Deception Pass Bridge and State Park

Deception Pass – Puget Sound

Deception Pass State Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Thousand Trails La Conner.  We visited the park with our daughters many years ago, and again about 10 years ago when Christine and I took our first vacation ‘without kids’.

 

 

 

Deception Pass State Park – Little North Beach

Little North Beach is the closest beach to the Deception Pass Bridge – a magnificent engineering masterpiece composed of two bridges.  One over Canoe Pass and the other over Deception Pass.  The bridge was built in 1934-1935.  A fun fact from Wikipedia is that it cost more to paint the bridge in 1983 than to build it in 1934!

This is a great place to catch some drone footage, and we did!

There are lots of agates on the beach, this is a great place for any rock hound.  We had Little North Beach to ourselves for most of the time – amazing to have an entire beach for the family during the summer!  The kids and grandkids skipped rocks over the water, watched boats cruise by through the narrow gorge between the islands and soaked up the summer sun.  We truly escaped!

This is only a small part of the over 4,000 acres of Deception Pass State Park.  There are campgrounds, beaches and lots of walking trails to enjoy besides the view of the pass and bridge.

You can see it was fantastic weather in Washington.

Happy Trails!

We Are Snowbirds!

Lake at Orlando Thousand Trails Preserve

Orlando Thousand Trails

We Are Snowbirds in Central Florida

I can’t believe we are actually Snowbirds!  In November we traveled from Northern New York through the eastern US visiting many of my ancestral stomping grounds in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.  We stopped over to visit good friends in Atlanta and arrived in Florida on December 1st.  All the way down Jack Frost was chasing us.  What a relief to get to WARM Florida.

Family Responsibilities

My dad has slowed down over the past few years.  I knew it would be a risk living on the right coast for a year, and hoped there would be no issues.  In December however, he fell ill, and passed away on the 31st of December.  This involved 2 flights to Oregon during December and early January.  Fortunately I was able to spend some time with dad before he died at age 98.

The RV Lifestyle poses significant challenges if you have elderly parents or siblings.  We have 3 large dogs which adds to the complexity.  Though it’s not the best solution, we managed through this talking about options before we left.  Christine stayed to take care of the RV and the dogs while I flew to Oregon.  Make sure you have a plan for handling family emergencies while you are on the road before they come up!

The first trip to Eugene I had freezing rain and black ice to contend with.  The second time there was several inches of snow that just wouldn’t melt.  Both are very rare occurrences in Eugene.  I grew up there and can count on one hand the number of school days missed because of bad weather.

 

Freezing Rain in Eugene

Freezing Rain in Eugene

Encore Resorts

Before we retired, we upgraded our Thousand Trails membership to “Elite”, that added several Encore resorts to our membership.  We decided to try some of the Encore resorts because they were closer to the Gulf than the Thousand Trails.

Vacation Village Resort – Largo FL

Vacation Village Resort is on a very busy highway in a semi-industrial area of Largo.  The lots are very close together, and all the nicer lots are held for seasonal or monthly residents.  Thousand Trails members lots are out by the front near the street.  No dog park unless you consider the 12″ wide dog walk – a strip of sand and grass with doggy bags – a dog park.  I would not consider this a resort, although they did have a pool.  We stayed there 12 days.

There are lots of trails around Largo to take the dogs walking, and a couple of nice dog parks around the town.  Dog beaches are hard to find though – the best being Fort Desoto south of Saint Petersburg.

Winter Quarters Manatee – Bradenton FL

Winter Quarters Manatee is on highway 75, and I mean right on 75.  The “Resort” had pretty good reviews, and if you are on the far side of the park away of I-75 the freeway noise and smell is not bad.  However, Thousand Trails members seem to be relegated to only the lots closest to the freeway even when other lots are available.   Otherwise, the park is very nice with 2 pools and a nice recreation area and a dog park.

Like Largo, there are some nice parks where you can take the dogs, but only 1 dog beach that we could find near Robinson Preserve.  The only reason we didn’t move on here is because I had to fly to Oregon for my Dad’s funeral.

RV Glass Solutions

We stopped at RV Glass Solutions that recently opened up a shop in Florida.  Before they distributed to other glass shops – now they can handle RV Glass installations themselves.  We got the side window that was fogged up measured.

RV Glass Solutions

Thousand Trails

We stayed 2 weeks at Thousand Trails Orlando between the 2 Encore resorts.  Orlando Preserve is a true Thousand Trails park with lakes and plenty of space between rigs in most sections.  There is some road noise from the highway, but the campground itself far enough away that usually you don’t hear too much.  There is a dog park and lots of trails.  At night you can even see the fireworks from Disneyworld!  The campground is currently undergoing major upgrades.  Our site recently had 50 amp service installed, and more sites getting power upgrades.  Staff was friendly, bathrooms and showers were clean.

Happy Trails from the SNOWBIRDS Trippin’ Engles

Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry West Virginia

We are surprised how close Harpers Ferry and even Washington DC is to where Melchor Engle took his family when he moved from Lancaster Pennsylvania to the Shenandoah Valley.

Map Of Shenandoah Junction & Harpers Ferry relationship

Almost the entire town of Harpers Ferry is part of the Harpers Ferry National Park.  We checked out the website to see if it was OK to take dogs (they are!) and drove from Front Royal where we are camping to the National Park.

Family History Perspective

Jeff’s 5th Great Grandfather moved to Shenandoah Junction about 1753, his youngest son George (my 4th Great Grandfather) 3 years old.  In 1751 Harper bought the land that was to become Harpers Ferry.  George lived in Shenandoah Junction until about 1781 getting married and having his first two children there.

Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington visited Harpers Ferry in the 1780s.

George moved on to Tennessee, but other decedents of Melchor stayed on to see the events of the beginning of the Civil War unfold virtually in their back yard.

The Park

We found a place to park just outside of the town so we didn’t have to worry about taking the shuttle ride.  The town is pretty hilly so we didn’t know how the dogs would do with a long walk.  Access to the park and parking is free with the National Park senior pass.

We are visiting in November during the week so the streets are almost empty.  We walked through the town and checked out John Brown’s fort.

At the point of Harpers Ferry, the Shenandoah River and Potomac River meet.  On the bluff we have a spectacular view of the two rivers.  There are the ruins of railroad bridges, along with one bridge that is still active.

There is a walkway along the bridge, so we are able to walk from West Virginia to Maryland over the Potomac River.  The dogs were not too enthused about it, but everyone made the trip safe and sound.

The Appalachian Trail goes through Harpers Ferry too!

 

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

Lancaster (Back on the Road)

Lancaster Pennsylvania

We are on the road, turning family history into a story we can share with our kids and grandchildren.  Jeff’s ancestors on his father’s side came to America in the early 1700’s.  Travelling from northern New York to Florida is the perfect opportunity to explore a few of the places they lived.

Our first stop is Lancaster Pennsylvania.  Several ancestors arrived in America through Philadelphia.  Lancaster County was a popular place for the new settlers to travel to or through.  We counted at least 12 5th and 6th great grandparents that lived in this area before 1776, and more would have traveled through heading towards Virginia.

Lancaster

Jeff’s 5th Great Grandfather Melchor Engle arrived in America in 1740 with his mother.  They traveled to Lancaster County soon after arriving.  His mother married John Beyerle who was a widower from Germany.   John was a yeoman (farmer who owned his own land) who arrived in America in 1730 and Melchor was a saddler, working in leather.  Melchor married John’s daughter Mary making it a very tight family!  In 1746 Melchor purchased 225 acres of land in Lampeter Township along the Conestoga River from John.

Jeff also had ancestors who settled in New Holland, Bern, Berks County, York County, and Montgomery county Pennsylvania.  With only 2 full days to explore Lancaster we left exploring those areas for another trip.

Lancaster County Central Park

One of the jewels of Lancaster is their County Central Park.  Covering 554 acres near downtown Lancaster, it has a golf course, swimming facility, tennis courts, equestrian and hiking trails just to name a few.

Of interest to us is an area that has native vegetation and tilled fields that would have been very similar to John and Melchor’s property being just across the Conestoga River.  Christine, Jeff and the dogs walked along Mill Creek through the woods  and fields enjoying the late fall colors of Pennsylvania.  Mill Creek flows into the Conestoga.

Lancaster Central Market

We also visited downtown Lancaster, stopping at the Central Market. It is the oldest municipal market in the United States on property deeded for that purpose in 1730.  The indoor market is full of stalls from local farms including vegetables, fruits, meats and crafts from local Amish and Mennonite farms.

Trinity Church

Also in downtown Lancaster is Trinity Lutheran Church where all of Melchor Engle’s 6 sons were baptized.  George is the youngest born in 1750.  George is Jeff’s 4th Great Grandfather.  The congregation was formed in 1730 and the current church finished in 1766.  We stopped by and took pictures then spoke with the administrator about getting copies of old records.

Ronks

We stayed at Mill Bridge Camp resort, just a few miles outside of Lancaster surrounded by Amish and Mennonite farms.  Often the clip-clap of horse-drawn carriages filtered through the trees at the campground.  It was an excellent campground – good facilities, friendly staff and great location.

On site, is an old grist mill dating from 1738.  The area was originally settled by Mennonites in 1710.  Lancaster County has one of the largest Amish – Mennonite (Plain People)  populations in the United States.

Lancaster Today

Today, Lancaster is a vibrant town of just under 60,000 people.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

 

Sturbridge Massachusetts

Sturbridge Massachusetts August 2016

After attending the FMCA Rally in West Springfield Massachusetts, we traveled less than an hour to our next camping spot in Sturbridge Massachusetts.  For the first time we are staying in the one place for 3 weeks!  This is what traveling by RV is all about for us – taking the time to explore an area.

Sturbridge Encore Resort

The Sturbridge RV “Resort” is in a great location close to historic Sturbridge and Southbridge Massachusetts.  Old Sturbridge Village looks like a fun place to visit and re-live what life was like in central Massachusetts back in the early 1800’s.

Our arrival was a bit of a disappointment because there were no RV sites that would accommodate our 40′ Lola.  Christine took a tour of the campground where she checked out some sites.  The campsites were too small for us so we stayed in an “overflow” spot the first night.  It was so small we couldn’t even put both of our slides out.  Since we had made reservations almost 3 months in advance that specified the size of our rig it’s surprising that nothing was available.

Getting a permanent spot

The next day an assistant came by and told us that we should move over to an open spot as soon as possible so no one else would get it.  It was a nice pull-through site. We were lucky to get a site that was close to the dog park and away from the lodge and pool where it was quite noisy, especially on the weekends.  We took the camp site, and sure enough once we got parked another rig pulled up and the driver said that the campsite was theirs!  Our new neighbor also mentioned he was originally assigned that camping site and considered moving there.  Obviously there is a need for more staff and organization at Sturbridge.

Facility Review

The pool – laundry – bath house is all together and covered.  It was very warm and musty and the bathrooms were very dirty.  Jeff went back late the next day and the toilets were still disgusting, although the following day they were clean.  We remember the original orientation we attended when we got our Thousand Trails membership back in 1984.  At that time one of the things emphasized was the schedule of bathroom cleanings with the clip board by the door.  That sure wasn’t happening at Sturbridge.  After talking with the staff it is clear the campground is understaffed.

WiFi?

We tried out the Wi-Fi and got a connection, so paid for 2 weeks.  In all, we were able to connect for 3 or 4 hours total during our entire stay.  The office just handed out instructions on how to connect then said that they had nothing to do with the internet connection.  When I contacted TengoInternet the support person verified that the router at Sturbridge was constantly resetting.  We were able to connect later, but the next day it was out again and TengoInternet support said that the site there had a slow internet connection that caused the router to constantly reset.  That’s also why campers are limited to 200 Mb per day!  Nothing more they could do.

We used our AT&T MiFi burning our data plan.

Things to do around Sturbridge Massachusetts

On the plus side of our stay at Sturbridge there are a number of things to do.  It’s close to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Boston, however we stuck close and explored the local area.

We already wrote about Wells State Park,  and the Grand Trunk Rail Trail at Westville Dam.  Then we posted about our wanderings at the Breakneck Brook gravel pit.

More Grand Truck Rail Trail

We explored other sections of the Grand Truck Rail Trail while we stayed at Sturbridge.

Tantiusques

We also visited Lead Mine Hill (Tantiusques) where we saw an old graphite mine where the Indians extracted graphite to use for face paint.  Later the colonists used the graphite for pencils – and the link above explains this.  Ticonderoga No 2 pencils used this material from these mines by Joseph Dixon and son.  Dixon made the pencils in Ticonderoga, NY, hence the Ticonderoga name on them.

American Optical

Jeff visited American Optical – the first optical company in the US.  The effort to make US glasses started in 1826 because William Beecher was not satisfied with the high cost and poor quality of European eye-wear.  By 1905 there were over 2,000 people employed in Southbridge Massachusetts.  The site has some great examples of late 1800 manufacturing buildings.

We had a great time at Sturbridge and immersed ourselves in the local history and are looking forward to moving on to Downstate New York where we will stay in historic Accord.

Happy Trails from the Trippin’ Engles

 

Wells State Park – Southbridge Massachusettes

A visit to Wells State Park

Southbridge Massachusettes

Wells State Park is near Southbridge Massachusetts.  This was one of the first parks we visited looking for a dog-friendly park.

It has a nice set of trails that are set up for trail bikes and walkers.  There are ranger sessions to teach youngsters of all ages the basics of hiking – with some trails on the flat and others up some hills.

The park is heavily forested with 2 and 4 miles hiking loops.  There is camping available – so it would make a great place for a family with kids that want to bike in the forest.

On the down side is that it’s $5 for day use if you are a Massachusetts residence or $6 for non-residents.

Here’s some pictures taken at the park – click on a picture to enlarge it.

Cold Weather RVing

COLD Weather RVing in Oregon and California

Note – sorry for the long post, but this is a story that’s best told all together.  Our thoughts about COLD weather RVing for the most part is WHY?  We have had various camping methods since the early 80’s, and I have to admit that we have been warm weather campers.  However, this past Thanksgiving we decided to take Lola up to Oregon because we wanted to sleep in our own bed!  Oh Yeah!

During the weeks leading up to our 500 mile trip to Eugene I watched the weather forecasts over the Siskiyou Pass (I-5) and Willamette Pass (Highway 97 & Highway 58).  Weather looks good even from the forecast on Accuweather 45 days before the holiday.  Every couple of days I checked the weather for the weekend before Thanksgiving and the Friday-Saturday immediately following.  Everything looks GOOD!

We arranged to park Lola at the American Legion in North Eugene – at $10 a night it’s a bargain!

No Snow – but what about COLD – A few days before leaving…

Then I just happened to think about checking the weather in Mt. Shasta City (our half-way layover point both ways).  Argh!  29 Degrees going up and Eugene with 3 nights dropping down to the LOW 20’s.  OH MY GOSH!  I didn’t even think about COLD weather!  I was so focused on not wanting to drive Lola in the snow, I completely forgot about checking the low temps.

Suddenly I am overwhelmed with questions.  At what temperature can the diesel engine start?  Do we have winter diesel blend?  How do we use the engine block heater?  How do we keep the lithium batteries warm?  I couldn’t seem to find the answers that would make me comfortable driving up to Oregon and dealing with 4 days of (to us) very cold weather.

Time to cancel.  After getting very little Sleep Wednesday night I get up at 1:30 a.m. and log in to cancel our KOA reservation at Mt. Shasta City.  NO-GO.  I have to call them directly to cancel.  FINE.  I’ll go to work and call them at lunch.

In the meantime…

One of Christine’s co-workers’ husband drives trucks, and they live up in Colfax, California where it regularly gets down into the teens during the winter.  Christine asked her co-worker about starting diesel trucks in the cold weather and found out that they never use a block heater at that temp.  And I get out our owner’s manual and find the section on the block heater… it’s right there in our house control panel.  Of course Christine said… ‘I told you that, but you were so panicked you didn’t listen.’  Yeah, OK.  🙂

I’m feeling better.  We have an engine block heater, I order a couple of desktop fans from Amazon to put in the water and battery bays.  We should be fine!

There are a couple of great articles in FMCA magazine about using your RV in the winter too.   Gone With the Wynns have a great article too about having fun How to Winterize your RV.

Suggestions include…

  • Make sure you have plenty of Propane… CHECK (we have 1/4 tank; and we are still on our original tank from when we purchased the RV in August 2014).  Plenty! (More on this later).
  • Have a backup heater… CHECK (we have a Dyson Blade, and we’ll have some electricity at the American Legion).  Good to go! (More on this later)
  • Have a heated water hose… Nope – We are only sleeping in Lola and spending the days at my dad’s house, we are not using very much water.  We don’t need to worry about a heated water hose.
  • Extra heat in the bays… CHECK – as long as the two desktop heaters arrive at my dad’s before the cold weather starts our water and battery bays will stay warm (I hope!):


See?  This isn’t hard-core cold weather camping.  Just a few days of warm rain, then a few more days of chilly weather – still warming up to the high 30’s during the day.  Is this really Cold Weather RVing?

I feel better.

The Trip Up North – Saturday November 21 2015

We got everything together Saturday morning, bring Lola back from storage and get her loaded up at the house –  back to storage to hook up the Pilot.  We got the Pilot connected then can’t find the RVI Brake.  I opened just about every basement compartment on the driver’s side where I always put the towing and tools stuff.  Finally, I go through the passenger side basement and find the RVI Brake.  WHEW!  We leave Sacramento at 10:30.  About an hour behind schedule, but still OK.

20 miles up I-5, just before the Airport traffic stops.  Garmin reports a 60 minute delay and suggests we go up 99 through Chico and then on to Red Bluff.  That should save us about 40 minutes, so off we go.  We have taken the 99 from Roseville, California to Eugene via Chico and Red Bluff many times, and it is a good road that takes us through miles and miles of orchards and farmlands.

California does not have fall colors like New England, but we saw a good amount of bright orange and yellows.  It was a nice drive, and we stopped about every 90 minutes or so to give my hip a break and let the dogs stretch.

Mt Shasta with SnowWe arrived in Mt. Shasta city about 30 minutes before sunset.  It gets dark early there because the city is between Mt. Shasta on the east and the coast range on the west.

Enough time to get set up and have dinner.

Dinner?  Oops, we forgot the Mediterranean humus wraps, so we don’t have anything to eat.  Downtown Mt. Shasta is about 1/2 mile from the campground (or less) so we decide to check out places we could get a veggie burger or something like that.  We found a quaint Indian restaurant Maurti’s , ordered take-out and had a wonderful meal back in Lola.  Things are looking up!  We brought our winter down comforter and are so exhausted we hit they hay early and snuggle for a few minutes before falling asleep.

Battery Issues – Sunday November 22, 2015

Mt Shasta City Lola

12 Degrees!

About 1:30 a.m  (what is it about 1:30?) Christine realizes that we didn’t turn the ignition key off on the Pilot.  In order for the RVI brake to work, it connects to the 12V accessory, and when we stop we turn the car on and let it run for a few minutes.  We usually do this while we are getting Lola set up for camp.  Then shut the car off.  That’s enough to maintain the battery.

Oops.

Well, CRAP!  I mean really.

I get up and just for grins, check the Pilot.  Dead.  Deader than a door nail as the saying goes.  And 0f course I then realize that the charger I bought just for this possibility is sitting on a shelf in our house in Sacramento.  Hah!  Just perfect.

I go to bed.  Just a bit ticked off (at myself).

When we get up, the lithium battery looks good.  It’s 29 degrees outside, and the battery is 38 degrees.  We should be fine at 22 then.  We have breakfast, then hitch up the dogs and walk 1 1/4 miles to O’Reilly’s in Mt. Shasta City to find a charger.  They have a really nice one – same brand as the one sitting in our garage back in Sacramento, but it can also jump start a car. Perfecto!

We walk back to Lola, hook up the charger and in an hour it charges up the battery on the Pilot and Lola is ready to go!  Smiling, we are back on the road.  Another learning… well, maybe a couple.

We took Highway 97 up central Oregon through Klamath Falls to highway 58.  Again, the fall colors going over the Willamette pass were spectacular.  Great drive.  We really prefer Highway 97 – Highway 58 over I-5 because the grades are more gradual and there are fewer 6 percent grades to deal with.  Overall it’s about 20 miles shorter and 20 minutes longer.

As we were heading into Dexter just before reaching Eugene we decide to start looking for fuel.  Our low fuel message came on.  We started to pull into a Texaco, but we were going too fast to make the turn and had to swerve back onto highway 58.  Fortunately there was a space in the traffic for me to slide back in after getting in the turn-out lane.  Even after driving Lola with the Pilot for almost 1500 miles, I’m still having problems judging speed and stopping distance.  Another learning…

We drive through a Chevron station that ends up not having diesel, then stopped at Station 58 at Pleasant Hill.  Talk about full service!  The two guys working there offered to take the dogs for a walk, they put in our diesel additive and were really really nice.  The diesel price was also just about the lowest around – the same at Fred Meyer where I was originally going to fuel up.  Whoo – Hoo!  We are ready to party.

We finish the drive by going to my dad’s house, disconnecting the Pilot and unloading a few things, then driving to the American Legion Post 83 and hooking up to electricity.

Rain – Monday and Tuesday November 22 and 23

It was a good thing that besides ordering the desktop heaters from Amazon, we also picked up a two rain ponchos for Kadie and Sam (Danny already had an Oregon Ducks jacket).

Christine put in some time at work in the RV while I worked on our retirement financial plans.

My dad is 96 and is slowing down – physically and mentally.  My sister is 9 years older than me and it was a wonderful surprise to us when we found out she would be in Eugene for Thanksgiving a few days earlier.  She has Alzheimer’s.  It was heart-wrenching to be with the two of them, but fortunately they both still have a great sense of humor, although I could tell my dad was very sad about the condition of my sister.

I made Ginger Snap cookies and that kept everyone happy.

We started preparing for cold weather.  I positioned the 2 amp desk heaters in the water and battery bays.  Once I looked at the battery bay though I realized that there was a huge opening where the slide came out that opened up the battery bay to the outside.  That heater wasn’t going to help much!

Thanksgiving Prep Day – Wednesday November 24th

Christine and I made Vegan Green Bean casserole, Rosemary Mashed potatoes, Steamed peas and carrots, carrots and Raisin salad, German Red Cabbage and Beulah Salad – a family favorite that is similar to Tomato Aspic.

GO DUCKS!

GO DUCKS! At Matt Court

In the evening we went out to the Oregon – Arkansas State basketball game.  Whoo Hoo! The Ducks won.

We finished off the day at the American Legion.  I had a couple of Porters and Christine a Rum and Coke. We had a great time talking with Johnna and Tom and the rest of the crew.  One of the guys there has a Winnebago gasser, with a basement furnace like Lola, and he doesn’t worry about freezing weather as long as the furnace is set to 72 degrees.  I set the furnace at 72 and that seemed to keep the Lithium batteries warm all night – even without the desk heater and the temps at 22.

Thanksgiving Day – November 25th

J & C in EugeneHad a great Thanksgiving feast with family and friends.  This was the 3rd day in a row it was expected to be down in the low 20s by morning.  We left the gas furnace on and the Dyson blade running while we were gone and it was nice and warm when we got back to Lola after Thanksgiving.

Travel Day – and freezing our buns off – Friday November 26th

What is it about waking up at 1:30 in the  morning on this trip?  Well, it happened again.  Woke up at 1:30 with a chill on my cheeks (no… not THOSE cheeks!).  The furnace was blowing COLD air, it’s 22 degrees already outside.  WHAT THE HECK?  Furnace is on, but no heat.  Thank goodness the Dyson was working – that kept the coach at 59.  I got the furnace manual out – not much to check there.  Switched it to Electric Heat… still blowing cold air.

I figured out later that the furnace in Elec Heat mode is a heat pump, and only works at temperatures above 55 degrees.  Hah!  Fat chance that would work at 22.

The propane level on the console shows empty, but it showed low before.  I couldn’t have used 1/4 tank of propane could I? The gauge on the tank still showed just under 1/4 full, but I barely got a tiny flame from the stove when I tried that. Yup. Out of propane.  Not much to do now.  Lithium batteries are still in the mid 30s so I leave everything as is and try to get a little more sleep.

Up at 6 and at Fred Meyer at 7 to fight the ice and crowds for Black Friday and picked up a portable propane heater.  Finally some HEAT!

We had to run some errands with my brother before we left, so we got on the road after 9:30.  When we stopped in Cottage Grove the propane tank 23 gallons.  That’s empty for a 28 gallon tank.

We had a nice trip down I-5 to Mt. Shasta city.  The KOA still had snow on the ground from earlier in the week.  We remembered to start the Pilot while setting up camp and we turned it off when done!  Forecast was for the temps to get down to the low teens, so I set up the 2 amp heaters in the water bay and the battery bay after rigging up a shield for the heater to keep the lithium battery warm.

Mt. Shasta City – Saturday November 28th – 11.7 degrees outside

Mt Shasta City KOASlept great and woke up WARM!  Whoo hoo!  I checked the thermometer and it’s 11.7 degrees outside. There is ice on the inside of the front windshield.  Lithium battery was 38.  It worked!!!  Furnace and Dyson worked so good we had to turn it down about midnight.

The Pilot started (a little sluggish), and got the RVI Brake connected and disconnected from the KOA power – all the usual breaking down camp duties while Christine walked the dogs.   I was going to dump the black tank, but the sewer cap had over an inch of ice on it in a pool about 2 feet in diameter.  That can wait until we get to storage.

As soon as we pulled out of our spot at KOA and had not even gone 50 feet the Jacks Down light started flashing and beeping then the automatic jack console started flashing and whistling.  What the heck (again)? Stopped and double checked the jacks.  Yup, they are still up.  Went forward again to the edge of the campground, and the same thing happened again!  Jacks Down light’s flashing & beeping and the automatic jack console is flashing & whistling.  We stop again, check that the jacks are up.  They are!  Plus the stairs are not retracting all the way due to some ice.  We decide they are up enough they will not interfere with our driving – thank goodness for small favors!

We decide to drive to a nearby grocery store where we can park in the sun.  I get the hammer out while Christine walks the dogs (again).  I tap the jacks to see if I can possibly break loose anything.  I don’t see any ice and they are parked solid.

We start up again, and as we are getting on I-5 we get the same routine.  But this time it only lasts a minute then the warning lights go out and the buzzers and whistles quiet down.  We had an uneventful trip home after that.

We have since found out that this is fairly typical for jacks in the cold weather.  I still want to lubricate the jacks and see if I can blow out the area where the sensor is.  More research required there.  If anyone has any advice – please let us know.

Ok, we had lots of STUFF happen on this trip, but really nothing major.  It’s a learning process – and most were things I already knew or had read about (like how to deal with cold weather – FILL UP THE PROPANE TANKS!)

We are laughing about it now  and planning to stay in FLORIDA this next winter.

Happy Trails!

JC

 

 

Solar For Lola!

We have Solar for Lola!

It’s been a long time coming, we have solar for Lola.  AM Solar came through, and we installed 4 160 watt solar panels on the Roof.  Originally we were looking at 6 100 watt panels because AM Solar was  having issues with the 160 watt panels they were receiving.  But the latest panels tested good, and we opted for the 4 160s.    The square footage of the panels are the same for 4 160s vs 6 100s.  Because there is only room for two rows of panels, the 160 watt installation actually takes up less roof space.  This gives us more room to expand in the future.

We checked in Monday morning.  The evaluation took a bit longer because of some electrical problems we created when we shorted out a battery while insulating the battery box.  Simple mistake not following my diagram of the cables and batteries.  The solar panels and batteries got installed over the next 4 days, and we tested Lola Thursday night, leaving for home Friday Morning.  AM Solar was great to work with.  They came in under-budget and on time.  Roger was great to work with during the ordering and scheduling process and Cody went through the systems one at a time in detail.  We have all the system documentation including diagrams specific to our installation.  Thanks to the entire crew at AM Solar!

160 Watt Solar Panel and Christine

160 Watt Solar Panel and Christine

The actual setup now includes:

 

 

 

We upgraded our batteries to a 300 amp-hour lithium pack built by AM Solar replacing a 300 amp-hour wet cell battery pack (3 batteries).  We also replaced the chassis batteries with AGM batteries in case we decided to insulate the entire battery compartment.  Since lithium batteries should be charged when the interior battery temperature is 32 degrees or warmer, we insulated the lithium battery itself – we tested it to 22 degrees without a heater and to 12 degrees using a little desk heater.  The lithium batteries give us twice the capacity because they can drop down to 10-15% of capacity vs. 50-60% on a wet cell.  Plus, lithium-ion batteries charge up in a fraction of the time.  Of course this requires a new inverter/battery charger that supports the fast charging and different charge strategy (lithium-ion batteries don’t like constant trickle charging).   With our new charger we can actually fast-charge the batteries while we are driving using solar+alternator, or while boondocking using solar+generator, or while connected to the grid using shore solar+shore power or just solar.  We are looking forward to doing more tests of the solar charging options once we are full-timers.

Room to Expand

We have room for 4 more 150/160 watt solar panels on the roof, and additional lithium batteries in the battery bay.  Over the next year we will be recording our power usage to see how the setup meets our needs.

Benefits Summarized

Our 640 watts of solar panels and 300 Amp Hours of Lithium provides several benefits:

  • Faster battery charging:  Lithium batteries charge much faster than wet-cell batteries and can utilize combinations of solar, engine alternator, generator and shore power
  • Weigh less:  Lithium batteries weigh less – more than making up the weight of the solar panels
  • Less maintenance and longer life: Lithium batteries require virtually no maintenance and last longer than wet-cell batteries
  • More usable energy: Lithium batteries can be drawn down to 10% of their capacity without damaging the battery
  • Silent Charging:  Solar charging makes no sound so you don’t have to worry about ‘quiet hours’
  • Charge Anywhere there is sun:  We can charge our batteries anywhere there is sun.  Even on cloudy days you get some charge reducing the amount of shore power or generator usage

We are looking forward to tracking our solar usage and the related conditions as we travels.

Gone with the Wynn’s

We just missed seeing Nikki and Jason Wynn of Gone With the Wynns as they were busy editing video, but we managed to snap a ‘proof’ picture that we were there!  They have provided us with inspiration and real-world RV know-how, and of course of few things NOT to do.

Gone with the Wynns - Almost metUntil next time…

 

JC

RV Solar, Lithium Battery Upgrades and a Fix-it Day

RV Solar, Lithium Battery Upgrades and a Fix-it Day

The RV has a Name and a “Fix-it” day

Our 2008 Winnebago Journey has a Name

Naming a vehicle may seem silly. It is another one of the ‘human nature’ things that I mention from time to time.  For thousands of years humans routinely name their rides – whether they be ancient sailing ships, horses or Recreational Vehicles. Naming our ‘ride’ has been difficult.  Nothing seemed to fit the persona she is going to play in our lives.  For us, and “her” time’s are a’changin.

Christine suggests Lola (jokingly), and it stuck.

We purchased Lola August of last year, 6 years young – but with only 17,000 miles on her. For us – we will be Full Timing SOON, traveling from coast to coast and who knows where else. Lola’s and our “lives” are changing.

Lola’s on the big screen have often been seductive, earning the phrase… “what Lola wants… Lola gets.”  And check out the excerpt from the Urban Dictionary on Lola:

Our Lola

Our Lola

This is the type of girl that once she’s in your heart she’ll stay there for ever; she’s everything a guy could ever want/need. She fascinates you by her stunning looks and great personality, her voice creates a sense of happiness, every time you hear that voice it leaves you speechless, astounded and most of all so so happy. She has these most magnificent pair of sky blue eyes which gleam out and shine, making your heart warm and feeling very much in love. You’ll find yourself on your toes with this girl, she’s full of excitement and surprise, she’s a challenge but not a bad one. This girl is hard to come by, if you’ve got this girl you’re the luckiest guy in the world, as she’s truly perfect. Once in love with her consider yourself locked, her superlative qualities and personality will put you off all other girls for life, as there is no one else like Lola.
Lola Once in love with her you’re in love forever.
by mattloveslola4ever October 19, 2011

Yeah, I can see Lola fits.

Meeting with AM Solar – Time to get Serious about our Solar Upgrade

In November of last year we met with AM Solar located in Springfield, Oregon to discuss installing solar panels.  We came away with a list of items to research. First, we needed to estimate how much power do we consume while boondocking.  Secondly, what are our goals for the Solar and Lithium battery upgrade.  We  spent the next few months figuring out data we needed to collect, and then collecting it.  Then, this past June we met with them again for a final consultation before scheduling the install.

Change of format for this post

The format of this post has changed so that most of the information we want to share is in our VLog that you can watch here:

(Split into smaller segments 8/12/15)

 

[unitegallery VideoGalAug2015]

 

Resources for Solar

Solar allows us to live in our RV in places that are more remote than a traditional RV campground.  In addition, it allows us to consume less non-renewable energy.  Some of the resources we found useful are listed here.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it was the top places we used.

Along with the book:

And the tool:

And for the ‘Fix-it’ day Screen Door repair, we purchased:

And for the ‘Fix-it’ day Chair Repair, we purchased:

The bottom Line for our Solar Installation

Luckily our Journey has a side house A/C unit, so the only competition for roof space are 2 vents, the TV antenna and a satellite dish (that we will probably not use) along with a few other small vents and wire antennas.

Since the 160 watt solar panels that we want are not available right now, we are going with 6 100 watt panels kits (with all the hardware). The latest word we have from AM Solar is the 160 watt panels could be available by the time our panels get installed.  With the tilt-bars the solar panels will be about $1800. Then the 300 Amp Hour lithium battery pack runs about $2600.  We also opted to get a 40 Amp 700 watt solar controller/battery charger & monitor that runs $1000  and an upgraded Magnum MS-2000 inverter for $1600 that finishes the major hardware items for this upgrade.  Installation will of course vary depending on your rig’s setup.

Our primary objective was to get Lola set up and running for boondocking when we retire, and not have any conflicts or issues spending several days ‘off the grid’.  You may not need to upgrade as many items as we are if you are sticking with deep cycle batteries and if your existing electrical equipment is newer. Here Technomadia writes about their 3 1/2 years of using Lithium batteries in their bus and Gone with the Wynns blog about their major RV upgrades including Lithium batteries.

Thanks for reading and listening.  Feedback is welcome – especially as we explore balancing the blog and v-log formats.  Soon we will be sharing the installation experience with you!

Sidenote

Our trip to Thousand Trails Russian River that was scheduled for the end of July is postponed because “Trippin’ Jeff” fell and broke his hip.  Yes, I guess there is a reason for the theme of our journey to be Trippin’ With The Engles.  No, I was not texting.  I didn’t even have my phone with me.  Things happen.

We have some more upgrades planned for Lola before the solar installation, so stay tuned!  The pace is picking up as we get closer to full timing!

Yosemite Lakes and Engine Braking

Driving to Yosemite Lakes – learning about Engine Braking

April 30, 2015

Driving to Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes was an adventure even before we left Sacramento.  We pulled the Journey out and checked the tires.  The inside left rear tire was flat and off the rim.

Once we got the tire inflated by North State Tire, we took the RV home and got it loaded up.   Fortunately it’s only a 2 1/2 hour drive to Yosemite Lakes, so we were not worried about taking a little longer to get started.  It was great being back in the RV.  For both Christine and I, once we get on the road it’s like a joint big sigh and we’re On The Road Again!

Jeff learns about Engine Braking

We drove through some dry range land then got into the foothills that have more Live Oak.  Garmin took us north of Tulloch Lake on our way to Yosemite.

Jeff's cool now that he's past Tulloch Lake's Curves

Jeff’s cool now that he’s past Tulloch Lake’s Curves

Many years ago we camped on the southern side of Tulloch Lake in our Volkswagen Vanagon and enjoyed seeing all the Tarantulas heading down to the lake in the evening.  Going up the grade along the cliff with curves so sharp I swore I could see my tail end ahead of me like a cartoon RV was an experience.  After nudging the low curb between the road and the 50′ drop-off a couple of times, I managed to get the hang of going out far enough so the rear wheels cleared the curb and the front was not into the oncoming lane.  With the uphill grade we managed between 20 and 25 MPH most of the time.  I think there are still finger nail creases in the arms of the co-pilot chair where Christine sat.

Then I learned about using Engine Compression to brake.  Coming down into Groveland I was able to practice downshifting the Allison transmission, watching the RPM and touching the Engine Brake button to slow the rig down.  After a bit, I was even able to watch the road while I was doing it.

We had a few more curves past Groveland along with more braking but as they say, it was old hat by then.  We arrived at Yosemite Lakes in the early afternoon.  Then we took the dogs for a walk and set up camp ready for the kids and grand-kids to arrive on Friday.

J and B arrived on Friday along with the Grandchildren Big B and Little B.  J, B and Big B went to Yosemite, while Christine and I stayed and little B took care of us:

Grandma enjoying some time with Little B

Grandma enjoying some time with Little B

The trip back home on Monday was uneventful – our tire pressure staying right were it should.  The following weekend we took the tire down to Les Schwab and told them of all the problems we’ve had with the inner left dual tire going flat.  I asked them to replace the entire valve for that wheel.  They took the tire off and put it in the water tester and no bubbles.  I put a known good Tire Pressure Monitor on, and we could see bubbles, but not by the monitor, but at the base of the valve stem.  After replacing the stem there were no bubbles; and no leaking when we checked it a few weeks later in storage!  Whoopee!  We may have our tire leak fixed.  It appears to have been both a bad monitor (replaced quickly by TireMinder) and a bad valve.  Probably one in a hundred thousand issue for both.

 

Christine’s off to New York to fix up our summer cabin, then we’re up to Oregon to visit my dad and brother – so next camping will be sometime in July.

See ya then!