Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Moved a Few Hours North to Twisp, WA

Posted from near Concrete, WA

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Winthrop, WA
Hiking near Twisp, WA

We moved 118 miles north from Quincy to Twisp, WA on July 19th. We made reservations to stay at Riverbend RV Park back in early April. As it turns out, that was a good idea.  Since we had never been to this area before, we had no idea that a large outdoor event named the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival was to be held this weekend. Our campground was only located 8 miles south of the festival and all of the surrounding camping spots were full.

Riverbend RV Park was a very nice, laid back type of place. It's located right alongside the Methow River. We had a pull thru site with FHUs and the sites are very large. We could have easily parked another towed vehicle behind our Honda Fit. The trees are large and tall in the campground and although great for providing shade, not so great for satellite reception. We were never able to use either our permanently mounted antenna atop the rig nor the portable unit we carry with us for just these types of times.  We were able to pick up a few OTA stations out of Spokane, so all was not lost. Oh well, a few days without television is really not a bad thing.

Aside from the beautiful scenery in the area, we were very much looking forward to meeting up with our very good friends Bill and Debi. They reside on the western side of the mountains and made the 5 hour drive to camp with us (actually beside us) for the week. Both Bill and Debi are our pickleball partners during the winter in Arizona and we have come to regard them as close friends. On this trip, however, we were "using them" for their knowledge of the area! (Debi is very familiar with Mt. Baker and pointed it out to us on several occasions during the week. Sorry, Debi, but I couldn't resist that one.)

On our first sightseeing trip we traveled a few miles up the road to Winthrop. Winthrop is a cute, small town with a western theme. Certainly worth a trip to visit for part of a day. Bill also discovered that Winthrop has a place to play pickleball. They convert a skating/hockey rink into 6 pickleball courts during the summer months. We played a couple of times during the week from 8-11 AM. There was usually a group of 20-30 players present with a variety of skill levels.

There was a pedestrian bridge located along a trail very near the pickleball courts and you could walk into the center of Winthrop. The Methow River flows beside the town.

I mentioned earlier that Winthrop has a western theme. I'm not sure whether these folks would qualify as "cowboys and cowgirls", but we were having fun nonetheless.

Ok, I'd better show the "other" picture, so that Bill and Debi won't think I'm making fun of them.

Bill has hunted in this area for many years and was kind enough to show us some of the "trails" in the area which our Honda Fit would never have been able to get to. The area is very green and wooded, quite a contrast to the area we just left around Quincy.

Lunch time along a Forest Service Road in the mountains.

The happy group!

Before heading back to our campground for the day, we drove up to Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop.

The views from this mountain top lodge were beautiful.

I'll stop at this point so as to not make this entry too long. In the next blog, we'll visit the North Cascade Smokejumpers Base and take a tour of Lake Chelan via boat.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

First Camping Experience (Ever) in the State of Washington

Posted from near Twisp, WA

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Crescent Bar Area
Grand Coulee Dam 
Soap Lake

Although we have camped in most of the lower 48 states, Washington State had been missed up to this point.  Well, up until now. We'll be "somewhere" in Washington State until September 5th. After our detour to Iowa, we got back on track with our 2018 planned stays and pulled into the Thousand Trails Park near Qunicy, WA. It's actually named "Crescent Bar Thousand Trails" because it's located along the Columbia River approximately 7 miles west of Quincy. We entered Washington from Idaho and had been advised that the eastern part of Washington would be hot and somewhat "desert like". To those who passed along this information you were correct. We had several days over 100 degrees, but at least the humidity was low.

The Thousand Trails campground was actually very nice. We could see the Columbia River from the windshield and we had full hookups with 50-amp service, so running multiple A/C units was not a problem.

We stayed at TT for 11 nights and used it as a base to explore the area. WA28 is the main road in the area and the campground is approximately 2 miles down the winding road toward the area known as "Crescent Bar". There are a couple of campgrounds, many vacation condos, single-family vacation homes, a marina, golf course, and several commercial stores down on the Bar. In this photo, Crescent Bar is the green area along the east side of the Columbia River.

There is a very nice paved biking/walking path which extends all of the way to the end of the peninsula. We were able to get in a walk most evenings.

At the far end of the peninsula is a public golf course and we saw several deer each evening during our walks.

On July 10th we took a trip up to Leavenworth. From the TT, Leavenworth is approximately 1 hour, or 50 miles. The entire town center is modeled after a Bavarian-styled village, including structures and restaurants. The permanent population is around 2000 persons, but the town definitely swells in "tourist" season. It was very crowded and parking is hit-and-miss.

The town was "cute" and Karen certainly enjoyed it, but keep in mind that this town was created to revitalize a dying logging town and has no real roots to people from the Bavarian area in Europe. I will certainly give the creators kudos for bringing the tourists back to this area, however.

We sat and relaxed for a bit in the Town Gazebo area while listening to a gentleman playing his accordion and singing "Bavarian inspired" songs.

For lunch we ate at the outdoor restaurant Munchen House. The brats were excellent.

On July 12th we drove about 1 3/4 hours, or 86 miles north to visit the Grand Coulee Dam. We have visited Hoover Dam before, but the power-producing ability of this dam is staggering.

Although Hoover Dam's physical dimensions are greater than Grand Coulee, this dam is the #1 hydroelectric power station in the entire United States. Up until a few years ago when the dam in China was built, the Grand Coulee was the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world.

Due to added security measures brought about after September 11, 2001, the tours of the dam are somewhat abbreviated. Everyone must pass thru a metal detector and "empty your pockets" before getting into the dam touring van. This is a look at the pump area along the eastern side of the dam.

Part of the tour allows the van to drive on the highway which crosses the top of the dam. Normally, all vehicles are restricted from this section of highway. Here we are looking over the railing on the spillway from the dam.

The body of water captured by the dam is named Lake Roosevelt. Quite a beautiful area for water activities.

There is a very informative visitor's center on the west side of the dam. A short video does a great job of chronically the design and construction of the dam. There are many artifacts to view as well.

On our way back from the Grand Coulee Dam we took a few moments to see Soap Lake. This is actually a small town, with Soap Lake being the star attraction. The Lake is thought to have healing properties as the mineral content in the water is very high. In 2009, the local garden club dedicated a statue named "Calling the Healing Waters". RoadsideAmerica.com touts it as
"Calling the Healing Waters" features a man with bird wings and a woman with a bowl. Promoted as the "World's First Human Figure Sundial" and the "Largest Human Figure Sundial in Existence."

There is a nice public beach where folks can enter the lake. Karen and I both walked in up to our knees and the water is indeed very "slippery". This indicates a very high alkaline level. (A pH of about 10).

The lake consists of two levels of stratified water. The first 81 feet is mineral water and below is a mud-like layer of stronger mineral compositions and microscopic life forms. The most curious concept, however, is that the layers have not mixed in thousands of years. Here's possibly a "regular" getting his mud fix for the day.

After a few days of relaxing, we'll be heading further north in Washington towards the Cascade Mountains.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Back on Track for the Summer of 2018 Travels

Posted from near Quincy, WA

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After our little "detour" from Mountain Home, ID to the HWH Corporation in Moscow, IA to have our HWH system repaired, we decided to take a few extra days to make the return trip back west and resume our planned summer adventures.

From Idaho to Iowa we traveled 1458 miles in 3 days. Perhaps not a lot for "weekend warriors", but we just don't drive that long each day anymore.

Our return trip was going to require coverage of approximately 1886 miles to get "back on track" in Washington State. We eventually covered the distance in 11 days after stopping at several locations for multiple days.

We have a Blue Ox towbar and baseplate on the Honda Fit, so we decided to stop by the Blue Ox factory in Pender, NE to have the towbar serviced and to have a place to stay over the 4th of July (since our previous plans were now disrupted). Has anyone reading this actually been to Pender, NE? How about Red Bay, AL, the home of Tiffin Motorhomes? Let me just say that Red Bay looks like a large city compared to Pender. There are no traffic lights in Pender, just a blinking red light. We attempted to visit a local pizza restaurant one evening and the sign on the door indicated that they were only open from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM that day. No "real" grocery stores in Pender, either.

Blue Ox does have a nice 15-site FHU campground (additional  sites without hookups) which are completely free for the use of anyone with a Blue Ox product. This is the welcome center which houses current products and where you can make an appointment to have your equipment serviced.

In the past we had our towbar serviced at Escapees' rallies in 2014 and 2016. The cost at the rally each time was $30. (Although I understand that the price might now be $35.) Well, not so at the factory.  The tech came to our site, removed the towbar, and returned it in about 3 hours. I was a bit shocked when the bill came to $125 + tax. Oh well, won't make that mistake again. The tech also indicated that our bar was due for replacement, and not service, the next time around.

I guess that campground site wasn't so free after all.  LOL  Another thing that we wanted to do while at the Blue Ox factory was take a tour. Unfortunately, the Pender area had sustained heavy rains the previous week and the factory had sustained some flooding, so no tours for the next few weeks.

The factory was closed on the 4th of July and we were the ONLY rig in the entire campground.  Nice and quiet at least.

After leaving Pender, NE we spent the next two nights as "overnighters" in the parking lots at Cabelas (Mitchell, SD) and Cabelas (Rapid City, SD). The Mitchell store has a very nice area for RVs and is within walking distance of a few restaurants. We had stayed at this one on a previous trip thru the area.

The Cabelas in Rapid City, SD (our hometown) has a somewhat different feel and policy. Officially, no overnight parking by RVs are allowed within the city limits of Rapid City. Unofficially, when we asked the store management for permission to overnight, they quoted us the Rapid City law, but told us that they didn't mind if we overnighted in their lot. We stayed, and were joined by at least a dozen other RVs that night. (No late night knock on the door by the local police).

Karen had done a bit of internet research and found a pretty cool attraction named "The Dignity Statue" at the Chamberlain, SD rest area (Exit 264). Since we were in no hurry, we pulled off to take a look and to have some lunch. Here's a link to those interested.

It was a very nice (and busy) rest area overlooking the Missouri River.

We stayed the following two nights in rest areas near Hardin, MT and Drummond, MT. The last one was very nice. It was at a higher elevation, trees all around, and a river running behind.

We finally resumed our 2018 summer travel schedule by pulling into the Thousand Trails in Quincy, WA.

The preserve is located along the Columbia River. Tons of water activities in the area, but it sure is HOT on the eastern side of Washington.

We had been forewarned by some of our Palm Creek friends that it would be. This is our first time visiting Washington State and we have stops planned which will take us thru September 5th. 

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Change in Course

Posted from Cabela's lot in Mitchell, SD

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What would one of our summers be without an incident (or 2, or 3). I'm not really sure why we continue to make plans going into a summer. It seems as though we never make it thru an entire summer without something going wrong, or a required change in plans for one reason or another. Well, the summer of 2018 is no exception.  We had planned out our entire summer all the way thru our return to Palm Creek (Casa Grande, AZ) next October.  STUPID US!

Our last blog post was from Kodachrome Basin SP in Utah.  Things were going along very well. The next stop was to be in Mountain Home, ID for a week. (Mountain Home RV Park is very nice, BTW).

We began to set up as we've done a thousand times before. The hydraulic jacks deployed as usual. On our rig, the two passenger side slides are hydraulically operated and the two on the driver's side are electric.  One of the hydraulic slides started out, then stopped.  Uh Oh!  Finally both slides deployed. Several days later I was doing something unrelated to the slides, but I needed to retract one of the hydraulic slides again.  NOTHING! When the slide switch inside the rig was depressed, nothing. No pump noise at all.

At this point I'm not overly concerned yet.  Now I attempt to retract the jacks. NOTHING AGAIN! We now have a totally non-functioning HWH hydraulic system.  No jacks, no slides.  Now I'm worried.

What to do?  I start pouring over the HWH troubleshooting manuals I have stored on the computer and contact some of the "smart guys" on the Tiffin Owner's Forum. A gentleman by the screen name of "Griff" was very helpful in troubleshooting.  Here's what the entire HWH pump/motor/valve assembly looks like on my 2010 Phaeton. It's in the compartment immediately behind the front passenger's side wheel.

The troubleshooting flow chart seemed to indicate that the pump relay might be defective. (I had already checked all of the associated fuses.) In this picture the master relay is located on the left side of the pump motor, and the pump relay is on the right. (The items with the red-colored paint.)

All right.  Making progress. I ordered the pump relay from Amazon and it was due to arrive on Thursday, with us leaving on the following Monday.  Well, due to a screw up on Amazon's part, the part was now "on back order" and wouldn't arrive before our departure date. I immediately got in contact with Amazon and explained that when I ordered the part I was assured that it would arrive in time.  Long story short, they one-day shipped the item and I got it on Friday.

I immediately installed the pump relay.  NO JOY!  Still the same problem.

Now what the heck do we do? I contacted a recommended mobile repair guy and Karen was able to extend our stay until the following Thursday. The regular mobile tech had already left for the day (late on Friday) and they sent out "Bubba" instead.  Bubba knew less about the HWH system than I.  He was able to short across the terminals on the pump relay and cause the pump motor to run. We pulled in the slides and raised all of the jacks.  At this point we still had no clue as to how to proceed.

I went back to studying the HWH diagnostics again and discovered that when the switch was depressed to activate our slides, LEDs #15 and #16 are supposed to light up.  LED #15 indicates that the pump relay is activated, LED #16 indicates that there is power (12v) on that pin. We could get LED #15 to light, but never LED #16.

My misunderstanding of what the diagnostics were telling me earlier was now apparent (I thought).  The pump relay they are referring to is NOT the mechanical pump relay located down by the motor, but it is the electronic pump relay located on the control box circuit board itself (which is soldered on).

At this point, this is my best guess of the problem.  A bad electronic relay on the board.  What to do next.  I could attempt to get in to a local dealer (and be seen in a week or so), and then hope that they had the expertise to troubleshoot the system.  My thought was that even if they could narrow it down to the board, a new control box would need to be ordered. Now we're talking at least a couple of weeks.

I next called HWH in Moscow, IA via telephone to seek there advice.  I made the mistake of telling the calltaker that we were in travel mode (jacks up and slides in). She advised that a tech would call me back, but that there were approximately 100 people ahead of me.  I admittedly became a bit irate at this point and asked her how long would it take to get an appointment if I drove to them (1500 miles away). She transferred me to the service writer and she advised that I could get in next Friday morning at 0830. I told her to put our name on the schedule.  We began our eastward trek on the following Tuesday.

We drove three long days of almost 500 miles each day (long for us) staying in rest areas overnight. We arrived at the HWH factory on Thursday afternoon at approximately 2:00 PM.  HWH has approximately 10 spaces with electric hookups. Their brochure indicated that they have a dump station and water fill, but we didn't investigate further.

I first went in to speak to Ashley (the scheduler) before hooking up in a site. She told me to just pick any site I wanted. I confirmed our 8:30 AM appointment for the next morning. She advised that I could come in earlier if I wanted.  Let me say that everyone at HWH was very friendly and easy to work with. (I guess they are used to "flustered" customers). We pulled the rig in to one of the bays at 8:00 AM. Two techs went over the problem with me. (I was allowed to stay in the bay and watch closely as they worked.) They agreed that my assessment of a bad relay on the control box board might be correct. They removed the entire control box from our rig and sent it in to the inside techs to test the board. By 11:00 AM we were pulling out of the bay with a fully functioning system again. The tech removed the faulty pump relay on the circuit board, replaced it, and the bay techs re-installed everything.  Total price  $99.79.  Wow, I couldn't believe it.  A re-manufactured control box costs about $500-$600 and a new box is pushing $1000.  WE WERE VERY PLEASED WITH EVERYONE AND WITH THE WORK AT HWH!!!!!!


On to the next problem. While overnighting in a rest area, Karen looked over at the kitchen counter and noticed that the countertop was separated from the wall backsplash by about 3/8 inch.  Great, a new problem. I suspected that a support under the countertop had either broken, or had pulled away from the wall. This would have to until our next stop, however. We traveled up to Amana Colonies RV Park with the intention of staying for two nights to a) make certain that the HWH problem was fixed and b) to give me a chance to look more closely at the support system under the countertops. As luck would have it, when we leveled at the campground, the countertop gap had disappeared. I pulled out drawers and examined the structure under the countertops anyway. I saw no broken supports or any indication that they had been pulled away from the vertical wall. We re-sealed the gap with silicone and decide to "watch" it. At this point we were debating whether a trip to Red Bay was in order as we were already half way across the country. We decided not to go to Red Bay and attempt to get back on schedule by picking up our itinerary in Washington state. We had already cancelled several original stops, but our next stay is due to be in Quincy, WA at a Thousand Trails. We shortened our original stay with them and are currently enroute back west again.


Final problem for this blog.  I'm requesting some suggestions on this one for anyone who might have experienced a similar problem.  We have separate Whirlpool washer and dryer units installed in our rig. Karen was doing a load of laundry the other day and noticed that when she used the dryer, the dryer timer knob was running backwards.  Instead of the timer counting down for a particular cycle, the timer was running counterclockwise and increasing drying time for each cycle.  My internet research thus far points to a defective timer/motor unit such as this one.

The difficult part of this repair would be that the dryer will need to be removed from the cabinet before the timer can be replaced.  If this was a home unit the repair could be made in a few minutes. Because the dryer is housed inside of the MH cabinet the removal of the dryer will take much longer than replacing the part.

Again, I welcome any, and all, comments concerning the dryer problem.

Well, that wraps up our latest tales of woe for now. Even though we traveled 1500 miles (each way) to have the HWH system repaired, I feel confident that it was done correctly the first time. Now back to summer fun!  Fulltiming means being flexible!

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!