Category Archives: Cat

One Way or Another

Things went from bad to worse on Monday (see previous post). I went to Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins Monday morning to meet with their parts manager, Hans. He didn’t have good news for me. The information I was given Friday turned out to be incorrect. The replacement turbocharger they located wasn’t in a warehouse in New Jersey. It was at the Cummins-Holset turbocharger factory in Memphis, Tennessee. But it was damaged and unusable.

I asked Hans what the next step was. He said the issue had been escalated and they were trying to find another part. I asked him why the damaged turbo couldn’t be repaired and shipped – it was at the factory, right? He said that may be one of the options they were looking at. I asked who “they” were – there had to be someone that was a decision-maker involved with this. I got nowhere.

I went back to the hotel and called Cummins Customer Care at 10am. I reached a guy named Jesse there. I went through the whole saga and asked if he could tell me who was working on finding a replacement turbo for me. He said it was in the hands of someone named Chelsea – but we couldn’t talk directly with that person. He said he would look into it and I would receive a call back or e-mail by the close of business that afternoon. That didn’t happen.

Tuesday morning I was back at the Cummins shop.  Hans told me he didn’t have any update – he was waiting to hear from Chelsea. My patience ran out. I told him someone needed to take ownership of this issue and get into action. Sitting around waiting for someone else to do something wasn’t getting us anywhere. Somewhere along the chain of command there was a decision-maker that needs to give us an answer – either they’ll repair the damaged unit they have on hand or a replacement part would be available on a certain date. I couldn’t wait on an open-ended order, I needed a date so I could make decisions of my own.

Back at the hotel, I called customer care again. After 56 minutes on hold, I spoke to Jesse again and asked why I didn’t get a phone call or e-mail. He said he had escalated the case and the second level was supposed to call me. I told him it didn’t happen and this was a clear example of what was happening on the parts side of things. Hans placed the order on September 22. When he didn’t receive the part, he decided to look into it a week later. Through e-mail, he was told that Chelsea would handle it. End of the line – was Chelsea in fact doing anything or was this like the case where Jesse assumed the second level person had called me back? Someone needs to ask Chelsea where we stand, someone has to ask for accountability – not just sit back and wait to see what happens next. I haven’t heard anything more from Cummins Customer Care.

Donna made it back from her visit with her parents in Vermont around 10pm. We caught up on news over a drink in the hotel bar.

This morning I went back to the Cummins shop. More of the same – no response on the part order. When I pressed Hans to get a timeline, he said as it stands they expect to have the part in November. I asked him if that meant November 1st or November 30th. He said he didn’t know. So, what he was really saying was that he didn’t have a clue when the part would become available.

I asked to see the old part again. I was considering having the old part put back on. I knew it was functional – I just didn’t feel good about its reliability and potential for additional damage. Looking at the nicks on the leading edges of the vanes on the compressor wheel, I was concerned about stress risers that would lead to cracks and possible separation of a blade.

I asked about rebuilding the turbocharger. Cummins-Holset will not sell the individual parts, only the entire unit, so they don’t rebuild them. I was told an outfit called Central Motive might rebuild it though.

I called Central Motive. Their guy, Joe, took the part number of the turbo and said he needed to make a few calls for parts and would get back to me in 45 minutes. My phone rang 45 minutes later. Joe said he might have a turbo in their Denver facility. If not, he located a Center Housing Rotating Assembly (CHRA) and could rebuild the turbo. The CHRA is the guts of turbo – all of the working parts including the turbine wheel, connecting shaft with bearings and seals and the compressor wheel. He could take the housing apart, bead blast it and install the new CHRA and I would be in business. He said if I was willing to pay the cost of overnight shipping for the CHRA, he could have it done by Thursday afternoon. Bingo!

I asked the Cummins service manager what the timeline would look like if I took the turbo to Central Motive and brought it back by the end of the day Thursday. They had the radiator stack and all of the other parts on hand. He said he would get the job done Friday if I had the turbo by the end of Thursday. It looks like this will solve the problem.

I loaded the turbocharger into the Spyder and rode to Central Motive a few miles away. Joe and the manager, Aaron, looked the turbo over. Joe told me he hadn’t heard back from Denver and it was still possible a new replacement could be found. He said one way or another, I would have a turbo ready to go by Thursday afternoon. I’m just as happy to have my unit rebuilt. Joe and Aaron said the housing looked great. The CHRA is a complete, balanced assembly and should be as good as a new one. Joe and Aaron seemed enthused and very confident they could deliver.

Tomorrow we have to leave the hotel – I managed to get one more night here so we’re good until Thursday morning. Donna’s friend, Hazel Thornton, offered to put us up. Jessica Rice also offered to let us stay at their place. Ozark the cat complicates the matter – but at Hazel’s we’ll be in a room in her guest house, separate from the main house and her two cats. If all goes well, we’ll only be there for one night. Friday we should be driving the coach to the Balloon Fiesta Park and setting up for the fiesta.

One Thing Leads to Another

We made it through the weekend in our temporary quarters at the Hotel Elegante in Albuquerque. The weekend was just a waiting period until we could see what comes next in our engine repair saga. Although the square footage of our hotel room isn’t much different than that of our coach, the layout is very different. The hotel room is made for sleeping and the small desk and storage areas are afterthoughts. The coach is much more comfortable and organized – long hot showers notwithstanding.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed over to Marble Brewing to take the 2pm tour. They were having a fundraiser for the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council and that packed the house. The brewery tour had to be broken up into two groups and the groups were still too large. It was interesting nonetheless. The thing I found most interesting was part of their process – they boil the wort in a 30-barrel brew kettle. This isn’t unusual – what’s different is that the wort is transferred to 150-barrel fermentation vessels. It takes five batches to fill the fermenter! It must be quite a task to keep things consistent when you have to brew five batches before you begin the fermentation.

150-barrel fermenters

We also viewed a temperature-controlled storage room filled with wooden casks where beer was being barrel-aged.

A portion of their barrel-aging storage

The bottling line

We sampled a few ounces of brew, then decided to leave the crowded brew pub and head over to Rio Bravo Brewery. They have a large brew pub and it’s really laid back. They also serve food – Marble and Tractor brewing rely on food trucks.

Donna had a quinoa and arugula salad to go with her porter while I ordered a New Mexico treat. In Michigan, you’ll find cafes that specialize in what they call Coney Dogs. These are hot dogs covered in a type of beef chili (no beans) and various other condiments. In New Mexico, they serve hot dogs with cheese and diced green chilies. It was tasty.

Green chili cheese dog

On Sunday morning, Donna wanted to get out and get some exercise in the fresh air. So she rode the Spyder to the east end of Menaul Boulevard to the Menaul Trailhead to hike. I stayed at the hotel and watched a very entertaining Moto GP race from Aragon, Spain. Valentino Rossi showed his talent as well as his toughness as he held on to second place for much of the race before fading to fifth place near the end – this was just 24 days after he broke his leg! He broke his tibia and fibula in a training accident and could barely walk a few days ago.

On Sunday evening, Donna took an Uber ride to the Old Town area to meet up with her friend Hazel. They walked from Hazel’s house to the Range Cafe restaurant where they met up with more friends. I stayed home and watched the Oakland Raiders struggle against the Washington Redskins.

On Monday morning, it was time to get back to business. I was getting ready to go over to Rocky Mountain Cummins when they phoned and told me they had the turbocharger removed and I should come and look at it. The original estimate called for a turbo replacement due to oil leaking past the seals. I didn’t believe this was the case. The oil in the intake and turbo housing was coming from the auxiliary compressor on the engine. This compressor supplies air for the suspension system and air-operated parking brake.

With the turbo removed, I could see there wasn’t anything wrong with the shaft bearings or seals, however it did have a problem. The blades on the intake compressor wheel were damaged. They had small nicks in the leading edges of the blades. This is usually the result of foreign objects ingested through the intake system. That could be really bad news as any foreign material would pass through the engine and most likely damage pistons and cylinders or at least piston rings. Close inspection revealed the nicks only to be on the leading edges – dirt or other abrasives show themselves across the blade. Also, there was oil in the turbo and no sign of dust or dirt in the oil.

In talking it over with the mechanic doing the work, Josh, we came to the conclusion that the nicks in the leading edges of the blades were likely caused by droplets of oil being struck by the spinning compressor blades. The turbine wheel on the exhaust side, the shaft and the compressor wheel and blades are constructed from lightweight materials. This allows the wheels to quickly spool up to high operating RPM – over 100,000 RPM at times. The compressor is designed to operate in a clean air environment.

The integrity of the blade material is important. Anything that weakens the structure could lead to a failure such as blade separation. That would be bad, very bad. A blade failure would send pieces of the blade through the engine with catastrophic results. I decided to have the turbocharger replaced.

Turbocharger on bench

Close-up of compressor blade damage

I saw the exhaust manifold on a cart. It wasn’t just cracked – it was completely broken into two pieces! This is likely due to the leak in the charge air cooler. A pressure leak in the CAC can lead to excessively high exhaust gas temperature. One thing leads to another.

Broken exhaust manifold

Now we’re back in a waiting pattern. The CAC and engine coolant radiator are at the radiator shop to be re-cored. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they can repair the CAC. If all goes well there, the shop may have everything back together by Thursday – we’ll see. One good thing about being here in Albuquerque is the availability and concentration of qualified shops. There’s a lot of heavy-duty truck traffic due to I-25 and I-40 intersecting here without much else within a few hundred miles. The Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins is one of 32 Cummins Coach Care Centers in the USA. They do a lot of RV work.

Tomorrow morning, Donna flies back to Albany, New York. She’s visiting her parents for a week in Bennington, Vermont. It’s pretty good timing for her – she can get out of this hotel. Meanwhile it presents a logistical dilemma for me. If the coach is ready to roll on Thursday, I need to figure out how to get all of our stuff and Ozark the cat from our hotel to the coach. I’ll come up with something and try to remain optimistic about having the work completed by then.

A Can of Worms

I mentioned in an earlier post an engine problem we began to experience in Colorado. We had an intermittent loss of boost pressure causing a reduction of power. When this happened, it set a fault code in the Engine Control Module (ECM) and the engine maintenance light in the instrument panel illuminated. I interrogated the ECM with our ScanGauge D and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) telling me that the intake manifold pressure wasn’t at the expected level. Due to the intermittent nature of the issue, I assumed it was a poor electrical connection or a problem with the pressure sensor.

While we were in Abiquiu, New Mexico I investigated the problem and found a crack in the exhaust manifold. This can cause a boost pressure problem. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine is turbocharged. A turbocharger is a device with two chambers in a steel housing – one chamber is fitted to the exhaust system while the other chamber is connected to the engine intake system. Each chamber has a wheel – think of it as a windmill although its shape is more complex than that.

The exhaust side is called the turbine. Hot exhaust is expelled from the combustion chamber and flows through the exhaust manifold and the turbine side of the turbocharger. This spins the turbine wheel. This wheel is mounted to a shaft that passes through the housing and is connected to the wheel on the intake side. This is the compressor wheel. The spinning turbine wheel turns the compressor wheel and the energy transferred compresses the air flowing into the engine through the intake system.

In order to burn fuel in an internal combustion engine, you need fuel and enough oxygen to combine with the fuel. The more oxygen you can pack into the combustion chamber, the more fuel you can efficiently burn and the more power you can extract from the fuel. The compressor side of the turbocharger packs more air into the engine. But there’s a catch. Compressing the air heats it and the turbocharger housing is also very hot. Hotter air is less dense than cooler air, thus negating some of the advantage of pressurizing the intake system. To counter this, most turbochargers use a type of radiator in the intake system – the hot pressurized air is directed through a cooler to reduce the air temperature and increase air density. These coolers are usually an air-to-air radiator called an intercooler or Charge Air Cooler (CAC).

The exhaust leak in our manifold was allowing the hot exhaust gasses to escape before they entered the turbine of the turbocharger. This imparted less energy to the turbine wheel and it couldn’t spin the compressor wheel at the proper speed.

Cracked exhaust manifold

I knew this had to be repaired immediately. In our case, immediately meant when we arrived in Albuquerque. Northern New Mexico is fairly remote and there wasn’t a shop closer than Albuquerque that I trusted. I was still bothered by the intermittent nature of the problem. The exhaust leak was a constant mechanical defect so why was I losing boost intermittently?

We left Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park around 11am on Wednesday and stopped for lunch across the street. Then we took US 14 south through the small towns of Madrid, Golden and Antonito avoiding I-25. It was a scenic and leisurely drive – there’s very little traffic and I could cruise without pushing the engine too hard.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain Cummins around 1:30pm and I checked in with their service department. I had an appointment for 7am Thursday morning. We talked about the repair and the time frame. Completing the exhaust manifold replacement in one day was doubtful. They told me I could park the coach and trailer on the street in front and hook up to their 50-amp electrical pedestal.

Donna packed a bag – she would spend the night in a nearby hotel with Ozark the cat. We walked with her suitcase, laptop bag and a couple of plastic bags with cat supplies to the Comfort Inn on 4th Avenue a few blocks away. We walked past a small park with many homeless people sleeping in the shade. We must have looked like upscale vagabonds carrying our stuff past the park. Ozark wasn’t comfortable in the hotel room – she spent most of the time hiding under the bed – she’s so accustomed to her home in the coach.

I stayed overnight in the coach – it wasn’t the best neighborhood and I didn’t want to leave the coach unattended. The Rocky Mountain Cummins shop is fully fenced in with standard chain-link and barbed wire fencing backed up with a 7,000-volt electric fence. On Thursday morning, I dropped the trailer in their fenced lot and checked in for my appointment at 7am – the coach and trailer would be secure in their fenced lot from that point. That’s when things started on a downhill spin.

They weren’t very organized at the service counter. I had talked to the woman there, Barbara, twice in the last week to make sure they had parts and were ready to do the work. She acted like she didn’t know who I was or why I was there. She wrote up the work order and I sat in the waiting area to see how things would progress. At 9am, our coach was still sitting where I parked it.

The service manager, Alvaro, was in a meeting. I asked for him and he left his meeting to talk to me. I explained the situation beginning with the appointment I made a week ago and the estimate they e-mailed me at that time. I also explained the need to get the work done so we weren’t stuck in a hotel. He apologized for the issue and told me the guy that scheduled the work and made the estimate was out of the office. He put someone on the job and work commenced.

I hung around until noon, then went to the hotel to take Donna out to lunch. Wouldn’t you know it, while I was at lunch, Barbara phoned and said Alvaro wanted to show me some issues they found with the engine. I went back to the shop. It was bad news. The charge air cooler had a leak. They pressurized the CAC and showed me where it was leaking. The CAC would have to be removed to see if the leak was repairable. Hopefully a radiator shop can repair it. If it needs to be replaced, it’s not a common part and might be difficult to find. Motorhomes use CACs designed to fit their layout, unlike a heavy duty truck that would use a common part.

The CAC is sandwiched between the coolant radiator and air conditioning condenser. It’s a big job to remove it. They also found oil in the turbocharger and thought it was damaged. I wasn’t convinced it needed replacement. Turbocharger oil seals aren’t like the rubber seals on a crankshaft for example. The shaft is sealed with steel rings, like a piston ring. Seal failure on a turbo is usually the result of a lubrication system problem – I didn’t have an issue there.

Further inspection revealed the source of the oil was the accessory air compressor on the engine. The compressor draws fresh air from the filtered intake air upstream from the turbocharger. The compressor was leaking and some oil was entering the intake system from it. The compressor would have to be replaced.

This was quickly turning into a can of worms. An expensive can of worms. I gathered a few things and spent the night at the hotel with Donna. On Friday, we checked out at noon and moved to the Hotel Elegante on Menaul – a better neighborhood. They had a special rate for Cummins employees and customers. Donna called Uber to transport herself and Ozark while I drove the Spyder. Ozark isn’t sure what to make of our new digs and mode of travel.

After checking in, we went back to the shop to get more clothes and necessities. We will be out of the coach for an undetermined amount of time at this point. While we were at the shop, I looked things over and had another nasty find.

This is where the coolant radiator and CAC normally reside at the left rear of the coach

AC condenser, CAC and coolant radiator behind the CAC

The coolant radiator had corrosion on about a quarter of the fins and the core was about to rust through. It needs to be re-cored. This is the part of the radiator closest to the rear wheels – it can’t be seen without crawling into the engine compartment from underneath and removing the fan shroud. Send more money!

Lower right corner of radiator core corroded

I’m hoping there aren’t any more bad surprises. As my friend and fellow motorhome owner, John Hinton, reminded me – I should be thankful to be getting the repairs made here in Albuquerque rather than being stuck on the side of the highway in some remote area.

Meanwhile, Donna and I are making the best of it, staying at a hotel and taking advantage of the amenities. We’ve also found a few breweries in the area – Rio Bravo, Marble and Tractor. They have great brews that are only found here in New Mexico.

I found a sign on 4th Avenue near downtown – Donna will set me free! I wish she could bail our coach out of the shop.

Better call Donna!

I’ll update our situation when I know more on Monday.

Having Fun in Longmont

Ozark the cat as been enjoying our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. There’s so much activity for her to follow outside our windows – she spends hours watching the world go by. Donna calls it “Cat TV.”

The Longmont Humane Society building is next to the entrance to the fairgrounds. Everyday dozens of people come out to walk the dogs or maybe adopt one. Ozark gets to watch them parade by. Then there’s the livestock and horse arenas across the street from our site. Plenty to see there too. Yesterday Ozark was so caught up in it she wouldn’t move as Donna made the bed and she ended up half under the comforter.

Ozark tuned into cat TV

Donna’s friend, Liz Canavan Byrne, came by around 9am to go for a walk and visit with Donna. They walked the trail out past Cattail Pond to the Greenway Trail and caught up on their lives. Meanwhile, I took the Spyder and rode down to Golden – about 30 miles away. Once I got through Boulder and into some open country, it was a beautiful ride. The temperature was in the low 70s and the skies were clear with just a little haze in the air.

Rocky Mountain Front Range from highway CO93 – the Flatirons over South Boulder on the far right mountains

Some readers may remember that I’ve acquired a small collection of Spyderco folding pocket knives. My destination was the Spyderco headquarters and outlet store in Golden.

Spyderco headquarters and outlet

My intention was to have a look around and take advantage of the opportunity to check out and handle many models I don’t often see. I’ve been interested in their Paramilitary 3 knives.

From time-to-time, Spyderco makes what they call Sprint Runs – these are a limited number of knives made of special combinations of blade steel and handle scales. They had the Paramilitary 3 in a Sprint Run with CPM Cruwear blade steel – one of the so called “super steels” – and light gray G10 scales. This knife has been hot on the market and all of the online retailers sold out immediately – only 1,200 were made. The Spyderco Outlet Store got 10 pieces last Thursday and had two left. Now they have one – I couldn’t help myself and bought one.

Spyderco Paramilitary 3 with Cruwear and G10

Cruwear blade and compression lock

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I think for now it’ll be a drawer queen, not a user. Maybe later I’ll sell it to a bona fide collector – these Sprint Runs can gain value over time.

I grabbed lunch while I was out, then on my way home I detoured into old downtown Longmont. I looped around on 3rd Street and made a stop at Sherman Street where I found 234 Sherman Street. This is the house where I lived in 1976 when Jim Birditt, Chris Nirschl and I were roommates with hopes of becoming a rock and roll band. I wrote about an adventure here in this post. This area is known as the Bohn Farm neighborhood nowadays. I’m not sure why, but I think the dairy farm that used to be at the south end of Sherman Street might have been called Bohn Farm.

The old house hasn’t changed much

By the time I got home, it was very warm out. The temperature topped out at 90 degrees. We stayed indoors and Donna completed the first of three writing assignments she picked up. She has two to finish today. She was done by 5pm, so we rode the Spyder over to Prospect Park – the same location where her century ride finished.

From May to September, they have free concerts there on Monday evenings – next Monday will be the last for 2017. It’s catered by food trucks and includes beer vendors set up in tents. The band playing this week was called “Soul Sacrifice.” They were a Santana tribute band covering the 1970s Santana hits – most of the songs started out faithful to the original, then turned into jam sessions. It was fun and the band was good.

Soul Sacrifice

The lead guitarist was pretty much the front man. He had a great sound playing through a 70s vintage Mesa Boogie 1×12 amplifier.

There were a few women hoop dancing. One was very good and we found out she was sort of the teacher/leader for the group of hoopsters and spent the summer here. She’s from North Carolina and will be heading back there. She lent Donna a hoop and taught her a new move.

Hoop dancers among the crowd

We finished the evening there with a walk through neighborhood around the park. Prospect is an interesting neighborhood. It’s very high-density with apartments and lofts over ground-floor commercial spaces. The buildings are all three stories high. It reminded me of many urban settings in Europe – Barcelona comes to mind. We saw a flyer for a unit for sale – it included ground floor office space and a one-bedroom, two-bath loft ( plus half-bath on the ground floor). The 1,926 square foot space – I assume that includes the office space – was listed for – wait for it – $450,000.

We extended our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds until Thursday morning – check out time is 10am. When we leave here we’ll head straight to Colorado Springs to meet up with our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family for the Labor Day Lift-Off hot air balloon event. We expect more hot weather until then – the forecast calls for low 90s the next couple of days. Colorado Springs will be cooler.

 

 

Fourth of July on the Lake

We had a great Fourth of July – I hope yours was equally enjoyable.

On Monday evening, I saw a picture on Facebook of my San Diego friend Gary Stemple wake surfing. I could see he wasn’t in Mission Bay and I had a suspicion the picture was taken on Lake Coeur d’Alene. I commented on Facebook and sure enough, he was here staying at a house on the lake owned by his aunt Phyllis.

We made arrangements to meet on Tuesday afternoon. Gary’s cousin Kim spends the summer at the house on the lake with her twin daughters, Madison and Mackenzie. I got directions to their place and after lunch Donna and I headed out on the Spyder.

Lake Couer d’Alene stretches north to south about 25 miles and is one to three miles wide in most places. The lake is primarily fed by two rivers – Couer d’Alene River and St. Joe River. On the north end of the lake is the town of Couer d’Alene and the lake empties into the Spokane River there.

Their house on the lake is located roughly half way down the west side of Lake Coeur d’Alene at Black Rock Bay (map). It was about a 23-mile ride on the Spyder from the Elks Lodge in north Coeur d’Alene.

When we arrived, we parked in the back along with several cars. The house and deck were filled with family members, neighbors and friends. Donna and I were introduced to a number of people – there’s no way I can remember all their names.

View from the deck across the backyard and lake

After giving us a tour of the place and wetting our whistles with a cold beer, Gary and I took the jet skis out for romp around the lake. The jet skis were fun – almost like riding a dirt bike. I got a real workout jumping the swells and wakes on the lake. We made a big loop – first we went south then we crossed the lake and headed north before we crossed back again and came back to the property. In areas of flatter water, I hit speeds up to 46 mph – that really feels fast on a jet ski!

Jet skis and house viewed from a boat on the lake

Later Madison and Mckenna along with their friend Abbie took the jet ski and headed out. I wasn’t aware of their plan – I just knew that Donna and I were joining Gary, Kim and her neighbor Kenley for a ride in their ski boat.

We crossed to the east side of the lake enjoying the ride and the views. We entered the Couer d’Alene River and made our way upstream.

Back of Donna’s head as we head upriver

Kenley in the back of the boat and downriver view

We went a few miles upriver to the Anderson Lake Road bridge where we found Madison, Mckenna and Abbie up on the bridge – they had come here on the jet ski.

The girls on the bridge

Madison doing a flip off the bridge down to the river!

Madison jumped performing a forward flip. Mckenna and Abbie stayed put but Madison wasn’t done yet. We saw a guy swing on a rope from the bridge like Tarzan and jump into the river. Madison had to give that a try.

Madison swinging from a rope on the bridge

In fact, she did it twice and I shot a video of her second swing – unfortunately I’ll need to install software to edit the file, it’s too large to post it here.

After Gary and Kenley cooled off with a quick dip in the water – it was in the upper 80s – we headed back down river. Gary wake surfed behind the boat for a while on the way down. We stopped when we saw a man and a boy stranded on their jet ski. They had sucked up some aquatic plant matter in the water inlet. He was able to clear it and they were on their way so we continued on.

We entered Lake Coeur d’Alene at Harrison Slough and went through the channel around the point toward the little town of Harrison.

Mouth of the Coeur d’Alene River at Harrison Slough

The town was named after President Benjamin Harrison and once had a lumber mill and was also a supply point for mining operations – it was incorporated in 1899. Only a few hundred people live here. We were heading for the gas dock at the marina there.

The marina and town were hopping with holiday revelers. I’m sure the visitors outnumbered the residents by a factor of at least two-to-one.

These docks were rocking!

There was a line up at the gas dock and we had a bit of a wait.

Lining up at the gas dock

After gassing up the boat, we tied up at a visitor’s dock behind the bar and restaurant at Gateway Marina. We took a walk into town for a cold one at One Shot Charlie’s. This was a favorite watering hole for Kim’s parents and their parents as well.

We took our drinks in plastic cups and walked to Harrison Park where a band was performing on an outdoor stage. It was the Jam Shack band, a local favorite for lakeside clubs.

Jam Shack Band

Donna, Kim, Kenley and Gary at Harrison Park

From there Kenley took the helm and brought us back past Black Rock to Kim’s place.

Returning to the house on the lake

We were invited to stay for dinner and even spend the night if we wanted to. We had a great time with some very generous people – but we thanked everyone and declined the offer. I wanted to get back through town before it got dark and the fireworks and craziness started. Also, I wanted to be sure Ozark the cat had food and water and wasn’t freaking out over the fireworks.

Today we expect the temperature to reach the 90s. Donna’s been out on her bike since about 9:30am. I puttered around trying to figure out why my coolant temperature reading was erratic but haven’t come up with anything yet. I also met the owner of a unique coach, but that’s fodder for another post.

We’ll pull out of here tomorrow morning and head to Montana – maybe as far as Butte. I’ll have to figure out our destination tonight.

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.

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.

 

Cadman Park Gang

I took a break from pickleball on Friday and took care of a few domestic chores. First of all, I dumped and flushed our holding tanks. I usually do this once a week when we’re on full hook-ups. Then I took care of house cleaning. Donna often says that when you live in 300 square feet of space, everywhere is a high traffic area. High traffic areas require frequent cleaning. I also cleaned out the shower drain and had the place ship-shape by noon.

My next task was adjusting the parking brake on the Spyder. As the brake pads wear and the parking brake cable stretches, it goes out of adjustment. With too much slack in the cable, it becomes difficult to get the brake to release once it’s applied. The procedure calls for tightening the adjusters until the brake applies, then backing off the adjustment lock nut four and a half turns. Sounds precise but it’s really only a guideline. It’s more of a trial and error process until you get it right.

Friday afternoon was warm – the temperature reached 84 degrees. Around 3pm, I rode the Spyder to CVS in Pacific Beach to pick up a couple of items. Although CVS is only a few miles from Mission Bay RV Resort, it was a tough ride. Traffic was backed up on Mission Bay Drive and barely moving. Grand Avenue wasn’t much better. It took me about 20 minutes to get to CVS. I planned to go to Offshore Tavern and Grill around 4pm for a cold one with the guys. I could see that getting out of Pacific Beach on Grand Avenue or Garnet Avenue would be slow going.

I took an alternate route that was much longer mileage-wise but ultimately I think it was quicker. I rode south on Ingraham Street to Sea World Drive, then hit Morena Boulevard and continued onward to Offshore Tavern and Grill. With Donna away visiting her parents in Vermont, I decided to take advantage of the happy hour pricing and ordered a poke plate for dinner. Poke (po-KEY) is cubes of sushi grade ahi tuna over chopped cabbage with green onions and Asian dressing. Fried wonton chips and avocado complete the dish. It’s delicious.

Poke plate

Saturday was another warm day with the temperature reaching the mid-80s. As I was getting ready to head over to Cadman Park for a get-together with old friends from my school days, Ozark was taking her usual mid-day nap on her bed attached to the living room window. With abundant sunshine, she needed to shield her eyes while she slept. She does this when it’s bright outside.

Ozark shielding her eyes while she naps

We had about a dozen people show up at Cadman Park. Someone was grilling burgers and we had snacks out. We stood around and talked over a couple of beers.

Some of the gang at Cadman Park

There were some people I haven’t seen in a few years and there were some I haven’t seen in decades – Mike McMahon, J D Mincey and John Drake. A little after 3pm, we moved the venue to the patio at Offshore Tavern and Grill and a few more people showed up. It was a fun time.

Party on at Offshore

I left before 5pm and came home to watch the Moto GP qualifying and Moto America races from Austin, Texas.

Today we have cooler weather. We may see 70 degrees, but it won’t be any warmer than that. I’m meeting up with Gary Stemple and a few friends at Dana Point around 1pm to go out on his boat for some wake boarding. Sounds like it’ll be another fun afternoon.

 

 

 

Ribs and Racing

Last week I played pickleball five days straight – I played for about two and half hours per day. Donna laid low getting over the cold she picked up while she was in Sedona. On Saturday, Donna borrowed a car from our friend Lana so she could take Ozark the cat to the vet. We suspected that she might have a tapeworm.

Before I dropped Donna off at Lana’s house we made a stop at Seńor Taco for an early lunch. This was our favorite taco shop when we lived in Mesa. They had a two fish taco plate on special for five bucks, including a 20-ounce drink.

Chipotle fish tacos

The tacos were huge and smothered with a chipotle sauce – tasty.

While Donna was out and about, I made a run to a well-known local butcher shop called Midwestern Meats on Main Street. They have high quality meats that are processed on site. We were having company for dinner on Sunday and I wanted to have another go at babyback ribs. The ribs at Midwestern Meats are not like the babybacks I typically find at the grocery store.

Most grocery stores have their babyback ribs delivered from a processing plant where they’re vacuum sealed. Midwestern cuts their own ribs fresh daily. They cut them differently from the mass production butchers. The ribs are meatier and most of the fat is carefully trimmed away.

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

All I had to do was remove the membrane from the bone side of the rack of ribs.

Membrane on bone side

I dusted them with my rib rub which is three parts Pappy’s Choice seasoning and two parts Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine.

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

I wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator overnight and relaxed with a bottle of IPA Donna bought for me. It was one I hadn’t tried before called DFRNT IPA from Sonoran Brew Company – and it was different alright. Somehow they’ve managed to make a well-balanced brew at 6.2% ABV and only 42 IBUs. This seems like a low number of bittering units and suggests a lack of hops. However, the brew balances nicely and has adequate hoppiness without being over-the-top hoppy.

DFRNT IPA

Sunday was race day for me – I was a couch potato as I watched racing on TV most of the day. I started with the Formula One Grand Prix from Shanghai. It was an interesting race that started on a wet track that quickly dried. Then I watched the Moto GP race in Argentina. Another good one. Then in the afternoon I finished with the Indy Car race at Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is run on a street course in downtown Long Beach. The first race there was in 1975. An Englishman named Chris Pook, who was running a travel agency in Long Beach, came up with the idea as the city was trying to gentrify and rebuild their image. He envisioned a Grand Prix featuring the best cars and racers in the world – Formula One – racing on the streets as they do in Monaco. The course would take the cars down Shoreline Drive past the iconic Queen Mary cruise ship.

Before the FIA would sanction a Formula One race, the city had to demonstrate its ability to actually operate as a race track. In September of 1975, they held a Formula 5000 race as the inaugural event. I went to that race with my friends Jim Birditt and Steve Drake.

Formula 5000 was chosen as it was a popular class in the USA – as well as in Britain and Australia – at the time. In the USA, the class was sanctioned by the SCCA and USAC. The rules called for an open wheel chassis powered by a stock block V8 engine of no more than 5000cc – five liters. The most popular engine for the class was the Chevy 302 cu. in. V8. The engines utilized mechanical fuel injection and produced plenty of torque and about 500 horsepower. In the lightweight chassis – about 1200 lbs total weight – they were beasts to drive as the tire technology back in the day could barely provide enough grip.

The race was fierce with many top drivers competing. Mario Andretti and Brian Redmond had quite the battle. Brian Redmond was the race winner after Mario Andretti retired with transmission problems. I was looking through a packet of old photos on Saturday when I found a program I had saved from that race in 1975.

Race program from 1975

In March of 1976, the first Formula One race was held at Long Beach. I was there for that one too. Clay Reggazoni won in a Ferrari 312T2 and his team mate Niki Lauda was second. I attended several of the eight Formula One races held there – I saw Gilles Villeneuve win in 1979. The final Formula One race at Long Beach was held in 1983 and I saw John Watson take the checkered flag after starting 22nd on the grid.

I put the babyback ribs on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill while the race was on TV. With the racks of ribs trimmed the way they were, I was little unsure of the cooking time. After about 140 minutes, I wrapped the ribs in foil and let them cook for another 40 minutes. They came out fine – I probably should have wrapped about 10 or 15 minutes earlier to retain more moisture.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff joined us for cocktails and dinner along with their daughter, Kenna. Kenna enjoyed playing with Ozark the cat – thanks Kenna for wearing Ozark out – it made for a nice quiet night’s sleep for me! Sara brought home made cornbread and Donna served up green beans and garlic smashed potatoes with the ribs. I got so wrapped up in conversation and story telling that I neglected to take any photos of the group or dinner plate. I had a bottle of Sculpin IPA with the dinner and I have a photo of that though.

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

This morning, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts and we played for two and half hours. Today was the first time I played without a bandaid on my left finger that I injured last week. It’s mending nicely.

Finger on the mend

We’re expecting a high temperature of 82 today and it will warm up to near 90 over the next two days. I’ll be busy getting the trailer squared away and preparing for our departure on Thursday.

And, oh, by the way, we’re not sure if Ozark had a tapeworm or not, but the vet treated her anyway as it wouldn’t hurt. She also got a rabies vaccination booster shot.

 

Two-Digit Damage

I managed to check one item off of my “to do” list while Donna was away. I cleaned and treated the kitchen cabinets with Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. I love this product – it’s simple to use and provides a great looking finish that preserves the wood and and enhances the beauty. I just wipe it on with a clean cloth – it may take a few swipes on areas that are dirty – then wipe off the excess. Couldn’t be simpler and it makes our solid wood cabinetry look great.

I’ve been a little hard on my fingers lately. Last Friday I injured my ring finger on my right hand playing pickleball. I mishit a shot that came fast and hard and the ball struck my finger tip, cracking the finger nail down the right side. I put super glue on it to keep the finger nail intact until the damage grows out.

Cracked nail glued together

Monday morning I was surprised to find a dozen 3.0-3.5 players on the pickleball courts. We had some great games and I got my 10,000 steps in before lunch! We made plans to play again on Tuesday – a lot of the guys are leaving by the end of the week so I want to get as much playing time as I can get.

Monday evening I was watching the NCAA Basketball Championship on TV. I had a cold one on the counter behind the passenger seat. Ozark the cat jumped up on the counter and I saw my beer toppling off it. I reached out quickly with my left hand to catch it and I missed. I ended up jamming my left ring finger into the corner of the Karadon counter top and damaged my finger. The left side on my finger split and tore away from the nail. Super glue won’t help this time – it was a bloody mess.

You don’t want to see what’s under the bandaid

After the game, I was getting ready for bed. I saw lightning flashes to the north of us and a strong wind suddenly kicked up. Then when I climbed into bed I heard the sound of rain drumming on the roof. We had an unexpected squall and it rained hard for a few minutes. The wind was strong enough to rock the coach a few times. We didn’t have any warning of a strong storm.

Tuesday morning I played pickleball again. I left the courts by 9:30am – I wanted to get back to the coach and straighten things out a bit before Donna returned. On the way back, I saw a maintenance crew cleaning up some storm damage. The sheet metal roof on a canopy next to the maintenance building had blown off. The sheet metal traveled to a park model where part of it ended up on the park model roof. Another piece of the sheet metal went through a window on the home and another piece damaged a car. Like I said – there was some strong wind!

Maintenance crew cleaning up storm damage

As I was walking down our lane, I saw Donna drive up in her rental car. She came home from her trip to Sedona earlier than I expected. Oh well, our coach wasn’t too messy – I’ve kept up on dishes and cleaning. I wanted to clean out the cat litter box and do a little straightening before she got back though.

It’s still breezy this morning – the forecast calls for the wind to diminish this afternoon. The temperature should hit the upper-70s today and tomorrow, then it’ll warm up to the upper 80s.

 

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