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RVing message boards => Trip reports, journals, logs => Topic started by: John Stephens on May 26, 2019, 12:30:50 PM

Title: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on May 26, 2019, 12:30:50 PM
When my wife and I bought our Winnebago Adventurer over four years ago, it was a premature purchase because we originally intended to buy a coach upon retirement this year and fulfill our bucket list of visiting as many national parks as possible before getting too old to enjoy traveling cross country. But we pulled the trigger on this unit because we liked the floor plan and it was priced within our budget. Well, we didn't expect to spend an additional $25,000 on repairs, sometimes things you simply wouldn't expect to go wrong, such as having a desiccant bag explode inside the cab a/c system and having the entire system replaced. And it seems like every time we think we have repaired everything that can go wrong, the coach looks at us and says, "Hold my beer." But we finally think we have MOST of the problems resolved and look at the last four years as a gigantic shakedown cruise of sorts, and retirement is finally here.

I retired from full-time employment in 2009 and now work a seasonal job that lasts about six to seven months each year, working the days and hours I request. This year, my last day of work was April 27, only five weeks after having my 15th eye surgery and a month after my wife had an emergency cancer surgery. Judy went back to work the first of May, right after we drove the coach from storage to our driveway. She received her first Social Security check in May, which is what we have been waiting for in order to begin our retirement vacations. Her idea of retirement is to cut back from working six days a week to only three or four but also taking three months off each year to see the country. We have planned out three major trips to be able to see what we want. This year, we will head to the Northwest and visit the Black Hills, Big Horns, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier and then head into Canada to see Banff and Jasper National Parks and take the Icefield Parkway between them since we have been told by many people that it is possibly the most scenic drive in North America. Next year, we plan to go to the Southwest and visit Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, and circle back to Colorado to see Rocky Mountain NP. On each trip, we will head back home to Florida via the Midwest since we have friends and relatives in both St. Louis and Southeast Illinois. For our third trip, we will travel up the Eastern Seaboard to visit the major cities on our way to Maine and then circle around to Niagara Falls on the north side and then head back south.

I will keep a blog of sorts via this forum and update this thread with information about our travels, the roads, our stops, and our trials and tribulations regarding the coach, which I am sure will be numerous.

For now, I will mention that I have readied this coach for the road as much as I can in the past month. Since this will be our most arduous journey to date, traversing the Rockies several times with a gasser + toad, I wanted to make sure it was mechanically as sound as I could. The radiator fluid has been tested and looks good, the tranny fluid was changed 7,000 miles ago, the engine had a complete tuneup at the same time and I just changed the oil and filter in the past week. The generator was serviced 75 hours ago and is running well. All fluid levels have been checked and topped off, this time with the correct fluids. Two years ago, I made the mistake of topping off the parking brake fluid with brake fluid. Makes sense, doesn't it? When I drained the holding tank and got lights coming on my dashboard halfway to the first destination that I had never seen before, I realized it takes ATF, not brake fluid.

My biggest projects this year to get the coach ready was to strip and caulk much of the seal along one side of the roof where it meets the side rail and along the curves in front where the front cap meet the roof and sides. I thought I was going to have to replace the entire caulking on both side rails but realized once I got up to the roof that most of the caulk was still in good shape and doing its intended job. In addition to that, however, my biggest time and labor consumer was to attempt to beautify the coach's exterior. The previous owner apparently didn't know he was supposed to keep the coach waxed and when I bought the coach, the clear coat or gel coat was quickly deteriorating on the sides of the coach where there was no paint or decals. I tried various waxes in past years and was told by a professional crew that I would never get that coach to shine again without repainting it. After researching the subject, I decided to try using ZEP Wet Look Floor Polish after a thorough cleaning and removing all oxidation. The finished job looks pretty good, if I say so myself. It took nearly two weeks to do it right because I realized that the prep work was the most important thing and instead of putting on one thick coat of polish, six thin coats were used. Now, I'm hoping that all I'll need to do is keep it clean and reapply a coat of ZEP once a year.

The coach is still parked in my driveway against city codes. Where I live prohibits any kind of RV parked for more than 48 hours anywhere on your property, but it's okay to have four boats and trailers parked all over your yard. Fortunately, I haven't had any neighbors call code enforcement yet. I'll move it to the level empty lot next door on Thursday evening so I can start the refrigerator since my driveway where it currently resides has a 25-degree slope. Before that, I'll sanitize the fresh water tank and fill it. I usually don't like traveling with more than a half tank full of water, but this time, we don't have a choice since we won't see our first campground with hookups for seven days. I have already begun packing for the trip and by the time the coach is moved out of the driveway, most of what we are taking from the house will be inside the coach. A thorough house cleaning will be done before we go, and hurricane shutters have already begun to be put in place. I am amazed at the amount of work that goes into getting ready for a trip this long, both getting the coach and the house ready. Trying to remember everything that must be done is a chore in itself at my age.

The reason we will be needing a full tank of water is that we dry camp on our way to our various destinations in order to save money and be able to afford nicer campgrounds for the destinations we will visit for lengthy stays. Cracker Barrel parking lots will be the majority of our stops the first five days on our way up to HWH Corp. in Moscow, Iowa. There, we will have our slides and jacks repaired before really beginning our vacation. From there, we will head to Forest City and visit the Winnebago factory and then take two more days to make it to our first vacation stop in Deadwood, SD.

We will leave home next Saturday, on the 1st of June. I'll post an update to this thread as often as possible to give the reader an idea of what we have experienced on the road including road conditions. I was really hoping that we would have seen more done to improve our roads and bridges before these retirement trips, but now it appears those things will be put on the back burner for another indeterminate amount of time. I hope the roads don't cost us repairs as I-10 through Louisiana did three years ago when it made our generator bottom out on its springs and sever the conduit to the transfer switch, rendering us with no electric. Another $1,000 unexpected repair.

Until next time, happy camping!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Alpena Jeff on May 26, 2019, 12:47:49 PM
Exciting times ahead John. Safe travels and enjoy the adventure!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: jackiemac on May 26, 2019, 01:13:51 PM
Hope you both have a great trip after all this  time. Looking forward to your updates and suggestions for things to see and do!

Safe travels.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: darsben on May 26, 2019, 01:33:45 PM
Remember you can fill your tanks for free at Flying J. Just dumping costs money
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on May 26, 2019, 03:41:09 PM
Sounds like some great trips you have planned!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Gizmo on May 26, 2019, 03:47:33 PM
You have earned it, now time to enjoy it and congrats. 
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lou Schneider on May 26, 2019, 03:49:28 PM
Remember you can fill your tanks for free at Flying J. Just dumping costs money

Oh boy, what a deal!  Wait ... you mean with water, right?   ;)
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ArdraF on May 26, 2019, 04:11:37 PM
Just getting ready to leave can be a journey.  I'm happy to hear you're ready to start seeing our wonderful country.  Happy travels!

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Gizmo100 on May 26, 2019, 06:33:28 PM
Be safe in your travels and enjoy.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 01, 2019, 10:05:31 PM
Our first day was very long and arduous. We left the house on time but our check engine light came on two miles from the house. We spent two hours at three different locations to find that no chassis mechanics that can do a diagnostic on a Workhorse engine work on weekends and apparently, there is no one left in Fort Myers that works on Workhorse chassis at all. I took my chances and hit the road hoping it was nothing because the engine seemed to run fine. After about 50 miles, the light went out. Best guess is the engine was 1-½ quarts low on oil after my oil change because I changed it in the driveway that has about a 25 or 30 agree slant so I didn't get an accurate dipstick reading. Lesson learned.

Shortly after the check engine light went out, I lost my cruise control, the dashboard lights began flickering when they shouldn't have been on at all, and the compass direction began blinking. I'm hoping it's a blown fuse, but my best guess is that it's a remnant error of my mechanic who charged me over $800 labor to track down the cause of my driver's door panel going out last year, finding the problem a blown relay in the dashboard. Since I haven't run the coach much since then, it stands to reason I've got a loose wire somewhere. But what I don't understand is what these items - cruise control, dash lights and compass direction - have in common. If any reader has an idea, please share.

Other than those problems, we had a pretty good first day on the road with no bad road issues. We made good time and got decent mileage. The early part of the trip saw us getting 8.1 mpg on flat ground towing four down. When we got into the hills north of Tampa, the mileage dropped to 6.9-7.3, but a lot of that reduction was due to me having a lead right foot hen the cruise control went down. We have stayed on I-75 the entire day and will continue to do so tomorrow with our next stop in Dalton, Ga. Presently, we are parked in a Cracker Barrel after having eaten dinner there, in Lake Park, Ga., right across the Florida line. One reason Judy and I are thinking of moving to Arizona next year is because we're getting tired of taking an entire day to get out of the state we live in. I guess it could be worse; we could live in Texas or Alaska.

Here's a question for anyone who knows - my Chevy owner's manual says I shouldn't tow the Equinox faster than 65 mph. Why? Is it for safety's sake or is there a mechanical reason? I'm asking because since I'm used to using cruise control set at 62, I found myself doing as fast as 69 before realizing it and then backing off. Am I damaging the engine or transaxle if this is done for short periods, or is this anything to even worry about?

The Cracker Barrel we are at has good food and good service, for anyone who might decide to give it a try. We stopped for gas at a Flying J the exit before this one just in the nick of time, as our generator died because we were down to ¼ tank of gas. Price was $2.38 after a Good Sam discount and we dumped our tanks for $7.50. Easy in and out.

I'm going to check my Workhorse owner's manual to see which fuse controls the cruise control and pull it to see if it's blown because the dashboard light for the cruise doesn't even come on. The strange thing is that it worked intermittently for a few minutes before going out completely. Hopefully this will be the only thing wrong and an easy fix. And hopefully, tomorrow will bring no further issues. We are bound and determined to keep our spirits up regardless of what goes wrong with the coach. Now the coach will say, "Hold my beer."
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Gary RV_Wizard on June 02, 2019, 10:24:09 AM
Here's a question for anyone who knows - my Chevy owner's manual says I shouldn't tow the Equinox faster than 65 mph. Why? Is it for safety's sake or is there a mechanical reason? I'm asking because since I'm used to using cruise control set at 62, I found myself doing as fast as 69 before realizing it and then backing off. Am I damaging the engine or transaxle if this is done for short periods, or is this anything to even worry about?

It's a combination of things, but generally not to worry. The major concern with towing an automatic is the heat generated in the transmission and its inability to shed it (no transmission fluid circulating through the cooler in the radiator). The faster you go and the  hotter the weather, the more susceptible it is to heat build-up. It's also a generalized safety concern by the car maker. They don't test towability and the faster you go, the more risk they (and you) are exposed to.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Gary RV_Wizard on June 02, 2019, 10:30:16 AM
Nothing you described sounds like a fuse to me. Could possible be low alternator output (low voltage or inadequate current/amps). Or the loose wire yu mentioned.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 02, 2019, 08:26:37 PM
Day two was better than the first. Biggest problem being our tow cable (electrical) disconnected from the car and dragged on the ground so long, we lost the plug. Not knowing the wiring diagram, I couldn't buy a new plug and wire it. We drove to the Camping World in Macon without lights on the car to save time since they don't open until 10AM on Sundays and found a new cable for $125. I was a bit astounded since I only paid $25 for the first one. I'm not sure why it came unplugged, but am guessing it's because we wrapped the cable around the tow bar because of its length and went too far, not giving it enough slack to take the turns. The cruise control is still gone but the dashboard lights are no longer flickering and the compass reset itself and is now reading correctly. When we set up last night, I dropped the jacks for stability because we were already reasonably level and found my driver's rear did not deploy. That makes two of the four and since both are jacks that still have the original solenoids, I'm pretty sure what's wrong with them. Another $200 to be spent at HWH when we get there on the 6th. I'm wondering if we should change out the rest of the original solenoids in the slide outs since they are all 14 years old and my mechanic mentioned to me that they are all corroding. This could be an expensive trip to HWH if all need replacing along with the slide out work they will do, replacing the teflon pads on the rams.

Then just now as I was typing this, we found out the television has an HDMI input going out. It's a cheap Emerson that the previous owner installed in place of the original CRT, so it won't hurt our feelings if we have to buy a new one. The TV still works but now has only one HDMI input that works. Since we have a Blu-Ray player, Dish, and Apple TV, we need more than one input.

I wasn't in a hurry today and kept my speed to 58-64 most of the way. We ran into three backups that cost us a total of an hour, all three being lane reductions due to road work. I have to give the state of Georgia credit for keeping their roads up. The south half of the state ha all new or repaved lanes on I-75 and they are now working on the north half. The only really bad pavement we ran across was in Atlanta. Our total time on the road today was 9-½ hours when I estimated 8.

Our mileage varied according to terrain, but I think I averaged around 7.1 mpg as far as my 50 mile average on the computer was concerned, with variances from 6.1 in backups to 7.6 on flat ground. It is impossible to determine actual mileage by taking amount of fill ups and miles because we have the generator running at all times to keep the coach cool for the dogs. Gas prices are on their way down. We stopped twice, paying $2.39 and $2.41. If those prices were to hold for the entire trip, I would be tickled since I budgeted an average cost of $2.80 per gallon. I know when we go west, we'll run into higher prices.  Then, I think my budgeted average will hold true.

Toby, our rough Collie, is 3 years old and has ridden in the coach since we got him at age nine weeks. He absolutely loves going for coach trips. Cameron, our smooth Collie, is nearly six and is an adopted rescue who has minor issues with barking and pacing, but seems to love riding in the coach, relaxing and stretching out on the floor or doghouse. Mandy is our one year old mini Aussie, a mix between a standard Aussie and a mini American Shepherd. She is still a puppy at heart and is very high energy. She is having a difficult time relaxing with the drive and always wants in Judy's lap. When that doesn't happen, she camps out at Judy's feet. Today, she seemed to relax a bit more than yesterday, so I'm hoping by the time we get to our first destination, she will have gotten used to the coach and the drive.

People complain about rude drivers a lot, and with good reason. But when you're out on the highways, you come to realize that it's not just the four-wheelers, as the OTR drivers would want you to believe. I have had cars pass me and immediately cut in front of me, not realizing that if they had to stop quickly, I would run over them. But what bothers me most is when a fellow RV'er does the exact same thing when they should know better, or when an OTR driver does it when they are supposed to be the professionals of the road. There are a lot of people on the road that need to exercise some simple courtesy and think of something other than themselves.

We are presently in Dalton, GA and will travel to Decatur, IL tomorrow. Taking Monteagle in southern Tennessee will give me a mild idea of what to expect when we get to the Rockies. This will be the first time we have taken it flat towing. I have decided to call Winnebago tomorrow morning to see if I can make a service appointment for Friday when we get to Forest City. Having them determine the problem with the cruise control will ease my mind and allow me to know whatever they fix or replace will be done right.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ChasA on June 03, 2019, 08:50:54 AM
I don't think Winnebago can help you with the cruise control. I think you need to take it to a Ford or Chevy (depending on which you have) service  shop.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Gary RV_Wizard on June 03, 2019, 09:06:14 AM
It is impossible to determine actual mileage by taking amount of fill ups and miles because we have the generator running at all times

If you estimate genset fuel consumption at 0.5 gal/hour at 50% load, you won't be far off.   Each a/c unit uses about 1.4 kh/hr on a hot day.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Len and Jo on June 03, 2019, 04:20:04 PM
Enjoy.  Remember that it's not really the end points of a trip that count the most but the travels getting there.  Have safe and great travels. 
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 03, 2019, 07:39:21 PM
Gary, that is exactly how I determine rough mileage, but I can never remember how many hours I had the generator on since the last fill up. I have found that the chassis computer is reasonably accurate to within about .3 gallon, so I have simply been watching it.

Chas, I found that out this morning when I called Winnebago. They do very little chassis work, telling me they could change my transmission fluid if I wanted, but could only look at the cruise to the extent of checking for a blown fuse, which I have already done. They suggested finding a Workhorse repair facility. I told them they are becoming few and far between with the only one in my town now refusing to work on RV Workhorse chassis and only choosing to work on trucks. This could feasibly drive down the resale value of any Workhorse RV. Winnebago at least gave me a phone number for Navistar, who bought out Workhorse, so I can get a list of authorized repair centers and possibly find someone in my travels this summer.

I will plan on visiting Winnebago anyway since it was on my itinerary, and the service man who I spoke with told me they might be able to take me on Friday as a non-appointment if they have a cancellation. He said the next appointment they are taking is for September. We will take a tour anyway.

That news, coupled with arguing with Caremark for 90 minutes about a mistake they made that now may cost me being able to get important meds that can't be done without for 90 days made my morning rather stressful, but we chalked it off and enjoyed the countryside since we are now in what we call hill country. Living in SW Florida make one appreciate a change of elevation in any amount. Taking Monteagle on I-24 was a piece of cake, finding me hitting the brakes only twice down the mountain and watching the computer mileage drop to 4.9 on the upside. The overall mileage during the day was about 7.3. This equated well to the actual mileage after assuming generator usage taking 10 gallons for 20 hours of use coming out to 7.1. I'm quite happy with that considering this is a 14 year old gasser.

The roads today were better than the last time we were on I-24, Bad sections still exist in Chattanooga and Nashville, which is to be expected since the large cities have considerably more traffic and both of these sections were concrete rather than asphalt. But most of I-24 outside the cities have been repaved or recovered with asphalt and are much smoother and more enjoyable. In Kentucky, the road once again got bad on both surfaces with plenty of chuckholes and patched chuckholes that are already failing to avoid. We ran across several bad spots that caused ceiling light covers to fall.

Today was the first day we were able to travel without the generator having to run the a/c to stay cool since we are far enough north. At least, that is, until noon when it got hot enough due to the sun beating down on the box we now call home long enough to make it feel like a take and bake oven. We drove to Paducah, KY and are parked in a Walmart parking lot next to 3 truckers. With Walmart only a short walk one direction and a Best Buy a block in the other direction, we may buy a new television for the coach tonight. I mistakenly said last night we would drive to Decatur, IL. A product of age, commonly referred to as Sometimer's Disease or CRS.

We saw the best gas price today when in Chattanooga when we filled the tank for $2.21/gallon. I haven't seen gas that cheap for a year or more. Paducah gas is around $2.47 but we will fill up before we leave because Illinois has some of the highest prices in the Midwest. Without putting pencil to paper, i have to guess our average price per gallon so far has been in the $2.30's, considerably less than expected.

Tomorrow we drive to Mt. Olive, IL so Judy can visit her sister and from there, we'll drive to HWH. From there we will be in country we have never seen before, so I'll begin commenting on the country as we drive through it.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: darsben on June 03, 2019, 09:13:16 PM
I just got through arguing with Caremark for my wife. Dr ordered 6 meds at $20copay each. Caremark only shipped 5 because they have a $100 copay max. They would ship the other when first bill was paid. The way they decided which 5 to ship was the one last on. the list does not ship. A call to my insurer GEHA got it straightened out and now we have a higher copay. limit
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 06, 2019, 11:27:09 PM
We have made it to our first destination in Moscow, IA and we had HWH work on the coach's hydraulic system. Two jacks were not deploying and they replaced the solenoids and fuses. The bushings in the rams of the living room slide had disintegrated and they replaced them. My mechanic told me he would charge $1,800 to do the slide work and that I needed six of the ten solenoids replaced due to corrosion. The other four were replaced within the last three years. Since he marks up all the parts between 100-200% and charges considerably more for labor, he was looking at a cost to do this work of over $5,000. HWH inspected the entire system and told me they don't replace solenoids only because they are corroded because that is simply the nature of the beast and even though some of the bushings in the rams of the dining room slide are cracked, they do not need replacing until they begin to disintegrate and fall out. The entire bill for two solenoids and the bushing replacement was $573, less than what my mechanic would have charged for installing ONE new solenoid. I really would like to find another mechanic, but this guy is the best and cheapest in town. They really commit highway robbery with the RV owners in South Florida.

For the first time in two vacations over the last 12 months, we are now able to deploy all four jacks and have the coach well leveled. While there, I asked if it was all right to use WD-40 on the jack rods when they retract too slow because my owner's manual from 2005 says no, but other people lately have said HWH told them it was all right. They said that using WD-40 lightly by spraying some on a rag and then wiping the rods down is okay, but if you spray WD-40 directly on the rods, as most people do, make sure the excess has been wiped off before retracting the jacks. I asked if using silicone spray was okay because it is even slicker than WD-40, but they told me no, it may be slicker, but it is also gummier and it will gum up the wiper seal and begin to collect dirt, so in the long run, it will actually inhibit the jacks retracting. But - the final word on using WD-40 is yes, it can be used sparingly.

The roads we have taken have been good for the most part. It seems that nearly anywhere there is concrete, you will find bad roads that will tear up the coach if taken too fast. I-24 in Tennessee has been repaved much of the way between Chattanooga and Nashville, and the worst sections are the old, probably original, concrete spots in the city areas. Most of the Illinois roads we took - I-24. I-57 and I-74 - were good. I-64 toward St. Louis had several rough spots. The roads in Iowa are hit and miss. Some are very good, some are under construction with one lane open while they patch the bad spots, and some will make you wish you had taken a different route. It is disappointing to me that the condition of our roads and bridges is so poor. It's time to do something about it.

The coach continues to have problems. While in Paducah, KY at a Walmart, while I was airing up some of the tires, Judy came out and told me the kitchen faucet handle broke off in her hand. We had wanted to replace that faucet anyway because it is so cheap, light and weak, I was afraid it wouldn't last very long. Well, now is the time but I don't want to climb under the sink and replace it with a new one without the right tools. So I told Judy we will move the shaft with our hands until we reach St. Louis where a friend has a faucet wrench and is willing to help.

That day on our way to Mt.Olive, IL, we decided to make a side jaunt about 25 miles out of our way to get a pizza for lunch that we really liked when we lived in the St. Louis area. The place was located in a strip mall with a relatively small parking lot. We got lucky and was able to park sideways, taking up about eight spaces in the very back side of the lot, but when we left, we pulled out onto a side street and just as I was ready to turn right and use the entire street to make the turn properly, a pickup turned right in front of me and stopped. Not able to use his lane, I cut the wheel more than I should and took out the quarter panel over the rear wheel well and the compartment door for the propane tank by catching a fire hydrant, not knowing it was happening because it was beyond my mirror. Only when I saw in the mirror that I was ready to hit the hydrant with my car did I realize I was too close. So it was a $500 pizza. What makes me feel the worst is the fact that I spent two weeks getting the coach looking good - better than when I bought it - and now, it looks terrible on one side. I turned it into my insurance company and let them know there is no hurry to get an estimate because I won't get it repaired until we return home in three months. It sure would be nice if I could get it repaired while we're on the road, but the places where we'll be stationary for long enough are spots we probably won't have RV collision centers, such as Yellowstone and Glacier.

Today, while driving toward Winnebago in Forest City, I realized I had no hazard flashers. When I got to Winnebago, I realized I also had no turn signals. My first thought was more electrical issues to go along with the cruise control not working and the compass reading incorrectly and refusing to be recalibrated. But it turned out to be a blown fuse, an easy fix that cost me nothing. We also had a noise pop up in the a/c while we were getting that expensive pizza that made me think a compressor was going out, but after a few hours, it went away. That makes me suspicious because problems usually don't fix themselves.

We have had no issues with water conservation yet. Yesterday, we stopped at a Flying J and dumped our tanks and refilled the fresh water tank. Knowing that we can do this while on the major highways allows us to do laundry and take showers every day. This is the longest we have ever gone without stopping at a campground and hooking up. Dry camping isn't difficult if you use some common sense.

Even with the problems with the coach, we are keeping our spirits up and enjoying this trip. We are seeing parts of the country we have never seen before and after updating my Garmin's software and maps, I am depending on it to keep me on the right path. It has had us take routes we thought were wrong, but found out later there was a good reason because it knows what the traffic ahead is like and we don't. The only time I have found it trying to tell me wrong was today when it told me to go south and take three of the four loops of a cloverleaf from one highway to the other when all I had to do was go north on one entrance ramp. That made no sense to me.

Mandy, our mini Aussie seems to have gotten used to riding in the coach after only about four days. She still has to be close to Mommy but will now stretch out on the doghouse instead of always trying to climb into Mommy's lap. The boys are doing fine, staying in back, laying on the floor or couch and only coming forward when it's time to go potty. They are really good about letting us know. Knock on wood, but we haven't had any accidents yet with the dogs. I wish I could say the same thing about my own driving.

Tomorrow, I try at 7AM to get Winnebago to look at my coach without an appointment. If I get lucky and find they have a cancellation and can fit me in, I'll have them change the transmission fluid because it is getting dark, even though it doesn't smell burned yet. I want to make sure the transmission is in the best shape before I hit the Rockies. They told me over the phone that although they don't do chassis work, they can at least take a look at the cruise control problem and try to figure out what is wrong. If it's a wiring problem, they might be able to fix it. I also want to see if they have gutter extensions that will fit on this coach and install new windshield wipers. I also want to see if they have smaller steering wheels than the one I have. Mine is 18" and I would like to go down to a 16". I saw several at the I-80 Truck stop in Walcott, Iowa but don't have a wheel puller so I can't buy one and put it on myself. We are also going to try to take a tour of the factory while we are there. We'll stay there again tomorrow night and then begin our final leg to our first real vacation destination and campground in Deadwood, SD.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 08, 2019, 10:59:57 PM
Friday saw us at Winnebago all day. We stayed in the Rally campground for two nights and were very pleased with the facilities. The sites were level, there were dump stations galore and a water spigot to refill your holding tank. I showed up at Customer Service at 7AM and was told to check back at 11:40 which I did, only to find out they had been trying to get in touch with me since 7:20 but my phone had no service in this area. They were able to take the coach that day without a problem. I told them I wanted them to change or flush the transmission fluid, check the cruise control to see if they could repair it or if I would have to take it to a Workhorse chassis shop, and install new wiper blades. I forgot to ask them about the steering wheel and if it could be replaced, but I'm sure it can.

Within an hour, the tech came back out with a paper towel of my transmission fluid on one line and a brand new fluid on another line, and told me this is what the fluid should look like. I told him I knew that already and that was why I asked him to change it. Although it doesn't smell burned yet, I simply don't like the fact that it has turned brown already after only 12,000 miles. He agreed, but then told me they tested my fluid and found nothing wrong with it. His guess was that the mechanic that changed it last put some kind of additive in the fluid that made it turn from red to brown prematurely. He told me I didn't need a fluid change and to simply smell the fluid to determine when it needed changing. That appeared to save me $300. He told me he thought they knew what was wrong with the cruise control and they were going to try a couple of new parts when they arrived from a different building, and the wiper blades were already installed. He made it sound like we would be finished within an hour or two. That was at 12:30.

At 4:15, he came back out to give me the bill and tell me everything was done. He said the problem with the cruise was the switch in the multi-function lever, or the turn signal lever. It had to be replaced. He told me the total bill was $723 when I expected to hear something around $4-500 so I asked him to show me the breakdown of the charges. The lever cost $295 and it took 2.1 hours @ $135/hr. to repair it, including test driving the coach to make sure it worked. So to fix the cruise cost almost $600. The wiper blades were $80. I guess between the two shops, I came out with just about what I expected; less at HWH and more at Winnebago, so I can't complain.

Except for the fact that the driver's rear jack still isn't deploying after they changed out the solenoid. And now I can't return to HWH to have them look at it because I'm well past that point in my travels. I'll call or write to them Monday and ask what can be done. Hopefully, there will be something I can do myself that will correct the problem. I didn't field test it while there because they told me they had tested it twice. I took their word for it and believe it probably did work for them. We just have to figure out why it isn't working now. And until I get it fixed, I'll have to get lucky with where I park.

Roads - the roads in Iowa from when we left Winnebago in Forest City were good. As soon as we got to the Minnesota line, they turned to horse hockey. We climbed onto I-90 and promptly were taken down to one lane and eventually were worked over to the oncoming traffic so the westbound lanes could be completely taken out and rebuilt. Good thing, because these land in the worst five roads I have seen. There was a short section of new pavement that rode well, but most of I-90 through this state is so old, the pavement looks red.

As soon as we got to South Dakota, the roads became good again and all the way to Mitchell, which is where we presently are, we have not had problems other than the typical lifted edge of the pavement every now and then.

Sites - Since we had nothing to do Friday except wait to hear from Customer Service, we took the factory tour at Winnebago and found it totally fascinating to see how things are actually made from scratch in the upholstery shop and then watched the assembly line and how they install everything on these RV's, working together as a team.

When the tour guide found out we were headed west from there, he asked if we were driving through Mitchell, SD. I told him we were staying the night there on Saturday, so he told me to go see the Corn Palace while we were there. So when we got here this afternoon, we unhitched and drove to the downtown area to visit this phenomenon. It's free, and if you want to kill a couple of hours, it will give you something to do. The murals made out of corn cobs are rather interesting forms of art and reasonably well done. What impressed me the most was the prices in their gift shop. What we paid $12 for when buying trinkets to take home would have cost us over $30 in some of the tourist traps in Florida.

Yesterday, I hit the wall from being so tired from driving too many days in a row. After getting a good night's sleep, the drive today was easy other than driving into a head wind all day. My mileage was a pitiful 6.5 on average, a full 1 mpg lower than what I have been getting. And the gas prices are now beginning to climb as we head out west. This morning, I filled up for $2.48/gal in Forest City and again for $2.50 in Sioux City, but the prices here in Mitchell are $2.65 and higher. I know that by the time I'm in Nevada, the prices will be north of $3.25.

We are just now beginning to take photos of the countryside because we are finally getting into some rolling hills instead of just flat farmland. I expect tomorrow will bring even more drastic of a change of scenery since we will end the day in the Black Hills.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on June 08, 2019, 11:24:14 PM
I've never even thought about my transmission fluid, how often does that need to be done?
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Bill N on June 09, 2019, 07:14:37 AM
Good luck on your trip John.  By now you have probably already passed Exit 131 on I-90 which is the turnoff for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, one of my first homes as a USAF missileman.  You will like the Black Hills and, I haven't been there in years, but Deadwood was always interesting.  We haven't even dewinterized our Adventurer yet as we still are involved with tornado repairs to our sticks and brick and it looks like that may take all summer.  I wanted to revisit the Minuteman Historic Site again this summer as I haven't been there since 1963 when we had 10 live Minuteman missiles under our control.  Hope your repairs in the future don't overwhelm you as I seem to find some new repair required with every trip.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lou Schneider on June 09, 2019, 12:42:31 PM
I've never even thought about my transmission fluid, how often does that need to be done?

Usually every 30,000 miles or sooner in heavy duty service, check your motorhome chassis owner's manual.  Of more importance than mileage is the condition of the fluid.  Drip some from the transmission dipstick onto a piece of paper and look at it's color. 

New fluid is a vibrant red and the red color fades as it ages.  Excessive heat will make it age faster, and pushing a motorhome through the air at highway speeds or climbing a grade generates heat in the transmission.  If the fluid has turned anything beyond a light brown or has black specks in it it needs to be changed ASAP.  Black fluid is very bad news and the transmission needs to be serviced NOW.   

Also sniff the end of the dipstick, if it smells like burnt toast the fluid has burned and needs to be changed ASAP.

Having good transmission fluid is the primary factor that determines how long your transmission will last.

Here's a site with lots of good information, but cut his suggested change intervals in half due to the heavy duty use in a motorhome (your owners manual should agree): ( (
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on June 09, 2019, 12:53:59 PM
Ah ok, that's why it's not on my radar, I have a ways to go. Thank you, great info!!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 09, 2019, 01:33:40 PM
X2 for everything that Lou said, but I’ll add one thing. My owner’s manual says to change the fluid every 50,000 miles, so don’t pay attention to it. 30-35,000 miles is all you’re going to get with motor homes, especially if you tow.

Bill, sorry to hear about your home. I hope it doesn’t take all summer.

On the road right now at a rest area around mm170. We’ll see the minuteman site when we drive back in the car to visit the Badlands. This morning, I got a late start because it took the driver’s front Jack 45 minutes to retract and I had to flip the release on the brand new driver’s rear Jack solenoid because when I tried to deploy last night, it dropped about an inch and wouldn’t come up this morning. I don’t know if the problem is the new solenoid or wiring. For a while, I thought I was going to have to listen to the alarm all day. Email to HWH will hopefully be answered tomorrow.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: darsben on June 09, 2019, 03:38:13 PM
Blackstone labs oil analysis isa perfect solution for transmission oil change frequency. Send a sample and see what they recommend then send another every 15000 miles or so
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Robert K on June 09, 2019, 07:24:58 PM
Amanda , your Thor is on a ford chassis isn't it. If you need fluid change before your trip(I would recomend) 
I think it is Genesee Ford right off of 390 Avon exit,I allways see MH there for service.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on June 09, 2019, 07:52:32 PM
Amanda , your Thor is on a ford chassis isn't it. If you need fluid change before your trip(I would recomend) 
I think it is Genesee Ford right off of 390 Avon exit,I allways see MH there for service.
It is, thank you, that's very close to home. I'll do that!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 12, 2019, 09:00:27 PM
On Sunday, we made it to Fish N Fry RV Campground, our first "vacation" destination. This is a rustic park, inexpensive and for good reason since it doesn't have cable tv, it's too far removed from society to pick up OTA stations, it has weak wi-fi and very weak cell service, at least with AT&T. But the sights are beautiful, with it located within the Black Hills National Forest south of Deadwood, SD.

The sites have a problem with flooding and slick mud after rains, which this time of year are plentiful. Since getting here, it rained yesterday off and on all day and night, forcing us to move our grill to drier ground in order to use it tonight. Our next door neighbor who pulled in yesterday told us they had to wait an entire day before hooking up their sewer connection because the dump pipe was under water. The biggest problem it has given us has been the back jacks continually needing readjustment from settling. I had to put 2x12's under the jack pads to give the jacks some extra height. But each site comes with its own fire pit, grill and picnic table, the site is gravel and at least started out reasonably level, and a fast running brook runs behind every site that feeds a pond that has been filled with rainbow trout that can be caught and fried for $ .75 per inch and an extra $5.75. Judy and I plan to go fishing on Friday for our dinner.

HWH responded to my emails yesterday with good news, telling me that if the jack retracts immediately upon flipping the valve, it means the solenoid was bad off the shelf and they will replace it, giving me the choice of them shipping one to me at the place of my choice, something that could be difficult since we're not landing in one spot for a decent length of time for the next couple of weeks, or having me go to one of their authorized dealers and have them swap it out for another one. I wrote a dealer in Kalispell, MT this morning to see if they could do the work when we get there in about a month. I'm willing to live with having to flip the valve every time we need to retract the jacks for that long. At least it deploys, which is more than it did before I visited HWH. I have to give kudos to HWH for their customer service as well as their prices and attitude regarding not wanting to repair or replace any part that hasn't shown the need to do so. They checked out my entire system while there and told me the only thing I needed was what I had asked them to do: replace the bushings on the longest slide and replace the solenoids on the two jacks that wouldn't work. I told them my home town mechanic wanted to replace every solenoid even if they were working because they were corroding. HWH said, "Why? It's the nature of the beast. They are going to corrode in an outside environment. Don't replace them until they stop working." Same with the opposing slide that had bushings that were cracking. They told me there was no need to replace them when they crack; only when they begin to fall out. They will cover the cost of both parts and labor for the upcoming warranty repair, so the only thing I'll be out will be a little time and inconvenience.

The roads from my last report have still been good throughout South Dakota. The route from I-90 to Deadwood gave me my first taste of a 7% grade while towing four down. At first, I tried to keep a reasonable speed of 40 mph but the auxiliary fan kept kicking in and out and I thought I smelled burning tranny fluid, so I allowed the coach to slow down to 24 mph to keep the rpm's below 3,000. It made me realize that this is what will have to be done when get into Wyoming, Montana and the Canadian Rockies. I checked the tranny fluid when we got to the campground and it still smelled good.

This almost 15 year old coach is still doing pretty well other than the issues already discussed. But we really want to get new shades since the day/night shades that came with the coach have seen their best days. We're thinking of getting MCD shades one at a time to make them affordable. The only other serious problem we are experiencing is not being able to use our WifiRanger. I spoke to one of their techs today for over an hour and it was determined that my unit needs a firmware update and that cannot be done until I get to an area that has better wifi or cell service. We'll deal with it on Sunday when we leave this RV park.

I was so burned out from being on the road for nine days straight, we decided to stay in Monday and simply rest and recuperate. We did some badly needed house cleaning after brushing the dogs and trimming their nails and just took it easy. I ordered Dish since we don't have any television here and dragged out the Pathway X2 that hadn't been used for about three years.

On Tuesday, we packed the dogs in the Equinox and set out for the Badlands. We stopped at the Minuteman Missle Historic Site and I found that a fascinating trip back to my childhood when seeing giant photos of grade school kids crouching underneath their desks and remembering the constant threat of nuclear war, always wondering if and when Russia was going to drop the big one on us and where it was going to hit. From there, we went to the Badlands, a fascinating place of colors, walls, valleys and canyons.

During our trip, I was in contact with Silver Script for a total of more than two hours because they refused to allow me a 90 day supply of two drugs I need. Caremark mistakenly sent these drugs to my house after I left on vacation and after I had called them and cancelled the order. I then had my doctor write new scripts for the local CVS pharmacy so I could pick them up at any location through the country. But since Caremark had mistakenly not cancelled the order after I asked them to and shipped the drugs, they now will not fill another 90 day order. No exceptions to be made, even after going through three levels of management. So I picked up a 30 day script for both drugs and will have to call my doctor and have him write more new scripts for other drugs or other dosages of the same drugs so I can cover the other 60 days. i promised SilverScript that I would let every person I can know that their customer service is quite lacking. From now on, I'll stop the mail order service through Caremark and have my doctor write scripts only to the local CVS.

Today, Judy and I left the dogs in the coach and took off for Devils Tower. It was a very enjoyable drive, but we found that when we got to Wyoming, the condition of I-90 changed for the worse and we will have to take sections of that highway by driving in the inside lane. Devils Tower was quite impressive and I'm glad it had been on my bucket list since Spielberg called the public's attention to it when he made a movie about alien visitors. I recommend it to anyone  interested in national monuments. In my opinion, this is a must see.

Tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be good so we'll head south to Crazy Horse, Custer and maybe Mt. Rushmore if we have the time. We're trying to squeeze in more than we should in one day because the forecast is rain beginning Friday and lasting until next Wednesday. We will most likely pull up camp on Sunday in the rain.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Bill N on June 13, 2019, 07:10:44 AM
Great post John. Since we lived in Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base for 9 years back in the 60s  I am familiar with your surroundings. Glad to see you got to visit the Minuteman site.  I was  on the first launch crew to accept that site from Boeing in July 1963.  It was the first flight of 10 missiles to be turned over to the Air Force and that wing eventually had 150 Minuteman missiles.

Fish & Fry is also a very favorite memory of mine and my sons.  In 1965, on our first camping trip in our new Red Dale 15' travel trailer to Robaix Lake which is just south of Deadwood on the same highway as Fish & Fry, I took my son fishing and we had zero luck.  He was very young and that was his first fishing trip so I decided to go to the Fish & Fry which was only a fishing lake and had no campground yet and let him fish there for a bit.  It was worth it to see the smile on his face and he caught a couple and they cleaned and packed them in ice for us.

You are right about Devil's Tower - a must see.  Keep us traveling with you on your posts.  Very enjoyable reading and I hope you get your jack problems fixed in Montana.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 13, 2019, 09:38:32 PM
Today was the nicest weather we have seen since getting to the Black Hills, getting up the low 70's and staying sunny most of the day. We got a decent early start at 8AM, left the dogs in the coach again, and headed to Crazy Horse.

I was disappointed with Crazy Horse. It has a $12 per person entry fee and another $4 for catching the bus to get close enough to the monument to take pictures. The $12 entry fee is for allowing you into the buildings that house genuine Native American artifacts, a theater, a gift shop and most importantly, the rest rooms. That's an expensive pay toilet.

You are not allowed to walk the ¾ mile to the monument; you must take the bus. Although the bus tour guide was quite informative and humorous, I feel the bus ride should have been included in the entry fee.

My disappointment with the monument is due to the fact that they have been working on this monument since 1948, 71 years, and only have part of the face and left arm cut. Granted, this is a massive monument, considerably larger than Mt. Rushmore, and when finished, will be the largest monument in the world, several times larger than the Egyptian pyramids and Sphinx. But they admit that at the rate they are going, it won't be finished for another 100 years. No one was working on it while we were there. They are proud of the fact that they have received no state or federal funding for this project; all their monies come from the public admission fees. But to charge $16 per person to see a monument from a quarter mile away that is roughly 25% finished is excessive. Yes, it is much larger than Mt. Rushmore, but I was moved when I saw the latter and felt robbed when viewing the former. And since both Judy and I have Native American heritage, I can honestly say this opinion is not racially motivated.

From there, we decided to skip Custer State Park until tomorrow and drive to Mt. Rushmore. In retrospect, I feel it was an excellent idea to go from one monument to another so we could make a more accurate comparison. We chose to skip Custer for now because we spent considerably more time at Crazy Horse than we thought we would and assumed correctly that we would do the same at Rushmore. The drive between the two was great; I love driving on mountain roads and it gave me a chance to see what our new Equinox could do in terms of handling and pickup. It excelled in both and I was quite impressed in this SUV with a 1.5L engine that I bought for my wife.

If I had to describe Mt. Rushmore in one word, I think I would use "awesome." Regardless of how patriotic you are, seeing this monument and learning how it came to be will drop your jaw. We opted for the audio self guided tour and spent close to two hours walking the path in front of the monument. One reason I felt this monument was more impressive than Crazy Horse was because this monument was completed in 14 years. There are a lot of steps to climb and we both learned just how out of shape we are since both of us recently had surgeries from which we just recovered. Our cost was minimal; we got a 50% discount on parking and paid $5 instead of $10, and we paid $10 for both of us to have audio wands instead of the normal $25 because we had the senior national park pass. Since we only paid $10 for this pass before the price rose to $80, it has paid for itself many times over just in the past week. But back to the subject, I strongly recommend seeing Mt. Rushmore to anyone that visits the Black Hills. Plan on being there for at least two to three hours to fully appreciate the site.

I haven't heard from the RV dealer I wrote to about the jack solenoid warranty replacement, so I'll call them tomorrow to determine if they can do the work. I'm glad all the jacks are deploying because we are having trouble with the coach continually sinking on one side due to the rain this area has received. I took four 2x12's with us in the event we needed more than the plastic jack pads we use, and have used all of them, two under the jack that has the bad solenoid. I have wondered if, since we know the valve is bad, maybe it is leaking and allowing the jack to retract a little, but every time I look at it, it appears to be deployed the same amount as the last time, so I'm apt to believe it's the soil and gravel sinking. Speaking to the management about it, he seemed to understand the problem, as though this isn't the first time he's seen it, and he told me he has extra blocks to put under the jacks if I need them. When we returned this afternoon from our journey, the list was so bad, I had to turn off the refrigerator until I could get it leveled, and then reinstall the Dish antenna because its position had changed on top of the coach.

I had an interesting conversation with my next door neighbor when we returned today. He has a '99 Gulf Stream, about the same size as ours. He says he's got 90,000 miles on it and has never pulled the engine cover off of it. I asked him if he has ever changed the plugs and wires and he said no, it doesn't have wires, with each plug having a dedicated coil, and the plugs are still going strong, so he isn't going to fix it if it isn't broken. Well, more power to him. I wish I had that kind of luck with mine.

Tomorrow we will pick up where we left off today, driving the same route but a little farther to Custer State Park and if we have time, down to Wind Cave. This will complete our bucket list of things to see at this location other than spending a half day in Deadwood and Lead, which we can do on Saturday before we begin packing up to drive to our next location, Ten Sleep, WY. I am sure that driving a gasser and towing four down will prove interesting when traversing the Big Horn Mountains.

Bill, thank you for the kind words. Tonight, Judy and I decided we were hungry for fish so we headed down to the office where we were given rods and reels and told to catch our own fish. The pond is so well stocked, it took Judy and I both less than a minute to hook fish. She caught a 12" and I caught a 15" rainbow trout. They prepped and fried the fish for us and we had a good meal. The dogs got jealous when they smelled fish on our breath.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Bill N on June 14, 2019, 06:51:22 AM
WOW what a difference in the many years since we left the area. Crazy Horse was not much less finished than you mention - Korzack (sp?) Ziokowski (sp?) was still alive and he and his family were pretty much the only workers. Keep in mind that was at least 50 years ago.  No charge to see what he was doing but donations were accepted.

As for Rushmore, it has always been an inspiring place but sounds like it got a lot more expensive.  On all of our many visits while residents of the area there was no charge to park or view the monument but, since then, the entire visitors center has been torn down and rebuilt and there was no walking path with a lot of steps as you mention.  For me, if there are steps, I am not a player anymore.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are truly beautiful and we used to enjoy exploring the back country on the gravel roads that led to some great fishing like Deerfield Lake where we did a lot of night fishing.  Enjoying your posts and when you leave the Black Hills you will be taking us on places we have never been so keep those posts coming.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on June 14, 2019, 08:34:39 AM
Will you be driving the RV down to Wind Cave or leaving it parked and taking the car? I've read (maybe it was even on this site, I don't remember) that driving through Custer SP is impossible with an RV.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: UTTransplant on June 14, 2019, 10:25:31 AM
Will you be driving the RV down to Wind Cave or leaving it parked and taking the car? I've read (maybe it was even on this site, I don't remember) that driving through Custer SP is impossible with an RV.
You certainly can drive through Custer SP in a motorhome, but not all the roads are suitable. The Wildlife Loop is only for cars IIRC, and don’t even think of going down Needles Highway! But much of the park is accessible, though it is definitely best in a car. There are a number of campsites in the park suitable for bigger RVs too.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 14, 2019, 10:43:06 AM
Will you be driving the RV down to Wind Cave or leaving it parked and taking the car? I've read (maybe it was even on this site, I don't remember) that driving through Custer SP is impossible with an RV.

Amanda, I chose our campground specifically because it was a centralized location for all there is to see in this area. That way, we don't have to take the coach anywhere. Yesterday, we drove the car to Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore and today we'll drive it to Custer SP. i wouldn't trust being able to take the rig, especially while towing the car, to any of the state or national parks with its length being about 58'. On all of our stops, we will be in a campground outside the parks we will visit, and then drive the car to the various thing we want to see.

Getting ready to leave now, the wife is walking the dogs for the last time. I'll post today's travels tonight.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: solarman on June 14, 2019, 10:49:03 AM
You certainly can drive through Custer SP in a motorhome, but not all the roads are suitable. The Wildlife Loop is only for cars IIRC, and don’t even think of going down Needles Highway! But much of the park is accessible, though it is definitely best in a car. There are a number of campsites in the park suitable for bigger RVs too.

or even better on a motorcycle.. especially when stopped in a herd of buffalo on the road, close
enough to feel their breath on my arm !!  :o :o

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on June 14, 2019, 03:13:27 PM
Ok, I want to do Needles Highway, it's om my list, so we'll park and take the car.
Thank you!
Ps- sounds like such a great trip!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 14, 2019, 07:22:47 PM
We just back from Custer and I must say that it has gone to the top of my list for favorite places to visit, just ahead of Yosemite.

We picked a bad day to go for seeing wildlife because it rained most of the day, sometimes very hard and there were a number of lightening strikes close by due to all the iron in the mountains. We were able to see two male bison apart from any herd grazing a couple hundred feet from the road, a group of burros next to the road, and two herd of bison so far away from the road, all you could make out were black spots. I'll blow up the photos we took and see if we can make out the individual animals. No antelope or sheep. I would imagine most of the animals were trying to stay dry, just like us.

After doing a minimal amount of research, we decided we would have the time to take two roads: the Wildlife Loop and the Needles Road. The Iron Mountain Road sounded like something we would like to see, but we took the Wildlife Loop from the west side and could only take either Iron Mountain or Needles, not both without doubling back, and we didn't have time for that. We left the dogs in the coach and didn't want to stay gone for more than six or seven hours.

What was said about these roads is correct; you cannot take them in a large coach. We saw several Class C's on Wildlife Loop and a couple of small 5'ers and A's, several trailers, but nothing very large. I think most of these RV's were coming from campgrounds that did have easy accessibility, but further down the road there were a number of switchbacks that I would not try to take my 39 footer down. On the Needles Road, there are numerous switchbacks, hairpins, and three tunnels a decent sized coach would not make it through. The Needles Eye near the end of the road is a tunnel that has a 9' clearance and is 8' wide. When we got up to it, a smaller than average tour bus was attempting to enter the tunnel. We waited for over 20 minutes while the bus driver got his bus positioned and pointed exactly right because he had absolutely no clearance. Why any tour bus driver would attempt to do this is beyond my comprehension. But he made it. When we finally were able to enter the tunnel, we could touch the side walls on both sides at the same time - that's just how little clearance there was, and this was in a small SUV. We saw the bus parked a mile down the road at a lodge. From a distance, it didn't appear as though it had lost anything.

While the Wildlife Loop didn't live up to our expectations from the rain, the Needles Road made up for it. The formations of rock that appear like needles standing straight up in the air are fascinating and worth dozens of pictures at the numerous turnoffs available on the road. But then the road travels up into the needles so you are even with them! I would post pictures of them but I can't get my photo editor to make them small enough for the forum to accept them. This road is a must see for anyone visiting Custer State Park.

Entry to the park costs $20 per car or $10 per motorcycle and the pass is good for a week. We stopped at one welcome center (there are several because there are several entrances) that had an excellent display of the history of the park and a very good education about bison. I never knew bison and buffalo were two different animals, always thinking the names were interchangeable. A theater inside shows an 18 minute film about the park narrated by Kevin Costner and shot from a helicopter, giving you a very good view of much of the scenery. If I ever have the chance to return to the Black Hills, and I think I might put it on a future list, I will definitely go back to Custer State Park.

At present, it is pouring down rain again and I think the burgers I was going to grill will be cooked indoors instead. Tomorrow, we will drive into Deadwood and check out some of the casinos, comparing them to the Vegas casinos we used to work in and frequent when we lived there.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 17, 2019, 12:49:46 AM
Yesterday, Saturday, was a take it easy day since it was the last day we had until hitting the road again. A bit of housework, computer work, making out the bills for the next month, and then heading into Deadwood to see a little bit of the town. We didn't know we had picked Wild Bill Days this weekend, an annual event with a lot of activities and several decent musical groups including Tracy Byrd. We walked down Main Street, saw where Hickok got shot, where his killer was caught, grabbed a pizza at a local bar, and played video poker at two of the only machines we saw in the entire town, playing for over an hour and losing only $16.75 between the two of us. This is little more than a tourist trap town, but we expected that.

Today, we got up and out in less than 90 minutes, getting better and faster at our PTI and hitching up the car. For the first time, we had an issue with the slides going in and I thought we were going to have to get a new motor and pump installed just after visiting HWH a week ago, but it turned out to be a weak chassis battery after having sat all week without being charged from driving. I told my wife to start the coach and then try it, and it worked. We dodged another bullet. It took me a little longer than it should have to hit the road today because earlier in the week, I had put our satellite dish on top of the coach to get a good signal and today had to climb up and take it down. Tonight, the dish could not be used.

We drove west on I-90, catching some bad concrete after the state line into Wyoming for a few miles, but we avoided most of it by driving in the inside lane until we could tell the road was once again good enough to keep from shaking the coach to pieces. I watched the elevation continue to rise on the Garmin for much of the trip today until it peaked out at 9,700 ft in the middle of the Big Horn National Forest. The mountains are spectacular there and at our highest, we were level with snow still on the ground. In June! The drive was rough at times because it rained much of the way, causing us to be extra cautious when going back down the 6% grade on wet roads. The slowest the coach ran was 20 mph when climbing the 8% grade up to the top. The worst mileage according to the computer was 4.9 mpg and the best was 15.8 coasting back down the other side. I'm hoping this will be indicative of what we will see for the rest of the Rockies as far as engine and transmission performance are concerned.We filled up in Gillette for $2.50/gal.

We spent two hours off the road trying to get the WiFiRanger working by downloading new firmware, and it turned out to be a complete waste of time. The tech working with me on the problem told me he will ship me a new system when I can give him a shipping address. I'll have to see if my campground in W. Yellowstone will accept packages.

We got into Ten Broek RV Park at 5:15 just as the owners were closing up the office. They told me to park the coach for the night and then come back to the office and settle up. Nice folks. But the campground is old and has the hookups on the wrong side of the RV with the water and electric on the right. And, the sewer could not be hooked up because the pipe is in a concrete encasement in the ground and my connector wouldn't fit. We'll dump in the morning, not a big deal.

But the big disappointment was not being able to get the Dish satellite dish to work. Apparently, some of those bad roads took their toll because we have lost communication between the cable connection inside the outer compartment and the other end that connects to the receiver. Just to troubleshoot the problem, I connected the cable from the dish directly to the receiver through a window, and it worked so I know it isn't the outside cable. It makes sense that the problem is at one end or the other since in between, there should be nothing but wiring, the connections that could be shaken loose being on both ends, so I'll look at those places first.

Another issue we had was the jack that has the bad solenoid didn't want to deploy. Apparently, this morning when I flipped the valve open to retract the jack, I must have disconnected the wiring harness. A simple fix.

This is a primitive campground with no television stations or cable, but good, strong wi-fi. possibly because the campground isn't full. The owners are friendly and accommodating and the price is reasonable.

Fish N Fry in Deadwood has very friendly owners that make you want to return, but only at a different site. We had problems all week long with flooding from rain and sinking in, even with a gravel pad. Every morning when I got up, I could tell the coach was no longer level. I also have never had water as bad as this at anywhere in the United States. Maybe as this trip progresses, I'll find out there is a lot of iron in the water in different locales, but this water was a real shocker. Yellow to brown every morning, you didn't want to shower or rinse out your mouth after brushing your teeth because of the smell and taste. Very strong iron taste making you think you were eating rust. The first morning, I accused Judy of not flushing the toilet because the water was yellow. When I flushed the toilet, I realized I owed her an apology. It made me wonder what our clothes were going to smell like. I refused to fill my holding tank with this water, choosing to wait until we got to a different spot. Now that I'm a few miles further down the road, but in the mountains, I am realizing we might be in for the same thing for much of this trip because the water at this campground isn't any better.

Tomorrow, we head to Cody by way of the Gooseberry Badlands. I don't have a reservation for that town, so we'll have to hope the RV parks aren't completely full on a Monday. We plan on staying there for a couple of days and then backtrack down to Dubois.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 18, 2019, 10:57:11 PM
Yesterday, we drove to Cody. We had planned on taking the road past the Gooseberry Badlands, WY421, but it snuck up on us so quickly, I couldn't make the turn with an 18 wheeler breathing down my back without him seeing what I had in the toad. So we took the long way through Thermopolis but still made good time and enjoyed the scenery. Near the end of the trip a few miles outside of Cody, the road, WY120, got so bad, I thought I was on I-10 driving through Louisiana again. Since I lost my generator on that trip due to it bottoming out on its springs and severing the conduit to the transfer switch leaving us with no electric, I decided that this time I would slow down to a crawl to make the bumps caused from poorly patched raised slab edges much more reasonable, and I think we made the trip without damage.

Since we didn't have reservations for this town, I called Absaroka Bay RV Park Monday morning and had no problem getting a spot. With Good Sam discount and only a 4% Wyoming sales tax, the price was very reasonable at $39 per night. We decided to stay two nights so we could see the northeastern quadrant of Yellowstone along with the town and what it has to offer.

When we arrived, we found a nice campground with plenty of room between sites, good utilities, a friendly and helpful manager, and a lot of dogs for ours to bark at and spend plenty of time and energy sniffing out who had been in the dog walk area for the past couple of weeks. That afternoon, we grabbed a pizza on Main St. and walked several blocks looking for things to take back home. We wanted to see the western museum but needed a third day for that, so it got skipped.

Today, we wanted to see the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway. We didn't realize that meant we had to drive all the way to Fishing Bridge and essentially cover the northeastern quarter of Yellowstone. While in Montana, we paid $3.20/gal for gas, the highest of the trip thus far. Fortunately, we dealt with little slow traffic and were able to make the trip in eight hours, the limit we want to leave the dogs in the coach. We missed a couple of sites I would have liked to have seen, but will have the chance to pick them up when we stay in W. Yellowstone for two weeks. I think this was the correct decision to see this portion of the park while staying in Cody rather than trying to make an even longer day of it from the other side of the park.

Seeing the wonders of Yellowstone from the plains to the snow covered mountains and everything in between will make anyone who doesn't believe that God created this planet think twice. The beauty is simply astounding and something I would not get used to for a very long time, maybe never. Of course, this is coming from someone who has lived in Florida for over 20 years, so seeing anything that isn't flat is exciting. But we took so many pictures, we ran the camera's battery dead and forgot to bring our second. So the phones came out and finished the job. For wildlife, we saw countless bison over the entire area we covered, some at a distance, some crossing the road in front of us and then taking a dirt bath on the side of the road. This, of course, caused slowdowns, but no one seemed to care because everyone wanted pictures. It was absolutely fascinating. We also saw pronghorn antelope fighting on the side of the road with the females beginning their climb up the cliff, one black bear, chipmunks and marmots, but no elk, moose or grizzlies. We look forward to seeing those animals on our return visits with two full weeks to spot them.

We made it back in good time, even with the Fishing Bridge roadwork slowing us down. For those who don't know, Fishing Bridge RV Park is closed and several miles of the road around the park has been torn up and is nothing but dirt and gravel, one lane for quite a distance where each traffic path must take turns. If you want to see this part of the park, plan on taking extra time.

Tonight we dined at Irma's Buffet, supposedly a must do restaurant while in town. I was not impressed and the meal did not meet my expectations. Afterward, we went straight back to the coach so the dogs wouldn't think we had abandoned them. Tomorrow, we head to Dubois, again without a reservation for one night before driving to the Grand Tetons.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 25, 2019, 11:28:09 PM
I am back among the living. Gros Ventre in the Grand Tetons has a very weak cell signal, no wifi, and likewise, no internet. I haven't had a chance in the past week to log an entry on this thread. Thank you for your patience.

We drove from Cody to Dubois so we could be closer to Gros Ventre. I had picked an RV park when planning this trip but didn't make a reservation, not wanting to tie ourselves down to another day without fail. Before we left Absaroka Bay, I called the Longhorn Hotel and RV Park to make sure we could get a spot. There was no problem, although during the time we were there, the park appeared to be close to full.

The Longhorn was a little more expensive than I like but when we got there, we understood why. For a pull thru standard size site, they charge $59 per night and accept Good Sam, so the price for us was $53.10 plus tax, which in Wyoming is only 4% with no other hotel taxes, service fees or any other of what I refer to as prostitution taxes (for obvious reasons.)

We planned on staying at the Longhorn for one night and then head out to Gros Ventre for four nights, originally five before we decided to stay in Cody for an extra night. But for the reason I chose not to make solid reservations for any of these parks being having the freedom to go where we wanted and stay for as long as we wanted, we once again changed our plans once we saw the park.

The Longhorn is the best park we have stayed in thus far on this trip, and one of the best parks we have ever stayed in. Hence, the justification for the higher price. This is an old cattle farm that was converted to a hotel and RV park and it has an old West feel in the air. The park has plenty of very large trees which has pros and cons; shade as a pro but poor satellite reception as a con. But the trees add to the beauty of this park. No cable and poor wi-fi are detrimental to any rating to be given, but water pressure was very good at 60 psi and the dump was an easy connect. The electric apparently had issues because each night we were there, the new Progressive surge protector I had purchased for this trip cut the service, reinstating it 2:16 later as dictated in the owner's manual. The first night it happened, we didn't know what went wrong and wondered if the entire park was down, but a couple of minutes later, the power returned. That made me think it may have been the surge protector doing its job. Sure enough, the next night when it happened, I told Judy not to worry because I had a feeling the power would return in just a couple of minutes. I walked out to the power pedestal and looked at the readout and found the voltage had dropped below 104 volts, making the EMS unit stop the power until the voltage rose to an acceptable level, which in this case was instantaneous, but the protector always takes 2:16 to reset. I am now a strong proponent of this sort of protection. Prior, I wanted one but didn't want to spend the money for a good one. But while planning out this trip and realizing just how many different RV parks we would visit, making the chances of getting poor service go up considerably, I decided to buy one through Amazon a week before we left and am very glad I did.

The site was reasonably level, gravel, well packed, with room behind or in front for our SUV. I think these sites were all designed to hold 45' RV's along with a car or truck. On our way to the site, we drove past their dog run. We were surprised and very glad to have this since we thought we wouldn't see one until we got to St. Louis in August and the poor dogs weren't going to have any opportunity to burn off the energy they were building up and storing. Any dog owner knows what can happen when this occurs. Especially with smart herding breeds, dogs will get so bored if given nothing to do to burn off their energy, they'll find something to do on their own, and it will usually be something you won't be happy about.

We didn't unhitch, thinking we were only going to stay one night. As soon as we got connected and leveled with the slides out, we took the dogs down to the dog run. This run is probably about a half acre with a giant tree in the middle, giving male dogs a way to talk to each other, and plenty of room to run and chase balls or frisbees. When I looked out across the lake they have between the dog run and the horse corral and stable, I saw what I considered to be one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life with rolling hills past the horse area and snow capped mountains behind the hills. I asked Judy if she would like to stay another day there. It took her no time to respond in the affirmative, so I walked back to the office and told the nice lady who had checked me in that our dogs had told us they wanted to stay another night. Between the views and the dog run, we were sold. All the workers there were very personable and helpful. We really enjoyed our stay.

While there, we did some driving tours of the area, taking in the scenery and snapping a lot of photos. We drove all the way up the Union Pass and back down, and checked out the petroglyphs south of the RV park. We would have stayed another day but we had already cut our stay at Grand Tetons from five days to three, and I was told we would need at least three days, if not five, to see the Tetons. So on Friday, we packed up and headed for Gros Ventre.

The drive to the Grand Tetons was sometimes difficult with 6% grades, taking our speed down to the 20's on occasion and forcing me to smell for burning brakes on the way back down, even with using the grade brake and the stabbing method of braking. But when we got over the initial mountains, we were stunned by what was in front of us. The Grand Tetons is without a doubt the most stunning eye candy I have ever seen, and what one always pictures in their mind of what the Rocky Mountains are supposed to look like. I have been told and have read that the Tetons are the most beautiful mountains in the United States, only surpassed by the Canadian Rockies for this continent. I tend to agree with my limited experience. I told Judy I was afraid these views were going to spoil us for the rest of our vacation and with the exception of the Icefield Parkway, we probably wouldn't see anything this beautiful again. I didn't realize there are still glaciers in the Tetons. albeit small ones due to climate change. But I thought I would have to wait until we got to Glacier NP before being able to see one. Needless to say more, we were most impressed with the scenery while in this park.

Gros Ventre is a nice, cozy park that has either electric hookups only or no hookups at all. We got there early enough, thanks to Jackie Mac on this forum, to be one of the first to ask for electric and were at our site by 10:30. The site was asphalt, new and smooth, but not level at all. We had to put two 2X12's under each front jack along with the jack pads to get the front end raised high enough to be able to turn on our refrigerator. The front tires were off the ground a couple of inches, something I don't really like seeing, but the jack solenoids on the front jacks were strong. The park is very nice, cut right into the woods and with strict rules about bear proofing any food or cooking utensils outside the RV. It is mandatory to put your grill back inside your RV once it has cooled down because this is in bear territory, along with moose, wolves, coyotes and other animals always looking for an easy meal. There were clean rest rooms and showers within close walking distance, although we had no need for either. The park rangers with whom I dealt were very friendly and helpful and there is a dump as you leave if needed.

While we were there, we drove to Jackson a couple of times to look around and dine. We tried Pinky G's pizza and found it to be good but not great and slightly overpriced. But what do you expect in a tourist trap town? When that is taken into consideration, the price wasn't that bad. One day, we decided to stop at the Dairy Queen while beginning to head out of town on the way back to the campground and realized it was a mistake because there was a tour bus full of Japanese tourists that had stopped for lunch taking up every single table in the restaurant. Apparently, the manager made the decision to make up multiples of their most popular sandwiches to avoid taking too much time. We both got our meals too quickly to have been made fresh, and that was borne out with the first bite of each of our meals.

We tried to cover most of the major roads in and out of the park so we could see whatever there was to see. We did not have the luck to see any moose or elk, but did see pronghorns and longhorn sheep along with several deer on the side of road, mostly standing up. We drove up Summit Drive and saw an outstanding panorama of both the mountains as well as the valley known as Jackson Hole. We were able to get photos that I think will be good enough to blow up into wall hangings when we get home, one of the major goals of this trip. Jenny Lake was beautiful, as well as Jackson Lake, and we drove some back roads that allowed us to see things normally not on most tourists' to do lists.

On Monday morning, we really didn't want to leave that beautiful sight, but knew we had to because we had a paid in advance two week stay in West Yellowstone beginning that day. So we pulled in the slides and put the jack system in store mode and I began taking the jack pads and wood from under the front jacks and stored them. Until now, I had always gone to the rear of the coach to make sure the driver's jack wasn't coming up and then would flip the valve on the solenoid to get it to rise. But on this morning, the jack was returning on its own, just as fast as the others, and this was a cold morning when jacks have to be given more time to retract. I was shocked to see that jack completely retract and the front jacks took longer. All of a sudden, I didn't have a solenoid problem anymore. A couple of days before, that jack wouldn't deploy so I looked at the solenoid to make sure I had flipped the valve back closed and noticed the electrical connector had come loose from its mate. I plugged it back in, ensuring it was locked in place and the jack then deployed. Now, I wonder if there is a chance the connector was only partially connected and this may have caused the jack's inability to retract on its own. For now, it appears to be working well and I have written to HWH to let them know, and I will cancel the appointment I made with an RV dealer in Kalispell, MT two weeks away. I have kept an eye on that jack and have found it also no longer appears to be leaking and retracting slightly on its own as it was doing a couple of weeks ago.

We drove to W. Yellowstone without problem, enjoying the views of the Tetons one last time. My Garmin wanted me to drop south to Jackson and take US 22 into Idaho to reach our destination but I chose to ignore it and take the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway instead so we could see the sights of both national parks on our drive. It may have taken an extra few minutes and cost me some mileage climbing mountains, but it was worth it.

Our park in W. Yellowstone is what I call a city RV park. Buffalo Crossing RV Park is the only park I found in my research for this trip that didn't raise their prices when Fishing Bridge closed for the entire season. I wanted to stay at Grizzly since it had been reviewed and rated very highly, but they raised their rates $25 per night from last year. I have no interest in paying $89 per night and not receive any kind of discount, either for weekly, monthly or GS, veteran, etc. With Montana taxes and service fees, this would have cost us close to $100 per night. Buffalo Crossing cost $65 per night and gives a GS discount of 10%, enough to cover the taxes and fees with a little left over. It is gravel from the time you enter the park, but well taken care of with new gravel and chat laid down apparently each season. The site we have is perfectly flat with no need for deploying the jacks other than for stability. It has good electric, water at 52 psi, easy dump connection and a wooden slat porch right out your steps with a nice picnic table on it. There is no cable but it has the strongest wi-fi I have seen in an RV park, good enough to stream at a steady 5+MB. It has no fire pit due to city ordinances disallowing any fires. It has a dog walk, partially grass and the rest being gravel, but dogs cannot be left off leash. Just like Gros Ventre, there are strict rules about food and grills because the park is only one block away from the national park and bears routinely walk through looking for food. The office manager who checked me in told me that just a week ago, he watched a mother bear and her cub walk right through the RV park, cross the street and walk toward the local McDonald's before he lost sight of her. I asked if she walked through the drive up and ordered a happy meal for her little one.

We took it easy yesterday and today, did our weekly housecleaning after having our doggie day spa. I brush Toby, our rough Collie every other day which means that Cameron, the smooth Collie also must be brushed because he is the alpha dog of the house and loves to be brushed. But once a week, we clip their nails and give them (read Toby) a thorough brushing trying to remove as much loose undercoat as possible before vacuuming the carpet. Afterward, we walked the dogs in town to give them new smells to catalog and so we could see what shops we wanted to visit later without them. I have a strained back/rib muscle so walking is about as physical as I'm getting for the moment. I'm trying to lose 20 lbs. during this 3 month trip to make my doctor happy and have cut down portion size considerably. But I still need exercise and have not been getting much.

Tomorrow, we will begin driving in the park and seeing the sights. We have decided to leave the dogs in the coach for nearly every journey after watching Cameron stress out in the Badlands. We think they will be happier in the coach, even for extended periods of time. We will make sure we're not gone longer than six to eight hours each day.

The weather thus far has been drastically cooler than I expected. I know from my research that it can get cold any month of the year this far north and it can snow any month in Glacier NP, but I didn't expect the cold temps further south that we have seen so far. Low 30's at night in the Tetons with highs in the low 50's. Today, it got warm enough to wear only a light jacket and it's supposed to continue the warming trend for the entire week. This Florida boy has had enough of this weather and has been reminded of why I moved to SW Florida. And I'm not finished heading north yet!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 28, 2019, 12:10:28 PM
Since my last post was exceedingly long to catch up on several day's activities, I'll keep the next ones relatively short.

We drove a quarter of the way down the south loop of Yellowstone on Wednesday, seeing quite a few of the sites along the way, making Old Faithful our farthest away stop, but not the last. Research taught me to catch the most popular sites early in the day to keep from becoming part of the crowd looking for a parking space. If you want to ensure getting a spot and being able to see what there is to see, you need to begin your drive from W. Yellowstone no later than 7AM and preferably earlier. This is what we did on Wednesday and everything worked out very well.

On the way back, Judy got her wish to see bison closer than what she had been seeing when trying to take pictures of herds or singles from a couple of hundred yards away in a field. While still on the loop going back to the drive that takes you to the W. Yellowstone entrance, we got stopped in traffic and didn't know why. After a few seconds, Judy saw a couple of bison walking along the side of the road and that told us what the holdup was. But it got better when the couple turned into an entire herd that walked along the side of our car and in front and to the other side, allowing me to get a three minute video of them within arm's reach. That will probably be the highlight of this stop in Yellowstone.

On Thursday, we realized the importance of getting out early when we left the coach at 8:15 and were able to see the Norris Geyser Basin but were unable to get a parking spot at any of the several places surrounding the Mammoth Hot Springs at 11AM. We decided after circling the lots three times to go back a different day and getting out no later than 6:30 so we can make it up there by 8:00. with the road construction that slows you down 30 minutes each way. We were still able to get lucky and find a parking spot at the Paint Pots on our way back, where I twisted my ankle, forcing me to take at least today off from very much walking.

An interesting observation we have made during our four weeks on the road is that it appears 1 out of every 3 Class C RV's are Cruise America coaches, telling us there are many people that want to see these national parks in an RV but don't want to own one, or are trying it out to see if they like it enough to buy one. We have also noticed there seems to be more fifth wheels on the road and in the parks than any other type of RV, with Class C's coming in second, Class A's in third and trailers coming in with the fewest seen. It does my heart good every time I see a Class A on the road that is older than mine and frankly, I have been surprised at how many older coaches are still on the road.

Something that surprises me is that for all the places to see and visit in Wyoming, there are very few RV dealers, repair facilities or Camping Worlds. Needing a warranty repair to one of the jack solenoids installed by HWH, I was shocked to find out I would have to wait until I got into Montana to get the work done because there are no dealers in Wyoming that work with HWH. Here in W. Yellowstone, there are few places to find supplies and we will have an 80 mile drive to the closest Walmart if we want to go shopping.

Living in SW Florida, I thought I was used to tourist trap prices since most of the state's coastlines are filled with tourist traps, but those prices are nothing compared to the areas surrounding the national parks. We have paid as much as $3.35/gal for gas and when Judy went to the local store for groceries a couple of days ago, she paid $4.00 for a loaf of generic bread. The top named breads were $5.00 per loaf. The local McDonald's is 60% higher on its breakfast sandwiches than what we pay back home, and I know those prices are higher than in the middle of the country. Eating out is also considerably more expensive that what we budgeted with lunch averaging $35 for two people for sandwiches and sodas. I'm glad we planned on dining in rather than out for most of our meals.

Today, we'll take it easy and give my ankle a chance to heal. Maybe a trip to Big Spring in Idaho on our way to Rexburg to do a little shopping at Walmart. Dinner tonight was planned out to make our second trip to Wild West Pizzeria, probably the best pizza in town and possibly the state at a reasonable price. The weather is continuing to improve, meaning getting warmer for me, and it might be time to pull the shorts out of the drawer for the first time in the past three weeks. Even with my research for this trip, I missed seeing that in this part of the country, the lows at night can go below freezing and there will be snow on the ground in June and July. Having basement air with a heat pump that automatically switches to the furnace when the temperature drops below 45 has been a blessing.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ArdraF on June 28, 2019, 05:17:04 PM
John, the fuel out here in the west is quite a bit more expensive than the southeast.  California is highest and Nevada is next.  Gas in Las Vegas is about $3.19 this week.  It's been about $3.35 for a few months but has dropped.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Old_Crow on June 29, 2019, 07:44:30 AM
I paid $3.79/gal yesterday in Big Pine, CA.  $75 to fill up a pickup.  Glad it was the company truck.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: steve407 on June 29, 2019, 04:04:05 PM
John and Judy:  Great blog. I'm enjoying living through your experiences -- some good & some not so much!  Hey, just remember, it's ONLY money when things go wrong. There's no ATM'S needed in heaven!  :-)  Keep up the blogging

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 29, 2019, 06:19:55 PM
John, the fuel out here in the west is quite a bit more expensive than the southeast.  California is highest and Nevada is next.  Gas in Las Vegas is about $3.19 this week.  It's been about $3.35 for a few months but has dropped.


Ardra, I checked Gas Buddy for the entire trip to determine where the cheapest gas prices were and was shocked to see the prices in Vegas so high, nearly what California has. We lived in Vegas for 13 years and knew what the cost of living is in that town so we're mentally prepared for it when we arrive there the first of August. We knew the prices would go up after we got out of Iowa, but what surprises me and makes me think the prices are fixed is knowing that prices have come down across the country in the past couple of months, but the prices at every station in W. Yellowstone have been the same for the past two months.

We drove to Rexburg yesterday because that was where the closest Walmart was located and we needed a few things for the coach. It gave us the opportunity to check out a couple of places along the way that were outside the national park.

Today, we got another late start so we didn't try to get into Mammoth. Instead, we took the south loop to W. Thumb and then up to Fishing Bridge and the Canyon, allowing us to see the lower falls and the canyon, something I didn't expect to see in Yellowstone and something I consider truly amazing.

Tomorrow, we will stay at the coach with the dogs and give them some badly needed attention. We've been driving every day and are beginning to get tired, so a day off will be in line.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lou Schneider on June 29, 2019, 07:49:23 PM
Ardra, I checked Gas Buddy for the entire trip to determine where the cheapest gas prices were and was shocked to see the prices in Vegas so high, nearly what California has. We lived in Vegas for 13 years and knew what the cost of living is in that town so we're mentally prepared for it when we arrive there the first of August.

If you're heading towards Death Valley after Las Vegas, fuel up over the hump in Pahrump and then use Bel Vista Ave. on the north side of town to get to Amargosa Junction and CA 190.  Prices here are consistently 15 - 20 cents a gallon cheaper than Vegas due to lower taxes in Nye County.

Currently the average price in Pahrump is $3.05 a gallon with a couple of stations around $2.77 a gallon (regular gas).
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on June 30, 2019, 10:30:28 AM
Thanks for the advice, Lou. However, we will be making Vegas our farthest west stop and will be heading to Kingman, AZ after that. I noticed this morning when checking Gas Buddy that there are several Sam's Clubs in Las Vegas with prices at $2.78, so I'm hoping by the time we get there in August, the prices will drop a bit more. For our trip, it appears our highest prices will be where we are now, in Canada, obviously, and in Idaho, Utah and Nevada. So the comment about gas being higher in the West is correct. I saw prices in Tulsa as low as $2.05.

A friend told me that the two highest state gas taxes are both going up the first of the month - California and Illinois. It looks like when I get to Illinois and stay for two weeks, I'll be seeing prices about $.20/gal higher than what they are now. When we went through that state on our way up here, we filled up in Paducah, KY, drove through the entire state without getting gas, and got our next fill up in Iowa. That saved us roughly $.60/gal that equates to $35.00 for a tankful. When we go back through Illinois, we'll fill up in St. Louis and make it all the way through the state to Kentucky before getting more gas.

Judy and I decided to stay "home" today. We have been averaging walking 3.5-5 miles per day for the entire week and have realized we're getting tired since we're not used to that much exercise. We bought a bathroom scale while at Walmart because I forgot to take ours along. I wanted to see if my belt tightening equated to weight loss as I suspected, and it did, showing I have lost 10 lbs. already in the first month we have been on vacation. My doctor told me he wanted to see a 20 lb. loss by the time I get back in September, so I'm making a good start. But not being in good shape means this exercise is beginning to take its toll on my joints and muscles, and it's time for a break. Besides, the pups have been left by themselves every day for 4-6 hours and feel we are neglecting them, so it's time to give them some loving. I'm wishing we had a place to let them run because they are building up a lot of energy that needs release.

Another reason I think I have been having some physical problems is because I'm not able to breath well in this high altitude. I find myself having to catch my breath every few minutes, even when sitting down, and that causes trouble when trying to sleep, providing less sleep. So I'm hoping just taking a day to rest and take it easy will give my body a chance to recover a little. Reading, computer work and television will be the pace for the day. We plan on getting up early and driving to Mammoth in the morning, so we'll have another long day of walking to which to look forward.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 01, 2019, 10:12:01 PM
6:00 usually comes only once a day for me, but we were up bright and early this morning so we could make the 90 minute drive to Mammoth Hot Springs. It was well worth it.

We drove through the West gate at 7:05. The traffic wasn't bad that early in the morning and the usual 30 minute backup on the north loop for road construction was only about 10 minutes, so we made it to an half empty parking lot at Mammoth by 8:20. Shortly before getting there, we hit a traffic jam because a park ranger was shooing a black bear off the roadway since it was getting too close to the attraction right up the road. The rangers seem to take seriously keeping the wildlife and humans separated since it is too easy for someone to get killed.

We got a good parking spot and made the trek up to the top of the springs, quite tired by the time we got there. But if you're going to look at the attraction, you can't see it from below. When we got to the top, we were amazed at what we were seeing: a steady flow of water over a large expanse of travertine 100 feet tall. The sight was astounding and we took plenty of photos. After driving away toward Tower Roosevelt, we also got some good shots at several elk along the side of the road. Elk and a bear in the same morning was enough to make the day.

Tower didn't impress us but we were able to finish our tour of the northern and southern loops. Along the way, we gazed at waterfalls, cascades, and some of the most beautiful landscapes we have ever seen. It will be difficult to top Yellowstone for shear beauty, especially when you take into consideration all the varying scenery there is - snow capped mountains, rolling hills, forests, meadows, waterfalls, hot springs, geysers, and the list goes on. Making this land a protected national park was a very wise move. We still have a little less than a week to see more of the park, but we plan on seeing areas outside of the park to take up some of our time.

I also plan on trying to find an appliance repair store and find a new valve for our ice maker since we just ran out of ice and I just determined that once again, my mechanic was premature in wanting to replace the ice maker when it stopped working four years ago. It now appears the only thing wrong with it is the inlet valve. If I can find one, I'll replace it myself and save some money. I'm also thinking about looking into a new thermostat because the slide switch on our Tru-Air thermostat is beginning to get difficult, a common problem from what I understand. Rather than buying a better one that would take an electrician to wire for me, I'll stick with the original item, hoping that it will last for at least five years. We don't plan on having the coach longer than that.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: UTTransplant on July 02, 2019, 07:02:09 AM
Nothing like getting up early in Yellowstone. We would try to get to the gate by 5:30-6:00, a painful alternative, but one we never regretted once we did it. You say you’ve got some time to see outside the park. Think about Bozeman to get to a decent hardware store and have a fun time. They have downtown street fairs regularly, and the Museum of the Rockies is truly outstanding. The Bozeman Hot Springs can be a great way to pamper some tired muscles too.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: nibroc on July 02, 2019, 11:06:08 AM
good thread----long read though
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on July 02, 2019, 11:09:39 AM
Is it always that crowded? We're going in early September. Are all the national parks like that?
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 02, 2019, 11:40:02 AM
Nothing like getting up early in Yellowstone. We would try to get to the gate by 5:30-6:00, a painful alternative, but one we never regretted once we did it. You say you’ve got some time to see outside the park. Think about Bozeman to get to a decent hardware store and have a fun time. They have downtown street fairs regularly, and the Museum of the Rockies is truly outstanding. The Bozeman Hot Springs can be a great way to pamper some tired muscles too.

Thanks for the advice on Bozeman. I'm waiting for a return call from an appliance shop and if they have the part, we'll head up there, get it, and check out the museum.
Is it always that crowded? We're going in early September. Are all the national parks like that?

Amanda, the busiest tourist season for Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Glacier is July, August and September. We chose to go in June because we knew it would be slightly less busy. Most of the RV parks we have seen both inside and outside the park are declared full every day we drive by them. Our park just took down their "full" sign and it appears we have a half dozen spot open today. Give it till the end of the week and it will again be full. If you are wanting to see Yellowstone in early September, you should already have reservations somewhere. If you don't, I suggest you begin trying to find a park right now. 60 days this time of year is usually not enough lead time. I made my reservations when I was allowed. This meant some were made last December and some were as late as March, whenever the parks began taking them over the phone or online.

Something else I will strongly suggest to anyone wanting to visit Yellowstone is if you want to avoid as much traffic as possible, get into the park as early as possible in the morning. When we went yesterday, we hit the gate at 7AM and there was a small line. 6AM will have no line. But when we returned home at noon, the line at the gate was all the way into the city of W. Yellowstone, a good ½ mile long. As I type this, I am watching the line get longer than that because we have had a heavy rainstorm all morning and people waited for the rain to stop. It is now 10:35AM and the line is more than ½ mile long. When we entered the park later in the morning, we had to fight a lot more traffic and had a considerably more difficult time finding parking spots. But when we went early at 6 or 7, there was very little traffic to contend with and the parking was easy. That also means less people within the confines of the attractions so it's easier to take photos and see what there is to see without feeling pressured to keep moving.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on July 02, 2019, 04:24:23 PM
Luckily I have reservations! I assumed after labor day would be pretty empty, guess not lol, that's ok, we'll get an early start then.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: maddog348 on July 02, 2019, 05:46:44 PM
Never ~~ Assume ~~
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: UTTransplant on July 02, 2019, 08:28:11 PM
Luckily I have reservations! I assumed after labor day would be pretty empty, guess not lol, that's ok, we'll get an early start then.
Get there really early on the days you are concentrating on wildlife. By 9:00 am the wildlife has already been spooked away from the roads in many cases. We try to be at the gate by 6:00, or as soon after sunrise as we can. Even the thermal features are so much more noticeable in the early morning while it is still cool. The steam shows many more thermal features in the cool morning than you would guess at by midday.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: maddog348 on July 02, 2019, 10:02:44 PM
utt Transplant.  ~~  Very well said  And remember speed on the road depends on the traffic ~~  FURRY TRAFFIC.  Buffalo amble at a very slow pace.

JM2¢  ~~  YMMV
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 02, 2019, 10:28:11 PM
You're absolutely right about furry traffic. In the 8 days we have been here, we have seen traffic slowdowns or standstills due to bison, elk or bears a total of 5 times. I have a great 3 minute video of bison walking in front and around both sides of my car. Total standstill was only about five minutes, but you'll also have slowdowns from people seeing an animal 200 yards away and stopping in the middle of the road to snap a picture that probably won't turn out anyway, and not caring they are stopping 20 cars behind them that may have someplace to go. The worst I saw was our first day here when on the lower loop road going through construction with the road being closed down to only one lane of dirt road and no pavement (yes, you'll see a couple of sections like that on both loops as long as five miles) with a lead truck guiding the cars on when and where to go, one idiot stopped in the middle of the road, got out of his car, and walked to the side of the road to snap a picture of a bison 100 yards away, not caring that he was holding up traffic going both directions since the other direction was waiting for us to finish our trek so they could begin theirs. After about 60 seconds of people honking their horns, another driver got out of his car and yelled at the guy to get back in his car and drive.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 05, 2019, 11:50:35 PM
On Tuesday, we stopped by the visitor's center a door away from the rv park and wished we had done it our first day in town. The very nice lady there asked us where we had been so far and what we had seen. She then told us just how much we had missed and suggested we retrace some of our steps and revisit a few of the places we have already seen, but this time, do more and see more. So we decided to revisit Old Faithful and take an entire day to see the Upper Geyser Basin where it is located on her advice. Actually, since then, we have taken 1-½ days there.

On Wednesday, we met JackieMac and her partner, Steve, at Grant's Village just south of West Thumb. We had lunch in the dining room there and enjoyed a couple of hours of scintillating conversation, then decided to go back to Old Faithful on their advice to visit the Inn. Jackie and Steve are so knowledgeable about traveling through the West and know so much about things to see, places to go and things to do, we could spend weeks with them, listening to all their suggestions. A special thanks goes out to them for both the time spent with us that day as well as all the preplanning suggestions they made prior to this trip.

The Inn at Old Faithful is phenomenal. Made completely out of wood harvested from the surrounding area with a 550 ton fireplace made out of granite mined again, from the park area, this building is impossible to not be impressed over. Everything about it is impressive, including the ice cream Steve was kind enough to treat us to. Between them and the lady at the visitor's center, we were convinced that there was enough to see in the park during our second week here that it was unnecessary to find places to see outside the park.

On Thursday, we stayed at the coach for our dog's sake. Not knowing how many fireworks might be shot off during the day, We didn't want to subject our dogs to possible loud noises without us being there to comfort them. We had a relaxing day and was surprised at how long the W. Yellowstone Independence Day parade was, lasting about 25 minutes. Frankly, I didn't know there were that many vehicles in the town. Of course, part of the parade was horses and riders, so there you go. That night, I stayed in the coach with the dogs to try to keep Cameron, our Smooth Collie who has severe problems with loud noises, as calm as possible with his Thunder Shirt worn with lavender sprayed on it, while Judy sat outside taking in a pretty nice fireworks display considering the size of this town. We were impressed.

Jackie and Steve convinced us that we needed to spend more time at Old Faithful seeing the other attractions around the big one and take a several mile walk to do so. So today, we drove back and had breakfast at the Inn before taking the entire loop walk around the Upper Basin. The breakfast was a disappointment. Judy got the buffet and found the only eggs they served were scrambled and powdered. No omelets, pancakes, or french toast, although they had both bacon and sausage and fresh fruit. For $14.25, it was grossly overpriced for what was available. I ordered a ham, cheese and onion omelet and waited for 25 minutes, long after Judy was finished with her buffet, before it arrived. When it did, the plate was burning hot, telling me it had been sitting under the warming light, having been forgotten to pick up by our completely incompetent server. Since Judy is a certified server trainer and I have worked in restaurants before, we are good, and usually excessive, tippers, so this was the first time in a long time that I left the server a 10% tip.

After breakfast, we walked the geyser loop, a 2.8 mile journey that took us by some of the more interesting geysers and pools. We were lucky enough to wait only 45 minute to see Castle Geyser erupt, probably one of the most impressive geysers in the area, much more so than Old Faithful. We waited over an hour to see the Grand Geyser but got tired of waiting. There were many other attractions that were worth seeing and we took plenty of photos. But we forgot two things that made us want to cut the trip a bit short - water and a second camera battery. So we went back to the car after walking this loop and got both. Then we walked to Geyser Hill and were fortunate enough to be able to see the Beehive Geyser go off, one of the tallest at roughly 180 feet, and unfortunate enough to be standing downwind and being drenched with ice cold water. You would think that since this water is superheated to over 200 degrees while underground, it would come out pretty hot, but that is not the case. After that, we walked back to the car since it was now mid afternoon and we didn't want to leave the dogs too long. The entire day's walk was 7.1 miles.

Before we left on this trip, I installed a Dirt Devil central vacuum system in the coach. During the trip, we have found it to be below standards regarding picking up dog hair in the amounts we have. So last week, I ordered through a Rugrat attachment for it, having it sent to Send It Home a block away from the RV park since the park doesn't accept packages. On the way home, we ran into two very long traffic backups caused from people attempting to find parking places along the side of the road at major attractions and became worried that we might not make it back before this store closed. The usual 45 minute drive took us almost two hours, but we made it in time.

For anyone interested, the attachment we bought make all the difference in the world for picking up dog hair and we are very glad we purchased it. It is very small in size and takes considerably longer to vacuum the rug, but does so in one pass, while using the attachment that comes with the vacuum takes five passes and I can still find more hair in the carpet, so it actually takes less time with the Rugrat.

It was also suggested to us that we drive through Yellowstone during the late afternoon and early evening hours since we have only gone early in the morning, so tomorrow, that is what we will do, staying home with the dogs until 3 or 4 PM and then try to see some animals we have yet to see, such as grizzlies and moose before dusk. It will be our last foray into the park since we will relax and get ready to leave on Sunday for Monday's trip to Garrison, MT on our way up to Glacier National Park. Besides, after today's 7 mile walk, I don't think we'll be moving too fast in the morning.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: maddog348 on July 06, 2019, 01:15:36 AM
Good Choice John ~~ About every 5 years we take a week or so to visit ~~ Have not run out of things to see yet.

JM2¢  ~~  YMMV
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lynne on July 06, 2019, 07:34:55 AM
John, just came across your blog here.  You certainly have had some challenges!  We live in Cape Coral too.  We have found Horner's on 41 in Punta Gorda to be very good and fair with most repairs on our rig. A few years ago we found ourselves with an issue in California.  The rear end of our rig lost suspension and something was dragging on hwy 99 where traffic flies!  We got off an exit in Modesto, called Horner's,  sent them a picture.  He was able to tell us it was the ride height adjuster and said it was an easy fix!  Now I was able to call a repair shop and explain what it was.  They said they could fix within a couple of hours!  $200 and about 3 hour delay!  We felt very lucky as it could have been so much worse!  Couldn't have been more appreciative of Horner's!
We retired in 2008 and have done many of the trips you have on your bucket list.  I have written itineraries which I would be happy to share.  Currently we are traveling through the Canadian Maritimes and plan to re-enter the states in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.   We plan to get back home around the end of September.   
Lynne and Don
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 06, 2019, 10:30:14 AM
Lynne, it's good to know someone else on the Forum lives in the Cape. I used Rick Horner for the first three years we had this coach and he was outstanding with his help, knowledge, and ability and willingness to tell you when he was over his head and you should find someone else to fix your problem.. Probably the most honest mechanic I have ever found in my life.

If you haven't gone back to Horner's in the last couple of years, Rick retired and sold the business to Cathy, the service advisor who could never return a phone call, Brandon, the head mechanic who knows absolutely nothing about customer service, and a third party who I believe was the money man. I went back one time to get a quote on a basement a/c repair and was quoted $1,000 to do an estimate. Since Rick had told me a year before that he had no one there that could work on basement air, I asked the honest question if Brandon would be able to repair what was wrong after charging me that exorbitant amount for an estimate and he said, "Maybe, maybe not." I told him RV Tech in Fort Myers was an expert in a/c units and wouldn't charge me that much for an estimate, and he told me to go there and walked out of the room. I have never gone back. I really wish Rick was still there because I have a traveling story just like yours when he was on a fishing vacation in the Keys and still took the time to tell me what was wrong with my coach when we were on the road in S. Carolina.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: jackiemac on July 08, 2019, 06:19:51 PM
John, it was our pleasure to meet you both and spend time chatting. We had a great time and will keep in touch!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 09, 2019, 12:03:50 AM
Jackie - you and Steve were great friends that will last a lifetime, and I really hope to see you guys again. Your dry sense of humor matched mine to a tee and we seemed to have a lot in common. The next time we meet, let's do drinks instead of lunch.

On Saturday, we stayed at the coach until 3:30 on the advice of the above named party to do at least one evening tour through the park to see the different colors from the sun being in a different position in the sky. We drove up to north of Gardner into Montana to see some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life. I told someone afterward that what I saw reminded me of an old John Ford western starring John Wayne or the opening credits of Bonanza. Douglas firs, aspen, mountains, sometimes snowcapped and valleys in between the mountains and the forests, herds of cattle and elk, and a lot of prairie gophers dotted the landscape and the road. We didn't see anything larger than a cow as we were hoping on finding a grizzly or a moose, but we still have two weeks in Glacier for that.

On the way back between 7 and 9 PM, we drove through Yellowstone and saw what had been explained to us. We had taken the northern loop road a couple of times but this time, it looked completely different because of the different shadows and colors from the sun being in the western sky ready to set rather than straight up in the middle of the day. The sights were incredible and I wish I could have taken a video of the entire drive because I know I won't remember much of what I saw due to older age.

We ran into the worst traffic backup we have seen thus far due to the difference in hours of our visit. From 1/2 mile from the west entrance road on the north loop to getting into W. Yellowstone, we averaged 7 mph. What should have taken 30 minutes took over two hours. There were no animals to slow us down and no accidents. This was simply rubberneckers trying to see if one of the fishermen standing in the middle of the Madison river had caught anything. And people thinking that the boulder in the middle of the field was a live animal, stopping in the middle of the road and staying there waiting for the rock to move. We got back to the coach at 9:15, fed the dogs and had a late dinner. It was our last foray into the park and still a very enjoyable one.

The above comments must be phrased as advice for those who are thinking of visiting Yellowstone. It has been discussed before that early starts are better than late ones. If you want to avoid as much traffic as possible and see as much as possible, not worrying about finding parking spots, sacrifice your early morning vacation hours and get up about 5 or 6 AM and hit the entrance between 6 and 7. It will already be daylight and you'll have a better chance of seeing wildlife on the loop roads, particularly in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys. You'll also have a much easier time finding parking spaces at the major attractions, giving yourself considerably more time to enjoy them. You'll also beat the rush getting back out of the park as well as trying to get in. At 6AM, there is no line. At 7AM, there will a car or two in front of you. At 10AM, the line to get in the gate extends back to the main street in West Yellowstone, about a 1/2 mile, and then down the main cross street for another 1/2 mile or more. That means waiting in line for no less than an hour just to get in. Go early and avoid the hassle.

We rested on Sunday and got the coach ready for travel since it hadn't been moved in two weeks. We dumped the black tank and refilled it 1/3 with water, checked and filled the tires, checked the fluid levels and added a 1/2 quart of oil. One thing I forgot to do that slowed me down Monday morning was wiping down the jack rods and spraying them with WD-40. That cost me almost an hour the next day waiting for one recalcitrant jack to retract completely.

On Monday, we got up early for our 200 mile drive to Garrison, MT. Even though it was going to be a short drive, we knew it would be a longer day because we planned to do our monthly shopping at the Walmart in Bozeman on the way and also catch a PetSmart to buy a collar for Toby after he lost his a couple of weeks ago. Between the driving on city streets and the time in the stores, time got away from us and we didn't get on I-90 until almost 4PM.

The drive on US191 from Yellowstone to Bozeman was a difficult one. Forget about it being a mountain road; it was badly in need of road work with potholes a foot deep that had to be avoided at all cost. Due to the road condition along with the fact that it was very winding with a variety of grades, it took a lot longer than one would think when simply looking at the distance.

When we got on I-90, we had no issues other than quite a bit of roadwork being done that forced one direction into the other lanes for several miles. Aside from the work areas, the speed limit on this highway is 80 mph. That means nothing to me since I won't go over 65 anyway, but you do have to be aware of people running up on you quickly from behind unaware of your slower speed and trucks passing you at high speeds. We arrived at our RV park a little late but with no problems.

A couple of recommendations are in order regarding visiting Yellowstone. First, I will recommend Buffalo Crossing RV Park if you don't mind a city park that has few trees or grass and won't allow fires due to city ordinance. It is less expensive than Grizzly, which is taking advantage of Fishing Bridge being closed for the season and raising their rates from $64 per night last year to $94.50 this year. BC charges $65 per night and gives a Good Sam discount. Book your trip and make your reservations well in advance. I took a picture of one of the north entrance signs into the park showing a list of all the campgrounds with notations on every one other than Fishing Bridge indicating they were full. If you wait until you get there thinking you'll get lucky, you probably won't and then, you won't know where you're going to sleep while you're there. The RV parks outside the park will have openings for one or two nights during peak season, but you won't be able to book a week or two.

Second, if you're thinking of taking a whirlwind trip through Yellowstone, you'll miss most of the park and what there is to see. Someone else on the forum stated that you should figure on doubling whatever time you think of spending in the park, and then, you still won't see it all. He is right. I was very glad we decided to stay for two weeks rather than one, and we still ran out of time, needing another week. And don't think you're going to drive from one side of the park to the other averaging a mile a minute like you do on the highway. The speed limit is 45 at most and it drops to either 25 or 35 when you near attractions. Trust me when I tell you that you will not, under any circumstances, average more than 40 regardless of how reckless you drive simply because there will be too many things getting in your way, including rubberneckers and animals you really don't want to hit going any speed, much less 60 mph. Imagine what a 2,000 bison will do to your car if you hit it head on. There are many sharp curves that will offer you unexpected surprises in the middle of the road and if you're going too fast, you won't have time to slow down and avoid hitting something.

Tomorrow, we drive to just outside Glacier National Park and set up camp for two weeks at North American RV Park in Coram, MT.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 10, 2019, 02:20:18 PM
Monday night, we stayed in Bernie and Sharon's Riverfront RV Park located in Garrison, MT, roughly halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier. The greeter who showed us our site told me they have very few people staying more than one night for this reason but they are always full during the summer months.

The park was nice with a lot of trees and grassy areas where you can walk your dogs. No dog runs or parks. No cable or OTA channels and the satellite service was poor due to the trees, so we did without TV. The site was exceptionally level, gravel, and the FHU's were shared with our next door neighbor. One electric box with a 30 and a 50 amp connection so I guess they position their patrons depending on their amperage needs. One water spigot with a splitter, but the water pressure was excellent at 55 psi. Each site has its own sewer dump.

The price was right at $31 after Good Sam discount. No need to exit your coach when you pull in because a greeter catches you as soon as you pull in the driveway and guides you to your site where he takes all your information and inputs in into an app on his phone. The owner stops by a few minutes later to take payment. If you pay by credit card, it is entered into her phone and you are sent an email receipt. No office to visit.

The one night stay was nice and quiet other than the railroad tracks nearby with the occasional train going by. If I was passing through this area again, I would use this park.

We drove from Garrison to Coram yesterday with no excitement. The roads, I-90 and US93 were in good shape in most places with a few problem spots as usual. The mountain regions were rougher and we climbed a couple of grades that I think were close to 10%, dropping our speed to the low 30's. The coach had no problems to my knowledge in making the trip.

We arrived at North American RV Park and Yurt Village a little after 3PM and found a very nice and neat park suitable to all ages, retired or families with children. They offer the seventh night free and we booked for two weeks, being told we were the first to stay that long in many years. Our site is reasonably level, gravel, and very large, being a corner lot with ample room on the exiting side. A white birch tree provides some shade.

There is a very small fenced dog park a short walk away but when I say small, I mean about the same size as our living room in the coach, so it's virtually no use to us with three large dogs. There is no place to run. We were told when we checked in that they are developing 40 new sites at the back of the park and if we wanted to let our dogs off leash there, we could. I won't do it because there is too much of a chance they will run if they see any animals around.

Even though this park is booked completely, it is quiet and serene. It is located a few miles from the west entrance to Glacier and 8 miles from Columbia Falls if you need a town for shopping or just looking around which is what I think we will do today. We were told by the office staff that there isn't nearly as much to do in Glacier as there is in Yellowstone, so we may have booked for too long. We don't care. This is how we wish to spend our retirement and this is an excellent place to waste some time and simply relax and unwind. The weather is considerably better than Yellowstone simply because it is warmer in this Florida boy's opinion. I wore shorts yesterday when we got in because it got up to 79. I don't think I saw it that warm the entire time we were at YNP. They are predicting storms and hail for much of Montana, but it's difficult to hear a weather prediction for this area when the local stations on television are coming from Billings on the other side of the state. And this is a pretty big state.

One thing on my bucket list that may be possible to scratch off is seeing the Northern Lights. If we can't see them while here, we may be able to catch them when we are in Canada, but the solar flare predictions for the next few weeks do not look good.

The Going to the Sun Road opened a couple of weeks ago, so we'll take a drive up there probably tomorrow and determine what we want to go back and see further.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 15, 2019, 01:02:47 AM
There are some things that are simply beyond description; superlatives don't do them justice. The Going to the Sun Road is one of those things. We drove up that road from one end to the other on Friday after taking a couple of days to simply relax, work on the housecleaning, and washing the coach. We spent the better part of six hours on the road and taking pictures. We left the dogs in the coach, thinking the roads may be a bit too curvy and winding for them. Collies can have a tendency to get motion sickness and Cameron, our smoothie, demonstrated that when we packed up the dogs and took them to the Badlands with us.

While on the GTTS Road, we stopped at Logan Pass for a couple of hours and hiked to the Hidden Lake Overlook, about 1.5 miles up the side of a mountain. The trail was closed from there on to the lake because the salmon were spawning, giving the grizzlies the meal they have been waiting for. With the bear activity, there was no going nearer. That was all right with us because we were near our physical limit when we got to the overlook. We got a number of good photos of the mountains and surrounding scenery along with some cute marmots and squirrels.

The road from the Pass to St. Mary's only got better with more photo opportunities and some of the best scenery I have ever seen in my life with lakes in the foreground and mountains in the background reflecting off the water. There was very little in St. Mary's so we turned around and drove back, stopping for more photos while seeing the road from a different perspective. We plan on going back to the road at least one more time, if not more during our second week here.

I replaced the water solenoid for my ice maker thinking that may be the problem I have had with it for the last four years because the ice maker won't fill with water. That wasn't the problem, so I'm thinking of buying a new ice maker at Lowe's and installing it while we are here and have the extra time. I also replaced the stopper for the bathroom faucet that had rotted out and wouldn't stay open and will replace the kitchen sink faucet when I get to St. Louis and have access to a faucet wrench. Its nice to be able to make repairs when they are needed because we're living in the coach rather than traveling to it in storage.

Today, we visited friends I have known online for three years. Tomorrow, we will attempt to install a new ice maker and Tuesday, we will return to the park to try to see what we missed the first time.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lynne on July 16, 2019, 01:51:08 PM
We enjoy reading your updates.   Wanted to mention we stayed on the St Mary's side when we were there in 2016.  There is a good restaurant there called Johnsons, up a steep road but excellent food and service!  If you do get back over there just check out the reviews!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 16, 2019, 06:59:51 PM
Lynne - thanks for the tip on Johnson's. We'll check it out the next time we're on that side of the park. We were there today but I didn't see your post until returning to the coach.

Yesterday, we bought a new faucet handle for our kitchen sink, since we have been using only the nub to turn it on and off, and with that thing, it's a little difficult to adjust the water temperature. We found the handle at Home Depot and then drove across the street to Lowe's to buy the ice maker because HD didn't have anyone that could take the time to find out if they even carried ice makers, much less know where they may be located. i also found some suits and bolts to secure the pet pal we bought while at Winnebago. That will take some drilling into the bottom of one of the outer compartments. By the time we got back from town, we didn't feel like doing anything but fixing dinner and eating, but I did try to install the new handle on the faucet, only to find out it isn't the correct one. So it has to go back.

Today, we decided to take US 2 across the southern end of the park to see what we could find. Judy had read that we might have a better chance of seeing wildlife in that area. We saw quite a bit of beautiful scenery but no wildlife. When we got to the other side near East Glacier, we decided to not double back since there really wasn't anything spectacular we wanted to see again. So we took Hwy 49 to Hwy 89 and took it to St. Mary.

If anyone is interested in taking that route, I suggest against it. Hwy 89 is being rebuilt. I don't mean it is being repaved or worked on or having potholes filled in; I mean it is being rebuilt taking a different path through the mountains and valleys. For over half the way from 49 to St. Mary, we had to follow a pilot vehicle over areas where the road had been taken out, leaving only dirt. In many areas, it was one lane and the traffic in each direction had to take turns. You can see where the new road will go since they have already cleared the brush and trees and put down the first layer of dirt for its foundation. I found it frustrating but interesting at the same time, being able to actually watch a road being built from the very beginning and see some of the engineering that must go into it. But what should have taken less than a half hour wound up taking nearly two hours. We were then able to take the Going to the Sun Road once again to get back to West Glacier.

I was glad we chose this path today rather than our other thought of having a picnic at Lake McDonald and drive on some of the secondary roads into the park. It was colder today than it had been, getting up to around 75 but being an uncomfortable 75 because it rained much of the afternoon. We had lunch at the West Glacier village cafe and then headed back to the coach since the pups had been left alone for almost six hours.

I tried to install the new ice maker when I got home but couldn't get the old one out because I didn't have the correct size socket wrench. I carry an old toolbox of my wife's from a previous marriage that was supposed to have all the necessary tools. I should have checked it myself before the trip because although it has a fairly large number of sockets, it doesn't have a ¼" for some reason. So this project also waits until we get to St. Louis when I know I can borrow the proper tools from a friend.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 18, 2019, 09:07:58 PM
Yesterday, for the second time in a row, we took the path less traveled by driving up the outer road that wound in and out of the national park on the west side, almost all the way up to Canada. We saw a lot of pretty forest but few mountains and no animals. There were a couple of really good views of one of the many rivers and we tripped across an old town in the North Fork area called Polebridge that has a mercantile that opened in 1914 and is still serving the small community in the same building.

We drove back and had a very nice, but slightly cool, picnic at the shores of Lake McDonald. Since it was very cloudy, it was difficult to get a good picture of the lake and mountains in the background, and we decided we would have to go back and get better pictures on a clear day.

Tomorrow, we plan on getting up exceptionally early and be on the Going to the Sun Road by 6AM to get some better shots of Lake McDonald, Lake St. Mary, and maybe see some mountain goats and moose.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 19, 2019, 11:07:21 AM
I got up at 5:20 this morning planning on hitting the main road in the park early enough to see some wildlife. The furnace was running in addition to the heat pump and that worried me, thinking that it must be below 45 degrees for the furnace to kick on. I checked the outside temperature on the dashboard and saw it was 42 degrees. Too cold for this Florida boy, I went back to bed. It's supposed to get warmer starting tomorrow, so we'll plan our early morning trip in another day or two.

We returned the faucet handle to Home Depot yesterday. Determined to get that ice maker installed before next month, I bought another socket set that I knew would have the correct socket to get those bolts out of the freezer. Sure enough, a 5/16" was the one, missing from my wife's set in the coach. So today, instead of going into the park in colder than desirable temperatures (it's supposed to only get up to 65 today), I'll install the ice maker and hopefully, have ice in about 24 hours or less. If it is only supposed to get to 65 in Coram, it won't make it to 60 in the park at higher altitudes.

We also tried a new restaurant for lunch yesterday while in Kalispell called McKenzie River Pizza, Grill and Pub. They serve good tasting thin crust pizza with good service, so if in the area, give it a try. We also did some more grocery shopping while in town since we don't want to have to buy anything but gas while in Canada. I'm going to try to get by without getting Canadian money and use only my credit card, sacrificing the 3% exchange fee for getting the tank filled once or twice in the five days we'll be there. We now have enough food to last us until we return a week from Sunday.

I called our park in the St. Louis area to see if they are still flooded and found they are planning on opening two days before we are scheduled to arrive. But, they said, it won't be pretty and they are going to cover all the non paved areas with straw to avoid having too much mud tracked into the coaches. I asked if the dog park would be open and was told no, it was solid mud. That caused me to rethink staying there since that dog park is one of the primary reasons we use that park every year when we are in St. Louis. I called another park that has a dog park a few blocks away and was lucky enough to get one of their last back-in spots. No pull throughs were available. The cost will be about $72 more than our first choice for the week, but the dogs are worth it. They still offer the seventh night free and their entire site is concrete for both the coach and the patio, with a small strip of grass alongside. I cancelled the first park and was told by the park ranger that she didn't blame us at all, but looked forward to having us back again next year.

Time to get to work on the ice maker.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: DavidM on July 19, 2019, 02:54:33 PM
45 would feel real nice right now.  Heat index is at 108 right now in Maryland. 

Been enjoying your daily updates! 
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Peggyy on July 19, 2019, 04:14:11 PM
Please let me know what areas you had trouble breathing. I have asthma and want to be on top of this before we head there next week. Thanks!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 19, 2019, 04:33:56 PM
Thank you, David. I have been watching the weather across the nation and felt for the people who are suffering from the oppressive heat right now. We are headed to St. Louis after the west and they are seeing heat as high as yours. I have enjoyed not having heat indices between 105 and 115, the usual this time of year where we live in SW Florida.

I have the ice maker installed but don't know if it will work. I have been told to wait 24 hours to let it cycle, but when I plugged it back in, the new solenoid valve recently installed did not allow water to fill the maker. I don't know if it knows to wait until the freezer is once again cold enough to freeze water or not. If anyone knows for sure one way or the other, I'd appreciate hearing from you. I had to jimmy rig the wiring because the plugs didn't match up. I cut both plugs off and wired the individual wires together, matching them from a YouTube video I watched. I hope it's right. Right now, the wires are being held together from twisting them and taping them. When I get to a hardware store, I'll buy some shrink connectors and do it right.

It turned out to be a good day to stay in the coach. Intermittent rain and temps in the 50's make me not want to go out.

Has anyone had a problem with having things shipped to you when you're on the road? We bought a RugRat vacuum attachment from while we were in Yellowstone. The park wouldn't allow shipments to be delivered there, so we used a local service called Send It Home, having it sent there for a reasonable sum and picking it up after a text message indicating the package had arrived. Well, the attachment quit working after five days so i called the merchant and they sent another out for replacement. I told them I had moved to a different location and they could send it directly to the RV park where we are, but somewhere along the line, they got confused and sent the replacement to Yellowstone instead of our park in Glacier. I got a message yesterday telling me the package was waiting to be picked up at the Yellowstone post office. I called the merchant again and explained what happened. They were kind enough to tell me they would get another replacement sent to me at the location where we are now and put in a claim to the post office for the package sent to the wrong location. Send It Home said they will look for the package for me and if found, will return it to sender.

But the replacement won't get here until after we leave for Canada. The front office of the park told me they will hold the package until we return from Canada, even though we will not stay in this park when we return. I thought that was pretty nice of them. It makes me wonder if anyone else has tried to have shipments made to them when they are on the move, and what kind of troubles they may have run into. Obviously, you have to stay in one spot long enough to survive the shipping time and that's why when I ordered two items from Amazon in Yellowstone, I had them shipped here and they were waiting for me when we arrived.

Peggy - my wife and I had difficulty breathing or catching our breath in virtually any location that had an elevation higher than about 5,000 feet. That's because we live at sea level only a few miles from the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. If you live in an area that has a naturally higher elevation, you probably won't experience the difficulties we had. Yellowstone had us trying to catch our breath even while sitting down because the park we were in was at 6,800 ft. The difficulty began though, when we were in Deadwood because its elevation was 5,800 ft. Most people get used to the higher altitudes after two or three days but we didn't. We are not very active seniors; we walk the dogs and go on short hikes, but that's about all, so we knew we would have greater problems than most. If you are more active and physical, you shouldn't have the issues we did. Bear in mind that anywhere you go in the mountains will get you above 5,000 ft. Right now, we are doing well because our park is only about 3,200 ft above sea level. When we go on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, we can feel our breath getting a little shorter, but unless we get out and start walking, the problem doesn't get really noticeable. i also think that it may simply have taken us a little longer than most because of where we live because now that we have experienced the higher altitudes for over a month, it seems to be getting better. Good luck with your trip and if you go higher, just remember to take things slowly.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Peggyy on July 19, 2019, 05:32:01 PM
Thanks. Remember i am a florida girl as well.  Hoping no issues will arise.  I had triuble at grand canyon last year.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ArdraF on July 19, 2019, 07:13:56 PM
John and Peggyy, when we lived in the San Francisco area and wanted to go places like Zion or Bryce Canyon, we took the longer route down through Bakersfield, up to Las Vegas (elevation 2400'), and then north to the other places.  That area is a series of plateaus and we worked our way up gradually over about a week to higher elevations which helped us acclimate more easily.  If you can do that, it helps. Also, when you're out and about at higher elevations you need to concentrate on breathing more deeply.  Fill your lungs with air and hold for a bit before exhaling.  We do that when out hiking.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 19, 2019, 10:43:37 PM
Ardra, thanks for the advice. I used to live in Vegas and would visit my brother in the east bay area. Taking the Bakersfield route was the only realistic way to get there. Trust me, if I knew I was going to have breathing problems as bad as I did when we began this vacation trip, I would have planned it out differently. When I lived in Vegas and went to places like Zion, I never had a problem with the elevation. I guess what I have experienced this trip is another exciting aspect of getting older.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Peggyy on July 20, 2019, 05:19:44 AM
I think i might pack some canisters of oxygen. I heard they help!  John you must be doing better since you are still there?  You are a trooper!  And you got to meet Jackie! 
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: UTTransplant on July 20, 2019, 08:16:01 AM
When my MIL came to visit us in Albuquerque at 6000’ from 900’ Oklahoma, she really wanted to see some mountain views like the top of Sandia Crest at 11,000’. She had some breathing problems though, so her doctor recommended she take a bottle of oxygen with her. It helped a lot! She tried not using it, but she gave in to our encouragement at 8,000’ or so, and she should have done it earlier. She didn’t use oxygen at home, but it certainly was helpful at elevation.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Bill N on July 20, 2019, 11:22:48 AM
I have no doubts you felt the oxygen deprivation John but Deadwood is listed as 4533 feet in elevation.  Wouldn't matter to me. If I walk over 50 feet I better have an oxygen bottle on to keep me from huffing and puffing (COPD).
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 20, 2019, 12:34:40 PM
If I come back to the Rockies again on another trip, I'll discuss with my doctor in advance the possibility of taking oxygen with me. It's not something I will do readily because it will remind me of my father's passing from emphysema.

Peggy - We have been in higher elevations now for over a month and I am feeling much more comfortable. I attribute some of the reason to the fact that we are at around 3,200 ft. right now in our campground, but we drove the Going to the Sun Road again this morning and climbed to almost 7,000 ft in the car with no problem. I got out to take pictures on several occasions and had to walk up and down paths to get the best shot without any issues at all. Didn't even start breathing heavily as I did in Yellowstone. Like I said before, I think I simply took longer than most to get used to it because of the larger change in altitude from our home. If you have the opportunity to get canisters of oxygen and take them with you, I certainly would if I were you since you have asthma. It will be no big deal if you don't need them, but I would rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

Bill - I said we started our trip in Deadwood because it was the closest town to where we were. There was a 1,500 ft climb up to the Fish N Fry RV park south of Deadwood in the Black Hills. The manager is the one who told me the elevation there was 5,880 ft.

When I got up at 5:20 this morning and turned the ignition key, the temp reading said 37 degrees, worse than yesterday morning. But this was the last day for us to be able to get out early and see the road and all on it, so I got dressed, fed the dogs, and we left at 5:50 for the park, wearing our winter coats. I'm glad we did because at that time of day, you have no traffic to deal with, you can drive as fast or slow as you want, and you don't have to worry about finding a parking place when you want to pull over to take a picture or see a sight. By 8:00, we started seeing more cars and when we exited the park at 10:00, the line to get in was pretty long. We were able to see everything we wanted to see, got some really good photos, and got a little exercise although we didn't go on one of the hikes we planned to see several glaciers close up because we found out it was over 4 miles to the first view point and over 8 miles total, making it a round trip of close to 17 miles. I thought about beginning it anyway to see how far we could get before tiring out, but saw a bear warning sign immediately upon starting the trail. Since we never bought bear spray, I thought better of getting back to the car.

The rest of our day today will be spent working on the dogs and then cleaning up the coach. With three long haired dogs, we have to vacuum every other day if we want to keep the carpet in the coach looking respectable. Our trip to Glacier National Park is essentially concluded. Tomorrow, we will visit friends in Kalispell and Monday, we will begin the job of packing up and getting ready to travel again. And, Judy said she would wash the car. We'll see. Tuesday, we leave for Canada.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Peggyy on July 20, 2019, 02:02:28 PM
Interesting, my father passed with emphysema as well.  Sounds like you all are doing everything right!  I love reading about your journey. Thank you!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 26, 2019, 04:22:48 PM
It's been a few days since my last post because we have been in Canada without cell service or wi-fi. Today, I broke down and bought a day's worth of AT&T unlimited cell data, talk and text for $10.00 because I needed to determine where the best place to get gas would be on our way back down from Jasper.

In a nutshell, I will say the drive up the Icefield Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper has to be the most scenic drive in North America. Trying to describe it will make me run out of superlatives, so I'll just say the scenery is breathtaking and nothing that you will ever see in the United States. The road is two lane, in good shape, and although I'm not positive, I don't think there is a grade steeper than about 8 or 9%.

The gasser that I had my doubts about made the trip in very good shape. I still have to check the oil and tranny fluid before we take off again, but I kept the engine at no higher than 4,000 rpm and had very little trouble with the grades. When we left Radium Hot Springs and started toward Banff, I was warned to leave the car unhitched by the office personnel at Canyon Resort because within five minutes, we would encounter an 11% grade. That simply was not true and we could've easily taken the grade in tow. A guess on my part would put that grade at around 8%, something we have been climbing for the entire trip without issue. There is another steep grade at the end of the journey near Banff but again, not more than 8%. I have been keeping a close eye on my 5-1/2 year old tires and making sure their air pressure is kept at the proper amount. I already knew what temperature change can do to tire pressure but had no idea to what degree altitude change will also affect pressure. I have kept my fronts at 85 psi, per the Michelin online chart for the weight of the front end of the coach, and the rear tires have been kept at 95 psi. When I weighed at the start of the trip, the total including hitched vehicle was a little over 27,400 lbs. The coach presently has 46,330 miles on original shocks, suspension and brakes. I'm guessing that I'll be replacing most, if not all, of the above before my next trip.

The RV park at Canyon Resort in Radium Hot Springs is possibly the best looking park I have ever seen.There is a problem getting into the park because it is located at the bottom of a very steep canyon. I used my brakes more getting down that road than on some of the mountains we have climbed. A sharp turn at the end makes it difficult to maneuver without unhitching, which has to be done anyway because the park is full of back-ins.

Once in the park, you realize it is very well laid out giving each space considerable room and privacy. A hedge of shrubs has been planted and maintained between each site. The sites are concrete and gravel with the driveway being a lattice work of laid stone tiles with grass growing out of them. The patios are concrete with a picnic table and fire pit. The FHU was easily used with clean electric and 60 psi water pressure. The sites were very level making the deployment of your jacks only needed for stability. The view is what I found incredible and gets my vote for best RV park I've seen, since you are surrounded by mountains. A short walk to the owned property sites on the other side of the canyon provides a picturesque waterfall. Cable and wi-fi are provided. There is shopping close by. The town of Radium Hot Springs is not very big and the gas there is quite expensive at $1.40/liter so we chose to get our gas in Banff. We stayed only one night and didn't get to see what was around us very much but we will stay there again Saturday night on our way back down to the States.

The trip to Banff was uneventful other than it being the first time we drove separately. It was scenic with several turnouts if you're inclined to take photos. It was short, only about 85 miles, taking about two hours. We were concerned about getting there too early because the latest we could check out from Canyon was 11AM and the earliest we could check in at Banff was 2PM. We left at 10:30 and arrived at 12:30 hoping they would give us our site, and they did.

Banff is a very nice mountain town that gives you the feeling that you're in the Swiss Alps because many of the buildings in the town, be it shops, businesses or homes, have been built to resemble chalets. It was the first time I actually realized I was in a foreign country. Most people we encountered in Alberta are bi-lingual. We also noticed a difference in attitude toward people from the United States, with many looking down their noses at what are called Americans. I always thought the use of that term to describe people from the U.S. was a misnomer since anyone from anywhere in North America, Central America or South America is actually an American. But the people there move slower than what we see in the States, the speed limits are much lower with most highways limited to 56 mph, and they seem to get the impression, rightfully so, that Americans are always in a hurry. Gas was $120.9/liter in Banff, so we filled up in a station so busy, it was difficult getting out, even after we had checked the ingress and egress.

The RV site we had while in Banff was at Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court with FHU. This is the only RV park I have ever seen that has its sites parallel to the roads with the FHU on the side of the road. You simply pull into a gravel drive still lined up with the road and stop when you have best access to the hook ups. It makes getting in and out the easiest I have ever seen. The campground appears to have been terraced out of the side of a large hill, with each row of sites above the last. The roads to each set of sites are 1/4 mile long. The FHU only has 30 amp electric and the water pressure was rather weak at 40 psi. Banff has a total of over 900 sites plus tent sites within the confines of the national park.

When I booked the sites at Banff and Jasper, I did so the minute the reservation site went online because I had been told the spots would go quick. I got a decent site at Banff because I worked on it first. It took about 45 minutes to complete the transaction and receive a confirmation before I could begin booking a site at Jasper. In that time, every site that had hookups of any kind were already gone and I was left with getting a back country site at Wapasso. Part of that problem was caused by their primary and most popular campground being closed for construction. The same thing happened with Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone and many of the other outside campgrounds increased their rates. t least with this campground being inside a Canadian national park, the rates stayed the same. They just booked up faster. The site we have is literally back country visited by bears every day and night. No hookups don't bother me but not being allowed to run my generator except from the hours of 8-9:30am and 5-7pm gives me concern because I have three year old deep cycle batteries that won't last the night for both the furnace blower and the inverter I use for my CPAP. Last night about 3AM, both stopped working. Fortunately, by the time we got up at 7:15 this morning, the solar panel had been charging the batteries enough that I was able to at least start the generator at 8AM when allowed. I don't mind not having television; I warned Judy that these two days would be our quiet time and get back to nature time. But I really would like to be able to read until bedtime and still have enough power to run the furnace.  I think tonight, I'll run the generator until 9PM or whenever someone tells me to shut it off and that should give the batteries enough charge to get through the night.

When I got to Jasper National Park and the Wabasso campground, I was still enthralled by what I had just driven through - the Icefield Parkway. Glacier National Park was stunningly beautiful and I will still rank it as my favorite national park in the U.S. But the views from the Icefield Parkway running through Banff and then Jasper National Parks simply don't stop. You'll take pictures of a mountain range with jagged peaks and glaciers larger than anything in Glacier NP and then round a curve and run into another range just as beautiful, just as breathtaking, and just as ragged. It goes on for 184 miles.

Something interesting that I found in the Canadian parks is the water many times is a pea green. I saw one lake that appeared blue-green but never did I see a body of water that looked either blue or clear. I know that the water usually appears blue to us because of the refractional abilities of the water as the light from the sun bounces off the surface. I wonder if the higher latitude has anything to do with the refraction properties of the water up here.

I didn't want to burden the reader with a long post but we have covered several stops along our way since my last. I hope this wasn't too boring. Because of wanting to keep this as short as possible, I know I haven't covered all the topics that could have been, so if anyone has any questions about this portion of our journey, feel free to ask.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ArdraF on July 26, 2019, 07:49:37 PM
John, if a lake looks chalky or cloudy it's because it comes down from a glacier.  It's called glacial flour and it's actually particles in suspension.  In Fairbanks you can take a river cruise and where two rivers meet it's quite interesting because one is clear and the other is glacial so there an interesting effect when the two river waters swirl together.

So glad to hear you like the Icefields Parkway and the Banff area.  They're definitely in my "must see" category.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 28, 2019, 12:23:08 AM
Ardra - thank you so much for the information about the color of the water. That is fascinating to me and saves me doing the research to find out for myself.

We took off from Jasper's Wabasso campground at 8:00 this morning, easily picking up the pieces since we had nothing to disconnect and only had to get the jacks up, the pads stored and the slides drawn in. We stopped by the dump station and partially filled our fresh water tank that was down to ⅓ of a tank and empty the holding tanks.

On our way up, we ran across several turnouts going southbound that would afford great photos so we planned on catching each one on our way down this morning. The Garmin said the trip would take until 1:00 but I calculated it would take us until 4 or 5PM, figuring a lot of stops for photos and an hour lunch break. Unfortunately, we got few good photos and didn't need to stop at many of the turnouts because the weather was horrendous, raining off and on the entire trip with the ceiling so low, it was hiding the mountain peaks. When we were at the highest points of the trip, we were even with the clouds or they were no more than 50 feet above our heads. We still took a lot of shots but there were few that I consider outstanding.

I forgot to put the pool noodles on the bedroom slide when we set up at Wabasso. We use them because I have run head first into the edges of the slide too many times from absentmindedness. Yesterday while checking tire pressure and changing a battery in one TPMS sensor on the inner rear tire, I stood up and walked right into that slide with the edge catching me in my forehead, mouth and chest. I hit it hard enough that it completely knocked me off my feet and almost blacked me out. My first thought was to check my teeth, and they were all right. My second thought was to get up because it had knocked me into the grass and brush outside of the gravel we were parked on and I was afraid of ticks. I tried to get up and fell back down, making me realize just how hard I had hit the slide. After a few seconds that seemed like minutes, I was able to stand up, but staggered all the way around the coach to the door, having to sit down as soon as entering. Fortunately, today my chest is sore and bruised but all else is well, discounting my pride.

Things like that have made me wonder the entire trip if I am intentionally trying to shoot myself in the foot but the man upstairs keeps moving my foot away from the line of fire. We have been dodging bullets the whole way, with today being nothing different.

Because we didn't stop and take pictures as often as we thought we would, we made it back to Radium Hot Springs and the Canyon RV Resort by 2PM, just in time for check-in. The nice lady behind the counter remembered me from four days ago and put me in a spot only two away from where we were earlier in the week. We began setting up but I immediately realized we had a problem when I got into the electrical compartment. When we were at Banff, we didn't use the Progressive EMS surge protector we bought before the trip because we had to use a 30 amp dog bone since that RV park only has 30 amp service and the EMS is a 50 amp protector. At Wabasso, we had no hookups. So when I got into the compartment and began to uncoil the electrical cord, I immediately noticed my EMS was missing. I wasn't sure, but thought I remembered seeing it in the compartment while at Banff, so I assumed someone had stolen it out of the compartment while we were in town or asleep because I didn't lock the compartment door. It was either that, or I left it at Canyon on our trip up north, but that didn't make sense because the lock and cable I use to secure it to the pedestal was in the compartment. After kicking myself in the keister for several minutes and wondering what my insurance company was going to think if I turned in two claims for one trip, I told Judy that we should walk the dogs down to the office so I could ask the lady at the counter if someone possibly had turned it in. Of course, I knew the chances of that happening were slim to none. For one thing, I was pretty sure it had been stolen at Banff and for another, this was an expensive unit that could very easily sprout legs and walk away on its own. But human nature fooled me again when the lady in the office told me someone had turned it in this morning. Apparently, the people who were in that site the two days before thought it belonged there and never removed it, but the people who were there last night realized it didn't belong on the pedestal and turned it in. I had unlocked the cable and put it in the coach but left the EMS on the pedestal. A lesson learned by not losing a $350 unit less than 60 days old. Someone up there is looking out for me. Think about it - aside from finding an honest individual to turn in something that expensive, what are the chances we would have left it at an RV park where we returned four days later? It's the first time we have ever done that anywhere.

Our trip is more than half over. In terms of time, it's almost two-thirds complete; in terms if mileage, we hit the halfway mark today. In terms of distance away from home, we are now on our way back down from the farther point away we were at this morning. So far, we have been very fortunate to have the coach run well with no serious problems that we couldn't take care of ourselves. Today while on the road, I heard a slight beeping noise coming from behind me and asked Judy to check it out. She said the fridge was beeping and the readout said "Lo." I didn't know what was wrong because even though we used the furnace a lot while up north, we still had ⅓ tank of LP left according to the internal readout. It worried me that it might not be getting enough LP because due to the accident, we can't open the compartment door that contains the tank to get it refilled. I asked Judy to go back and check the amperage of the house batteries, thinking that may be what the "Lo" reading was referring to. She said the readout showed 10.5 amps, much too low. It then made sense to me that was what the readout was telling us because we hadn't turned on the generator this morning and although the furnace and CPAP worked all night, it had drained the house batteries to the point that they could not provide enough spark to light the LP for the fridge. I turned on the generator while driving and allowed it to recharge the batteries. Once it came on, the fridge worked fine with no further error readouts. Another bullet dodged. I plan on changing out those batteries before our next trip, given their present age. It seems in Florida, batteries usually don't last as long as in other parts of the country. I found the same to be true about batteries and anything made out of rubber while living in Las Vegas.

We now are in one of our more difficult times of this trip, driving for five straight days. It was going to be six until we rearranged the itinerary and added more miles each day so we can stay in Vegas, our next destination, for an additional day. I know better than to do this to myself, but the days won't be too difficult and Judy said she might do a little driving if we're not in mountains. We'll see about that.

We plan on driving from Radium Hot Springs to Missoula tomorrow, with stops in Columbia Falls to pick up a package at a previous RV park and a friend who kept my weapon for me while we went to Canada. It will be a long day, as will the next day driving from Missoula to Pocatello, ID, with both days being planned out to take 9-9.5 hours on the road, which translates out to about seven hours actually driving. I usually like to limit myself to about six hours of driving each day. We plan on being in Las Vegas by Wednesday afternoon.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RVMommaTo6 on July 28, 2019, 07:16:37 AM
You have luck like mine lol, glad you're relatively ok and that you got your EMS back. Drive safely!
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: ArdraF on July 28, 2019, 06:31:24 PM
You probably won't have time on this visit, but Pocatello has the Clean Museum.  It was started by a man who owned a nationwide cleaning company and after retiring he realized he had quite a lot of "stuff" having everything to do with cleaning.  You name it, cleaning supplies, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, even a cute chimney sweep display.  Some of the items are very old, late 1800s and early 1900s.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: jackiemac on July 29, 2019, 11:24:28 PM
Your trip reports are certainly not boring John.  Glad you recovered from your bump, perhaps that will stop the absentmindedness!!  Safe onward travels.  We are in West Yellowstone now...
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 29, 2019, 11:40:12 PM
Amanda - thank you for the good thoughts and same to you when you leave on your very long trip.

Ardra - I wish we could take a look at your suggestion regarding the Clean Museum; that's something that would interest me. Unfortunately, we got in town late this evening and will leave early tomorrow morning, so we won't have time.

Yesterday's journey was uneventful other than last night when our CO2 detector went off. We had the generator running but didn't have the a/c on so apparently, there was enough fumes entering the bedroom slide from the generator to trigger the alarm. It seems I need to service the slide seals now, something I was going to wait to do until we were ready to put the coach back in storage.

This morning, the LP detector went off. The only thing that was using LP at the time was the water heater. That heater was just installed a year ago so there shouldn't be anything wrong with it. It gives me more worries about the LP system with the internal light now showing either 1/3 full or empty, depending on whether or not we are sitting level. I can't check the actual gauge on the tank because I can't get the compartment door open. We're just hoping we don't need the furnace again during this trip now that we're in Pocatello, ID and heading south. When the generator isn't running, LP is used for the fridge, water heater and stove, so we don't want to run out before the trip is over. We may have to figure out how to get the door open so we can refill the tank.

I'm wondering if there is something wrong with my CO2 detector since the generator is running right now and the a/c isn't on but the detector isn't going off. We will shut off the generator before heading to bed.

Yesterday, when we were getting gas in Radium Hot Springs, we scraped the hitch severely due to uneven pavement while driving up to the pump. We have a 10" drop down receiver on the hitch to accommodate the low hitch plate connectors on the car. When sitting on level ground, the hitch is perfectly even, or maybe 1/2" lower than the car connectors, but this trip has shown us it can drag the ground on spots that aren't level and we are wondering if an 8" drop down receiver would be better. Blue Ox suggests the hitch is no more than 3-4" from being level, so a 2" difference shouldn't put us at risk. If anyone has an opinion from experience with this issue, please share. We now have to go find an emergency brake cable to replace the one that got caught underneath the hitch when it dragged on the pavement.

This was the longest planned driving day of the entire trip at 363 miles, but we decided to take short breaks every 100 miles or so to stretch our legs and give the dogs a chance to get outside, along with a full hour for lunch and it really made the trip easier. When we got in to our present spot, I wasn't as tired as I have been when trying to drive without breaks for 2.5-3 hours straight. It sure isn't like when I was 40 years younger and could drive for 15 hours with only potty breaks. Tomorrow won't be as long and we'll take care of the holding tanks when we stay at an RV park after dry camping for two nights in a row.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on July 31, 2019, 08:38:57 PM
We finished our grueling five day drive from Jasper NP  to Las Vegas today with minimal issues. Yesterday, while driving near Salt Lake City, our check engine light came on and stayed on for 100 miles until we stopped for the night. Once again, we got very lucky. I asked the RV park manager if he knew of any decent mechanics who could do a diagnostic for me and he suggested a guy a mile down the road that was a Workhorse technician. I called him and made an appointment for this morning. He did the diagnostic check and found the light was triggered by a knock sensor. I told him I had both sensors replaced two years ago and he thinks it was simply a wire picking up another sensor's signal. He told me if the light comes on again, not to worry about it unless we lose power.

We must have brought cooler weather with us from Canada because we ran through rain all day driving through southern Utah and Nevada. When we got to Vegas, we ran into a severe storm with flash flood warnings. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw it rain while living here for 13 years during the month of July. It was only 94 today, while is usually gets up to around 109 this time of year. The evening weatherman was complaining about how high the humidity is right now - 30-40% range. I had to laugh. When it's only 30% in Florida, we think something is wrong.

Our LP indoor warning light shows the tank is empty. We know that these sending units read low so we know there is still some gas in the tank but we don't know how much. If I pry the door open that is jammed into the next door from the accident, we probably won't get it closed again, so this is a last resort and only will be used if we decide we have to get more LP. I'm not sure if we'll be able to get through the next month with what we have and we're going to limit usage to just the stove, keeping the fridge on electric and running the generator when we're not hooked up at a campground. Since we're down south for the rest of our trip, I doubt we'll need to use the furnace again. The LP should have lasted us longer than it did, but when it's 32 in Yellowstone, you use your furnace.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 03, 2019, 12:17:49 PM
We have spend the last three days in Las Vegas, seeing old friends and catching up with relatives. I wondered if we would want to do a little gambling again while here, but have spent money on the coach instead. We had to buy a new brake emergency cable after ours was destroyed when the hitch receiver scraped in Canada. And because we have had this issue on several occasions, some worse than others, I decided to buy an 8" drop receiver to replace our 10" drop. Blue Ox states in their instructions that your tow equipment should be as close to level as possible and should be within 3-4" of being level. My 10" drop put the equipment perfectly level when on level ground, so going to an 8" drop still keeps me only 2" off level and within the tolerance Blue Ox has stated. I have seen other coaches driving out of this resort with more than a 4" off level condition and wonder how they do it.

One would think that in a city as large as Las Vegas that has so much RV traffic and sales, a drop receiver would be easy to find in stock, but no. I found one shop that had one in stock and it was a double - 2"/8" - something I don't need and didn't want to pay for, but had no choice. I have it installed and we will see how it performs tomorrow when we leave on the road again.

The cooler weather we thought we brought with us from Canada dissipated rather quickly. On Thursday, it got up to 104 and on Friday, it made it to 109. We have been very happy with how our basement a/c has performed so far, keeping the temp inside the coach at around 82-85 in the hottest parts of the day. It runs until night and I worry about it lasting at its age when it runs for so long every day, but when we leave the coach, we can't leave the dogs in extreme heat. One more day and we'll be on our way into the desert with even higher temperatures, staying in Kingman, AZ for two nights. We need the a/c to keep doing its thing for another three weeks.

I climbed underneath the coach with a mirror and a flashlight to see what the gauge on the LP tank read and found it to still be about 20% full. Given that it was only 80% full when we started this trip, that means that we have used roughly ⅔ of what was there and we have ⅓ left. Knowing how much the furnace ran during the cold nights in the northern states, I have to believe we have enough to run the fridge and stove for the rest of our trip if we can't run the generator or are hooked up. I'm not worried.

The Oasis RV Resort is one of the nicest I have visited. Our biggest complaints are that the cable doesn't work without creating a very loud hum in our sound system, making me think there is something wrong with the ground and after asking them to look at it the first night, no one has come by yet. But since we have good OTA stations, it's no great loss. The other complaint is that where they put us, we have an exceptionally long walk to any of the three dog parks they have scattered around the outside of the resort. I have to give them credit, though - they have more dog parks than any other resort I have seen.

Today is one of our favorite pizzas for lunch with an old friend and then cruise through the old neighborhoods to see how much they have changed. I also have to go by a UPS store and resend the bad RugRat back to Tonight, we begin the process of getting the coach ready for the road. We won't have lengthy time off the road again until we get to St. Louis, staying in Kingman only two nights to look at houses and then beginning the long trip back across the country to the Midwest.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Lou Schneider on August 03, 2019, 01:24:04 PM

One would think that in a city as large as Las Vegas that has so much RV traffic and sales, a drop receiver would be easy to find in stock, but no. I found one shop that had one in stock and it was a double - 2"/8" - something I don't need and didn't want to pay for, but had no choice. I have it installed and we will see how it performs tomorrow when we leave on the road again.

My favorite RV supply place in Las Vegas is Camp-Out at 3076 Fremont St.  Fremont St. is an extension of Boulder Highway, they're located two miles north of the Boulder Station Casino, where I-515 crosses Boulder Highway.

It's a large, old school family run RV parts store that's been there forever.  They either have what you need in stock or on the slight chance they don't they can get it in a couple of days.  Everything from soup to nuts, hitches to brake and axle assemblies, appliances, small parts, etc.

They're easy to miss because they're co-owned with the camper shell business next door.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 03, 2019, 01:41:55 PM
Lou, I only checked Google when looking for places who might sell hitch supplies and they didn't show up. My wife was over there yesterday visiting her daughter who lives behind Boulder Station. I found the drop down I bought at a hitch and truck supply store on Valley View between Spring Mountain and Desert Inn. I called a half dozen other places around town who said they didn't have one in stock, or had no idea what I was talking about. I took my tow bar system with me to make sure it fit since many of these receivers are made for a specific brand and won't fit all.

Since I plan on returning to Vegas within the next couple of years, I'll remember your suggestion.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 06, 2019, 10:07:10 PM
We drove to Kingman and while in the mountains, the check engine light came back on and stayed on. It has since been taken care of. Our stop in Kingman was to determine if we wanted to live there or in another town in the Western Arizona area.

We stayed at Zuni Village RV Park, a listing I saw in Good Sam. It is a fairly large city style park. The sites are level with trees on both sides, something badly needed during this time of year, and are dirt/gravel. The sites have the bare basics with old wooden picnic tables, cable that doesn't work, decent FHU's, and good wi-fi for $40 per night. There is a pool, if you get too hot in the desert sun.

Kingman, as a town, did not excite either of us on our first day there. However, about 17 miles north of Kingman on Historic Route 66 is a golf community called Valle Vista in which I have seen several homes for sale over the past few months from the MLS listings that I watch, so we drove up there to take a look. It appears to be exactly what we want if we can get used to driving 17 miles to town to get groceries and gas. On our second day, we drove to Bullhead City and Ft. Mohave, a town we had shopped three years ago on our last trip to Vegas. We found a couple of houses we could live in, but we still liked Valle Vista better, so we again drove out there and spoke to an agent. I think we will probably make that our next home unless something else comes up within the next six to twelve months.

Today, we drove to Gallup, NM on our first of five days across country, stopping for two nights in Clinton, OK for a rest stop. We drove six miles out of the way to see the meteor crater, something I have wanted to see ever since the movie Starman came out in 1984. We decided that after feeling cheated by paying $32 to see an unfinished monument at Crazy Horse, we weren't interested in paying more than $10 per person to see a hole in the ground. When we were told the cost would be $18 per person, we chose to use their parking lot for our lunch break.

The CEL stayed on all day. We are parked at a Home Depot and within walking distance to a Walmart, so I bought a $19.95 diagnostic scanner, found the light was on for the same reason - the #2 knock sensor with a non-active warning - and reset the light. Hopefully, it won't come back on since we are nearly finished with the mountains, something I will dearly miss for their beauty.

Road conditions on the drive back from Canada have been mixed, some excellent and some, the worst patches I've seen in a long time. For the most part, Montana roads are good, something I didn't expect given the amount of snow that state gets. US93 and I-15 were, for the most part, good. I-15 through Idaho was a pleasant surprise. This is a state that takes their road conditions seriously. There were several new stretches of road and a couple of 30-40 mile lengths that were under construction where they had completely taken out the road and were in the process of packing and grading the first fill of dirt as though they were laying a brand new highway. I found this refreshing compared to what other states attempt with botched patch jobs that last a year if lucky. Utah was the same - sections of road missing causing a reduction in lanes with the other side of the highway now taking on both directions of traffic.  Again, the interstate in Utah was in very good shape, as was I-15 through Nevada to Las Vegas.

The roads in Vegas were much better than they were three years ago with much less construction taking place on the surface streets.

Then we come to I-40 in Arizona. This road is a mixture of surprises with patches of absolutely horrible road sneaking up on you before you can move over, and then miles of resurfaced pavement in near perfect condition. Judy and I decided that the road through Arizona was the second to worst highway we have ever traveled thus far, the worst still being I-10 through Louisiana. I have been reasonably happy until today with the road and bridge conditions we have encountered and it seems that the northern roads are in better shape than the southern, something that simply doesn't make sense to me when the weather, snow and salt are taken into consideration.

It appears the new 8" drop hitch is working out well and makes me think we should have gotten it instead of the 10" when we bought the package. I can't blame the hitch technician because he measured the difference and sold me what he thought was correct.

Tomorrow we head to Tucumcari, NM, taking a full day to cross New Mexico as well as Arizona. These western states are big.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Bill N on August 07, 2019, 08:35:04 PM
John Stephens wrote:
"The CEL stayed on all day. We are parked at a Home Depot and within walking distance to a Walmart, so I bought a $19.95 diagnostic scanner, found the light was on for the same reason - the #2 knock sensor with a non-active warning - and reset the light. "

John I have a lot of experience with the #2 knock sensor.  Mine kept coming on frequently until I decided to have it replaced.  Wasn't very expensive but I happened to find an RV guy who did it for me as a favor when he was working on other stuff. That took care of the CEL light.............for a while. It still comes on from time to time but not near as often and is easily reset.  I was told that the initial problem was the tailpipe to manifold connection was loose (the doughnut was worn out) and I got that fixed just before I had the knock sensor replaced.  Evidently it was causing the knocking problem.  Nothing to worry much about unless you can't reset it.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 08, 2019, 10:37:46 PM
Bill, the tailpipe to manifold connection is a new one on me. The mechanic in Utah that did the scan told me that some of these sensors are so sensitive, they can pick up rough road through the tires, an out of balance tire, or another signal coming from a different wire that might be too close to the one for the sensor. But his best thoughts on the matter are what I believe to be the cause of the problem: he said that if I had bought some bad gas or gas with a low octane and then hit some mountains, the sensor might have simply been doing its job and detecting a slight knock under a heavier load. The reason I give this credence is because while in Montana and Idaho, I got several tanks of 85 octane gas because that is what a lot of the stations there sell as regular unleaded and if you want 87 octane, which is usually what I get, it is considered mid grade and costs $.20-.30 per gallon more. My last tanks have been 86 and 87 octane and I haven't had the light come back on - yet.

Yesterday, we drove to Tucumcari, NM on some of the worst roads we've traveled on so far. We stayed at a Flying J last night and got little sleep. We wanted to give the generator a rest since it had been running a good part of the day and when we went to bed, the difference in temps between inside and outside was only a couple of degrees so we cut it off and opened a few windows, thinking it would cool off within another couple of hours and we would probably need the blanket we kicked off the bed. Instead, at 2:10, I woke up sweating, got up and checked the thermostat to find the temp at 84. I started the generator back up and kicked on the air. But I couldn't get back to sleep between the truck stop noise, being unable to breath well, and a growing headache, and two hours later, I was back up taking Excedrin. Got up at 6:20 knowing that 30 miles down the road, we would lose an hour due to the time change when we crossed into Texas.

Today's trip was better even though I was getting pretty tired, mainly because Texas takes good care of their roads. There was one stretch that had us in the other direction of traffic because they were repaving the east bound lanes that lasted about nine miles, but other than that, the roads were in good shape. When we crossed into Oklahoma, I remembered someone on the forum complaining about I-40 through OK being the worst road in the country. Maybe they have made improvements since that poster made his journey, but I found little to complain about. A few rough patches, to be expected anywhere, but so far, the road has been good.

We stopped in Clinton, OK for tonight and tomorrow night to give me a rest from the road. Going by Good Sam, as I have done for the entire trip, I chose the Water Zoo RV Park for our respite. I must admit that it is the first big mistake I have made when choosing the RV parks for this trip. The front office for the park is also the front desk for the water park, and is staffed with three young girls of high school age who only know what their management tells them. The manager on duty was a young man who might have been over 21.

With GS discount, the cost was $43 per night and the park is supposed to have free wi-fi and cable. It is also supposed to have all big rig pull through sites. Well, the wi-fi comes and goes and you're lucky if you can get more than two web pages to load before you're disconnected. The cable requires a cable box that they forgot to tell me about, and to get one, you have to give them a $100 deposit. I asked if they had a theft problem and the young girl at the front desk said no. I then asked why the deposit for a cable box, something not usually seen in RV parks. She said she didn't know; she has never been back to the RV park and doesn't know anything about it other than what her manager tells her. I returned the box without using it when I realized that I would have to tear into the home theater cabinet and take off its facade to get to the rear of the signal spitter in order to connect the cable box, and that was more trouble than connecting my Dish equipment. Unfortunately for us, we found out later that the trees are so dense around the coach, we can't receive a satellite signal, so we are doing without television for two nights. To make matters worse, the sites are poorly designed with electric and water too far forward and the sewer near the back of the coach. We have pulled it forward as far as we can to keep the power and water hookups as short as possible and then are having to use 30 feet of sewer drain. I think this may be an old park that has the old style European hookups on the other side of the coach. If that is the case, you would have to face the other direction. Also, the trees are so close to the concrete sites, it is impossible to navigate your way out without scratching the sides of your coach. In a word, this is the WORST RV park we have stayed in so far this trip and I cannot recommend it. Couple the above problems with a staff and manager that doesn't care about customer service or have any knowledge about the facility and well, you get the picture.

When we visited the I-80 truck stop in Iowa, I noticed they had different sized steering wheels. I have been wanting to go from the 18" in the coach to a 16" to give my fat gut a little more room. On Saturday, we will be staying in Joplin, MO overnight and I told Judy that the little sister of the I-80 truck stop is the I-44 stop in Joplin and I'm betting they have a similar selection of truck parts. I'll see if they have a wheel that will fit my W-24 chassis and find out how much they will want to install it.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 13, 2019, 10:38:19 AM
I found out at the I-44 truck stop that the steering wheels they sell are for big rig trucks only and won't fit on my W-24 Workhorse chassis. So I'll look elsewhere for another one. It had been seven years since I had been at this truck stop and the first time I walked inside it, I thought it was huge. This time, after being in its bigger brother in Iowa, not so much. I just wasn't that impressed this time.

We made the drive from Clinton to Joplin without a problem. I-44 is toll from OK City to the state line and for 4 axles, it cost us $24.50. The road was good in most places.

We stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Joplin for the night. When we went in to eat dinner, we were the only ones parked in the RV parking lot on the back side of the building. When we came out an hour later, we were still the only ones parked back there, but someone had hit my right rear and torn the rear cap about a foot off the side, exposing the a/c ductwork coming up from the basement a/c. The cap is cracked in the middle, so it may have to be replaced, and the side panel over the a/c unit will need replacing. Judy and I pushed the cap back together as best we could, still leaving about a 1-½" gap between it and the side panel, and tied it down with tie down straps and bungee cords to keep it from blowing off when highway winds caught it. We also duct taped the gap, hoping it would keep out wind and rain.

Whoever told me that if the first accident we had with the fire hydrant was the only thing that went wrong on an 8,000 mile trip, we would be doing good, jinxed us. The damage is so close to the first damage, I wish I could say it all happened at the same time so we would only have to pay one deductible, but that isn't possible.

The patch job we did apparently was good enough because we drove from Joplin to St. Louis the next day without issue. We arrived at Sundermeier RV park in St. Charles, MO on Sunday and experienced something never before seen by us. We were assigned a back in site because all their pull thru sites were taken. We got backed in easily and began hooking up. When I connected the sewer pipe to the sewer and began draining the black tank, it backed up and out the connector, pouring stinky brown water all over the area. I thought my connector had gone bad because it was coming out every seam and thought I would have to buy another one. But when I disconnected it, I realized it was the sewer that was the problem, completely backed up, meaning the entire length of my sewer hose was full of black tank water. I told the owner about the problem and she moved us to another spot. She asked me if I would hose down the area, but I asked her where the water was supposed to go if I did. I have never had a problem like this at any RV park I have stayed in.

Judy and I will treat ourselves to our favorite restaurants and pizza places around town while we are here for a week and see old friends. Hopefully, nothing will go wrong with the coach while we are here. We have a fairly large dog park about a half mile walk from our site that we'll take the pups to and allow them to run out some of the energy they have built up during this long trip today before we meet friends for dinner.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 18, 2019, 10:24:56 PM
We left Sundermeier this morning and drove to Judy's mother's house in Palestine, IL and will stay with her for six days before beginning the trip back home with only one more campground to stay at in Cave City when we visit Mammoth Cave. Sundermeier says on their website that they are rated five stars but I don't know by whom. If you don't mind city parks, I guess it's all right, but we prefer more of a campground setting and will be returning to 370 Lakeside next time we visit St. Louis.

On Friday, I attempted to replace the kitchen faucet. It should have been an easy job. Taking the old faucet out took a total of three minutes and we ran it up to the local Menard's to buy one that we had picked out the day before, only to find out it wouldn't work. We found another at the same price in a different finish that would do the job and headed back to the coach. I installed the new faucet and couldn't get the cold water to not leak regardless of how tight I got the fitting, and I didn't want to overtighten the fitting since it was plastic. After working on it for two hours (it should have taken 10 minutes), I gave up and called a mechanic who told me his workers would be going home in a little over an hour. Judy and I unhooked and got the coach ready to travel in a record 10 minutes, leaving behind our sewer hose and the Dish locked to the picnic table along with our car, and drove 5 miles to the shop. The mechanic met us as we were opening the door, climbed underneath the sink, felt the connector and said he's be back in a minute. he returned with a plastic grommet and told me the old one apparently fell out of the connector and I would have never gotten the connection to stop leaking without it. He finished my job in five minutes and charged me $40, an expensive grommet, but an invaluable education.

The night before that, I replaced the hardware under the bathroom sink that controls the stopper because the old had rusted out. So now, both of our faucets are working for the first time of the entire trip.

I have a concern because when I went to leave the mechanic's shop, the living room slide that I had set out so he could get underneath the sink wouldn't retract. I couldn't get any of the slides to move; no sound came from the pump, as though we had an electrical connection problem. But when I walked back in the shop to get the mechanic to look at the problem, it worked just fine so we don't know what caused the issue or if it is going to return.

Another electrical connection that has gone bad is the center speaker of my 5 channel home theater system. I troubleshot it down to knowing it's a wire and not a connection, and since the system is located in the dining room slide, I'm not going to try to find the problem. It will be easier to simply replace the speaker with a sound bar hooked directly to the television and use the other four speakers for the cab stereo. I'll pick up an inexpensive one tomorrow and work on it.

I find it interesting just how much wind can play a role in gas mileage on a long trip. When we headed out west, we ran into a lot of head winds that robbed us of power, and we suffered through getting 5.8-7.0 mpg per the engine computer readout and a 6.8 mpg per my own calculations. I haven't done the caculations yet for the way back; I'll wait until we get home to do the final figures, but the engine readout has been running 7.8-10.2, at least a 2 mpg difference just because we now have tail winds instead.

Speaking of gas mileage, our cost for gas is going to be considerably less than what I budgeted because I figured the average cost would be $2.80/gal. While we were in Wyoming, Montana, Canada, Idaho, Utah and Nevada, the price per gallon was $2.80 or higher, but the other states we have traveled through have seen prices ranging from $2.04 in Oklahoma (the cheapest) to $2.62 in Illinois, thus far. I also miscalculated the amount the generator would take because we haven't used it as much due to the colder weather in the northern states. This has allowed us to take this trip for considerably less cost than we thought it would. Of course, we now have to add $1,000 inn insurance deductibles, so the final cost of the trip may be close to what I originally thought.

Judy and I have mixed feelings about this trip coming to an end. On one side, we'll be glad to get back into our house with six times the room and a yard the dogs can run in, but on the other side, we really have enjoyed this trip and don't want it to end. But if I decided to go full time, it would have to be in a bigger RV.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 23, 2019, 10:43:27 AM
I did some research and found what CNET considered to be the best sound bar for under $200, a Visio with built in subwoofers,, albeit small ones, for only $98 and available at the local Walmart in Robinson, an eight mile drive from where we are staying. We drove there and bought one, got it back to the coach and dug out the instructions, not even bothering to unpack the box. I'm glad I didn't. I had planned on putting the sound bar on the top face of the cabinet that contains the electronic gear, right where the center speaker that went bad is located. I failed to take into consideration the fact that the bar has to be slid onto its mounting brackets from the top, and I don't have enough room. There is no other place to put it either above or below the television, so it was returned and we'll simply use the speakers inside the television when we watch it. Not the end of the world, although I am a fanatic about music quality and have a good home theater system at home. I'm thinking if we keep this coach for as long as we plan and take the long trips we have planned, it might be a worthy investment to buy a small 5.1 system if I can find speakers small enough to mount on the walls out of the way.

We are conserving our gasoline while at Judy's mother's house since we are in Illinois with some of the highest gas prices we've seen on the entire trip. Fortunately, it is a little cooler here than it was last year when we ran the generator 24/7, only turning it off every couple of days to check the oil, and we ran the gas down to ¼ tank and the generator shut off. We had to drive the coach to the nearest station to get more. I didn't want to repeat that performance this year since Illinois' gas tax doubled. Yesterday, we only ran the generator a few hours to recharge the house batteries to make sure I can use the inverter at night for my CPAP. I checked the tank level this morning and found it to still be at ⅝, so I know we'll be able to drive to Evansville, IN on our way to Mammoth Cave tomorrow  where the gas is $.60/gallon less.

We have also conserved our LP, knowing we cannot refill the tank due to the accident that will not allow its door to open. We have heated the water when the generator is on and since it is a one year old heater, the tank holds heat very well. We don't use the LP unless the generator is off and the fridge switches to LP and we haven't used the stove at all.

We have been down to ⅓ tank of fresh water for days so we are taking showers every other day. At the same time, the black and gray holding tanks have shown ⅔ full for days, so we're careful about how much water we put in them. It doesn't seem to matter how many Porta Paks we throw into the black tank when it gets this full; it is going to smell and make the entire coach smell until it is emptied. I have checked All Stays and found a Flying J about 58 miles away on our way to the cave. We'll dump our tanks and pick up fresh water there but their gas prices are almost as high as here so we'll wait until we get to Evansville where the prices are much lower to fill the gas tank.

When we get to Singing Hills, our next and last campground of the trip, we'll hook up for the last time. Two nights there while visiting the cave and our destinations will be completed on this trip. Three more days on the road after that and our trip will be over. I have made an appointment with an awning specialist in Tampa to repair the bad slide topper over the dining room. We won't deploy that slide until it is repaired for fear it could cause additional problems to the slide. I have also made an appointment with North Trail RV in Fort Myers for September 3rd to get the coach in for collision repairs. This will give me enough time to clean it up and out after we get home on the 28th to have it ready to be put in storage after they finish their repairs. I expect them to keep the coach for a month.

I have made a mental list of things that will need to be repaired or replaced before our next trip, but most has been done along the way during this trip. I will need to buy a new thermostat and replace the one we have because the slide switch for the a/c - heat - off has decided not to work anymore. We have kept the switch set to a/c for the past month and when we want to turn off the generator, we set the temp up to kick off the a/c. That isn't something I want to deal with on the next trip. I also am thinking of replacing the battery boost solenoid because it hasn't worked since I bought the coach almost five years ago. Other things that we have lived with are the passenger's map light not working and not needing a new bulb. I figure it's another relay gone bad and I'm not willing to pay a mechanic another $800 to find it. And the fog lights don't work, probably due to another relay gone bad. Something else that we can probably get by without. Overall, the coach is in pretty good shape for being almost 15 years old.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 24, 2019, 09:39:38 PM
We made it to Singing Hills RV outside of Mammoth Cave near Cave City. Judy tried to start a load of laundry and found the four year old Splendide w/d combo would not turn on. At all. Tried all settings, no luck. Checked breaker, all good. Checked electrical with extension cord to outlet we knew worked, no luck so we know the problem is within the unit itself. If anyone has any ideas about why it may have stopped working, please share. We had some rough roads on the way here but nothing we haven't seen before.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: Ernie n Tara on August 25, 2019, 08:50:40 AM
I can't address your specific problem but Splendide has an excellent web site including a downloadable technical manual that is very comprehensive. It does include troubleshooting info and exploded views.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: RedandSilver on August 25, 2019, 05:27:19 PM
We made it to Singing Hills RV outside of Mammoth Cave near Cave City. Judy tried to start a load of laundry and found the four year old Splendide w/d combo would not turn on. At all. Tried all settings, no luck. Checked breaker, all good. Checked electrical with extension cord to outlet we knew worked, no luck so we know the problem is within the unit itself. If anyone has any ideas about why it may have stopped working, please share. We had some rough roads on the way here but nothing we haven't seen before.

On my w/d combo sometimes if the water pressure is too low it won't start.  I then turn on my water pump along with the
water from the park and then it will start putting water into the unit and run normally.

I've read most of this post and I hope you plan on telling us how much this trip cost you.
It seems to me that your spending a lot of money fixing things on the motorhome - on top of what you spent before you did this trip.

Good luck from here on out and I hope you make it home before your broke.  ;)
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on August 25, 2019, 08:35:06 PM

I've read most of this post and I hope you plan on telling us how much this trip cost you.
It seems to me that your spending a lot of money fixing things on the motorhome - on top of what you spent before you did this trip.

Good luck from here on out and I hope you make it home before your broke.  ;)

Surprisingly, we have spent less money on the coach this year than any other since buying. We've had this coach since 2/15 and have spent over $26,000 on it. This year, we had the two repairs to start the trip at HWH and Winnebago. HWH was anticipated, Winnebago was not because the cruise control didn't go bad until we had already begun the trip. Those two repairs set us back about $1,300. We had to buy a new hitch umbilical cord and emergency brake release cable, and we chose to buy a new hitch drop receiver. Those items totaled $325. I've had two repairs on the road, both minor. The first was to diagnose the check engine light - $85 and the second was the faucet repair - $40. I don't consider the purchase of the new faucet a big deal because before the handle broke off, we had talked about wanting a new one with a pullout sprayer anyway and planned on replacing the old one.

Going forward, I anticipate the slide roller repair to cost around $350 and I'm hoping my insurance company will allow me to have the RV repair center who does the collision repairs to look at the w/d combo to see if the hit and run accident we had may have caused the problem. If not, I'll pay for the diagnosis. The deductibles for the two accidents are going to set me back $1,000, nearly more than anything else on this trip. Total all this up and we've got $3,100. It cost me more than that the last time I had the coach into my mechanic last year after our previous vacation so we're thinking this has been the best year we've had since buying the coach. We really were hoping on getting by spending less this year than in past years and we have, believe it or not. Prior to this, we have averaged spending $6,500 per year on this old coach. When we bought it, we really thought low mileage was going to allow us to get by cheaply for the first few years. Little did we know that age has more import than miles on a ten year old coach.

We went to Mammoth Cave this morning and had a great tour of parts of the cave we haven't seen before. We are now enjoying our last night in an RV park for this trip. The next two nights will find us dry camping until we get home on Wednesday. Hopefully nothing else will go wrong with the coach.
Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: John Stephens on September 01, 2019, 02:16:51 PM
I haven't submitted any blog entries for the past week because when we got home, we had no internet for the first two days. Signing up for Comcast's vacation plan means you have to be without service for at least 3 months and although we got back on the 28th, we couldn't get service until the 30th. So this entry may be a bit long to cover everything that has happened and address some information others have wanted.

When we left the Mammoth Cave area, we ran into increasing temperatures and humidity. We expected that, having lived in SW Florida off and on since 1982, but the difference in climate after being out west for almost three months was more drastic than we anticipated and we made up our minds that we want to change climates as soon as possible. The problem we have at the moment is not knowing what the economy is going to do for the next couple of years. If we go into another recession, it might be best to sell our house quickly before the market crumbles and then wait until it bottoms out to buy something else, hoping that won't take too long. The coach may have to play a part in that since it will be difficult, if not impossible, to rent with three large dogs.

The trip back took three days, as planned, seeing us stop in Morrow, GA the first night and stay at a Cracker Barrel. The second night, we had planned on staying in another CB in Lake City, FL. However, we changed those plans because Under the Sun RV Awnings in Tampa said they could repair the slide topper on our way home the next day but wanted us there no later than noon. Not wanting to take any chances with traffic or road work, we chose to drive to Gainesville, about 45 minutes further than Lake City, and stay the night there. We made it to Tampa in plenty of time, even with a pouring down rain much of the way.

One look at the slide topper told the owner of Under the Sun that there was nothing wrong with the roller, as the mechanic in St. Louis had told us. He showed me that the spring on one end had failed and allowed the pin to gouge the hole in the end cap wider to the point that it was loose and sloppy, thereby allowing the roller to drop down too far onto the flange of the slide. He replaced both springs and end caps along with the fabric since it had been scored pretty badly and nearly ripped in one place. While we were there, we had him replace the fabric on the bedroom slide topper since it began ripping about two years ago and we knew it was only going to get worse. We knew having a mechanic do the work in Fort Myers would be triple the charge, at least, and this guy specializes in this work so we were confident the work would be done right and at a good price. My mechanic charged my insurance company over $2,000 to replace the fabric and roller in the living room slide last year. Under the Sun did both slide toppers' fabrics and the other work on the dining room slide for a total of $673. More than we were hoping, but all of our slide toppers are now new along with the awning, so hopefully, we won't have to worry about them for another few years.

We left Tampa at 2:30 and got home at 5:30 after dumping our tanks at the local Love's truck stop. The house was still standing and appeared to be in one piece. The first order of business was to take down the hurricane shutters we have put up before leaving, but because Dorian was, at that time, expected to cross the state and possibly come our way, we decided to leave up the shutters on the east side of the house, just in case. But then, we discovered another issue that needed immediate attention when Judy realized we had no water. We are on a well and septic system. The city is currently running new utilities through part of the area just south of us but we have been told we will not see the utilities and accompanying assessment for another ten years, which is fine with us since we don't want to pay the assessment and plan on selling the house in plenty of time before then. We had our regular water company who takes care of all things related to the well come out and replace one of the well switches in March. But while we were gone, that switch rusted out completely, to the point that the contacts were rusted together. When Judy realized we had no water, I had already flushed a toilet and used the pressure in the lines that had been there for months. But because the switch had gone bad, it blew the GFCI. I reset the GFCI and the pump came on, refilling the pressure in the lines to the house. But instead of shutting off at 50 psi as it was set to do, it continued to run until it buried the gauge at 100 psi, and still wouldn't shut off. I had to unplug it before it either blew a line or tripped the GFCI again. By that time, it was too late and I was too tired to run to Lowe's and buy another, so I waited until morning and replaced the switch. I knew the old one was still under warranty, but the company would charge me a $70 trip charge to come out and replace it, while a new switch was only $30 and something I had done before. It was cheaper to do it myself.

The only other thing we have thus far found wrong with the house was my iMac will not turn on. Still under warranty, I took it to the shop and they asked if I had a surge protector for it. I told them yes, a good APC. They then asked how old it was. I told them I thought about 15 years. They told me more than likely, it took a surge from a lightening strike and didn't stop it from going to the equipment because surge protectors only last for so many strikes before they go bad, and if mine was 15 years old, it is probably worthless. Something I didn't know, but now do. Time to buy new ones for both the computer equipment and the home theater.

Aside from what was already mentioned regarding the slide topper and the Spendide, nothing else went wrong with the coach on the way back home except for a tire problem. As stated previously, I really think we did well this trip, all things considered. I budgeted for $3,200 in repairs to the coach and the total we spent, not counting the deductibles for the collision work and whatever is wrong with the w/d was $3,257. We got very lucky with the 5-½ year old tires and will probably have to get at least two new ones before the next trip because I noticed two days away from home that the right front tire is cupping badly, telling me the alignment is off. I'll wait until next spring to get new tires so I can check the rear tires and see if they are exhibiting any signs of dry rot or sidewall cracking. If they still look as good as they do now, I'll try to get another year's trip out of them and only replace the fronts. I'm going to have to some research and find who sells Toyo tires in this area. I have read too many bad reports on Michelin XRV tires to want to spend the money on them when the Toyos are almost half the price and have a six year warranty, from what I have been told.

For those interested in knowing what the cost of this trip was, I'll break down a few line items for you.

The coach needed repairs when we started, so take that with a grain of salt when I say the total cost of coach repairs was $3,257. This included a new drop hitch receiver, something that normally would not be needed to purchase, and new hitch umbilical cord and emergency brake release. The initial repairs from HWH and Winnebago were $1,300, so on the road repairs and service was actually pretty minimal and we felt extremely fortunate that we had no problems that actually put us off the road for any length of time.

The cost of RV parks and camping for the entire 90 day trip was $2,920. This was low because we dry camped whenever we were "on the road" between destination with only a few exceptions. I consider this to be costly simply because I don't like paying more than $45 per night for a site and try to keep it below $40 whenever possible. But when you're going to popular destinations such as Yellowstone and Glacier NP's, you're at the mercy of supply and demand and are going to have to pay a premium price for a site. Out of the 13 weeks were on the road, we stayed in RV parks roughly 8 weeks and dry camped the rest of the time.

When I budgeted for this trip, I wanted to keep groceries separate from dining out, and incidental expenses separate from both. I quickly found out that wasn't going to be possible because when shopping at Walmart or Target, we weren't going to take the time to determine what was grocery cost and what was not. So when I totaled up the cost of groceries and dining out, incidentals were added in. The total we spent on food and incidentals was $3,885.

Misc. items such as park entries and souvenirs came to $373.

And the biggest cost of the trip, as expected, was gas, with a total cost of $3,902. That included gas for the car, and we put on over 4,000 miles on the car running around. The mileage on the coach for this trip was 8,600, while I had anticipated it to be 8,200. That tells me I made a few wrong turns, but it also includes side trips such as the one to Tampa for the topper repair and driving around parking lots trying to figure out how to get out. I budgeted $4,400 for total gas and expected the average cost to be $2.80/gal. The actual average was $2.597, meaning we saved roughly $100 just in the price. Also contributing to that $500 savings under budget was the fact that the coach averaged 7.15 mpg, while I had estimated it would be 6.5. This takes into consideration the gas the generator used and subtracted from the total. I estimated the generator used .5 gal/hr of use and we used it for 175 hours.

The difference in driving the coach with the car being towed four down rather than on a tow dolly was not only much more comfortable and easier to drive, it also contributed to the gas mileage. When coming back in flat Florida, the computer's average for the last 50 miles showed a consistent 8.4 mpg, whereas with the old tow dolly, I never saw it get above 7.5.

The bottom line is that I budgeted this trip costing $13,577. If you don't count the $1,000 deductible I'll have to pay to get the coach repaired from the two accidents, our actual costs for this trip totaled to $14,338. We were low on gas, high on dining and about even on coach repairs. The costs of camping were slightly higher than we thought because we weren't sure where we were going to stay for the week we toured the state of Wyoming. Total cost was roughly $800 higher than I anticipated. Anything less than 10% is acceptable.

Takeaways from this trip: we were getting on each other's nerves before the end of the trip, telling us it might have been a little too long. We now realize there is no way we could full time in this coach with three large dogs; the coach is simply too small. It was very difficult on the dogs, having to go weeks at a time without the ability to run off leash. They made this trip with flying colors, staying out of trouble, not chewing anything up they shouldn't, and only having one accident inside the coach the entire trip. We have decided that future trips will be limited to 8-10 weeks and if we have the resources, we'll take two trips per summer instead of one, with a month in between to decompress. We had mixed feelings about the trip ending, but we were both happy to get back to a large house, a large backyard for the dogs, a large shower you can bend over within, and a toilet area where you can pull up your pants without hitting your head on the wall in front of you as you bend over.

Given the restrictions that were placed on us due to the accidents, I think we did pretty well. We conserved the LP and used the stove very little once we realized we had only 20% of the tank remaining so it could be used for hot water and making sure the fridge would run if we didn't have the generator on. We were unable to use the electric water heater when on the generator because it is on the same circuit as the #1 a/c compressor, so trying to use both at the same time would trip the breaker.

I am tired. I drove every mile we put on both the coach and the car - almost 13,000 in 90 days. And I am finally tired of the road, something I haven't felt before this, probably due to age. Before I take the coach into the shop for repairs on Tuesday, I need to wash the last 30 days of grime off of it and check the caulking around the main vent in the living room because I felt moisture on the ceiling a couple of days before we got home, and I have to clean it thoroughly before putting it into storage. I can tell right now that aside from driving it to the shop and then from the shop to storage, I have no interest in driving it again for a while. I am sure I'll get back in the mood soon, but not as quickly as has been done in past years after shorter trips.

One of the biggest and most important takeaways from this trip was meeting new friends and seeing old ones. Because along with seeing new places and sights, we planned on seeing people we either had never met before or hadn't seen in a long time. Jackie Mac and Steve were outstanding companions while we were in Yellowstone and our lives are richer for having them as friends. We met online friends for the first time after talking to them for the past three years that live in Montana and are one of the largest and most responsible Collie breeders in the United States. We saw old friends from Las Vegas and had dinner with grandchildren and a soon to be son-in-law, and lunch with a daughter we hadn't seen in years. And we planned the trip to take us back to the Midwest where we are from to see old friends in St. Louis, dine at our favorite restaurants, and see Judy's mother and siblings in SE Illinois before heading to Mammoth Cave. We feel fortunate that we have friends and acquaintances we enjoy seeing throughout the country, so we can plan our trips to see them along with new sights we have never seen or not seen in a long time.

We have decided instead of traveling west again next year, we will do the next trip we had planned, taking us up the Eastern Seaboard to visit the major cities on or near that coast all the way up to Maine. We will then cross over into Canada and reappear at Niagara Falls. We will do this trip next year rather than waiting until 2021 because we plan to sell our house in Florida and move west sometime within the next two years, dependent on the economy. We'll see the eastern areas while we are still here in Florida, making the travel much shorter and less expensive. When we move out west, we'll have the chance to see more of the areas out there we want to visit, again at a lesser cost due to distance.

To those who have followed these posts, thank you for your interest. If you have any questions regarding our trip, please ask.

Title: Re: Long awaited retirement trip finally here
Post by: muskoka guy on September 01, 2019, 09:03:48 PM
I really enjoyed reading your journal of your trip. The Yellowstone area and upper mid west states are about the only area of Canada and the lower US I have not visited. Your account will be helpful in planning my trip there in the near future. I have just returned from two months in NFld, the Maritimes, and north eastern US. The Bay of Fundy was my favourite thing on the east coast. Watching 40 ft tides go up and down is amazing. Cheers