Saturday, August 31, 2013

Further west to the Escapees Co-Op at Sutherlin, OR

Sutherlin, OR                      (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

We left Thousand Trails near Bend, OR on Tuesday and headed west about 175 miles to come to the Escapees Co-Op at Sutherlin, OR called Timber Valley.  For those who are Escapees, but not familiar with the differences between the regular Escapee campgrounds (called Rainbow Parks) and Co-Ops, here's a quick overview.

Rainbow Parks are owned by the Escapees RV Club and offer transient campsites to anyone who wishes to stay at their parks. Within the Rainbow Parks, deeded lots and leased lots are also available. The major distinction between the Co-Ops and the Rainbow Parks are that Co-Ops are owned and run by the members of the Co-Ops and offer a lifetime membership in that particular campground.  Members "buy into" the co-op lots, but do not own the land.  They pay an annual fee (similar to maintenance and operations fees elsewhere).  These fees usually include everything with the exception of electricity use.  The interesting thing about the Co-Op setup is that should you decide to leave that particular co-op, then you receive your original "buy in" money back, along with any special assessments made during your membership in the co-op.  There is no selling of the lots, as the lots are simply put back into a pool (of which there is a waiting lists at ALL of the co-ops).

This was the first Escapee Co-Op we have ever visited.  I will have to say that we are impressed. The grounds are maintained very well and EVERYONE we've met has been very friendly.  This might be because of the requirement that anyone desiring to stay (either long or short term) must belong to the Escapees.  We have found the Escapees members to be some of the friendliest folks of any of the RVing organizations we've had contact with.

Timber Valley is just a short distance from Interstate 5 thru Sutherlin, but is located in an area unto itself beside the mountains.  Nothing like the mountains near Bend, as we've crossed the Cascades and we're in what's locally called the "banana belt" to the milder weather.  (That means generally warmer than the Bend area, but milder overall.)

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All of the sites are currently leased, but when the lessee is away, the lots are put into a rental pool for transients like us.  The sites here are 50 x 70 and some are developed with landscaping, but some are undeveloped like the site we occupy.  All sites have a shed, but is not available for use by renters.

The park is very well laid out and easy to maneuver with any size rig.  This is the recycling area and dump station located in the logical place of outside the main registration area and away from the rigs.

The registration area is just past the dump station and recycling area and is very wide.  The registration office also includes the mail room where lot holders pick up their mail.

A wide area to obtain propane is located near the office and has one of the cheapest rates we've seen yet at $1.65 per gallon.

As mentioned previously, some lots have been improved, some have remained as they were.

There is a nice lounge and activity center where club events are held.  This Co-Op was celebrated its' 25th anniversary this past week.  There are spaces inside for meetings, billiards, card and board games, and for just relaxing and watching TV if desired.

The streets are wide and paved throughout the Co-Op.

The rows of lots are spaced well and usually have some grass and trees separating them from the next row.

Although no one claims to be feeding them (it's actually against the law here), there are several deer and their young ones, wild turkeys, and a black-tailed jack rabbit observed wandering slowly thru the park. They do not seem afraid of humans at all.

Here were a pair right outside the activity center the other evening.

If it sounds like we like this park, you'd be right. There are currently 84 names on the "wait list" to get a spot here and I think Karen would like to make it 85.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Bunch of Water Activities and An Interesting Observation

Bend, OR                            (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

I was looking thru our blog viewing statistics today and found a rather interesting commentary on what readers tune in to our blog for. I had always hoped that folks liked to learn about the places  we've visited and the sights we've seen.  Apparently, that is not necessarily the case. Of all of the blogs viewed during the past 2 1/2 months, here are the top 4 blogs viewed in order of highest first.

    Waste Elimination, Sorry That's Waste Disposal                  
     First Trip to Yellowstone NP                                                
     Sioux Falls Bike Trail                                                              
     West Gate Entrance into Yellowstone NP and Teton NP  

I'll make no further comment, just seemed somewhat peculiar to me.

Over the past few days we've been able to get our SeaEagle Paddleski out on several local waterways and we even did some tubing for a few miles.  Sorry, no pictures available during the tubing as I don't have a waterproof camera anymore.

We love our Paddleski, but sometimes it gets a bit unwieldy to handle.  It's 14 feet overall and about 45 pounds, so I decided that there had to be a better way to get it to some launch sites which require longer walks.  After a bit of internet research, I gathered some ideas I liked for kayak and canoe transporters and came up with this device to make moving it around easier.

I wanted something which was cheap to build, light in weight, and took up little storage space. The wheels are 10" which I purchased from Harbor Freight on sale and the rest is just PVC pipe, connections, and quick disconnect pins I purchased from Lowes and Home Depot.  I think the entire cost was about $32. The neatest thing in the whole design is the ability to break the entire cart down into small pieces which can be put into a storage bag.

Here's what the cart looks like placed under the stern end of the Paddleski.  Simple idea, but it works very well.

To show how the cart actually works, I recruited my lovely wife  to take the Paddleski for a short jaunt down the road in front of our campsite.

Our first paddling trip was a 6.5 mile trip down the Little Deschutes River which began at our campground and continued to a takeout point toward Bend, OR.  It was a bright, beautiful day and the sky was clear.

The Little Deschutes River passes through and beside a golf course about midway thru our trip today.  Randy, I had to throw in a picture of golfers for you.

There's a lot of very nice homes along the river. Colors tend to be all brown, or at least some shade of brown out here.  Very earthy!

As we approached the end of this paddling trip, the Little Deschutes joins with the Deschutes River and continues north toward Bend, OR.  We saw quite a few folks out enjoying the day either in canoes, kayaks, or inflatables.

Yesterday we packed the Paddleski into the back of the Honda and headed up along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Sparks Lake. This is a lake which was formed long ago when the lava flows from Mt. Bachelor stopped.  The lake has no natural ingress or egress of waters other than rain and snow. The water level decreases in the summer as the water escapes through the porous lava in the lake.  As you can see, many folks seemed to have the same idea yesterday about floating around on the lake.

The views from anywhere around the lake are spectacular.  Shortly after putting in we saw the South Sister and Broken Mountain Top ranges to the north of the lake.

Here's a little tighter shot of Broken Top Mountain.

We paddled around the perimeter of the lake and tried to head up every cove we found.  We pulled up on shore to eat lunch here and take-in the scenery.

The area surrounding the lake is controlled by the US Forest Service and many folks put their boats in at the ramp, then paddle to many spots around the lake to camp along the shore.  This group had just broken camp and was heading back to the ramp to head out for the weekend.

As mentioned earlier, the lake was formed by lava flows many years ago.  The lava rocks today create beautiful, but jagged shorelines.

We had a great time on the river and the lake.  There are many, many lakes in this area which we'll have to save for another time as we'll be leaving in a few days.  Just as well, however, as I know that we'll return again and have new adventures to look forward to.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Waste Elimination, Sorry That's Waste Disposal

Bend, OR                   (Click on Pictures to Enlarge) 

Ok, it's time to address one of  the mundane, but necessary aspects of Fulltime RVing.

NOTE: If you never intend to stay in any campground or other facilities which do not have FULL (meaning, at least water, sewer, and electric) hookups, then you might want to skip today's blog.

We have been RVing in several different types of rigs since 1991.  In all of those years we had never spent any extended length of time at a campground which did not have a sewer connection at the site.  I'm not speaking about overnight stops or two or three days at events such as LOW (Life on Wheels) or such here. I'm talking about a stay of a couple of weeks (such as in our current location here at the Bend-Sunriver TT).

We love this park, but it has electric and water hookups at each site only.  We knew we intended to stay here about a month ago, so it was time to address the question of what to do about emptying the grey and black water tanks.

Our MH has average sized tanks for a MH.  Our capacities are 100 gallons fresh, 70 gallons grey, and 50 gallons in the black tank.  In deciding how we would handle the waste disposal of the tanks, be basically had 3 options.
Option #1- When the tanks were full we could bring in the slides, raise the jacks, then travel to the dump stations here in the campground.  We really didn't like this idea too much as once we're settled in, packing up again is not so much fun.
Option #2- At this park, the campground has a "honey wagon" service which roams the park several days during the week.  Just sign up, pay $20 per dump, and the tanks are emptied.  Because I'm pretty cheap, I didn't like this idea too well either.
Option #3- Look into some way to transport the contents of our tanks to the dump station on our own.  Because I'm looking at this as a way to handle future similar situations, this is the method we selected. Thus begins the topic of today's post.

When we (I) began looking at dumping totes I found that there are basically two styles to choose from. Barker Mfg. and Thetford Corporation are the two major players in the tote tank business today. I listed links to both company's products above so that anyone can take a look and make their own comparisons between the totes.

I decided to go with the SmartTote 35LX from Thetford which is their largest tote. I reasoned that if I was going to be doing the "dumping" routine anyway, then I wanted to do it as few times as possible.  Once the tote arrived, my next concern was where in the heck am I going to carry this beast when we are in transit.
Fortunately, we have a storage compartment on the PS, near the back of the rig, where it is large enough to carry chairs, a camping mat, a small fold up table, but best of all, the new Thetford tote. It justs fits lengthwise and I installed two D-ring hooks on each side of the compartment to hold everything in place while traveling down the road.  (Sorry, I haven't taken any pictures of the tank inside the compartment yet.)

We have affectionately named our Thetford SmartTote
 "Dookey Monkey".

Now on to the first use of the tote tank.

One of the reasons I selected the Thetford tote was because of its' containment of the sewer hose and short flushing hose on the unit itself.  I didn't want to lose parts or have to go searching when I was ready to drain the tanks.  The tote is rolled up near the MH's drain valve and the tote's sewer hose is attached. Just as you would hook up to the sewer connection at a site.

Next, you pull the MH's drain valve for whichever (or both) tank you intend to drain.   The Thetford has a built-in "bobber" which pops up when the tote is full. When it does, it's time to IMMEDIATELY close the drain valve on the MH.

Re-cap the tote's sewer hose, push it back into the containment sleeve on the tote, and the tote is now ready to head off to the dump station. (NOTE: When full the tote and contents weigh a bit over 300 pounds, so lifting this beast is out of the question.)

We purchased a cheap receiver which fits into our bike hitch on the Honda Fit and wheel the tote to make the hook up. This Thetford model has twin wheels at the front, so it's fairly easy to pivot the tote around.

The manufacturer suggests a maximum towing speed of 5 MPH.  I believe it!  That's one of the negatives I believe will impact the durability of this unit.  The rear wheels are 8-inch, but solid rubber on a PVC hub.  I already see that I might be trying to do some type of modification on the wheels to make them a bit larger and change the tires to pneumatics.

Once at the dump station, the disposal process is pretty straight forward. Remove the hose, the end cap, loosen the "bobber valve" cap to allow the tote to vent, and that's it.  The "mess" you see around the dump station is just water, not "an accident" from our first experience.

Impressions of the Thetford Tote and our First Experience

The tote does basically what it is designed to do.  I've already addressed my concerns about the longevity of the wheels. Also, no matter how much you tilt, lift, and turn the tote after dumping there is still a bit of fluid inside.  It's important to attach the fresh water hose to the tote and thoroughly flush the tank as much as possible.
I think we'll get a lot of use out of this tote as we intend to stay in some NPS, NFS, and BLM areas which have either no hookups, or no sewer hookups at the sites.

I know that this blog was a bit different from our normal posts, but if you have any questions at all about the subject, or are thinking about getting one of these totes, please do not hesitate to drop us an email or post a comment.

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver, OR Resort and First Paddling on the Deschutes River

Bend, OR                       (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Thought I would  talk a bit about the Thousand Trails Campground at Bend-Sunriver, OR.  This is our first time to ever stay here and already it's one of our favorite Thousand Trails parks.  We originally made reservations to stay for 8 days, but after seeing a bit of the area, we've changed our stay to 14 days.  There are just a lot of outdoor activities to do and see in the area.

We love campgrounds with trees.  Our site is located near the front of the campground where many of the amenities are located.  The best aspect, however, is the wide spacing between sites here.

The campground is well maintained and all of the staff is very friendly.  The area near the check-in and main office has an old west theme and is called "Town Square".  There are some very cute landscaping ideas.

Top (L) Sheriff's Office and Jail             Top (R) Saloon
Lower (L) Country Store   Lower (R) "Tombstones" in Graveyard
TT has recently installed a  new welcome and check-in building in an attempt to keep rigs from backing up into the main entrance area.  Seems to work efficiently as we were checked in quickly and proceeded to our site.  The only negative about this park is that it has water and electric only. No sewer hookups.  A pump out service can be used, for a fee, or you can haul your rig to the dump stations, or do as we did and haul our NEW portable tote tank to the dump station. (I may, or may not, do a blog about this adventure!)

Top (L) New Welcome Center    Top (R) Main Lodge
Lower (L) Family Pool  Lower (R) Rental Cabin
We finally got the Sea Eagle in the water yesterday.  The Little Deschutes River runs right beside the campground and a few miles down South Century Drive (SR42) the Deschutes River crosses under a bridge.  Both of these rivers join together a few miles north of us and eventually run through the middle of Bend, OR.  We drove 2 miles to a "put in" area and inflated the Sea Eagle. It was Sunday and quite a few folks had the same idea.

The weather was beautiful.  It was about 80 degrees and the sky was a bright blue.  Because we had no way to float down river and be picked up, we paddled about a mile upstream (and against the current, I might add), then turned and leisurely floated back to our starting point.

Along the way we pulled along the shore for a beverage and snack break.  Looks like Karen enjoys this. (Hey, we both love this!)

We saw folks kayaking for fun, but some were also float fishing.  We didn't see this couple catch anything, but they looked as though they were having a good time.

We already have several more paddle trips planned in the coming days and may even do some "tubing".

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (Some Exploring)

Bend, OR                 (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Friday we got a chance to get out and explore the area a bit.  We decided to take a drive along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, not only to see the beautiful views, but to also look for places to use our Sea Eagle inflatable boat during the coming days. The Byway encompasses 66 total miles, but we entered a bit north of the southern most point because we were checking out some lakes and reservoirs along South Century Drive. The Byway runs totally inside the Deschutes National Forest and there are many, many US Forest Service campgrounds throughout.

Map courtesy of website
We first made a stop at Crane Prairie Reservoir.  The reservoir has several campgrounds and launch sites, but it's also fairly large and the wind was blowing at a pretty good clip.

The next stop was a bit north at Cultus Lake.  This lake is smaller, but was still full of folks having a good time boating, camping, and even scuba diving.  All of the bodies of water we visited today were very clear.

Little Lava Lake is a small body of water, but only open to non-motorized boats.  This looks like a very real possibility for some boating for us. The South Sister peak can be seen in the background

Lava Lake is situated immediately beside Little Lava Lake, but is separated by solidified lava which flowed some 10,000 years ago from Mt. Bachelor.  .

We particularly liked Hosmer Lake. Not only were there many folks canoeing, kayaking, and playing in the water, but the access was easy and close to the drop-in parking area.

The last lake for the day was Sparks Lake.  This was a very interesting area.  The USFS campground just of of the Byway appeared to be under renovation, but the views were still spectacular. This is Broken Top Mountain seen toward the right portion of the range.

We ventured further around Sparks Lake as we were looking for the boat launching area.  When we got to the ramp we found that many folks in this part of the state just pitch a tent and enjoy "real camping".

This is another lake we'd like to explore via our inflatible boat.  Sparks Lake is a bit unusual when it comes to lakes as there is no obvious point of ingress or egress for the water.  The lake was formed during an eruption years ago from Mt. Bachelor and now the water has to leach out through the lava rock.  In fact, Sparks Lake tends to get a bit shallow during the late summer months. (Ah, the advantage again of a small boat!)  That's Mt. Bachelor again in the background.

Well, we certainly accomplished our "exploring" goals for today.  We found several bodies of water to explore in our little boat and we certainly discovered a lot of new, beautiful scenery in the process.

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Heading to Bend, OR and the Columbia River

Bend, OR                        (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

I can't believe it's been a week since my last blog, but thinking back there just hasn't been a lot of "blog worthy" things to talk about. We really didn't do a whole lot in La Grande, OR last week other than some rig maintenance and domestic chores.  Not really blog stuff.

On Tuesday we picked up and headed west toward a Thousand Trails campground called Bend-Sun River TT.  The campground is located about 10 miles south of Bend, OR.  We had about 330 miles to make Tuesday, so we opted to stay on Interstate 84 for the first half of the trip.

Pretty easy drive, but I-84 is windier than many interstates.  The best part was that we ran parallel to the Columbia River for the last part of the drive along the interstate.  We stopped at a pullout about midway thru the trip which overlooked the river.  There are lots of wind turbines high on the cliffs.

Here's a picture looking back east along the river.

As we got closer to our exit to head south toward Bend, we observed more wind turbines high on the cliffs on the Washington State side of the river.

This might be as close as we get go Mt. Hood as our stay is pretty far south in Oregon, but it was still impressive some 50 miles in the distance.

I'll speak about our campground and stay at Thousand Trails Bend/Sun River in our next blog because we haven't had a chance to take any pictures or explore yet.

As always, thanks for stopping by to take a look!