Category Archives: Idaho

Be Careful – Shift Happens

We pulled out of our roadside boondocking spot at Georgetown Summit around 10:30am Thursday morning. Our route took us down US30 to the Wyoming border. As we continued on US30, we crossed a few summits over 6,000 feet above sea level and one summit near Diamondville over 7,000 feet above sea level. It wasn’t too bad though, we weren’t much below 6,000 feet at any time.

We made our way to I-80 east and about 25 miles later, stopped for lunch at Little America. I remember stopping here twice traveling cross-country with my parents in the ’60s. The food wasn’t anything to rave about but the break was needed and they have ample parking.

Around 30 miles later, I-80 took us past the town of Green River. I could hear John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival singing in my head;

Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah.
Let me remember the things I don’t know,
Stopping at the log where catfish bite,
Walking along the river road at night,
Barefoot girls dancing in the moonlight.
I can hear the bullfrog calling me.
Wonder if my rope’s still hanging to the tree.
Love to kick my feet ‘way down the shallow water.
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back t’your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River.
Welllllll!

Our destination was Rock Springs, Wyoming – more accurately the Sweetwater Events Complex, home of the Sweetwater County Fair and many other events. They have more than 1,200 RV sites with full hook-ups. As Escapees members, we could get a site for $21/night. We want to spend a few days in the area and attend the Blues and Brews festival today.

We found the complex without any trouble, but the check-in was a little different. We followed signs to the caretaker’s house. I knocked on the door and a woman invited me in. I told her we would like to stay for four nights. She asked if I was paying with a credit card. I said yes – she told me I would have to go to the office building then and gave me directions. I’m glad we didn’t arrive on a weekend – the office is only open Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm.

At the office, I paid for four nights and asked if there were any pull-through sites. The woman said no. Then she looked out the window at the size of our rig. She got a map of the RV sites out and told me what I should do. She said to park adjacent to two sites on the end of the row, with our rig on the side of the interior road. She said that we should be able to reach the hook-ups and have plenty of room for our length.

I could hardly believe they would allow this, but the place is fairly empty and it looked like a good plan. The regular sites are all back-in and laid out strangely. The sites are fenced off with wooden rail fencing on three sides. The hook-ups are in the rear, behind the fence and are shared with the site behind.

Fenced back-in site

Fenced back-in site

Confusing looking rows of sites - they look like pens

Confusing looking rows of sites – they look like pens

I studied her map carefully to be sure I understood what she was telling me to do. I pulled into the area she indicated and stayed close to the fence to keep us from blocking the road.

We're on the side of an interior road adjacent to two sites

We’re on the side of an interior road adjacent to two sites

It was a fairly long run to the water and sewer hook-ups, but I managed. The living room slide came within an inch of the fence. Shortly after I got us hooked up, a thunder shower hit us accompanied by gusty winds. I had to pull the living room slide in to keep the slide topper from flapping itself to death.

Long run for water and sewer

Long run for water and sewer

One of the things we always have to be careful of after a day on the road is opening cabinets. Like the airlines always say, cargo may have shifted in the overhead bin. Donna had her laptop on the floor in front of her seat as she was using it as we traveled down the road. When she opened the overhead cabinet in front of her seat a remote for the satellite receiver fell out. It landed with a bang on her laptop about six feet below the cabinet.

The impact was too much apparently. No visible damage, but her laptop wouldn’t boot up. It went to a blue screen with an Aptio set up utility. The utility wouldn’t work – it just went in circles back to itself. She texted our friend and computer guru, Joel Myaer. He said he thought the hard drive was toast. I called my friend, another computer guru and former colleague, Bob Clogg. He had me try a few things, then suggested I buy a special cable and remove Donna’s hard drive. I could use the special cable to connect it as an external hard drive on my laptop and maybe retrieve her data.

On Friday morning, we went to a computer shop called Sweetwater Technology Services – there’s no Best Buy in Rock Springs – in fact the nearest Best Buy is in Salt Lake City! I found  a device to hook up her hard drive. We also shopped for a new laptop at a few stores but didn’t find anything she wanted.

After removing her hard drive and connecting it to my laptop, I couldn’t retrieve anything. The hard drive was recognized by my OS, but it couldn’t read any files. I took her hard drive back to Sweetwater Technology Services and asked them if they could retrieve the files. The minimum charge to hook up and diagnose was $41. I left the hard drive with them.

Later they called Donna. No dice. The hard drive is toast. If she really wanted the data, they could send it out to a specialist, but she would be looking at $1,200+ to get it. Donna used to use Carbonite for back up, but we don’t do that anymore since our data usage is limited and backing up to a remote site means double dipping on data. She’s sorry now that she didn’t do more frequent backups to her external hard drive. From now on, we’ll do that.

Donna ordered a new laptop on Amazon and we should have it Monday. That means we’ll extend our stay for another night here.

The weather on Friday was much nicer. Not much wind, clear skies and a high temperature of 79 degrees. Donna went for a short run and did a workout in a grassy area nearby. She said she could feel the effects of the elevation – we’re nearly 6,800 feet above sea level.

 

*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!

Don’t Do It!

We decided not to go to the Basque museum on our last full day in Boise, Idaho. Donna went grocery shopping, then she had some cooking to do. She baked a French style cherry pie and added apricots to it. She also made prosciutto-wrapped asparagus spears with garlic and herb boursin cheese. She wanted to bring the appetizer and dessert to our friends, Mike and Dina Martin’s place where we were invited for dinner.

Mike and I chatted outside their coach at Riverside RV park in Garden City – a Boise suburb north of town along the Boise River. Meanwhile the girls had girl-talk inside while Dina prepared an awesome chicken piccata.

Chicken piccata plate ala Dina Martin

Chicken piccata plate ala Dina Martin

As usual, the time got away from us and it was after 9pm before we got home.

On Wednesday morning we prepped for travel and pulled out of Mountain View RV Park. Our first stop would be in Jerome at the Pilot/Flying J travel center about 120 miles away. I planned to fuel up there and also have the coach and trailer washed at the Blue Beacon truck wash that shares the lot with the travel center.

We got there around 12:30pm. While I pumped 67 gallons of fuel @ $2.48/gallon, Donna walked across the street to Subway to get meatball marinara subs for lunch. I told her I would be at Blue Beacon by the time she came back. I pulled over toward the Blue Beacon and found a queue of trucks. I stopped short so I could allow room to maneuver and got out to see if this was a line for the truck wash. I asked the trucker ahead of me and he said it was. I asked how long he thought it would take, he said, “Figure 20 minutes per truck so we’re looking at about two hours.” I was glad I stopped and allowed room to move – I moved out of line and parked on the street. I phoned Donna as she was leaving Subway and told her where to find me.

Boise sits at an elevation of around 2,700 feet above sea level. As we drove east on I-86, it’s a gradual but constant climb. Pocatello sits at an elevation of 4,460 feet above sea level. Along the way, we were involved in an incident.

You’ve probably heard the old saw about the difference between being involved and being committed where a plate of ham and eggs is the example. The chicken was involved while the pig was committed.

We were cruising along on what had been an uneventful few hours of driving. We passed a few signs warning of game crossing the road, but at 2:30pm, I wasn’t too concerned about game crossing. I could see the Snake River on our left and thought maybe deer or antelope might come out of the hills and cross the interstate to reach the river for water in the morning or evening.

Around mile post 49 I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a deer – a large bodied buck crossing the westbound lanes toward us at full speed. I said out loud, “Don’t do it, don’t do it!” Donna heard this and saw the buck come flying into the center median where he made a quick cut to his left. I could see our paths would coincide and for a split second, I thought this cut to the left would avoid us meeting. But then he bounded to the right onto the eastbound interstate and took a flying leap into the side of our coach.

The force of the impact made a loud bang but otherwise didn’t disturb our 35,000-pound rig moving along at 60mph. The buck didn’t fare so well. The moving coach spun him around and hurled him to the pavement. It wasn’t a survivable impact. He was committed to getting across the interstate and unfortunately we became involved. I don’t think there was anything I could have done to avoid it – it happened way too fast.

I pulled off the road at the next off-ramp and checked the damage. We have a dent and crack in the fiberglass laminate sidewall on the driver’s side on the living room slide. A basement compartment door also has some damage and there are a few paint scrapes.

Crack in fiberglass laminate side wall

Crack in fiberglass laminate side wall

Looks like I’ll be dealing with insurance again.

Our plan was to boondock for the night at a spot Donna found on the Escapee’s directory outside of Soda Springs. The last update was about two years ago, so we figured it would be a safe bet. Not so much. It’s currently an active gravel pit with loaders and construction trucks. We kept moving.

Eventually I found a pull-out on US30 at Georgetown Summit where we’re parked at an elevation of 6,280 feet above sea level. It turned out to be more than a 300-mile day – longer than we’ve been driving lately.

The temperature dropped to the 40s overnight and although there was some road noise, I slept soundly. Today we’ll press on to Rock Springs, Wyoming. We plan to check in at the fairground RV park and hit the Blues and Brews festival this weekend.

Freak Alley – Boise, Idaho

We pulled into the Mountain View RV Park in Boise around 2pm on Saturday. The registration lane is relatively short and we took up the whole lane. The manager on duty, Justin, came over to my window before I shut off the engine. He told me to follow him in his golf cart and he would get us into our site so the lane wouldn’t be blocked. He already knew who we were and what site he was going to put us in.

He knew we had a long rig with our trailer and selected a site with a smaller rig next door which he had them position well forward in their site to give us more room to turn in. I think he expected us to have a difficult time maneuvering, but it went smoothly. I pulled through our site, then reversed to straighten out the trailer and we were all set. He told me to take my time setting up and come to the office any time before 6pm to sign in and pay. Nice check-in process.

The park is fairly tight and a little noisy as it’s next to I-84. It’s on the east end of the Boise airport, but since the prevailing wind is out of the west, airplanes take off in that direction and we don’t even hear them. The park is nicely landscaped and well-kept. All of the sites and interior roads are paved so there’s no issue with dust.

After we set up, I made a run to the Fred Meyer store on the Spyder and reconnoitered the area. Later, Donna went out and walked nearly five miles.

On Sunday afternoon, we rode the Spyder to the Boise Depot a few miles from here. The Boise Depot is a Mission-style structure built in 1925 to house the train station. It was proclaimed “the most beautiful structure of its kind in the west.” Today the Boise Depot is a museum with artifacts from the golden age of railroading prior to World War II. After perusing the displays, a docent took us up the bell tower in an elevator. The original spiral staircase had been removed and replaced with a elevator.

Boise Depot bell tower

Boise Depot bell tower

There are four bells in the tower, each one a different size and weight to create different tones. Today only one is used and it chimes at 8am, noon and 5pm. The view from the bell tower was outstanding. We could see the old downtown district and state capitol to the north.

Downtown and capital building

Downtown and capitol building

To the east, we had a view of a city park and mountains in the distance.

View to the east

View to the east

From there we rode to  the old downtown area. The roads are a little tricky to figure out around the depot.  Capitol Boulevard is divided and you can only go south from the intersection at the depot. We wanted to go north. I found a way by following Crescent Rim Drive to South Americana Boulevard which took us downtown.

We planned to meet up with Mike and DIna Martin at 5pm at the Bittercreek Alehouse for cold brew and dinner. We found a place to park on the street in front, but we were early. So, we took a walk across the street to Freak Alley. This is an outdoor art gallery established in 2002 where local artists create spray-paint art. Artists submit their proposals and once a year – between the first and second Saturday in August – new murals are painted. I’ve seen something similar to this in Barcelona, Spain. It was an interesting walk down what is otherwise a regular working alley with dumpsters and loading areas behind businesses.

Freak Alley

Freak Alley

8_7frkal2

8_7frkal3

8_7frkal4

We walked back toward Bittercreek Alehouse just in time to find Dina and Mike coming up the sidewalk – they were early too. We found a table inside next to an open air window to the patio and sidewalk. I’ve never met them before but Donna’s known Dina for about 10 years through the National Association of Professional Organizers.

This was the reason we left the McCall area to come to Boise – Mike and DIna have been on the road for nearly four years in their Monaco Signature coach and this was the first time we found ourselves in the same area at the same time and we wanted to get together.

Donna, Dina and Mike

Donna, Dina and Mike

Our server seemed a little spacey at first. She brought us water right away and we said we needed a minute to peruse the beer selections. They have about 40 beers on tap plus bottled beer. Then she disappeared and seemed to forget about us. Eventually she came back and took our drink orders.

We sat and talked and enjoyed a couple of cold ones before we ordered food. Donna ordered a smoked trout salad and I went for the beef au jus sandwich. The food was outstanding – one of the best sandwiches I’ve had and Donna really liked her salad.

Donna smoked trout salad

Donna’s smoked trout salad

Beef au jus sandwich with potato-corn chowder

Beef au jus sandwich with potato-corn chowder

We stayed at the alehouse talking until about 8pm. The time flies when we’re with good company.

Today the forecast calls for a high of 86 degrees with only a few clouds. Donna and I are planning to float down the Boise River this afternoon.

Smoke on the Water

Our overnight in Grangeville, Idaho at the Bear Den RV Park was surprisingly nice. Who would have thought that such an out-of-the-way spot would have a clean, friendly park with all pull-through sites and lightning-fast, free wifi! This was probably the best park wifi we’ve ever experienced.

We pulled out a little before 10am Friday morning and headed down US95. It started out flat and I was cruising at 60mph with a tractor-trailer rig behind me. After a few miles, we hit a steep upgrade with a passing lane. I didn’t have to worry about the tractor-trailer – we dropped him like a rock on the incline. A few cars cleared out and we were traffic-free as we crossed the White Bird Summit at 4,245 feet above sea level.

At the summit, there was a sign that said we were in for seven miles of seven percent downgrade! Trucks were advised to maintain 35mph. Like the drop into Lewiston, this is a long drop with several runaway truck ramps. If a trucker allows too much speed or overheats his brakes through poor technique, all braking power can be lost with a heavy load and gravity hurling his cargo down the grade.

Runaway truck ramp with deep gravel

Runaway truck ramp with deep gravel

As usual, I silently thanked Jacobs Engineering for the development and release of an engine compression brake for diesel engines in 1961. Using our “Jake” brake, I controlled our downhill speed and only used the brake pedal a few times for some of the curves. There were a few signs warning “Grade Steepens” – really!?!

The view to the south toward the Hell’s Canyon Recreation Area is spectacular and you can see for miles as you descend from White Bird Summit.

The photo from Donna's seat cannot capture the grandeur of the view

The photo from Donna’s seat cannot capture the grandeur of the view

We leveled out and followed the Salmon River. It was so pretty, Donna took a few passenger seat photos along the way. You really have to see it to appreciate it though.

US95 along the Salmon River

US95 along the Salmon River

Another passenger seat view with what appears to be sandy beach

Another passenger seat view with what appears to be sandy beach

We saw several areas with what appeared to be sandy beaches. I think it’s more likely to be clay silt deposits, but without wriggling our toes in it, we’ll never know for sure.

At New Meadows, we hit the junction with ID55. We took a left and followed ID55 through Meadows toward McCall. It was twisty and steep at times – also narrow. After a while, we ran into a construction zone with a few tight, tricky, turns then finally an area with only one lane of traffic. The sign warned of delays up to 30 minutes, but we were only stopped for about five minutes. We lost an hour though as we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone.

I had programmed GPS coordinates into our Rand-McNally RVND 7720 GPS to find Mark and Emily Fagan’s boondocking site – Emily had sent the coordinates to Donna earlier. For those who may not know, GPS coordinates are latitude and longitude markers using a geographic coordinate system. This system sets up a grid for world geography. Latitude sets a number of parallel lines around the earth starting at the equator. The equator is zero, the north pole is 90 degrees north and the south pole is 90 degrees south. One degree of latitude is 69 nautical miles and one minute of latitude is one nautical mile. It’s then further broken down into seconds which can then be further defined with decimal points.

Longitude is a little more difficult due to its point of origin. Instead of something easy like the equator, we have a seemingly arbitrary starting point. Zero degrees of longitude coincides with a north-south line through Greenwich, England and aligning with the north and south poles due to England’s mastery of the seas when this system was devised. These lines are called meridians. Once again we have defined degrees west of Greenwich and degrees east of Greenwich. On the opposite side of the earth we reach a longitude of 180 degrees where east and west meet. Anyway, using a coordinate system can pinpoint a spot without an address.

As we rolled along toward our turnoff point, Donna spotted Mark on the left shoulder among some Ponderosa pines waving at us to get our attention. We pulled off the road into a Forest Service area set aside for snowmobilers in the winter months. As usual, Mark and Emily found a nice, free boondocking spot. We first met Mark and Emily in San Diego in 2013 – read here.

Boondocking with Mark and Emily (Mark Fagan photo)

Boondocking with Mark and Emily (Mark Fagan photo)

It was a roomy lot and we got turned around and lined up with them easily. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than two years since we last saw Mark and Emily. It was great to hook up again. Once we set up, we sat together at their rig and talked for a bit. Mark and I drove into town in their new Dodge Ram 3500 dually to refill one of their propane tanks and hit the grocery store while the girls caught up.

After we returned we decided to go back to town – McCall is only a few miles from this spot – and check out the Salmon River Brewery pub. This area of Idaho has been hit with smoke from fires to the north and fires in eastern Oregon. Depending on the wind direction, the smoke can be a distant haze or it can be be a fog with a campfire smell. When Mark and I went for propane, Payette Lake was clear and the view was beautiful.

When we returned to hit the pub on the lake, the wind had shifted and the lake had so much smoke that you could barely make out the scenic hillsides and forests on the far side.

Smoke on the water

Smoke on the water

Smoke and clouds

Smoke and clouds

Emily, Donna and Mark at Salmon River Brewring

Emily, Donna and Mark at Salmon River Brewing

We ordered food and few beers, then took a walk by the lake. The sun broke through the clouds and smoke briefly and left a beautiful reflection on the lake. Mark was pining for his camera.

Should I say - a fire in the sky

Should I say – a fire in the sky

On the way home we parked at Rotary Park and walked across the bridge to Shore Lodge. This is where visitors to McCall and Payette Lake get first-class accommodations and services. We took a stroll through and looked around. They had a nice seafood display on ice in a canoe in front of the restaurant that looked very appealing.

Seaweed, oysters, king crab legs and prawns

Seaweed, oysters, king crab legs and prawns

We made our way back to camp and sat outside and talked for a while. I had unloaded the Spyder when we arrived, but it turned out to be unnecessary since we never used it. I left it outside overnight and regretted it as unexpected raindrops fell overnight. I’m blaming the raindrops on the smoke – particulates in the air can collect moisture. If they collect enough, it gets heavy and falls to the ground as rain – that’s the theory behind “seeding” clouds. It’s my theory here and I’m sticking to it. I slept poorly overnight with the intermittent rain showers and sudden humidity.

We said our goodbyes Saturday morning as Mark headed out for a bike ride. Emily had a stomach bug and wasn’t feeling well – it’s funny as she was the one who only had one beer the night before. Earlier, Donna needed to get in a quick hike. She walked up a trail – everything is up from here – for about 20 minutes, then ran back down and covered it in 10 minutes.

Donna's hiking path

Donna’s hiking path

She saw a few mountain bikers on the trail.

Coming through

Coming through

We headed out toward town on ID55. Nally, our GPS had us turn before town. She had a clever route that bypassed the town and its tourist traffic and took us past the airport where we rejoined ID55.

Although we only had to cover about 120 miles, Nally predicted a two-and-a-half hour drive. I expected more like three with weekend traffic. Our route turned out to be very scenic although challenging at times with steep grades and tight turns. Some of the tight turns had us right up against sheer rock walls and I had to be mindful of how the trailer was tracking so I wouldn’t scrape them.

We drove into more smoky areas. This route on ID55 through McCall, Cascade and Smith’s Ferry to Boise is also known as the Payette River Scenic Byway. It’s aptly named as we followed the river almost the whole way. It’s a great recreational area and we saw several rafters and kayakers on the river. From Smith’s Ferry on down, we saw more and more and Donna kept trying to capture photos, but it’s hard when you’re rolling down the road. I tried to keep my attention on the road and concentrate on driving, not sightseeing.

Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes upon the road

Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel

Rafters on the river

Rafters on the river

Heading for whitewater

Heading for whitewater and more smoke

This post is getting too long, so I’ll post about our current location later.

Idaho’s First Capital

I asked Bob, the camp host at the Coeur D’Alene Elks Lodge, where the best place was to get propane in the area. He told me there was a place a few miles south on Appleway Avenue that had the best price. Later I rode the Spyder down there to check it out. It turned out to be an RV store that had propane for $1.99/gallon. I talked to the guy  there and he said he would open a second gate for me so I could drive in and circle behind the shop to pull up to the propane tank. Easy!

While I was out, I ran a few errands and stopped at Del Taco for lunch. I rarely buy from fast food chains, but it wasn’t bad. When I got home, Donna walked to Bed, Bath and Beyond, then hit a couple of other stores nearby. She ended up buying a smaller tomato cage at a local feed store, so I won’t modify the one I bought at Home Depot. We actually gave the one I bought to Bob and told him he could return if he wanted and use the refund to buy a drink on us.

Donna's heirloom cherry tomato plant - look closely and you'll see she already has a tomato

Donna’s heirloom cherry tomato plant – look closely and you’ll see she already has a tomato

On Wednesday night, Donna tried a new recipe for black bean soup with braised chicken and chorizo. She wanted to use the dry beans she bought in Quincy (one of many agricultural crops there) and read that she could do it without soaking the beans first, but it would take longer to cook. It ended up taking even longer than expected and came out much thicker than she wanted – more like a stew or pot of chili than soup. But, served with a dollop of sour cream, avocado cubes, green onions and cilantro it was very tasty.

Donna in her element

Donna in her element

Black bean soup

Black bean soup

I was hoping to roll out of the Elks Lodge by 9:30am Thursday morning. We loaded up and picked up the trailer, then I loaded the Spyder in the parking lot. We pulled out at 9:32am. We went directly to Bobby Combs RV Center on Appleway Avenue where I checked out the propane the day before.

The last time I bought propane was in Coeur D’Alene in July of 2014 – we went more than two years on one tank. The weight placard for our coach says the tank holds 42 gallons or about 189 pounds of propane. I’m not sure if it’s a 42-gallon tank – which would really only hold about 34 gallons of propane or a 53-gallon tank which would hold about 42 gallons. Propane tanks can only be filled to 80% of their actual capacity.

Our tank level sensor display fell below a quarter tank a few months ago and has been showing empty. It took 30.1 gallons to fill it. So, I’m assuming we have a 42-gallon tank with about 33 gallons of usable propane. The only time we use propane is driving down the road to run the refrigerator – very low consumption – or when we’re boondocking to run the refrigerator and water heater. We’ve rarely used the propane furnace – we usually stay in warm areas or run the heat pumps if needed. I hope it’ll be another two years before I have to fill it again.

After filling the tank, we drove south on US95 past Lake Coeur D’Alene and climbed into forested mountains. We would make several climbs and a few descents along the way. After a while, as we neared Potlatch, the forest gave way to farmland – mostly rolling hills with wheat fields. We continued on through Moscow – home of the University of Idaho and eventually hit the steep downgrade into Lewiston.

The grade is long and very steep with several runaway truck ramps along the way. The runaway truck ramps are lanes off to the side of the road filled with deep gravel to slow a truck that’s lost its braking power. Some of the runaway truck ramps were built into steep hillsides to further slow a truck without brakes. There were advisory signs for trucks indicating a speed of 35mph.

I thought this seemed like a reasonable speed down the long grade with a few switchback turns. I kept the Jake brake on high and only stabbed the brake pedal a few times on the way down. About a third of the way down, I pulled off at a scenic overlook. The view was incredible. Looking down into the valley toward Hell’s Canyon, we could see where the Clearwater River joins the Snake River. The Snake River flows north out of Hell’s Canyon. Lewiston is on the east bank while Clarkston, Washington is on the west bank. The Snake River continues through Washington and joins the Columbia River.

Clearwater River from left to right joins the Snake river, separating Lewiston, Idaho from Clarkston, Washington.

Clearwater River from left to right joins the Snake River flowing up from the south, separating Lewiston, Idaho from Clarkston, Washington.

A little known factoid is that Lewiston was the original capital of the Idaho Territory.

Click to enlarge and read about the first capital of Idaho

Click to enlarge and read about the first capital of Idaho

US95 took us across the Clearwater River at an elevation of about 750 feet above sea level. We began a long, steady, uphill grind out of the valley. It wasn’t too steep, but it was a constant uphill pull with a headwind component. And it was about 90 degrees out. With the engine running full turbocharger boost pressure, our coolant temperature started to climb. When it hit 200 degrees, I downshifted the six-speed Allison  3000MH transmission to fifth gear. This kept the temperature stable at 198 – 200 until we hit a steeper grade.I went to fourth gear and slowed to 50mph. Then the grade got steeper again. I watched the coolant temperature rise to 207 degrees and saw it flicker up to 210 a couple of times on the Scan Gauge D digital readout. The Scan Gauge operates off the feed from engine sensors to the Engine Control Module (ECM). For our CAPS Cummins ISL, 210 is the maximum coolant temperature I want to see. Later models with the common rail fuel system can tolerate higher temperatures.

I finally downshifted to third gear and slowed again. This kept the engine RPM up to 1,900-2,000 RPM to circulate coolant and run the radiator cooling fan at high speed. This dropped the temperature again and we finally crested the plateau.

For the previous hundred miles or so, we drove through farmland mostly growing wheat. On the plateau, the wheat fields were replaced by miles of barley – the grain most often used to make beer. Being rural farmland, we had to watch for farm machinery driving on the highway. We came upon a couple in the road and also drove through a few construction zones. All-in-all it wasn’t a hard day of driving though.

Slow tractor on the highway

Slow tractor on the highway

We pulled into Bear Den RV Park just outside of Grangeville around 2pm. We have a long pull-through site with full hook-ups and 50 amp power. We set up quickly and started the air conditioners. The park is surprisingly nice considering the relatively remote location. Nice, level, long pull-throughs and good wifi!

Donna took a walk to town – about a four-mile round trip. Driving through all those barley fields left me with beer on my mind. So I opened one!

The park was quiet overnight and the temperature dropped to a low of 55 degrees. We slept comfortably with the bedroom window open. The elevation here is around 3,400 feet above sea level.

We’ve changed up our plan. Instead of making it a two-day stop here, we’ll pull out today so we can drive down ID55 and hook up with our friends, Mark and Emily Fagan (Roadslesstraveled) near McCall, Idaho before moving on to Boise.

 

Burger Night

Yesterday was a lazy day for me. I dropped Donna off at the hair salon, then rode the Spyder down to the City Park and Beach on Lake Couer D’Alene. It was warm but breezy, so I was surprised by the number of people on the beach. The traffic in Couer D’Alene can be challenging. All of the north-south routes have many stoplights and traffic backs up.

On the way back, I stopped at Home Depot and bought a cage for Donna’s tomato plant. This thing is growing so fast, it’s sure to need support soon. I didn’t want to get a very large one, the smallest they had was 42″. I think I’ll try to cut it to a smaller size today.

After I posted yesterday, I received a message from our friend Mark Fagan. Mark and Emily are currently camped in McCall, Idaho. Mark cautioned me about wildfires in the area – we’ll need to keep an eye on it as we head south. So far, it looks like our planned route will be okay.

We’ll head out of here tomorrow. Our plan is to drive south on US95. We’ll stop at an RV park south of Grangeville for two nights. They have 80′ pull-through sites which is very convenient. Then we’ll move on to Mountain View RV park in Boise. We’ve booked four nights there and plan to meet up with Donna’s friend Dina Martin and her husband Mike. They’re in their fourth year on the road, but this is the first time we’ve been in the same area at the same time. Dina writes a blog at themartinsamericanadventure.com.

Last night was burger night at the Elk’s Lodge. We walked over around 5:30pm for burgers. The place was packed! It took over an hour for our burger order to come up. It was okay, it gave me a chance to sip a couple of pints of IPA.

We met a neighbor at the lodge the night before and he stopped by our table. It turns out his son-in-law is Ken Schutz, married to his daughter Leann. Ken Schutz was the Darrington High School principal where my daughters graduated. He said he talked to Leann the night before and got the scoop – she remembered me and my family. I lived in Darrington, Washington for about 12 years.

While we were in Alana’s driveway in Arlington, Washington my project was replacing the front shock absorbers on the coach. When we first left Arlington, I thought the front suspension felt a little stiff. Now that I have a few hundred break-in miles on the shocks, I’m very pleased with them. Parts of I-90 through eastern Washington are rough. The shocks kept the front end planted and under control. It made driving the coach much easier. Now I’ll have to see how durable they are. I’m hoping the new design from Koni holds up in the long haul.

Today we have cloudy skies and cooler temperatures – the high is predicted to be in the upper 70s. I need to run a few errands. We’ll pull out of here tomorrow morning and make about a 200-mile drive south through a variety of terrain. I’ll post about the drive on Friday.

 

Coeur D’Alene Elks Lodge

Donna sent me a text message Sunday afternoon saying she was stuck in traffic on I-90 due to an accident, but thought she would make it to Wenatchee by 3:30pm. I rode the Spyder to Pangborn airport in East Wenatchee to meet her at the rental car return and arrived at 3:20pm. Ten minutes later I saw Donna drive into the parking lot.

I grilled salmon patties and Donna served them over a mixed green salad for dinner. We had a quiet night and planned to be on the road around 9am on Monday morning.

I was out of bed by 7am and put away the windshield cover and packed the grill. After breakfast, we did our usual routine making the coach road ready – I worked outside while Donna prepped the interior. Ozark the cat has been a little funny on travel days lately. The last two times she saw us preparing to move, she hid under the sofa and wouldn’t come out until we were rolling down the road.

I don’t like operating the slides with the cat out – it would be horrible if she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I know for sure she’s under the sofa, it’s safe to retract the slides. This time she just laid in front of the refrigerator and watched us get ready to roll. She didn’t complain when Donna put her in her crate.

I pulled out of our site and then loaded the Spyder in the trailer. We drove out of Crescent Bar RV Resort at 9:30am.  Crescent Bar RV Resort is on the bank of the Columbia River and is at an elevation of just under 700 feet above sea level. The road out of the RV park immediately climbs up a steep, twisty grade and gains a few hundred feet of elevation. From there we drove east on WA28 to Quincy, then south on WA281 to George, Washington where we hit I-90 east.

The traffic was fairly light and we cruised at a steady 60mph. We stopped after we crossed into Idaho at the Pilot/Flying J travel center in Post Falls and filled up with 80 gallons of fuel. I added a full ounce of Biobor JF to the tank before pumping, guessing that we would need about 80 gallons and that’s exactly how much it took. With the Pilot/Flying J RV Card discount, we paid $2.58/gallon.

Speaking of expenses, July turned out to be our least expensive month for campground fees ever. Moochdocking in my daughter Alana’s driveway for 15 days had much to do with that. But we also took advantage of our Thousand Trails membership. We had six days remaining on our “free” four weeks which I amortized at $19/day to cover our membership fee and paid $20 for five additional days. Our total campground cost for July was $279 – that’s just nine dollars per day. I think I spent that much on beer!

Our destination was the Elks Lodge #1254 in Coeur D’Alene. They don’t take reservations – it’s first-come first-served. As we pulled in, I saw several RVs behind the lodge and wondered if we would get a site. It turned out they had 30 sites with 50amp electrical service and freshwater hookups and only a dozen or so RVs there. We have a fairly large pull-through site, but we had to drop the trailer in the back of the park.

Our pull-through site at the Coeur D'Alene Elks Lodge

Our pull-through site at the Coeur D’Alene Elks Lodge

In the photo you can see Donna’s tomato planter in front of the coach. The heirloom cherry tomato plant a vendor gave her at the Camas farmers’ market has really taken off. I’m guessing we’ll have fresh cherry tomatoes before the end of the month.

I had to walk to the end of the park to retrieve the ladder from the trailer so I could put the windshield cover on. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like to drop the trailer – it’s inconvenient when we need something that’s stored in the trailer. Another reason is security. I have two locks on the tongue so it would be very difficult to hook up and tow our trailer away like those Dirty, Rotten Thieves did in San Diego. The doors also have padlocks on them.

One thing I’ve noticed on the 20-foot-long slab-sided trailer is the effect of thermal expansion on the aluminum skin. The side facing the sun heats up and the aluminum siding expands. The skin is screwed into the steel frame and can’t move, so the expansion of the aluminum skin results in a wavy surface. Once it cools down, the aluminum contracts and the side is smooth and tight again.

Wavy trailer siding in the sun

Wavy trailer siding in the sun

We paid for three nights here at the Elks Lodge at a cost of $20/night. With 50 amp electrical service and the need for air conditioning, I think this is a bargain. The temperature hit the mid-80s yesterday with clear skies and we expect more of the same over the next few days. The elevation here is around 2,200 feet above sea level.

Today Donna has an appointment with a hair stylist that cut her hair when we were here two years ago. As always, that’s one of her biggest challenges – finding a good stylist who knows how to cut curly hair. We need to plan our next stop – I’m thinking we’ll head south on US95 toward Boise. All I know for sure is that we need to be in Colorado Springs by the end of the month to crew for the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon at the Labor Day Lift-Off balloon festival.

Nuclear Waste

We rolled out of Tamarack RV Park on Thursday morning and headed west out of Coeur d’Alene. We intended to make an early start and be on the road by 9:30am at the latest. I thought this would give us ample time to reach Aubrey’s RV in Union Gap, Washington to have our slide-out repaired. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start over.

I had organized the trailer and added another strap on the left side to secure cargo on Monday afternoon. It was hot in the trailer. The outside temperature reached the 90s and it was even hotter inside the trailer. While I was working in the trailer, we had visitors – Suzanne Holman and her boyfriend, Doug. This gave me a good excuse to take a break. Donna and Suzanne met through a random connection on Facebook. Donna learned from a recent post that Suzanne was taking Doug on a quick tour of Idaho and Washington and invited them to stop by so they could meet in person. We sat at the picnic table enjoying some of Donna’s homemade artichoke hummus and veggies and talked for about an hour. Then I went back to work.

Doug, Donna and Suzanne

Doug, Donna and Suzanne

That night, Donna prepared garlic scapes that she picked up at the farmers’ market on Saturday. She was excited to find them after trying them once many years ago. I’d never eaten a scape before. Donna massaged the scapes with olive oil, wound bunches of 4-5 in a loose knot, and sprinkled them with sea salt and fresh pepper. I grilled them in our veggie grilling pan.

Garlic scapes, hot off the grill

Garlic scapes, hot off the grill

I should mention that before cooking, you need to break off the lower, thicker part of the stem and discard it. It’s tough and woody. The white garlic “flower” (it doesn’t really flower) and the upper stem are tender and delicious.

I grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated with the honey-maple dressing, another find at the farmers’ market. Served with the scapes and garlic smashed red potatoes, it was a meal worth repeating.

Honey-maple marinated chicken with scapes and garlic smashed red potatoes

Honey-maple marinated chicken with scapes and garlic smashed red potatoes

On Tuesday morning, we were up early and walked next door to the Broken Egg for breakfast at 7:30am. We had a hearty breakfast. I ordered eggs benedict with hash browns and Donna had bacon, eggs and hash browns.

We were a little behind schedule. It was 9:40am when I was finally ready to fire up the beast. On our way out of the park, I stopped at the propane station. I wanted to fill our tank as I didn’t think we would see a better price on propane in the months ahead. That took another 20-minute chunk out of the morning by the time the tank was filled. We should be set on propane for the rest of the year now though.

Our next stop was the Pilot-Flying J truck stop at exit 2, in Post Falls (two miles from the Washington border). I knew fuel would cost more in Washington, so I wanted to fill up our fuel tank. The card reader at the pump wouldn’t authorize my Flying J card. This card gives me a discount on the price and allows me to put up to $500 worth of fuel in the tank. Many pumps will stop at $100 when you use a regular credit card.

I went inside and handed my Flying J card to the cashier and told her I was having a problem at the pump. She swiped the card and asked me for my PIN. I gave her the number and she said my PIN was wrong. I opened my e-mail on my smartphone and showed the e-mail from Pilot-Flying J with my PIN. She tried it again and said, “Sorry, it doesn’t work. You’ll have to call customer service.”  Another 20-minute chunk of time gone.

I drove out of the Flying J and went to the Exxon station across the street. This turned out to be a better option anyway. My Chase Visa card is offering 5% cash back on gas station purchases (truck stops are excluded). So, the 5% meant about 20 cents off per gallon. That’s better than the Flying J discount. I filled the tank and found that my fuel mileage from Great Falls to Coeur d”Alene was 9.8 MPG. Not bad!

It was 10:45 by the time we hit the border. We had a 2pm appointment at Aubrey’s RV in Union Gap. We cruised west on I-90 at 62mph, then turned south on US395. I planned to follow US395 to Tri-cities (Pasco-Kennewick-Richland) and pick up I-82 there. I knew we weren’t going to be at Aubrey’s by 2pm.

I asked Donna to program Aubrey’s address into Nally (our GPS). I wanted to see if Nally would come up with a faster route. Nally had me exit US395 and follow a series of county roads. When I planned our route, I though it might be quicker to cross over to WA24, which runs right into Union Gap. This was where Nally was taking us. However, that route has to jog around the Hanford Department of Energy (DOE) site. I didn’t want to drive near Hanford.

Hanford is the biggest, most toxic nuclear waste site in the western hemisphere. The site was part of the Manhattan Project in 1943. It was the first full-scale plutonium reactor in the world. The plutonium for the first nuclear test (Trinity) and for the bomb detonated over Nagasaki was made there.

Today, the 586-square-mile site has more than 56 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste stored in failing containers. In 1973, 115,000 gallons of nuclear sludge leaked there. Today, at least 67 containers of radioactive sludge are known to be leaking.

The site was decommissioned in 1987, but many experts agree the worst is yet to come. Many of the leaking containers date back to the 1940s. There are many more containers that are sure to fail at some point. This waste will eventually find its way to the Columbia Gorge and contaminate the river. It could be potentially worse than Fukushima. If you’re interested in knowing more about Hanford, click on the links below.

Koin Article

Huffington Articles

As we skirted around the desolation of the Hanford area, the day became very hot. The temperature outside was 103 degrees. I fired up the generator to run the roof air conditioner as we drove along. The intense heat was creating thermal air streams which developed into dust devils. These mini-twisters were creating funnels of dust and vegetation swirling into the sky. We were slammed by a couple of the fierce winds.

Donna phoned Aubrey’s and told them we would be an hour late. They told her that 3pm would be okay. We arrived at their shop right at 3pm. I went inside to write up my repair order.

The woman I talked to two weeks earlier when I made my appointment wrote up the ticket. Then she asked me when I needed the coach back! I told her we live in it. When I made the appointment, I clearly told her we were full-timers and I wanted to be sure they could get the work done. We found out later that she was new to the position and misunderstood what I meant when I said we were full-timers.

This wasn’t good. She told me she only booked time to diagnose and make an estimate –  they didn’t have time to do the work. Their technician was an experienced guy and he was very helpful. He asked me a few questions and then he pulled the coach into the shop with the hope of finding a simple fix. I told him I thought the seal had come loose and jammed the slide. He looked at the inner seal and told me he had never seen this type of seal jam a slide in over 20 years of RV experience. The inner seal is soft foam. He said the outer wiper seal is bonded to an aluminum strip and it could jam a slide, but our outer seal is intact.

You know how it is when you have a toothache. You make an appointment and go to the dentist. When you get there, the tooth doesn’t hurt anymore and the dentist doesn’t find anything wrong.

Well, that’s how it went. The tech operated the slide and it worked fine. He did find the hydraulic reservoir for the HWH jack and slide rams was low on fluid. His theory was the low fluid allowed air into the ram for the living room slide, as that is the last thing I operate when I set up. He topped up the fluid and operated the slide several times. I’m skeptical, but I didn’t have any other ideas. We’ve been living without opening the living room slide for about five weeks, and it’s working perfectly.

I paid for the shop time and fluid and drove to the WalMart in Terrace Heights. We were told at Aubrey’s that this WalMart is RV-friendly and we could overnight there.

We found a good spot near the end of the WalMart lot. There were a couple of semi tractor-trailer rigs parked there. It was beer thirty and I opened a cold one. About then, a security vehicle drove around our rig. A few minutes later, the security vehicle stopped next to our door. I stepped outside and greeted the security guy. He told me we were welcome to stay the night, but he wanted me to pull forward about thirty feet. He said it was a popular stop for truckers and he wanted to maximize the parking space. No problem. Free overnight parking with a security guard – I’m good with that.

Big rigs at the WalMart

Big rigs at WalMart

They weren't all big rigs

They weren’t all big rigs

We were up early Wednesday morning. We had breakfast at the McDonalds in WalMart and hit the road. We headed north on I-82 over the Umptanum Ridge to Ellensburg. From there we took US97 over Blewett Pass and continued on to Wenatchee. We were thinking about boondocking at the Twisp-Winthrop Rodeo Grounds where we stayed last year.

I’ll have to continue this story tomorrow – it’s getting too long-winded already!

 

Last Ride in CdA

The long weekend wound down for most people yesterday. The RV park was half empty once again by late morning. Donna went out for a bike ride around 10am. She rode out the Centennial Trail to Liberty Lake in Washington State. I didn’t get on my bike until 11am and it was quite warm by then.

I did the usual route down the Prairie Trail to Coeur d’Alene City Park. Along the way, there was an American Legion baseball tournament in progress next to the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center. I stopped and watched for a few minutes, then continued on my way.

When I reached the Spokane River, I was struck by the number of boats on the water. Boat traffic was lined up, heading downriver to the lake.

Boat traffic on the Spokane River

Boat traffic on the Spokane River

It seemed that everyone wanted to get one last boat cruise in for the weekend. The weather was great for boating with the temperature reaching the 90s.

When I reached City Park, all the hustle and bustle of the Fourth of July was gone. It was like the energy had been sapped out. Even the beach crowd seemed sparse in comparison to Friday’s throng of people. I stopped and reflected for a moment on how lucky I am. Sunday no longer leads into the beginning of another work week for me. At the RV park, the City Park and beach, I had the sense of everyone gathering themselves up for a return back to their workaday lives.

I didn’t ride back on the trail, choosing instead to ride up Government Way. I saw an interesting sign in front of a barber shop.

Great idea!

Great idea!

I don’t need a barber, but if I did, I know where I would go!

Donna came home from her ride shortly after I returned. Her route covered about 40 miles. I had changed her pedals – she wanted to go back the SPD pedal and cleat system that she used years ago. The SPD-style cleats and shoes are easier to walk in and Donna finds them easier and faster to clip into. The soles are also grippier and give her a more secure feeling when she has to stop and put her foot down. And her new shoes are more ventilated for summer riding. She’s happy with the change from Shimano cleats to the SPDs.

Later, I rode the scooter over to a self-serve car wash and cleaned it up. It was dirty from all the rain we’ve had since we arrived in Coeur d’Alene. Then Donna took the scooter over to the mall and shopped for clothing.

Kymco Downtown 300i all clean again

Kymco Downtown 300i all clean again

We finished the day off with the last two episodes from season two of Longmire.

Today, I have much to do. I need to replace the accessory solenoid again. The replacement solenoid I bought at NAPA is sticking. I checked voltages – it appears to be a mechanical problem in the solenoid. The trigger voltage is good and a light tap on the case activates the solenoid once it’s energized. These solenoids are manufactured in China these days. Apparently their quality control leaves something to be desired.

I bought a new Cole-Hersee solenoid, made in the USA. We’ll see how that works out. The Cole-Hersee product was actually a few bucks cheaper than the Chinese NAPA solenoid.

I’ll repack the trailer and load the scooter this afternoon. I need to clean the glass on the coach. It’s dirty from the rain. I’ll check all of the tire pressures, of course. All of this is in preparation for an earlier than usual departure tomorrow.

We have an appointment at Aubrey’s RV Center near Yakima, Washington at 2pm tomorrow. We haven’t addressed our living room slide-out issue yet. I wanted to take it to someone that’s familiar with Alpine Coach. Aubrey’s is located near the the plant where Western RV built Alpine Coaches. When Western RV went out of business, Aubrey’s bought most of their inventory of spare parts. So Aubrey’s is familiar with Alpine Coach and they have parts on hand.

I have no idea what the work will entail or how long it will take. We’ll have to roll with it as it comes. I won’t post tomorrow as I will be busy dumping and flushing tanks and breaking camp for a 9am departure. Hopefully, I can report good news and repair success in a couple of days.

Food and Brew

The temperature in Coeur d’Alene has been above average for several days. Yesterday was no exception. The high was in the mid-80s and I think the humidity was above 50%.

When Donna was at the salon on Thursday, her hair stylist told her about the Kootenai County Farmers’ Market in Hayden. It sounded good, so I looked it up. It wasn’t as far away as I thought – only a few miles up the road at the intersection of US95 and Prairie Avenue. Speaking of Donna’s hair stylist, here’s a photo of Donna’s new look.

Donna's new hairdo

Donna’s new hairdo

We rode the scooter and found the farmers’ market. It was set on the corner, shaded by mature trees. The vendor booths were wooden structures, all painted and well maintained. It was clean and inviting – a nice marketplace.

Entrance to the farmers' market

Entrance to the farmers’ market

Vendor booths

Vendor booths

We wandered around and we sampled some of the food offered. I bought some aebelskiver, which are Danish pancake balls, with huckleberry topping and whipped cream. I’d never had them before. It was a delightful snack.

There was a stage with live music in the center of the market. Two guys with guitars played a wide variety of music, mostly classic rock. They were pretty good.

These guys were good

These guys were good

We bought a few items. Donna bought blue cheese and a jar of marinated labneh (pronounced LOB-in-ah) made from raw milk at a local farm. We sampled the labneh – it’s great on crackers. It’s made from Greek yogurt which is strained to remove the whey. It has a sharp, slightly sour flavor.

Locally made labneh

Locally made marinated labneh

I also bought spicy hot dilly beans. They will be great in a bloody Mary! From the same place, we bought a jar of honey maple dressing and marinade. We sampled it on a small cup of salad. It makes a great salad dressing, but I think it will be really good as a meat marinade for grilling. Donna also bought some baby bok choy and garlic scapes.

On the way home, Donna spotted a brewpub less than a mile from the park. We didn’t know about this place before. We always headed south into town and hadn’t ventured north.

Later, we went back and checked out Paragon Brewing. It’s a British inspired pub, serving traditional British pub plates and beers brewed in the northwest. It opened in May of this year, so it’s only been open for two months. Maybe that’s why no one mentioned this place to us. The brewery is under construction. They won’t have their own beer on tap until some time in the fall.

Donna had a pint of McCall’s lemon/ginger hefe brewed in McCall, Idaho. I tried an IPA from Worthy Brewing in Bend, Oregon. Both beers were a treat. Donna said the hefe was refreshing. The Worthy IPA was well-balanced with no over-the-top hoppiness. We ordered food while we sat at the bar and chatted with the bar maid.

I had fish and chips. The key to good fish and chips is the batter. The batter they make at Paragon does the job well. It’s light, but tough, not flaky. It came with aioli mayo for dipping.

Fish and chips with aioli mayo

Fish and chips with aioli mayo

Donna ordered a traditional British meal called bangers. Bangers are British sausages often served with mashed potatoes. Donna’s bangers were served with a beer glaze and potatoes gallette made with layer upon layer of thinly sliced potatoes, baked as a pie. Her plate also included a tasty side dish of polenta.

Bangers plate

Bangers plate

The service was great – it’s a really friendly place. Very clean, good beer selection and excellent pub food. I’d give it five stars on a scale of five. When they get their own fresh brew on tap, it can only get better.

Today, the temperature is likely to reach 90 degrees. Donna is going out for a long bike ride. I plan to ride down to the park again. I’m starting to think about the road ahead. We’ll leave here early Tuesday morning.