Retirement trip, Part Two

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John Stephens

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We had an outstanding day scratching another item off my bucket list - walking through a slot canyon. On the advice of Jackie MacKenzie, we drove to the Willis Creek slot canyon. I had planned on taking US89 to Johnson Canyon Rd. to Skutumpah Rd. where the canyon is located. For once, Apple Maps did me right by giving me an alternative route, taking 89 north all the way to Utah 12, the same road we took to cross the mountains in the middle of the state driving between Moab and Kanab. I thought it was a giant mistake once on the road and realizing the direction we were taking because we wanted to see the old western movie set on the Johnson Canyon Rd. on the way up. But if we had taken that way, we would have driven 30 miles on Skutumpah Rd., a dirt washboard road that was one of the worst we have been on during this trip. Fortunately, since Apple Maps made me catch that road on the north end instead of the south, we drove 5 miles on it instead of 30.

The slot canyon was all it was cracked up to be, with actually more than one slot canyon. We saw three, walking through one and choosing not to get wet by trying to walk through the other two that were started with waterfalls from the creek. One had about an eight foot drop that appeared to have no way of getting out once you fell or dropped in. For the second day in a row, we got a very good workout while walking over 3 miles.

After we turned around and began walking back, we noticed severely dangerous looking clouds and heard thunder. Since we still had to make it back through at least the longest canyon, we picked up the pace, not wanting to be in a slot canyon during a rainstorm. That's a good way to lose your life since these things flash flood very easily with a downpour. We made it back to the car before it began raining and noticed that nearly everyone else who had parked there was either gone or leaving quickly for the same reason we were.

It was a good thing we left when we did. A cold front was sweeping through the entire state, bringing high winds, cold temps, and a lot of rain. After we got back on the highway, we got hit with soft hail, splattering on the windshield. By the time we got back home, the temps had dropped 20 degrees.

We had originally planned on seeing Kodachrome Basin while we were in the area, but when we saw the storm clouds, we decided to go straight back to the coach. We'll try to see the western movie set on Johnson Canyon Rd. another day, maybe when we drive to the North Rim.

We had planned on driving to Bryce Canyon NP tomorrow but after making the same drive today, I think we'll wait another day or two and let that cold front pass through. It's supposed to get warm again day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, we'll stay south, go to the North Rim and head down 89 to see the Hoodoos and the movie set. It should make for a shorter day, something I'm sure the dogs will appreciate after being left for six and seven hours the past two days.
 

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John Stephens

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We had a great day seeing more things in Southern Utah. We began the day driving down US 89 following Apple Maps directions trying to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I drove for about 20 miles before I realized we were going the wrong direction and should have been on 89A instead. But that was okay because we were planning on seeing the Toadstool Hoodoos afterward, so we simply reversed our schedule and continued driving east to the Hoodoos.

The Toadstools were a .8 mile walk to the first one and a total of 2.2 miles round trip after seeing several. They are really quite fascinating and there is no answer to how they got their shapes other than millions of years of wearing down to the shapes they are in. We met a compatriot from St. Louis where I was born and raised who walked along the trail with us, making the trail quite a bit more interesting.

We took a large number of photos of both the toadstools and the Vermillion Cliffs along the way. We returned home for lunch to the delight of our dogs and left again to drive to the North Rim.

We knew before leaving that the North Rim was closed until May 15th but thought we might be able to drive around any roadblock. No such luck. The road was secured from shoulder to shoulder and we had to turn around after only driving roughly half the way. For anyone interested, the roadblock was on Hwy. 67 right after it splits from US89.

We turned around to go back without disappointment because our chief reason to go there was to experience the sight of the Grand Staircase on the way back up US89. We were able to see the entire staircase, all five levels, at the LeFever Overlook. Although it wasn't a completely clear day to take the perfect photo, I think the ones we took will be good enough to blow one of them up into a larger framed print. We were astounded at the sight of all five levels of the staircase at the same time, encompassing over 100 miles into the distance. We could easily see the Chocolate Cliffs in the foreground and all levels up to the Pink Cliffs in the farthest distance. The view was incredible and possibly the best we have seen during this entire trip.

We cut our day short and made it back to the coach and the very happy pups in only 1.5 hours. Tomorrow, we plan on driving back up north and see Bryce Canyon. We have been told the best time to visit is at sunrise, but we have no plans on getting up at 3AM so we can make it up there by the time the sun starts coming up.
 

John Stephens

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Cape Coral, FL
Yesterday's trip to Bryce was unexpectedly short. Since so many people had built it up to be the best of the five national parks in Utah, I guess we expected to have a full day of adventure. Instead, the park essentially has one attraction - the canyon itself - and little else. At least that is what we found by taking the park shuttle that had only four points to stop at providing different angles and looks of the same canyon.

I will say Bryce Canyon is one of the strangest sights I have ever seen, with all its spires and hoodoos. While I use the word "strange," it is also one of the most beautiful parks I have visited, just a bit different. But riding the shuttle that completes its rounds both in and outside the park in a mere 50 minutes, means that unless you're going to hike along some of the trails down to the bottom of the canyon, taking pictures at the top where the shuttle lets you off gives you a fairly brief day of touring the area. We got photos so astounding, we will probably be able to blow up at least one or two into 24x36 wall hangings. And while the time to drive there was the same as the time we spent there, we really didn't mind having a short day after spending four days in a row hiking considerably more than we thought we ever would. This park was no different in that respect, with us hiking a half mile from one shuttle stop to another point for more photos.

Overall, I must rate Bryce NP in the middle of all the parks we have visited, not in the top three. And I certainly felt that Arches and Zion were much better to visit.

Last night, I drove back to Johnson Canyon Rd. to get into dark sky country at midnight but still didn't have the chance to see the Milky Way. It just began to rise when nature called and I had to drive back to the coach. I know it would have required an additional two hours for it to rise high enough in the sky to get any good photos.

Today is cleaning the coach and taking the dogs to the groomer so we'll have a clean house for at least a day or two. Tomorrow, we drive to Las Vegas. In the last week, we have visited the Big Five in Utah and I have received a much different opinion of this state. It is without doubt the most diverse in landscapes.
 

Jayflight

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Great read,, We did Bryce by vehicle, at our own pace. The trails are easier than the ones in the Grand Canyon and a bit cooler too. There are so many shots at different angles in Bryce that we could not settle on one ourselves.
 

Loose Nut

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Cochise Stronghold... or damned near it.
No, I have driven this coach for six years all over the country and this is the first time I have encountered winds like this that were sustained for so long.

Haha, join the club... reminds me of a day spent fighting howling crosswinds on my way through Texas. Stopped for the night in Texarkana, and went to a bar right there by the truck stop... clientele were mostly truck drivers, so I started talking to a couple of guys who had experienced the same trouble. As we enjoyed a few cold beers at the bar, one hand said:

"IT WAS LIKE I WAS MAKING A HARD LEFT TURN FOR THE LAST 500 MILES..."

I always thought that was pretty funny, especially since I had been doing the EXACT SAME THING, LOL. Sometimes, when that sort of weather interferes with your trip, it's better to simply jump off and take a break, as the weather will surely change (and high winds will eventually cease), but truck drivers don't always have that luxury in time management, lol.

Edit: Oops, now I see that your trip has progressed, but that line of yours struck a chord, lol... CHEERS!!!
 
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John Stephens

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Last Wednesday, we took the pups to the local groomer in Kanab, gave Cameron and Mandy baths, and turned Toby, the Rough Collie, over to the groomer. He had never been groomed in his five years, although Judy and I do a pretty good job on him regularly. The groomer agreed and said that although it took him 3.5 hours to do the job, he was much easier than expected. When finished, Toby looked great. Anyone needing grooming or self serve bathing of your pets can expect good service and professionalism from Leighton at the Kanab Dog Wash.

On Thursday, we drove to Las Vegas, encountering no issues along the route. The engine is once again having minor problems when trying to climb grades, missing once in a while, but nothing as bad as the first day we had on the road. I noticed after getting to Vegas that the tailpipes are showing black rings on the outside, making me think the engine is running too rich. I would think there may be issues with the O2 sensors, but if so, they should be triggering the CEL, which isn't happening. The engine sounds and acts as though it is running good except under heavy load. The only thing I can think of doing is having a complete diagnostic run on the engine, probably when we get home since it appears most RV mechanics are booked for a month or more in advance.

When we got into the Oasis RV Resort in Las Vegas, we weren't setup for more than an hour when William from Fixin' Dixon dropped by. He stayed for 4.5 hours trying to determine what was wrong with our furnace, checking the propane pressure and resetting it because it was too low, checking for leaks in all appliances, and doing everything he could without removing the furnace to no avail. We decided the best thing to do was essentially rebuild the furnace with new igniter, burner and control board. He ordered the parts and returned on Sunday, repairing the furnace properly.

When he pulled the igniter, he told me it was the original one and was quite corroded. That means the guy from Back Woods RV Service in Versailles, IN who charged me $160 to install a new one ripped me off. The burner also was quite rusted and may have played a part with the furnace not lighting. There is a possibility the control board was still good, but I didn't want to pay him the labor charges to reinstall the furnace and then possibly having to take it out again to install another part.

William was, in my opinion, a very good mechanic trying to keep RV'ers on the road without making them feel like they were being gouged. His charges were very reasonable and he is a very personable individual. I will recommend him to anyone needing service in Las Vegas. He is an approved vendor at Oasis Las Vegas, and that says a lot.

Since getting here, we have been busting our budget by going to all our old favorite restaurants. We have seen a lot of old friends and Judy was able to see her daughter, grandkids, and her great granddaughter who just turned a year old for the first time. We have one more day to try to squeeze in all the eating spots we want to get to and do a little more shopping.

A very good and longtime friend of mine that I used to work with while living here will be joining us for six days when we leave town on Thursday. We will be traveling to Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, and then up to Yosemite for a week.

Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort has changed a bit since our last visit in 2019. The park is running down, a terrible disappointment. All of the landscape lights around our site and several others are broken and appear nowhere close to being repaired or replaced. We are right next to the laundry and bathhouse. Normally, we don't use either since we are self contained, but Judy decided she wanted to wash the heavy blanket on our bed since the dogs have laid on it a lot while they were very dirty, but when she went to the laundry, she found every single washer to be broken and out of service. Not a good way to impress your guests and get return customers. This however, is not enough to keep us from returning. As long as their rates don't go too much more, we will come back whenever in the area. Although, I noticed on our travels today that Road Runner RV is offering insanely low rates - about a third of what we are paying here, so that's something to look into for the next time.

The pandemic did a real number on this town, possibly worse than most other places in the entire country regarding their economy. And now, the casinos and restaurants are trying to makeup their losses from last year with a passion. There are no more loss leaders to get people in the door. When I lived here, it was cheaper to dine at a casino than it was to go buy groceries and fix your own meals. Not any more. If I had any ideas of moving back here, the cost of housing and general cost of living I have seen has dissuaded me completely. There is no way I could afford to live in this town. The cost of gasoline has risen $.30 in less than a week since we got here and it appears there is no end in sight. We were under $2.00/gallon in the SE part of the country on the way out here, but I'm seeing $3.69/gallon prices for regular right now and in some stations, more than $4.00/gallon for premium.

The weather has been a bit warmer than the average for this time of year, but we expected that. It's supposed to get to 99 or 100 on Friday, but we'll be gone by then, probably needing that repaired furnace while in the Sierras.
 

phil-t

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Maybe, hard to tell what the electronic control module would try to do to make up for fuel issues. Another thought, have you tried disconnecting chassis battery to reset the ECM?
 
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jackiemac

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John, if you've not done it before, hike up the Moro Rock Trail in Sequoia for spectacular views. It's not difficult.
 
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John Stephens

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Cape Coral, FL
Maybe, hard to tell what the electronic control module would try to do to make up for fuel issues. Another thought, have you tried disconnecting chassis battery to reset the ECM?
Haven't heard this one yet, Phil. I have been guessing the problem is the ECM and have thought of getting the one that Ultra RV sells that has over 400 different settings from the factory model, hoping it might take care of the problem. If a battery disconnect will reset it, I'll give it a try. I thought they had a memory to avoid this happening when you changed the battery.
 

Old_Crow

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Just a thought on the engine problem with the coach. My V10 had an intermittent misfire along with poorer than normal fuel mileage. I changed out the boots between the coils and the plugs and the problem went away. I changed the fuel filter at the same time and the old one was so plugged, I was amazed that the coach would run at all.
 

John Stephens

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Cape Coral, FL
Wally, if I was going to change the plug wires, I would also change the plugs and simply give it a full tuneup. I think I'll be lucky if that is all that is wrong. I'm still thinking O2 sensors may be the culprit.

Phil, I tried your idea of disconnecting the battery to see if the ECM would reset. It did not. I didn't think it would work because I have had to have them reset by the dealer.

We hit the road yesterday and drove to Sequoia RV Resort in Badger, CA. It was a long day on the road, the longest we have planned at 375 miles. The last 35 miles on Hwy. 245 was some of the worst road I have ever taken in this coach and I strongly recommend anyone who has an RV longer than 33 feet not to stay at this park. We have been told in order to leave the park and travel to Yosemite on Sunday, we will have to take this road another 13 miles.Upon traveling on it today, we decided the only way we'll make it is to have Judy drive the car ahead of us as a spotter car or sorts so I can use both lanes to get around some of the hairpin curves and switchbacks. My biggest worry, however, is the fact that the trip up this road is anywhere from a 4% to 10% incline and the engine still is not running well.


We drove through Sequoia NP today and enjoyed the scenery. Jackie, sorry, but we didn't hike where you suggested because by the time we walked down to the General Sherman tree and back up, we were so tired, we didn't want to do any more walking. The trees are impressive, to say the least. Tomorrow, we'll drive through King's Canyon.
 

garyb1st

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John don't know if you're still experiencing CELs, but if you are, here is our experience. IIRC, our coaches have the same engine. We were experiencing CELs a few times and our mechanic looked at the same things. Cleaned Mass Air Flow sensor, checked O2 sensors, cleaned K & N air filter. Every thing checked out. But we were still getting lights. While researching the problem, I came across a number of owners who claimed the K&N air filter was the problem. I had our mechanic replace with a stock GM paper filter and the problem went away. Traveled almost 1500 miles since so I'm pretty sure that was the issue.

We never had any rough engine issues and seemed to have plenty of power on our West Coast grades. While I say that, we bought the motorhome used and I have no idea if it ran better when new.

I see you're considering an Ultra Power package. FWIW, our motorhome has the Ultra Power chip but it was done prior to our purchase. Again, I can't say if or how it effected power or fuel economy. We've never gotten much more than 6 mpg over the 20,000 miles we've driven it. But we're West Coast and for the most part have traveled in mountainous areas. The chip supposedly increases HP to 400 and torque to about 500. Our engine has the Allison 1000 transmission and we're close to the max torque rating of the engine. When the Ultra Power package was done they also replaced the plugs and plug wires which is highly recommended if you're running on stock wires.

If you're still in the Las Vegas area and have time, you should consider a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. Also, if you haven't driven the road from the Valley of Fire State Park to the Lake Mead Recreation Area near Boulder City Nevada, it's another great day trip. I know you're a planner so may not have time, but the Forest Service Campground near the entry station of the Lake Mead Rec Area is hard to beat and while no hookups, for $10.00 a day, (geezer rate) it's hard to beat.

Hope you're enjoying part 2 of your retirement trip.
 

John Stephens

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John don't know if you're still experiencing CELs, but if you are, here is our experience. IIRC, our coaches have the same engine. We were experiencing CELs a few times and our mechanic looked at the same things. Cleaned Mass Air Flow sensor, checked O2 sensors, cleaned K & N air filter. Every thing checked out. But we were still getting lights. While researching the problem, I came across a number of owners who claimed the K&N air filter was the problem. I had our mechanic replace with a stock GM paper filter and the problem went away. Traveled almost 1500 miles since so I'm pretty sure that was the issue.

We never had any rough engine issues and seemed to have plenty of power on our West Coast grades. While I say that, we bought the motorhome used and I have no idea if it ran better when new.

I see you're considering an Ultra Power package. FWIW, our motorhome has the Ultra Power chip but it was done prior to our purchase. Again, I can't say if or how it effected power or fuel economy. We've never gotten much more than 6 mpg over the 20,000 miles we've driven it. But we're West Coast and for the most part have traveled in mountainous areas. The chip supposedly increases HP to 400 and torque to about 500. Our engine has the Allison 1000 transmission and we're close to the max torque rating of the engine. When the Ultra Power package was done they also replaced the plugs and plug wires which is highly recommended if you're running on stock wires.

If you're still in the Las Vegas area and have time, you should consider a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. Also, if you haven't driven the road from the Valley of Fire State Park to the Lake Mead Recreation Area near Boulder City Nevada, it's another great day trip. I know you're a planner so may not have time, but the Forest Service Campground near the entry station of the Lake Mead Rec Area is hard to beat and while no hookups, for $10.00 a day, (geezer rate) it's hard to beat.

Hope you're enjoying part 2 of your retirement trip.
Gary, thanks for the advice, but the CEL only occurs with a soft notice of the knock sensor going off. Whatever is wrong with the engine isn't that. Today, we didn't hitch up the car when we left our RV Park near Sequoia to make it up three miles of 9-10% grades. The engine had no problem. But when we hitched up, the engine immediately began running rough, feeling like it was missing on one cylinder every time we went up the slightest incline. I need a full diagnostic performed to determine the problem. Trying to find a mechanic that isn't booked up a month in advance this time of year is nearly impossible.

We made it without issue other than the rough engine to the park we are staying at in Oakhurst, about 14 miles from the south entrance to Yosemite. We made a few minor repairs to the coach today and will begin our exploring of the park tomorrow.
 

John Stephens

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We were very disappointed to find out that the Tioga Road is not open yet. That is half the touring we had planned to do. Fortunately, we were able to drive through the Yosemite Valley and up to Glacier and Washburn Points. Although I I have been to Yosemite several times, the views never stop stunning me with their beauty. We were told the Tioga Road will not open until sometime in June, so if anyone else is looking forward to taking that road prior to that, plan accordingly.

Since a good portion of the park is closed to us and because we don't go on long or strenuous hikes, we will take only one other trip into Yosemite during the week we are staying in Oakhurst. Today, we stayed around the town and visited gift shops. My best friend from Las Vegas has stayed with us the past four days and we will take him to Fresno tomorrow to catch a train and bus back to Vegas. We'll drive into the park again on Thursday.

Beginning Friday, the 21st, Yosemite will again begin demanding reservations are made in order to gain entry. Our plans are to skip the park on Friday and Saturday and simply take it easy. With the exception of only a few days, we have stayed on the go for the past six weeks, so we won't mind taking a couple of days off. I may be able to work on the coach a little with some trim that needs replacing. I'd love to put new plugs in the engine, but my spark plug sockets are at home. I really didn't think the engine would need a tuneup before getting back from this trip.

With the exception of only a few patches, our roads through California have been pretty good, including the state and county roads.

Gas prices here are the highest we've seen and probably the highest in the nation. Presently, we're paying $3.99-4.49/gal for regular for the car and anywhere from $.30-.60 more for premium for the coach. We are still having an issue with the engine and I am getting the feeling I might have one bad plug or wire because sometimes when I am giving it a little gas to maintain a level speed, it feels like it's running rough, as though it might be running on 7 instead of 8 cylinders. That may explain why the CEL hasn't come on lately.
 

John Stephens

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We revisited Yosemite this morning, getting up and out early so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a parking spot wherever we wanted. Getting at the entrance station at 7AM gave us no line, compared to a half mile long line at 9AM at the Hwy 140 entrance as we were leaving the park. We expected heavy traffic into the park today since it is the last day you can get in without a reservation. Finding parking at Tunnel View was easy; it was the only stop we made today.

We chose to take 41 into the park, but 140 on the way back home so we could see what kind of road Hwy. 49 is, since it is our way out of town on Sunday. It's a good thing we did because the road is filled with one 8-9% grade after another nearly the entire time we are supposed to travel on it. Additionally, major roadwork is being done on over half the road's length with it being down to one lane in several places. Given the engine is running poorly right now, I don't want to force it to take mountains any more than necessary, knowing there will be plenty further down the road. Checking the Google Map, I can travel south on 41 the same way we came in and only increase the distance by 12 miles, giving us considerably better roads since Hwy. 41 essentially skirts the foothills of the Sierras. There is one 9% grade immediately after leaving town, so we are planning to drive the car separately until the grade is cleared, and then hitch up.

When we returned to the coach this morning, I was shocked to find my 75 lb. Collie standing on my dashboard with all four feet. He had knocked down the baby's gate we had set up between the captain's chairs and wanted to look out the windshield. The blinds were parted where he had stuck through his long nosy nose. I was frankly surprised the dash took his weight. But he wasn't afraid to get in trouble because he was in no hurry to get down, even after being yelled at.

I'm going to unscrew the four screws holding the back part of the dash in place to see if I can determine what is wrong with the 12v outlet that stopped working at the beginning of the trip. This is my first chance to take a peek at it. If the wires are attached to the outlet, I'm not sure what else could be wrong, save the possibility there is an inline fuse or relay inside the dash between the outlet and the fuse block.

I'm also going to begin replacing some of the wood trim contact paper on the slide out trim that has seen better days. I enjoy days like this on a long trip that give me the opportunity to make repairs I otherwise wouldn't have time to do.
 

John Stephens

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In the past ten days, we have driven from Oakhurst to Olema, CA where we stayed for three nights in the bottom tier of RV campgrounds. Grass sites with no amenities other than the basic utilities. I found out in the last week just how addicted to television Judy is. The location was useful to us, giving us a base of operations to see the Bay Area. We toured both Napa and Sonoma Valleys, stopping at Sutter Home Wineries and purchasing enough wine to keep Judy happy for the rest of the trip. We also toured the coastal area around Point Reyes and was surprised to find so many cattle dairy farms so close to the coast, some of them established as far back as 1849.

On the last day there, we drove to San Francisco to take one last drive down Lombard St. and catch a fish and chowder lunch at a sidewalk cafe at Fisherman's Wharf.

From there, we drove up the coast to Fort Bragg to see my sister-in-law for the first time since my brother died in 2003. We then drove to Klamath to see the Redwoods, taking the Avenue of Giants on the way up. That is an astounding place with my only problem being unable to see the tops of the trees.

We stayed at Mystic Forest RV Park while in Klamath and was pleased with the park. The owners are very nice and trusting, stating they haven't taken a deposit in the 26 years they have run the place. The site was level and the utilities were good, even though the site was grass. Once again, making our reservations eight months in advance seemed to get us the best site in the park, close to all amenities. The park even has an 18 hole mini-golf course that we had to try.

We did the obligatory drive thru a tree for photos a few miles up the road. We also took the tour of the Trees of Mystery, something I found quite interesting and worth the charge for admission.

Anyone touring this part of the coast should be aware there are few places to buy groceries or supplies around and limited gas stations. We paid well over $4.00/gallon for gas the entire time in California, raising the overall cost of the trip much higher than originally thought.

Yesterday, we drove to Prospect, OR to the Crater Lake RV Park. This park is cut right out of the woods and is quite beautiful. Each site is surrounded by trees, providing adequate privacy, and is on asphalt. Ours is one of only two pull through sites and isn't close to being level, forcing us to use wood blocks underneath the jacks.

While we were off grid for several days because the cell service is very limited near the coast and wifi is non existent, we are now able to catch up with wifi so fast, you can stream television shows. That's important since this place has no cable or OTA stations and charges $16 for a DirecTV box for three days. Since we're only staying for two, there is no sense in renting one. Judy is overdosing on the streaming Nashville Network, where they run episodes of the old television show 24/7.

We drove to Crater Lake this morning and I was able to scratch another item off my bucket list that has been there for 60 years. The lake is an unbelievable shade of blue that I have never seen in a lake before. Unfortunately, two thirds of the road surrounding the lake is not yet open due to weather. We were surprised to see as much snow on the ground as there is and we were told the park got snow in mid June last year.

On the way back to the RV, we stopped at Natural Bridge to see an unusual formation - a lava bed that has been hollowed out by lava and later, water, to allow the Rogue River to travel 200 feet underground without altering it course. Quite fascinating.

Tomorrow, we will drive to Lincoln City to see an old friend that says he can diagnose my engine problem. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. After two nights there, we will drive to an RV park between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier for four nights. Our trip is already on the downside, time wise, and when we reach Mt. Ranier, it will be the longest distance from our home in SW Florida on this trip. After that, regardless of where we go, we'll be on our way home.
 
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John Stephens

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The day we got to Lincoln City, I thought our luck had changed because my friend immediately suggested that we change the plugs and wires on the engine, and even though I doubted it would be true, that was all that was needed to get the engine running as it should. Had I known that, I would have given it a tuneup the day the problem started. Since then, we have averaged 7.2-7.6 mpg, a nice change from the 6.0-6.2 we were getting.

But our good luck was short lived. We drove from Oregon to Randle, WA and dropped anchor at Tower Rock RV Park, not to be confused with Tower Rock Campground, the place our Garmin got it confused with. The park is without a doubt the worst place we have ever stayed at, making me wonder why I picked it. It was closer to Mt. St. Helens than Mt. Ranier, which worked out for the worse because the road to St. Helens was still closed due to snow. Apparently, the WA DOT only plows the roads to the south of the mountain and leaves the roads to the north to simply have the snow melt away, meaning anyone staying at this park will be out of luck seeing the mountain for all but possibly July and August, if that.

The park had sites on grass and dirt, not level, and had only 30a electric, no television, wifi, or cell service from any provider. This was the epitome of being "off the grid," with the exception of the utilities.

We drove to Mt. Ranier, was unimpressed, and found out that because of the lack of cell or internet, I missed the chance to meet with one of my favorite authors when I finally did get my email. We decided that because there was nothing to do there that appealed to us, we would leave early. We had planned on staying for four nights, but left after two. This is the only park I know of that takes your money when you leave rather than when you arrive, so there was no issue with leaving after two nights.

That was when our luck on this trip turned for the worse. We drove on US 12 until it was time to turn onto I-82 and take it to I-90. We took the exit for 82 East and didn't realize until we were a good 30 miles down the road that we had gone the wrong way. At that point, 82 runs north to 90 as it goes west, not east. So we took 82 all the way to WA 395 which would connect us with I-90 and not be really that far out of the way.

When we were about a mile south of I-90, we got hit with a wind gust that took part of the roof off the coach. I think we were lucky that was the only damage we incurred because on the nightly news in Spokane that evening, one of the news stories was about how much damage the wind had done to businesses in the area. There apparently were 40 mph sustained winds with 60 mph gusts. I believe we were fortunate not to get blown over with that gust. I heard something happening on the roof above my head and within seconds, the sound traveled to halfway back on the coach so I pulled over on the shoulder and climbed up on the roof to find parts of the filon completely gone and the remainder flapping in the strong wind, ripping more with time.

I climbed back down and got the Eternabond roll of tape I carry in case of emergencies and my utility knife. On the roof a second time, I found myself having to lie virtually flat to avoid being blown off. I tried to get on my knees one time while working with the tape and was blown backwards almost off the coach. I had to work on one section while holding another section down with my leg. I ran out of tape, a 50 ft roll, about ⅔ of the way through.

I climbed down and got the roll of Gorilla Tape I also carry and went back up a third time to tape the rest of the filon back down the best I could. Judy was begging me to drive one more mile to I-90 before finishing the job because it would point us east and give us a tail wind so I wouldn't take the chance of getting blown off the roof. I explained to her that if we didn't get the damage taped down now, it would only get worse, even if it was exposed to straight cross winds for only a mile. Since the Gorilla Tape was only 2" wide while the Eternabond was 4" wide, it took considerably more tape to complete the job.

When finished, I called my coach guy back home and asked him for suggestions on how to weatherproof the damage. The only thought I had was trying to tarp it and secure the tarp as well as possible with tape. My mechanic told me that would only be possible while stationary because regardless of how well I taped it down, wind would find its way underneath and blow it off as soon as I hit the highway. He suggested going to Home Depot and buying a roll of roofing underlayment because it is sticky and would sufficiently weatherproof the area. He suggested overlaying the edges rather than butting them to avoid any spaces where water could get through.

We stopped in Spokane Valley at a Home Depot and did exactly what he suggested, using more Gorilla Tape to secure every edge of the underlayment. I cut the underlayment after laying it over the aluminum corners because I didn't like the way it raised up and thought it would be better to ensure the wood layer below was completely covered. That idea was approved by a service advisor at Winnebago in a later phone call. We stayed that night in the Home Depot parking lot.

I had already called the owner of Riverfront RV Park in Garrison, MT to make sure I could arrive two days early and we drove there the next day. This is a very nice park I have stayed at before on my way from Yellowstone to Glacier because it is roughly halfway between the two parks. It is one of the parks I was giving serious thought to work camping at, and the owner and other hosts are interested in me working there. I think it will be a no go however, because the season is May 1st to September 30th, and I am not interested in suffering through cold weather for that long.

Long story ended - I have climbed up two more times since then to add more tape. I called Winnebago to see if there was any chance they could take me when in their area later this month. They will be out of the way, but we could make it work without too much inconvenience. Unfortunately, they told me that when the filon is ripped off the roof, they will replace the entire roof all the way down to the interior ceiling, reusing the lights and a/c vents if possible. Total cost - around $35,000. Time to repair - 10 days. Earliest they can take it - October 4th. I made an appointment for that day even though I really don't want to have to drive the coach home to Florida and then drive back up there by myself and have to stay in a hotel for 10 nights. My insurance company was willing to have me do it but didn't say if they would pay the expense for travel, preferring to only commit to the cost of repair. I called my coach guy again and asked what he would do if given the job, and he said he would replace the filon and veneer below it along with the gutters and vents, but not the interior. His cost would be somewhere between $12-15,000 and I wouldn't have to drive it more than a mile and not worry about a hotel. And, he'll do it before October. I think my insurance company will be pleased to have to pay less than half what they have already been quoted. I have had him do enough work for me to know he is a perfectionist and will do a good job.

But our problems were nowhere close to being over. Yesterday, we drove from Garrison to Gardiner, a little town just north of Yellowstone NP for the most expensive week of the entire trip. They charge $78 per night, no weekly rate, and they don't know who Good Sam is, nor do they recognize veterans when it comes to discounts.

We drove to our site, a relatively level dirt site, a short walk to the Yellowstone River and commented that this appeared to be a small, but very nice park. We dropped our jacks but knew we wouldn't get completely level until the slides were out so I tried to let out the largest living room slide. The front of it went completely out but the rear of it didn't. I walked outside to see what the problem was and my next door neighbors told me that unless it was my a/c, I had a leak under the coach. I told Judy to bring it back in but it wouldn't come all the way in. I told her to give it another try and when the front was out far enough, I saw the leak the neighbor had mentioned dripping very fast from one of the hydraulic cylinders in the middle of the coach above the drive shaft. But now, the front of the slide was within two inches of being all the way out and the rear was still almost all the way in.

Long story short - the slide has bound up and will not move either in or out. I downloaded the HWH manual for emergency retraction, did all it said to do and tried to manually retract the front of the slide. No go. My neighbor has an electric impact wrench, so he tried it. He got it to move about an inch before it locked up completely, bending metal inside around the ram and the track bolt. The rear of the slide is going to have to be let out and even it up with the front before it's going to move.

My research online (thank goodness we now have internet and cell service) led me to find out there are no mobile mechanics in this area currently available to me. Two are on vacation and the third is out of the area and charges $1,350 for a service charge plus $160 for the first hour of labor, and if parts have to be ordered, which I am sure they will, a second trip will cost another $1,350. I checked HWH's listing for the area and found an RV dealer that is an authorized HWH repair center in Billings, about 168 miles from here and called them this morning. They asked for photos to attempt to determine what kind of HWH setup I have because according to them, there are about 38 different ways HWH built these units. They said they have an ample supply of parts but think from what I have told them that parts will probably have to be ordered and at this time, it will take about two weeks to get parts unless they request expedited shipping, which of course, will cost more. I told them to get any parts they need as quickly as they can regardless of cost because we will be staying in a hotel room with three large dogs and will be paying nightly fees as long as this takes. I would imagine faster shipping won't cost as much as the hotel room.

My biggest worry now is how it is going to be towed to the shop with the slide out at the angle it is. I am hoping Good Sam will cover the cost of getting it to Billings, even though this shop isn't the closest. We haven't yet figured out how we're going to handle not living in the "house" we have been in for the past two months. Everything we need to survive is in this coach and we're not sure what, or how much, to take with us when they tow the coach away. I have worries about additional damage to the slide rams while being towed. Frankly, I don't even know how the tow company is going to do it, short of loading it onto a carrier rather than trying to tow it with two wheels down.

Since we have already paid for this park for a week, we decided to make the best of the situation that we can and still see Yellowstone, waiting to have the coach towed away until next Monday. That will cut our visit here short by one day but give the shop five working days next week to determine what is wrong and get it fixed. Fortunately, they are open on Saturdays, so if the coach arrives late Monday, they'll have Tuesday through Saturday to work on it and told me over the phone they would. They are hoping on having the coach only four or five days.

If we get lucky and can hit the road again by the following weekend, it will only cut into our plans with reserved sites by two days. That's best case scenario and probably quite unlikely. Worst case scenario but still have the coach repaired will be waiting a couple of weeks in a hotel while they get parts and rebuild the slide hydraulics and possibly repair any damage done to the slide, rams or components. If we can't leave Billings until the end of June, it will effectively destroy the remaining trip for us. From here, we had planned on seeing a friend in Belt, MT for a day, then drive to Theodore Roosevelt NP in Medora, ND, then to Wall, SD to tour the Badlands, and then head to St. Louis for a week. After the roof damage, we decided to skip ND and SD since those states are known for high winds most of the time and drive straight to St. Louis. I had already called our park there and asked for two extra days at the beginning of the stay. Now, it looks like I may have to call them again and cancel the entire stay or cut it short. We were going to visit Judy's mother in Illinois for several days after St. Louis and then drive to Nashville with reservations at a park there for two nights. Then, it was dry camping the rest of the way home, taking our time and stopping whenever we chose.

Fortunately, the bulk of the "vacation" is already over because we have visited most of the national parks we wanted to see and connected with the friends and relatives out west we wanted. But I have warned Judy for a couple of years about the possibility, really probability as time goes on, that something major could or would go wrong with the coach while we were on the road that would delay or destroy one of our trips. It has now happened. It makes me wonder how much longer I want to keep this money pit and how much more money I want to throw into it. I expect this repair to be in the thousands.

I'll provide you the details of the repair after it is completed and we are back on the road.
 

ChasA

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 21, 2009
Posts
1,964
Dang John. Is your nickname Joe Btfsplk? Hint: lil Abner comic character.
Sorry to read of your troubles
 
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