Category Archives: Tours

Stub Hub Bus

Sini let us use her car on Saturday morning to start a fun-filled weekend. Donna and I drove up to San Diego State University and picked up Lainey, our granddaughter. The next stop was in the Little Italy district downtown where we hit the farmers’ market. We browsed through the vendor stalls and made a couple of purchases. We ran into our friends, Hans and Lisa there (Metamorphosis Road).

Then we drove down the waterfront to Seaport Village. There are a number of shops, restaurants and a fresh seafood market there. We walked out on the G Street pier to check out the fresh caught fish. We found a burned wreck of a fishing vessel. I remembered reading something about a fishing boat that burned near downtown – it produced so much smoke that some businesses had to close.

The blaze started on Friday, September 30th. The 120-foot fishing boat, Norton Sound, was docked at the G Street pier when it caught fire. The boat burned for a couple of days before the fire was under control, despite the efforts of the San Diego Firefighters and Harbor Police which involved pumping 2,000 gallons of water per minute onto the boat and pier. The blaze reached a temperature of 2,500 degrees and the steel superstructure melted.

Burned and melted Norton Sound

No one was on board at the time and the cause of the fire is undetermined. The ship once belonged to the Norton Sound Seafood Company, but is now owned by three residents of Mexico. It took three days to bring the temperature on board down to 100 degrees. The boat remains docked at the G Street pier and I don’t know what the final disposition of it will be.

View of the USS Midway from the G Street pier

We had lunch at the San Diego Pier Cafe – it’s a nice cafe built on pilings right on the water.

Lainey, me and Donna at Seaport Village

We drove Lainey back to the campus and had a tour of her dormitory. It’s an interesting set-up. She shares a room with two roommates and the common area – bathroom and kitchen – is shared with five others in the suite of rooms.

On Sunday morning, I was up early. My friend, Gary Stemple, is a Chargers season ticket holder although the team has left San Diego. He invited me to join him for the game against Buffalo at the Stub Hub Center. This stadium is located on the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson, California – up in Los Angeles County about 100 miles from San Diego. There are multiple facilities at the center including a velodrome, tennis arena and soccer stadium. The Chargers play in the soccer stadium.

Sunday morning sunrise behind the mesa over De Anza Cove

We met up before 7am at the Old Town Transit Center. It was a nine dollar Lyft ride from the RV park. At the transit center, we boarded a bus chartered by the 5 North Bolt company – they are a tour bus company that provides transportation to Chargers home games and they also host a tailgate party. The bus we were on was one of two buses leaving Old Town at 7:30am. There were only 15 people on our bus which could accommodate more than 50 people. We made a stop in Oceanside and picked up more passengers.

They served drinks – cocktails like Bloody Marys and mimosas and craft beer from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego. It seemed like most of the people on the bus were season ticket holders and were regulars on the tour bus. It was fun meeting and talking to people.

Young Chargers fan on the bus

We made another stop in Costa Mesa where we picked up more people and they loaded food for the tailgate party from Hooters. The bus ride including drinks, food and a bathroom on board costs 80 dollars. We also had a fun raffle for Chargers gear in Costa Mesa.

The atmosphere at the tailgate area of Stub Hub Center was different from what I’d experienced in San Diego. At Stub Hub, they confine all of the tailgating to one fairly small area. Everyone is packed together and there were competing sound systems. Parking in the tailgate section costs $100 per event! Some of the people had elaborate bar set-ups they brought in pick-up trucks.

Thunder Alley tail gate area

5 North Bolt had a canopy and tables set with food and drinks. Everyone on the bus was given wrist bands to show for food and drink.

Sliders from Hooters

It was a fun time and everyone was really friendly. I met a guy from up in the San Fernando Valley. I asked him how a guy from the valley became a Chargers fan. He told me his family were Raiders fans. He went to one game in Oakland and said it was scary. Then he went to a Raiders game when they played in San Diego. He said it was so much fun, the people were friendly and there were pretty women all over the stadium. That won him over as a Chargers fan.

Gary and I walked to the tennis arena where another tailgate session was in progress. To be honest, I don’t know how we got in to this party. Gary checked us in at a table near the entrance and we were given another wristband.

Gary heading down to another tailgate party

They had a group of drummers performing and of course, more beer.

Group of drummers

We met some people where we shared a table. One guy was there for his first NFL football game.

Gary with new friends from San Fernando

We finally made our way to our seats in the south end zone just before kick-off. Stub Hub Center is a relatively small venue – it seats about 27,000 people in the stadium. We were seated close to the field next to the tunnel from the locker rooms.

View from our seats at the stadium

Inexplicably, the Buffalo Bills benched their regular quarterback and started a rookie with only about 4 minutes of previous regular season playing time. The Chargers defense stymied him and intercepted five of his 14 first-half passes. At half time, the Chargers were up 37-7. The final score was a blowout – Chargers 54, Buffalo 24.

I snoozed on most of the bus ride back to Old Town. Gary and I shared a Lyft ride and I was dropped off at the Mission Bay RV Resort. I had more than my fill of fun and beer and plan to lie low today.

Riana and Bandelier

The weekend at Riana Campground at Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico was so quiet and relaxing, we ended up extending a day until Tuesday morning. They don’t allow anyone to enter the campground after 10pm, but it was always quiet by dark anyway. There were a few empty sites through the weekend. The occupied sites had a mix of RVs and even a couple of tent campers. A lot of fisherman come here on the weekend to try their luck on the lake.

These folks look like they have a comfortable set up in their Tab pull-behind trailer

On Saturday, Donna went hiking through the Corps of Engineers Park. They have a few trails and she hiked them all and ended up at the beach for a swim. She was confused to see boats there, but it turned out that Santa Fe Adaptive Sports had reserved the beach to take people with disabilities out on the lake.

View of the Abiquiu Lake beach from Donna’s hike on a trail up on a bluff

While she was out, I investigated the trouble we’ve been having with the Cummins ISL engine in our coach. I have a loss of turbocharger boost intermittently with a great loss of power and when I have boost it doesn’t seem like I have full power. Digging around in the cramped engine compartment, I found an issue that isn’t good. We have a crack in the exhaust manifold. This is allowing exhaust to leak from the manifold and reduces the flow to the turbocharger impeller. This is not an easy repair, especially with an engine shoehorned into a diesel pusher motorhome. I think there’s more than one issue with the turbo boost, but the manifold will have to replaced before any further troubleshooting can take place.

In the afternoon, we rode the Spyder to Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu and split a green chile cheeseburger. It wasn’t as good as were led to believe – we’re looking forward to a Blake’s Lotaburger green chili cheeseburger in Albuquerque. We managed to outrun the daily afternoon thundershower back to the coach.

On Sunday, I watched the Moto GP race from Monza, Italy and NFL Football. Donna was more ambitious and rode the Spyder to Ghost Ranch – about eight miles up highway 84. She wanted to hike the Chimney Rock Trail there. It was a 3-mile roundtrip with stunning vistas at the top. She enjoyed the hike so much that after having a little snack, she decided to hike the 4-mile Box Canyon Trail too. But somehow, she ended up going past the turn-around and put in a total of 10 miles of hiking. Ghost Ranch was true to its name – very few people out and about there.

Heading up the Chimney Rock Trail

Donna found a friend along the way

Top of the Chimney Rock Trail looking back toward Abiquiu Lake

Donna shot a photo of an interesting looking lizard on the trail. I can’t tell if it’s a collared lizard with a lot of yellow coloring for whatever reason or a spotted whiptail.

On Monday, Donna got into cleaning mode and went to town on the coach. She even took out the screens and cleaned them along with the windows. I straightened the trailer out and reorganized a basement compartment. I had the Spyder in the trailer by evening and watched the Monday Night Football double-header.

After a quick breakfast on Tuesday, we got an early start and headed down to White Rock – a small town near Los Alamos. In White Rock, there’s a visitor center conveniently located on the main drag. It has RV parking with 16 pull-through sites and 50amp electrical service in a dedicated RV lot. It also has a shuttle stop on the street for a free ride to Bandelier National Monument.

We arrived around 10:30am and got situated. I paid at the automated kiosk for one night – $20. We caught the 11:30am shuttle for the 25-minute ride up to the Bandelier Information Center. From 9am to 3pm daily, the only way to access Bandelier is by shuttle – this reduces the traffic and the free shuttles run every 30 minutes. Bandelier National Monument encompasses almost 34,000 acres but has only three miles of public road and 70 miles of hiking trails. We were interested in the Frijoles Canyon with the Main Loop Trail and ancient ruins including cliff dwellings.

The Main Loop Trail is mostly paved and a fairly easy hike. It does have a few steep rocky sections and to access the cliff dwellings you must climb rustic ladders. We spent nearly two hours hiking and toured the entire loop and also went up to the Alcove section – a high cliff dwelling that requires a 140-foot vertical climb – including steps and ladders to the caves. The nice thing about this place is you can actually enter many of the old caves, rooms and dwelling sites.

Ruins of ground level dwellings and food storage rooms more than 600 years old

Another view of the ruins – the hole in the ground is the foundation of a kiva – a communal meeting room

The cliffs and terrain are rugged yet beautiful

The people lived in cramped quarters – Donna in a doorway to a cliff dwelling

This dwelling was roomier – adjoining rooms in fact

If you look closely you might pick out Donna 140 feet up in the Alcove

As we made our way up the canyon, a thunder shower moved in. We could hear the thunder rumbling through the canyon and about 30 minutes later we were cooled off by a few rain drops – it was in the mid 80s.

After riding the shuttle back to our coach, we walked across the street to Smith’s Grocery. What a great location – walking distance to grocery shopping – and a short walk at that. We were back in the coach minutes before clouds rolled in for the afternoon thunder shower. We had half an hour of off-and-on rain, then the skies cleared again.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to Santa Fe for a week stay. I have an appointment in Albuquerque a week from Thursday with Rocky Mountain Cummins to get the exhaust manifold replaced. Hopefully I won’t have any surprises there.

 

The RV Friendliest Town

We pulled out of Kearney RV Park and Campground a little past 10am Friday morning – a little later than I hoped, but not a big deal. We headed west on I-80 and found the road surface to be smooth and the driving was easy. We had a headwind but it was only 5-10 mph and we barely felt it.

We made a detour at North Platte, Nebraska – we wanted to visit the Golden Spike Tower. The Golden Spike Tower is a viewing tower eight stories high overlooking the largest rail yard in the world – Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. Bailey Yard is where Union Pacific performs maintenance on locomotives and train cars 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We entered the tower building which is also somewhat of a Union Pacific museum and gift shop and we bought tickets to go up to the viewing platforms on the seventh and eight floors. Wouldn’t you know it – when we went to elevators there was a malfunction and the elevator was shut down.

Golden Spike Tower

We didn’t let that stop us. We climbed the stairs to the seventh floor which has an open-air viewing deck. My photos below cannot convey the scale of the operation. I’ve never seen so many locomotives and train cars in one place before. There are 49 tracks for the westbound trains and 65 for the east bound – counting the tracks into and out of maintenance facilities there are 200 separate train tracks totaling 315 miles of track on the 2,850-acre yard.

They have a hump for each direction – the westbound hump is a mound 20 feet high and the eastbound hump is 34 feet high. A locomotive pushes a train of cars up the hump and then, at the top, the cars are separated and roll down via gravity into a bowl which has several tracks. The cars are switched to the proper track to join a train being assembled.

The locomotive maintenance building is the size of three football fields and services about 750 locomotives per month. A modern diesel/electric locomotive is a complex piece of machinery. Maintenance and repair requires skilled technicians – diesel mechanics, electricians, hydraulic specialists and so on – more than 2,600 people are employed here. Again, my photos do not do justice to the scale of the operation.

Click photos to enlarge

The sand towers fill a hopper in the front of the locomotive with sand. All locomotives have a sand reservoir and a pneumatic system to spray the sand on the tracks ahead of the drive wheels in case of loss of traction.

More than 10,000 train cars pass through the facility daily. They service about 750 locomotives per month and change about 10,000 wheels per year on the cars they service. We went up to the eighth floor which is an enclosed platform with a docent and displays. We found the tour to be interesting and a worthwhile diversion.

We ate lunch in the coach, then continued on our way west. I stopped for fuel at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center in Big Springs (exit 107). We had plenty of fuel but since I wasn’t sure where we would end up for the next few days, I wanted to have the tank topped up.

We continued west to Sidney, Nebraska – home of Cabela’s. We found their store just north of I-80. Unlike most Cabela’s stores, this one had a full service RV campground. They also had the usual dedicated RV and truck parking area. We went inside to see if we were okay to stay the night in the parking area – no problem.

We kicked around in the air-conditioned store for awhile looking at clothing and outdoor gear and sitting at the cafe. It was hot out. Around 4pm I went back to the coach and fired up the generator to start the air conditioners. We had an uneventful night there and hit the road around 9am Saturday morning.

We headed north toward Bridgeport, Nebraska and into the track of the total eclipse of the sun. This event has brought people out of the woodwork and into campgrounds all across the solar eclipse track. Most campgrounds are full and we heard about a few farmers opening up their pastures for dry camping – at $30 to $40/night! We also heard about some full service RV parks gouging with rates as high as $150/night for the weekend through Tuesday, August 22nd.

We didn’t want to end up in a farmer’s field – it would likely be crowded, noisy and if it rained, it could turn into a mud hole. There was no way I would spend the crazy campground rates we were hearing about. Donna had done some research and we thought we had a couple of viable options that wouldn’t cost much if anything and keep us away from the crowds. We decided to take the first good option we found.

It boiled down to two places we wanted to check out. First, there’s a city park in a small town called Bayard. The city maintains three RV sites with 50amp electrical hook-ups and fresh water. The first two nights are free, then it’s just $10/night. Now that’s an RV friendly town – the best I’ve ever found!

Our second option was the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area. There is a large, level gravel lot there perfect for dry camping in a big rig. The upside there would be a quiet place without much light pollution. The downside is dry camping with projected high temperatures in the 90s – meaning our generator would be running most of the time.

We stopped in Bayard first and were surprised to find the RV sites at the park empty! I unloaded the Spyder and backed our trailer into a site. I could hardly believe it – 50 amp electrical service and fresh water free for the weekend! We decided a bird in the hand was worth it – why move on to the unknown at Kiowa WMA and risk losing the site at Bayard. We set up and stayed put.

Free 50 amp service and fresh water!

We’re set!

Park across from our site

Nice view

The temperature reached the mid-90s and I was happy to have both air conditioners running. Another class C RV with a couple and their young son from Longmont, Colorado showed up. They had a campsite at the Chimney Rock Campground nearby. They said the premium full hook-up sites there were going for $150/night and they paid $30/night for a dry camping spot. They said it was crowded and noisy with generators running all around them 24 hours a day. They asked us to hold a site here while they went back to Chimney Rock and gathered their gear. They are happier in this location.

A police cruiser came through the park several times patrolling in the afternoon and evening. Everyone in town is very friendly and local traffic waves at us as they pass – not that there’s much in the way of traffic in this town of 1,200 residents. Bayard, Nebraska has to be the most RV friendly town you’ll ever find!

In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to Gering – a town about 20 miles from Bayard. They had a car show there, but it was a little different than most of the car shows I’ve seen. It had the usual classic cars from the 50s and muscle cars from the 60s, but it also had a category for rat rods. One of the rat rods had passed us on I-80 on our way to Sidney and we saw it the show. It looked like something out of Mad Max – The Road Warrior!

It started out with an old truck chassis and body and went crazy from there. It had a Cadillac 472 cubic inch V8 mounted mid-chassis with a GM 400 Turbo Hydramatic transmission mated to a Jaguar independent rear suspension. It looked like a death trap to me.

Rat Rod

The evening cooled down and we sat outside and read. Another group showed up – a car with three people from Lakewood, Colorado. They planned to tent camp here to view the eclipse. That’s going to be tough as there are no public toilet facilities. They set up a tent in the park grass.

This morning, lawn sprinklers are running in the park, soaking their tent. They’re not here – their car is gone and we have no idea what became of them. We plan to hang out today – Donna wants to go for a bike ride. I’ll probably explore a bit then we’ll sit tight for tomorrow’s eclipse.

We may extend another night here before we move on to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

North Cascades Smokejumper Base

I saw something unusual Tuesday here at Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop. A car was towed into the park – not behind an RV but on a flat-bed tow truck – and dropped into a site next to the clubhouse. I was curious about this and went outside. I asked a young woman why the car was being dropped here.

She told me they were camped here and her car broke down on a day trip to Pearrygin Lake State Park. She was from Bellingham – about a four-hour drive from here – and friends were going to come down with a truck and trailer to get her car home. However, they couldn’t come until later because they were at work and would leave Bellingham around 5pm. At Lake Pearrygin, she was told the car would be impounded if she left it there, so she had towed here to wait for her friends to come and take her home.

Car dropped off at the RV park

Around noon, Donna headed out on her bicycle. She rode south on Castle Avenue which became Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road. This road follows the Methow (MET-oww) River all the way to WA20 on the south end of Twisp. I gave her about a 30-minute head start, then followed on the Spyder.

We met at the La Fonda Lopez Mexican Cafe in Twisp for lunch. Spending so much time in the southwest, it’s easy to become jaded and think that’s the  only place to get good Mexican food. We ate at La Fonda Lopez last year and found it to be very good. Who knew you could find good Mexican fare in a small town in the North Cascades?

It was pleasant weather wise. I spent the afternoon in the shade of our awning reading a book. We decided against moving to another site to extend our stay here. Someone had reserved the site we’re in starting Friday, so if we wanted to extend we had to move. While I was sitting outside reading, Anna, the owner of Pine Near RV Park, stopped by and told me the person with the reservation for our site just called and cancelled. We could extend if we wanted to without moving. Donna and I talked it over and decided to stay through the weekend and we’ll pull out of here on Monday. Anna gave me the weekly rate and gave me a bonus discount!

I grilled lemon rosemary chicken thighs and garlicky asparagus for dinner. Donna made red potato and egg salad to serve with it. We dined al fresco at the picnic table on paper plates.

It was windy on Wednesday so a bike ride wasn’t appealing to Donna. After lunch, we rode the Spyder down the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road to the North Cascades Smokejumper Base. It’s located about halfway between Winthrop and Twisp. They offer free tours during the fire season – June 1st to October 1st.

While we were reading a placard in front of the office, one of the fire fighters came over to us and introduced himself. His name was Tom McCullough. Tom offered to give us a tour – we just had to sign in the guest book in the office.

Placard by the office

This is where smokejumping began. In the fall of 1939, experimental jumps were made with firefighters parachuting into remote areas of the Okanogan (formerly called Chelan) National Forest. These experiments were successful leading to the establishment of two smokejumper bases in 1940. This base in the Methow Valley was one of them – the other was Ninemile Camp, near Missoula, Montana. Today there are about 400 highly trained smokejumpers employed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in nine bases in the western states and Alaska.

We started the tour in the Lufkin Parachute Loft. This loft was built in 1939 and is named after Francis Lufkin. Francis Lufkin made the first wild fire jump in the Pacific Northwest and was a smokejumper here and managed the base until 1972.

Parachute loft

Inside the loft there was an artistic display made by one of the crew – it featured smokejumper equipment in an array that looked like the wings of an eagle.

The main firefighting tool is the Pulaski – two of them are crossed in the center of the display above. A Pulaski is a combination of an axe and an adze (sometimes called a grub-hoe) in one head. It’s used to chop wood or dig trenches.

They also had a plaque displayed with brass name tags under jump milestones – ranging up to 350 – only one name was under the 350 jump heading.

They wear jumpsuits made of Kevlar and Nomex which are hung on hooks along a walkway. The jumpsuits are packed and ready to go. The firefighter steps into the suit backwards and straps it on. The fully packed suit weighs about 70 pounds. The Nomex material is fire-resistant and it’s also padded to prevent injury if the jumper happens to get hung up in tree. They also wear a helmet with a wire mesh faceshield for protection against tree branches.

Mannequin jumpsuit display

If they get caught in a tree, they carry gear to rappel their way down. Then they have to recover their ‘chute. Additional firefighting gear is dropped in cargo boxes pre-packed by the smokejumpers with smaller cargo ‘chutes.

Rookie smokejumpers must pack a minimum of 20 practice parachutes that are inspected and passed before they actually jump with a parachute they packed. The 21st ‘chute is used by the person who packed it. With more experience and certification, they can pack ‘chutes for other people to use.

Smokejumpers are responsible for maintaining their gear. They’re proficient with sewing machines and repair any rips or tears in their parachute canopy, Nomex clothing and jumpsuits. In fact, they make all of their own fire fighting suits.

At the North Cascades Smokejumper Base, they contract with an aviation company to keep a CASA C-212 short takeoff and landing airplane. The contract includes pilots for the plane. The CASA -212 was made in Spain mainly for military use. It’s powered by two 900 horsepower turbo prop engines and is known for its great rate of climb. The smokejumper plane is set up with two opposing benches on each side of the fuselage. The door is removed and a static line is installed to clip the parachute release. When the jumper goes out the door, the static line pulls the release on the parachute pack and the ‘chute opens automatically. The CASA C-212 carries 10 passengers in this configuration – eight smokejumpers and two spotters plus a flight crew of two.

They usually jump from about 1500 feet above ground level and are down quickly – maybe 60 to 80 seconds of flight time before they hit the ground.

CASA 212 Smokejumper plane

The tour included going inside the plane for a look. We also toured the warehouse where supplies are packed with parachutes attached. The supplies are meant to equip two people or feed and provide water for two people for 48 hours. The smokejumpers always jump in pairs – when the lead jumper is released by the spotter, his partner immediately follows out the door.

The fire season is just beginning. On average, they will work 45 fires per month at this base during the fire season. When they aren’t on a fire, their days are still busy. They have about an hour and half of physical training every day. They do practice jumps and they maintain equipment. They work regular shifts for five days, then have two days off. Crews of eight jumpers are on the board everyday – ready to go seven days a week. When they’re on a fire they don’t have any time off. They’re on overtime working 24 hours a day until they have the fire under control.

The tour was very interesting and definitely worthwhile if you’re ever in the area. We finished the day by going to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery and enjoyed a couple of pints on the deck next to the Chewuch (CHE-wock) River.

Old Schoolhouse Brewery Allgood IPA

Chewuch River

Donna tried the Double D Blonde ale but it was more bitter than she likes. Then she tried the Uncle Bigs Brown and liked it. I had the Allgood IPA and it was nice.

Today isn’t as windy as yesterday was and Donna plans to go for a bike ride. I need to give her bike a tune-up. The forecast calls for a high in the low 80s with a few clouds. We don’t expect any rain during our stay here in Winthrop.

Petroglyph National Monument

The overnight lows here in Albuquerque have been in the mid-50s. When we woke up yesterday, it was 59 degrees in the coach. I sleep comfortably under blankets and a down comforter when it’s cool like this – better than on a warm night. The temperature warmed up to the upper 60s by late morning.

We rode the Spyder to the Petroglyph National Monument. There are four separate areas – Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon and Volcanoes Day Use Area. The first two have an abundance of ancient petroglyphs. We went north on Unser Boulevard a few miles to Boca Negra Canyon.

The west side of the Rio Grande Valley near Albuquerque is a fairly featureless flat mesa. In several areas, there are cinder cones which are debris fields of volcanic clinkers and ash rising in steep conical hills. Boca Negra Canyon is formed by a series of these cinder cones.

Ancient Puebloans living near the Rio Grande were drawn to these cinder cones and some of the areas were considered sacred ground. They drew figures on the basalt rocks. The meaning of these figures isn’t really known. Some of the figures at Boca Negra were added by sheep herders in the 1800s, but the majority of them are more than 500 years old.

Click on the photos to enlarge and read.

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We parked the Spyder in the first lot and hiked up the steep Mesa Point Trail. We found the first petroglyph a mere 50 feet from the parking lot.

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First petroglyph near trail head

First petroglyph near trail head

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When we were about two-thirds of the way to the top, we saw a pair of Greater Roadrunners on the rocks above us. The Greater Roadrunner is the New Mexico State Bird.  The male was playing hide and seek with us. He would appear on top of a rock and sit there until we got close, then he would hop off and disappear only to reappear moments later on top of another rock.

Playful Greater Roadrunner

Playful Greater Roadrunner

In the next photo of a petroglyph, you can see the Spyder in the parking lot well below us. This was about three quarters of the way to the top.

See the Spyder below?

See the Spyder below?

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We hiked all the way to the top, then followed the trail back down to the parking lot. We rode the Spyder about a quarter of a mile to the next lot and found the Macaw Trail.

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Maybe this image gave the trail it's name

Maybe this image gave the trail its name

The Macaw Trail is short and mostly flat unlike the Mesa Point Trail. Jimson weed was flowering along this trail. Jimson weed was used as a medicine to relieve pain or asthma symptoms. It’s also a powerful hallucinogenic and amounts only slightly higher than the medicinal dosage can be fatal.

Flowering Jimson weed

Flowering Jimson weed

Our last stop was at the Visitor Center down Unser Boulevard at the entrance to the RInconada Canyon. There are hiking trails and more petroglyphs here, but we just wandered in the Visitor Center which is more of a gift shop than anything else.

I posted about a traditional New Mexico oven called a horno before. They had a functional horno at the Visitor Center. These wood-fired ovens are used to bake bread or make chicos.

This horno is about three feet tall

This horno is about three feet tall

Later, Donna went to run a few errands and met up with her friend, Hazel Thornton. Last night was Monday Night Football time. I didn’t win the football pool yet, but I’m getting close. I was fourth out of about 40 entries for the last two weeks.

This morning we’re heading out to the community center to play pickleball.

 

 

Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial

It’s so quiet and peaceful here at Eagle Nest Lake, we decided to extend our stay two more nights. Donna hiked down to the Six Mile Creek day use area on Wednesday. Later we rode the Spyder to Angel Fire. We had pizza for lunch at the Angel Fired Pizza place and I needed to stop at a hardware store. Google maps showed Lowe’s right next to the pizza restaurant.

Lowe’s turned out to be a local grocery store – Lowe’s grocery. I found a lumberyard that’s also a True Value hardware and bought Gorilla glue for a project I needed to attend to. The support for the hanger pole in our closet broke. There’s a lot of weight on the pole from our clothes and some of the bumps on I-25 were pretty harsh.

Broken hanger pole support

Broken hanger pole support

I applied the glue and then screwed it back in place. I added cross screws for additional strength. I hope it holds up. Otherwise I’ll need to redesign the attachment. Our friend Dave Hobden had to rework his – he posted about it at UrbaneEscapeVehicle.

On Thursday morning, we woke to clear blue skies and the promise of a sunny, warmer day. I tried the panorama function on my Samsung Galaxy smart phone in an attempt to capture the beautiful view of the lake.

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Panoramic view of Eagle Nest Lake

Here are a couple of signs by the visitor center giving a little information on the area. Click on the photos to enlarge if you wish to read them.

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Donna said she thought she heard coyotes yapping in the distance before sunrise. I didn’t hear a thing. The nights are very dark and absolutely silent. I wouldn’t be surprised to find coyotes in the area. There’s an abundance of food sources for them – rabbits and prairie dogs are constantly on the move in the campground.

Ozark the cat amuses herself all day sitting in window sills or on the door step watching the prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

Prairie dogs and their holes are everywhere

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The park is home to a large prairie dog colony.

In the afternoon we rode the Spyder to Angel FIre. On the way we stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. This was the first major Vietnam Memorial in the United States. It was started by Victor and Jeanne Westphall after their son, Marine First Lieutenant David Westphall was killed in an ambush along with 15 other soldiers in Vietnam on May 22, 1968.

In the ’60s, Victor and Jeanne purchased the 800-acre Val Verde Ranch and intended to open a resort. After David was killed, they built a chapel dedicated to his memory instead. This grew into a five-acre memorial site. Over the years, they sold off the ranch land to fund the memorial, which Victor mostly built himself. The chapel was completed in 1971.

Amphitheater behind the chapel

Amphitheater behind the chapel

The memorial is now operated as a state park and is open year-round with no admission charge. It’s the only Vietnam Memorial State Park in the country. In 2014, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez announced the addition of 10 acres of adjoining land south of the chapel had been donated and is designated to become a rural veteran’s cemetery built to federal standards.

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

Sculpture of a soldier penning a letter

One of the most widely recognized aircraft of the Vietnam War era was the Bell Iroquois UH-1 helicopter – popularly known as the Huey. In 1999, the New Mexico National Guard brought a Huey to the memorial. This Huey served with the 121st AHC and is maintained by current and retired Guardsmen.

Bell UH-1 "Huey"

Bell UH-1 “Huey”

From the high ground of the memorial, I could see the runway at the Angel Fire airport. I was struck by the length of the runway – you don’t see runways this long at most small general aviation airports. Then it occurred to me – Angel Fire is 8,400 feet above sea level. On a hot summer day, the density altitude could easily exceed 10,000 feet. It takes a lot of airspeed to generate enough lift to take-off in this thin atmosphere. That means a long take-off run before the plane can rotate and also means touching down at high speed when landing. Thus the long runway.

That's a long runway

That’s a long runway

We continued on to town and found the Enchanted Circle Brewing Company.

9_8enchtdbrw

Angel Fire is a town of only about 1,200 full-time residents. But it’s a popular winter ski resort and has over 500 acres of ski slopes. Its mild summer climate brings mountain bikers and hikers, golfers and hunters come to the area in the fall. Hopefully this brings enough customers for the 20-barrel brewery with a 50-seat tasting room. The brewery opened in April of this year. The owners had the vision and built the place, then they advertised for a brewmaster! That’s right, they built it then they hired a brewmaster to create the beers.

We found their beers to be very good. I had a few small samplers then settled on the Glory Hole IPA. Donna had a plum sour then had a pint of stout.

Brews on tap

Beers on tap

Donna had tempura battered veggies and I ordered hand cut fries with house made tartar sauce to go with the beer. It was worth the ride to town.

Today looks like another beautiful day with clear blue skies. Donna headed out at 7:30am and walked along the lake trail to the Eagle Nest village. She bought pastries at the bakery there and just returned with them, so I guess it’s time for breakfast.

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

Site 16 at Eagle Nest Lake

We’ll spend one more night here, then move on to Taos, New Mexico tomorrow.

 

The Virginian

Although we enjoyed the relative solitude of dispersed camping on public land, we decided to pull out from Rim Lake Wednesday morning. The weather forecast called for rain and that could leave us in a position of having to drive a large, heavy rig down muddy dirt roads.

We thought it would be best to move on to Laramie. Instead of droning along I-80 for 100 miles, we opted to take US30 through Medicine Bow. This route added about 25 miles to the trip but it was more interesting and easy driving. Traffic was so light on US30, we only saw a handful of cars during the first 60 miles before we stopped in Medicine Bow.

I know I’m dating myself, but I asked Donna if she remembered the old western serial from the ’60s called The Virginian. The setting for the show was Medicine Bow in the late 1800s. We pulled into a large parking lot by a small general store and Donna made lunch for us. Medicine Bow has a population of about 300 people. It has the Virginian Hotel and RV park, a store, two bars, an ice cream shop and a museum.

Medicine Bow Museum

Medicine Bow Museum

We walked across the street to the museum after lunch. There’s an old log cabin in front – the actual museum is in a house toward the rear of the property. Donna spied what appeared to be an early RV – it was actually sheepherders quarters.

Sheep herders mobile quarters

Sheepherders mobile quarters

Sheep ranching came to Wyoming in the mid-1800s. Beef prices were at an all-time high then, so investing in a sheep ranch was risky. However, sheep produced wool, mutton and lamb meat. The high demand for wool during the civil war made sheep ranching profitable. For the next 100 years, Basque immigrants were brought in to tend to the sheep. This was a lonely and hard job. The sheepherders would move with the flock, keeping them on fresh grazing land. They lived in tiny portable housing with no running water or electricity. In the early years, there was friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers – mostly over grazing rights on public land.

In the 1980s, ranchers were having a hard time finding Basque immigrants willing to do the job. They turned to South America where sheepherders from Chile or Peru were willing to emigrate and take the job. A New York Times article from 2009 stated that sheepherders still lived in very primitive conditions and worked 24/7 for a monthly pay of $750. They didn’t have much in the way of expenses though – food was provided and they had shelter, although most were still without running water or electricity. The current situation is mostly unchanged save for the decline in numbers of sheep on the range.

The museum itself is a self-guided step back in time. The house has every room filled with artifacts and trinkets from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Donna found high-quality dress leather shoes from a century ago and remarked on how small the women must have been. The shoes and boots were tiny as was a dress on a mannequin that must have had an 18-inch waist.

We continued on US30/287 and saw dark clouds and rainfall to the southwest. I think we made the right choice to move on. We hit a few stray rain drops, but not much – the road remained dry.

We drove through Laramie south of I-80 past the fairgrounds to the Cavalryman Steakhouse. They have a large parking lot in back and Donna heard that they would allow overnight parking. We pulled in and parked around 2:30pm. The steakhouse doesn’t open until 4pm. We saw people going in and out of the building though, so we walked over toward it. A guy came out and got in his car. He drove up to us and told us they would open for dinner at 4pm. We asked about overnight parking in our rig and he said we were fine right where we parked. He was one of the managers.

Awhile later, Donna received an e-mail from Kathy Crabtree – we met Kathy and her husband Ray in San Diego last year and hooked up with them again this year in Portland. They were on their way from Portland to Ohio in their car and were eastbound on I-80 about an hour out of Laramie. Donna replied and told them where we were. The stopped by the steakhouse about an hour later and we chatted for about twenty minutes before they had to continue their road trip. They had reservations at a motel in North Platte, Nebraska another 270 miles east on I-80. Cars on this part of I-80 travel at 80mph – so they had another three and half hours of driving time.

We went to the Cavalryman Steakhouse for dinner around 5pm. They were well staffed and the service was great. Donna had a prime rib dinner while I had an open-face steak sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. The food was excellent.

Today we’ll move another 50 miles east to Cheyenne as we inch our way to Colorado. We may spend a couple of days in Cheyenne so we can get some shopping done, then we plan to go to Greeley, Colorado from there.

Tour de Hives

Donna had an interesting day yesterday. This is her story – and she’s sticking to it. 

I pledged to ride 250 miles on my bike this month in the Great Cycle Challenge to raise money for children’s cancer research. So I was excited to learn that Pedalpalooza was in full swing here in Portland. This is an annual event with three weeks of bike fun and nearly 300 rides on the calendar. Portland is a very bikeable city with well-marked bike lanes, routes and trails, making bicycles a popular mode of personal transport.

On Friday, I checked the Pedalpalooza calendar and lo and behold discovered that there were five Naked Rides on the schedule for Saturday. These rides were all part of The World Naked Bike Ride, a worldwide event that highlights the vulnerability of cyclists on our streets and highways and dependence on pollution-based transport. Dress code is “bare as you dare.”

Anyway, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I opted instead for the Tour de Hives ride on Sunday, a guided tour of area backyard apiaries and fundraiser for Portland Urban Beekeepers. (Bee suits not required, but nakedness not encouraged.) The ride started about 8-9 miles south of our temporary home at the Columbia River RV Park. It turned out to be an excellent ride with a wide bike lane all the way down Vancouver Avenue through shady residential neighborhoods to the Eastside Esplanade.

Esplanade bridge

Eastbank Esplanade bridge

I was one of many runners, walkers and cyclists enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on the Willamette River. I was surprised to see a houseboat on the river. I think I’d like to live on a houseboat someday – just not this one.

River life

River life

Had I wished, I could have crossed over the Hawthorne Bridge to downtown Portland. Instead I headed east to Bee Thinking for the start of the Tour de Hives ride. Bee Thinking sells bee hives, beekeeping gear and “all things bees.” You may have seen their line of products featured on Shark Tank last year.

About 10 riders showed up for the tour and we got started about 1:30. Our first stop was a tree just around the corner in the beautiful Ladd Circle neighborhood. There are a number of old maple and elm trees here, many with cavities large enough to accommodate a colony of feral honey bees. One of the property owners came out to see what we were looking at – he had no idea that the tree just 50 yards from his front door was the home of neighbors he’d never met!

We rode a short distance to the first of several homes with backyard bee hives. It was interesting to discover that urban beekeepers tend to keep hens and roosters as well.

Urban

Urban farmyard

All of the lovely backyards we visited were planted with flowers that attract honey bees including California poppies, borage and milkweed.

One beekeeper's garden

One beekeeper’s garden

Beekeepers encourage planting flowers

Beekeepers encourage planting bee flowers

The bees were busy doing their thing.

Top bar hive

Top bar hive

One beekeeper explained how worker bees, which make up 98% of the colony, take on various roles over the course of their lifetimes. These roles include cleaning house, feeding the brood, caring for the queen, comb building, ventilation (they use their wings to circulate air),  honey conversion and packing, guarding the colony and collecting nectar.

Apartments available

Apartments available

Though bees were flying around the hives, we were able to walk freely through the backyards without getting stung. Honey bees don’t sting unless they have to because once they do, they die. That said, bees defending their hives might sting. In the presence of bees, you should not wave your hands or attempt to brush them off – this is a sure way to trigger a stinging reflex. Instead, you should step calmly away from the hive or the swarm. Most of the time, the bees will fly away without incident. Oh, and I learned that you should never blow on a honey bee as CO2 can trigger aggressive behavior. Good to know.

Almost forgot to mention: one beekeeper we met is also an author. She wrote a novel with beekeeping references called Juliet’s Nurse.

Written by a beekeeper

Written by a beekeeper

Our final stop was Zenger Farm, an urban farm practicing organic and sustainable agriculture. Zenger is the home of the bee hives for Portland Urban Beekeepers.

Some interesting facts that impact us all:

Honey bees and other pollinating insects provide humankind with more than just honey; 35% of all the foods we eat rely on pollination, which is how plants reproduce and survive. In the past few years, there has been a worldwide increase in the deaths of entire colonies of bees, which is reason for concern. Pesticide use, mites, and disease are all contributing factors. 

After three and a half hours of the bee tour, I was done in. It was hot and I still had a 14-mile ride home. I texted Mike to give him my ETA. I had to fight a strong headwind on the way back. Mike had pizza waiting for me. I needed that. Total distance: 31.3 miles. I’m not sure if I’ll hit my goal of 250 miles for the month, but I’m giving it my best shot!

 

*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!

 

 

Street Food in Portland

I tackled a minor repair on Tuesday. Most states require trailers with a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or more to have trailer brakes that automatically engage if the trailer accidentally separates from the tow vehicle. Our trailer is equipped with a breakaway switch that activates the brakes if a pin is pulled from the switching device. A length of cable connects the pin to the tow vehicle. If the trailer comes loose, the cable pulls the pin and the brakes are applied.

Breakaway pin and cable ends

Breakaway pin and cable ends

The cable has a loop for the pin and a loop on the other end that I connect to the receiver hitch with a carabiner. I’m not sure how it happened, but the cable must have dragged on the ground at some point and wore through, separating it into two pieces.

Steel cable separated

Steel cable separated in the middle

When I went to Walmart the other day, I saw a fisherman’s supply store. I stopped in and bought some nylon covered stainless steel leader cable and some double barrel crimp connectors.

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

Nylon covered stainless steel cable and connectors

This made it easy to create a new breakaway cable for the trailer.

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

New cable assembled with pin for breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

Pin installed in breakaway switch

That was easy – job done!

In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder down NE 33rd Drive and found the store Ray told us about. It’s called New Season’s. It’s similar to Sprouts – a store chain we like in the southwest. It’s an upscale store, so you have to shop carefully as the prices can be good or they can be high. Donna had defrosted the refrigerator in the morning and now it was time to restock it.

On Wednesday morning, we rode the Spyder to Beaverton to visit with our friends, DeWayne and Marlo. They live in a co-op housing development which is basically condominiums with shared community areas. Residents sign on to teams to develop and maintain community property. They have shared garden space, community meeting rooms, a woodworking shop and more. DeWayne runs the wood shop and also leads the building repair and maintenance team.

Part of the community vegetable garden

Part of the community vegetable garden

Compost bins Dwayne built

Compost bins DeWayne built

After giving us a tour, DeWayne had a project to work on and I left Donna and Marlo to their girl talk. I rode the Spyder over to the Hillsboro airport where I wanted to check out an aviation museum. When I got there, I was disappointed to see a closed sign in the window. I looked at the hours on the door – it said 9am to 4pm Monday through Thursday. A woman inside saw me looking and came to the door. She pointed at a guy out front spraying weeds.

The guy came over and introduced himself and told me they were in the process of moving the museum to Tillamook. All but one of the flyable airplanes had already been moved. He offered to give me a tour of the remaining aircraft and parts, but warned that things were in a bit of disarray.

I took him up on the offer and we spent about an hour looking at old planes and parts. They have mostly military jet aircraft from the 1950s to the 1980s. The owner has a number of contacts in foreign governments and wheels and deals for airplanes. A number of their aircraft came from Taiwan. They also had Soviet airplanes from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Twelve cylinder Allison piston engine

Axial flow jet engine

Axial flow jet engine

J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

General Electric J79 jet engine that powered many US military jets including the F-104 Starfighter behind it

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Me standing on the wing of a Soviet Mig-21

Mig-21

Mig-21

I rode back and picked up Donna a little past noon. It was a short visit for the girls, but they were happy to catch up in person.

Marlo and Donna

Marlo and Donna

Instead of riding the freeways home, I took us down Burnside Street into downtown Portland. We stopped on Alder Street where all the street food vendors are located. There are dozens of food trucks and small stalls lined up over two blocks. We arrived a little after 1pm and missed most of the lunch crowd. After walking down the street and looking over the offerings, we both went for Thai food. It was a tasty lunch on the street.

Street food vendors

Street food vendors

After we came home, I retrieved a couple of packages we received at the office. One was a chair that Donna ordered from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but it wasn’t what she expected so it’s going back. Another package was our mail from our service in South Dakota. This package included new license plates for our coach and Spyder. The design on our current South Dakota plates was first issued in 2006. After 10 years, some of the plates are deteriorated and hard to read or have lost their reflective properties, so South Dakota decided it was time to issue new ones.

I took a photo of our new plates and made a discovery. When light is directed at the plate (in this case via the camera flash), a squiggly line appears in the middle from top to bottom. I suppose this is an anti-counterfeit feature.

New license plate design for our coach

New license plate design for our coach

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Photo with flash reveals a squiggly line

Donna went for a bike ride as she continues to aim for her 250-mile Great Cycle Challenge goal while I installed the plates. After I put the plates on, I had a message telling me another package arrived at the office. It was the Elka suspension I ordered for the Spyder – custom made shock absorbers and springs. I paid for expedited shipping since they came from Canada. I didn’t want them to get delayed in customs and have them arrive here after we’ve moved on. Timing of package deliveries can be a challenge on the road.

Last night Donna made baked shrimp with fennel and feta for dinner.

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

Baked shrimp with fennel and feta

I paired it with an Imperial IPA from Hop Valley Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. It was delicious – the shrimp I mean.

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

Alpha Centauri Imperial IPA

We ended an excellent day by starting season two of True Detectives. It appears that season two has no connection with season one – we’re starting a whole new story line with different actors.

After a few days of great weather, rain moved in last night. We have a heavily overcast sky this morning and expect rain off and on all day with a high temperature only reaching the low 60s. I’m chomping at the bit to install the new suspension on the Spyder, but it looks like that will have to wait.

 

 

Deschutes Brewery

We rode to Bend on the Spyder Tuesday. We left the Sunriver Thousand Trails park around 11:20am so I could take Donna to the hair salon for her noon appointment. When people ask us about health or dental care while we’re on the road, we joke that it’s no problem, but finding a hair stylist for Donna can be troublesome!

Blasting up US97 at 65-70mph in 50-degree weather makes it a cold ride. After I dropped Donna off, I went to a motorcycle shop and bought warmer gloves. From there I went to the Deschutes Brewery tasting room, where they have brewery tours. I knew the 1pm tour was fully booked, but I thought I might be able to get in if there was a no show. I also thought I could get lunch there.

It turned out the tasting room doesn’t serve food – just beer tasters, T-shirts and knick-knacks. I sampled four barrel-aged beers that aren’t found in stores and really liked three of the four. I also made it to the tour – three people didn’t show up. They allow 15 people in each tour.

Our tour guide was a native Oregonian from the Willamette Valley named Joy. She was very knowledgeable about beer in general and their operations at Deschutes Brewery. We started the tour with a brief discussion of the four ingredients needed for beer – water, malt, hops and yeast.

Every thing you need to make beer

Everything you need to make beer

This discussion took place in the employee break room. The break room looked like a small cafe with tall chairs around a bar-like table, refrigerator, stove and food supplies. One of the guys was on break and had made a delicious looking pastrami sandwich. I was wishing I had eaten lunch – it was after 1pm by then.

The break room had a large closet that was converted to a small taproom. Employees are allowed one pint of beer at the end of their shift.

Employee taps

Employee taps

This has to be good for morale! The company believes good beer in moderation is beneficial to health.

We took a look at hop storage. Deschutes only used whole hops, no hop pellets or extracts. They store about three days worth of hops in a temperature-controlled room in 200-pound bales.

Hop bales

Hop bales

They were doing maintenance, cleaning a lauter tun. The lauter tun is a large vat that’s used to strain the liquid (wort) from the grain mash.

Lauter tun maintenance

Lauter tun maintenance

We walked along a cat-walk above the brewery and looked down at the operation. Things were running at full speed below us.

Cellar process

Cellar process

Fermenters and bright tanks

Fermenters and bright tanks

Although Deschutes Brewing is not as large as the Sierra Nevada operation we toured in Chico, they still make a lot of beer. Their Black Butte porter is the number one selling porter in America, even though they only distribute in 27 states. I won’t go into all of the brewing process steps as I outlined that in the Sierra Nevada post.

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

Bottled and capped, ready for packaging

It was after 2pm by the time I left after buying a couple of bottles of barrel-aged beer and of course I needed the T-shirt. I rode back to the hair salon to pick Donna up. When I got there I saw a message on my phone from Donna. The hair stylist only accepted cash or checks and Donna had neither. So, I got back on the Spyder and rode a few blocks away to the bank to get cash.

When I came back and picked Donna up, I was famished. We rode over to the 10 Barrel Brewing pub and ordered food along with a pint. From there the ride home was much better with warm gloves. We stopped at the Sunriver Village to fortify ourselves with another pint at Sunriver Brewing. Donna really likes the Sunriver Village. It’s a resort, so almost everyone there is on vacation and seems laid-back and happy.

Back at home, we prepared a whole chicken to roast on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. We had a late lunch, so we didn’t start the grill until about 6:30pm. Donna prepared garlic scapes which I grilled on the Weber Q and she also made roasted brussel sprouts in the convection oven. I used the same seasoning blend that I used on the baby back ribs last weekend and the chicken was great!

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Dry rubbed Traeger chicken

Grilled garlic scaipes

Grilled garlic scapes

Paper plate dinner

Paper plate dinner

This morning I woke up at 6am. I was warm under our comforter, but I could tell it was colder than usual in the coach. I got up and saw the thermometer read 50 degrees in the coach. I turned on the heat pump but I got the propane furnace instead. Heat pumps aren’t effective when the outside temperature falls much below 40 degrees. Our system has an ambient temperature sensor – when it’s too cold outside, it automatically fires the propane furnace instead of the heat pumps. I looked at my phone and read the outside temperature was 28 degrees. Yikes!

This cold spell is forecast to last until Sunday. We might pack up and move to the Columbia River Gorge for a few nights before we check in at the Columbia River RV Resort in Portland on Saturday. I don’t want to stay in an area that’s as cold as it is here right now.