Caldwell, ID to La Grande, OR

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Home-again for the RV.
I’ve been planning to visit the factory that built my coach since late spring, but the temperatures in eastern Oregon were over 100* most of the summer so I stayed away. Now that fall has arrived and temps are in the 70’s it’s time for a visit.

We arrived in La Grande on a Sunday morning and spent the day riding on the Mount Emily Recreation area. What a wonderful place! I rode Red Apple and MERA loop. About 9 miles of sweet single-track riding. There looks to be plenty of riding on the mountain to keep a rider busy for a month or so. The trails were in great shape too. The single track is still single and there is ample top-soil, very few rocks or roots. Perfect for me!

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Monday morning at about 05:30 workers began arriving at the factory. I know this because we camped in the employee parking lot Sunday night. Around 7:30 I saw Todd, the service person I’ve been talking to for a few months now, at the RV parked in the lot next to us. I introduced myself and he took a look at the reasons I brought the coach to the factory.

A little back-story here before we go on. I’ve been trying to get the dealership Ketelsen Campers in Wheat Ridge CO to fix some warranty issues. Their response has always been “bring it in and leave it for a couple months and we’ll get to it”. That does not work for me since I’m using it all this year. Ketelsen is a Camping World owned company and they have taken on all the worst qualities of their parent. They have also taken to blaming manufacturers for the delays they create. I’m guessing it’s to keep RV buyers from actually getting any warranty work through the dealer. Like cable companies and banks – make it too hard to get anything done and people give up and go away.

Now let us contrast that with the OUTSTANDING service I got from the manufacturer! Todd has always been on top of the situation. When I have questions Todd gets me answers. When I asked him if I could bring the coach by and have him look at my concerns he said yes indeed (and he recommended the Mt Emily riding area – sweet!). The day I arrived it just happened that a customer had canceled their service visit so I got their spot in the schedule. Man! Sometimes I am so lucky it freaks me out a bit!

I gave Todd the coach in the morning and signed up for the factory tour at 10. Kevin took a half-dozen of us on a walking tour of the factory floor and we got to see how the RV’s are built. Very impressive! I have had a few campers and trailers and I figured out how they were built by working on them. This is the first time I’ve seen how they are built from the beginning and Outdoors RV’s are very well made. A lot of the info is in the brochure and on their website so I won’t go over that information here ( ttp://outdoorsrvmfg.com/) .

It was impressive to see how the components like frame, floor, walls and roof are attached to each other and to have Kevin tell us why certain parts are made from different building materials so they can flex without separating (remember it’s a house undergoing an earthquake each time it gets moved). That days tour was about 3 hours because of all the questions we had for Kevin. The tour ended about 1 pm and my coach came out of the shop at about 2:30. Not bad timing.

The afternoon and evening were spend getting back to Caldwell so I could go to some meetings on Tuesday in Boise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tongue River to Lewis and Clark Caverns

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The caverns Lewis and Clark passed by but didn’t find is too long a name for a State Park so there we have it.

The trip from Tongue River to L & C took all day, some of it into a steady head-wind but was otherwise uneventful. The boiz and I caravaned with Jim and David and their doggies. Jim and David caught up with us near Springtime MT then we headed west to the mountains. Once we got off the interstate at Three Forks the two-lane highway wound through some very picturesque valleys along the Jefferson River. The campground at the park is a bit small and tightly wound, but it feels open enough. We though it would be mostly empty two weeks after Labor Day, but we got the last two open spots with power. If we had arrived after 4 the place would have been plumb-full.

Next day we drove the rather steep and narrow road to the cavern’s gift shop and entrance station. The tour we opted for was 2 hours long and had about 600 stairs. $12 got us a front row seat on the walking tour the caverns. We also had to chip in 2 miles of walking, climbing, and stooping.

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Jim, David, Mike

After the tour I took the mountain bike for an hour-long climb up a nearby trail. It took 15 minutes to get back to camp. Silly gravity.

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Drivers in >insert your state here< will be shocked by this crazy new rule about self-driving cars investing in bit-coin!

Casper to Sheridan, WY

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West of town lie the Big Horn Mountains

My friend Kurt has been living in Sheridan for about 33 years now and I haven’t been here in about 16 years so it was high time I stopped by. Sheridan is a delightful town in an beautiful area of Wyoming (In early July anyway. In winter it’s 30-below and icicles dangle from the ears of cows like chandelier earrings). There is a long and rich history of indigenous Americans, the wild west, and ranching. There are several nearby museums chronicling the history of the area.

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A surge dam from the log flume system

Kurt and I took a drive through the Big Horn Mountains. We followed the trail of the Tie hacks (people who cut railroad ties for the transcontinental railway system) from the high country down the log flumes to the place where the sawmill use to stand. We also stopped at the Antelope Butte ski area for a fundraiser. The ski area shut down 14 years ago and will re-open this winter. The day we were there it was cool and a bit rainy, but the brats were hot and tasty. Lots of local people are excited for the reopening of the ski slopes this winter.

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Kurt and I at the Antelope Butte Ski Area fundraiser

In addition to my high-school friend Kurt and his wife Jody, I also got to meet up with Kurt’s mom and discovered to my delight that Kurt’s brother Toni and his wife Cathy had moved back to Sheridan and set up their own ranch.

Pawnee Grassland to Jacks Gulch

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The Long Way
We took a detour through Denver to pick up some packages and get new tires on truck 2.0. After our chores were done we went north to Fort Collins and then west up the Cache La Poudre River to Pingree Park Road then on to the Jacks Gulch Campground for MeadowFest.

Meadow Fest is hard to explain. It’s essentially a family reunion where all your family members are awesome people. We all camped out in the woods and sang songs around a campfire, ate pancakes for breakfast, and had pot-luck for dinner. It rained a couple times and hailed a little bit. There were more cats than dogs this year (four cats + one kitten vs 3 small dogs), one person got two flat-tires on her van, and one person had a marshmallow-roasting incident resulting in some tears.

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There is also some nice mtn biking in the area on forest service roads where I saw fields of wild-flowers in bloom. I don’t think I’d make a special trip to mtn bike, but if you’re here, bring a bike.

The area is close to Ft Collins so the forest has a tendency to fill up on summer weekends. There is some free-camping in the area in dispersed camp sites and those fill up by Friday night. The campground at Jacks Gulch had open spots all weekend ($22). There are some electric sites ($29 in 2018), but no water or sewer connections. I drove up on a Thursday morning and there were also some available sites in the campgrounds along the Poudre River.

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Tech report: There is no cell service, no internet, only satellite tv.

Sedona, AZ

Spent a day biking with my friend Chuck. We rode a series of local trails (I can never remember where we ride and since Chuck is a local I just follow him and enjoy the beautiful canyon views).

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That night we went to happy-hour at Steakhouse 89. Probably not the best plan for a vegetarian (I think everything on the menu was wrapped in bacon and deep-fat-fried, but I was really tired and maybe hallucinating by then). Added to that our server was a newbie and my experience was not one I wish to repeat.

On the plus-side the cacti are blooming!

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Expedition Vehicle

Tom’s Expedition Vehicle Build:
Part of the reason I came to Arizona in May was to see Tom’s truck. While I’m here mooching electricity off of Tom’s family I though I would chip in on the Expedition Vehicle Build. This post is mostly about cutting in the windows. If you want to follow the whole build you can see it at https://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/2009-chevy-medium-duty-4×4-kodiak-ambulance-conversion.191535/

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The door window stays. The other window will be removed.

The house-part of the truck had only one window on the curb-side to start with and it was in the wrong place for the interior design. Tom planned the windows so a person standing inside can see out without needing to crouch down (A feature most coaches lack in every way). That meant the windows needed to be placed high on the walls. First Tom cut in the rear street-side window, then we cut in the forward street-side window. We needed the cut-out from the forward street-side window to plug the hole left behind when we took out the factory curb-side window which was too low and in the wrong place.

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Removed the window and plugged the hole with a cut-out from the other side

Once we plugged the factory window opening with the cut-out we could cut in the new window openings for both curb-side windows. After the new window openings were cut in we added structural supports on the inside to carry the roof load to the floor and mitigate any diagonal-load issues.

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Cut two new openings

The end result is a very spacious and airy living space with ample cross ventilation. The windows are at eye-level when standing inside and also at eye-level when sitting on the raised dinning area. Given the height of the truck and the raised windows it’s also very difficult for someone outside to look inside without standing on a 6-foot ladder.

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Two new windows in the correct place

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Tom and his dad cut in the window on this side

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Tom admiring his handy-work

Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell, NM

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I choose to stop here because it was along my path and it held the promise of an electric hook-up in the day’s 87º high temperature. It turns out that in addition to electricity it is New Mexico’s first State Park which was founded in 1933. The lakes are not actually bottomless, the deepest is about 90 feet, the shallowest around 18 feet deep, but there is a fascinating crescent shaped building with a tower around the swim beach. I can imagine what a grand place this was when it was new.

Bottomless Lakes SP is close enough to Roswell that I could run into town for supplies. There is a Target, Walmart, several nice grocery stores, and gas stations galore. The park also hosts a free WiFi hot spot so that’s super convenient.

In addition the the grocery-run I took a tour of the airport south of town. The Roswell airport is an airplane graveyard and there are a great many retired airliners in different stages of getting recycled. It is like recycling aluminum cans on a huge scale.

On my walk around the campground in the evening I met Kate and Francis who are nearing the end of their year-long travels in a jeep Liberty (TravelsInLiberty.com) and looking for a home south of the snow.