. We sat with Alana’s mother and step-dad, Luann and Jerry, and watched Gabi’s last game.

Gabi getting her game ball signed by the coaches

Alana is an ER nurse at Providence Hospital in Everett. She got off of work early and came home around 5pm. Donna made crispy tarragon bread crumb cod for dinner and served it with a side of black rice and sauteed spinach with lemon. We all sat outside and ate around a card table in lawn chairs.

Crispy tarragon bread crumb cod, spinach with lemon and black rice

It was cool outside – the high was only 62 degrees. Sunday was a warmer day – the high hit 70 degrees and we had sunshine. I watched the Moto GP race from Catalunya, Spain and the Formula One race from Montreal, Canada. Meanwhile Donna rode her bicycle up the Centennial Trail and got 25 miles in.

For dinner I grilled Argentina pink shrimp that Donna marinated in a jerk sauce for dinner and served with mango salsa, brown rice and broccoli for dinner.

I had a nice IPA from Pelican Brewery in Tillamook, Oregon. This IPA is made with a single hop type – Mosaic. It’s unusual to brew IPA with only one type of hops and I think they made a winner here.

Mosaic IPA

Donna had an American Blonde Ale, a farm-to-can ale brewed with local lemons that she bought in Corning, California when we stopped at The Olive Pit. It was Lemon Meringue Pie ale from Old Glory Brewing in Sacramento, California. She loved it.

Old Glory Lemon Meringue Pie ale

This morning we have a light misty rain falling. There’s rain likely in the forecast for the next week – it’s western Washington in June, right? My other two daughters, Jamie and Shauna, will be coming here in the next couple of days. It will be the first time we’ve all been together since Shauna’s graduation from law school in May of 2015.

 

The Road North

When we pulled out of Lake Shastina Tuesday morning, we vowed to return for longer stay in the future. It’s such a beautiful and quiet setting. Our route took us north on Big Springs Road to County Road A12 – also called the 97-99 Cutoff. This took us west to I-5. We were surprised at the number of large houses we passed along the way. I wondered aloud where the money was coming from and whether these were primary residences or vacation homes. It’s a pretty remote area.

We drove north through Yreka and crossed the border into Oregon. A few miles past the border, we reached the Siskiyou Mountain Summit – this is the highest point on I-5 at 4,310 feet. Once we were over the pass, we hit a seven-mile 7% downgrade. We dropped over 2,300 feet of elevation. I was thanking Jacobs Engineering for their marvelous engine compression brake – affectionately known as a Jake brake. The Jake brake on our Cummins ISL engine has two settings – low and high. By toggling back and forth between the two, I was able to control our downhill speed without using the regular service brakes – I only stabbed at the brake pedal a couple of times when we approached tight curves in the road.

We passed through Ashland and Medford. The interstate has a series of summits as it undulates through the mountains. We would quickly climb a thousand feet or so, then immediately drop back down only to repeat the process time and again. We crossed both the south and north Umqua River. North of Roseburg, we pulled off at Sutherlin – a small town on the North Umpqua River. Our destination was the SKP Timber Valley RV Park. As Escapees members, we were able to dry camp in the park for a five-dollar fee.

We found a site long enough to back into without dropping the trailer and set up.

Our site at SKP Timber Valley

Donna had a Skype call as a guest speaker for an online organizing course. She set up shop outside to take the call.

Donna’s office Tuesday afternoon

A park member served as the welcome wagon and stopped by to drop off gifts. She gave us a cat toy made by someone in the park and Ozark the cat loves it. The toy has a wild turkey feather sewn in. We saw a couple of turkeys as we entered the park.

We had a quiet night but after sunrise, I woke up several times to the sound of turkeys gobbling. After slumbering for a while longer, I got out of bed. I saw wild turkeys strutting in the street in front of our coach. I went outside as they were moving away from us and tried to get closer to them. Wild turkeys are usually very wary creatures and it’s not often that you can approach them. These turkeys were obviously used to people in the park and came out of the woods to forage around – they didn’t seem too afraid of people.

A couple of them were strutting with their tails fanned out and feathers puffed up. I managed to get close enough to take a couple of photos.

Wild turkeys struttin’ their stuff

 

Walking back to the coach, I saw a jackrabbit slinking through a site.

Jack rabbit slinking away

There’s no shortage of wildlife in the area!

We hit the road just before 10am and continued our journey northward. We were still in hilly country but the climbs were short followed by short descents until we reached Eugene and then the terrain was flatter through the Willamette Valley.

Cruising along on the flat terrain, I noticed our transmission temperature seemed abnormally high. It was running around 210 degrees. The engine coolant temperature stayed normal – ranging from 180 to 195 on climbs and staying around 182-184 on the flat stretch of road. I thought it was odd. After a while, the transmission temperature started to increase again. When it reach 220 degrees, I became concerned. There was a rest stop a few miles away. By the time we pulled off at the rest stop it was at 224 degrees – much higher than I’ve ever seen in the past.

With the engine idling and the transmission in neutral, the temperature quickly dropped to 184 degrees. I used the Allison transmission key pad to check the fluid level and interrogate the control unit for trouble codes. The fluid level was fine and no diagnostic trouble codes were recorded. I found my Allison manual and read through it. It said high temperature is worrisome when the sump temperature exceeds 250 degrees, so we were still in safe territory. However, it wasn’t making sense to me. Why was the transmission running that hot when the engine temperature remained normal and there wasn’t any reason for the drive train to be under more stress than normal?

We got back on I-5 and continued on our way. The transmission temperature remained normal for several miles, then started climbing again. When it reached 211 degrees, I shifted down from sixth gear to fifth gear. The temperature dropped to 204 degrees. I still can’t make sense of this. As we approached Portland, I shifted back into drive and the transmission temperature stayed in the 190s.

Driving through Portland, Oregon is one of my least favorite drives – it ranks right up there with Seattle. We hit I-84 on the south side of the Columbia River and followed it to I-205. This took us over the Columbia River and into Washington. We pulled into the Vancouver Washington Elks lodge around 2:30pm.

Our dry camping spot at the Vancouver Elks Lodge

We plan to boondock here for two nights. Our thinking was Donna could get some bicycle mileage in here – she bicycled when we stayed here last year. While we were driving, Donna had a beef stew in the crock pot. The aroma was wonderful! After we set up and paid for two nights, we took a walk to the Fred Meyer Supermarket about a half mile from here. The crock pot stew continued to simmer.

Then we went into the lodge for a cold one. When we came back to the coach, I was reading a book when I thought to check the battery condition. Oh no! The inverter was powering the crock pot from the house batteries and I had run them below 12 volts! I went to start the generator but it was dead. Hitting the start button did nothing.

I started our engine to put some juice back into the batteries from the alternator. I still couldn’t get anything from the generator start button. It didn’t make sense to me, we had run the generator that morning without any issues. I went out checked the connections at the battery bank. Sure enough, the cable that runs up to generator had corroded and pulled out of the connector.

I made a temporary fix by clamping the cable to the terminal with Vise-Grip pliers. Today I’ll have to clean the cable and connector, strip the insulation back and reconnect the cable.

MacGuyver temporary solution.

With the temporary fix in place, the generator fired up and recharged the batteries.

Meanwhile, Donna dished out the stew and it was excellent!

Crock pot beef stew

This morning we woke up to rain. I hope it clears up so Donna can get her ride in and I can work on the generator/battery cable.

Lake Shastina

Donna hit the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail Sunday for the fourth day in a row. She rode 24 miles, bringing her four-day total to 110 miles. She’ll continue to train and up her mileage. I don’t expect her to have any problems when she rides the RAGBRAI event across Iowa in July. The mileage on her bike earned her a Milk Stout from Bike Dog Brewing!

Bike Dog Milk Stout

We pulled out of Cal Expo RV Park just before 10am and hit the road Monday. It was an easy drive across the I-80 Business Loop to I-5 north. As we put Sacramento in our rear view mirrors, the traffic thinned out. The interstate narrows down to two lanes north of Woodland. It wasn’t an issue until we hit construction which restricted it to one lane. There were plenty of warning signs to merge left as the right lane was closed. However, drivers refused to move over and merge smoothly. Instead they stayed in the right lane as long as possible trying eke out an advantage which resulted in everyone coming to a stop when their lane closed and forced them left.

I fueled up at the Pilot/Flying J in Orland and then we traveled another 11 miles and stopped at the Olive Pit in Corning. We always make this stop when we pass through this area. The Olive Pit has every kind of olive you can imagine. I picked up a few jars of bleu cheese stuffed olives – my favorite martini garnish.

Back on I-5 north we could see Mount Shasta dead ahead. Also, to the northeast we could see the snow covered peak of Mount Lassen. When we traveled through here last year we didn’t see much snow on Lassen and lots of bare areas on Shasta. This year these mountains still have plenty of snow.

Shasta Lake also looked much different than the past few years. Instead of low lake levels and docks sitting on dry land, the lake was nearly at full capacity. Donna read that the lake was at 96% of its high level.

It was quite warm outside – we fired up the generator and had the front roof air conditioner running. We crossed the Black Butte Summit at 3,912 feet above sea level and continued down to Weed, California. We exited on CA97 at Weed and drove through town then went four miles up CA97. We turned off at Big Springs Road then took Jackson Ranch Road and went to the public access area of Lake Shastina, our destination for the day. We arrived around 3pm.

The public access area is BLM land and offers up to 14 nights of free dry camping. We set up right next to the lake.

Our boondocking spot at Lake Shastina

Windshield view of the lake

The lake level is very high – a few trees have their trunks under water. Donna hiked over to the boat launch north of our site before dinner. She made a salad for herself with leftover green chile turkey burger from the night before. I heated up leftover chicken and apple sausage with sauteed onions and apples and rosemary and enjoyed an IPA from Modern Times in San Diego with it. This IPA was called Orderville and had a pale color. It was light and refreshing in spite of its 7.2% ABV. They describe it as an aggressive, fragrant IPA that blends the fruit-forward character of Mosaic hops with the resinous stickiness of a variety of dank hops. I don’t know what dank hops are, but it was a very good IPA.

Modern Times Orderville

The lake was calm and glassy before sunset.

Glassy lake southwest of our site

Just before I stepped out to take a sunset shot, a fishing boat sped by and riled the surface. I took a shot of a fiery sunset. A few moments later, as the sun dropped behind the mountains, the clouds and lake took on a pink hue.

Sunset

Change of color a few moments later

This morning Donna went for a hike at 7am. She hiked up the mountain to the north of our site. There’s a trail that zig-zags through a few switchbacks up the mountain. She took a few photos on her hike.

View of Mount Shasta in the background

Looking down at Lake Shastina from the trail

Looking south from the trail – our site is at the base of the mountain

This is truly a beautiful spot that we may very well return to someday and stay for a longer visit. Today we’ll push on northward. Our destination for the day is the SKP park in Sutherlin, Oregon. We’ll probably stay one night there and continue north to Vancouver, Washington.

Fifty Years Later

While Donna was out bicycling on the Jedediah Smith Memorial trail on Friday, I took the Spyder over to my old neighborhood. My family lived here in Sacramento when I was a kid, from second grade through fifth grade. We moved into a newly constructed house in the second phase of a development called Glenbrook. My paternal grandparents lived nearby in North Highlands near McClelland Air Base.

When we first moved in, our street (Midfield Way) was more or less at the end of the development. To the east, behind our backyard, hop fields filled the landscape all the way to the American River. When I was in third grade, the developers acquired the farmland and the hops were taken out. A new elementary school, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary, was built behind our house. Our back fence bordered the school ball field and playground. The school opened in time for my fourth grade year.

Our house fifty years later

Bancroft Elementary

When I was in fourth and fifth grades, I would walk home from school at lunch time and sit at the dining table where my mom had lunch ready for me. I’d watch the news on TV, then hop the backyard fence and join my pals on the playground. I don’t think kids in elementary school are allowed to leave the campus at lunch time anymore.

On the way back to the Cal Expo RV Park, I stopped at the Raley’s Supermarket on Folsom Boulevard. I wrote about entering and winning a pie eating contest at this store when I was a kid in an earlier post. The last time I was in this store was 1967 – wow, fifty years ago!

Donna’s bike ride took her on the trail toward downtown Sacramento on Thursday afternoon. Although it was scenic, she wasn’t too impressed by the number of homeless encampments in that direction. On Friday, she followed the trail upriver and liked it better. Later we took the Spyder down Howe Avenue to Fair Oaks Boulevard. I was looking for the Capitol Beer and Tap Room. I pulled into the strip mall lot where I thought it was, but couldn’t find it. There was a building surrounded by scaffolding and obvious construction work. Donna pointed out a sign that said Open During Construction and another smaller sign with an arrow pointing to the back of the building that said Capitol Beer. We found it!

Sudwerks Bourbonator

They had a large selection of beers on tap. I tried an IPA and then I had their special – Sudwerks Bourbonator. This is a bourbon barrel aged ale. It wasn’t bad, not too heavy although it was 9% ABV, but it was a little sweet for my taste. Donna had a a stout from Abnormal called Mocha Mostra. She liked it at first but it left a heavy aftertaste. So she followed up with a five-ounce pour of Bike Party Pils.

Donna headed out on her bicycle for a longer ride on Saturday. The previous two days she rode 20 miles each day. Her plan was to ride the trail all the way to Folsom – about 23 miles from here. She left at 9:40am. I hung around and watched the Moto GP qualifying from Misano, Italy. Around 10:40am, I hopped on the Spyder and headed out. My destination was the Sutter Street Grill in Folsom. With an hour head start, I figured my half hour ride would put me there about the time Donna would arrive.

Sutter Street is in an historic neighborhood. The area around Folsom was called Rancho Rios de los Americanos (American River Ranch) when it was settled by William Alexander Leidesdorff in 1844. Joeseph Libby Folsom purchased the land from Leidesdorff’s heirs when he died. Folsom laid out a town he called Granite City. It was during the California Gold Rush era and the town was mostly filled with miners and mining services. Joseph died in 1855 and the town was renamed Folsom in his honor.

Folsom is probably best known as the location of Folsom Prison. Folsom Dam was built in 1956 and created Folsom Lake.

Sutter Street, Folsom

Sutter Street Grill

Donna and I met up after a bit of confusion over where she was. I spoke to her on the phone and told her she was only two blocks away from the grill, but I sent her in the wrong direction. We hooked up soon enough and had large breakfast plates for lunch in the Sutter Street Grill. Donna had a home made corned beef hash and eggs while I had a Texas omelette – chili with beef and beans and cheddar cheese in a three-egg omelette. The plates were huge – we each brought home half of our food.

Across the street from the Sutter Street Grill, the Saturday farmers’ market was going on. We took a walk through it and Donna bought raspberries and garlic. She also bought tamales.

Farmers’ market

Donna got back on her bicycle to make the ride home while I stowed her purchases in the Spyder and headed out. She took a few photos along the way on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Jedediah Smith was a mountain man who led a party of fur trappers through the area in 1827.

Bridge on the trail over the American River

View in the other direction from the bridge about nine miles from here – people on the sandy beach on the right

Wild turkeys crossing the trail

Rafters floating the rapids

On Saturday evening, I grilled chicken and apple sausage and had a beer from American River Brewing called Hop Canyon IPA. The label says the brewer tips his hat to the hop growing heritage of the Sacramento area – remember when I said hop fields stretched from our back yard fence to the American River? I don’t think there are many, if any hop fields here now.

Today Donna will make a shorter bike ride – maybe 25 miles. I have a few chores to do before we hit the road again tomorrow. Donna has mapped out a few boondocking opportunities as we head to the northwest. The temperature should reach the upper 80s today with no rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be warmer – we may be driving with the generator running to power our roof air conditioner.

 

 

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

It remained cloudy but the rain stopped falling Wednesday afternoon. Our friend and neighbor, Joe Milligan, lent me his golf cart so I could transport our grill, chairs and table down to the trailer which was parked near the clubhouse in the dry camping area. I straightened up the trailer and made it ready for travel. Meanwhile, Donna washed two loads of laundry in the Park of the Sierras laundry room.

They have a policy of no onboard laundry when you’re in the park. I’m told there is an issue with lint build-up in their septic system. I have a hard time believing this, but maybe their system is undersized for the number of hook-ups. I don’t know, but I’ve lived in three houses that were on septic systems and we did laundry daily. They have a separate waste water system for their laundry room and we abided by the rules.

For our final dinner in Coarsegold, Donna prepared fish with crispy tarragon bread crumbs, spinach and sweet onions with tilapia filets we had in the freezer.

I paired it with an IPA called Aurora Hoppyalis from Karl Strauss Brewery in San Diego.

As we prepared to leave Thursday morning, Ozark the cat did her disappearing act. She doesn’t like travel days and lately, when she knows we getting ready to hit the road, she hides. I don’t get too worried about it because pulling the bedroom slides in expands the space behind the slide if that’s where she’s hiding. If she’s behind the sofa, it moves with the slide so she’s okay there too. Once we stop and shut off the engine, she’ll come from her hiding place. She’s done this at fuel stops before and Donna puts her in her crate then. When we reach our destination, I won’t put the slides out until I know where Ozark the cat is. If she’s in the wrong place, she could be crushed by the movement of the powerful hydraulic slide.

We hooked up the trailer, loaded the Spyder and left around 10am. Our route took us back toward Fresno on CA41. About 14 miles down the road, we turned west on CA145 and followed it to Madera. This took us through large cattle ranches and pistachio groves. In Madera, we found CA99 and headed north through the San Joaquin Valley.

Most people think of California as the land of beaches and Hollywood or maybe the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe. But the central valley is mostly agricultural. It’s roughly centered in the state and lies slightly diagonal from north-northwest to south-southeast. The southern portion is called the San Joaquin Valley and the northern end is the Sacramento Valley.

This is mostly flat land in a valley that’s approximately 60 miles wide – bordered on the east by the Sierra Nevada foothills and on the west by the Coastal Range. The valley is about 450 miles long. It’s prime farming land and California is the main source in the USA for crops such as lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, sugar beets, peaches, asparagus, artichokes and avocado. California is nearly the exclusive source in the USA for almonds, apricots, walnuts, prunes, broccoli, pistachios, kiwifruit, dates, figs, olives and nectarines.

North of Madera, the pistachio groves gave way to almonds and walnuts. We stopped at a rest area near Turlock. Rest areas are few and far between on CA99 – this was the only one we saw between Fresno and Sacramento. The scarcity of rest areas made this one a popular stop.

Busy rest area near Turlock

Traffic was stop and go from Atwater to Stockton due to road work. Once we reached Sacramento, we followed the I-80 Business Loop across the American River to Exposition Boulevard. After one false turn, we found the Cal Expo RV Park at the end of Ethan Way.

This park is nothing fancy – it’s basically a gravel lot with hook-ups and not much in the way of amenities. We have a 50 amp full hook-up site that accommodates our length without dropping the trailer. The draw here is the location. We are a couple hundred yards away from the American River and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs right outside the park. This is a paved multi-use trail with no motorized traffic. At $40/night, it’s pricey for what it is, but we’ll spend four nights here giving Donna a chance to take some long bicycle rides in preparation for her ride across Iowa in late July and we’ll explore a bit. For comparison, in San Diego at Mission Bay, we paid a monthly rate of $925 – just under $30/day including utilities. In Coarsegold, our first week was $62 with a special discount for first-time visitors plus we paid $28 for electricity. After the first week, we paid a daily rate of $26 including electricity. Our total campground costs for May were $708 – just under $23/day.

Our site at Cal Expo

I lived a few miles from here when I was a kid – from second grade through fifth grade. Cal Expo is the site of the California State Fair and we always came here for the event. It might be fun to take a look at the old neighborhood.

Last night, Donna’s friend Lisa Montanaro drove down from Davis and they went out to dinner at Seasons 52. I stayed home and dialed in the satellite dish and had leftovers for dinner.

The weather forecast is calling for upper 80s and low 90s for the highs over the next five days with little chance of precipitation. The 50 amp service here will be useful – we’re sure to be running the air conditioners.