Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Days 2 - 3 - Barstow, CA

~ Just the Facts ~
Day 2 - 3 - Sat & Sun, June 23 - 24
Happy Birthday, Greg!
Camping:  Barstow KOA
Restaurants: Popeye's, Los Domingos
Activities:  The Incredibles 2, outlet malls

We got a pretty early start on Saturday with the plan to make it to Needles, CA so we could do the big grade out of town in the early morning rather than in the heat of the day. Unfortunately, almost halfway between Needles and Barstow, we started having FMC troubles again.  It was making a screeching and grinding noise.  The heat was ridiculous so we got some ice cream at a rest stop Dairy Queen and decided what to do.  The best choice was to go back to Barstow. 

On the way back, I cancelled our reservation for the KOA in Needles and called the KOA in Barstow.  We only had one requirement - 50 amp service.  That is what we need to run both our air conditioners.  When they are both running, the FMC gets cool and comfortable.  If only one is running on 30 amp service, then we can't really cool the FMC down comfortably if the temps are over 90.  It was 110 so . . . . 

We have had great luck at KOAs but luck was not with us this time.  The KOA told us they had 50 amp service for us but they did not.  The FMC was DONE so we had to stay there anyway.  We were not happy. (In fact, I didn't take any pictures because I was so annoyed.)

The good thing about the whole deal was that we found a mobile mechanic who came to us. Greg -- after a brief consult with the FMC Brain Trust -- knew that it was the Idler Pulley Bearings that had gone out.  The guy found the parts and came and installed them.  It wasn't quite that easy -- the first parts were wrong but he ended up driving to Victorville to get the right parts and installing them on a Sunday.  His rates were super reasonable too. 

If you have the misfortune of breaking down in Barstow, give this guy a call . . . Koch's Mobile Auto Repair

So, we had a couple of hot days in Barstow.  We saw a movie, ate out, and Gage and Liza hit the Outlet Malls.  Once the repair was done, we decided to get up super early (3am!) and beat the heat on the way to Needles and hopefully be up the big grade out of Needles before it was over 100F. 

Day 1 - Boulder Creek to Paso Robles (or thereabouts)

~ Just the Facts ~
Day 1 - Friday, June 22
Camping:  Rest stop on Hwy 41 east of Paso Robles, CA
Restaurants: Black Bear Diner in Salinas, CA
Activities:  none

So, our Day 1 was 4 days late.  Our plan was to leave on Monday, June 18th but we didn't leave until Friday, June 22 due to the brake situation on the FMC.  Liza and the kids took the opportunity to jaunt up to Carson City/Reno to see her family.  (Hi Jody, Matt, Lee, and Igor!!!)  This was how our trip was supposed to begin so we didn't want to miss that quality family time.  We drove back to Santa Cruz on Thursday in hopes that the FMC would be ready soon!  

Friday, mid-morning, we got the word that it was ready.  So, Liza hit the store and stocked up on food.  We hit the road just in time for Friday rush hour.  Still, we were finally on our way! 

The kids drove in our Jeep and met us at the Black Bear Diner in Salinas.  We hit the road again and drove until we were done. We stopped at the rest stop on Hwy 41, east of Paso Robles.  We were tucked in with some of the noisiest trucks we've encountered at rest stops.   Rest stop camping isn't the best in the world but it's great for a drive until you are done and get an early start kind of camping.  And, uh, free!  

Prepping for our Big Summer Trip 2018

Greg and I have been planning this summer's trip for a couple of years in a loose, won't-it-be-fun kind of way.  We started intense planning in January which included planning routes, making reservations, and firming things up.

This is where we put the new generator. 

The goals for the trip are to: get to an FMC rally in Chama, NM and get to Santa Fe where we'll be meeting Greg's octogenarian mom and Greg's older sister (and hopefully our two nephews) to enjoy Santa Fe and then caravan back home together, enjoying the desert southwest along the way.  This is part of my mother-in-law's bucket list and we are delighted to share in it!

The new batteries installed in the storage bay. 

Secondary goals were to visit Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT as well as finally camp in Silverton, CO.  We visited Moab a few years ago and did Arches National Park but didn't have time to explore Canyonlands, too.

Planned Preparations we made:

  • purchase 2005 Jeep Wrangler LJ  - knowing we wanted to drive on dirt roads a lot on this trip, we finally bit the bullet and bought the car we've been wanting for years.  Jeep Wranglers are great tow vehicles -- at least for the way we travel -- because we love having a vehicle when we get somewhere so we can explore and if those explorations can be on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, so much the better!  Our Jeep is a black soft top with an extended cargo area (that's the LJ part).  It's also known as a Wrangler Unlimited.  We researched what kind of hitch attachment we needed to add to the Jeep to tow it behind the motorhome.  Then we installed it ourselves.  We had the electrical connections done by All RV in Scotts Valley.    
    New jeep - needs to have the hitch receiver installed

    In the middle of the job 

    Gas can for generator -- it holds 1.5 gallons which is exactly what the gennie needs.  Yay! 
  • phase 1 of the electrical system upgrade in the motorhome - We've been planning to fix up the motorhome's electrical system with a goal to being more comfortable in the heat of the summer for a long time.  Summer is when we can travel because of Liza's job as a teacher so we need to be comfortable traveling in the summer heat.  Phase 1 gets us started.  Greg and I did all the work ourselves which was challenging but fun. Our goal with this upgrade was to be able to run our generator to power our air conditioners.  The FMC has two huge air conditioners in bays under our closet.  They work great but require a lot of power.  We can't use them at all using standard 110 current.  We can run them one at a time on 30amp and both of them on 50amp.  We found the smallest generator we could that would have enough juice to start and run the AC units!  Starting them is the tricky part as AC units draw huge amounts of power to start but then settle into a more manageable power use as they run.  Our inverter/charger will also let us run regular household electricity from our newer, more powerful batteries for long periods of time. Phase 2 will be to install smaller, roof-mounted air conditioners.  Phase 3 will be to add solar panels to charge the house batteries which will extend the amount of time we can camp without hook-ups. 
    • new house batteries
    • new inverter/charger
    • new generator
    • new battery isolator

Greg running wires.  We both worked at this.  Sometimes it was easier for me because of smaller hands.  

Invertor controller is now handy near the door. Easy to turn it on and off and check the levels. 

The new generator just fits in it's bay.  

We did a lot of wiring.  I got good at making huge cables. 

Like these! I'm a pro at it now. 

Lots and lots of wiring. 

Unplanned Preparations we made:

  • new refrigerator and roof vent - our existing fridge had serious problems in hot weather.  It could not keep up with the cooling demands when the weather was hot.  This problem had gotten worse over the years and on our last desert trip, we ended up having to throw away food many times when the fridge just couldn't keep things cold.  We are really good at managing the fridge in the heat.  Tips include buying bags of ice to put in the fridge compartment to help the fridge stay cold, freezing bottles of water to move into the fridge to help with the cooling, only opening the fridge for short amounts of time, trying not to add a lot of warm food at once (after a grocery store visit, for example).  Even with all this, the fridge had been getting worse and worse.  We talked to Tim at All RV and tested a few things.  Bottom line, the fridge just wasn't working.  We brought it in to have them replace it.  They discovered that our fridge venting was wholly inadequate and sent us home to make a bigger hole in the roof.  Tim really thought that would fix the problem and we wouldn't need a new fridge and it might have if we'd done it years ago.  The people we bought our coach from had replaced the original fridge with a bigger one but didn't provide enough venting.  Even with the bigger hole in the roof, the old fridge wasn't cutting it.  So, we got a nice new Norcold Polar 8 LX fridge installed.  And then promptly got stuck in the hottest desert in the US -- it's been 110F for the last several days.  Oh, joy.  (I'll share more about my amazing new fridge in future updates.)
  • brake shoes/linings and wheel cylinder - Taking the FMC down to get the fridge installed resulted in squishy brakes (or something happened that Greg noticed they were not right).  He checked and no brake fluid on one side.  So, Tim at All RV took a look and we had to track down the brake shoe linings because no one makes the shoes anymore.  It took some time and overnight shipping -- although a storm in Chicago messed that up -- but we finally had them and got them installed. 
Wheels off to expose the bad brake area.  

Such a clean shop.  The FMC was tucked up safe and sound!

And, then we had problems on the road but I'll explain about those as they happened . . . owning a vintage RV is not for everyone but we do get more joy out of it than pain so . . . 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Catching Up!


Our last big trip was in 2015 when we did our college tours of the Northwest trip for our daughter, Ruth.  The next year, we did a short trip up the Oregon Coast with Greg's Family - mom, sister, her youngest son, that somehow never got blogged but was amazingly fun!

Last summer, we did a short trip to Southern California -- just Greg, Gage, and I -- to visit colleges for him.  This trip was without the FMC so it didn't really count.

Greg and I have done a couple of short trips without the Gage and Ruth -- who are 18 and almost 20 respectively and probably don't want to be called kids anymore!

We went to Quartzite which was awesome.  We also did two trips to Valencia for FMC rallies.  One with our coach and one without.

The coach has had some major brake work done which is great!  On our last trip to Valencia, we found out why you always want to plug in through one of those expensive surge protectors . . . the pole at the park was bad and blew out our converter.

Good news, the park made it right by giving us a discount on our camping fees.  And, we wanted to upgrade to a converter/inverter anyway.  Details on that fun project to follow.

We are preparing for a new summer trip through the southwest in 2018.  We'll be keeping you updated along the way.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day 32 - End of Trip: June Lake, CA

~ Just the Facts ~
Camping:  Driveway surfing at Liza's parent's place in Mountains
Activities:   Mono Lake Bird Walk, Gage's running camp, White Mountain Wild Horses

June Lake is a beautiful little mountain town in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.  It's at 7600 feet so the elevation takes some getting used to.  Gage was going to running camp in Mammoth for the week and we were staying at Liza's parents' home in June Lake.  What a spot.  

Acclimating is always difficult.  You have to make sure to drink lots of water and take pain reliever as needed and eat, even if you don't feel like it.  After a couple-three days, you will feel more like yourself.  Luckily, we'd been at 5,000 or so feet for a while so we didn't have that much acclimating to do.  

Gage spent the week doing two runs a week in preparation for a 10 mile run later in the week.  Mammoth is a bit higher at 8,000+ feet so he was working hard!  The kids got to have a lot of fun, too.  They visited local hot springs, swam in June Lake, and ate pies while very high in the Sierras.  

Liza took this panorama too far, making a straight beach look like a peninsula.  

While he was running, the rest of us were playing.  Liza went on a bird walk at Mono Lake, a nearby salt water lake that is a hot bed of birding activity.  

View from boardwalk at Mono Lake Cty Park
Mono Lake is an ancient inland sea.  It is the nesting place of millions of birds, including California Gulls.  

Liza and her stepdad, Igor, saw lots of amazing birds but I only included a couple here.  The magpie because they are such awesome birds.  And, the kestrel on the tufa tower because they were the most memorable bird of the day.  There was a family of kestrels near the parking lot and they flew around us all morning putting on quite a show!  

When we weren't watching birds, we drove out and explored the high desert of the eastern Sierras.  The best day was a drive out to see the wild horses at Adobe Valley.  They aren't exactly mustangs but they are wild.  The herd is managed to be around 75 horses.  We had just enough time to drive to the place they are usually seen and voila, there they were.  

Road shots by Greg

You see the horses in the shot, don't you? 

Greg enjoys taking pictures of the road ahead.  Liza enjoys capturing this view! 

We also went to see Ant-Man and ate out a few times.  We hung out with the parents and generally recovered from a long, but very fun, trip.  On Thursday, Greg and Ruth drove home early in the morning.  Liza picked Gage up from camp on Thursday night and we headed home on Friday morning, waving a sad goodbye to the parents.  

It was good to be home but there are many places on this trip.  The trip was awesome.  The journey really is the thing.  

Day 30 - 31: Carson City, NV

~ Just the Facts ~
Camping:  Driveway surfing at Liza's parent's place in Nevada's capitol
Restaurants:   San Marcos Grill, Pho Country

Leaving Likely, CA, we headed south to Carson City, NV.  Liza's parents have a house there and we were meeting her mom, Lee, to spend a couple of days before heading further south to June Lake.

It was fun to be in a city again after the quiet trip since Bend.  We ran errands, got haircuts, ate out, took showers and did laundry.  All the fun civilized things one does in a city.    Carson City is a great spot.   Both restaurants we went to were awesome.  Delish food.  Best part, hanging out with Mom.

Our last morning there, Greg and the kids headed off for June Lake and Liza and Lee followed shortly in the 4Runner.  We caught up to the FMC in the driveway at June Lake.  

Day 31 - Likely, CA

~ Just the Facts ~

In our quest to find unlikely (I couldn't resist!) RV parks, we stopped for the night at a most unlikely one:  Likely Place RV and Golf Resort.  In the middle of nowhere . . . really!, someone had the idea to build a lovely golf course and RV park.  

When I say the middle of nowhere, I'm exaggerating.  To get there, you head south out of Susanville until you get to the dot on the map called Likely (Don't blink!).  Turn left and drive for awhile until you see signs for the Likely Place RV and Golf Resort.  You drive through some ranch land.  

The cows are so used to seeing big motorhomes that they just don't care.  Yawn.  

Eventually, you get to the Resort.  Golf course, nice campground . . . beautiful.  There were a few other people there but we were very private and thoroughly enjoyed the views.  

One of the biggest attractions at the park is the very dark skies.  They have a section of the RV park dedicated to setting up telescopes and viewing the night sky.  

We didn't really participate in any activities offered at the Likely RV and Golf Resort.  We had dinner and drinks and chilled.  

Kind of like the cows.