Category Archives: Elks

Errands and Detours

We left the Casa Grande Elks Lodge early Wednesday morning – we pulled out around 8:30am which is an early start for us. Our first stop was at Speedco where I had the coach motor oil and filter changed and the chassis greased. They also checked the tires and coolant – I knew these were okay – I checked our tires that morning and the coolant was flushed and filled with Fleetguard ES Compleat coolant in Albuquerque. Rather than get on the interstate, I took a shortcut down Trekell Road and intended to hit Sunland Gin Road. However, I forgot that I needed to turn on Jimmy Kerr Road to get to Sunland Gin and ended up out in the desert. So much for shortcuts.

Speedco used to do the service on our coach for under $200. Last year they raised their prices considerably and it cost me nearly $300. This year they raised the price again and I paid $330 – this includes a used oil analysis report that I always pay for. By the way, the report looked good with no worries.

It was nearly 11am by the time we hooked the trailer back up and pulled out of the Speedco lot. Originally I thought we would go to Yuma and I would get fuel before we crossed into California. However, our fuel gauge is unreliable and I wasn’t sure how much fuel we’d burned crossing the mountains plus we had lots of generator run time. So, we backtracked up I-10 to the Pilot/Flying J travel center before we headed west on I-8. We ate lunch in the Flying J parking lot after fueling.

We planned a fairly short day and wanted to run a few errands in Yuma. We made a stop on the way at Dateland (exit 67) to take a break and get a date shake. The travel center at Dateland used to be a gas station and a separate small building with a gift shop and milkshakes. They’ve upgraded it considerably over the past few years and it’s a nice stopping point in I-8 for refreshments and touristy stuff. We saw several Border Patrol vehicles along this stretch of freeway and a few Border Patrol officers stopped for lunch at Dateland. They had one of their rigs with two ATVs on a trailer out front – a Polaris four-seater and a smaller ATV.

Polaris four-seat ATV with Homeland Security badges

Our next stop was at Al’s RV Service and Supply on Fortuna Road in Yuma. I wanted to stop there and buy a bottle of Tank Techs RX – the treatment I use in our holding tanks. Al’s is one of the few RV stores that I find it in and buying it at the store saves the cost of shipping when I buy online. I’d also planned to go to the RV Water Filter Store in Yuma, but I found the filter elements I wanted at Al’s. Then Donna said we should look for a new latch for my closet door. The old one broke and the mirrored door slides open and closed as we drive down the road. I was doubtful, but we found the right latch on a display rack! Then Donna found a rod for the kitchen window shade – it went missing earlier this year when were having work done at RV Renovators. Al’s has almost everything for an RV.

We drove across the overpass to the Pilot/Flying J and I topped up the tank with diesel fuel again. We’d been running the generator and roof air conditioners all afternoon and I wanted to avoid buying fuel in California. I also had our propane tank filled. The gauge showed less than 1/4 tank of propane remaining. It took 30 gallons so we had at least a quarter tank – it holds 42 gallons when filled to 80% of actual capacity.

We made one more stop in Yuma at Walmart to get a few things. It was after 4pm by the time we left Yuma. We decided to stop for the night at our usual stopping point on Ogilby Road where we dry camp on BLM land. Interstate 8 is being rebuilt along large sections between El Centro and Yuma. The exit from westbound I-8 was closed at Ogilby Road. We had to continue a few miles west to the Gray’s Well exit and come back east to get on Ogilby. As we crossed over the freeway I noticed the on-ramp to westbound I-8 from Ogilby was also closed so this would present another detour when we left.

We went to a familiar area where we’ve boondocked before. The area was empty – not an RV in sight. We set up a little closer to the road than usual and called it a day. After dark, another motorhome came past us. The driver was brave to drive deep into the desert at night!

Ogilby Road is usually quiet with few cars passing by. The road runs north where it merges with CA78 and continues all the way to Blythe. This morning, a gaggle of cars came south on Ogilby starting around 5am. I got out of bed at 5:30am and the traffic quit coming by shortly after that. I’m guessing the crew working on the interstate must be camped up the road and were heading out to start an early shift – I can’t think of any other reason for that much traffic on Ogilby Road.

Dawn in the desert

We knew the day would warm quickly and planned to hit the road before it became hot out. Tuesday was in the upper 90s and we expected the same today. To get on I-8 westbound, we had to go east to Sidewinder Road – about five miles, then cross over and head back west. Our plan was to cross the desert early and stop at the Golden Acorn Casino across the Tecate Divide. The Golden Acorn is near Campo at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level and would be much cooler. Our reservation at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego starts tomorrow, so we needed a place to spend another night before we arrive there.

Desert sunrise on our coach

The traffic on westbound I-8 across the California desert was very light. Even with the construction zones we made good time. West of El Centro, we were at sea level. We started climbing before we reached Ocotillo, then quickly gained 3,000 feet of elevation. The coach handled the climb easily – we never went below 50mph and the coolant temperature topped out right at 200 degrees for just a short time.

We found the Golden Acorn Casino on the south side of I-8 at exit 61. The parking lot is large, but we were a little confused about where we should park the coach. We came in the truck entrance on the southeast side of the casino and saw what was clearly a truck lot. Then we saw a couple of RVs on the north end of the lot and another on the southwest side. We found a fairly level spot on the northwest end, well away from any parked cars. I think we’ll be fine here for the night. It’s always windy here by the divide. There are wind generators on the mountain tops around the casino and to the east. The temperature is over 80 degrees but the breeze makes it feel cooler.

Our spot at Golden Acorn Casino

Tomorrow we’ll have a short drive – less than 70 miles to Mission Bay. We’ll settle down there for the next two months.

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track

Corvette Caravan

Donna braved the heat in Rapid City, South Dakota – not to mention the hills – and went out on her bicycle again on Wednesday. While she was out I caught up on maintenance – I was past due to change the diesel fuel filter on our coach. Although we had only traveled about 7,000 miles since I last changed it, I try to keep to a 12-month interval on this filter. Our coach uses a Fleetguard FS1022 fuel filter which has about a two-quart capacity. A filter element of this size is surely capable of much more than 7,000 miles provided it hasn’t been subjected to heavily contaminated fuel, but the filter media also degrades with time.

Filter last changed 06-16

I was only a few weeks overdue. Changing the fuel filter is a messy affair. No matter how hard I try to keep everything contained, a few dribbles of diesel fuel always hit the ground – and my hands. So, I’m always mindful of where I do this job. I used a plastic catch pan and several paper towels and kept all but a few drops off of the ground. The residual fuel is put in an old oil container and recycled at an auto parts store. I write the month/year of the change on the filter canister so I don’t have to try and remember it or look it up in my log. The writing is a bit shaky – it’s not easy writing freehand on a curved surface.

New filter – good ’til 07-18

We thought about heading out to Hart Ranch for a barbecue and rodeo in the late afternoon, but by 3pm thundershowers were developing. We went into the Elks Lodge at 4pm for happy hour and rain drops started falling as we went in. Soon there was heavy rain and lightning. The weather vacillated between sunshine and gloom with periods of rain over the next hour and a half. We dined at the bar in the lodge.

A little sunlight on the clouds before the next thunder shower

Later we watched a couple more episodes of Homeland – we don’t have all of season six on our hard drive and soon will be in the dark on this series.

Thursday morning I was awakened early by our neighbor hooking up his fifth-wheel trailer and preparing to leave at 6am. At this point I just got out of bed. After wasting a bit of time on the web, I started prepping to leave. I took the Weber Q to the trailer and a few other odds and ends we had out – being mindful of noise for our other neighbors.

Donna got up and fixed a nice breakfast of eggs and leftover steak – lovely. We had everything buttoned up and left around 9:30am. I need to mention one glitch. Somehow I didn’t receive the usual renewal notice from South Dakota for our registrations and license tabs. It slipped my mind and only occurred to me when I made the appointment for Donna’s driver’s license. I renewed online but don’t have the new tabs yet and we’re expired as of June 30th!

As we were hooking up the trailer we saw a Rapid City Police car make a traffic stop right outside the exit from the lodge lot. We crossed our fingers that he would be done and gone before we left – I have a receipt for payment of the fees, but the fact is, we’re on expired registrations and plates.

He left before we pulled out. Apparently he was working Jolly Lane. He had just pulled over another speeder as we turned out of the lot onto Jolly Lane. Luckily he was focused on his traffic stop and we had no worries about our expired plates – we just need to get to the campground in Sioux Falls where we will receive our new tabs and registrations.

Our route took us east on I-90. I had originally thought about stopping somewhere near Chamberlain – about halfway between Rapid City and Sioux Falls near the Missouri River- but we changed the plan. We were headed for the Cabela’s lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

We last visited Mitchell in 2013 when we arranged our wills with our attorney there. I wrote about establishing a domicile state here – we are all-in with South Dakota.

I noticed something interesting on the drive. I started to see Corvettes heading westbound – I would notice them approaching and realized many of them seemed to be caravaning. There would be groups of three to a dozen Corvettes heading west on I-90 – with an occasional single car.

Donna was engrossed in her laptop and didn’t see them. I finally mentioned it after seeing at least 100 Corvettes – mostly newer models, but some vintage – go by. I was a Corvette geek at one time – I had a 1965 big block roadster and a 1972 LT-1 T-Top. She looked it up online and found the Black Hills Corvette Rally. It starts in Sioux Falls and caravans to Spearfish, South Dakota. It started as a small event in 1971 and is now a big-time Corvette rally. Over 400 participate and I’m sure I saw more than 200 of them as they came past over the next few hours.

We stopped in Murdo at the Pilot/Flying J for fuel and lunch. I topped up our tank with 68 gallons of diesel fuel – pure diesel fuel. This is likely the last of pure petroleum diesel we’ll see for a while. We’re headed into the corn belt and all we’re likely to find is B20 diesel – 20% biodiesel mixed with petroleum. I’m not happy about that for a few reasons – but I’ll get into that in another post.

We found the new Cabela’s in Mitchell south of I-90 – my how Mitchell has grown! They have a large RV lot on the southeast side of the store and the directions for RV parking from Spruce Street off exit 332 are well-marked. When we arrived, we found a couple dozen or more RV stalls of at least 70′ in length. There was only one other RV when we arrived at 3:45pm – an Airstream trailer with no vehicle or signs of people. The sites all have a slope to them, nothing too drastic. I didn’t want to put the jacks down in the hot asphalt, so we just used a couple of 2″ wood pads under the front tires to reach a reasonably level attitude. We lost another hour on the road as we’re in the Central Time Zone now.

Later we walked a few hundred yards to El Columpio – a Mexican restaurant. It was surprisingly good and the prices were great. They even had Mexican cervesas (beer). When we returned there were a few more RVs in the lot. In my last post I mentioned a fifth-wheel trailer pulling a cargo trailer – well, this time we saw a motorhome pulling a travel trailer! I’m not sure what the story is, but  we saw what appeared to be a couple with an older woman sitting outside. I’m guessing the couple have the motorhome and the travel trailer is a mother-in-law unit.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

This morning we have cool temperatures in the 60s with a breeze blowing in from the east. We’ll be bucking headwinds again today but we only have about 70 miles to go. We’ll check in at Tower RV Park in Sioux Falls where we’ll spend the next week.

Back to South Dakota

We pulled out of the Broadus, Montana city park around 10am Sunday. Our route had us continue down US212 where we traversed the northeast corner of Wyoming before we reached South Dakota. We saw several antelope in the fields along the roadside this time – I expected to see them the day before but didn’t.

We drove through the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota which has the distinction of being near the designated geographic center of the United States of America. This designation was  bestowed by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1959 – after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is Lebanon, Kansas.

We drove through town on US 85 next to a truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer which had a cargo trailer attached to it – you don’t see that very often! We turned southeast at SD34 while the trailer pulling a trailer went straight down US85. We hit I-90 at Whitewood west of Sturgis. A little while later, the trailer pulling a trailer passed us at about 70mph. He must have taken US85 due south and got on I-90 west of Spearfish. Ours was definitely the shorter, faster route.

We pulled into the Elks Lodge in Rapid City around 1:30pm. I parked in the front lot while we figured out how to set up. This is a very nice lodge – one of the largest and cleanest lodges we’ve visited. This is the first lodge we’ve been to where the bar is open to the public. This is due to the golf course on the lodge property which is also open to the public. The RV lot is for Elks members only.

We dropped the trailer in the main parking lot and backed the coach into site four. We have 50amp electric service and fresh water, no sewer hook up. We paid for four nights and shouldn’t have any worries about sewer. The 50 amp electric service was needed – we had to run the generator on the road to power the front roof air conditioner. Once hooked up, we ran both roof A/Cs – it was 100 degrees outside! The average high temperature in July for Rapid City is 85 degrees – we were in for a few days with highs above average.

We had a problem with one of the basement compartment doors over the last couple of days on the road. The door popped open a few times. I adjusted the plate the latch attaches to, but it still wasn’t very secure. On Monday, I found an Ace Hardware store and bought a flat brass bar one-inch wide. I had them cut a three-inch section. I glued this flat bar to the latch plate effectively extending the height of the plate. The door latches securely now and shouldn’t be a problem down the road. While I was out, I picked up a few groceries.

Meanwhile, Donna was out for a bike ride in the 90 degree heat. She planned a route looking at a map and headed out for a 24-mile ride. Little did she know her route included some steep climbs! She got through it though.

I went online Monday and found the local Department of Public Safety (DPS) licensing office. I found out they take appointments for driver’s license exams and renewals. Donna lost her driver’s license back in November in San Diego – she figures it must have slipped out of the slot in her purse when she pulled her cell phone out. I scheduled an appointment at the DPS office a few miles from the lodge for 10am Tuesday morning. They advise arriving 10 minutes prior to the appointment time.

We walked into the DPS office 12 minutes before 10am. They had a sign telling us to take a number after we completed the application paperwork. Donna had already completed the application so she took a number. Then I saw another sign telling us to notify a clerk if we had an appointment. Donna told a woman at the counter she had an appointment and gave her name. She was told that she would be next in line.

We sat down to wait and within two minutes Donna’s name was called. The woman at the counter entered Donna’s application in her computer terminal, took her photograph and printed her new driver’s license in less than ten minutes! I’ve never experienced such efficiency at a government agency.

We were back on the Spyder and on the road a couple of minutes past 10am. We headed up US16 and turned off at 16A. We were headed to Mount Rushmore. We visited the monument in 2013 when we first hit the road as full-timers (post).

Once we got through the tourist town of Keystone, we hit a traffic jam trying to enter the monument. There was a crew painting new road lettering and arrows and they had a lane closed. This confused the traffic as it was forced to converge into two lanes from three – the two lanes that are for entry to the monument. Through traffic had to go around the crew, then get out of the entry lane at the entrance and get back on the highway. We baked in the sun for 20 minutes trying to enter.

When we were here before, we paid the $10 fee to park and were planning to show our National Parks pass inside but there was no entrance fee. This time I showed my National Parks pass and was told the pass doesn’t do anything for me at the monument – everyone has to pay for a parking permit to enter the monument. So I paid $10 again. We walked through the monument viewing area. We both thought the famous sculptures looked like they had been cleaned since our last visit.

Donna in front of the state flags display

At the viewing pavillion

We didn’t stay long. We went back to Keystone for lunch at Peggy’s Cafe. We were disappointed in the food quality – not on our recommended list. I wanted to take the scenic drive down Needles Highway again but realized that would mean we had to fight our way through the traffic jam at the monument again.

I decided to ride the Spyder down 16A to SD87 and we could come up the Needles Highway from the bottom. This route took us through Custer State Park. At the park entrance there was a sign advising a fee for a park pass to use any of the parks facilities – through traffic on the highway didn’t need a pass. So I carried on without stopping.

At the turn-off to Needles Highway we were stopped and an agent told us we had to purchase a pass to enter the highway, even if we didn’t plan to stop. I didn’t recall paying anything four years ago when we drove down the highway. I paid $10 for a pass.

Needles Highway is very scenic – and it’s slow. The road is narrow and full of twists and turns. There are six tunnels – some a as narrow as eight feet seven inches. I don’t know how the tour buses which are eight feet six inches wide manage to get through, but they do.

I didn’t stop to take photos at the Cathedral Spires which are granite columns – needle like – towering along a section of road. I thought we would come back down the highway and I would get pictures then. We went all the way to Sylvan Lake before stopping to stretch our legs.

Sylvan Lake

We were hot and the route was longer than I anticipated. We didn’t have enough fuel to back-track down the highway. We cooled off in the shade and Donna even put her feet in the lake.

Donna cooling off in Sylvan Lake

We exited the highway at the top end and rode back to Rapid City. We had put in about 110 miles and spent four hours on the Spyder. We had enough sightseeing for one day – we were getting saddle sore.

We ended the day with grilled green chile turkey burgers cooked on the Weber Q for dinner and some leftover red potato salad.

Green chile turkey burger

I opened an IPA called Total Domination from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon.

Ninkasi Total Domination

We’re thinking about going to a barbeque and rodeo later today – it depends on the weather. For the last three days, a thunder shower developed in the late afternoon. Usually it blows through quickly but we had a considerable amount of rain along with high winds, thunder and lightning last night.

Tomorrow we’ll head east and probably make an overnight stop near Chamberlain before we check in for a week in Sioux Falls.

Clark Fork

In my last post, I mentioned a rig that pulled in at the Coeur d’Alene Elks lodge that caught my eye. I should explain why I took interest. First of all, Donna told me I should see the stacker trailer that someone dropped next to our trailer. I had to retrieve her bike from the trailer so I walked down and took a look and a photo.

Our trailer in the foreground – and people think WE have a big trailer!

That’s a tall stacker – our lengths are about the same

Walking down to the trailer, I saw an unusual looking coach. The rear cap had the words “Motor Coach Industries” (MCI). MCI is a well-known brand among tour bus companies and transportation companies. The only MCI motorhomes I’ve seen were conversions of seated buses that had the interior gutted and reconfigured as a motorhome.

This one was different. It appeared to be a purpose-built motorhome with two slide outs. The slides had radiused corners like you would find on high-end coaches such as Newell, Foretravel or Prevost based coaches. It looked to be about 40′ long and had two axles – no tag axle. I’d never seen anything like it.

Custom coach with an MCI chassis and shell

Two sides with radiused corners and pneumatic seals

Eventually I met the owners – first Lisa then her husband Tom. They are from the San Francisco Bay area of California. Tom was an entrepreneur with a business that built entry doors and security doors for hospitals and commercial buildings. He still owns the company but is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation. I’ve heard similar career stories from most of the folks I meet with these super high-end coaches.

This particular coach came from Florida where a dealer – I think the name was Amadas – acquired several MCI chassis and shells back in 2004. They planned to convert three or four per year into custom motorhomes. The financial crisis put their plan on hold from about 2006 to 2010 – that’s when this one was built, in 2010. It checked off most of the boxes on Tom’s wish list – 40′ long so he could stay under California’s 65′ overall length requirement which was a biggie for him. I was surprised to find it powered by a Cummins ISL – like ours – but this one is chipped to produce 500 horsepower – we have 400 horsepower. The challenge with chipping to this power level is keeping the engine operating temperature within a safe range. This bus chassis has a large radiator with a huge belt-driven fan. It also has super access to the engine – something often found on bus type conversions and an area where many motorhomes are lacking.

MCI engine compartment with super access

The bus shell is all aluminum – no fiberglass. The trailer holds their boat on the upper rails and their Cadillac SVR below. The front six feet are a workshop with power tools and a generator on the tongue. I really enjoyed talking to Tom and Lisa and learning about their unique coach.

Thursday morning we packed up and got ready to travel. Donna had ridden over 50 miles on the Centennial Trail to Spokane Valley and back on Wednesday and oddly had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night. I thought she would be out like a light after that endeavor, especially since she put in 35 miles the day before.

Donna snapped this photo of the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail

Tom and Lisa hooked up their trailer and pulled out just ahead of us, leaving us with plenty of room to maneuver and hook up our trailer.

Maybe we’ll see them down the road

We headed east on I-90 and enjoyed several great views of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Then we climbed Fourth of July Pass – a little over 3,000 feet above sea level and crossed the Idaho panhandle into Montana.

We entered Montana at the Lookout Pass summit in the Bitterroot mountain range a little over 4,700 feet above sea level – and lost an hour as we entered the Mountain Time Zone. From there we had a steep down grade to St. Regis. At St. Regis, I-90 follows the Clark Fork River. The river meanders through a long valley that took us roughly south east toward Missoula. The interesting thing is although it often felt like we were descending, we were actually gaining elevation. The Clark Fork runs to the northwest and of course it’s always going downhill.

The way the river meanders through the valley means I-90 crosses it several times. From St. Regis to Deer Lodge – a distance of about 150 miles – it crosses the Clark Fork 16 times. It’s hard for me to imagine, but the Clark Fork flows northwest through a series of valleys and eventually reaches Lake Pend Oreille, a watershed that empties into the Columbia River!

After a long day on the road with several construction slow downs on I-90, we found Indian Creek Campground in Deer Lodge, Montana at the headwaters of the Clark Fork. I didn’t bother to dump our tanks before we left Coeur d’Alene knowing we would have full hook-ups here. We’ll stay one night and push on toward South Dakota. We’re thinking we’ll be in Billings, Montana tomorrow, Then Gillette, Wyoming. We’ll leave here with a full fresh water tank and empty holding tanks – I see a couple of dry  camping nights ahead.

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 Rude Crew

Life on the road isn’t always fun and games and sightseeing. We had a couple of reminders of this while we were staying in Winthrop. For one thing, sometimes things quit working or need maintenance – just like in a sticks-and-bricks home.

While we were in Winthrop, our toilet starting acting up. We have a Thetford Aria II electrically operated toilet. I can’t find an actual technical description or schematic of the operating system, but looking at the parts list, here’s how I think it works.

When you push the flush button it sends a signal to the control module (CM). The CM activates a solenoid that opens and allows water to flow through an impeller inside a plastic housing. At the same time, water is added to the toilet bowl. The impeller spins and operates a mechanism that opens the blade valve in the bottom of the bowl. The bowl empties and the first solenoid closes while a second solenoid opens, reversing the flow through the impeller and closing the valve. More water is added to the bowl and the flushing sequence is finished.

Last week, the toilet would add water to the bowl when the flush button was pressed, but it wouldn’t always open the blade valve. It took several presses before the toilet would actually flush. I tried to look at it while it operated and see what was going on, but the back of the toilet where the operating mechanism is was too close to the bathroom wall for me to be able to see. I saw a couple of drops of water come from somewhere in the back when a flush was attempted. I felt around and thought the water was coming from the impeller housing. I tried tightening the bolts on the housing, but I couldn’t get a wrench on all of the bolts.

So, I had to remove the toilet and turn it sideways to see what was going on. Of course I had to disconnect the water supply to do that so I couldn’t flush and observe. I tightened the impeller housing bolts and while I was at it, I decided to tighten the seat and lid mounts. To do this I had to reach inside the back and feel for the little lever on the plastic mounting nuts. In the process of doing this I felt something strange – the open end of a plastic hose. I put my head down on the floor and peered upward with a flashlight and found a hose had come off a plastic barb. This was my water leak and maybe it was impeding flow through the impeller.

I reconnected the hose and put everything back together. The toilet flushed fine and no leak! Job done! I don’t know how the hose came off, but if we have trouble again I know where to look.

Over the long holiday weekend, the Pine Near RV Park was overflowing with people. There were tents pitched all around and even people camping in regular vehicles. It wasn’t too bad during the day as most people were out and about. The evenings got a little noisy.

We enjoyed dining outdoors at the picnic table and watching the antics of some of the kids. Donna made a jerk marinade for shrimp which I grilled for Sunday night’s dinner. She served it with an orzo, spinach, tomato and feta salad with basil vinaigrette.

Shrimp with orzo salad

Park overflowing – the Bounder and tents on the right turned out to be a problem.

Sunday night a group of people about 100 feet away from us got rowdy. This group appeared to be friends and extended family with three generations together. They were housed in a Fleetwood Bounder Classic motorhome – which we assumed belonged to the grandparents – tents and a rental cabin. They had a number of little kids and young adults.

After dark the little kids were inside and a group of about a dozen thirty-somethings sat outside around a table where they were drinking and playing some kind of game. They were hooting and hollering and one of them would break out with loud, shrill laughter. A little before 11pm Donna went over and politely asked them if the could keep it down. They seemed okay.

But it didn’t end. If anything they got louder. After 1am, I’d had enough. I went over and asked them to stop the noisy partying. They were obviously intoxicated and told me they were camping and having fun. I told them they weren’t out camping in a secluded area, they were sitting in the middle of a hundred people trying to sleep. They told me if I didn’t like it, I should leave! They kept at it until well after 2am. I’ve never encountered such a thoughtless and rude crew in an RV park before.

Monday morning while we were preparing to hit the road, Donna had a conversation with Anna, the owner of Pine Near RV Park. She told Anna we enjoyed our week in the park until Sunday night. She said it was the worst night she’d ever had in an RV park in our entire four years on the road.

Anna said we should have called her – she keeps her cell phone on her nightstand and comes out when there’s a complaint. She lives onsite and she usually sleeps with her window open. But she was up the night before dealing with a loud group on the other end of the park and slept right through the noise we were complaining about.

Rude crew Bounder

If you see the Bounder pictured above in the RV park, you might want to consider staying somewhere else. I had to remind myself that these were not RV people. They were “camping out” in tents and rental cabins. They were clueless about RV etiquette and obviously had no sense at all. Anna said she would deal with them and apologized for the unacceptable behavior.

We pulled out of Winthrop before 10am – both of us feeling the effects of a near sleepless night. We avoided the traffic on WA20 by taking the Twisp – Winthrop Eastside Road. Our route took us down WA153 along the Methow River to Pateros where the Methow reaches the Columbia River.

From there we took US97 across the Columbia River to WA17 through Bridgeport onto WA174 past the Chief Joseph Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam and onto US2. This highway took us east and we stopped at a rest area east of Creston – one of the very few rest areas found on US2. We ate lunch at a picnic table at the rest area and met a guy touring on a motorcycle. He had ridden his Indian motorcycle from Allen Park, Michigan where he left a week before. He was headed for the coast.

When we got back on the road, I noticed something strange. My ScanGuage D was displaying erratic coolant temperature readings. As I accelerated out of the rest area, the reading shot up to 220 degrees – I doubted if this was a true reading as we had parked for at least 20 minutes I would have expected to see a temperature of around 170 degrees. An over-temp alarm sounded, then the temperature reading went down to 170. Then it jumped back up to 215, then 220 and an alarm sounded before it went back down to 180 and then it read normal temperatures between 180 and 190 for the rest of the way. I’ll have to inspect the wiring or maybe I have a sensor malfunctioning.

We made a stop for fuel after crossing into Idaho on I-90. While I was fueling up, Donna called the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge to see if they had an open site. They did. The camp host told her we should take exit 11 and come up Ramsey Road. The usual way is to take exit 12 and go up US95. He said US95 was a traffic snarl and coming in from Ramsey to the west was a better option. His route worked great. We dropped the trailer and backed into site 23.

Coeur d’Alene Elks site 23

Several rigs came in after us but there’s still a few open sites. In the evening, I saw on Facebook that my friend Gary Stemple is here. We plan to hook up this afternoon for a Fourth of July boat ride on the lake.

It was blissfully quiet all night and Donna and I woke up well-rested. She’s out on the bike trail taking a ride to Spokane and back this morning. Wherever you are, I hope you have safe and happy Independence Day!

Winthrop Discoveries

We did some sight seeing on Thursday afternoon. We rode the Spyder out East Chewuch Road past the Pearrygin Lake turn-off, then crossed over the river to West Chewuch Road. We continued north past Boulder Creek and Eightmile Creek until we found the aptly named Falls Creek.

Falls Creek flows from the west and empties into the Chewuch River. There’s a trailhead on the west side of the road north of the bridge over the creek. About a quarter mile up the trail there’s a waterfall. It’s an easy hike with the trail partially paved.

View of the falls from the trail

Here’s a closer view with spray hanging in the air

It was warm out – the temperature was in the upper 80s. Near the falls it was much cooler as spray from falls evaporated and cooled the air.

Falls Creek downstream of the waterfall

There’s another waterfall higher up trail, but you need to be prepared to scramble up a steep climb. We didn’t wear appropriate shoes for such a climb. We started up the trail but it was too steep and slippery, so we gave it up figuring it wasn’t worth risking a fall.

Later Donna prepared wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. She simply salted and peppered the filet, added sliced lemon and I grilled it on a cedar plank. The plank had been soaked in water for a couple of hours.

Cedar planked salmon

I grilled the salmon at about 350 degrees for 17 minutes or so – it reached an internal temperature of 130 degrees before I removed the fish from the plank.

Donna served it with grilled fresh garlic scapes and sauteed kale and garlic. It was a tasty dish.

Dinner is served

The evenings cool quickly and our picnic table in site 11 is shaded by a large tree – so we dined outdoors.

Friday was another warm day – upper 80s again. Once again we headed out on the Spyder leaving Pine Near RV Park around 11am. We headed southeast from town out Twin Lakes Road then west on Patterson Lake Road. Our destination was Sun Mountain Lodge – a resort overlooking the Methow Valley. The views are spectacular.

Lower Methow Valley from Sun Mountain Lodge

Upper Methow Valley from Sun Mountain Lodge – snow on the peak on the left

North end of Patterson Lake from Sun Mountain Lodge

We had lunch on the outdoor deck at the Wolf Creek Bar and Grill in the lodge. It was shaded and pleasant outside. The lodge has a great taxidermy display that came from the estate of a local resident after he passed away.

On the way back into the valley from the lodge we stopped at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery.

We met a docent that gave us a tour and told us about the history of the place. He and his wife are full-time RVers and workcamp at the fishery. They work 20 hours a week – five four-hour days and live in their motorhome with full hookups at the hatchery for four months during the summer.

Click on the photos to enlarge and read the placards

This hatchery doesn’t allow as much access to the fish runs as the hatchery we visited in Branson, Missouri. It does have a viewing area where we saw large Chinook salmon that had returned to their birth place after a few years at sea. It’s amazing that they can make the 600-mile fresh water journey upstream to reach the hatchery from the Pacific Ocean. Over 1100 salmon returned in June. After the fish spawn, they are allocated to two Native American tribes in the area.

The tour included a cup of fish food for each of us to take to a holding pond where we fed the trout in the pond. There were some large trout along with hundreds of smaller fish.

After we returned, Donna braved the heat and went out on her bicycle – she put in 16 miles out Wolf Creek Road.

For dinner, Donna had marinated a pork tenderloin with her mojo marinade sauce. I grilled it along with two ears of corn on the cob still in the husks. I soaked the corn for about 20 minutes and removed the cornsilk before I put it on the grill. I grilled the pork tenderloin and corn for about 22 minutes at about 350 degrees – turning the tenderloin.

The grill thermometer is an upgrade from our old Weber Q – we love the Q2200

Donna fixed an Asian chopped salad for a side with the pork and corn.

Once again we dined outdoors in the shade.

Donna found pickleball in Winthrop! She found a schedule for open play at the skating rink where they play on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Too bad we didn’t know earlier, we would’ve played. We had to settle for Saturday only.

The skating rink is an outdoor affair with a large, smooth and level concrete pad next to a large clubhouse. It has pickleball courts lined out for up to six courts. We assumed it was an indoor rink and didn’t know until we arrived and saw the nets being set up outside. We climbed back on the Spyder and made a quick run home for hats and sunglasses.

They had three courts set up when we returned a few minutes after 9am. The fee for drop-in play was $3/person. We met some really nice people and played until noon. Now we know – next time we’re here I’ll play as much as possible.

The Pine Near RV Park is filled to capacity with people enjoying a four-day holiday weekend. There are more families with kids than I’ve ever seen here. It’s a little rambunctious in the evenings. It gets dark so late that the kids are still running around after 10pm. By 11pm the park is quiet though.

Today I’ll start prepping for the road. We’ll pull out of here tomorrow and head east to Coeur d’Alene where we’re hoping to find a spot at the Elks Lodge. They don’t take reservations so we have a back-up plan as well.

 

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.

Mistakes and a Mishap

Before we pulled out of Golden Village Palms in Hemet, I realized I made a mistake when I booked our time at Park of the Sierras in Coarsegold. Donna had a coupon for $50 off the weekly rate for first time visitors. So, I booked a week beginning Friday, May 19th. This would mean we would leave on Friday, May 26th. I should have consulted a calendar before I made that reservation. Leaving on Friday, May 26th means we would be hitting the road at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Not a good time to be on the road.

I called the Escapees Park of the Sierras to see if I could extend our stay through the weekend. The first woman I spoke to wasn’t sure if it was possible. She put me on hold, then the woman I originally booked the site with came on the line. Her name is Melinda and she reads this blog. Melinda fixed me up by blocking our site through the end of the month. Thanks, Melinda!

We left Golden Village Palms just after 11am. We had a short drive ahead and I figured it would take about two hours. I thought about going up CA79 to Beaumont, then hitting I-10 and looping through Highland to I-215. Our GPS suggested taking CA74 west directly to I-215 north until it merged with I-15. This was a simple route and GPS said it would be faster, so I went with it.

We hit a snag just 12 miles down the road. The on-ramp from CA74 to I-15 north was closed for construction. No detour signs. I should have just got onto I-215 south and turned around at the McCall exit only a mile or so down the road. Instead I went west and looked for a way to get back on I-215 north. I made a mistake and ended up on a dead-end road. Luckily there was a large parking lot by a train depot where I turned around. We ended up taking a drive through old downtown Perris (it’s doubtful they see many big rigs passing through!) before we found I-215.  So much for a simple drive.

Although it was midday, I-215 was bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic past March Air Reserve Base and through Moreno Valley. Once we were past I-10, the traffic thinned out as the freeway was up to seven lanes wide in places.

Light traffic on I-215 north of San Bernardino

At Tejon Junction, we took CA138 west all the way to Palmdale. We found the Elks Lodge without any trouble despite the inability of our GPS to locate the address. There were only a few rigs in the RV area and we had many sites to choose from. We tried a few of them but our length was a bit much for most of the pull-through sites. We finally settled on a site on the west side of the RV area. We had 30-amp electrical service. We didn’t need sewer or water for the overnight stay, so we were good.

Palmdale Elks Lodge

We entered the Elks Lodge through a driveway on the west side of the property. When we pulled out on Friday morning, I looped around the RV area and headed for the driveway on the east side of the property. This turned out to be a mistake. This driveway slopes at a steep angle and the there’s a sharp dip where it meets the road. The jack on the front of our cargo trailer dragged heavily on the tarmac with a loud screeching sound. It stopped us dead in our tracks for a moment – I was afraid we might be stuck, high-centered on the jack – but we carried on.

Down the block, I pulled over to survey the damage. It wasn’t pretty. The jack was bent and we’ll need to have it replaced soon.

We followed CA138 to CA14 north and then got on CA58 which took us over Tehachapi Summit. Tehachapi Summit is 4,064 feet above sea level. Once we were over the summit, it was a downhill run to CA99 and Bakersfield in the California Central Valley. The Central Valley is less than 300 feet above sea level.

Outside of Fresno, we topped up the fuel tank at a truck stop. I made a wrong turn but once again I found a large parking lot so I could get us turned around to enter the truck stop. One thing I noticed on the drive up CA99  – our transmission fluid temperature was unusually high. I monitor the ATF temperature on our ScanGauge-D. It reads a sensor that sends data to the Transmission Control Module. It usually runs around 180 degrees. I was seeing 206 degrees. This isn’t dangerously high, but I wondered why it was hotter than I normally see. The engine coolant temperature stayed in a more normal range of 180 to 195 degrees – depending on whether we were going uphill or not.

When we merged onto CA41 north toward Yosemite, I figured out why we had higher ATF temperature. When we were on CA99, we were heading in a northwesterly direction. CA41 took us due north. The wind was quartering from the northwest. All the time we were driving up CA99, we were in a direct headwind. It was blowing steadily and I didn’t really take any note of it. The added drag of the headwind put a higher load on the powertrain. The Transmission Control Module communicates with the Engine Control Module and monitors the load. With higher loads, it increases the line pressure in the transmission. Higher fluid pressures results in increased temperature.

Once we were on CA41 and no longer driving directly into the wind, the transmission temperature dropped to 188 degrees. Mystery solved. CA41 brought us into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.

We checked in at Park of the Sierras around 2:30pm and we got to meet Melinda face-to-face. We’ll have to get together for pickleball at some point. The check-in process is rather involved. They spend a lot of time going over park information. It took about 20 minutes. They had us drop the trailer in a dry camping area – no charge for the trailer.

Damaged trailer jack in the dry camping area

Then two guys in golf carts led us to our site. They directed me into the site which would have been pretty tricky without them – they obviously do this often – and we were set up in no time at all. The park is hilly – our site sits at an elevation of 1,886 feet above sea level.

Park of the Sierras site 303

Our site is quiet and we feel like we’re nestled in the woods. Donna made fish tacos for dinner and we enjoyed them al fresco on our deck.

Dinner on the deck

The trees have my satellite dish blocked. I won’t be able to watch this weekend’s Moto GP race from Le Mans, France unless I download coverage. We have cable here, but it doesn’t include BEIN Sports channel which covers the race. Next weekend, I can use the cable for the Formula One race at Monaco.

Speaking of Moto GP…in 2006, the championship was won in the last race of the season by an American rider, Nicky Hayden. Nicky currently rides in World Superbike for the Ten Kate Honda team. I first saw Hayden at Laguna Seca in the ’90s when he rode in the AMA series. Nicky was on a group bicycle ride near San Marino, Italy last Friday. Many motorcycle racers train on bicycles – it takes a high level of fitness and endurance to race at the world championship level. Nicky was hit by a car and is in critical condition at Cesena hospital. He has a brain injury and is on life support. My thoughts are with Nicky and his family.

Today we plan to explore the area. We might head into town – maybe go all the way to Oakhurst which is about 12 miles away. The weather forecast for the next 10 days calls for upper 80s and 90-degree temperatures with no rain expected.