Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reality and RVs

Wincehester Bay to Coburg/Eugene to Grants Pass, OR – October 4 to 11, 2016

Winchester to Coburg to Grant's Pass

It has been an interesting 2 weeks at Salmon Harbor in Winchester Bay, OR. Our first Boomer gathering is now under our belts and we’ll digest the results as we travel along.

It was a little foggy as we bid farewell to the Harbor.

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And “C” Dock is practically deserted now that Crab-a-Rang is over.

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The fall colors are just beginning to show up as we get further away from the coast.

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There was a light rain which immediately messed up Big Guy and Sunny (the tow car). Keeping a rig clean and sparkly is a never ending job.

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One of the things that has been in the back of our minds is to get some front suspension problems fixed. Right after our annual service at the Gaffney, SC Freightliner Chassis Service Center we noticed that the front end would shimmy when the brakes were applied and Big Guy would dive to the right.

We were already well on our way and didn’t want to turn back. I called Freightliner and they told me what they thought the cause was and offered to help defray the costs. Well we have had such bad luck with companies that have preformed work for us on Big Guy that I’ve gotten really reluctant to just blindly go to anyone to get problems fixed. As a result it wasn’t until now that I finally pulled the trigger and decided to let Pacific Truck, a large Oregon outfit work on our baby. After all, research had shown that they were referred to as an Oasis dealer which is Freightliners way of saying they are qualified to work on motorhomes.

We made an appointment for Wednesday morning, October 5. We showed up the afternoon before and checked in, filled out the paperwork and so on.

Wednesday morning, I walk over to give them the keys and wait and wait while some other RVer is expaining to the service writer why his insurance is going to cover everything that needs to be done to his motorhome. I can see the service guy grinding his teeth. He finally tells the RVer that not only will his insurance not cover what needs to be done he would be surprised if it payed a tenth of the bill.

For some reason they took this guy in first, even though I had arleady checked in. But in our ignorant bliss, we took off for breakfast. Later, we cruise back by and our RV hasn’t moved. So I stop and ask whats going on? Well the guy that didn’t have an appointment was taking longer than expected but they would start on us right after they were done with him. So again we take off confident that Coburg Freightliner would take care of us. About 3 o’clock we get a call saying they can’t get to it today, can we stay over?

Well I want to get this problem fixed and we don’t have a schedule right now, so I say yes. In the meantime they had moved our RV over to a very noisy part of the lot. When we got back we moved back to where we had spent the previous night which was marginally quieter. I check in once more ( I had to get the keys back to move the RV) and asked about the protocol for tomorrow morning. The service writer said the guy that works on it doesn’t come in until 8:30 or 9:00. I said OK, I’ll be here with the keys at 8:30.

The next morning I show up with the keys and get told we’ll have to wait because the lift they need to work on Big Guy is blocked by another RV and they’ll get to us when they are done with that one. And, oh by the way, we were ready for you at 7:30 this morning but we didn’t want to wake you. By this time the steam was beginning to shoot out of my ears.

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We decided this morning that we would camp out in the customer lounge and see if we couldn’t nudge this ordeal along. And as if the day couldn’t get any worse, it did. We immediately encouter another person waiting in the lounge with his pit bull. This volume of this persons voice was such that he would have not needed the sound system at the super bowl to be easily heard by fans sitting in the upper bleachers.

I went back out to Big Guy and got my earplugs. That helped some.

And in the midst of all this, Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Florida coast. The Weather Channel was making all kinds of dire predictions of 11 foot tidal surges and 12 to 18 inches of rain for our home base. I really had to crank up the volume to hear it over Mr. Megaphone.

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We were worried for all our friends that lived there. Our place is way up on the hill that is the highest in Clay County, and we had just had the roof reshingled so we felt our place would be pretty secure. So when we weren’t fuming at the lousy service at Freightliner we were worrying about the hurricane.

Late in the afternoon, they finally put Big Guy up on the lift to adjust the aligment.

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They adjusted it as far within the limits as they could (including the use of shims) to try to get it to track more left. So I paid up and went for a test drive. It still shimmied, pulled right and dove to the right when I put the brakes on. They did not fix what I originally asked them too.

We turned right around and went back. I read them the riot act this time demanding to know why they didn’t address the problems I came in here for. Well they didn’t know what else they could do, but for $135 they would swap front tire positions and hope that would cure the problem. But they couldn’t get to it untill tomorrow.

So we stewed about it overnight. We discussed options. We did more research. Then I discovered that Paul and Nina over at Wheelingit had service done by Henderson’s Lineup a couple of years ago and were very happy with the process. More research revealed nothing but glowing reviews for this place. And, to top it off, it was only 150 miles away. So, the decision was made, we were going to Grant’s Pass Oregon to get it done right.

On Friday, the third day at Coburg Freightliner, EJ was in favor of driving off, but I wanted to get one last word in. So I went back in and talked to the service folks and vented on them about what I though of the way they had treated me as a customer. They had no excuse other than if I wanted to continue to throw money at them, they would continue to guess about what was wrong and hope they got lucky. I told them what I thought of their strategy and headed back to EJ and the RV.

I had already called Hendersen’s and made an appointment for Tuesday, October 11. But I was still so mad, I didn’t want to drive far. We needed a place to chill for a few days.

There are two Elks Lodges in Eugene, and one of them had electric, water and a dump site for RVers. I made a call and they welcomed us to come on over and spend a few days. It was only about 20 minutes away, and after getting Big Guy ready to travel we headed over with EJ driving the Explorer. It didn’t make any sense to tow it as we were only going about 12 miles.

We got set up and went inside to pay our respects. The bar keep gave us a menu and invited us back for dinner tonight.

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On another note, our senior cat, Maggie, has gotten very picky about what she eats. When Maggie had her initial physical after she joined our roving family the vet pronounced her teeth healthy. But she continues to confound us with her eating habits. She’ll devour dry food, but we know from past exerience that an exclusive diet of dry food can cause bowel movement problems for a cat. So we want a major part of her diet to be wet food to make sure she is getting plenty of moisture to aid help the digestive process.

EJ has been  on a mission to find something that Maggie will eat on a consistent basis. And it has been a battle. Maggie is very particular about the consistency of her food. EJ found some canned food that was like a pate’ and Maggie ate it. So we stocked up it. Then after about 3 days, she wouldn’t touch the stuff. So then EJ found some Sheba tender beef pate’. Maggie devoured it. So we stocked up on that. Maggie stopped eating it. EJ perserved through several more iterations of this scenario until the solution, we think, was found. Gerbers baby food and a hard to find liquid food in a pouch for seniors. So she now gets a combination of food for a baby and food for a senior. The irony is not lost on us. For several weeks now this combination has been a winner. So, while we are in Eugene we stock up, again. Fingers crossed!

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Eugene did have a respectable farmers market. It was set on for 4 corners of an intersection. One corner was reserved for produce, one for the arts, one corner had all the old hippies and their handicrafts and the final corner was reserved for the drug culture.

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We caught a glimpse of this bay window VW Westfalia camper van.  A Westfalia this same color was the beginning of our RVing adventures. We named it the Lizard.

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While hanging out at the Elks Lodge in Eugene, I tackled a pesky wiring problem that was preventing the indicator lights in the Exlorer from working properly when connected to Big Guy. This problem reared its ugly head in Winchester Bay. We spent about an hour and a half working on it there and at least got the brake lights working. Now nothing is working. I was just about ready to buy some trailer lights and cobble together an external lighting system when I suddenly realized I was dealing with a bad ground. I added a ground wire and all of a sudden everything was working the way it was supposed to.

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On our way to Grants Pass we stopped in Canyonville, OR to dry camp at Seven Feathers Casino. EJ found a slot machine she liked and walked away with a pretty healthy chunk of change.

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On October 10 we arrived at Henderson’s Lineup and took care of all the paper work for our appointment tomorrow morning. We had to wait until 5pm to snag one of the spots with a 30amp connection.

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On the morning of our appointment Curtis, our tech, took us for an evaluation ride in Big Guy. This is where they check for steering issues, handling issues and braking issues. He verified it pulled to the right and when the brake was applied it dove to the right.

Once back, he pulled us into the bay over the pit. He invited us to go down into the pit and watch him as he checked for loose connections and other problems.

Once he had written his report, the shop manager went over the list of recommended fixes. We identified those things that would help our immediate problems, but the list also had some pretty pricey suggestions to make things even better. And oh yeah, even though our Bilstien shocks were brand new, Konis would be even better. So we chewed on that for a while, then wrote up a list of items we approved for them to work on.

After the work was complete, they still weren’t happy with how Big Guy handled. So they swapped the passenger side front tire with the drivers side outside rear tire. While they had the front tire off, they pulled the brake drum and discovered both the drum and brake shoes were cracked. That, they suspected, was the root of the braking issues we were experiencing.

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Of course, they didn’t have new drums or shoes in stock, so they ordered them from Medford, OR. So EJ and I went downtown and meandered around. This mural really caught our eye. It looks like two buildings but it’s not.

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Finally the new drums and shoes arrive and are installed. We all pile into Big Guy and go for another test drive. All I can say is WOW! What a difference. All of the handling problems are resolved and the motorhome handles better than it ever has. We are good to go.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Living Amongst 50 Strangers For 10 Days (Crab-a-Rang)

Newport to Winchester Bay, OR Sept 20 to Oct 3, 2016

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Did you ever read something, remember exactly what it said, then can never find what you read again? Makes it real hard to prove you’re not totally crazy when you get the dates of an event completely wrong. Which is what I did for this Crab-a-Rang thing. It actually started a couple of days later than I thought. So we showed up really, really early. But the surprise was, we weren’t the only ones.

So here’s the layout. “C” Dock is next to the crab dock making it the prime location so you won’t have to walk so far to check your crab traps.

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We luck out and one of the prime spots is available. They are all dry camping sites, but there is water and a dump station available for a fee. And if you’re nice to the camp host he might just give you coupons to cover the cost of the water and dump.

That’s us right there on the end with a great view of the crab dock and the harbor.

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For someone that does not like crowds, what have I gotten us into?

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Being right next to the Pacific Ocean it was a little cool in the mornings. This is one of my favorite pictures of Maggie keeping warm in front of Mr. Buddy.

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Always looking for an excuse to find a new brewery, I offer to take EJ to Coos Bay, OR to some sight seeing and shopping. And 7 Devils Brewing just happened to downtown where EJ was shopping.

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But before you start to think that RVing is all fun and games. Things break and and maintenance must go on.

For a week or so, maybe more, we had been locking the entrance door with the remote confidently assuming it was actually locking. Well it turns out it wasn’t really locking. One day after locking it with the remote, we tugged on the door handle and the door popped open. Well, being a good engineer, I conducted several more tests to assure repeatablility of the results. And it did.

After procrasting for several days worring about how to dismantle the door, I just did it. What I found was that the solenoid had frozen in the open position. Replacing it was fairly simple, but I used my only spare to do it. Finding a replacement solenoid to become the new spare was not so easy.

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Running around one day, another assumption was shattered. I had always assumed Oregon to have strong liberal leanings. So we were surprised to see as many Trump displays as we did.

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We found a wood sculpture shop and I was is heaven. All kinds of wood scraps were for sale.

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Back at Salmon Harbor on “C” Dock, every day, weather permitting, happy hour was held at 4PM. Now we like the idea of a happy hour. Adult beverages and comraderie, what’s not to like? Well, 4PM kinda cuts into the middle of the day and you end up rushing back from whatever you were doing so you don’t miss the big gathering.

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Diana Ruelens was the “organizer” of Crab-a-Rang and she did a good job of keeping the group pointed in the same direction, more or less.

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One of the activities at happy hour is to share any adventures you embarked on during your stay. One couple gushed about the  Smith River waterfalls so the next day we took off to find them.

Spectacular is not a word I would use in describing this natural formation. The falls were all of 2 foot high. But is was fun exploring the area and very soothing to sit beside the cool water.

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Hoping to continue exploring, we opted not to go back the way we came. This is one of Frank’s mantras, never go the same way twice.

We took the road less traveled, following the instructions of of our trusty GPS. Only once did we doubt the directions. Now and then, the GPS database takes a departure from reality and decides that the road you are on, isn’t located where you are. We decided to go with our gut and continue on the Forest Road we had chosen. After a mile or so, the GPS decided we were, after all, on the right road.

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We volunteered to be hosts for the a “Z” circle. This is where people sign up to visit the hosts for 45 minutes then move on to a different host. It was fun, but apparently nothing clicked and we were mostly ignored by the people we had invited into our RV for the duration of our stay.

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One day we were entertained by the Coast Guard. We found later a speeding boat had swamped one boat and destroyed another. The destroyed boat belonged to a Judge. Needless to say, it was not long before the owner of the speeding boat was apprehended and his boat impounded.

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EJ and took a tour of the Umpqua Light House.

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We even went back at dusk to take some more pictures.

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We attended more happy hours and listened to the stories. Open arms and comradery was preached, but it quickly became apparent that old friendships and groupings were quickly resumed.

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EJ and I really aren’t outgoing and it takes us a long time to make friends. But it doesn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves and having fun. And we did pick up some good tips from folks that have been full-timing for years.

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The potlucks were wonderful, as the variety of offerings was amazing.

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One morning we drove to the Elk Refuge near Winchester Bay and found a herd just laying around and taking it easy.

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Later in the day me and the girls decided to do the same thing.

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On our last dinner together, the weather wasn’t cooperating so the Salmon Bay community was rented. The opportunity was used to both celebrate Diana Reulens’ birthday and to thank her for all the work she did to put Crab-a-Rang together.

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To wrap up Crab-a-Rang it quickly became apparent the crabs weren’t cooperating with the crabbers. The crab dock was way too crowded and the crabs were way too few. Folks often only managed one keeper a day if they were lucky. Folks with boats fared a little better and folks that ventured away from the crab dock had better luck too. But some, after a weeks work this is all they had to show for it. I think I’ll stick with the convenience of store bought crab.

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So all in all it was an interesting experiement in inserting ourselves into a large group that had known each other for years. EJ and I are quite content with each others company and try to avoid crowds if possible. Many of the folks craved the constant social interactions of large groups, But we enjoy a smaller, more personal gatherings. Sigh, round pegs and square holes.

Until next time when we discuss the good and bad of letting others work on your RV.

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