Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Archive for ‘September, 2017’

Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille

Thursday, September 28, 2017

We drove south to Coeur d’Arlene for some shopping odds and ends, and found a very nice, large city library. The weBoost cell signal booster has lost its wiring connection, so we have no way of getting emails, messages or for posting the blog, so I am always looking for a library. After catching up a bit, we went to “Moon Time” for lunch. Martha asked a nice lady in the library where the good places to eat were. Well, she asked the right one. She started listing them by category, sandwich shops, deli, upscale and fancy. She must have named 15 places within walking distance, and then said, “Oh yea, I almost forgot the best – Moon Time”. It’s an upscale pub, so we ordered a couple of beers and a beautiful spinach, beat, goat cheese and walnut salad to start. Martha ordered pork schnitzel while I ordered Sloppy Joe over cornbread.

Then we walked around downtown, cruising the Coeur d’Alene Resort hotel with a motif like a cruise ship. Taking the elevator to the top floor, we got a good view of the lake. Cruise ships and boats are a popular way to see part of Lake Coeur d’Alene with 108 miles of shoreline.

Martha found a warm fleece with a hood, so she will be ready for colder weather that may arrive in a couple of days. But this day was sunny and 74 degrees. I guess buying the fleece was enough shopping, or she just felt sorry for me, but she didn’t go in any more stores. We drove to a kitchen store to get Chemex coffee filters, and then to Bestbuy to get a power cord for the weBoost. A nice young man helped me find a charger that would work. It had all kinds of changeable tips, so it would charge about anything. Super! I could get rid of the other six power cords I carry. I don’t even know what they go to!

Back at camp I quickly opened the box, found the tip that fit the weBoost. Then the glitch. Which end is positive and which is negative? Nervously, I just plugged it in when I couldn’t figure out which was positive on a circular plug. It worked! Yahoo! The inverter has to be on to make it work, so I would still like to find the connection Lew made somewhere behind the refrigerator. The only way I see to get there is through the refrigerator vent, which means removing it.

Heyburn State Park

We visited Ralph’s restaurant in Bayview for a great breakfast and laundry next door. This is my kind of little place where the conversation is good and the people are interesting. I will add pictures from my phone later. Then we visited the boatyard with some great dock houses and lots of sailboats. The harbor is also beautiful with mountains surrounding Lake Pend Orielle, the fifth deepest lake in the US.

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We hiked the Highpoint trail for a great panoramic view, then back down to visit the great beaches in the park. No doubt this place rocks in the summer. This lake is absolutely beautiful with different looks in all locations. We have hardly scratched the surface in five days.

Frustrating Problems

September 23, 2017

There are always things that get rattled loose while driving bumpy roads, but I was having trouble with some very expensive and critical technology. The solar was not charging and the weBoost that boosts cell phones was not working. We were in areas where we could plug in, and certainly Martha doesn’t want to go places that would require these, but it grated on me. For days I have been reading and searching for what could be causing the problems. The batteries were working, and with two 200-amp hour lithium iron phosphate batteries, we can go three days without charging. But it’s driving me mad!  I had checked the circuit breakers and the fuse panel, but nothing was tripped.

While Martha took a walk on one of the many hiking trails, I opted on a work day, or at least morning. I wrote down the issues:

-Solar charge disconnect switch – is the yellow tang supposed to be up or down?

-No power to weBoost, and the switch broke off

-No communication with the Magnum inverter panel (ME-RC)

-Magnum panel says, no communication. possible solutions are:

ME-BMK not installed or

Sense Module is not on

I was about ready to drive to AM Solar in Oregon to get this stuff fixed. I have called and emailed Lew Farber several times with no reply. I hoped he was OK. There aren’t so many places that know how to work on this stuff. On the other hand, Victron batteries and equipment are used in remote cabins and boats as well as RV’s. Oregon is not on our way to Vancouver, but I found a marine place this side of Vancouver.

The batteries and all of the connections are under the bed, so first step is to remove the bed. What I know about electricity would fit in a gnat’s eye, as my friend, Omer, would say. There are two fuses that go to God Knows what, but I checked them and they were good……as far as I could tell. All connections seemed tight. I looked up what the heck a sense module looks like, then searched high and low, in and out, but could not find one. I’m pretty sure one is here. Then I searched the internet for a marine disconnect switch to see if the yellow tang is supposed to be up or down. After 30 minutes of searching for what is obvious to everyone else, I found out it is like a circuit breaker. If you see the little yellow tang hanging down, the breaker has switched off. It is located inside an outside storage area. I’m sure stuff in that compartment bumped all around and knocked the button, disconnecting it. I flipped it up, checked the solar app, and was charging! Thank God!

That was a huge step, and I was thankful for not driving to AM Solar. I could just see the technician giving me the look of “What kind of idiot are you?” Now to find that sense module. Looking everywhere inside, I could not find it. I thought if I found that and could fix it, the weBoost could be suffering from the same problem. The solar wiring comes down from the roof in the refrigerator vent, so I got the ladder out and climbed up on the roof and found another problem. A sheet of aluminum acts as a baffle so the heat pump exhaust won’t blow pine needles down your refrigerator vent, but it was about to fall off. Trying not to become diverted from my task, I removed it and covered the screw holes with sealant tape. There was a box under one of the solar panels, but I decided that was a solar panel junction box. There was only one way to see into the refrigerator vent, and that was to remove the domed cover that was sealed down with putty. Since I had no putty, I wasn’t going to remove that. Besides, it seemed a poor place to put a “sense module”.

I spent the next hour cleaning the aluminum baffle, cleaning the roof, laying down industrial strength Velcro, drilling holes through the Velcro and placing rivets the holes. Took me another 30 minutes to watch the video on how to place rivets. It is really a very simple task once you know what you are doing. I thought of all the other missing rivets, but I had to stay on the current task.

By then, Martha had returned from her hike and wanted the report. I showed her the solar disconnect switch and how it worked, then told her about the baffle. She fixed sandwiches while I put the bed back together and put the tools away. Then we took a bike ride on a rails-to-trails path that stretches 73 miles through the area. It was built during mining days when silver was found here. It’s a pretty trail around the lake where side ponds and marsh are loaded with duckweed. As Tricos are for trout, duckweed is for ducks. They just sit in one spot and gorge on these green, floating plants. No wonder the Nez Perce liked this area where ducks, geese and all kinds of fruits and berries grew. People were picking apples all along the paved trail. There were rose hips, currants and big Huckleberry trees loaded with berries. Unfortunately the huckleberries were just past their season, but we took some apples home.

Travel to Hayburn State Park on Chatcolet Lake

September 22, 2017

We drove through University of Idaho, where our friend, Karen Human, went to graduate school. It is a beautiful school in a beautiful area, and Moscow is a cute, little university town.

On the edge of town, we visited the Appaloosa Museum. These horses were likely brought by the Spanish, but their heritage goes back thousands of years, probably originating in China. The Nez Perce developed this breed along the Palouse River and throughout their region. Their traits are they have a great disposition and work well with children and all members of the family. They are strong, durable and very fast.

In the war of 1877, Cheifs Joseph, White Bird and Looking Glass and a small band of women, children and men managed to outrun the army for four months over 1500 miles, partly because of the Appaloosa horse. There was a map in the museum showing the routes of the Nez Perce or the Palouse tribe, the army chasing them, and also the routes of Lewis and Clarke.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

September 21, 2017

A few miles out of Lewiston is the headquarters for Nez Perce National Historical Park. The rest of the park is composed of 38 sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. We would visit two more sites today, one the basalt area north of our campground, and one at Buffalo Eddy on the Snake River.

We watched a 33-minute movie about the Nez Perce, who call themselves the Nimiipuu. They were a huge tribe that inhabited the Columbia Plateau. A very spiritual group, they are one with the land and waters. In 1804 they were instrumental in saving and guiding Lewis and Clarke, giving them food and trading for Appaloosa horses. In an 1855 treaty, they were granted approximately half of their homelands as a reservation, but a later treaty reduced their lands to 10%, and they were forced to move in the spring when waters were high and dangerous. Thousands of white settlers had moved into their territory. Chief Joseph led 500, many of whom were women, children and elderly against 2000 cavalry. He had only 145 men burdened with many noncombatants, but through many skirmishes and four major battles, they managed to hold off the soldiers for four months, crossing the dangerous Snake River many times. In Big Hole Basin in Montana at 3:30 in the morning Colonel John Gibbon attacked the sleeping Indians with 183 men, killing women and children. The Nimiipuu counterattacked with guards from the surrounding hills. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded. The soldiers fought with rifles and pistols, while the Indians fought with bows and arrows. The army counted 89 Nez Perce dead, mostly women and children.

The remaining Indians escaped and managed to elude the army for another two months, but in the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, Colonel Nelson Miles dealt the final blow. Those not killed surrendered. They were only 40 miles from the Canadian border. Chief Joseph famously said, “I will fight no more forever”.

The museum is very well done, with excellent exhibits, and the movie is also excellent. I hope I am not related to John Gibbon. Roger Dailey of the park service was very helpful and generous with his time telling us other sights to see and places to visit. He is from this area and was a fire jumper for many years. There is so much to see in Idaho!

We took the “Spiral Road”, as Roger suggested, back to camp for lunch. Lewiston is the lowest point in Idaho at 700 something feet, and is surrounded by mountains. After lunch we took Roger’s advice to visit another Nez Perce site at Buffalo Eddy on the Washington side of the Snake River. It is a gorgeous drive up the river toward Hell’s Canyon. The Snake River canyon is the deepest in the United States. Driving 25 miles into the canyon, the river becomes more wild, yet there are houses and cabins all along the Washington side.

Buffalo Eddy is a huge eddy on the powerful Snake River. Having fished for trout for three weeks, I know to look for backwater currents where fish find calmer waters to rest and eat from a constant easy flow of food. This eddy is huge, at least two football fields long and about 40 yards wide. Beautiful basalt rocks lie beside the pool, a perfect place from which to fish. Native Americans came here for 10,000 years to fish for salmon coming upriver all the way from the mouth of the Columbia River to spawn. I imagine there were thousands of salmon in this pool. These large hard, black, flat-sheared rocks were a perfect place for the Nimiipuu to hammer out figures on the rocks. It would be quite a job to chisel these out with stones on these hard surfaces, but that is what made them survive all this time. It was very cool to be in this incredible place.

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Returning to camp, we walked a path two miles up river to a basalt rock formation along the river. This is rock formed from a series of lava flows 17-6 million years ago. Surging up to form the Columbia River Plateau. The weight of the flow caused Central Washington to sink, forming the Columbia River Basin. It and also damming up the ancient rivers and forming two huge lakes, Idaho Lake and Columbia Lake. There were a series of catastrophic floods known as the Ice Age Floods. “the deluge caused American Falls Lake to breach its natural lava dam, which was rapidly eroded with only the 50-foot-high American Falls left in the end. The flood waters of Lake Bonneville, approximately twenty times the flow of the Columbia River…swept down the Snake River, leaving debris and sediment deposits across southern Idaho. For miles on either side of the Snake, flood waters stripped away soils and scoured the underlying basalt bedrock, in the process creating Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Crane Falls, and Swan Falls, while cutting and deepening gorges and canyons along the way”. (Elizabeth Orr, Geology of the Pacific Northwest)

We think of all the disasters going on today with fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. Then every now and then I read these things and try to imagine the rocky mountains being formed or that a whole part of the western continent just fell off into the sea. I love the Will Durant quote, “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”.

Lewiston

September 20, 2017

On a rainy morning, we went to the Hell’s Gate Visitor’s Center and watched an excellent movie about Lewis and Clarke’s crossing the Rockies in Idaho. Then we read the plaques and pictures throughout the center and looked at a big relief map showing their incredible journey through these huge mountains in the snow. They never would have made it without Sacagawea or the help of so many Native Americans along their whole journey. It would be fun to ride horses along their route. I don’t know how they made it in 11 days, but they almost died.

We went to the very nice Lewiston Library to post and pay bills. It is worth the trip just to see all their art and statues. We had sandwiches at the Stax Restaurant, which was quite good, then went down the block to the Nez Perce Museum. I was disappointed that only a small part was about the Nez Perce Indians, but realized this is Nez Perce County, so it was more about history of the county. The Nez Perce were instrumental in saving Lewis and Clarke’s expedition only to be persecuted by the Army years later, stripped of their lands and forced to cross the same treacherous mountains in spring high waters to a reservation in Montana.

On a rainy, cold afternoon, we took the afternoon off, read and watched a movie.

McCall to Lewiston

September 19, 2017

It is a beautiful drive with a variety of terrains along Rt. 95. At Riggins it follows the great Salmon River. Riggins is a cute little village with a bunch of river guiding companies. It was cold and rainy, so we opted not to stay in Riggins and float the Salmon. Maybe another time. The river takes one side of the mountain at White Bird to turn and join the Snake River, while the road continues north to Lewiston. Big rain clouds were in the distance. We had rain earlier, but all of this is so welcome. The whole northwest has been plagued by tremendous fires all summer, smoke covering the whole area. Makes you wonder – fires here, hurricanes in the east and a big earthquake in Mexico.

We pulled into beautiful Hell’s Gate Campground just outside Lewiston. We are on the Lewis and Clarke trail. The visitor’s center has all kinds of information and a movie about their crossing of the Rockies in Idaho and the terrible time they had in the Bitterroot Mountains.

We were setting up camp when Carol came over from the adjacent campsite. She and David are on their way to McCall, so we traded information north and south. Dave came back over later with a drink. We talked about travels and the troubles you have fixing things. You just have to learn how to work on all kinds of problems, because it happens to all of us. He was a Ford mechanic for years, so that really comes in handy. He told us about a bike trail that goes along the Snake River and through Lewiston. Clarkston is on the other side of the river. This is the area where the Clearwater joins the Snake River on its way to the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke followed the Snake into the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop, near where I met my friends at the mouth of the Columbia. I have not followed the Columbia through the United States, but have seen its origin, fished it there and as it leaves British Columbia south of Castelgar, and have crossed that monster bridge at its mouth. With beautiful rivers flowing into it, like the Snake, the Clearwater and the Salmon, it is a heck of a river. It is nice to know about the hatchery in McCall, Idaho that hatches millions of Chinook Salmon, and that they can find their way to the ocean, returning five years later all the way back to McCall. Fish ladders allow them to make their way over four or five dams.

McCall, Idaho and Ponderosa State Park

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September 13-17, 2017

McCall is a nice little town on beautiful Payette Lake. It has a population of 3,278, but swells to 20,000 in the summer. Many people from Boise have summer houses around the lake. It is also a ski area in the winter. There are interesting shops and restaurants, lots of bike hiking trails.

We went to the farmer’s market and bought a melon, a loaf of bread and honey. There weren’t a lot of stands, but they were good ones. There was a vintage sports car rally in the park, so we checked that out. A Triumph GT6 in immaculate condition caught my eye. What a beautiful car, reminding me of a GY3 I wanted to buy in college. I had worked road construction all summer, putting in a lot of overtime building I64. A sports car restoration place had just rebuilt an older GT3. I had the money to buy it, but Dad said he would buy me a new car when I graduated from college. Graduating in 1968, he bought me a white 1965 Ford Custom, as plain a car as ever made. It did well though, and probably kept me a lot safer.

Then I went to Jamie’s Barber Shop and got a much-needed haircut. It’s a small one-chair shop with a piano on one side. Several books of music were on the stand. A nice jazz station played through the internet. Turns out that Jamie plays five or six nights a week around town and for personal parties. He taught himself to play, never having a lesson, but obviously loves it. He also cuts hair, but just in the afternoons in this small town. With the door open to Lake Street, the main street through town, I watched people passing by as we talked. A very neat guy, Jamie cleans up between each client, cleaning all the instruments, sweeping the floor, and wiping all surfaces. It was a far-better haircut than my last one in Oregon.

After lunch, we took a bike ride around Ponderosa State Park. It’s a great path, paved on the west side and gravel on the east. Lots of people were walking and biking, enjoying a beautiful day. Three of the campground loops will close next week, leaving just one open. It is getting down to 30 degrees some nights, and it takes a lot of work to winterize everything. For the first time in months, we built a fire in the evening. It was a perfect evening for it.

As we sat there, we noticed an older man having trouble hooking up an old Excella Airstream, so Martha suggested I go over and help. I don’t know how old Bill was, but he couldn’t line up the hitch and ball. He had taped a flashlight just behind the ball. There was a mirror attacked to the back window of his truck bed shell so he could see the ball. It was an odd angle, so he just couldn’t get it. He was very appreciative for the help, and with a few tries, we got it. This old Excella had obviously been a lot of miles. He said he bought it used in 1992, and he hadn’t babied it.

On Sunday we drove up to Brundage Mountain Ski Resort. Usually they run the ski lift to take people to the top of the mountain where they rent mountain bikes to ride back down, but they were closed. It is no longer summer and the road was being paved. Seeing the road construction delay, I started to turn around when the pilot car driver came running back to us. He said they were about to start up the mountain, and the delays were very short. Who ever saw a pilot car driver do that? At the top, he said he thought Brundage was closed, but said if we continue on the gravel road to the top, there is a beautiful overlook. Past that is the reservoir. Six miles past that is another lake, and 10 miles past is another. It never ceases to amaze me how far westerners will travel on a dusty, bumpy gravel road to get somewhere.

The overlook was indeed beautiful, looking down at a beautiful trout stream that is impossible to get to. The reservoir was very low, but one boat was fishing and someone had pitched a tent. Several cars passed us, one zooming back toward town. Martha suggested going to the next lake and fishing. I quickly calculated six more miles at 25 miles an hour, then six back and then down through construction to town. With maybe an hour of fishing, it would shoot the whole day, so we headed back down.

After lunch we rode the bikes on North Valley Rails-to-Trails. It was a pretty ride through farms and houses and a pretty marsh. The wind picked up as a front started to push through. Rain is predicted to come.

Boise

September 14, 2017

Martha and I spent two days exploring a bit of Boise. We walked and biked the great riverside trail along the Boise River. What other city has a river running through it where people fish for trout? We explored  downtown, shopping and had a nice lunch at Wild Root. In the evening we met Ron Lowry for drinks and dinner at the Ram. Ron is a VMI and MCV grad a class ahead of me, and is an avid fly fisherman. We enjoyed hearing his stories about fishing throughout Idaho. We are going to sign up for a trip he has taken every year for 15 years down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a six-day trip through wilderness. I can’t wait until next July! Boise is a beautiful city with an interstate running through it, about the size of Richmond, Virginia.

We drove out to World Center for Birds of Prey. They were vital in the restoration of the Peregrine Falcon after DDT caused their demise. Now they are working on restoring the California Condor along with other projects. Even Martha enjoyed the great presentation, pictures and displays.

As we were packing up to leave, Justin, the manager at Mountain View RV Resort, came over to say goodbye. Not only is he a biker, but also a fly fisherman who grew up in Riggins and McCall. He gave me some good tips on places to fish as we headed north. He also told us to stop at Tackle Tom’s in Cascade. What a nice young man!

Driving north, Route 55 follows the Payette River, a world-class white water river. We stopped for lunch at a pull-out where there is a white, sandy beach on the river. We went into Tackle Tom’s and met Tom, who has been working there for 38 years. I bought a fishing license and a few flies as he gave us great advice where to go hike as well as fish. He advised us to stop at the Boise National Forest-Cascade Ranger Station just down the street, so we did. I bought a couple of maps as Steve advised us on places to go, and explaining the fire restrictions. Ranger stations are getting to be one of my favorite places to go.

We drove through McCall and out onto a peninsula jutting out into Payette Lake to Ponderosa State Park. Kevin Handford had recommended it. He is another VMI grad as well as an excellent financial advisor, who has a place in McCall. There was no one at the gate. Reading the board, most of the campground was closing next week. We drove through and picked a nice spot, filled out the form, put the money in and put the envelope in the slot. Martha said five days would be good.

Alberton to Boise

September 10, 2017

Rhonda and Martha were flying into Boise on the evening of the 12th. Then Kelly and Rhonda would be heading south to Moab, while Martha and I would head back north and west. Everything we had was covered in dust. Our trip with David couldn’t be topped, so we decided to leave the fishing on that great note. We had a great three weeks of fishing, but now we needed to do some serious cleaning.

Setting the truck GPS for Boise, we turned the radio to listen to news. We weren’t paying enough attention to where we were going until we saw a sign for Spokane. It is no doubt the simplest way to go on major highways, but not the way we wanted to go. We cut over to 12, 95 and 55. It was definitely the longer route, but it is a beautiful drive with such variety of terrain. It follows the beautiful Salmon River for a long time, then the Little Salmon River and the Payette River. Incredible, beautiful waters. The Payette is Olympic-calibre kayak water. Ron Lowry would later tell us about running a raft on it and turning it over.

Finally arriving at Mountain View RV Resort, we spent the next day and a half washing, cleaning, doing laundry, and rearranging for our next adventure. Kelly rented a car and got a hotel room. By the time we picked up the girls at the airport, we were really tired, and so were the girls after a long day of travel. We had a nice dinner exchanging stories before going our separate ways and getting a good night’s sleep.