Thursday, September 28, 2023

Sydney, NE & Cheyenne, WY

Monday - Today's excitement. Towing the RV to a truck repair shop in Sydney, NE. The truck arrived only a couple of minutes after they said he would be there. It was quite the process hooking up the RV. Since the engine doesn't start, there isn't any air pressure. Since it has independent front suspension, it needed to be towed by cradling the front tires. He also needed to connect an airline from the tow truck to a special connection to inflate the airbags. He had this line connected the entire time. He also needed to remove the drive shaft to prevent the transmission from heating up.

All in all, quite the process. The capacity of his lift was 20k lbs so the front of the motorhome was well within the capability of the tow truck. He mentioned that diesel pusher motorhomes are the most difficult. They are low to the ground and removing the driveshaft is a hassle. The engine not starting also complicated things.

Tuesday - Wednesday - The RV was in Sydney at a truck repair shop. After inspection, they concluded that the engine needed to come out and they were not equipped to handle that job on an RV with a Caterpillar engine that needs to drop out of the bottom. They thoroughly examined the engine looking for an oil leak and didn’t find anything. They concluded that the oil was coming out of the crankcase vent pipe. 

On Tuesday, we “moved” down to Fort Collins. Friends, whom we had met several time while RVing, invited us to stay at their home while the RV was being repaired. So thankful for them. 

 - Last night, Coach-Net towed the RV to a different shop in Cheyenne, WY.  This time it was a larger Caterpillar shop. They had the tools, shop, and experience to deal with the engine. We met with them this afternoon and they listened carefully to the symptoms and history. On Monday, they plan to pull the RV into the shop (after steam cleaning the back and frame) and drop the pan. They will inspect the cylinders for scoring. If they aren’t scored, there is a possibility that the engine can be salvaged. Otherwise, new engine… mucho $$$!!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Chappell, NE

Friday - Well, the RV wouldn’t start this morning. After numerous attempts, we gave up and called Coach-Net, our RV roadside assistance provider. After talking with their tech for a bit, he went off and looked for a shop that could/would work on an RV. Some shops won’t since engine access is difficult. They found a shop in Sydney, NE, about 30 miles west of Chappell and will tow us on Monday. We are staying at the RV park for the weekend. It’s only $15/day using Passport America. No complaints about that…

Saturday - After the morning test session, I figured that it may be a good time to regenerate the water softener. After draining the water, you open the cap and add two 26oz boxes of regular table salt. Then you slowly run water for about half an hour. Then flush it out for five minutes at full flow. Then taste. There shouldn’t be any trace of salt. The manufacturer suggests doing this every month. It’s been about a month and a half but then we don’t use much water.

 - Today was a prep day. Not for traveling but probably moving out of the RV for a time (currently unknown duration). I removed the back seat from the Jeep and put the 12V portable fridge/freezer. I also pulled out a couple of storage bins for food/supplies. We won’t really know what’s going on for a couple of days…

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chappell, NE

Wednesday - Another travel day to a Passport America campground in Chappell, NE. Passport America gives us a 50% discount so our stay here is only $15/night. The sites are kind of cramped but for the cost and full hookups, it’s worth staying. 

Thursday - The engine is going through a lot of oil. There is no oil on the engine. Only on the frame to the left and behind the crankcase vent tube. Here is an example of oil on the frame. In front of this, there is no liquid oil just dirt and dust.

I had thought that this line may be the culprit but there is no evidence of liquid oil. Just dust and dirt.

I called a friend ChrisZ who also has been dealing with the same model engine and explained what I was seeing and my suspicions. He suggested that I put a catch bottle on the vent tube to see how much oil was coming out of the engine. If there wasn't much, then I need to look for a leak somewhere. An excellent suggestion.

Here is my catch bottle. The blowby tube is going through the bottle opening and I drilled a hole in the side of the bottle to allow air to exit as the tube is a pretty good fit into the bottle opening. Tomorrow mid-day, I'll see how much oil is in there...

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Casper, WY - HH

Tuesday - Today was a longer travel day at 281miles. We are stopped at Gruner Brothers Brewing, as part of Harvest Hosts. Their lower parking lot has several level gravel sites. There are quite a few paved locations in their parking lot but all of them aren’t very level. 

I added another 2 quarts of oil this afternoon and I’ll check it tomorrow morning. 

Monday, September 18, 2023


Saturday - Sunday - We were at our friends home getting the trailer packed up for the trip south. Saturday night was cold-ish at ~35°F but the elevation was much lower at ~4200’. The RV started Sunday morning no problem. This suggests that the hard starting problem is low compression exacerbated by higher elevation and colder temperatures. West Yellowstone was 6670’ and we had similar problems at other higher elevation locations. 

On Sunday, while repacking the trailer, one container seemed unusually heavy. When opened, I discovered several inches of water. A lot of items were soaked and some were moldy. This was one of the black plastic containers with yellow lids from Lowe’s and Home Depot. I should’ve just bought Action Packers. I was ready to toss the contents but Annie said that it won’t be a problem to clean them. I pulled the liner from the Bombardier winter helmet and washed it with my old riding jacket, stuff sacks, liners, and cloth bags. The leather gloves were wiped down with disinfectant wipes as were the two tank bags. They came out pretty good. Thank you, Annie! 

I’m thinking that the only real losses are the Aerostitch winter gloves and possibly the helmet. I can’t get between the foam liner and the shell. 

Monday - We are back on the road again with the Jeep towing the trailer with the Ural. Our stop for the night is Cracker Barrel in Billings, MT. We were initially planning to go through Colorado but engine blow by seems to increase with load and rpm. Bridget and Annie spent some time yesterday finding the route with the least number of  hills or higher elevation.

Added another gallon of oil to the RV engine this afternoon. Very annoying…

We did have a delicious dinner at Cracker Barrel!

West Yellowstone, MT

Friday - Last night it had dropped down to freezing. Today, I tried starting the RV engine and it wouldn’t start. I turned on the block heater for 30 minutes and it would almost start. I have the block heater on for another 30 minutes and the PWM chassis battery charger as well. Hopefully, it starts. The grid heaters are working as the chassis battery voltage drops during the “Wait to Start” time. 

Later - It would start, grid heaters not even needed, but wouldn't stay running. The last time the RV exhibited this behavior was when we stopped at a Harvest Host in Klamath Falls last spring.

Later - It finally started and ran at like 400 rpm (normal idle is 700 rpm). After about 5 minutes, it started to run more normally. Still no throttle response. After a couple more minutes, the throttle started to work as expected. The block heater was on for a couple of hours total and the engine temperature was like 80°F when it finally started. I guess I will have the block heater on for several hours tomorrow when we are scheduled to leave, so the engine will be nice and warm. Plus, we'll leave plenty of time before checkout. I'm not sure whether the problem is related to temperature or elevation. The elevation here is 6670' and Klamath Falls was only about 4000'. But in both cases, the overnight temperature was around freezing. We have been in freezing temperatures multiple times and it's not been a problem. I hate problems like this...

On another note, I walked to the local grocery store to pick up some beef stew meat. We have most of the other ingredients so it's an opportunity to clean out the refrigerator.

Saturday - °F 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Yellowstone Nat’l Park

 - We drove into the park this morning and headed north to Mammoth Hot Springs in the north west corner of the park. This is a large area of mostly hot springs. A display at the visitors center said that the rocks are too soft for geysers. The pano was taken from the road above the springs and you can see the hotel and visitors center on the left. 

This was along the lower boardwalk. The feature on the right was brilliant white and the orange on the left had water running through. 
Further south, we stopped at a pool and the was a vent where steam poured out continuously. It was loud enough to drown out the traffic noise. 

We then headed for a trail that led to the Grand Prismatic overlook but a huge herd of bison were blocking the trail. We drove south to the Fairy Falls trailhead as that was the other end of the trail. It was very crowded but we were lucky and nabbed a parking spot when a Jeep pulled out.

This was the view from the overlook. Well worth the hike. The “normal” view is from the boardwalk on the other side of the feature. 

Total walking today was 13k steps. This is still much less than a Disney World day but the elevation is all over 6000’. 

West Yellowstone, MT

Wednesday - We spent the day at the RV recuperating after yesterday’s marathon day in the park. Even though it was less crowded than it could’ve been, there were still a lot of people. We had lunch at a local, highly rated pancake place and it was good. We did have to wait 40 minutes for a table but that was expected. We then walked through the touristy area of town and all I picked up was a sticker for the back of the RV and a cup of coffee. It then started to rain and continued through most of the afternoon. 

The two videos were taken yesterday. The first is the Old Faithful Geyser and the second is the Beehive Geyser. Quite the difference. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Yellowstone Nat’l Park

Tuesday - We took a bus tour called “The Ring of Fire”. It was an all day affair and we met the bus at a lodge inside the park. We left before 6am as it was over an hour drive from our RV spot in West Yellowstone. 

The first stop was Upper Yellowstone Falls. I had seen the lower falls (second picture) but do not remember ever seeing the upper falls. 

This is the one I remember from prior trips to Yellowstone. 

The next stop was Yellowstone Lake and the Lake hotel. Both are large and the hotel was beautifully finished inside. The yellow MCI coach was our tour bus. 

After a couple more stops, we were at Old Faithful Lodge for lunch. We saw a couple of geysers while here. Beehive Geyser was pretty impressive and Old Faithful Geyser. 

Beehive went off for over five minutes. Old Faithful geyser was almost a disappointment when it went off twenty minutes later. But it was almost right at the predicted time. Maybe a few minutes late. 

The next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin. This was one of the very hot pools next to the boardwalk. 

A bit further was this bubbling mud. The bubbles are not from heat but gas being released. Shortly after this picture was taken, bison started walking towards and onto the boardwalk. There were many examples of stupidity on display from the tourists. 

There were quite a few bison near the road and traffic was tied up every time. Especially when we were trying to leave the park. Several times traffic was stopped by one bison 25m from the road. Bison delays added over 30 minutes from people gawking at them while stopped in the middle of the road…

Monday, September 11, 2023

West Yellowstone, MT

Monday - This week will be spent exploring Yellowstone Natl’ Park. We are at a very small RV park in West Yellowstone. Very small meaning less than a dozen sites between rental cabins. It does have full hookups. 

We arrived shortly after 1pm and the RV didn’t overheat too badly even though we are now at 6670’ elevation. 

Bridget has a tour booked for tomorrow. Since we are outside the park, we need to allow a couple of hours to get to the meeting place for the tour. 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Aspen Crossing, AB

Saturday - Another nice day in Alberta. It was cold this morning, about 44°F outside. Around 10, we walked over to visit some friends and it felt pretty warm sitting in the sun. 

I’ll add a couple more pictures from last nights dinner train ride. The food was good and there was some entertainment. But we went for the company. 

This place has filled up a bit with the weekend. Not as full as the three-day weekend last week but still busy. We are heading south to Helena, MT, tomorrow morning. It’s about a 350 mile drive so maybe mid-afternoon. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

Aspen Crossing, AB

Friday - Last night, we met around a campfire. Probably the first one of the entire summer. This evening, we are going on a dinner train excursion here at the campground. They own several engines and train cars as well as 14 miles of track no longer used by the Canadian railroad. The train runs slowly back and forth along their section of track while dinner is served. 

Below is a time-lapse of one-way of the trip. From the farthest point back to the RV park.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Aspen Crossing RV Park, AB

 - A nicer day though it’s a bit windy. I dug out the e-bikes as this park is pretty big. This train car serves as the kitchen for the restaurant in the next car. We had breakfast here when we were here back in July. 

This place really emptied out. When we arrived on Sunday, all of the sites around us were occupied. Now, we are the only ones in the row. This is a new section of the park. I think it’s only been open a couple of years so the trees are still pretty small. 

I participated in both test sessions today thanks to Kent and Lisa who are letting me mooch off of their internet connection. The AT&T prepaid plan that I have on the hotspot doesn't include roaming in Canada though the prepaid plan on my cell phone does include Canada but only limited data.

Winds were gusting into the mid-20s (mph) so I brought in the awning. I’ve had it tied down but why tempt fate…

 - This was the view while participating in the afternoon test session. Both RVs across the street are friends (Living Light RV and Diary of a Family) we are visiting. It was around 67°F this afternoon. This morning, it was in the high 40s, so starting to cool down. Next Sunday, we start to head south again arriving in West Yellowstone on Monday. 

The wind picked up as a storm went through to the east and I had to get help bringing in the awning. It was quite the sail. The ropes would hold but they were attached to plastic pieces on the awning tube. I didn't have a lot of faith in them.

 - A nice day today though it is starting to feel like Fall. So far, no wind. I went ahead and put the awning back out and have it tied down much more securely. One end has a ratchet strap around the end of the awning arm instead of the plastic awning bits…

We needed a few more groceries and Vulcan was closer than the Walmart we went to earlier. Bridget felt obligated to stop at the visitors center.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Mossleigh, AB

Sunday - We left Bonners Ferry and headed for the Canadian border. Oddly, we had to answer questions from both U.S. and Canadian officials. It seemed like they were looking for something or someone.Total time was maybe a couple of minutes total so no issue. I was concerned about overheating while going through the mountains but it turned out to be a non-issue. The highest temperature I saw was 213°F. 

We were planning on staying at a HH location but there is rain in tonight’s forecast and the spot was grass and dirt. I didn’t want to get stuck in mud so we moved on. We ended up going all the way to Aspen Crossing, which is where we were planning to spend the week. They found us a site near our friends. 

Monday - We went to a rather small Walmart Supercenter in Strangmuir, AB. They had all of the departments but all much smaller than what I am used to. And, not a lot of variety. 

It has been drizzling for much of the morning. It would be nice to get some real rain to clear out the wildfire smoke. It looks like it’ll be nice for the rest of the week.

This place really emptied out this morning as the three day Labor Day weekend ended. Plus, the damp morning didn’t really encourage folks to hang around. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Leavenworth, WA - TT and Bonners Ferry, ID

Thursday- Friday
 - Participated in test sessions whenever I could as the AT&T throughput was pretty reasonable. I walked down to the pool but it was closed for maintenance. But I did get a nice, 1.4 mile walk in without any drizzle or overcast conditions. I'll probably start packing a few things up today as we will be heading out tomorrow morning. There are supposed to be over a hundred RVs arriving today (Friday) according to the ranger at the gate. I guess it's the last outing for the summer for many people and one of the problems with being kind of near Seattle.

 - We headed out early-ish from the TT park. We headed towards I-90 as I thought that we may need fuel before crossing the Idaho border. Fuel in Idaho is almost $1/gal cheaper than Washington. We were originally planning to dry camp in Coeur D’Alene, ID, but we decided to head a bit further down the road. We stopped at Bonners Ferry and dry camped at a casino. Dinner was delicious at the casino. The picture is the lobby of the casino hotel. 

BTW, the RV ran fine on this first leg.