Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Northern Oregon

Lots of catching up was done over dinner at the Cracker Barrel just down the road

 We had great fun exploring Bend and the surrounding area, including (naturally) the many breweries there! We helped the Elks Lodge celebrate their 100th Anniversary by attending their dinner and dance and had some great conversations with the other lodhe members and the campers out back

Bruce and Sue left and so did we. We will likely meet up again as they are headed in basically the same direction we are. Meanwhile we moved to Welches Oregon which brought us to the foothills of Mount Hood.

I have been to this area on business several times and I promised Barbara that I'd take her around Mt Hood and the Bennett Pass one day. Last time we tried on the motorcycle we were defeated by a terrible campground and torrential rain. This time we got enjoy a whole day of back roads, lavender farms, wineries and picnics on the Columbia River. This is just beautiful country.
Mount Hood
We also stumbled across a great Irish character- Robbie, who worked at the Mt Hood Village Encore Park. Full of fun and with a broad Irish accent, he is fulltiming with his wife and 4 little kids!
Columbia River Gorge
We even had time to order new glasses for the 2 of us, find the Gresham Elks Lodge and attend an Escapees Chapter monthly meeting. We hardly had time left for the local Boring Brewery but luckily we managed a few trips there to sample their beer, play darts and fill our growler a few times.

After the dark dreary TT campground the Tillamook Elks Lodge sounded very appealing, very open, large spaces, full hookups and near the coast. We were delighted with the place and chatted away with our neighbors. Turned out we were all San Diego tax exiles! Surely California can't keep driving people out for ever?
Lavender farm and Mt Hood
We've explored this area before by motorcycle so we avoided the more touristy spots like the Cheese Factory and Air Museum. We did take a trip up to the nice town of Astoria but the 60 mile trip took 3 hrs on Highway 101 which is just 2 lanes, winding and full of vacationing drivers.

The temperatures were perfect, mid 70's and sunny, so when we moved on to the Hillsboro Elks it was a shock to be in the high 80's just 60 miles inland from Tillamook.

We moved back nearer to Portland because it is a straight line from Hillsboro to Chehalis Washington our next planned stop at a TT park, We also had a call that our new eyeglasses were ready so we took the opportunity to pick them up and at the same time get our hair cut. Got to keep up appearances sometimes!

We were of course staying at an Elks Lodge again and a really welcoming one, Imagine our surprise when the gentleman behind the bar turned out to be from Manchester England and the Leading Knight from London! They had the best ribs we've tasted in years on the menu too.

One of our “Things” is collecting the pins or badges from each lodge. They are all different. We hang our collection along the windows of the rig. They aren't always easy to get, sometimes the lodges are closed when we are in town or they have run out of them. We think we have visited around 90 lodges but we have only around 60 pins to show for it. It's fascinating to see the differences in each lodge. They range from very simple to amazing.

We dropped by the Milwaukee/Portland lodge on the way back from getting our glasses and found one of the amazing ones. A huge place with a nice lounge but also a games room with pool tables, shuffleboard and darts. But wait! How about a swimming pool and a bowling alley as well!! The parking lot was full even though the lounge was closed. They are the only swimming pool around there and had families signing up to be Elks just to use the pool during the summer.
Tammy does great selfie's
Our friends John and Debbie have been exploring this area ahead of us and to our delight seemed to be heading our way! It's one of the nicest experiences of this lifestyle when you cross paths with people you know. We were soon catching up on all their news and meeting their new dog Gizmo, who is just full of energy.
Tammy and Debbie
Out of the blue we saw a message on Facebook between 2 of our San Diego friends who were chatting about a ship that was on it's way between San Diego and Portland. Mary was on the ship and Tammy arriving in Portland to meet the ship at the shipyard there. We barged in on the conversation and arranged to have Tammy over to the lodge for Saturday prime rib dinner there. She had a colleagues with the Daniel and he was invited along naturally. John and Debbie had friends in the area and there were 8 for dinner. Unfortunately Mary didn't get in to port early enough so we sadly missed meeting her.
John and Scott
We all had a great time and got on so much like old friends that the waitress was amazed to find out that we weren't! The evening just flew by and so had our couple of days with John and Debbie. We headed North.
Too much fun going on here!
Our next stop was the Thousand Trails (TT) park in Chehalis WA. We had a couple of reasons for stopping there. The big one being that last year around the great lakes there were no TT parks we could use, so we paid the maintenance fee for the year with no return on investment. Our membership gets us 30 days a year free which pays for the maintenance. This meant that we had to stay 60 days this year to even out for last year.
Mount Rainier
The second reason is that Chehalis is fairly close to 2 of the big mountains in the chain that runs up from California thru Oregon and Washington. We had been to Mt Shasta and Mt Hood. Next are Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier and we visited both. St Helens was being shy though and kept her veil down.
Mt St Helens with her veil of cloud.
Next stop? Washington.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bend Oregon

Onwards and upwards as they say, and we drove North first to Weed CA and the area around Mount Shasta then on to Klamath Falls and Crater Lake which has been on our “Bucket List” for a long long time.

Why Weed California? Well it was about as far as we wanted to drive from Reno and there was a CG associated with the Elks Lodge in the town of Mount Shasta. Mount Shasta has a part to play in my shipbuilding career.
Mount Shasta across the lake
I worked for 49 years in design and engineering. Mainly the design of ships. My last 25 years I spent doing upgrades for Military Sealift Command vessels that were converted for civilian manning. We converted 2 classes of vessels early on. The AFS class of supply ships and the AE class of ammunition carriers.

All classes of ships in the Navy generally are named in a pattern. Some classes named after rivers, some after mountains. The AE class were mainly named after mountains and one was the Mount Shasta. The mountain itself is volcanic and part of the Pacific Rim of Fire that stretches from California up through Oregon, Washington, Canada , Alaska and around the Pacific to Japan.
My watercolor painting of Shasta
I worked on the redesign of the Mount Shasta for several months and visited the ship several times.

The Trailer Lane RV Park was a cozy and comfortable place with wide pull thru full hookup sites. The owners were extremely welcoming. Unfortunately the Elks Lodge in Nearby Mount Shasta was closed due to roof leak so we didn't get a pin for our collection.

We took a day trip up to Lake Sisikyou and I spent the morning painting Mount Shasta and it's reflection in the lake. A very nice park with RV facilities. On the way back we naturally stopped at the Weed Brewery to sample their wares!

After our incident in Reno an the fuel issues we filled up before heading out with the intent of stopping somewhere near Crater Lake. After some phone calls we picked the Motel 8 and RV Park just north of Klamath Falls which was convenient but hardly picturesque. An old and narrow CG which in theory were “Pull Thru” meaning you could drive in one side and out the other. Unfortunately there was a camper on the far side from us who had his pickup truck parked next to the rig which cut down our turning room. A low slung tree was close to the right side of our rig which threatened to drag down the side if we cut it too fine so instead we chickened out and backed out when we left.
Crater Lake
Our “Rough Plan” was to drive the remaining 60 miles to the Crater Lake National Park and get there early so we could get one of the campsites in the park which are “First Come, First Served”.
Half the park closed due to snow
Unfortunately 2/3rds of the CG is closed for construction and even though we were there at 11am and the desk for camping didn't open until 12, there was already a long line. We decided to leave the rig in the parking lot and see the park in the Miata. By the time we'd driven around the ½ of the park that was open (The Eastern half closed due to snow) and got back to the parking there was still a line at the camp desk. We hooked up the car again and drove to a random park picked because we were close. Casey's Riverside RV Park in Westfir was a perfect place.
Casey's Riverside CG
Right along the river with fly fishermen casting from the bank, Wide long spaces and full hookups. Good Sam Club discounts and soft serve ice cream for $1. Hard to beat that,and a nice friendly place. We would definitely return to for a longer stay if we are back this way.
Pretty river
This was a stark contrast to the next place we stayed at, the Thousand Trails South Jetty Park in Florence Oregon.

For those not familiar with Thousand Trails they are a Membership organization with the buy in up to $10,000 depending on what “Level” you buy in at. If I had paid that and still had to pay $700 a year for annual dues I would be IRATE at the poor condition of this place. Dark and gloomy, untrimmed trees and undergrowth, rough gravel roads, uneven sites with partial hookups, the dump station out of commission. They should hang their heads in shame.
Od Town Florence.
We moved on to the Florence Elks Lodge where you can either camp outside the lodge downtown or in their campground 6 miles north of town. We chose the campground and it was GREAT!
Fishing boats
July 4th we spent at the Elks who had a great Pot Luck BBQ going and the rest of the week we spent exploring lighthouses. sea lion caves and a Wings and Wheels event at the local airport. (We also managed to try some craft beer in old town Florence of course!)

Oregon Lighthouses
The traffic on 101 was horrible being the 4th of July and we bailed out of our plan to drive North to Pacific City. We were due to stay at another Thousand Trails park there but when we read the reviews of the park they horrified us, and we canceled that and drove to Bend via Eugene, which was a very nice drive thru the Cascade Mountains.
The Sea Lion Caves


The key fob and "Valet Key" are both programmed to the car.

We arrived at the Elks Lodge and unhooked the Miata which promptly refused to start. For some reason the immobilizer system wasn't recognizing the key! We called the Mazda dealer but they told us:
  1. It would be up to 3 weeks before they could look at it and
  2. The system could only be diagnosed by Mazda's specific analyzer!!

We had it towed in and rented a car for a week as they said they would try and get it done between other jobs. The very next morning they called and said it was done! We returned the rental car and picked up the Miata.

The “electronic” key fob was bad but the “Valet Key” that is part of it worked after reprogramming. They couldn't tell how it had gone bad but apparently this isn't an uncommon occurrence. Just more electronic gadgets to go wrong in my opinion.

When I asked how much a new electronic key fob would cost I nearly fell thru the floor!! $850!!!! Thanks but we'll use the key from now on!
Wings and Wheels 
We got back to exploring the Bend area. For us the biggest attraction was the Craft Breweries that abound here! The scenery was nice too.
Rush hour for Quail!
Then our friends Bruce and Sue posted on Facebook that they were in La Pine Oregon which is just 30 or so miles south of Bend and before we knew it they arrived at the Elks Lodge and camped almost next to us! Lots of catching up was done over dinner at the Cracker Barrel just down the road

Barbara and Sue


Sunday, June 30, 2019


Anyway it was too late to drive to Reno that day so we dry camped at the Sacramento Elks and enjoyed more of their tremendous hospitality.

We enjoyed the 130 mile drive from Sacramento to Reno along I80 (yes we drove on the Interstate!). This road climbs steadily and in places very steeply into the mountains up to the Truckee Pass and Donner Lake.

A little history for our UK readers, The Donner Party are legendary in the US. A group of settlers headed for California in wagons came to the eastern side of the mountains late in the year. They were foolish enough to take a different route from normal and to set off so late in the year. As a result they were trapped in the snow with no hope of rescue and some of the party resorted to cannibalism.

My joke when up there is: “The Interstate is right there why didn't they walk over to it and hitch hike out?”

2nd Tow in a week!!
We arrived at a campground we'd randomly picked but they only had a spot for 1 night. We got back in the rig but it wouldn't start, It cranked over just fine but wouldn't catch. After about 5 minutes it stumbled into life and we set off. About ¼ mile down the road it spluttered to a stop and we ended up getting towed to ANOTHER Cummins dealer and camping there for 2 night until they could get us into the workshop.

Snow capped mountains behind the Cummins shop.

Here's the whole story of THAT.

The rig has a bad fuel level sender which makes the fuel gauge swing between full and ¼ of a tank randomly. We've been using the odometer to judge when we need to refill the tank based on the tank having a 70 gallon capacity and 8 mpg. We filled the tank and drove 250 miles but the fuel gauge was showing empty which it obviously couldn't have been as we put 36 gallons in to bring it to full.

At the dealer they noted the fuel gauge was bad and so “Dipped” the tank with a stick. The tank was dry!! They put 25 gallons of fuel in and it started and ran fine. They noticed that the filler cap was missing. Their deduction (which we have to agree with) was that somebody. somewhere siphoned the fuel tank and stole the fuel. Quite where and how we aren't sure but the bad gauge made it worse.

We had them check to see if they could work out what service had been done on the engine in the past as we have no service records. Turns out that they put a date on the filters when they get changed. The oil filter was 2018 so that was fine, but the fuel filters were 2011. We got them to change the fuel filters and got a spare set to keep in the rig as friends with diesel rigs recommend that.

As the tow truck was backing us into the space at the dealer he backed into the fence with the bike rack!!. Luckily there was no damage. 

The dealer Technician then backed the rig into a jack in the service bay!! But very lightly, which scratched the paint. They were very apologetic and willing to do anything to please us. We tried an RV body shop but they were full up until August.

We had a car detailer come out and he buffed the area which got the scratches out. While he was there we got him to buff some other scratches that I put in the side in May when I dragged a branch when parking. The dealer gave us a credit against the cost of the service for the cost of the detailing.

The Truckee River runs right thru Reno. They even have a white water slalom course 
Then we planned to move to a campground but when we called around there was nowhere with a vacancy! The Rodeo was in town and everywhere is full. The dealer told us we were welcome to stay the weekend there and they had a dump station too so we emptied the black and gray tanks and filled our water tank.

Rapids in the heart of the city

The National Car Museum has a gold plated De Lorean

We left early on Saturday in the Miata and spent the morning in Virginia City then the afternoon driving around Carson City and Lake Tahoe.
Virginia City heart of the Comstock Lode

The old Railroad Depot
We were around this same area 10 years ago when my 2 sisters came from UK on vacation and it's just as pretty on the lake as it was but I swear it's twice as busy. There was absolutely nowhere to pull over and take pictures, Everywhere was either full or the parking areas where closed for construction.

Picturesque Lake Tahoe

The Miata above the snow line
Onwards and upwards as they say and we drove North first to Weed CA and the area around Mount Shasta then on to Klamath Falls and Crater Lake which has been on our “Bucket List” for a long long time.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


We didn't get out of our PJ's all day, just watched DVD's and snowflakes. So when it turned to 80's on Thursday we didn't know what to think!!!

We decided to go to Modesto and get the windshield wipers we needed and try and find parts to fix the electric step on the rig that had just broken.

The step just suddenly went “Limp” when I went out one morning. A bolt in the linkage between the motor and the step itself had sheared off.

As Modesto was closer to Sacramento and I had a hankering to visit the California Railroad Museum we packed up and headed West.
Old Town Sacramento
We got the wipers after having to special order them and enough bolts, nuts, washers and assorted pieces to be able to fix the steps. A short stay at the Modesto Elks followed by a longer stay at the Carmichael Elks gave us time to do the repairs and explore.

California Railroad Museum
Some beautiful steam engines that are capable of running.
We like to collect the special pins that each lodge have so we visited the Sacramento Lodge while exploring. That is another very welcoming lodge and we ended up returning a few times for dinner. They are extremely well set up there with an indoor pool, gym, steam room, ballroom, games room and a very cozy bar. They have a dump station but no hookups if you want to camp.

The Carmichael Elks Sunday Car show
Sacramento itself was a product of the gold rush, before that there was no town and within a few months one sprang up at the junction of two rivers. With a direct water connection to San Francisco it provided a supply center for the miners.

Stern wheeler on the Sacramento River
Interestingly enough the whole city was raised about 10' after a devastating flood and there are a few locations where you can go below street level and see how they accomplished the task.

The Crocker Art Museum nicely air conditioned!!
From snow in Yosemite we came to the warmer “Central Valley" but it got too warm very quickly with three straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees. We decided that some altitude was needed and Reno/Lake Tahoe beckoned.

The Monaco apparently had different plans because within a mile of leaving the Alternator Failure light came on followed by the Engine Stop light and a Warning light. We found a place large enough to stop and called Geico who provide roadside assistance through our RV insurance. After some confusion about how big we were we got towed to the local Cummins diesel service shop. The analysis revealed that the alternator belt had failed. That belt also drove the water pump so when the pump stopped the engine overheated and caused the coolant header tank to split.

It takes a BIG tow truck for a motorhome.
The belt was soon replaced but the header tank was a Monaco part and took some days to get delivered. Luckily the dealer had several hookup spaces so we camped right there for the weekend and did some more exploring. We treated ourselves to a tremendous Fathers Day breakfast at the Sacramento Elks,

Squeezed in a visit to the Air and Space Museum too
Monday we packed everything up then went to the laundromat around the corner from the Carmichael Elks. This was handy for a couple of reasons. First the Sunshine Laundry is a super clean place with brand new machines. Second - it's around the corner from the Elks who open at 11am and do great lunches. Third -its next to a Goodwill Store so we can browse there too.

By the time we had all that done and drove back to the Cummins dealer it was about 2pm. The rig of course was still fighting them. The new tank had different bolting arrangements and they had to fabricate some adapters but by 3.30pm we were ready to roll.

(A little aside here. While we were in the dealers we saw a leaflet about the “Cummins Power Club” which gets you 10% off labor and Cummins/Onan parts, including regular servicing of Cummins engines and Onan generators.

At $19 a year this would pay for itself pretty quickly so we joined online and instantly saved $200!! If you decide to join use us as a reference and our hometown as Livingston TX and we might get a free hat or something!

Anyway it was too late to drive to Reno that day so we dry camped at the Sacramento Elks and enjoyed more of their tremendous hospitality.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Yosemite and the surrounding areas

All great fun but towards the last couple of days the dreaded “Hitch Itch” started to kick in and we were both counting down the hours before we were due to leave!
Lake Isabella
Our next stop was the Kern River Valley and the very warm, welcoming Kern Valley Elks Lodge who have about 12 camping spots with partial hookups and a dump station right in the middle of Wofford Heights right above Lake Isabella.

As usual the Elks welcomed us with open arms and we were soon on first name terms with everyone, getting invited to Taco Tuesday and told about all the best places to see and do..
My attempt at painting the lake.
The scenery was tremendous around the area and Kernville just up the road was very interesting with it's history of mining and oil exploration. If you visit don't miss the Kernville Historic Association Museum. Prepare for a long visit as the docents are both very friendly and very knowledgeable!

I took a couple of hours out for some painting, then we explored parts of the Kern River which is famous for its white water rafting. After several days of rain the water was rushing thru the narrow rocky canyon and Lake Isabella was more than 10' higher than it had been for some years.

That same rain had made us decide to move on after 4 days. Our black tank fills in only 4 days so we would have to unhook, go to the dump station across the road and hook up again. There was rain forecast for the next few days and one of our windshield wipers was falling off (Somebody had put the wrong blades on). So we decided to move further north to an Escapees Park in Coarsegold CA called “Park of the Sierra's”.

The road from the Kern River Valley to Bakersfield is steep and winding. Some corners are marked 15 mph! The Monaco took it in it's stride and the engine brake kept the downhill speeds well under control without having to ride the brakes or downshift. We didn't have a line of cars behind us and whenever there seemed to be a couple there was a turnout handy for us to pull in and let them by.

The whole trip was good, we found that Rt 99 towards Fresno was 4 lanes and the traffic wasn't too bad. Then we found the cheapest diesel we've seen in CA at $3.77 a gallon so we had to fill up and have lunch while we were stopped. 

The road up to the Escapees "Park of the Sierra's" was very nice and our welcome at check in was great. Then to top it all we found out it was Darts Night in the games room and the players were all as warm and welcoming as our friends in Casa Grande. It was 9 pm before we finally left.
Our new Darts Buddies
Good roads didn't continue. We were on CA 49 near Bear Lake when suddenly road signs appeared saying CA 49 closed ½ mile ahead. 

There was no diversion sign just a sign for a flagman. We came around a corner and there were barrels across the road and a worker waving us down. We absolutely had not seen a diversion. We had to unhook the car and turn the rig round, asking the flagman all the time where the signs for the diversion where and how we could get to Coulterville. “Take J 16  a half mile back” was all she said, and there began a 60 mile diversion around 20 miles of rt 49! 

It as so rough that the bike rack bent, the basket on Barbara's trike was thrown off and bounced off the Miata on the way, and my folding bike was flipped completely upside down but luckily it was  held on by the one bungee cord that didn't snap (3 did). Thanks Cal Trans!!

We ended the day at the Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes park. I can't say we were particularly impressed at our first look. Gravel roads, dirt sites and several sites with “Site Closed” notices. One of our new neighbors said the site next to them had a broken sewer line and the smell was bad.
Rt 120 just inside Yosemite NP
We wanted to see Yosemite again but didn't reckon with snow going into the park. One road up to Glacier Point was completely closed. Despite that the park was packed with few places to park. We took some photos and left early. We don't like crowds anymore and the drivers in National Parks seem to leave their brains at home.
Waterfalls where we'd never seen them before

Gorgeous reflections


Hetchy Hatchy had 6 falls going.
The whole area is where the Gold Rush was and we set out to explore the small mining towns in the mountains. I don't think Barbara was too impressed with me throwing the Miata around on all the hairpin turns, but I was having fun!!

We found a nice place for lunch in Sonora and walked the main street for a couple of hours, quite a delightful place. We stopped and made reservations for the train ride in Jamestown. 
The train only runs at weekends and the upcoming weekend is Memorial Day, a long weekend or “Bank Holiday” as we would call it in the UK. The train ride was very disappointing. Advertised as a 45 minute steam train ride it was actually pulled by a diesel shunting engine. The 45 minute “ride” was a 15 minute ride out, followed by 15 minutes where they moved the engine from one end of the train to the other and the same 15 minute ride back to where you started. 
The museum was good at Jamestown nut not the train t\ride.
No scenery worth talking about and little in the way of commentary
As much as we hadn't expected snow going over the top into Yosemite we were astonished to wake up on Sunday morning and watch snow falling on the campground! 
12 hours of snow in late May!
With no phone signal and no internet we didn't get any bad weather warnings. And it snowed all day. It never got any deeper than an inch but never the less we watched it coat the trees, campers and grass . We didn't get out of our PJ's all day, just watched DVD's and snowflakes. So when it turned to 80's on Thursday we didn't know what to think!!!

We have some new maintenance items too. The electric step at the door broke and we still need to find some windshield wipers that won't fall off when you try to use them.