Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Barstow, CA

We are in Barstow, CA after an uneventful three hour drive. It was sunny and 71F when we arrived, the first time we have seen either of these conditions. Tomorrow we head for Desert Hot Springs where we have booked a spot at Desert Oasis RV Park for a month. The weather is not all that great but the hot pools are HOT!

I love these uneventful drives!

Monday, November 28, 2016

One More Day!

We are staying at The Orange Grove for one more day because the weather is still not good to the east and as one reader pointed out, Monday is still a busy day on the highway as people go home. We are enjoying the break from the road and from what seems like forking over hundreds of dollars a day for repairs.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Battery Exchange

We called Costco and told them we were returning the two 6 volt batteries that had failed the load test. We arrived at the store and asked to see the automotive manager, prepared with all the technical information we could remember from the battery expert. The manager stopped us before we started, telling us all he needed was the receipt showing the date of sale. We could replace them for up to one year, no questions asked. Period.

I went back to the rig, removed the batteries and took them to customer service where they gave me a gift card for the full amount. I took this gift card to the battery department and bought new, October 2016 dated batteries.

I had my voltmeter and both the batteries were putting out 6.37 volts, the highest of the batch they had on display. The manager apologised for the trouble we had and told us to bring these back anytime in the next year if we were not happy with them. I removed the old batteries myself and Miguel, a young, strong man helped me out with the new batteries and lifted them into place for me. The batteries charged all the way to Bakersfield at the rate of about 13.5 volts. I really hope they last because it is a pain in the ass (and back) to exchange them although I am sure Miguel would have been happy to help me get the old batteries out if I had asked.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bakersfield, CA

Lots to tell you about but we are both exhausted! We are in Bakersfield, CA at the Orange Grove RV Park. We paid for two nights because they are calling for SNOW tomorrow! We drove through torrential downpours today. In fach it was pouring so hard we could hardly read the "Pray For Rain" signs all along Highway 99. Yes, we did 99 for a change of scenery and now I remember why we switched over to I-5. :) More in the morning.
Off to make coffee and watch some TV!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Batteries Plus

I called Costco to tell them I suspected bad batteries and was taking them to Batteries Plus for a load test. If they failed, I was going to return them. They said there was no need to have them tested and that I had one year to return them, no questions asked!
I decided to have them tested anyway for my own piece of mind and to prove I wasn't really stupid and couldn't connect them properly. He load tested the first one, shook his head and said it was borderline at best. The second one failed completely! Two bad batteries. He said to get two new ones tomorrow and bring them in for another load test from him or from any other Batteries Plus store, no charge. Fasten your seat belts folks, this ride isn't over yet!

Stockton, CA

We got into Walmart's Auto Center for an oil change at the crack of ten this morning and wandered around the store until it was done. We hit the road, stopped for breakfast, fought the Sacramento traffic and ended up here in Stockton at 4 PM.

I am still not happy with the batteries. We ran the extra fridge off the inverter same as we did last year and the year before with no problem but the batteries refused to come up past 12.4 being charged by the Ford engine. This is too low so we started the generator and ran it for the last half hour before we parked.

I called the local Batteries Plus store to see if they could do a proper load test on the individual 6 volt batteries and they can. We will get it done either tonight or tomorrow morning. If they do not pass I will take them to the nearest Costco and demand replacements. It is not unusual to see a bad batch of batteries and probably buying lower end (Interstate) brand doesn't help. They were $89 while the top rated Trojans are $130 - $150.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Anderson, CA

Safe and sound in Anderson, CA. A non-eventful drive. Why does that surprise everyone (including me)? This is the RV friendly Walmart that has an RV bay for oil changes. I walked over when we arrived at 1 PM but they were just closing for Thanksgiving. We will park and wait till morning to get it done.

The weather is so much better here, starting to get warm. T-shirt weather. Life Is Good!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Short Delay But Voluntary This Time

We are ready to go but there is "moderate" snow in the Siskiyou today so we are waiting until tomorrow (Thursday) when it is forecast to be much better. I know the road surface is kept clear for the trucks and yes, I have driven thousands of miles in much worse conditions when I worked on the Alaska border but Norma is nervous so we will wait,

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The phone rang at 10 AM telling us the dolly was done. We asked if they had a plumbing guy around who could look at the leaking drain valve on the fresh water tank that drains the tank in three or four days and they did! We drove the motorhome over and the plumbing guy and I looked at the problem. The leaking valve is located about two feet inside a very narrow passage and is impossible to get at to work on it. We decided to cut the old drain off the tank, cap it and to create a new drain line by tapping off the line to the water pump, add a valve and a drain line out the front. It will be slower to drain the tank but we do not do it often anyway.

The spindle replacement cost $320 labour plus $35 parts and the new drain $160 labour and $40 parts for a total of $605.

This is where the welder drilled a hole through the rear axle housing and welded the new spindle in place. Time and tire wear will tell how "true" he got it. I had told the welder before he started that Master Tow, the trailer manufacturer says the spindle is not replaceable. After he finished he said, "I see what they meant by "not replaceable" but anything can be done if you are determined".

A close-up of the weld,

The new drain. The line to the left goes to the water pump while the new line heading towards us is the new drain with it's shut off valve.

And finally the water draining. Just a trickle but it will work and the tank will no longer drain on it's own.

Monday, November 21, 2016

They Can Do It!

Trailer and RV Parts and Service had their axle guy take the wheel off and look at the problem. The good news is, they can fix it! He said he can think of three different ways to go about it and will think about it and come up with the best way. The spindle is $30 and they said it could take up to three hours to get it welded in "true". In any case he said it should not cost more than $400 total including repacking the bearing on the opposite wheel. A new axle, car deck, shipping and installation would be three times that. I am a happy guy!

"Well there's yer problem".

Some Good News For A Change!

 OK! The local repair place can do the job but not until Wednesday. We are taking it over so they can look at it to make sure it is do-able and we will leave it there. You never know, they might have a cancellation. I didn't ask how much as at this point it is a moot point.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Stuck Here In Medford

It was late afternoon when we got out of the tire store. We were worried about hitting the mountain range this late in the day and after being warned about the spindle damage so we decided to spend the night in the Walmart parking lot and decide that to do.

There is only one axle repair shop in Medford but about twelve over the mountains in Redding / Anderson, CA. We got an RV park here in Medford on Sunday and will call the repair place Monday morning. If they can replace the spindle we will get it done. If not they might have a suggestion. If they do not we will head to Redding and try our luck there.

At this rate it might very well be Christmas before we get warm.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Me and Joe

Meet Joe Btfspik, the Lil' Abner character who walked around with the perpetual cloud over his head. Well, on this trip I am doing a pretty good imitation of Joe.

We took the dolly into Les Schwab for tires this morning and were pleased that they had the exact pair we wanted, the same Towmasters that gave us almost seven years of good service and still had plenty of tread left. As the guy was putting the passenger side tire back on he noticed excessive play in the wheel and recommended that the alignment shop re-pack or replace the bearings. They pulled the bearing, or rather caught it when it fell off and showed me some very excessive wear on the axle spindle! They could do nothing with it but told me I might be able to get a new spindle welded on by a trailer speciality shop but other than that I needed a new axle which includes the car platform. He said to be careful because the cost of buying, shipping and replacing the axle might be almost as much as the trailer is worth which I recall as being $1800 US.

So! It being Saturday morning there is nothing open until Monday. We want to get where it is a bit warmer and everyone is convinced the damage occurred when we had the brake problems on that wheel and burned up the brake drum in Florida back in 2012 (see here).

So the bottom line is since the damage happened in 2012 and has not caused a failure after tens of thousands of miles, I feel confident to proceed to Redding or Anderson, CA where there are many trailer repair places where hopefully I will be able to get a new spindle welded on. This sounds scary but if you Google "trailer spindle replacement" it is a common repair. Whether or not it can be done on our dolly remains to be seen. The next step is to carry on carefully to Fresno, CA where there is a MasterTow dealer.

Another Delay

Is it me or is it Oregon? I got to thinking when was it we replaced the dolly tires? I checked the date code and the tires were manufactured in June, 2009! They are well past their five years and overdue for replacement! We pulled into the Les Schwab Tire store in Medford, OR for tires. When he was putting them on he showed me where one of the bearings needed work. We arranged for the alignment shop to do the work between other jobs sometime this afternoon. We want to be through the Siskiyou Pass before late afternoon so it looks like another night in Oregon. It is a good thing we travel without a schedule or reservations.

On the good news side, the batteries see to be working just fine but boondocking tonight will tell for sure.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Power Problems Continued

1) Well, after a much needed day off to charge the new batteries and to catch up on Norma's recorded shows, we are on our way again this morning. The goal for tonight is the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville. Oregon. It is about a 3 1/2 - 4 hour drive on I-5. Because of the battery problem and heavy rain on the coast we decided to give the coastal route a pass again this year. 
2) Parked in the Seven Feathers Casino free RV parking in Canyonville, OR. We are a little higher here so it will be cool tonight. Not sure if we are going over to the casino. Depends if Norms feels lucky. We did go over and almost broke even after paying for dinner ie: free dinner!
3) Back to the RV. The battery problem is apparently not solved. The batteries will charge with the truck running but not with the generator. The next thing to check is the converter.
4) FIXED! Well, probably fixed and fingers well crossed. We called ahead into Grant's Pass trying to find an RV repair shop open and found just one who could spare time to look at it, Caveman RV
We got there about 10:30 and he sent one of his guys out with a meter to take some readings and report back to him. He then came out and found the back of the converter which had two fuses, one of which was blown. He changed it and the voltage suddenly came up to where he was happy. He started closing things up and the fuse popped again. We had a bad converter! He had only one type/brand in stock, an Iota DLS 55, not top of the line but all he had and it would have been a couple of days for him to order a better one. This is not "smart" but may have a module I can add to make it smart. I have to research. It was $250 plus $89 labor.
We got an RV park down the road as we were both stressed out from worrying about the damn thing plus we did not get a good sleep last night as it was cold and we had no hookups. We are at a quiet little RV park in Grant's Pass right on the Rogue River.
Tomorrow we head for Anderson, California and an oil change for the motorhome.
If anyone tells me I may not have needed new batteries I will seriously lose it. Seriously!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It's A Long Story

So grab a coffee!

When Norma started getting the motorhome ready for the trip she noticed a damp smell inside. To dry it out she plugged in a 1500 watt electric heater. She did not realize I was using a 14 or 16 gauge 50 foot extension cord. The voltage drop principle kicked in and the net voltage getting to the RV was about 95 - 100 volts! This screwed up the converters ability to charge the batteries properly which leads us to part two.

When we pulled out of the driveway Saturday the battery voltage was about 11.5, a very bad situation but we had a long drive to Victoria to charge it up. We got to the ferry and the batteries looked great but just using the lights dragged them quickly down to 12 volts. The generator charged them back up but again, they dropped back down to 12 volts much too quickly when we shut it off.

We decided to get an RV park for Monday night and see if plugging in the RV's converter could charge the batteries but it didn't. My mind was envisioning various scenarios as we boondocked last night and still could not keep a charge on the batteries. I came to the inevitable conclusion that the batteries that we bought in April just before we got home, were fried! This was confirmed by an RV repairman who we consulted in Oregon City. It turned out that I understood 12 volt systems better than he did but we both came to the same conclusion, fried batteries that were only holding a surface charge. We decided to buy new batteries, stay in an RV park Tuesday and Wednesday nights to allow them to fully charge and then test the system hoping to prove the converter was not fried as well.

We pulled into the very busy Costco in Wilsonville, Oregon and bought two $90 six volt batteries. They install car batteries but nor RV batteries. I asked the service guy if he would pull the two heavy batteries out of the compartment under the stairs and then to lift in the new ones if I did all the electrical work. He was pleased to do it.

The new batteries showed an acceptable 12.6 volts right out of the store and started charging with the truck running. We pulled into a convenient RV park and booked for two nights in order to make sure the batteries get a proper initial charge. Tomorrow afternoon we will disconnect from the park power and pretend er are boondocking, checking the batteries.

It was an unfortunate lesson costing us almost $400 Canadian after the batteries, two nights in a fairly expensive RV park and a Costco pizza to go.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Virgin Broadband

I almost lost my Virgin(ity)

I have been using Virgin Broadband for several years now, starting when they offered an unlimited plan for $40 a month pay as you go. A good deal. They then changed the plan to be not quite unlimited for $55 a month. Being an existing customer I was "grandfathered" onto the $40 plan.

Three months ago I got an email saying my account would be cancelled if I did not buy more time immediately. I called them and explained I was not in the USA and did not want to buy time I would not be able to use. The agent said no problem, if I was out of the country, just buy more time when I return.

When I went into the RadioShack in Sequim yesterday they were unable to sell me the $40 plan, Virgin's computer refused it. He got his dealer's customer service on the phone, got nowhere and handed the phone to me. "Your account was cancelled for lack of use. You can open a new account but it will cost you $55 a month" I tried to calmly explain things but got nowhere. It was going to cost me $55 a month. I admit I got a little pissed. "Don't get mad at me, I didn't cancel your account, the system did". "Well",I said,"It must be very nice to have a system that closes your customers accounts every 45 days but if the system did this then the system can undo it". "It doesn't work that way, your account is closed".

Frustrated, I bought $55 worth of time and walked back to the rig. When I tried to apply the money I could not get into the "system" because, you guessed it, my account was closed! This morning I called RadioShack and was told they could set me up with a new account and apply the credit for a $5 service charge. This sounded like a great deal and it was! After spending about a half hour on the phone and multiple calls he finally said to me, "You are good to go!"

I asked him how he did it and he said that once he got past the customer service front line he found someone familiar with the Broadband service and from there it only took a couple of minutes. He kept me on the same account as I had and get this, still on the $40 a month plan! It is still sort of unlimited but I will be throttled back after 5 GB in a month. I never use that much unless there is a Windows update so 5 GB will be plenty. He said they will probably cancel it again after I return to Canada next year but he said to stop by and see him next year and he will fix it again. He is my new BFF! He certainly earned his $5.

Chehalis, WA

We are at our favorite Walmart in Chehalis, WA. The batteries seem to be back in shape after being plugged in at the RV park last night. Starchoice set up in less than 30 seconds after putting the dish together so we still have our touch.

We have a very slight water leak underneath that I think is a leaky shut off valve that drains the tank. Not a big problem as it does not leak that bad. It is hard to find an RV repair place this time of year as they are all busy.

No Internet

All is well, we are in Sequim, Washington where the nice guy at the local RadioShack got my Virgin Broadband account running again. It was a long story that I will detail later.

life Is Good and we are finally on our way.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Victoria Harbor!

Made it to the ferry parking. Just!
The gates to the Black Ball Ferry parking lot close at 4:30 sharp. If you make it by then you can park for the night. We had lots of time to make it except there was an accident on the Malahat about ten vehicles in front of us. It was a devastating head on crash that left all three people seriously injured but probably alive. Traffic was held up for two hours.
We arrived at the ferry at 4:40 and it was all locked up except for the exit lane! I drove in the wrong way, made a u-turn and parked, hoping no one noticed and ordered us out. They didn't so I think we are good for our 10:30 AM ferry.

EDIT: OOPS! We just got a stern warning! I guess where we drove against the arrows is Canada Customs property and they take a dim view of trespassers! Well, If they didn't want us there they should have locked the gate.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Finally, Plans

We have finally negotiated a date for leaving! We will catch the 10:30 AM ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles on Sunday, November 13. The plan is still to head down the Oregon Coast but that final determination will be made after a weather check the first night in Washington State.

I just bought Travel Medical Insurance and got sticker shock. It is $500 more than last year and will cost us $4260. Ouch. $25 Canadian per day!

Anyway, it is for almost six months and is less than a trip to Europe (or almost anywhere)

Further updates and the saga of our adventure will be posted fairly often.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

I don't want to try to post my own thoughts, they would not be helpful to or respectful of anyone. Instead I am posting the words of an American Friend on Facebook.

This will probably be my last political post before I slip back into the cocoon of political apathy and non-involvement. I wish I could say that I’m shocked by the election results but I’m not, though I am appalled, upset and ashamed. I wish things had turned out differently but the voters have spoken. As unhappy as I am, I accept what has happened (I have to) and I honestly hope that something good will come of this presidency. Trump will never be my president, and I can’t in good conscience put president in front of his name, but I don’t want him to fail because that will not be good for any of us or our country.
What I’m most concerned about now is what will happen to women and minorities. I don’t want our country to slip back in time but we’re heading in that direction. I don’t want to see a reversal of the gains made through long, hard battles. I don’t want choices taken away from us and placed in the hands of people (mostly white men) who will never experience the very things they want to legislate. As someone who supports marriage equality, I don’t want to see marriages between anyone become invalid based on who they love, but that may very well happen. I’m worried for couples who are married (and perhaps waited years and years for it to become legal in their state) and worried for those who hope to marry someday. Where does that leave them? What about their children?
And I worry about all the children in this country. If they live with a struggling single parent, that struggle is going to become an even bigger struggle. The violence and bullying in schools will continue, and why not? We now have a president who is a bully, someone who has brought out the racist, bigoted qualities in many of his supporters, someone who has unveiled the brewing violence and hatred. One of my grandnephews (only 10 years old) cried when his mother told him who won the election. He knows the president-elect is a bully. If that’s not sad, I don’t know what is.
We will never know how the situation would have played out if Clinton was elected but I know for a fact I would not be nearly as worried as I am now. Despite how I feel about her I had confidence in her ability to be president. I wouldn’t be feeling scared this morning. Yes, the sun did rise this morning, as *my* president said it would, but I feel like there’s a huge storm cloud looming over us, and it’s going to stay there for a long time. No rainbows in sight.
- Laurie

Friday, November 4, 2016

Oregon Coast?

We are starting to make some preliminary plans for the winter and are thinking of taking the Oregon Coast route down into California instead of the I-5 route we have always taken. This keeps us away from the mountain passes with their slight possibility of snow and keeps us on the coast with it's great food and slower highways. The weather is not going to be great but not that bad either. The long range forecast calls for temperatures in the mid to high 50's and rain about every second day.

We would take Highway 101 from Aberdeen, WA down through Washington, Oregon and part way into California. We would turn off 101 onto HWY 36 and join I-5 near Corning, CA. This route would take a few more days (and a few more gallons of gas) as we do not want to be in a rush but would allow us to enjoy the coast. We are in no rush!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Drainage Done!

The drainage guy finished up yesterday and gave us his bill of a very reasonable $880. Adding up all his time and the material he used, I thought I would be very lucky to get away with under $1000 so I was pleasantly surprised. He promises to drop by a couple of times over the winter to make sure it is working.

We went down this morning to buy insurance for the motorhome and dolly as it has to go into the shop tomorrow morning at 9:00. When I went to check the fridge on propane, it would not run and there is a slight smell of propane coming out from under the stairs where the propane distribution block is located. It splits the main propane line from the tank into separate lines to the furnace, hot water tank, stove and fridge.

The fridge runs well on electric, just not on gas so it probably needs to be blown out with compressed air. Spiders and bugs like to make nests in there and have to be cleaned out once in a while. The propane smell problem we have dealt with at least twice before. I don't know what the problem is but I wish someone would figure out how to fix it!

Here are the final drainage photos:

Stream #1. He placed drain pipe, a settling bucket and then covered everything up with gravel.

Here is the cleanout for this system. The large rock at the top holds the lid down on the bucket.

Here is stream #2 (the larger one). Everything goes into drain pipe under the gravel and right into the main pipe down to the ocean. There is very little silt in this stream so there is no need for a settling device.

Here is where the stream #2 goes into the pipe and where it will have to be cleaned out if it becomes plugged.

This is another problem we fixed while he was here. The downspout on the left used to drain into the pipe directly under it. During heavy rain it would overflow and an inspection yesterday showed it to be full of mud. Rather than worry about it (spend more money) we simply diverted the downspout into the pipe leading to the new drainage pipe to the ocean. Problem solved.