Monday, July 31, 2017

Day 86 and 87

Today, we are dry camped at Tetsa River Regional Park somewhere between Fort Nelson and Toad River. There isn't much on this stretch of highway except for trees, rivers and mountains. At least the heavy truck traffic we were seeing this morning died off south of Fort Nelson. I guess oil and gas development sort of dies off as you head further north. I think the only stop today was to fill up in Fort Nelson and have lunch in the visitors center parking lot. BTW, it is a very nice visitors center. The Testa River can be seen through the trees. There were a lot of warning signs about the steep bank down to the water. It looked like a pretty fast moving river. 

The campsite is well shaded and there are a lot of mosquitoes. So far on this trip we've not needed bug spray very often. But it is nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the blue skies and moderate temperatures. I don't think it got above 70°F (21°C) anytime today. 

I filled up the fresh water tank again this morning. We'll see how long it lasts before running dry. The notoriously unreliable led gauge says that the tank is only 3/4 full even though water was running out of the tank overflow. 

I'm not sure when this post will get uploaded. Probably in Watson Lake at the visitors center. They have free wifi. 

Day 87 - Day 86 post never got uploaded. The stretch of road between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake has very few services available. It would have been right at the limit of our fuel range so I opted to top up the tank at Toad River, BC. Diesel was $1.60CAD/liter. We have stopped at Nugget City, YT, which is just past the Cassiar Hwy junction. I've stopped here before. BTW, the picture is Coal River where we stopped for lunch. It had been raining lightly for most of the morning. Hopefully we drove through the weather and it'll be clear and sunny for the rest of the trip. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 85 - Alaska Hwy Mile 62

This morning, we went through Dawson Creek, BC,  which is the start of the Alaska Hwy. The GPS said that our next turn was in 1383 km which is our turn into the RV park in Whitehorse. This is the grain elevator that has been turned into an art studio. The visitor's center is just on the other side. The "official" mile 0 marker is about a block south though they placed one in this parking lot for pictures. There were a lot of vehicles here waiting for their turn in front of the Alaska Hwy sign.

We kept going for a few more miles, actually 62, until we passed Fort St. John. Today being Saturday, many of the RV parks and campgrounds near town were pretty crowded. We stopped at a new place. Pretty barren but it has full hookups. That is the first place that had full hookups since Corbett, OR. We don't really need electricity any more since air conditioning is not needed (yay!!!). We are finding that we go through the fresh water tank in only a couple of days.

After getting used to the fuel prices in the lower-48, the Canadian prices are a shock again. It's already up to $1.10CAD/litre which translates to $3.34 USD/gallon which isn't really that high but it seems much higher at the pump. Even with our modest driving days a daily fill up is still over $100 CAD. Diesel has been around $2.50USD/gal occasionally dipping down to $2/gal. 

Day 84 - Williamson Provincial Park, AB

Last night, there was a lightning and thunderstorm including one "boom" that felt like it was right over the campground. A couple of dogs were not very happy. Today, we stopped at Williamson Provincial Park located between Whiteside and Grand Prairie, AB. No amenities at this site so we are dry camping. No wi-fi so we'll have to stop at Tim Horton's to use their free wi-fi to upload this post. And maybe have a donut. The high temperature today was only 75°F so power at the campsite is no longer essential. Tomorrow, we will actually hit the beginning of the Alaska Hwy at Dawson Creek. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Day 83 - Leduc, AB

We went about 270 miles today to a small town called Leduc in Alberta. We are still about an hour south of Edmonton. We opted for another small RV park so there would be power for the air conditioner. It is still pretty warm and there seems to be a lot of haze or smoke to the north and west. I was originally wary of this route due to the traffic. But the gps routed us on a nice bypass around Calgary and it looks like there is a beltway around Edmonton. It's been a while since I was on this route. I think it's been over 15 years. 

The wifi here at the RV park is barely functional due to another poor IT company. They came and took down their access points (to be examined back at the office) then they went on vacation for a couple of weeks without a word. Why am I not surprised. They contracted another company to put in all new radios that are about $80 each (sounds like Ubiquity gear) next Monday. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day 82 - Fort Macleod, AB

Today, we crossed the border into Canada and made it about halfway between the border and Calgary, AB. For some reason, just about all of the northbound rest stops in Montana were completely empty. I guess it sort of matched the landscape. Most of the fields were being harvested and looked pretty hot and dry. There were some really strong winds at times but no problem towing.

Once we got to Fort Macleod, AB, I was feeling kind of worn out from the heat (97°F earlier this afternoon). We stopped at an older RV park near the north end of town. They gave us a nice, shady spot. Since the reunion, we've put in 914 miles so far. Our next "planned stop" is Whitehorse, YT. We have eight days to get there and it's about 1500 miles according to Google. So we can start leaving later and stopping earlier.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day 81 - Helena, MT

Thank you again Kevin and Annie for your wonderful hospitality. It was another 300+ mile day from Mead, WA, to Helena, MT. Tomorrow, we will cross the border into Canada. Daily destinations are approximately known and our goal is crossing back into Alaska in a little over a week.

The last time I was here, I had Kevin pick up a Ubiquity Nano and a long range gateway so there would be wifi in the shop. I spent more time than I thought getting the gateway and Nano configured.

We went through a couple of really smoky areas as soon as we crossed the border into Montana. I thought that we would be missing most of the fires but I guess they are all over the place. I heard that there were a lot of fires in British Columbia along Hwy 97 which is my normal route.

This morning, the batteries were at 67% and it pretty much took the entire day to get them back to 100%. The smoke and haze meant that they didn't really get full sun for much of the day.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 80 - Mead, WA

Today was one of our longer mileage days while pulling the trailer. About 379 miles. This is also the beginning of our trek back to Alaska. The B.C. fire website was reporting a number of brush fires along our normal route north so we are heading east before heading north. Tonight, we are staying at another Harvest Host site on a farm with a fruit and vegetable stand. We arrived after they closed but they described where we should set up and left the gate open for us. Tomorrow, we will visit the stand. I hear they have home made pies!

One of the animals on the farm. I don't think the dogs quite know what to make of them. They just stare at each other. It's looking like we may get a nice sunset from our location near the top of the hill. BTW, even with the hill, only two bars of AT&T but 5 bars of Verizon.

Tonights dinner was made completely off of battery power. Even though I could've used the propane stove, inside the trailer was kind of on the warm side. It was 93°F today. So electric rice cooker and induction burner for our chicken stir fry used about 5% of our battery capacity. This is one of the staple meals on this road trip as Costco had vacuum packaged chicken and pre-shredded cabbage. Add some slice onions, celery and some random frozen vegetables and it's done. My kind of simple cooking.

Tomorrow is another 300+ mile day to Helena, MT. According to Google, the distance from Corbett, OR, to Fairbanks, AK, through Helena, Calgary and Edmonton was about 3,050 miles. We have 12 days and I like to get some longer days in near the beginning of the trip. Then back off on the daily distance.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day 79 - Corbett, OR

Today was the final day of the reunion. This is a so-so iPhone photo of the Columbia River just after sunset. There was some nice light on the cliff. This was taken last night when we were down near the lookout roasting marshmellows. The staff had started a really nice fire in the very old outdoor fireplace with hardwood. So there was some really nice coals.

Another shot from last night as we walked back up to the main building. I kind of liked the light coming through the windows. Since we aren't staying on the grounds, we headed back to the Crown Point RV Park at this point.

This morning there was a light drizzle. Kind of appropriate for the end of the reunion. Fortunately, we took the family photo last night. This time, they made an announcement that since everyone had access to the Internet, only one person would take a picture and send it out to everyone. At times, there would be a couple dozen cameras out for pictures.

For lunch, most of the group went to McMenamins - Edgefield after checking out from Menucha. It has become sort of a tradition. After lunch, we went back to Corvallis to pick up the dogs before heading back to the RV park. Tomorrow, we start heading back to Alaska.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 78 - Corbett, OR

The reunion continued today at the Menucha Conference Center. Today's activities included nature walks, sushi making, giant bubbles, frisbee golf, origami and other crafts. 

Later in the evening, Japanese dancing. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Day 77 - Corbett, OR

Just some random pictures from the reunion. "Ukelele Salon" (not sure what that means). Origami. I think the goal was 100-200 cranes for a wedding reception. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 76 - Corbett, OR

Today we are at a family reunion. This is the view of the Columbia River from the deck of the swimming pool. You can see Vista House around right-center. I don't think I'll ever get tired of this view. We are camped a short distance away at an RV park. Since we needed a place for the trailer anyway, we opted not to stay "on site" for the reunion. The dogs are at a kennel for the next few days as it has traditionally been really hot during the reunion. It's very pleasant right now. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 75 - Corvallis, OR

A short post for a short day. Only 135 miles from Sunriver to Corvallis. We left after a wonderful breakfast of Swedish pancakes. I've never had them before so it was a real treat. Lots of traffic on the road mostly headed in the opposite direction. After getting set up at the KOA east of town, I ran a bunch of errands. The original propane tank that came with the trailer needed to be re-certified before anyone would refill it. CoEnergy Propane in Albany got it taken care of quickly and refilled it. It was about half the price of getting it filled at an RV park. I had the oil changed in the truck again and they threw in a free car wash. At this point we've passed 10,000 miles on this trip so far. 

While headed to the gas station, I spotted Troubadour riding Trobairitz's Versys. What's the chance of that! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Day 74 - Sunriver, OR

This afternoon, we stopped at Lava Butte National Monument. There was a shuttle bus to the top of a cinder cone where you could get a great view of the lava flows as well as Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters. I had no idea of the number of cinder cones in the area.

Before stopping at Lava Butte, we had lunch with another moto-blogger Don Hamon of the 2 Vegans 2 Wheels blog. We met him at Cafe Yumm! in the Old Mill District in Bend during his lunch break. A mutual friend (the ones we are staying with in Sunriver) made sure that we had a chance to meet as she was amazed at how improbable it was that we knew each other. Even if it was only through blogging. And it was another great meetup. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 73 - Sunriver, OR

Based on yesterday's post, you can probably guess how I spent my morning. We now have five new ST trailer tires, load range E, and speed rated to 75 mph. The tech said that the DOT code on the old tires indicated a manufacturing date of only 3 1/2 years old so age wasn't the issue. He also mentioned that they did not have a speed rating then the default is 65 mph or possibly 100 km/hr. Anyway, I feel better having the new tires as does Bridget.

We are back at our friends home with full hookups. Tomorrow brings some more exploring around the area and possibly another moto-blogger meetup.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Day72 - Sunriver, OR

We cut out part of our itinerary due to the tire issues on the trailer. Bridget said that she would feel better if we had new tires. Since everything was closed in Bend, OR, for the weekend, we continued on to Sunriver to stay with some good friends. Driveway surfing or "moochdocking" with full hookups. Water, 30 amp power and a sewer connection! We were originally meeting them at the campground in Crater Lake.

We got an early start this morning to avoid the hot weather. In fact, there were times that it was only 68°F during the drive. In fact, this photo was taken around lunchtime and it was maybe 70°F. A pretty nice day. 

We went for a short hike to a waterfall just north of Sunriver. Here, Bridget and Ginny are walking with the two dogs. The next photo is the waterfall shot with shutter priority to try and blur the water. I believe that is was ¼ of a second.

This post was started on the iPhone and completed on the computer. Hence, the two different ways of handling pictures.

Tomorrow, I'll start calling around to find five new trailer tires. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Day 71 - Fruitland, ID

Today, the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) paid for itself. Shorly after leaving the campground in North Salt Lake City, the system sounded the alarm that there was a rapid pressure loss from the passenger side rear trailer tire. It went from 70psi to 24psi by the time I had pulled off an off ramp. I thought that the TPMS sensor was loose as the hissing stopped when I tightened the sensor. I unhitched the truck and pulled it next to the trailer to power the pump and got it back to 70 psi. It then became evident that there was a problem with the valve stem.

We headed towards a Les Schwab tire place. They bumped me up in line and removed the tire to replace the valve stem. The tech said that it broke off in his hand. Total time was about an hour and the total cost was $0! How is that for great service.

It would be nice if that were the end of the story. About 50 miles from Boise, the TPMS alarm sounded again. Rapid air loss on the same tire. Before I pulled onto the shoulder we heard the tire blow. Tread seperation. I think that the time it was running at low pressure this morning damaged the tire internally. This time when the tread came off, it damaged the lower panel between the tire and the steps. Purely sheet metal. I pulled out the spare which looks old but was never used. The pressure was only 45psi so it had to be aired up before it could be mounted. Bridget’s photo. 

We cancelled our reservation at Crater Lake and will head for a friends home in Sunriver, OR. I’m hoping that I can find four new tires in Bend, OR. The one next to the one that blew had to carry the full load of that side of the trailer which is more weight than the tire is rated for. And if we had tread seperation on one, the rest are the same age. I’m thinking that the combination of higher speeds and higher temperatures contributed to the tire failure. All through Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah I rarely exceeded 60mph. But Wyoming, Idaho and Montana had speed limits up to 85mph so I sped up to 65-70mph. I’m now back to <60mph and I noticed that the tires are running considerably cooler. We are planning to get an early start tomorrow to travel during the morning hours. Today, it was 106°F and Bridget measured the road temperature of almost 140°F. Pretty hot…

Friday, July 14, 2017

Day 70 - Salt Lake City, UT

Yesterday evening, Ry author of the Two Wheels to There blog, met Dom and I for dinner and ride up a canyon in search of cooler weather. He brought his very nice Moto Guzzi with the chrome tank that could be a real fingerprint magnet. We had dinner at a small Vietnamese place before heading up Cottonwood Canyon towards the ski resorts. It was a very refreshing 61°F at the pass.

Dom had spotted a promising sunset location just about a quarter mile from the summit. We stopped and waited for sunset. Please see Dom's post  for the real sunset photos as opposed to the iPhone version shown here. After sunset, we headed back down the mountain and got back to the campground after 10pm. It was still over 90°F at that time. Thank you Ry for taking the time to meet up and ride up into the mountains.

This morning, I went back to the fairgrounds for the BMWMOA rally. The Airhead tent was a good spot to re-hydrate and talk to like minded individuals. I talked to a number of Ural riders including one of the seminar speakers talking about off road touring with a sidecar and found it to be quite a mixed bag as far as knowledge and experience. I checked out the demo ride area again and not a sign of the new 310cc BMW anywhere. But all in all, the rally was a great experience.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 69 - BMW MOA Rally, SLC, UT

This was one of the "destinations" of our road trip. The BMW MOA annual rally. I believe that this is the fourth one that I've attended and all of them have been very hot. This one is no exception except I will say that it isn't anywhere near as miserable as Bloomsburg, PA. That was humid and hot.

Like every other rally, a lot of interesting bikes or in the case of he Isetta, not a bike but still very interesting. There are a lot of sidecars here as well. Maybe an sign that the BMW owner population is aging. This was very evident at the Airhead tent. Lots of grey hair around there.

The Alaska Air Marshal had sent the Alaska flag down to Helena for Kevin to bring to the rally. Supposedly, they are supposed to show which states are in attendance. This rally doesn't seem as organized as some of the other rallies that I've attended but there seems to be a lot of vendor representation. I was originally hoping that they would have some of the 310cc models available but not this year I guess.

I did get a chance to have lunch with Edward Kilner from  and, like every other blogger meetup, it was a very enjoyable time. I did run into some others that I've "met" on FB who I knew were coming to the rally. The feed was kind of interesting seeing all of these people travelling and converging on SLC.

I'm not sure what the overall attendance is but it looks like more people are not choosing to camp out. But then again, this is just the first day. I am planning on attending tomorrow as well before we start heading northwest on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day 68 - Salt Lake City, UT

Today was a very short drive. Only 30 miles or so from Ogden, UT, to the Pony Express RV Resort in North Salt Lake City. It was a pretty tight fit as the slide needed to be over the concrete and the parking spot for the truck is on the opposite side. It makes it kind of crowded getting in and out of the door but I’m not complaining. It is a very nice RV park. It even has a gate at the entrance. This campground is about 4 miles from the fairgrounds which is where the BMW MOA has their annual rally which starts tomorrow morning. I think that they must find the locations and time of year with the warmest temperatures for the rally.

We had a number of errands to run including taking Bridget’s laptop to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. The genius was pretty good and identified the problem as some water getting onto the logic board. We could have sent it in for a new logic board ($750) or use a larger power supply ($0). We took the free option and he replaced the 45W power supply with an 85W version. I’d call that pretty good customer service.

We also stopped at a Camping World to pick up a handful of small plumbing items. The rubber caps on the water inlets were dissolving with the heat and every time I inserted or removed them, more pieces would fall off. I also picked up a water fill with valve. When filling the fresh water tank, the flow was limited since air needed to run out of the same opening. Now the outlet of the hose is about a foot down the fill tube. The third item is a 12 volt “outlet” for the trailer. The power cable for the compressor was too short to reach the trailer tires. Even after I added about 12’ to the cable. The tires were further back than I thought.

The last stop was a Napa auto parts store. I accidently bumped into the hitch with my tail light. The local store didn’t have one in stock but could get it quickly. And by 2:30 today, they had the part. That’s under 2 hours. I’m impressed. I was originally hoping that I could pick up the part before we left.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Day 67 - Ogden, UT

After looking at the temperature forecast for northern Utah, we opted for an RV park in Ogden, UT. It's just 20 miles north of the Apple Store where Bridget made her Genius Bar appointment. We did check to see if the location has a large parking lot and it looks like it does.  We are at the Century RV Park just off of I-15. Nothing special though the Wi-Fi is reasonably fast and it has a swimming pool. After the other RV park pools, this one is actually heated. The sites are set up slide-to-slide so you are not looking at the hoses of your neighbor. A nice setup.

Today's drive was only a couple of hours and no complaints from me on the casino RV park. The inside of the casino itself smelled of cigarettes as does every other casino. There was s small restaurant and I had the Indian Taco. Basically a tostada using fry bread instead of a tortilla. It was pretty tasty.

The LevelMate Pro hardware plus app seems to work pretty well. After pulling into our campsite or parking space, I fire up the app which connects using Bluetooth LE, and it shows which side is low. If it's under an inch, I consider that close enough. The leveling blocks are about an inch and a half tall. After raising the front to unhitch, I can save the position for later. Then the front is leveled using the electric landing gear after the truck is pulled out. Pretty slick. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 66 - Fort Hall, ID

Today is our first casino overnight stop of the trip. The Buffalo Meadows RV Park which is part of the Fort Hall Casino  Not free to stay here, but a very reasonable $24 with full hook ups and useable wifi. At least it seems reasonable after the $28/night at the Montana state park charges non-residents for a site with no hookups. I'm not complaining at all and would visit that state park again. Todays drive was mostly sunny except for rain around Butte, MT, but we had some pretty good head winds for most of the day. I'll be surprised if we got more than 10 mpg on this tank. We did get enough sun to top off the batteries by the time we stopped for the day. And that was starting from 70%.
Only 165 miles to our next reservation but it doesn't begin until Wednesday so tomorrow may be a Walmart stop. Tomorrow is Tuesday, right? Sometimes it's hard to keep track of the days...
BTW, this post was created with BlogPad Pro. It works pretty well and actually lets you have clickable photos. Its only problem is there is an error in the html it creates when you have text on the right side of a photo. Not a big deal if you dont mind editing the html but still annoying. I had sent in a bug report maybe ten months ago and there hasn't been an update. The iOS version is probably not going to be updated as the developers don't make any money after the initial sale.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day 65, Lewis and Clark Caverns SP, MT

We opted to spend a second day at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park and go on the cavern tour. We needed to switch to the neighboring campsite as the one we were in was reserved for tonight. Not a real problem as I needed to fill up the fresh water tank as well. Either I didn't fill it up all the way or we have a leak somewhere.

The tour was pretty good. I hadn't been on a cave tour since the Oregon Caves in the late '60s sometime. I've been to Carlsbad Caverns a couple of times but that was just wandering through and not a "tour". The ranger did a great job though his regular job as a middle school influenced some of his jokes.

Not a lot to comment about and many of my pictures didn't come out very well as flash wasn't allowed for the first part of the tour as it would disturb the bats plus it would alter the mood that the park service was going for. There was very little positive said about the man who discovered and first led tours of the cave due to his lack of conservation and care. For example, breaking of pieces for his guests to take home.

The tour began with a 3/4 mile hike up to the entrance of the cave. The guide said that it was sort of a "test". The If you had trouble with the hike up then maybe you may want to reconsider your ability to navigate the 600 steps and low clearances once you get inside. Part of the tour is a slide down and they consider that one way. No trying to climb back up the slide.

I would recommend the tour if you are ever in this part of south-western Montana. Plus, it's 50°F inside of the cave. Very refreshing compared to the 86°F on the outside.

It was partly cloudy for much of the day and late afternoon thunder (heavy cloud cover) meant that this was the first time that the solar wasn't able to recharge the batteries back to 100%. You can see this by looks my at the voltage curves and the array voltage never exceeded the battery voltage. I.e. The system was always in "BulkCharge" mode. This was verified on the Trimetric monitor which showed that the battery bank was at 88% capacity.