Monthly Archives: September 2008

Repatriation, at last

Their trailer is back where it belongs

Their trailer is back where it belongs

Jerry’s and Ann’s truck and trailer are in their driveway again.

We arrived today at half-past two and found Jerry and Ann sitting in the shade in their driveway, cooling it. I backed their Airstream and truck into the back of their driveway and Debbie backed ours to just in front of Jerry’s and Ann’s. Today we had a short drive, less than 200 miles, from Westport Tennessee to Belmont, NC. We’re grateful and relieved to be here. It’s great to see Ann & Jerry again, and wonderful to have safely brought both trailers and trucks back to NC.

We’re going to stay a few days with Jerry and Ann before we leave for our WBCCI Carolinas Unit rally at Cross Country RV Park. It’s great to be back in NC!

Advertisements

Eight Days and 2,337 miles

We’ve towed over 2,300 miles from Bakersfield, CA, since our last writing, to arrive in Newport, TN, this afternoon. I was just thinking, “Hey, this is the longest trip we’ve made with no campsite reservations arranged”. Since leaving Bakersfield, Ca, we haven’t called ahead or emailed any campground. Instead we tried to arrive early enough to find available sites each afternoon. We arrived today where we thought our overnight campsite would be. Gates were locked, we found no sign of activity whatsoever, and it appears Sherman Oaks (nee Jack Benny Campground) in Dandridge, TN is kaput. Hmm, next plan?

We drove a few miles to find a pull-out by the highway and checked our camping directories. Hooray! Another campground is six miles east of us and from the same highway. We pulled in, found a storage site for Jerry’s rig and a campsite for ours, and set up. Five hours later we had gin & tonics, checked and replied emails, showered, and dined on a freshly grilled rib eye steak, creamed spinach, and potato salad, completed with a homemade ice cream sundae with a cherry on top.

The truck and trailer stayed hitched up overnight and we only connected electrical power from the campground to the trailer. We save time not connecting water hoses or drains, and aren’t even cranking down the four corner stabilizers. Most evenings we had time to hike, swim, or read before supper. After supper we showered, read awhile, and went to bed. In the morning we would prepare snacks and hot tea “to go” and drive out of the campgrounds by 7 am each morning. (sorry about the early morning diesel noise, neighbors :-( ) This became an easy routine for us and simply worked out really well.

The first night we stopped for our hottest camping ever. We stayed overnight in a county park in the Mojave Desert, Moabi, and enjoyed a swim in the Colorado River there. We thought it would cool down eventually to the forecast low of 75 degrees. I finally climbed out of bed at 0300 hours, closed the windows and vents, and turned the A/C on to get some good sleep.

Beautiful lake, nice campsites, quiet area

Beautiful lake, nice campsites, quiet area

We camped in a Passport America campground, Root 66, and spent the afternoon exploring nearby Petrified Forest National Park. We stayed at three state parks on lakes, Santa Rosa Lakes SP in NM, Foss Lake SP in OK, and Natchez Trace SP in TN. Each of these afforded nice swimming, great sky views, and quiet refuge away from highways. We had our camping loop to ourselves at Foss Lake State Park so decided to enjoy an extra day of reading, relaxing, recovering, and a little bit of routine maintenance. Any of these last three are on our special list for return visits.

New Kenwood TM-D710a on dash

New Kenwood TM-D710a on dash

The mobile radios in both trucks have worked out even better than we anticipated. Debbie and I each intermittently used amateur radios during the past two years. She has very rarely, before this summer, made use of the radios. During this drive Debbie has become proficient in 2 meter operations talking with me and with other hams along our route. You may remember I bought another mobile radio and antenna on our way through Portland, Oregon and when we stopped in Bakersfield I unpacked it all and figured out the basic operation and installation. We adapted the power cord to Jerry’s cigarette lighter outlet (limiting our radio power output), put a magnet-mount antenna on his roof, and put the radio on the dash. Isn’t this a nice looking radio?

Debbie and I had already, this summer, experimented with the amateur radios for one person to guide the driver while backing into a camping space. On this cross-country trip, I have used a hand held radio to talk Debbie into her camp sites at each campground as she learns backing the 26 feet long trailer. It has worked wonderfully. The mobile radios in both trucks have worked out even better. We are able to maintain clear and ready communication between the trucks at much greater ranges than our CB radios afford us. We don’t have nearly as much interference as the CB radio channels often experience. Mobile ham radios helped us get through many interchanges and some boring stretches, too.

We’d heard I-40 was treacherous through Oklahoma City. Our friends traversed this stretch a few weeks earlier and reported it was severely bumpy and also undergoing a lot of repairs. We didn’t really know what we could do about it or the best way to go around. As we approached Oklahoma City, I heard two hams talking on the radio. I asked if they would mind advising us on towing trailers through their fair city. One of them, Jack, strongly advised us against staying on I-40 East. He stayed on the radio with us for over 10 miles as he guided us through each turn to I-44 then I-240 and back to I-40. His directions were precise and clear, Debbie and I could each hear them and confirm back to him, and also chatted a little with Jack along the way. Thanks, Jack, KE5KR!

We were driving through Albuquerque a day or two earlier and wondered aloud, on the radio between each other, about the concrete viaduct between east-bound and west-bound lanes of I-40. On a hunch I said, “We’d appreciate if any local hams in Albuquerque area can help answer us on the viaducts’ purpose”. Quick as a wink an Albuquerque ham radio operator answered us back, told us the viaducts are for flood control, and wished us a safe journey.

We had local chats also in Memphis from Jeff AJ4GY, in Jackson, TN with Ray WB4MLP, and Joe WA4OVO (mobile) east of Jackson, TN. This trip would have been a lot longer and more difficult for us without ham radio. The best $14 dollar investment we ever made is our license fee. Well yeah, there is a cost for the radio and antenna equipment too. But ham radio purchases are really similar to other hobbies like golf, backpacking, bass fishing, or weaving, right?

Room for an extra rig and plenty left over

Room for an extra rig and plenty left over

We’ve been blessed with perfect weather, open roads, excellent availability of fuel, perfect mechanical operations, and great camping. Today we had our first rainfall of the entire trip. No road construction delayed any part of our trip. We selected “rv-friendly” fuel stops only, using The Next Exit interstate guide book, and this worked out beautifully. Two of the fuel stops were crowded and a little difficult to negotiate but none were any problem. The Airstreams followed everywhere they were towed, and both trucks (Chevy Silverado 2500HD gas, and Ford F-250 Super Duty 6.0L diesel) performed flawlessly and were very comfortable.

We planned not to use Wal-Marts or Cracker Barrels for overnighting, and we much prefer state parks over commercial campgrounds. Both these choices relate most to suitability, for us, of camping location. We prefer grass, trees, open water, and sky views to concrete, asphalt, buildings, and security lighting. Sometimes we might not have this choice. We were lucky to find state parks in good driving distances and close enough (but not too close) to Interstate 40 almost all the way across the country.

What a great trip this has been! We could not have planned or hoped for the trip to work out so well as it has. We’re glad we’re back in North Carolina tomorrow and we’re looking forward to being around family again. We’ve been gone four months and towed the Airstream eleven thousand miles since we left High Point, NC, on June 6. As great a cross-country trip as this has been, and as safe and enjoyable and full as our travels have been, we think we’ll enjoy settling in with family a couple of months before we head out again.

A day off the road

It’s nice knowing we’re going to be in such a nice place for a zero day. Today received the newspaper this morning on our doorstep, had a cup of tea, did laundry, re-torqued the Airstream’s wheels, drained the no-longer-so fresh water tank, cleaned all the glass on both trucks, picked up groceries, replaced our small gas can with a safety (type 1) gas can, filled up the truck with $3.61/gal gas, took a swim, swept and cleaned the trailer interior, and caught up on email and writing.

Pretty darned good day! And it just got better and better. The high temperature was only mid-80s, and we had a very pleasant breeze all day. Debbie prepared us a dinner of baked tilapia, green beans, and salad. The RV resort was very quiet. So we made it to bed early to prepare for tomorrow’s drive eastward. We’ll be driving over Tehachapi Pass and several other mountain ranges, into the Mojave Desert.

We’ll watch our fuel consumption closely to make sure we match our needs with the somewhat more sparse refueling locations of the southwest. We don’t expect much of a problem with our truck’s 450 mile cruising range but the Ford F-250 diesel only has a 29 gallon tank. So, we’ll plan to stop every morning and refuel. We heard on NPR news this morning some isolated reports of gasoline shortages. Hopefully these will sort out before we are in the affected areas.

For now, we had a really nice day in Bakersfield, enjoying much more pleasant weather than our August visit here.

Bakersfield, Ca, again?

One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day, again. Hehe. I don’t know if some of this is because Debbie can’t stand it and I’m more than a little a contrarian or because I adore Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. I dreamed many nights of traveling, in parallel existence of some sort, through the other choice and seeing what it also meant. Bill Murray, in Groundhog Day, gets the free rewind day after day until he gets it right. Sort of the same thing but more toilsome than simply (no, not really simple at all) having it both ways.

We had a fine meal at The Naam

We had a fine meal at The Naam

We’re back in Bakersfield, again. It felt nice yet a little funny pulling in here, again. We are chagrined/amused at how recently we left and the distance we’ve covered in the interim. And all the things we saw and did on the way to B.C. and back! We had such a great time with Ellie, Kelsey, and Stephen. The weather in Vancouver was just absolutely perfect, seventies and sunny each day and in the low fifties each evening. Humidity was over 80 percent, a staggering difference from southern California. Our drives North and South were, although 1,200 miles long, pleasant and interesting. Sometimes more interesting than others.

Did I mention our trailer was hit by a woman backing out of a parking space while we were in a lineup for gas just before entering Canada? Beware the cheap gas, the cost may be really really high. A hidden cost of cheap gas may very well be the increased risks from more difficult maneuvering of cars and trucks about the pumps. Fortunately she is an insured driver, accepted responsibility, and her insurance company is very agreeable. And we are fortunate the damage is neither structural nor crippling in any manner. The damage is really all cosmetic.

Pretty wooded site in Paradise Point State Park, Wa

Pretty wooded site in Paradise Point State Park, Wa

Our first night we spent in an Washington state park, Paradise Point. This is a nice quiet campground just far enough off I-5 near Woodland, Washington, with large fir trees and an apple orchard. We picked fresh apples and cooked them down for home-made apple sauce to accompany our grilled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli. Yum!

The second day we visited our first ever amateur radio store. Not everyone has visited one because these aren’t in every city. Not even large cities necessarily have one. This one is one Ham Radio Outlet‘s sites in Portland, Oregon. We had called ahead to confirm they had in stock the items we wanted and to check our road directions. It was nice shopping here, the staff are amateur radio operators and know their stuff. While the store was not large it had all the things we wanted. We bought a dual-band mobile radio and antenna for the truck, a couple of study manuals for our next level license upgrades, and another pack of Anderson power poles for making reliable mobile 12 volt electrical connections. From Portland it was an easy two hours to Eugene, Oregon.

We waited until we were passing through Eugene, Oregon to revisit Sutton RV Sales (a storied Airstream Dealer) for the repair estimate. Tom, the Service Manager, walked out promptly to our Airstream and wrote the labor and parts required for the repair. Inside they counted the cost of these and faxed the estimate to the insurer then called him. Parts are not on hand and would require eight to ten days to arrive in Eugene, Oregon from Jackson Center, Ohio. We’re on a slightly tight time schedule to return to NC for our WBCCI Unit’s election rally so we cannot wait for the parts. And we don’t even know how soon we can get the repair done. Our first blem, it had to happen sometime.

We spent the second night at a well-situated Oregon state park twenty-six miles above the Oregon/California border, in Valley of the Rogue State Park. We stayed here with the Landmarks West caravan, then on our way to Canada, and now once more. It is very large, well arranged, is super-easy to navigate to and from, and has excellent facilities. All this for $20/night with full hookups. These first two days we had driven three hundred miles each and accomplished all the other chores too.

Lots of ribbon road, a little decoration in the background

Lots of ribbon road, a little decoration in the background

Today we left Valley of the Rogue at 0600 hours and were in California before sunrise. We committed to 600 miles for this third day to land in Bakersfield in time for a dinner in the RV Resort’s great restaurant and a quick swim. The day’s driving on I-5 was almost effortless. We maintained 55 mph all day, stopped only twice for gas and finished with a total of one hour stopping time for the day. We don’t want to do this regularly but there was nowhere in between Mt Shasta and Bakersfield we wanted to linger. And, we want to get ready for the trip to North Carolina.

This evening after a hamburger, fries, and peach cobbler feast in the Crest Restaurant at Bakersfield RV Resort, I unpacked and tried the new Kenwood radio. The main goal, short term, is having mobile amateur radio communications between the two trucks for the ten days we drive across the U.S. Debbie is driving our truck and towing our Airstream. I will drive Jerry’s and Ann’s truck and tow their Airstream. The mobile amateur radios will afford us clear communications for whatever distance we decide to maintain between our vehicles. We’ve decided to stay out of visual contact so we aren’t distracting one another as we drive.

Tomorrow we’ll plan our picnic stops and fueling stops for the first two days. And prepare the trucks and trailers for the trip. We need a few groceries, will top off our truck’s gas tank, will empty the holding tanks, and replace the forty gallons of fresh water (now not so very fresh after carrying it for almost a month) with Bakersfield city water.

We’re glad to be back in Bakersfield. We know our way around, the city has all the things we need, and we think the RV Resort is a mecca for RVers. Oh, and the hamburgers are the best anywhere!

Playdate with Ellie

I'm a shopping girl!

I'm a shopping girl!

We told Kelsey and Stephen we would love if Ellie could stay with us two days while we’re in Vancouver. We kept her one night at their apartment 18 months ago and they took our hotel room for the night. Don’t know how they did, but we enjoyed the visit and Ellie was wonderful with us. Ellie joined us yesterday afternoon for a shopping trip to find some good tea. Ellie’s only stipulation was, she wanted to see toys. The Bay Store (you know, Hudsons Bay Company?) had only clothes and baby toys. Debbie and Ellie enjoyed modeling some stylish things but found nothing they wanted to buy. Ellie still wanted to see a store with toys. And Debbie hoped we’d find some picture discs for Ellie’s “SuperLight” (ViewMaster)

Zeller’s is a small department store. The clerk, roughly our age, had never seen or heard of the ViewMaster. We checked the shelves just to make sure. Debbie and Ellie did find two must-haves, a Fisher-Price Pop-Up Camping Set and a Dora puzzle. But no ViewMaster or discs. Exiting the mall we first entered a modern little toy store with some variety but emphasizing electronic games. The young clerk lit up brightly — “You have one of those?”, he asked. “Yes, as a matter of fact”, we told him, “we just bought it three weeks ago in northern California and are still hoping to find picture discs for it”. He thought it very cool we had one at all, and even more it is new. “You’re so lucky to have it, I wish I had one”, he told us. Our hopes of finding the picture discs dimmed slightly, but we’ll look online for them.

Ellie was holding up well and looking forward to playing with her new toys, so we thought we could wedge in one more shopping. We made a brief tour through Safeway for milk, orange juice, and a few other basics, then were on our way home. Our RV park is in North Vancouver, not quite seven miles from Kelsey’s and Stephen’s apartment. Each trip to their home we fully traverse Vancouver’s pretty downtown and the Lion’s Gate Bridge and all the road and underground construction on Cambie Street. Vancouver neighborhoods often have signs announcing, “Traffic Calming Measures in Effect”. Usually these entail round-abouts, speed-bumps, local-traffic-only areas, and I don’t know what else.

This'll slow the traffic

This'll slow the traffic

We’ve decided Cambie may be the biggest Vancouver traffic calming. Four or five lanes are down to just barely two while, for the second year, as they complete installation of a new rail underground before the 2010 Winter Olympics. For all the mess, they seem to have done a great job keeping the flow of cars and buses. Traffic was getting busier in Vancouver on this Friday afternoon, we dealt with a lot of Cambie St, and Ellie’s trip from the Mall to our camper took a little while. I looked in the rear view after we crossed downtown and she was fast asleep. We had worn her out! So we drove around North Vancouver a little to look at the neighborhoods before we pulled into Capilano RV Park.

Playing with her FP camper set with grandmommy

Playing with her FP camper set with grandmommy

Debbie and Ellie walked around the RV Park awhile and I worked on a very small project in the truck cab. Ellie returned very excited to have discovered, in the RV Park, a baby Airstream (a 19′ Bambi International). And she wanted nothing but to play with her Fisher Price camper set.

Ellie’s bed, finally!

After traveling almost 8,000 miles in the back of our truck, Eleanor has the bed, dresser, and mirror her mommy used as a little girl and through high school. Debbie and I loaded this in the back seat and in the bed of our truck before we flew to Alaska May 19 this year. We returned from Ak June 5 and on June 6 started our trip west. Today we cut a piece of plywood for a bucky, assembled her bed, and made it beside her “new” dresser. Ellie might grow to love the furniture, but we are instantly gratified and thrilled to present it. Whatever can we do with all the space in the truck?

Yea!  Ellie's bed and dresser finally arrived

Yea! Ellie's bed and dresser finally arrived

We also ventured to Vancouver’s Chinatown this afternoon. Debbie and I had depleted our stash of Sencha green tea and found a good deal on large cans. We bought a large can from Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng Company on Main St. We’ll enjoy a cup or two this evening, and decide if we should buy more while we’re here. We also visited Marilyn’s Bakery and Restaurant and shared with each other bites of a curry beef pastry, egg custard, coconut custard, coconut cream pastry, bbq beef roll, and a coconut cookie.

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden


The snack gave us lots of zoom to explore another hour. We walked through the public part of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden. We’ll return with a much better understanding of the Garden’s meaning and purpose after reading about it this evening. Many of you may already know this isn’t Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s former home and garden. Instead the garden honors China’s first president and opened for Expo ’86.

Lights Out

The rear interior lights in our Airstream mysteriously stopped working yesterday morning. We checked all seven 12 volt circuit fuses and tried shaking the trailer. Nothing would make the lights turn on. Failed were the bedroom ceiling lights, the bed reading lights and rear roof locker, and the bathroom exhaust fan. And, oddly, both closets’ lights and the bathroom vanity lights still work. My pollyannish partner, as usual, said not to worry about it. “We’ll fix it” is her characteristic, and always correct, answer. Still, all day I was bummed and unreasonably worried about how I would trace the open circuit and repair it.

This morning we pulled the rear wall switches. We found, as expected, no power to the involved switches. I temporarily jumped 12v power from an adjacent working switch (the vanity lights). Bingo, everything worked again. Okay, the simple solution is to create a cross-connection from the yellow circuit (still works) to the purple circuit (lost its power supply). I grabbed materials to make a splice from yellow wire and refeed yellow and purple. The 20 amp circuit wiring and fuse would carry everything we’d use at one time.

On my way from my workbench (the truck) back to the trailer, I thought I would take a brief peek for

One purple wire responsible for all the rear interior lights

One purple wire responsible for all the rear interior lights

a purple wire in the refrigerator outside cabinet. It seems most all the 12v wiring runs through this area. Sure enough, there’s the purple wire going into and out of a molex plug. I pushed each of the purple wires into the plug and rechecked inside the trailer. Bingo! Problem solved. Apparently the purple wires shook a little loose with the rough I-5 roads we traveled last week. Guess where I’ll check first next time?