Enroute to Seattle and Port Townsend, I arrived in Bend, Oregon with Leda, as RV problems escalated. Stuck again. Yes, it could be fixed, but it might take years, cost millions of dollars and thousands of lives.
Like being locked in a decompression chamber for the bends. Instead, I went for broke 🙂 and traded and sold items to buy a new 5th Wheel and a big ass truck to tow it.
To pull it I purchased a 2012 Ford F-350 longbed diesel. I took delivery of both on July 6th.
That means SOA, trailer 3, and a lot of other items had to go, many via ebay. So at least for 12 more days, until the sales close and items are picked up, we’re sort of stuck in Bend. Luckily it’s a really nice place with plenty to do.
Catch the end as a Peregrine Falcon makes a 100+ MPH pass and snatches a bait the handler is trying to keep from her.
So, being here for a while won’t be too bad, but then it’s on to Seattle and Port Townsend.
Yuma! No it’s not my favorite spot, but I’ve just made my fourth stop in Yuma in just over three months.
Solar System Issue
I first went to Yuma on 12/22 to talk with Starlight Solar Systems about installing a new system in the RV. I decided to go ahead with it, but the next available appointment wasn’t until 1/26. In the meantime I camped with the WINS (rvsingles.org) in Yuma, Parker and Quartzsite.
The second Yuma stop was for the big solar install on 1/26. The system was working perfectly and providing all the power I needed, but two weeks later the monitor/control panel inside the coach stopped working. I was still getting all the power I needed, but could no longer operate the system from inside and had no visibility to how well it was working (power production, battery charge levels, usage, etc.).
We spent a couple of weeks trying to diagnose this over the phone and email, then on 2/22 I went back to Yuma. They found that one of the components, the solar charge controller (Magnum PT-100, rated the best) was not talking to the inverter (they are ethernet connected) and blocking the inverter from talking to the remote. Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything worked fine and I headed back to Slab City.
Exactly four weeks later, on 3/21, while I was in Cottonwood, the same problem recurred. After another round of phone and email diagnosis I headed back to Yuma (from Flagstaff) on 4/4. Again, Starlight replaced the solar charge controller, everything is working fine. I’m on my way, just not real confident.
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[ List of places visited is not shown on this browser ]
At the end of October I went back to the valley for some crazy expensive dental work, a vet appointment, RV repairs (had an overheating issue and another oil leak), a poker game with the gang, and of course that all important smog test I need to keep the RV registered.
Afterwards, while most of the country settled in for another crazy cold winter, I went full snowbird, starting with a stop in Quartzsite with a quarter million other RV’ers, then on to the Colorado River.
Snow in the mountains on the Arizona Side
From the beach in Laughlin. Snow in the mountains on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.
In Earp, CA - Across the River from Parker, AZ
London Bridge Plaza
London Bridge Plaza
The gas pipeline goes under the campground, then up and over the Colorado, a few yards from my site.
Blythe Campground and overhead gas pipe
My RV is almost directly under the gas pipeline running over the Colorado River.
Couldn’t completely avoid the snow, we had flurries blowing around New Year’s Eve in Laughlin.
If only I had a Tesla, I’d know just where to charge it up.
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After Gettysburg, I got in some beach time in the outer banks of North Carolina and then Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Emerald Isle in the outer banks is a beautiful, sleepy beach town with warm water and nice surf.
Unfortunately, I found out that at dawn and dusk there are tons on noseeums on the beach. The first night, unprotected by insect repellent, I got maybe 100 bites. Most of them stopped itching after 2-3 weeks.
In Myrtle Beach, I attended the iRV2 National Rally and enjoyed another warm water beach.
The second half of the week it started raining – 2-4 inches a day. At the end of the rally I moved on to historic Charleston for nine days of thunderstorms and 2-6 inches of rain every day. Talladega? Rain every day.
Fire? Well a lightning strike just outside the campground in Charleston set a big live oak ablaze. Pouring rain pretty much put out the fire before the fire department arrived.
Heading back to Arizona I noticed I’ve got a small oil leak and started checking the oil every time I stopped. At a rest area between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque in in New Mexico I saw the oil and engine coolant were both a little low. I got out a gallon of coolant and a gallon of oil and a couple of funnels. Then I poured almost a gallon of coolant into the oil spout. It wasn’t until I put down the jug that I noticed the orange liquid in the funnel and looked back at the jug.
Can’t drive like that, so I got towed 100+ miles to Albuquerque ($1250) where I spent three days at Freightliner having the oil flushed and the leak fixed ($1500). The truckers assured me this kind of thing happens, but I know stupid when I do it. Add in a few nights in a motel with a dog surcharge and I’m into this brain fart for over $3k.
I’m in Flagstaff now to visit Kylee at NAU. It wasn’t a good trip into town. The engine overheated during the climb from Holbrook. I’m hoping the oil leak just fouled the radiator vents and a good steam cleaning will set it right, but I don’t know yet. I also took a rock to the windshield which left the traditional divot plus two foot long cracks. I hope insurance will cover that one.
It’s been over 400 days and more than 80 stops (I know a missed logging a few) since I started traveling full time. Yes, I’m still having a great time.
The dog is still crazy, but controllable. There’s been a lot more expense than I’d planned – new bike, new trailer, dog related repairs, motorhome repairs, Kylee’s car repairs, and more. But just about every spot had it’s charm and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of them. Onward bound.
When I thought of Michigan, I tended to think of deteriorating industrial cities like Detroit and Flint. A place to pass through. When I stopped in South Haven, I decided to stay a while longer. It really is just like the Pure Michigan ad.
The main road in town is Phoenix Street which goes through downtown, past the marina, to the lighthouse and onto the beach. There’s a couple of miles of soft sand beaches on Lake Michigan.
Downtown South Haven
Downtown South Haven
Riverfront Marina, South Haven
Riverfront Marina, South Haven, Michigan
South Beach, South Haven
South Beach on Lake Michigan in South Haven
Take a Break
I mentioned the rough road through Illinois and how I was surprised anything worked after that. I spoke too soon. After getting settled in I found the satellite receiver’s SIM card was knocked out, the microwave was rattling, the shower door hinge had popped, the dog’s Treat ‘n Train is turning on and off randomly, two florescent bulbs were knocked loose (and then I dropped one of them opening the fixture cover), well you get the picture. After fixing the stuff that wasn’t working I spent a few hours with the electric screwdriver tightening up ever screw I could find.
A couple of days later I dropped my phone. Couldn’t fix that one.
I’m spending a few days in Port Huron then I’ll be taking the Blue Water Bridge into Canada and heading to Niagara Falls, Ontario.
This stop in Phoenix was a lot of catch up. Great lunch with Bob and Ray. Got to the dentist, the doctor, and the bank. Got my RV registration renewed. Had Palacios give me an estimate on refurbishing the dog related damages (about $5k).
Speaking of the dog, Keira has been doing better. She travels much better, relaxing in her hutch while we’re rolling down the road. For a while, about a month or so, she was basically perfect when I left her alone in the RV. Lately, however, she’s reverted – we’re back to panic barking, dash surfing and soiling when she’s left alone. Back to remedial dog training.
I’ll be spending the next few days in Flagstaff visiting Kylee at NAU, but may be back to Phoenix soon to have at least some of the refurb done.
I’m spending a little time in Tucson again to finish sucking every last cent I have the maintenance they didn’t get to in Tampa. Since I’m here for a couple of weeks I thought I could take care of the emissions test and registration.
Not So Fast
I took Roamward Bound to an emissions test facility and it passed, so I took my certificate to the MVD office and …
No you cannot register a vehicle with a Phoenix address and a Tucson emission test. Why? You can’t. Why can’t you? Because you can’t. (Since I’d already waited more than two hours to get to the window, I felt it was OK to keep this up for a good twenty minutes, but I’ll spare you the text).
Seriously, window agent, supervisor, manager, the totality of their explanation is “you can’t.” They couldn’t show me any documentation of that, publicly accessible or internal. Just “you can’t.”
The arctic vortex that brought sub zero temps to the northern US reached the south on Monday (1/6/2014). In comparison to what the news was showing up north, the weather was downright balmy – highs Monday and Tuesday were in the low 20s. Nevertheless, the little bit of heating in the wet bay couldn’t keep up with 50 hours straight below freezing and early Wednesday morning water leaks showed the way to burst pipes and fittings. It was way too cold, and wet, for me to work on, and of course I don’t have a pressure tester, so it was back to Camping World. Parts $16, labor $320.
The buyer for my Kendon trailer will be picking it up on Friday and then I’ll be heading to Grayton Beach in Florida (between Panama City and Destin on the panhandle coast).
I made it to Flagstaff before the snow and had a great two day visit with Kylee. The dorm room looks great – they have a lot more space than they did move-in weekend. I also got to ride some mountain roads on the new bike. Weather was beautiful, highs in the low 60s and overnight lows in the high 20s.
When I went to leave the RV would not start. I cranked it long enough to get a dead battery also. My roadside assistance sent out an actual mobile diesel mechanic from Freightliner. He worked on site for about two hours. None of the theories worked (e.g. clogged fuel filter – diesel fuel can gel in cold weather – WTF???). No codes in the computer. Glow plugs hot. Anyway I wound up getting towed to the Freightliner service center.
Waiting in the lounge with the truckers and other RVers was fun and a little terrifying. Great stories of the road and the truckers are amazingly tech savvy. On the other hand, some of the truckers waiting had already been there a week.
At the end of the day the service consultant told me the ECM (the engine control module, the computer) was not responding. They would take it out and bench test it in the morning. I spent the night at a motel and when I returned in the morning they told me the ECM had tested OK on the bench. An hour later they told me they found an inline fuse, spec’ed for 20 amps, that had been replaced some time in the past by a 10 amp auto reset circuit breaker. They put a 20 amp fuse in and the engine started. Parts $0.61, labor $590.00 and I’m on my way.
After 25 days, the repair on the RV is finally done and I’m out of Bakersfield. There’s probably nothing wrong with Bakersfield, but I really only wanted to spend a day.
Why so long? Camping World’s collision center repaired the damage I caused and the damage they caused in two days. The leveling jack, however, had to be ordered and took 10 days to come in. When it arrived it was the wrong part so we had to wait another 12 days. The actual repair took 2 hours.
I was worried about the dog, so I kept this drive short going only to Barstow. Keira was actually fine on the drive, sleeping in her hutch the whole way. We’ll move on in the morning.