Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

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Kearnie, Nebraska to Columbia, Missouri

Friday, November 3, 2014

We got off to a late start after I added DEF (diesel exhaust fluid, keeps the exhaust from smoking) to the truck, and put air in a couple of tires. Back on I80, we drove through Lincoln. Outside Omaha City we dropped down to I70 via I29, which is also a pretty drive. By lunchtime we pulled into Squaw Creek National Wildlife Preserve and ate sandwiches. It has been renamed Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Preserve, since squaw is a derogatory term. We started to take the 10-mile drive around it. I could see ducks going everywhere, and it would be a field day for a photographer on an overcast, cool day, but the road was a dusty gravel road. I didn’t want to fill the Airstream with dust again. I could have unhooked, but I could have easily spent the rest of the day shooting ducks with a camera. It’s a very cool area that I would love to return to, but Martha Jean had the homeward look in her eye.

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DON’T VEER FOR DEER

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183 NEBRASKA DEATHS THIS YEAR

Driving through Kansas City was a bit harried on a Friday afternoon. Frantic drivers were anxious to get the weekend started. Leaving proper stopping distance between us and the car in front just makes a void for drivers to pass through, but you just have to do it and be patient. Thankfully out of the city and on our way to the next, St. Louis, we were on I70. We noticed signs for the Katy Trail. From http://www.bikekatytrail.com, “The Katy Trail is a 237 mile (386 km) trail stretching across most of the state of Missouri.  (Use this link if you’re looking for the Dallas Katy Trail).  Over half of it follows Lewis and Clark’s path up the Missouri River, where you can ride beneath towering river bluffs while eagles circle overhead.  After leaving the river, the trail meanders through peaceful farmland and small-town Americana.

America’s longest “rails-to-trail” project, formerly the MKT rail line, is flat and scenic.  It’s ideal for hiking, running, or cycling on just about any kind of bike.  Horseback riding is also allowed on a 35 mile section of the trail, from Sedalia to Clinton.  Also, the Katy Trail’s Tebbetts-Portland section now allows equestrian use.” Reading up on it, this would be a fun ride, all flat and along the Missouri River. I’d love to do it!

We also passed Warm Springs Ranch, where Budwiser’s Clydesdales live. By the time we got to Columbia, Missouri, we had done 450 miles. We stayed at Cottonwood RV Park, where I stayed on my way out. This is an excellent travel facility with nice staff, restrooms, laundry and a pool. It was completely filled since the University of Missouri was playing Florida. They won the game 45-16, so they must have been thrilled.

 

Sol Duc Falls, Salmon, Move, Beach, Second Beach

October 24, 2017

At 8:30 in the morning it was too early for the sun to reach across Olympic Mountain and into these dense forests, but it was just peeking through the trees in those cool, smoky beams of light. It’s a short hike to Sol Duc Falls, but the rain forest is beautiful. My pictures are inadequate for this beautiful spot. It is small, but a long, cascading decent over lush, green logs and rocks, moss and fern. Silently we walked up along the side of the stream and every stop was beautiful. On the way back we passed a serious photographer with his backpack and tripod. Surely he would get the right light, and it would be even more spectacular.

Yesterday we saw two salmon come into the tiny, shallow pool beside our campsite. Driving back into camp Martha said to stop by a pool a couple of sites down from us. Two ladies were gazing over the edge of the creek as we walked down. They said, “Come look. salmon are swimming into the pool”. Sure enough a salmon splashed its way up a shallow riffle, around a log and into the shallow pool. We watched a few more come in. The ladies then told us we MUST go to The Cascades down the road where the salmon are jumping through them. One said, “It’s National Geographic moment. You are going to love it”. I couldn’t wait! I have been looking for this the entire trip. We thanked them for showing us the fish and directing us to the falls

We hooked up the trailer and headed just 5 miles down the road. Lots of cars were there, but we found a place to park the truck and trailer. Crossing the street with two cameras in hand, we could see the falls. Martha yelled, “Look at them! One, two three all at once”. I was looking at the stream near me and saw nothing. She was looking 150 yards ahead at the falls. We hurried along the wet, slippery trail to the falls finding a spot to see. Sure enough salmon continuously launched themselves into the falls, and then I think were washed back down. Big ones, small ones, all leapt into the rushing waters. Two little pools along the side held many fish in the only resting places. You couldn’t see any at the top of the falls, but we know some got up, because they were in our campground.

Two photographers were in a great spot shooting away. The woman was sitting and was really focused on the fish. I was looking at the man’s hat that said something about fly fishing when he pointed to my hat from Misty Mountain Fly Shop. We struck up a conversation about the salmon running, and that these were wild Coho salmon that start their run in July and August. They can make 20 or 30 miles a day. Fishing has been banned this year as there weren’t so many running because of warm El Nino waters. He talked about the hatcheries that clip the adipose fin to distinguish them from wild salmon. All of these had adipose fins, which is a rare thing today, but happens a lot on this river. His accent didn’t sound local, and I asked where he was from – New Hampshire. He loves to fish and he loves this area. He and his wife shoot pictures for the park, but they donate them. They had just returned from Alaska shooting polar bears. That too was something they do for free. Always looking for a way I might pick up a buck or two in my travels, I asked point blank, “How do you make a living”? They own a family golf course in New Hampshire, which his brothers manage.

 

Then he mentioned something about artwork. Their names are Ken and Mary Campbell, and they do wood carvings and nature photography. He has a wildlife degree, his first job being as a marine biologist. We were getting an education on summer-run salmon, winter-run salmon and steelhead. He said you have to be tough for the winter steelhead run in February, but it’s something. He likes to fish the ocean and lakes. The locals say it isn’t like it used to be, but what is? You can catch a lot of big fish in the lakes. “If you come back, call me. I’ll take you fishing”. Sheez, what a nice and knowledgeable guy. He said if you like spring and fall, you will like it here. They don’t get much snow. Yes, it’s gray and rainy for five months, but you adapt. He heard there was a bobcat at these falls last week, but it hasn’t been spotted this week. Surely it would like a nice salmon meal. Now that the fish are getting to the campground, the bobcat probably has easier fishing spots. I could talk with Ken all day, but we had to get down the road. We exchanged cards. It would be great to come back and go fishing with him.

We didn’t have far to go to Mora Campground on the coastal part of Olympic National Park. This is unusual for Martha, Usually a 4-night planner, we were now on the 1-night schedule, but it’s working great. There was no one in Mora, so we could pick our spot. Then we went to James Pond, which is a marsh caused by beavers. We couldn’t find the trailhead, but a gentleman getting out of his car pointed us in the right direction. It’s a pretty spot where a fallen tree provides a walkway into the marsh. Perfect mirror reflections showed trees in better color than when looking directly at them. The gentleman and his lady came out onto the log, and we chatted a few minutes. He has lived here for 40 years and gave us tips on where to go.

We walked back, then drove to Rialto Beach. This is an impressive, beautiful rock beach with powerful Pacific waves pounding the rocks. With such a beautiful beach on a perfect, sunny day, lots of people were enjoying it. A couple brought chairs and sat reading their books. As we looked around, we saw our new friends and went up to say Hi. We talked for a bit, admiring the scenery, and we exchanged taking pictures of each other. As we left, I saw them sitting on a fallen tree, talking and relaxing in a gorgeous spot. He grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. Rialto Beach was Martha’s favorite beach of the trip.

The next stop was a hike to Second Beach. As we gazed from an overlook on the road, a man stopped on his bike. He is a surfer, but these waves were too big at about 12 feet, and one after another. He would wait for a better day. We walked down the trail to a beautiful, black sand beach with “sea stacks” in the cove. Fortunately Martha checked the tides, a very important thing when walking beaches. We have heard a harrowing tale of a couple getting caught on a beach when the pounding Pacific tide came in. They were lucky to be able to climb up a rocky cliff far enough to safety, but then had to wait for the tide to go out again. You could walk on this beach a long way. We walked a bit, then sat on a log and enjoyed the scenery. A hiker came by asking about a campsite on the beach. We hadn’t seen one, but the only likely place was around the corner in a deep cove. There was still no one in the campground when we returned. Sometimes that’s a little spooky, but we didn’t have any trouble sleeping.

Heart of the Hills Trail, Hurricane Ridge and Sol Duc Campground

October 23, 2017

We hiked the 2.5 mile (one way) Heart of the Hills Trail through the rain forest. It’s a pretty trail with walkways over wet areas. I am greatly appreciative of the people who come in here to build these.

Back at camp we heard cars going up the mountain road that was closed yesterday. We decided to take a look, driving up the mountain to Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center. What a spectacular view! You think you are Switzerland with big, snow-capped peaks. We were so lucky to have a beautiful day to see it. These mountains were covered in clouds as we came in on the ferry.

Then back to camp where we hooked up and headed to Sol Duc Campground, only an hour and a half away. We passed along gorgeous Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park. Just after the lake we turned to go into Sol Duc. It is a beautiful campground in a rain forest with huge trees throughout and a small offshoot of the Sol Duc River running next to camp. Oh yeah, and then there are the hot baths. We talked with a nice couple beside the river. They were looking for salmon moving upriver, but we couldn’t see any. They had moved here from Michigan and love it. They were going to stop at the next spot, The Cascades, and see if there were salmon. We decided to get to camp and take a hot bath.

After setting up, we went over to lodge for a bath in natural hot baths at 105 degrees. It was a good day.

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Move to Olympic National Park

October 22, 2017

With a 7:30 start we got to the ferry terminal before 9:00. Fortunately we had a reservation, because it was full. We parked in the designated lane and waited till 10:00 when they came around to check passports and a few questions. It’s an hour and a half beautiful ferry ride across Juan de Fuca Straight to Port Angeles. A bit cold and windy on deck, I got used to it after a while. It’s fun to wander around checking the views and the people, but I had to go in a few times to warm up. We had a nice conversation with a gentleman from California who went to Victoria to look after the grandchildren while his daughter was in a conference. He had some good suggestions about the ways to travel south.

As we approached Port Angeles, Olympic loomed large, covered in clouds with sun trying to peek through. Snow covered many of the mountaintops. Several whales were spotted in the distance, Arriving at port, customs pulled all the campers over to search them. We were the last ones, but the guy was very nice. We found County Aire Natural Foods that had high ratings and ordered some a Hunter sandwich with turkey, pesto, pepperoni, onions and something else and some chili, Both were very good. One should not grocery shop while hungry.

Then up to the Visitor’s Center for some suggestions and information, and on to Heart of the Hills Campground. It was a beautiful day while we were in town, but by the time we settled in camp, the rains returned. We were happy to relax for the remainder of the afternoon. I was happy to have time to sit and read my book, “The River of Doubt”.

Oil Change, Laundry, Bookstore, Pub

October 21, 2017

I took the truck to Jenner Chevrolet to have the oil changed, transmission flushed, tires rotated, air filter and cabin filters changed. Meanwhile Martha did laundry. After lunch we went downtown to Munro’s Books. Jane-Ashley recommended “River of Doubt” by Candice Millard. Since I enjoyed the iMax movie about about Henry Bates’ 11-year journey through the Amazon, she suggested I read about Teddy Roosevelt’s trip. After reading the reviews, I couldn’t wait to get it. I had called all over town. Munro’s only had one copy. It had been raining all day and Munro’s was packed with people. It’s a pleasure to see a bookstore so busy, and this is a good one. What better thing to do on a rainy day.

This section of Government Street has some great stores. Traffic isn’t bad at all, and despite the rains, many walked the streets shopping. We went next door to Murchie’s Tea & Coffee. Whatever you want in teas and coffee, you will find it here. The line went out the door for tea or coffee, cakes, pies, sandwiches and other goodies. Of course it was a perfect day for a hot cup of tea.

Then we went to Craigdarroch Castle for a tour. It is unbelievable what someone can build when they have tons of money. Unfortunately Robert Dunsmuir, who had it build, died before it was finished. His family lived there for 18 years, and then it found uses as a hospital and a university among other things. It is quite something, and reading all the history plaques made it interesting.

For dinner, we drove through the rains to Six Mile Pub, which was good. Fortunately we didn’t have far to drive back after a couple of glasses of wine on a dark, rainy night.

Victoria, British Columbia

Friday, October 12, 2017

As predicted, the rains stopped at 11:00 – just in time, as I was getting cabin fever. First stop was beautiful Beacon Hill Park. As the rain still sprinkled, we walked around through flowers, trees and ponds with little connecting streams. Ducks played in the waters while peacocks and seagulls were everywhere else. Lots of people were out on a now pretty day. The coastal side of the park is more natural. The beautiful coastline is enough. People were walking dogs, riding bikes, walking or sitting on one of many benches enjoying the views. By then we were getting hungry, so we headed down to the docks and “Red Fish Blue Fish” to try and choose which good-looking thing to order. Fish and Chips, oysters, salmon sandwiches and seafood chowder. People were eating all along the dock as we queued up in the long line. This is downtown Victoria, two blocks from the Parliament building and the great Empress Hotel. Yet, sea planes land here, and whale tours guarantee seeing a whale. People kayak all around the city, and bike lanes and paths seem to be everywhere.

We walked through the Empress Hotel. It was busy with oncology and thyroid conferences. The dining room was filled with people taking high tea. We walked up town a while, finding a Patagonia store, where Martha bought some wool socks. Walking a different way back, we poked in several shops. It’s a very nice downtown with good shopping, but not outrageous prices. Plenty of people were out, but you can easily drive through the city. The greater metropolitan area is 383,300. The roads are good, people are courteous, and for the most part, it is easy to get around. I’m not one who loves a city, but I like this one a lot. There are lots of things to do and plenty of outdoor adventures. There are lots of parks throughout the city. We left a lot undone, but then we have another day.

Bike Newcastle Island

This is out of order. Somehow I didn’t get this posted before.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I did laundry and filled the propane tank while Martha paid bills. We extended for another day to get us through Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend, so we moved over to site 115. The site backs up to a cliff overlooking the harbor. Our new neighbors, Brian and Leslie are from the Island on the northeast side. They both teach school and needed a quiet weekend away. We told them we are going to Pacific Rim National Park tomorrow, and they said it is their favorite place, and where to go and what to see.

We drove into town to take the little water taxi over to Newcastle Island for a bike ride. It was cloudy and windy, but the little boat was covered with clear plastic. The nice, young captain helped us put the bikes on and off the boat. It runs every half hour, making it easy to relax and enjoy the day. It’s a beautiful ride around the little island and doesn’t take long. It might be better to walk it and enjoy the scenery. Either way it is very pretty and enjoyable.

Going back across, the captain’s daughter drove the boat under his careful watch. A couple with a beautiful chocolate lab sat across from us. They live on Vancouver Island also, but lived in the Yukon for 35 years teaching school. He also taught mountain biking and guided biking tours in Alaska and the Yukon. A very interesting outdoor guy, it was fun listening to his stories for this 10-minute ride. He also told us about his favorite hike near Ucluelet, the Wild Pacific Trail.

For dinner we went to Troller’s Fresh Fish and Chips down on the docks. We had seen it from the farmer’s market. It was a cool, breezy evening and there was no inside seating. On Brian’s suggestion, we ordered Halibut fish and chips, since it is in season. Funny how you remember a meal from a particular place. The Halibut we had in Seward, Alaska after taking a fiord cruise was the best. I have had many fish and chip meals since. This one was right up there with the best.

 

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.