Thursday, October 18, 2018

Day 34 - Yosemite Valley

Today, we went into Yosemite Valley. Not really crowded but many parking areas were still full. Not packed as when we were here last year. We walked up to lower Yosemite Falls and it was just a trickle. If you look really closely at the picture, you can see some wet rocks. That's the waterfall. The last time I was here was around 1980 and water was pouring down from the cliff. I don't remember the time of year but I think Spring because I also remember needing klister for x-country skiing.

At the intersection of the road and the trail, there was something I hadn't seen for quite a while. A pay phone. I'm not sure why as there was great Verizon signal inside of the valley. Here at the campground, no cell signal, and very slow Internet but it was good enough for this post so I'm not complaining. I should have brought my laptop and done the post while still in the valley.

We ventured much further into the park this time. I was just so fed up with traffic last year and not being able to find parking that I just wanted to leave. Too many people. That wasn't the case this time. We got some nice views of half dome while walking on the trails around the parking lot.
After lunch, we walked up to the Majestic Hotel formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel. Pretty nice but less impressive than the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone. This is one of three fireplaces. The hotel was built in 1927 and it really is a grand place. Valet parking, fancy restaurants and all.

From the hotel, we took the shuttle bus. Very crowded as a lot of people got on at the hotel which was stop number 3 of 20. The parking lot where we parked was stop number 1. So we got a nice tour of the valley floor.

It is about a 45-minute drive from the campground to the parking lot. A little further than I thought given that the campground was only five miles from the entrance gate. BTW, this was my first opportunity to use my lifetime senior pass for admission to the park. You just present the pass and your ID so they can see that they match, We arrived back around 4pm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Day 33 - Yosemite Lake, CA - TT

Today was supposed to be an easy 110 miles from Lodi to Yosemite Lake RV Park which is located about five miles west of the park entrance. Things started going sideways when the on ramp from Hwy 12 to I-5 was closed for construction. The first opportunity to turn around on Hwy 12 was about fourteen miles down the road. The turn around road was extremely bumpy and partway through, I noticed that the rear view camera was not working. Once we were back on 12 heading for I-5, I pulled over at a wide spot and discovered that we had lost all lights on the rear half of the trailer. The running lights and clearance lights on the front were on so it wasn’t the connector. We got on I-5 and Bridget found a very helpful RV service place in Stockton so we headed there. After about ten minutes, the lights started working again.

We went ahead and stopped at the helpful RV shop to thank him and continued on. About ten minutes later, all of the lights stopped working. Since it was all of the lights I just removed and reinserted the connector and all was fine. We drove on to the RV park.

The last 20 miles of Hwy 120 were very windy with a steep climb. Between the grade and the curves it was a 20 mph road. Sometime during the winding road section, the dining room table flipped over and the cabinet door with the Instant Pot in it opened up. It came flying out and the outer shell is now dented and the inner stainless pot is bent. I tried it making rice and it worked fine at least on low pressure. BTW, using the Instant Pot to make rice consumed 9.52 amp-hours from the batteries which is about 2% of our battery bank. I’ll have to go back and look but I think the rice cooker was about double that. Oh yeah, why are we on batteries at a full hookup RV park?  When we arrived, all of the power was out and the clerk had no idea how long it was going to be out. It was back on at about 5pm. The trivet from the Instant Pot was missing which meant that it was under the slide. It was and we dug out pieces of the trivet while the slide was moving out.

No cell phone signal and very limited Internet at the lodge. I’ll attempt to add one photo of the campground but I’m not very confident that I’ll succeed. So maybe no posts until Sunday evening. Bridget said not to expect anything on her blog until then.

Hey it worked! We are in the non-shaded area on the far right. There were open sites backing up to the river but they would be really shaded and the sites were dirt. The one where we are at is gravel and grass. Unlike the other TT locations, this one has full hookups and they have a member area and a non-member area. The member side is pretty open. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Day 32 - Lodi, CA

I was kind of curious about the peak current being around 17 amps. Since the front of the trailer was in full sun this morning i.e. all of the panels were not shaded, I headed up to the roof to test each panel. The easiest way to test the output from each panel was to cover them up one at a time and measure the total current from the charge controller.

At the top of the web page from the Raspberry Pi monitoring the charge controller, I have this status block that updates every minute so I don't need to sit there and wait until the graph updates. The graph is a five-minute average. Anyway, with each panel covered, the current dropped by about 3 amps.

So the reduced current from the panels must be due to the lower sun angle. The way the panels are installed, the two panels near the front of the RV are tilted slightly towards the sun. The two behind them are flatter. This graph of sun azimuth for Lodi, CA, shows that the angle is about 42° from the horizon. The sun angle for when we were in the area last year was 75°. Quite the difference. When the angle of the sun decreases relative to the solar panel, the area of the panel is proportional to the sine of the angle. Using 75° and 42°, the virtual area is about 70% of what it was. At the winter solstice it would be 50%.

Two of the panels are shaded by a tree by 11am. so we are not in full sun for much of the day.

Another "task" was cleaning out the storage bay. There was a lot of pine needles, bark, and other debris from the mat that we put in front of the door. While cleaning things out, I pulled out one of the bins I have in storage with spare parts and rarely used tools. One of the repair items was a spare disc that goes between the pinbox and the fifth wheel hitch saddle. This plastic disc is used instead of grease. I had ordered one from Amazon a couple of years ago before we picked up the trailer. But, since it already had one, the new one got put into the parts bin. I think it's time to be replaced.

I received notification that my Amazon order was delivered to an Amazon locker. This was the first time we tried using this service. I was annoyed yesterday as it was supposed to be here by the time we arrived in the area. It wasn't and the delivery date changed to maybe today or tomorrow. Anyway, we went to the locker location which, by the way, was the largest and nicest Safeway I've ever been to. Fantastic produce, well laid out and huge.

We just scan the barcode from the Amazon delivery email and the appropriate door pops open. You then pick up your item and close the door. In this case, it was a replacement remote for the truck. You need a working remote to program a new remote and the one remote I have seems to have a weak battery. After all, it is 13 years old. The new remote programmed into the system by following directions on the Internet. Since this was simply a door lock/unlock remote, programming was very straightforward. And the replacement fob was only $12 on Amazon. I’m sure the dealer would have been a bit more.

On the way back from our Amazon Locker experience, we stopped at Calivirgin olive oil. This is a small producer of local olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They had about a dozen flavors and it was difficult to make a choice. We ended up getting the sampler which had the lemon, basil, and garlic flavored oils. It also includes a bottle of their premium oil made from hand-picked olives and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. A nice selection.

It was another 80+°F day today. Spent some time in the hot tub/jacuzzi and even though it’s too hot to spend too much time, when you get out the gentle breeze feels wonderful. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Day 31 - Lodi, CA

A potentially stressful driving turned out to be not bad. Traffic wasn't horrible and the drivers were much more courteous, as a whole, than Oregon. One notable incident was when the right lane needed to merge into the left, and there was a continuous stream of cars, a Mini flashed its light telling me to go ahead in front of him. Kind of took me by surprise.

The only reason for stopping at Lodi was that it was about halfway between Cloverdale and Yosemite National Park. I used the Passport America app and found a nice glamping location with full hookups. By being a Passport America member, we got 50% off. For this park, that was a $65 savings for the next two days.

We did check out the pool and hot tub. The pool was unheated and very cold and the hot tub was borderline too hot at 102°F. But we had a nice talk with a full-time RVer originally from San Diego. The park is all concrete but all of the sites are level and there is a 2.8 acre enclosed dog park. The place is covered with solar panels and I'd be curious to know how much of their power is from the panels. You can see some panels on the roof in the picture but that is but a tiny fraction of the panels. Not a campground but I really don’t mind it at all. The place was almost deserted when we arrived but by evening, we are surrounded by big class A RVs. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Day 30 - Cloverdale, CA - TT

It’s been a month since we left Fairbanks and it feels like we just got started on this trip. I’m liking the slower travel though we may need to try to not be in “vacation mode”. This is when you feel like you need to see or do something every day that you’re not traveling. More along the lines of living in different locations. Daily activities don’t have to change much from when we are at home. It may take a while to get properly adjusted.

This is our last day at the Russian River RV Park which is a Thousand Trails campground. No real complaints except that the only dump station wasn't available when we first arrived. It's working now. Also, the bathrooms aren't as nice as some other campgrounds but since we don't use them, it's not a big deal. We are in sort of an in-between climate where the furnace runs at night and the air conditioner is on during the day. I initially thought that we were in a sunny enough spot to do an equalization on the golf cart batteries. But the amount of time that all of the panels are receiving full sunlight is pretty minimal. I went up on the roof to clean the panels (window cleaner and paper towels) and only one panel had no shading. From testing by others, 10% shading is sufficient to cut the power from the panel to nil.

I am finally getting around to trying out one of our appliances for the first time. The propane oven. Last summer, it was too hot to even use the stove but I think it may be fine, today, to use the oven. I lit the pilot this morning. No problem there. Now I have it at 375°F but since I don't have an oven thermometer with me, I used the infrared thermometer that I use to check the hub temperature. No fancy baked goods. Just baked potatoes not made in the microwave. The dial on the oven is close enough. The sides of the oven are 362°F but the pizza stone on the bottom is a toast 425°F. We'll see how this works out.

The only trip today was running to the gas station to get some of that $4.16/gallon fuel. BTW, in case you're wondering, regular gas is around 25¢ cheaper but premium gas is the same as diesel. Still really expensive. Some of the most expensive on our trip. Even the Yukon Territory was $4.07/gallon after you adjust for the exchange rate. In Canada, diesel was usually cheaper than regular gas and premium was rarely available. It's always easier to fill up the truck without the trailer. Since all of our upcoming travel days are going to be under a full tank, filling up the day or evening before a travel day will be preferred. Tomorrow, we will be traveling around 130 miles to Lodi, CA, according to Google Maps. I think the RV GPS has us on a slightly longer route to avoid some of the mountain roads. But either way, I think that we will be going through the fringes of the bay area.

Lodi is a smallish town roughly the same population as Fairbanks just a bit north of Stockton, CA. I ordered another key fob for the truck through Amazon and will be trying out the Amazon Locker in Stockton. I've been wanting to try one out ever since I first heard about them. More about that in a later post...

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Day 29 - Charles Schultz Museum

Today, we ventured into Santa Rosa. A town about 40 miles south of the Russian River RV park. The first stop was the Charles Schultz Museum and Research Center which is built in the area where he had lived and worked. His office, favorite cafe and ice rink are all on the property. This wall of tiles dominates the entry hall of the museum and if you look at the second picture, you can see that it is made of tiles of Peanuts comic strips. The same tiles are used in other parts of the building including the restrooms.

Most of the first floor of the museum are comic strips showing the progression of different characters through the years with a large section on Snoopy. Quite a change through the years. There were other comics featured that had an influence on Charles Schultz through the years.

His office was moved into the museum as well as an entire wall from his daughter's bedroom that he had painted with characters. This wall had been repainted numerous times by subsequent owners of the house until one owner discovered it and carefully removed the layers of paint. When she heard about the museum, she donated the entire wall.

Outside of the museum on the path to the ice rink is the Peanuts version of Abbey Road. The artwork is flat and must be viewed from a specific spot to get the perspective right. Charles Schultz was an avid hockey player and played a large part in the development of ice sports in Santa Rosa. There are quite a few signatures in the concrete in front of the building by famous skaters.

Behind the museum, they are developing an education center and this is the "Under Construction" statue of Charlie Brown right in front of the construction fence. The garden was a nice place to sit and relax in the 75°F afternoon especially since I was the only one out there. Part of the upstairs display was his last comic strip. It mentioned that it would be the final strip due to health reasons. Shortly after it was penned, he died in his sleep the night before the last strip was to be published.

I had initially taken this photo when we arrived but discovered that the autofocus on the lens was turned off. Not sure how that happened or when. All of these photos were taken by the DSLR mostly for simplicity. It has fewer megapixels than the iPhone but a real zoom lens and better in low light. I thought that it would work better inside of the building.

Adjacent to the ice rink, there was a shop that had a lot of Peanuts memorabilia and hockey gear. How's that for an odd combination. We also stopped at the cafe but beyond the touristy prices, there was little that distinguished it.

After the museum, we headed for Petco and Walmart and arrived back at the trailer around 4:00. Long enough in the weekend traffic.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Day 28 - Cloverdale, CA - TT

We ventured out to the geothermal power company’s visitors center following the Garmin GPS directions. It was set to non-RV mode. Apparently, the fastest route was down a narrow, winding road with broken pavement. It degraded to washboard dirt after about ten miles and was rarely more than one lane wide. 4WD was used on some of the steep downhill sections to prevent the rear axle hopping on the washboard roads while trying to slow down with engine braking. This allows the front wheels to slow down the truck. Winding between trees and along cliffs, there were some great views of the surrounding farms and vineyards. We got there without incident.

This is a steam turbine blade on display at the visitors center. Back in the day, geothermal power was being demonstrated here but it couldn't compete with coal or oil. It is now producing about 1,500 megawatts. I had looked into a tour but they were all sold out for the year. Next time we are planning to be in the area, I'll look into it earlier.

We then headed to Calistoga as there was an attraction listed as "Old Faithful Geyser". It was, of course, a private tourist attraction that wanted $14 per person to go in. We opted to skip it as it doesn't look that impressive based on photos on the Internet. After lunch in Calistoga at a bar and grill, we went to the petrified forest. Also a tourist attraction. Bridget went in so you will have to check out her blog post for info. BTW, the hamburger was listed as being selected as the best burger in Calistoga. I won't argue with that. Basil aioli, fresh mozzarella, grilled red onions, fried prosciutto...

BTW, we hit 90°F today while headed back to Cloverdale. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Day 27 - Cloverdale, CA - TT

A relatively short driving day to the Russian River TT just north of Cloverdale, CA. This place is still more campground than RV Park but closer to RV park than either Sunriver or Florence. The sites are closer together but not slide to slide like some places. We arrived about 12:15 and there weren't that many spaces long enough for us to fit but we did find something that'll work. After lunch, we walked down to the river and it looks like, to me, that the water is kind of low.

We are going to be here for three full days and four nights. We did check out the little store/activity center. There is WiFi at the activity center but none in the campground area. But we get a decent Verizon signal so we'll probably just use that while we are here. I have a WebEx meeting this evening so that may be a test. It's the Arctic Amateur Radio Club board meeting. I volunteered for the board since I have time for these things.

All of the sites are 30 amp + water. No full hookups and the dump station is down for maintenance. That just means that we find full hookups next Monday. We did hit 75°F on the road today. It's getting warmer...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Day 26 - Avenue of the Giants

We are continuing to stay at the Richardson Grove RV Park and we backtracked about 45 miles to the north entrance of the Avenue of the Giants. This is a scenic road that parallels Hwy 101 for about 30 miles or so and winds through multiple groves of giant redwood trees. About halfway through, we stopped at the visitors center at Humbolt Redwoods State Park. This was taken in front of the visitors center looking north.

There was a short nature loop trail across the street. It was challenging to find the trail as there wasn't a lot of undergrowth. I liked the hollow center of this root ball. And this shows how shallow the root system of these massive trees are. They don't go very deep.

Fill-in flash was used as it would've been a long-ish exposure even in the middle of the day. Using ISO 400, it would've been 1/6th of a second. There were a couple of other visitors measuring the circumference of some of the trees looking for the largest one that they could get to. I believe they said that this one was 65 feet.

It is hard to really for any picture to get the size of these trees. Kind of like a picture of the Grand Canyon ends up looking like a painting. No sense of depth. We did stop at the drive-through tree but they wanted $8 for the privilege of driving through. We didn't go there. We did end up giving the state $7 to park at the picnic area. BTW, this is the most we've spent on diesel. It's about the same as the Yukon Territory at $4.16/gallon. I'm told that there are a lot of taxes...

This log "RV" was on display in the visitors center. It was carved out of a single 22' section of a log back in 1917 or thereabouts. It is mounted on a Nash chassis with solid rubber tires on solid iron wheels.

Here is a photo of a display giving a little more information about the Travel-Log.

Now, on to a completely unrelated topic. This is the first time since I took the RV out of storage that the solar panels were unshaded for part of the day. Until this campground, we were always under a lot of trees. Here, there is shade for most of the day but we received full sun in the morning. And the batteries were fully charged by mid-morning. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Day 25 - Garberville, CA

Today was a long-ish driving day at 249 miles. We left in the fog/drizzle/heavy mist and hit the mid-70s by mid-afternoon. We are at Richardson Grove RV Park which is just south of the Richardson Grove State Park and right across the street from the Grandfather Tree tourist attraction. This area is full of touristy things. We must have passed dozens of chainsaw carving shops, myrtlewood gift shops, and sea lion everything. I guess tourism is big here. Another notable thing is that fuel is over $1 more per gallon than Oregon which was already higher than Washington.

Nothing very fancy with the RV site. But, they gave us the Passport America discount which is 50% off. That makes it a good deal even though I did have to pay for Internet access. BTW, the Internet is from the community network and not provided by the campground. We went into Garberville to get some groceries and look for a restaurant. We struck out on finding a restaurant. Just a couple of coffee places. We ended up getting food from the grocery store deli.

I think that I figured out the SWConnect issue. Within the setup portion of the app, there is an option for "Enable Auto Track Mode". When this is enabled, then tracking continues even when the app is not running in the foreground. In case you are interested, here is the Spotwalla link. The "S" is the Florence, OR, campground. The "19" is Port Orford and "71" is today in Garberville. Quite a difference in daily mileage.

We are staying here a couple of nights so we can go to the Avenue of the Giants tomorrow and maybe a couple of walks. The next TT is Russian River near Cloverdale, CA, and is another hundred or so miles. A relatively short day.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Day 24 - Port Orford, OR

Short driving day today. We are camped at a KOA about 10 miles north of Port Orford. One of the reasons for stopping here was to visit the Cape Blanco lighthouse. It was only $2 to get the tour including up to the light. As you might guess, there wasn't much of a view due to the fog but the volunteer did a great job of answering questions and explaining the history of the light.

After Cape Blanco, we drove down to Port Orford and this is the phenomenal view from the visitors center. It was closed as today is Columbus Day. The fog was starting to lift. When we went hiking at Port Orford Heads State Park, you could see the fog blowing up the hill.

We were planning on just walking out to a viewpoint but ended up walking all around the park to several other viewpoints. The ocean views were all phenomenal once the fog lifted. All of the views along the Oregon coast seem to be phenomenal.

Along the trail were a couple of geocaches. We couldn't find the second one. Geocaching is another reason for walking while traveling. I'm not as "into it" as some people are but it's still a fun activity.

Hmmm, I tried the SWConnect app and it worked as far as Coos Bay. Then it stopped tracking. Not sure why...

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Day 23 - Florence, OR - TT

Not really raining nor is it sunny. Overcast and occasional heavy dew. I went under the trailer again today as the valve I installed on the freshwater overflow hose was dripping. After tightening the hose clamp, I went ahead and filled up the fresh water tank until there was water dribbling out of the fill hose. We’ll see how full it is after traveling to our next campsite down the road. The next reservation is a non-TT location just north of Port Orford.

Our next TT destination is Russian River near Cloverdale, CA, which is about 400 miles south of here. Or about 100 miles per day as I planned for three nights somewhere along the way. Last year, we were traveling just about every day. This year, we are trying a much slower pace. With a preference for longer stays and shorter travel days. The rules for the TT zone camping pass specifies that if we stay at one of their parks for more than four nights, we need to stay out of the network for seven nights. They do have more expensive options that eliminate that restriction but, for now, we’ll just go with this.

This afternoon was spent north of Florence at the beach. As you can see, the dogs went along and one decided that the waves were evil and wanted to attack. The waves retaliated and he was swamped. After retreating to dry land, he thought about attacking again.

On the way back through Florence, we stopped at a seafood store and picked up a bowl of their clam chowder and a cooked and cleaned dungeness crab.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Day 22 - Florence, OR - TT

Today's activity was a tour of the Oregon Dunes on a Sandland Adventures large buggy. They also offer sandrail tours that are much faster but since they seat far fewer people, the cost per person was much higher. With this large of a vehicle, they weren't going to be ripping up and down the dunes. I believe that there were 16 people plus the driver on our tour.

We made our way out to the ocean with narration for most of the way. He pointed out that on high tide, storm surges reach the line of vegetation. He also mentioned that the grasses that were introduced many years ago as a method of stabilizing the dunes were taking over. And soon they would cover the entire Oregon Dunes.

The ride was fairly relaxing. These pictures were taken with my GoPro 3+. Of course, the batteries were all dead and the hour I had them charging was good for some video. The GoPro Studio app doesn't seem to be very compatible with the current Apple OS, Mohave. The replacement for GoPro studio requires Internet access to run which makes it kind of worthless, in my opinion. I may try messing around with iMovie again but I wasn't very happy with earlier results. Anyway, I included a short clip at with this post.

After the sand tour, we headed into town and walked around the Old Town area. There was a wine tasting event going on where you purchase a wine glass for $5 and tickets for $1 each. By mid-afternoon, there were quite a number of people staggering around the area. Maybe $1 per glass was a bit too inexpensive. Tomorrow, the event switches to chowder tasting.

But, it was a nice and sunny afternoon. Perfect for walking around Old Town. Parking was a challenge, much more with the truck than when we were here last time. The Ural fits almost anywhere. Most of the stores were either art galleries or bars/restaurants. I was tempted by the fish and chips but decided that I really don't need the calories. I even talked myself out of a cup of coffee.

After walking through town, we headed back to the campground. All is quiet here. After dinner, we went back to Florence to watch the sunset over the river. I did a time-lapse on the iPhone but now I just need to figure out how to get it into the laptop and YouTube.

Sandland Adventures