Friday, October 30, 2020

Day 41, 42 - Bullhead City, AZ - RPI

Thursday (41) - The tech returned this morning around 8:30 to finish the water pump installation. There were a lot of O-rings included in the box as all of the fittings from the old pump needed to be moved to the new part. And all of the fittings had O-rings. We added 8 gallons of the special “red” antifreeze that CAT requires and started the engine to check for leaks. BTW, not much smoke. 

Tomorrow morning, we’ll drive back to Henderson to get our core deposit back. I also called the service manager and mentioned that this tech didn’t seem to have any experience with this engine. So we negotiated a discount. I appreciated that. 

Friday (42)
 - This morning, we headed back to Henderson to return the old water pump to get our $210 core deposit back. We took advantage of the food options to have lunch. We also wandered through Costco but didn’t purchase anything. The Mediterranean Grill was very good and dramatically different from what we’ve had for quite a while. 

This gave us enough time to go back to the pool at the RV park in the afternoon. 

Later - It is nice at the pool. Just a slight breeze to keep you cool. Yesterday evening, I went to the other pool near the store/deli. Initially, I was thinking of leaving as a mother and teenage daughter were arguing. I offered to leave but they said it wasn’t necessary. Later on, the couple from across the street came by and we must’ve talked for half an hour. 

We head out tomorrow for an Encore park east of Mesa. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Day 38, 39, 40 - Bullhead City, AZ - RPI

Monday (38) - Windy as of last night. By this morning, the gusts were down to 54 mph. We went ahead and brought in all of the slides and things quieted down significantly after that. The noise was from the really worn out slide toppers flapping. We plan on replacing the fabric this winter.

This is the view from the campground towards the Colorado River and Laughlin, NV. The large casinos are across the river on the Nevada side. The wind is from the north so it was blowing straight towards you while standing in this location. 

By 6pm the wind seems to have died down. 

Tuesday (39) - The sites here are pretty nice and it looks like we may need to extend our stay. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I like this rv park. Nice location, nice scenery, and I like the pool and jacuzzi. 

Now the reason for the extension is, guess what, that Caterpillar C7 engine again. The water pump is leaking from the front seal or from the weep hole. Either way, the water pump will need to be replaced. I am waiting for a call back from a mobile diesel repair shop in Laughlin, NV. They are looking to see about scheduling a time for the repair. It sort of depends on parts availability. This is a picture looking up from under the engine. The block is at the bottom of the picture.

This is a photo of the weep hole just behind and under the pulley. This engine uses a separate v-belt for just the water pump. A serpentine belt is used for the other accessories. This is not an unusual problem for the smaller Cat engines according to YouTube (AdeptApe, author of some incredibly useful videos). There is even a video on replacing the water pump on this series of engines. I had even considered having the water pump replace proactively last year when we were in Tucson having the rest of the cooling system worked on. 20/20 hindsight says I should've…

My Wednesday(30)
 - It turns out that this RV park has a second pool and jacuzzi. It’s near the entrance building which also has a small store and deli. 

The last shop I called that had mobile mechanics, mentioned that they could do the job but are based out of Las Vegas so there would be about some significant travel time. I found another business that had a mechanic out of Kingman, AZ. We’ll see how they do. Since we wanted the job done quickly, Bridget is driving into Henderson, NV, to pick up the part. This means a second trip to get our core deposit back. 

She mentioned bumper-to-bumper traffic near the casinos in Laughlin due to a Trump rally but called back later that traffic had cleared up and she should be able to make it to the CAT shop before it closes. 

In the short video you can see that the water pump bearings and seals are shot. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Day 36, 37 - Pahrump, NV and Bullhead City, AZ - RPI

Saturday (36) - Today being the weekend, we did not go anywhere. Avoid potential crowds. We were originally planning on driving today but opted for an additional day. We are using the one year RPI membership that was included with our TT membership. This is the first time we used it. The stays aren’t free but the cost is modest compared to the normal daily rate. 

Tomorrow, we head south into NW Arizona to another RPI park. 

Today’s tasks were just checking things on the RV. I had gotten a low coolant message once when the engine was cold and on a slight slope starboard. The coolant level sensor is on the port side of the overflow tank. I picked up a gallon of the CAT approved coolant while at the glass shop so I added half a gallon. The oil level is still above the”full” mark and shows no evidence of water. The inside right rear tire is slightly less than the other rear tires so I’ll try to get a better match. The other rear tires are at 103 psi at today’s 81°F.

And, sent in my absentee ballot today. Alaska doesn’t make it easy. Apply for an email absentee ballot no more than 15 days before the election. Apply early and your request will be discarded. Fill out the online form, print it out, sign it, scan it back in and send via email or fax. A couple of days later they send a link to an online ballot. Vote, then print out the completed ballot, a ballot cover, the verification page (to sign and provide identifying info), and the envelope. Assemble the whole package being careful to fold on the lines. Tape the envelope only in the labeled places, add postage, and mail.

Phew! Time to sit in the pool...

Sunday (37) - A three hour drive to another RPI park in Bullhead City, AZ. I must admit, this is a nice place. The deserted pool is open and two large spas are open. This may be the first since February. The site is just a large gravel pad but it’s flat with plenty of room for the car next to or in front of the RV. It was hectic driving through Las Vegas on a weekend but we survived. 

We are here for several days before heading to an Encore Park east of Mesa. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Day 35 - Death Valley

We headed into Death Valley National Park today. Our first stop was the partially open visitor center. The only part open was fee collection and the bookstore. They have their priorities in the right place. We then headed south to Badwater. The last time I was here this was just a wide spot on the road with a sign. Now there is a nice parking lot with concrete and wooden walkways. This is the lowest point in North America.

If you look closely on the rocks overlooking the parking lot, you can spot the sign showing sea level. There were quite a few people here and there is a wide trail out into the valley where you are allowed to walk. I don't remember that being the case 40+ years ago.

Our next stop was the Natural Bridge. I forgot my phone in the car so no pictures of the bridge or the trail. Below show the great view of the valley looking southwest from the parking lot. The road to the trailhead was pretty rough for the Prius and is about the limit of its off-road capability.

The next stop heading north was the Devil's Golf Course. Named because of the very rough landscape. By this time it was around 92°F so the car was left running for the A/C. Yes, we are spoiled…

We then drove on the Artist Drive and stopped at Artist's Pallette named because of the colors on the hills. The one that stands out as "unusual" was the greenish-blue. It is caused by chloride and not copper. The one-way road is pretty spectacular and worth the detour.

The next stop was Zabriskie Point. After the earlier hikes, this short, paved trail seemed unusually steep. But the view was worth it. I think it would look even more spectacular near sunset and the shallow angle of the light would create some good shadows. 

Our last stop before heading back was Dante's View. This is a 14 mile (each way) road to the ridge overlooking Badwater Basin and is over 5000' elevation. The view was pretty spectacular though the smoke from the fires did make it a little hazy.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Day 34 - Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

This morning we headed out to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge about an hour west of town. There are numerous springs in the area and until the mid-80s there was a push to develop the area. The plans seemed overly ambitious as there didn’t seem to be that much water in the area.

This is one of the springs and is the home to an endangered species of fish. Very small, maybe a couple of inches long and could be seen in this little pool. 

This cave entrance called “Devils Hole” goes down almost 500’ and is the home of the pupfish. The entrances are covered with cages with video cameras to keep people out. Even though there are numerous signs posted “No Swimming”, there are numerous comments on Yelp on how refreshing it was to swim in the pools. 

This is the view from one of the cave entrances. It is a pretty desolate area with only a handful of other visitors. 

Predictably, the visitor center was closed but the boardwalk behind it was open. It was a nice mile loop with numerous signs, shelters, and benches along the way.

BTW, I took the case off of the phone since the camera lens cover looked scratched up. The clarity of the photos improved. It may be time for a new phone case. Without a case, the phone feels really slippery. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Day 32, 33 - Pahrump, NV

Tuesday (32) - Another 280 mile day got us to Pahrump, NV. We are staying at an RV resort using our RPI membership for the first time. It’s $10/day plus a utility charge if you are plugged into a 50amp circuit. And, surprisingly, the pool is open. This place feels more “resort-y” than many other places that call themselves resorts.

It has definitely warmed up from southern WA. And it did feel kind of nice especially after finding out that the pool was open. We added an additional day so we are here through Saturday night. I thought it would be good to not leave at the beginning of the weekend. 

We met up with Lynne and Jerry (motoblogger Curvyroads) for dinner at their RV park. They are staying at the one we were at the last time we were in Pahrump, Nevada Treasure RV Resort. It was good to see them again.

We still aren’t sure where to go from here. 

Wednesday (33) - It’s 88°F right now at 2pm but it’s nice to be able to sit outside again. A mobile RV wash business was driving through looking for business and Bridget nabbed them. $82 for a much needed RV wash. 

There is a cactus garden with in the park with a koi pond. Lots of large, spoiled fish. They must get fed often. As soon as you are spotted, they swarm to your location with mouths wide open.
Also nearby is a picnic area complete with gas grill and a water wheel.  

Bridget is doing a ton of research, planning and reservations for the next couple of months. A big job. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Day 30, 31 - Oregon -> Nevada

 Sunday (30) - A long-ish driving day. I was thinking of stopping at the Cracker Barrel just north of Nampa, ID, but it was only mid-afternoon when we stopped for fuel just to the north. We opted to keep heading south on 95 towards Winnemucca, NV. Bridget found an RV park right on the Nevada border. Our Progressive Industries EMS demonstrated its value. It wouldn’t allow the RV to connect and reported two errors. Reverse polarity i.e. neutral and hot reversed and a floating ground. I plugged into power for the adjacent site and all was well. He just had the site rewired and I suggested that he may want to find another electrician.

Monday (31) - Today, we stopped in Hawthorne, NV. Bridget called several RV parks but they were full. One had dry camping available for $20 but the local casino, El Capitan, had a truck parking lot available for $0. That seemed like a better deal. I picked up dinner at their restaurant. It was getting warm during the drive so I had the generator running for the last hour or so to power both of the A/C units. By the time we parked, it was about 78°F so we just opened the windows on the shady side and turned on the fan. 

The elevation here is 4300’ so the night is going to be a little chilly. I’ll run the generator for an hour or so in the morning to heat up the engine a bit. 

I think this RV (and me) prefers roads like Route 95. Speeds are lower and fewer people. And, I thought that the RV performance (oxymoron?) had gotten worse but I discovered that if the cruise control is still engaged, the transmission doesn’t downshift more than one gear. If I disengage the cruise and just floor it when coming onto a hill, downshifts happen just like before. It’s still a dog on the hills but not as bad as it felt yesterday. 350 hp and 860 ft-lbs don’t do much with a combined weight of 35,940 lbs. And that’s the engine output when new...

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Day 28, 29 - Walla Walla, WA, and Moscow, ID

Friday (28) - We are at the eastern side of Washington state after driving up the Columbia River gorge. The gorge was windy but at least it wasn’t a headwind. We are here in Walla Walla for a couple of days and plan to visit my cousin’s oldest son tomorrow in Moscow, ID. I preferred an RV park with power and a slightly lower elevation. Walla Walla is under 1000’ and it was almost 75°F when we arrived. Low tonight is a modest 55°F. 

It is a regular RV park. Parallel sites with grass in between. But it is level and paved. What is unusual is that you park nose-in and need to back out. 

It was 46°F this morning and the batteries were at 62%. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to run the block heater for easier engine starting by.

Saturday (29) - Last month, I picked up a gps enabled dash cam on Amazon. It is the Azdome GS63H. I finally got around to playing with it and have it mounted on the RV windshield near the bottom center. The video below was recorded as we were driving along the Columbia River. Resolution is 1080p, 60fps. Unfortunately, it doesn’t use the gps to update the date/time. You need to do it from your phone after connecting to it’s built-in WiFi. I just enabled motion sensing so it should start automatically when traveling. 

We drove up to Moscow, ID, and met up with relatives ChrisN and his family for a socially distant lunch. Best pizza I’ve had in quite a while. They had just moved a couple of weeks ago from upstate NY. Quite a change. 

The color of the leaves was pretty nice. Especially when you’re used to just yellow in AK. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Day 27 - Reset windshield #3

Thursday (27) - This morning, I fired up the generator a little before 6am. There were other engines running by then with several trucks runners either their engine or APU. The coach batteries were only down to 75% so running the rear furnace definitely used less power. I suspect that it also burns less propane. The front furnace was still running but I turned the thermostat down to 64°F. 

We were at the glass shop, Twin City Glass, by 8am and they had me in the shop before 9. I needed to lower the WeBoost antenna as their shop door is 13’. Without the WeBoost antenna, the coach is 12’ 8” according to the owners manual. We didn’t hit so that must be close enough. 

The windshield is back in place. I’m in their parking lot waiting for Bridget to get back from Oregon. We just need to avoid unlevel sites. And not even bother trying to level or put out the slides. While the slides are in, the body is much more ridged since the slides are locked in place. Since I needed to back into the Moose Lodge parking lot, I went ahead and backed out of the shop. Apparently, Thursday is “Moose day”. 

The plan is to head back to the Ilani Casino again this evening. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Day 23, 24, 25, 26 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Sunday (23) - A cold, rainy day. The furnace is running a lot. The SeeLevel II gauge still says 72% or 0.57th of the tank. The gauge on the tank says 9/16 or 0.56th. I’m glad they agree. The black tank indicator is still inconsistent i.e. It works fine for the first half of the tank but not the second half. Sometimes. 

It rained on and off all afternoon and evening. We watched YouTube videos and a series on Netflix called Away, which is another series on a trip to Mars. We watched the whole first season over the last couple of days. Not bad but there were several things that probably would never happen. 

Monday (24) - Having some friends over for lunch. We originally met them at the Seaside TT and Russ is the one who got our windshield temporarily reset. I have chicken thighs in the sous vide to make enchiladas. 

Last night during the heavy rain, we heard a “thunk”. I think I found it. There was a chunk of wood inside of the A/C unit. These covers get pretty brittle due to exposure to the sun so I don’t think it would take much to break it. There were a lot of pine cones, leaves, and branches on the roof. 

We picked up a plastic container from Walmart and I cut a patch from the lid. For now, we just used Gorilla Tape as it’s supposed to be raining this evening. A more “permanent” fix would be Eternabond tape. I guess I need to start looking for a replacement shroud. The plastic lid is probably much stronger than the thin plastic shroud. 

Tuesday (25) - Another breezy day with more pine cones dropping on the roof throughout the day. Since we will be dry camping for the next couple of days, I plan to disconnect from shore power and just run the furnace and fridge on propane and DC power. I want to see what the house battery is at in the morning and, more importantly, try starting the engine. It’s been around 50°F in the morning so it shouldn’t be a problem but I noticed that the last shop had a battery charger on the chassis batteries. I should’ve done this weeks ago when I first thought about it. 

I’m making dinner for good friends here in Centralia this evening. Bridget wanted pineapple fried rice with chicken instead of shrimp and I’ve added pot stickers. I made the chicken thighs in the sous vide as the marinades really make their way throughout the chicken. 

Wednesday (26) - By morning, our battery bank was down to 63%. Most of our power consumption was the front furnace blower motor as it runs almost continuously. Tonight, we will be dry camping possibly in a rest area and I’ll try just using the rear furnace as it seems to put out more heat. And maybe turn the front furnace way down. We need to figure out this dry camping bit again. 

The chassis batteries look like they may need replacement as they didn’t turn the engine over really well now that the grid heater is working again. I used the “battery boost” feature to add the house batteries while cranking the engine. By 12:30, the charger was in float. The Magnum inverter/charger was putting out 85amps @12VDC. 

The engine block heater was turned on at 12:30. 

We ended up at the Ilani Casino south of Woodland, WA, for the night. Bridget wasn’t sure of the rest area. The casino had a security guard at the entrance. I only put down two jacks on the passenger side and the passenger side slides. The drivers side sticks out a lot further. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Day 20, 21, 22 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Thursday (20) - Another uneventful day at the TT park. The coach has an appointment at a glass shop in Longview, WA, for first thing in the morning next Thursday which is, conveniently, the day we check out of this TT park. They said that if there isn’t a problem, it’ll be ready to go by late afternoon. 

Another remote ham radio exam this morning. It went well. To meet the FCC requirements, a lot of time is spent examining the physical area where the test is being taken. But, I think that this is the new norm for these ham radio license exams. 

Friday (21)
 - Nothing scheduled for today except a couple of Zoom calls. One for another test and the other is the monthly meeting of the Fairbanks radio club. BTW, I don’t think I posted a photo of our site since we moved. Not too bad though the neighbors have a couple of noisy dogs.

I picked up some salmon from Walmart the other day. For some reason the Alaska salmon is over double the price of Atlantic salmon. The sous vide is still one of the best ways to make salmon. Or, at least, the most consistent way. A dry cure for 20 minutes then 45 min at 122°F. 

Saturday (22) - It has been raining all night but I think it’s supposed to be lightening up later today. Not that I have anything planned for today. We are trying to use the heat pump to minimize our propane consumption and the challenge is that anytime we want to use anything else, we need to remember to shut off the heat pump. It is on a 20amp breaker and it trips occasionally. The 15 year old A/C unit probably needs replacement. I am planning on using the convection oven later so we’ll be back on propane. Though the oven does heat up the inside of the RV. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Day 17, 18, 19 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Monday (17) - Another ham radio test this morning and one scheduled for later this afternoon. I don’t mind doing these as I used to proctor the “in person” tests in Fairbanks. But those were generally scheduled for once a month. Now, they are random with those taking the tests are from all over the country as are the proctors. It was nice to be able to sit outside during the test this morning. The kennels are put together since the dogs will be dog-sat for a couple of hours tomorrow. The RV is getting four new tires and a glass shop wants to take a look at the RV before they’ll take on the job. Russ, from a couple of sites down, used to own a glass shop and we got the glass seated and mostly sealed. Enough so it won't fall out on the road. 

The test session in the afternoon had four taking tests and around ten proctoring. We used a combination of Zoom, an IRC chat room for the proctors to communicate during the test, and exam software written specifically for the ham radio exams.

Tuesday (18) - Today’s field trip was to Superior Tire in Longview, WA. I purchased four Michelin XZE2 through the FMCA tire program directly from Michelin and needed to find a shop that had the tires in stock. Finding someplace that had four of the right size and model of tire proved to be a little challenging. These are G rated tires, so I put them all on the rear. The front needs H rated tires. The date code on all the new tires is 3020 i.e. manufactured in the 30th week of 2020.

They took about 2½ hours which included balancing the front tires. Les Schwab was unable to balance the front tires last year due to lack of suitable equipment. It turns out the the front wheels are different from the rear since the coach has front disc brakes. Now, I know.

Afterwards, I took the RV to Twin City Glass also in Longview. They wanted to take a look to see if they wanted to tackle the windshield job. They called back and quoted $690 unless the glass breaks. Then it’s $2,500. So, do we risk it again?

Wednesday (19) - Traveled to Port Orchard for a family barbecue. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Day 16 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Sunday (16) - I’m guessing that the manufacturer of this chair (Thomas Payne) is the same as the old chair since the swivel mechanism was interchangeable. Instead of drilling holes in the new metal base ring, I just swapped parts. The swivel bearing is the new part as I just swapped the metal ring that sits on the floor. The chair is very comfortable and it’s slightly smaller size means that it no longer rubs against the shades and window screen.

Another minor addition from Camping World is this wall-mounted holder for the remotes. Not necessary but nice to have.

I went ahead and did a complete rebuild of the HomeAssistant server on the Raspberry Pi3B hardware. The performance has increased substantially due to increased memory and a faster, 64-bit processor. I still have a few more files to recreate. But, I can now access it remotely again, get historical data, and run automations. These functions had all stopped working about a month ago.

I also proctored another remote ham radio exam this afternoon. We will be working on the windshield tomorrow afternoon between a couple more exam sessions.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Day 13, 14, 15 - Chehalis, WA - TT

Thursday (13) - We visited with friends (actually sort of relatives) who have been full-time RVers for three years. They travel in a large 5th wheel mostly on the west coast. I had last seen them at my nieces wedding last summer. It was nice to hear of their travels and experience with work camping. Currently, they are at a state park not too far from the TT park we are at.

We did a little furniture shopping but I didn’t really see anything that stood out. Plus they were charging premium prices for their items. I saw this chair at the Camping World store in Coburg, OR, and it’s kind of what I’m looking for. But that ring on the bottom needs to be metal so the chair can be anchored to the floor. I think this one may be plastic.

I needed to deposit some money in my sons Wells Fargo account and was surprised when they wouldn’t accept cash. I had to go to the post office to purchase a money order then deposit that. Have you ever run into a bank that wouldn’t accept cash?

Friday (14) - Frustrating day. I was getting ready to empty the tanks and we noticed an empty sewer site. I moved the RV there but we really had a hard time finding a level spot. When one of the auto-leveling jacks ran out of travel, the other one on that side continued to lift. I believe that this twisted the body and the windshield popped out yet again.

We found a more level spot and I used blocks under the rear wheels and manually controlled the jacks and we got the rig leveled. One of our friends here in the park used to work on RV windshields and he got it mostly back into the rubber gasket. Tomorrow, I will pick up some of the suction cup tools from Harbor Freight and we can then get the glass back in. Stay tuned...

Saturday (15) - Yesterday afternoon, we were both very frustrated with this RV and wanted to just sell it to the highest bidder. But, after a cooling off period, we decided to just fix the windshield again and avoid really off-level sites. Any other RV will have problems. At least we know the problems with this RV.

Harbor Freight had the suction cup tools for working with windows at a fairly modest price. The ratchet straps are to help pull the windshield halves together in the middle. I will also use them on the car dolly to hold the car against the wheel stops.

Now that we decided to keep traveling with this RV, we went up to Camping World in Fife, WA, to pick up a chair. The one pictured earlier didn’t rock and the ring on the swivel was made of plastic. We found another swivel rocker-recliner in tan that was not only comfortable but the base was a metal ring just like the old recliner. Easy to mount in the RV. Picture tomorrow after I mount it to the floor.