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Monday, November 30, 2009

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA

We awoke at 6am as Elaine had some "work" stuff to get done while she had a fast WiFi signal at Mt. Vernon RV Park. By the time we got underway the rain had started, and it rained steadily all the way to Coupeville, but hey, we have a Newell, so no worries. We stopped in Oak Harbor at the local Safeway supermarket to stock up on wine, and some shrimp for dinner tonight at our friend's home. Right now we are courtesy parked behind our friend's home. Had to drive down a 200 foot dirt/gravel road to the concrete slab where we are courtesy parked now.















On our way south on Whidbey Island we crossed over the famous Deception Pass bridge....which is really two bridges, and are they ever narrow!
The rain has stopped, and we are getting ready to put steaks on the BBQ.......life is good, even if it is 45 degrees outside.

Heading west....

Sunday, November 29th, dawned clear again....the weather reports for the next few days show partly cloudy skies, with no significant rainfall, or snow predicted! Great! A perfect day to escape the amazing food vortex we found ourselves trapped in the past 5+ days. Originally, we had planned to take I-90 west to I-5 and then take the Bremerton Ferry over to Bainbridge Island and then across the Olympic Peninsula. However, we found out our good friends from our College days would be home afterall. They live near Coupeville, WA on


Whidbey Island. We normally visit them once a year, but hadn't been able to carve out the time the last 18 months, so we were thrilled they would be home. So, we decided to take US Highway 2 west to Everett, WA and north on I-5 to Anacortes, and then south on 20 to Coupeville.

What a great choice! This is a wonderfully maintained highway, although mostly 2 way traffic, it is very driveable, and uncrowded. The terrain was quite varied as we journied westward. We would go from vast farmland, to volcanic range land, then back to farm land, then into mountains, then river valleys, etc. This is a great secondary east/west road to explore such little towns as Coulee City (just south of Grand Coulee Dam), Chelan Lake, and many other quaint towns with large antique stores, and great restaurants.

We stopped in the little town of Cashmere, WA where we ate lunch at a great 50's diner called "Studebaker Diner". The portions were enormous.....we should have split the Bleu Cheese/Bacon Burger, but I ate the whole thing myself. The Diner is attached to this enormous antique mall that must encompass 10,000 square feet. We spent the better part of an hour after our late lunch sifting through the 1,000's of items. I have no purchases to report, but would love to revisit this little town that seems to have several of these large antique malls where locals consign their treasures for sale.
Our original plan was to get over Steven's Pass (4,100' elevation) and then find a suitable RV park to overnight in before finishing our jaunt to Coupeville....unfortunately not much presented itself for consideration, and we ended up driving all the way to Mt. Vernon where we found this charming little RV park called.....what else....Mt. Vernon RV Park.

To the left is a view of the highway just to the west of Steven's Pass....there was a lot of snow piled up in the pass. Glad we came through on a day with no snow, or rain!
Elaine is busy finalizing payroll on E-Labor. Once she is finished we will saunter on down to Coupeville where we will spend a couple days with our friends before heading out to the Olympic Peninsual to explore.
The Newell has performed flawlessly. Her heating systems work hard to keep us more than comfortable. The windshield wipers and washer keeps our view clear. Her waste tanks are massive......we just dumped our tanks for the first time in 9 days, and still had room to spare. We are getting a little rain.....I hope it stops before I have to disconnet our sewer and power. The adventure continues....stayed tuned!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day dawned clear of clouds, rain, fog, etc. As I peared out the salon window I could see my brother-in-law busily preparing the large turkey for insertion into the oven. My sister was preparing various dishes (creamed broccili, sweat potatos, salad, and on it goes.


About mid-morning we took a hike....my sister's home backs up to National Forest.....in the 48 degree weather. Later we got all the adult males outside, plus several of the kids for a game of "H-O-R-S-E" at the basketball hoop across the street. I haven't played basketball in about 20 years, but managed to hang tough for 10 minutes before beling unceremoniously eliminated....my 10 year old niece did better than I....LOL!!
This table is around 90 years old, and can seat even more people if needed by inserting a few more "leaves".










Hmmmmm......how about a "do over".....I can still smell the ubiquitous aromas wafting throughout the home. As we ate each of us took a turn and talked about things we are thankful for.....I am/was thankful for relatives who still want me to visit them....LOL! Most of all, though, I am thankful for a wonderful family that knows how to laugh.

After dessert, we retired to the media room to watch "What's Up Doc?"....a hilarious 1970's era movie produced and directed by Peter Bogdonovich, and starring Barbara Streisand, Ryon O'Neill, Madelene Kahn. If you want non stop funny, rent this DVD! My mouth hurt after laughing continuously for an hour and a half. Great ending to a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spokane courtesy parking....


At first blush I thought "we are not going to fit this monster into that postage stamp sized place", but my brother-in-law assured me they had measured and there was enough flat space to setup without dislodging the garage roof, or any other part of the home, so I slowly "slid" down into the short narrow space, and what do you know......we did fit and it took very little leveling. When I lowered the left side to come level I didn't realize how close to the ground the left rear of the motorhome would come to the ground. Just to the rear of the coach the driveway incline starts.





Here are pictures showing just how close I came to crunching my exahust pipe and bike rack.

The temperature got up to 50 today....first time we have had temps over 40 since South Jordan, UT. As has been the case in the past, when we get into temps over 40 the right rear suspension rises to the proper height and stays there. Today was a beautifuly sunny day with no wind, so I took a few hours to wash 3 days of slush, mud and rain off the coach. The wax job I had done just before we left sure made the job easy, and she has been restored to her pre-trip glory. Tomorrow is Turkey day, and we have a lot to be thankful for.....1400 miles into our 3 week adventure we have had no mechanicals, and all is well.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of those who have been following our trip so far.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Can you spell...M-I-S-S-O-U-L-A?

It was so overcast this morning that when I looked at the digital clock on the wall I thought I was misreading it....it said 7:15am......what? I usually wake up before 6.....even after 7am, it was still DARK outside. We decided we would forego making breakfast....OK, Elaine she would not make breakfast this morning...we would go to Lowe's first, and then to Starbuck's for a "coffee of the day" and some pastry and then hit the road before 9am. We got on I-90 around 8:40am, so we had that going for us. The cloud cover was very thick, and it sprinkled on an off for the first 20 miles, then it settled in to a steady drizzle, sometimes hard, mostly just drizzle all the way to Coeur d'Alane. We only had a little over 2oo miles to go today, so we got to play with the windshield wipers for a few hours, and the window washer after each semi passed throwing all kinds of gunk on to our windshields. The great thing is the "used" window washer resevoir/pump I had installed last summer, but had never had occasion to really use, worked wonderfully. Another great Ebay purchase!

Our first pass of the day was Lookout Pass at about 4,500'.....a little snow, but mostly rain. The second pass of the day was 4th of July Pass, which was much lower elevation, but we had serious snow for about 10 minutes, when as we descended it turned to steady rain again. Both passes had easy approaches, but Lookout had about 6 miles of 6% grade descending.

We stopped at a place called 50,000 Silver $...so you can guess what they specialize in......right, Buck Knives.....OK, sorry, just messing with you....silver dollars. They had several that were minted in the early 1880's. I didn't know that the last silver dollars minted where in 1935. The ones from the 1880's went for over $250, while the ones minted in 1935 were in the $50 range.



Before we knew it we were passing by Lake Coeur d'Alane to our left. Once through Coeur d'Alane (it sounds nothing like it is spelled), we had to take time to stop at Cabella's right on the Idaho/Washington border.
After browsing through Cabella's for about 30 minutes we decided to get back on the road and finish this leg of the trip. Our GPS program successfuly delivered us to the doorstep of my sister's home just south of Spokane about 1pm. I will post pictures of the home, and our present location courtesy parked in their driveway.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

I woke up several times in the night wondering if the coach would start in the morning at 20 degrees. We turned on the block heater as soon as we leveled out in the Snake River RV Park, so it had been on for 16 hours, but I worry about stuff like that. I shouldn't have, because it fired immediately....not even a hesitation. The picture to the right is what our first 100 miles looked like....snow in every direction, and a lot on the road. However, I get ahead of myself, as usual.

After successful ignition, the second task was to see if I could get the right rear up to near ride height before heading out of the park....I tried raising the right rear while in the "level" mode and was successful in getting it up to almost ride height, but as soon as I would switch to "ride height" it lowered back down so the mud flap was dragging a little. I found that as long as I kept the engine idling at about 1500 rpm's it would stay up, so we just headed out slowly, but at 1500-2000 rpm's. Our first stop was Fred Meyer's for diesel....they had it for $2.79...everyone else was selling it for 10 cents more. I was only at about 1/2 tank, but it will only cost more the rest of the trip so I added 81 gallons at a cost of $225.

Interstate 15 was forboding, yes even forbidding. Snow was everywhere...on the highway, and off to the horizon. A few miles up the road we drove into a cloud bank....OK, I guess low lying clouds are better than zero visiblity and a driving snow storm. It was like driving in a long tunnel with a very low ceiling. On top of that we were heading for a 7,000 foot pass called Monida...all the local Idaho Falls folk spoke with reverence about this pass, but it was quite tame compared to Wolf Creek Pass. The approach from both sides was very gradual so all was good.

We gained the pass around 11am, and as if by magic the clouds vaporized, and we had bright sunshine and dry roads....apparently the snow and clouds are not allowed into Montana....we were at the border.

The rest of the day, which I had not been looking forward to because of the dire weather projections, ended up being a walk in the park. I sat in cruise control for the next 4 hours as we slowly descended to Missoula, MT which is situated at around 3,000' elevation.

We went directly to the local KOA and then called Jennifer Stackpole to let her know we had arrived. She drove over, picked us up and took us over to where her coach is stored (indoors), and we spent about an hour touring her 1987, 40' Newell. She is standing just to the left of the coach door....forgive my bad aim!


After that we returned to our coach and gave her a reciprocal tour, and then went out to dinner for Thai food.....that was a first for me. I have never eaten Thai food before, but it was great, and I am now hooked.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with Jennifer. She is quite an accomplished person, and has worn many, many professional hats in her life to date.....welder, blacksmith, musician, dancer, natural gas industry, and on it goes.....there are at least 6 other professions in her past, but my brain is full, and I'm sure I'll remember more of them tomorrow. We look forward to returning to Missoula in the near future. Tomorrow, Spokane, WA and lots of Turkey!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Snow......

Thought I was getting up at 5am, but it was really 6am....I forgot we lose an hour in Utah....Mtn Time. My brother and his wife (and kids) left around 7am for my sister's home in Spokane...we'll see them there on Tuesday. It was about 30 degrees overnight....see, I told you it would get a lot colder....now I'm wearing long underwear, a plaid jacke, and a ski jackt over that....LOL!

We had all three gas furnaces on all night....takes me a couple of nights to get used to the heaters cylcing on and off all night, but I did sleep well enough...Elaine put an extra comforter on the bed, so we stayed toasty warm last night.

Just like last April in Gallup, NM when it also snowed overnight, the right rear was recalcetrant in adjusting itself to "ride height"....it never really got to it's normal height, although it was within a couple of inches. The temps did not get over 32 most of the day today. We were counting our blessings about 70 miles south of Idaho Falls that we had not had rain, or snow yet....then within one mile it went from dry to 30 feet visability.....and heavy snowfall! Wow! Fortunately, the heavy snow only lasted less than 20 minutes, and had stopped by the time we hit Pocatella, but it started up again 10 miles out of Idaho Falls, and is still going strong as I sit here composing this installment of our Pacific Northwest adventure. We are staying at an RV park recommended by our good friend Tom McCloud....his former neighbor in Mesa, AZ owns an RV park called Snake River RV Park, and that is where we are plugged in right now with all 3 electric heaters going (one in the water bay), and the block heater on....we're drawing 40 of the 50 amps we have available to us right now. The park appears to be a former KOA, without the KOA prices. We are in the electric only row (B).

Topped off our LPG tank at a Flying J in Salt Lake City for $2.29/gallon...the best price I have seen in a while. Want to be sure I've got a full tank in case we get stranded somewhere and have to run the genset to keep from freezing for a day, or so.....I wish I hadn't said that....I'm not really superstitious, but have you ever noticed how often in life you make a comment about some thing, or another not happening, then it happens shortly aftet that???

Well, settling in to watch some Sunday afternoon football....Chargers and Broncos in San Diego, where it's not snowing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It was really cold last night......the bad news is 40 degrees in not really that cold, but I'm from Southern California where we put on ski jackets when it gets that cold...LOL! It will be much colder than that in the next few days as we wend our way northwest from our current location of South Jordan, UT (about 10 miles south of Salt Lake City). The temps will dip to under 30 tonight, so I am plugged in at my brother's (Dwyer) house and the water bay electric heater is turned on.
But I get to far ahead of myself.....we awoke in St. George, UT this morning around 6am.....I jumped out of bed, hit the generator switch (we have 3 of them, and one is in the bedroom) and then turned on all 5 heaters (2 electric, and 3 gas furnaces) plus the block heater. It took about 10 minutes for the coach to warm up enough to get out of the covers and get dressed....what wimps we are!

Since we right behind the Cracker Barrel we went in for breakfast....they have the best coffee! I had oatmeal, bacon and a big blueberry muffin.

We left St. George in our rear view mirror just before 8am, and continued north on I-15.....what a beautiful day (the picture above was taken about 100 miles south of where we are right now). We started out with the chassis heater up front on high, but I was not getting warm enough so I turned on the defoggers, and the defrost (don't ask what the difference is, but I have 3 different switches for these defrosters/defoggers), and I was just comfortable. When we stopped for coffee about 190 miles into the day I discovered the bathroom, and shower ceiling vents where open and that was why it never got warm inside. Once those were closed I stayed warm with just the chassis heater on......doh!

We arrived in South Jordan around 2pm, and are have a blast catching up with my brother and his wife. We'll hit the road again the morning headed for Idaho Falls. Tom McCloud, a Newell friend from Mesa, AZ has recommended an RV park there owned by a neighbor of his near the Snake River!


Friday, November 20, 2009

St. George here we come.....


We got out of town around 10:40am.....hadn't planned on leaving until around Noon....so we've go that going for us! The weather has been wonderful for the first 350 miles. We just took our time.....had lunch at the In 'n Out Burger in Barstow. We jumped off I-15 in Vegas to fuel up at the local Rebel Gas Station, which had the best price we will see the rest of the trip at $2.65/gallon. The stretch of I-15 between Las Vegas and St. George is really some of the nicest Interstate I have driven on. All of the construction that was in progess the last time we came through Las Vegas in June of 2008 is done, and we were the beneficiaries of that work!
Right now we are parked behind the Cracker Barrel for the night. Elaine whipped up some beef barley soup and a couple pieces of squaw bread toast for me.....she's not hungry. I'm chasing the soup with a bottle of Black Butte beer. The temps were in the 60's most of the way, and right now ayt 6:50pm it's around 50 degrees and dropping.

So far our adventure has been uneventful, which is what we prefer. We will be in South Jordan, UT tomorrow afternoon at my brother's home...about 290 miles from our current location.
See a video of the first four days on the road!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Countdown.......


In about 26 hours we will point our Newell northbound on Interstate 15 for our longest trip (time wise) to date. We will be gone exactly 3 weeks (November 20th to December 11th). The first 1400 miles we will cover in 5 days.....not exactly the Indy 500, but certainly more miles per day than I like to cover in that short a period of time. After that the final 2200 miles of our trip we will take in very small bites....a 50-100 miles at a time over a 2 week span.

I don't know about "you", but 3, or 4 days before departure on a long trip such as this I awake around 3am thinking about the adventure that awaits. I wonder what mechanical issues may challenge us, what new places await exploration, and what interesting people we will cross paths with. We have made no reservations. The first leg of our trip will find us dry camping at Flying J's, or Cracker Barrels, with an occasional courtesy parking arrangement (including an electrical umbilical cord) at the homes of friends, relatives, and acquaintances in Utah, Montana, and Washington.

No trip ever goes "as planned". Most of the time the twists and turns are minor deflections from the "general plan", but sometimes a trip can take on the appearance of a clown car with wheels, bumpers, and doors exploding off the vehicle. There is one memorable trip we took with 2 other couples many years ago to Lake Tahoe for a week of camping. Two of us towed tent trailers, and one couple towed their Hobie Cat. We dreamed of days of sailing on the lake, sitting on the beach reading, swimming, and nights by the campfire. Since two of the couples (us being one) had young children, we came up with the grand idea of leaving at midnight, arriving at the campground late the next morning with the kids having slept most of the way. We wouldn't hear the plaintive query "Are we almost there yet?", or the desperate "I have to go to the bathroom", or the annoyed "he's touching me!!" coming from the nether regions of the mini-van. HOWEVER, before we even left our street my friend with the Suburban had a minor electrical issue, which took about 15 minutes to solve. We departed around 12:15am. Before we even hit the 40 mile mark my friend with the Suburban called out over the CB channel...."I have a flat"....we pulled over and quickly changed the flat....another 30 minutes lost. Before we hit the 90 mile mark the CB crackled again...."I have another flat" said my Suburban friend.....the tread on a second tire had now separated.....we were about 10 miles from Kramer Junction which basically consists of 4 gas stations and truck stop that were all open 24/7. Since the spare had just been used a 40 miles earlier my other friend (towing the Hobie Cat) offered to drive Suburban friend down to Kramer Junction to see if they could find a couple of tires at 2am in the morning.....we sat there for several hours watching the twinkling lights of Kramer Junction in the distance....I dozed off for what seemed to be a short time, awakening suddenly to the rising sun! We should have been near our breakfast stop, and here we were less than 90 miles into a 500 mile slog....uugghh! The tale of the tire acquisition is another story for another time....that is really quite hilarious, even 15 years after the fact. To make a very long story a little shorter my Suburban friend ended up replacing all 4 tires during the course of the entire trip, as well as both tires on the tent trailer, and as we approached his home in Fontana the spare tire on the trailer fell off! We arrived at the campround at 5pm.....an 11 hour trip turned into a 17 hour nightmare. Our first day on the beach was marred by a tremendous hail storm, the melting ice in my trailer ice box overflowed and got all of MY clothes wet, which were hanging out drying while we were at the beach in the hail storm, which meant all my clothes were still wet when we returned to camp. The wind died for 4 days, so almost NO sailing, and our firewood never quite dried out, so our campfires were very smokey. The memories of uneventful vacations eventually all blend together, while the memories of vacations where the "wheels" come off are still vivid years later.

Well, we will head into the still as yet uknown adventures that lie before us, whose stories are yet to be written, full of anticipation, excitement, and wonderment as to what twists and turns will come into view over each new horizon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

User Groups


A number of years ago, the early 90's, the insurance brokerage I worked for purchased an "agency management system". We put computers on everyone's desk and networked them together forming a LAN (local area network). Well, "we" didn't network them, we hired a guy who "knew" about this stuff, and he did the work, and we paid him, and paid him, and paid him....for several years. A by product of this new software was that we were invited to join a users group. The user group was made up of other insurance agents who were trying their best to figure out how to use this expensive software for more than advance word processing. I was volunteered to be our agency's representative, and to be the system manager for our office. My qualification, you ask? I had actually seen a computer before....LOL! I attended the first user group meeting reluctantly thinking it would be a waste of time. To my surprise I met a lot of interesting people, some of whom became friends. We learned a lot from each other about our system. We met quarterly down near the Long Beach Airport. Each member was assigned a topic to make a presentation out of for the next get together. In hind sight it is obvious that this user group created a sort of accountability for each of us to learn to use the software to its maximum capacity.

Fast forward to 2008........when I purchased my 1982 Newell I decided to join another users group called Newellclassic.com. By becoming involved on the website, and taking time to meet members when possible my learning curve has been shortened considerably. I still learn new things about about my Newell and its many systems almost daily through this amazing users group. In addition to the knowledge gained, Elaine and I have made some really good friends thorugh this users group....people we would like regardless of the common bond of Newell ownership.

Users groups aren't for everyone.......well, let me restate that....user groups are for everyone, but not everyone wants to be bothered with joining, or participating in a users group. Frankly, I like the people who do take the time to join. After all, it is the people that make the RV lifestyle so rewarding, and enjoyable.
So, here is my unsolicited advice......regardless of what kind of RV you own, find a users group that meets your needs. It may be a large umbrella group such as Good Sam, or Family Motor Coach Association, or a regional group, or a specific group dedicated to the particular manufacturer of your RV. The thing is, JOIN....you will make friends who will add to the texture, and richness of the new lifestyle you are pursuing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recession Proof?




I've been in the insurance business as an independent agent/broker for 38 years. Specifically in the "Property and Casualty" end of the business. In all those years my business has been pretty much recession proof. Well, with this current recession/depression that has changed. The suddeness, and severity of this down turn caught a number of my commercial busines owners by surprise, and they were unable to adjust quickly enough. As a result, they have gone out of business, and, consequently, I have lost that income. It's not serious....maybe about a 10% reduction this year. A lot of that disposable income I enjoyed disposing has evaporated.

Another consequence of the recession/depression is that a good portion of that equity on paper I had in my home.....equity I was expecting to be there in a couple of years when we retire.....is gone. We hope it's not gone forever, and that we will recover some of it as the economy and property values begin to rebound in the next 2 years, but who knows. I know our Federal Government doesn't know.....they haven't got a clue. They have flushed a couple of trillion greenbacks down the proverbial drain, and are talking about another $2, or $3 trillion to help us save money on our healthcare.

At any rate, we're being more cautious about spending and I'm working a little harder. Fortunately, my IRA has been in a straight interest bearing account for the past few years.....I decided it was time to be cautious a few years ago, and that was a good decision. When I switched it over I was a little unhappy with the guaranteed interest offered at that time, but now I am really happy I did it. Compared to what banks are paying on savings accounts right now my guaranteed rate is looking pretty good!

The good news is that we are still on track to simplify our lives dramatically in less than two years from today! We are starting to divest ourselves of a lot of "stuff", and feeling more free by the day.