Category Archives: Washington

Last Weekend on the West Side

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

House concert

Charlie Imes performing

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

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

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

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

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

Salad buffet spread

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terraced boardwalk

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

View of the Chewuch joining the Methow River at Confluence Park

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

Pine Near RV Park – site 11

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

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

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

Pink sunset in Winthrop

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

Rocking Horse Bakery

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

Not So Simple Repair

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

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

Lainey at the range

I’m putting a group into the top bullseye

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clear skies at sunset on Thursday

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

Top of the mower disassembled

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

Here’s the problem

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

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

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

New spring and pulley

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

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

Repaired assembly riveted in place

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

Job done!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon

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

All Together in Arlington

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

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

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

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

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

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

After burgers on the lawn

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

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

Jennalee, Donna, Gabi, Shauna and Jerry

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

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

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

Spyderco knives

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

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

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

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


The Road North

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

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

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

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

Our site at SKP Timber Valley

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

Donna’s office Tuesday afternoon

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

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

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

Wild turkeys struttin’ their stuff


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

Jack rabbit slinking away

There’s no shortage of wildlife in the area!

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

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

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

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

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

Our dry camping spot at the Vancouver Elks Lodge

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

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

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

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

MacGuyver temporary solution.

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

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

Crock pot beef stew

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

There and Back Again – Part One

I didn’t have an opportunity to post to this blog since last Friday – I think it’s the longest lapse in three and a half years of blogging. I’ll catch up over a couple of installments.

On Saturday morning, my alarm had me up at 5:40am. Donna fixed breakfast for me while I went through my things to see what I might have forgotten. I’d scheduled an Uber ride to the airport and the driver showed up on time at 6:25am.

I used to go to the airport frequently during my working life. When we lived in Michigan I would usually arrive at the airport well ahead of my flight time and sit in the Delta lounge. I had Platinum Medallion status due to frequent travel. I don’t have any frequent flyer benefits anymore since I haven’t been in an airport since May of 2013. I haven’t missed it either.

It took about 25 minutes to get through the TSA security farce. I had liquids such as eyeglass cleaner and flonase in a clear plastic ziplock bag as required but I forgot to take it out of my carry-on bag. No problem, my bag went through the X-ray device and no one noticed.

The Boeing 737-900 jet was nearly full, only a couple of the 181 seats were unoccupied. My row was full – luckily I had an aisle seat. There were two young guys in the seats next to me. They had ear buds and were busy with their laptops or smartphones for the entire flight. This was fine with me as I had a book to read on my Kindle. The only words I uttered on the two-and-a-half hour flight were “orange juice, please” when the flight attendant asked me if I wanted something to drink.

My daughter, Alana, picked me up at the airport along with my granddaughter, Gabi. Of course it was raining in Seattle. Gabi had just come from a volleyball match – she’s in fifth grade and is developing into quite a volleyball competitor. We were all hungry and stopped in Lynnwood at a Thai restaurant for lunch. Then we went to Alana’s house in Arlington to relax and visit for a while. My other granddaughter, Lainey, came home around 2pm and joined us. Lainey is 17 years old and was at work when I arrived.

Alana and me

Alana and me

Gabi, me and Lainey

Gabi, me and Lainey

Around 4pm, Alana drove me to Edmonds to meet up with Sini. Sini has been staying at her friend’s home since she sold her house. Her motorhome was parked in the yard at Alan and Julie’s place. After introductions to everyone, I started a pre-flight check on Sini’s National Tradewinds motorhome.

First, I looked at the date codes on the tires. The tires looked fine and they were about five years old. I checked the tire pressures and also the fluid levels. I familiarized myself with the cockpit layout and controls. Then I looked at the Roadmaster Falcon tow bar and thumbed through the manual for it. We decided to do a dry run and hook up her Saturn SUV tow vehicle (toad). The Saturn was new to Sini and the tow bar had just been installed on her coach by Poulsbo RV.

The tow bar has a quick link attachment that’s easy to lock in place. Then there are safety break-away cables, an electrical connector and an air line to activate the brakes.

Roadmaster Falcon tow bar

Roadmaster Falcon tow bar

Electrical and air line connectors

Electrical and air line connectors

Hitch at rear of coach

Hitch at rear of coach

We had a problem. The electrical connection wasn’t working – we didn’t have taillights or turn signals for the toad. The brakes have an actuator on the driver’s floorboard that applies the brake with a plunger attached to the brake pedal. When the brakes on the coach are applied, air pressure is sent to the actuator. This means the brakes are applied as if you had your foot on the brake pedal and the brakes lights are operated by the usual car system. We had brake lights, which I figured was the most important component.

Roadmaster brake actuator

Roadmaster brake actuator

It was about 5pm on Saturday afternoon, so a call to Poulsbo RV to see if they would look at the electrical connector they installed didn’t yield any results. The turn signals and taillights at the back of the coach are mounted high enough to be seen over the Saturn toad. We called it good enough since we didn’t intend to drive after dark.

Alana said her goodbye for now – we’ll be back up there in June for Lainey’s high school graduation. Sini ordered pizza and we settled in to Alan and Julie’s family room to watch college football. I was tired from the early start and flight. Sini told me she would pick up her friend, Linda, in the morning and they would be back at the house by 8am. I went to bed in a spare bedroom and crashed out before 10pm.

On Sunday morning I was up early and showered. I put my things in the coach and we packed a few final things Sini had in Alan’s garage. Alan backed the coach out of the yard through the RV gate into the driveway. We hooked up the toad and were ready to roll. I did another walk around and checked everything over. I pulled out of the driveway and drove a short distance down the street before stopping to give the tow bar and car a final check. All was good and we were on the road!

As I drove, Sini sat in the co-pilot’s seat and Linda was in the back. I started in with driving lessons for Sini right away. As I maneuvered the coach through turns, I told Sini what I was doing and why. I explained how driving a coach with the steer wheels behind the driver’s seat is different than driving a car with the steer wheels well in front of you. I gave her tips such as using your body as a benchmark for initiating turns. I wait until my hips are past my turning point before I start to turn in. For example, when making a right turn, I drive straight into the intersection until my butt is past the curb on the right, then I crank the steering wheel to make a tight turn. This positions the wheels to properly execute the turn without cutting the corner and clipping the curb.

The toad was easier to maneuver through turns than my cargo trailer. But, you cannot reverse with a tow vehicle. It’s important to always know how you are going to exit any place before you enter – things like parking lots or fuel stations need to be reconnoitered and a plan made before you pull in.

The plan was for me to drive through the busy metro areas of Seattle, Olympia and Portland. I would talk about what I was doing, watching and thinking about while driving. Sini could take the wheel once we got past Portland. We had a few rain drops but overall the weather was fine for driving.

When we stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center for fuel past Portland, Sini made sandwiches for lunch. We carried on and I drove since we didn’t want to sit and eat – we wanted to cover more miles. Sini wasn’t keen on eating and driving on her first stint. We were pushing a bit to get to the Seven Feathers Casino before dark for our first leg of the journey.

Sini brought up the Chargers game on an NFL app she has on her iPhone. She read the play-by-play description to me so I could follow an exciting win for the Chargers. We pulled into the lot at Seven Feathers right at sunset. I had driven 400 miles for our first leg of the trip. Sini would start driving on Monday. To be continued…

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.

Red Apple Flyers

Friday evening I grilled an old favorite – bacon wrapped filet mignon. Donna made a green salad, potato salad, corn on the cob and sauteed onions and mushrooms to go with it. It was hot and windy outside, so we dined indoors. The afternoon high temperature was 102 degrees!

There's a bacon wrapped filet mignon under those mushrooms and onions

There’s a bacon wrapped filet mignon under those mushrooms and onions

Saturday morning we rode the Spyder to Pangborn Airport in East Wenatchee – about 22 miles from here. Our destination was the Hertz Rental Car counter. Donna rented a car so she could drive to Issaquah, east of Seattle to meet her sister Sheila. Sheila is running a marathon race today, Donna’s there with her nephew, Connor. She’ll come home tonight.

We took Batterman Road to the airport. A few miles before we reached Pangborn I saw a sign for the Red Apple Flyers’ field. The Red Apple Flyers are a radio controlled model airplane club. I remembered flying at their field about 16 years ago. After I dropped Donna off, I followed the sign to their field.

There was a gate at the entry and you needed a code to enter. I saw people inside. After a minute or two a guy waved at me, then he went into the clubhouse and opened the gate remotely. I pulled in and parked.

I looked at one of the nicest model airplane fields I’ve ever seen. I think it could be one of the best in the country. I didn’t remember it being anything like this when I flew here. I came to the Red Apple Flyers field a decade and a half ago to compete in a scale aerobatics contest. At that time I was a two-time International Miniature Aerobatics Club (IMAC) National Champion. The Red Apple Flyers hosted an IMAC contest. I came down with flu symptoms that weekend and didn’t fly especially well – I think I took second place. At any rate, I didn’t recognize the place.

I talked to a couple of guys and one of them gave me a tour of the place. He introduced me to a long-time club member – one of the founding members. I’m sorry to say I don’t remember his name. He told me why I didn’t recognize the place. It wasn’t the same field I flew at.

The club originally formed over 40 years ago when 10 guys got together and bought 10 acres of land to develop a place to fly their model airplanes. They cleared the land, leveled it and planted grass. Later, as the club grew, they added 10 more acres of land.

Meanwhile, Waste Management Corporation (WM) built a landfill nearby. Six or seven years ago, WM wanted the Red Apple Flyers property to expand their operation. They approached the club officers with an offer to relocate the field. The club officers knew WM needed their land and was willing to do what it took to get it, so they dreamed big. They struck a deal for WM to lease them 22 acres of land about a mile away from the original site, for $1/year. WM would clear the land, level it, put in irrigation and grass, a paved runway and parking area and build them a clubhouse. The agreement signed off by WM and they came through.

Red Apple Flyers work tables, pilot stations and paved runway

Red Apple Flyers work tables, pilot stations and paved runway

Red Apple Flyers clubhouse with raised observation deck on the right

Red Apple Flyers clubhouse with raised observation deck on the right

The clubhouse is equipped with a full kitchen, meeting room and separate men’s and women’s rest rooms.

Paved parking and storage buildings

Paved parking and storage buildings

They have 14 RV sites with electricity and water hook-ups.

RV sites

RV sites

Their agreement includes a clause that allows Red Apple Flyers to purchase the property if WM ceases operation in the area for $1. Meanwhile, WM sponsors the club with a substantial annual maintenance donation. These guys hit the jackpot!

I hung around for an hour looking at model aircraft and talking to the guys.

Large scale WWII Spitfire

Large scale WWII Spitfire

Another large scale warbird

Another large scale warbird

When I came back to Crescent Bar, I didn’t go directly to the RV resort. I went past it to check out where the pizza place was – it’s called Tower Pizza and it’s across the street from the public beach access of the Crescent Bar Recreation Area. It was another warm day and the beach was absolutely packed with people!

I walked over to the bridge over the cut where water diverts to the east off of the Columbia River. This was where Donna and I put our floaties in the water last week. College age kids ignored the “No Jumping or Diving” sign and where jumping off of the bridge. People in the water below would give the all-clear signal before they jumped so they could avoid hitting a boat or jet ski coming through under the bridge.

A kid diving from the bridge

A kid diving from the bridge

Crowded beach at Crescent Bar Recreation Area

Crowded beach at Crescent Bar Recreation Area

Later I went back to Tower Pizza and placed an order to go. I sat and sipped an IPA while I waited for the pizza. The waitress told me it might take 30 minutes. After about 30 minutes, another waitress asked me if I needed anything – I told her I was good, just waiting for my order. About 10 minutes later the second waitress came by again and asked me my name.

She went into the kitchen, than came back and told me there wasn’t an order for Mike, and asked what I ordered. I told her it didn’t really matter because I wasn’t going to wait another 40 minutes. She said there were a couple of orders without names and she wanted to see if one of them was mine. I told what I ordered and she went back to the kitchen.

She came back again and asked if I would wait six minutes. I told her I would and she offered me another IPA while I waited – no charge. I figured it would be more than six minutes, so why not take a free beer. It was interesting. The first waitress was on break and apparently didn’t turn my order in before she left. The original pizza order was expected to take 30 minutes. Now that they discovered the problem, they were able to make my pizza-to-go in six minutes. I didn’t even finish my glass of beer before it was ready. They didn’t charge me for either of the beers I drank and I was on my way.

Today will be a little cooler with the high temperature in the upper 80s. I’ll get started on preparations to hit the road tomorrow. I need to pack the kayak, check tire pressures and so on. I’ll pick up Donna at the rental agency later this afternoon. We’ll head out of here tomorrow morning and drive to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho next.



Carting the Kayak

We had a quiet afternoon on Wednesday indoors to beat the heat. On Wednesday evening, Donna made a new-to-us dish for dinner. She pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then topped them with a mixture of spinach, garlic, onion, feta and spices, rolled up the meat around stuffing and browned it. It was excellent served with a side of orzo topped with fresh tomato and kalamata olives cooked in the pan with the chicken.


Chicken stuffed with spinach and feta

Thursday morning I inflated the Sea Eagle kayak with the foot pump. We strapped the kayak onto the cart and pulled it down to the river. The kayak was easy to pull with the new cart.

Kayak strapped to cart

Kayak strapped to cart

We pulled the kayak out of the Crescent Bar RV Resort through the emergency exit and walked down the road to a trail that led to a small beach on the Columbia River.

Trail to beach

Trail to beach

It was about half a mile from our site to the beach. The cart worked well and even rolled through the sand without a problem.

Donna with the kayak where we launched

Donna with the kayak where we launched

After removing the kayak from the cart, I pulled the pins and took off the wheels. The cart folded and easily fit in the rear space of the kayak. We don’t have to worry about leaving the cart on the beach when we go out on the water.

Although we didn’t have the wind gusts we’ve been experiencing over the past few days, there was a fair breeze blowing across the river from the west. The river flows slowly south through Crescent Bar – right to left in the photo. The wind created a chop coming across the river.

Wind chop on the water

Wind chop on the water

We paddled upstream to get a feel for how hard it would be to go against the current. The wind was more of an issue than the current was. It’s a fairly big body of water here. I was surprised at how shallow it was for the first 20 feet or so from the shore. I’ve seen power boats here so maybe it’s not quite as shallow as it looks through the clear water.

There weren’t any boats or jet skis out this early. We hit the water around 10:30am and the day was already heating up. We paddled upstream and found a boat anchored in a small cove. There was a big house on shore with a beautifully landscaped property. We assumed the boat belonged to the homeowner. No one was aboard and I wondered how they got from shore to the anchorage or anchorage to shore.

When we turned around to head back to the beach where we launched, we found that coming down river was harder than we expected. The wind-driven chop pushed the rear of our kayak, turning us to starboard. We kept heading out into the channel instead of hugging the shoreline. It took a lot of corrections to keep us on track.

While we were out on the river, a couple of F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets passed overhead. They were practicing low-level flight maneuvers and banked 90 degrees as they roared past us. This area is a designated as a low-altitude military training corridor. In certain areas of the country, the military can conduct low-altitude flight (below 10,000 feet above ground level) without regard to the 250-knot speed limit imposed on regular air traffic below 10,000 feet AGL.

We headed back to the RV park around 11:45am. On the way back, we met a couple that saw us go out. They were kayakers too and wanted see where we launched from. We gave them directions to the beach.

In the afternoon, we made a run to Quincy on the Spyder. I dropped Donna off at the Akins grocery store and rode over to the post office. I had a package there from the RV Water Filter Store. This was the first time I had something delivered to the Post Office addressed to General Delivery. I’ve heard that general delivery works well if you are in an area with a smaller post office. The Quincy Post Office qualifies as small. The clerk was friendly and she retrieved my package right away. Big city post offices seem to have issues with keeping track of general delivery mail. I was hoping that our regular mail from our service in South Dakota would be there, but it hadn’t arrived. I’ll have to go back there this morning to get it.

Yesterday the temperature reached the upper 90s. Today the forecast calls for a high of 102 degrees. I’ll make the run to town before noon to avoid the worst of the heat. It looks like this afternoon will be a good day to read another book and maybe take a dip in the swimming pool.

Tomorrow I’ll take Donna to Pangborn airport in East Wenatchee to pick up a rental car. She’ll drive the rental car over Cascade Mountains to meet her sister Sheila in Issaquah where she is running a marathon on Sunday. Donna will spend the night with Sheila at her hotel, then she and her nephew Connor will meet up with Sheila at the finish line.

Donna will come back Sunday evening. We plan to head out of Crescent Bar on Monday and go to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Hot Time in Crescent Bar

The heat wave is on here at Crescent Bar. Monday’s high was 96 degrees in nearby Quincy, Washington. We haven’t hit the river with the kayak yet – we intended to on Monday, but I started the morning playing pickleball with TJ, Lance and Boni. By the time we left the court, I was hot and too tired to inflate the kayak and take it to the launch point on the river.

I spent the rest of the day reading in the air-conditioned coach while Donna worked on her organizing tips newsletter. We agreed that we would take the kayak out on Tuesday.

On Monday night, the wind kicked up. I slept poorly as the wind was noisy and rocked the coach at times. In the morning, the wind gusts continued so we put off kayaking again. In the afternoon, Donna and I rode the Spyder to Quincy for groceries. We decided to check out another grocery store. We shopped at Akins the first time we went to town. This time, we hit the IGA store called El Mercado one block south of Akins. This store caters to the hispanic population and had some specialty meats, spices and vegetables. It also had standard fare at reasonable prices. We like the store, and we’ll probably go back there again, but Akins has a better selection of craft beers.

It was another hot afternoon with the temperature in the upper 90s. Donna took the grass-fed lamb chops we bought from the rancher in Portland out of the freezer. She rubbed them with a paste of olive oil, fresh rosemary and thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest. I grilled them on the Weber Q.

Lamb chops with rib bone

Lamb chops with rib bone

Donna served it with green beans and lemon rice with chopped parsley.

Lamb chop with green beans and rice

Lamb chop with green beans and rice

I paired the lamb chop with IPA from Red Hook Brewing – one of Seattle’s oldest craft brewers, making good beer since 1981.

Red Hook Longhammer IPA

Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

After another windy night, we were up early this morning. We walked over to Lance and Boni’s site at 7:30am. TJ joined us there and we all piled into Lance and Boni’s SUV and headed to East Wenatchee to a park with pickleball courts. The park was about 20 miles from here and had six new pickleball courts. TJ’s wife Julie is away on a business trip to Las Vegas so she wasn’t with us.

Pickleball courts in East Wenatchee

Pickleball courts in East Wenatchee

We played for more than three hours. We met several people at the park  – we always meet the nicest people playing pickleball. Once again, it’s hot out and I’m whipped. The forecast calls for a high of 97 today, 99 tomorrow and 100 degrees on Friday!

I dumped and flushed our holding tanks – today is the seventh day without dumping or making any real conservation effort so the gray tank was full. I think I’ll stay indoors this afternoon and start in on another book.


*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!

Watercraft in the RV Park

Most RV parks we stay in tend to fill up on the weekend and empty out on Sunday afternoon. This is true here at Crescent Bar RV Resort. People began showing up on Friday afternoon and the park was near full capacity by Saturday morning. But it’s a little different here.

A number of the sites were occupied by tents or small slide-in campers on pickup trucks. The reason for this was the number of people arriving towing a boat or trailer full of personal watercraft. The section of the Columbia River at Crescent Bar is also called Wanapum Lake and it’s a popular recreational area for watercraft.

Our neighbors to the west of our site pulled in late Friday evening with a pontoon boat. They have a travel trailer on their site. They pay an annual fee to have the site full-time. They come here every weekend in the summer, making a drive of more than three hours from Edmonds, Washington, north of Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass after work on Fridays and returning to their home on Sunday afternoon.

Our neighbor's pontoon boat

Our neighbor’s pontoon boat

On the other side of our site is another annual park resident with a ski boat. He stores his boat in a yard a couple of miles away from the park. On weekends they drive here on Friday, bring the boat to their site and spend Saturday and Sunday on the river. They arrived Friday around 9pm. After boating Sunday morning, they spent a few hours cleaning the boat before they took it to the storage yard and headed back to western Washington. Whew!

Our neighbors ski boat

Our neighbor’s ski boat

Many people here follow a similar plan for the weekend. Others pitch a tent so they can spend the day on the river and party at night.

Tent and boat

Tent and boat

Camper and jet skis

Camper and jet skis

Another annual site with a boat

Another annual site with a boat – jet ski in the background

The site across from us had a few tents and canopies set up. They arrived with a group pulling trailers loaded with jet skis. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the sunny weather and recreational opportunities. This morning, many of the sites are empty and most of the boaters are gone until next weekend.

We’ll get the kayak down to the river now that it’s a little less hectic on the water. On Friday afternoon, Donna ordered a cart for the kayak from Amazon. One of the hassles we face with our inflatable kayak is getting it to the water. With the cart it will be much easier. Donna ordered it through her Amazon Prime account with free two-day delivery. It showed a Sunday delivery, which I thought was probably wrong – but the site did say that Sunday delivery was available in this area.

The cart arrived Saturday morning – less than 24 hours after she ordered it. How do they do that? Assembly was breeze. All I had to do was remove the retaining pins from the axles, install the wheels and re-insert the pins. Job done!

Donna prepared her mojo marinade recipe Sunday afternoon and used it on a pork tenderloin. I grilled the tenderloin while Donna prepared the sides – green lemon rice and summer squash sauteed with red onion.

Grilled pork tenderloin

Grilled pork tenderloin

Served with Orzo salad with spinach and feta and sauteed zucchini and red onion

Served with green lemon rice and summer squash sauteed with red onion

It was a tasty and nutritious meal. We enjoyed the dinner at our picnic table. It went well with an Apocalypse IPA from 10 Barrel Brewing.

Al fresco dinner

Al fresco dinner

The temperature reached 90 degrees in the afternoon, but by dinner time it was comfortable outside in the shade of our canopy. The forecast for the rest of the week calls for daily highs in the upper 90s. I think we’ll be hitting the beaches.


*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!