Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oregon Trip Blogging

It’s 114 miles to Lewiston, Idaho if you drive down highway 95 South. The entire time we were driving I was assessing our new wheels and tires. We talked about our days prior to the drive, discussed the possibility of some friends joining us in Mexico this year, and we started the process of mentally letting go of work and all the crap associated with that part of our lives. I am ready for this trip and it will be very easy to leave work behind, I give Linda until Sunday morning to relax.

We found a nice spot at Hell’s Gate State Park in the A Loop. It was well away from most of the other campers so we could run the dog and not bother anyone. Once we were set up we took the Jeep and drove to pick up Linda’s race packet at Tri State Outfitters. The Duathlon would start at the park tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. Packets were available starting 5:00 PM, we had Linda’s by 10 after 5 PM and then we headed to Panda Express for dinner.

With race swag in hand and full bellies we drove back to the camper to see if our TV would have the evening’s Gonzaga game on it. I cranked up the antenna, turned on the converter box and switched on the TV. No signal. Taking the remote I hit the menu button and told the thing to search for channels. It clicked through the 100 possible channel slots and came up with only one channel. The screen cleared and up popped channel 2, the channel that the Zags were scheduled to play on! What are the odds of that channel being the only one we could pick up at the state park? It was a clear and clean signal so we were all set for the evening.

You all know the outcome of the Gonzaga game, it was disappointing that they lost; they were clearly out gunned by North Carolina. We cheered the boys on; Linda took the loss a little harder than I did. I had picked Gonzaga to lose on my two tournament brackets, so all was well for me in that respect. As soon as the game was over we went to sleep. Linda would be up early to get ready for the race; I would sleep in for sure.

It was 7:00 AM when Linda got out of bed. She never sleeps that long! I on the other hand I can sleep for ever if left alone up in our cozy bunk. She piddled around getting ready for the race, made me coffee and coaxed me out of the sack. At about 8:30 AM Linda got on her bike and rode to the race start point. I have watched her make her duathlon nest several times, it never changes, and she has a mental check list that she goes through. By the race start she knows exactly where her bike is racked and all her gear is located in a precise spot.

I got dressed and started playing with the dog. We played chuck-it for a while and then about an hour before everything broke loose we walked over to the start line. We arrived just as the racers were getting their instructions. I saw Linda’s parents as soon as I walked into the area, and then we saw Linda in her race trance figuring out where the lady that she always has to beat to take first place had her gear placed.

The gun went off at seven minutes after 10:00 am. Linda’s parents and I yelled a couple things and then we stood and talked. In about 13 minutes runners started returning to the area and mounting their bikes. Ray and Barb, Dean and Kobi started watching for Linda and soon she was there. She had a good transition and was off. Her parents returned to their car and sat out of the wind on nice comfortable seats. Kobi and I sat on a rock and played chase the stick. Time passed and bikes started coming in. I spotted Linda and was able to get some pictures. Her parents were back in time to see her arrive and change into the running gear, and then she was gone. Two miles later she was back. Within about ten minutes of her arrival we saw that she had taken first in her age group, her mom and dad gave her hugs and they were off, back up to Moscow. I hung around for a while and then Kobi and I walked back to the camper.

I packed everything up and hooked up the Jeep. By the time I finished Linda arrived and went straight to the shower room. It was raining harder by that time and both Kobi and I were glad to be sitting in the truck. When Linda was finished showering she dressed and returned to the truck. I started it up and our vacation began.

We drove on Highway 12 out of Lewiston through Clarkston and on down to the Tri Cities. When we entered Pomeroy we thought about Caroline Beckwith. Her family is big Pomeroy farmers and we have heard stories of life on the farm from Caroline. We passed through Pomeroy, Dayton and Prescott, cutting through Richland on down to Highway 84. We ate lunch on the move; we bought it at the Subway in Dayton. At 84 we went west and followed the Columbia River down to around Cascade Locks. The drive was a mixture of rain and wind, followed by more rain and wind. The roads were mostly very good, I managed to get about three “Oh GODS” out of Linda, but I blame that on the new tires and wheels. New things take a bit of getting used to and sometimes when you are traveling 70 miles per hour while passing a van on a curvy single lane highway, you need to blame your instability on something.

Herman Creek campground was scheduled to be our stopping point for the evening. We took the exit and made a left to find our little camp, but we found nothing. The rain had let up and the sun was going down which made the light very surreal. Linda said something about a strange horror show feel to the area, I asked her not to talk like that and we got quiet. I had just missed a road where I could get turned around so Linda got out and tried to help me back the Jeep up about six yards. No go, the wheels on the Jeep immediately turned and I couldn’t budge without breaking something. I thought of my conversation with Heather Erikson just before we left. I had told her that I had never gotten in a position while pulling our Jeep where I had to back up. I was there now. We continued on along the road and we were lucky because when we came to the dead end, the road had enough room to swing our truck and Jeep around to get us back on track. I count that as still not having to back the Jeep up, so I am batting 1000 in the pulling game. We backtracked to the junction without Jason or the Candy Man attacking us, and then followed the road to the right. Within a mile we came upon Herman Creek campground but it was closed for the season. We had to enact plan B, but we had no real plan B. We drove back to the freeway and turned the truck to the west. Plan B was drive till we find something.

After about five miles we spotted a sign for Ainsworth State park and we exited the freeway hoping that there was camping available. We pulled in and sure enough the park was open and there were a lot of spots to choose from. We took the first one we came to, we were tired and it was wet; we set up and got our dinner ready. At 7:30 PM we ate and then within a half hour were in bed for the night.

The rain and wind continued all night long, I woke up quite a bit. The next morning Linda said she didn’t sleep well either. We had coffee and tea, Linda walked the dog while I got the rig ready to roll. As we left we looked at the campground. It was a nice place, far bigger than we thought. We hit the road about 9:00 AM.

Our drive down to Beach Side State Park would have been very uneventful except I almost made a huge mistake. We passed through the Portland area and I figured we would be able to drive until the fuel tank read about 1/8 left and then we could get diesel and have a full tank to carry us to the Coos Bay area. We passed Salem and the gage read 1/8. I started looking for a place to fill up. We drove and I kept looking. Soon the low fuel bell rang and the light came on, but still no place to stop. We were running on fumes when we pulled off at Albany. I stopped at the first station, but the guy said there was no diesel available there. He pointed down the road and we chugged on. About a mile down we saw a Texaco and rolled in, they had diesel. The fill up took 33.25 gallons, our tank holds 34 gallons. I will never push it that close again. Linda rolled her eyes, and gave me that “you bet you won’t do that again” look.

We cruised on over to the coast and found our campsite. The sun broke through the clouds and the first thing we did after getting set up was to go for a long walk on the beach. Kobi loves the beach, his chuck-it ball rolls forever!

We took several walks on the beach, each time Kobi chased the chuck-it ball. The sun was out and that was real nice, but it was windy and cold. Linda went for a long run in the afternoon sun and I took the opportunity to get in and shower. The water was hot and I was the only one in the shower room so I took a long hot wash and finished with a shave.

Linda returned from her run and took a shower. I walked the dog again and then returned to fix dinner. Tonight’s culinary delight was ham-n-bean soup with a cinnamon swirl pan cake for desert. The homemade soup really hit the spot and it is always fun using the oven in the camper to bake our cakes.

After dinner we went outside and met a few of the neighbors. One couple has a Citation camper on a Chevy one ton duelly that is identical to John and Loretta’s. They are from Coeur d’Alene also, and when I first saw them I thought the Sutherlands had driven down to surprise us.
We took the dog down to the beach for a final walk and watched the sun set. We stayed out till we were too cold to enjoy the ocean, returned to the warm camper and at 9:00 PM went to bed.
What a lazy morning. First Linda rolled out of bed and put the water on. Then she dressed and took Kobi to the beach. When she returned she woke me up and I fumbled around getting my coffee. In the mean- time, Linda and Kobi met our neighbors and their three dogs. Pam, Glen, Cedar , Trapper and Lolo are from Missoula, Montana. Glen teaches elementary PE, Pam has designed and is building their house, Cedar is a 14 year old Golden, and Trapper and Lolo are four month old black Lab siblings. They are a very nice couple and we talked for quite a while. Our main topic of conversation was education; need I say more. Glen and Linda were in agreement about the state of our education system. Our dogs played and for a while Trapper was getting the best of Kobi.

At about 10:00 AM we unloaded the back of the Jeep. We loaded Kobi in and started our exploration of the areas north of our campground. We drove up through Waldport, crossing over one of the amazing old bridges that you see everywhere there is a bay port town. As we drove, we decided to go up to Depot Bay first and work our way down from there.

Depot Bay is one of our favorite stopping spots on Highway 101. We like the bay and have been able to spot whales very close to the harbor each time we visit. The shops in this little burg are the same as any other town along the 101 strip; they have a billion tourist trinkets, shirts, whale toys and pirate booty. It is the coastal answer to the Wednesday market in Melaque, Mexico. Everything you ever wanted from China, at your service.

We have a little tradition we have established in this town. At the Northern entrance to the shopping strip is a whale sculpture. In the past each time we stop I take a picture of Linda kissing the whale. This time something was different! The whale was spouting water out of his blow hole. They had drilled down through the old whale and placed a tube that connected to a small pump on the bottom of the pool that sat below. About every eight minutes or so the whale would spout water, it was so tacky that it was funny. We took some pictures, laughed and then departed Depot Bay.

The Oregon Coastal Highway took us down to Newport where we had to stop at Fred Meyer’s and pick up some ice trays so Linda could make ice for her Margaritas. We bought a couple other items, but the trays were a necessity.

Old town Newport never changes. The shops are the same each time we visit. On this stop we ate at a street burger, fish and chowder stand. Linda had a bowl of chowder and I had a bacon cheeseburger. Both were real good, but the best thing was sitting in the sun, on the street, watching all the tourists and town’s folk walk by. We really enjoyed ourselves.
After lunch we walked across the street to the bay front docks where people had gathered to watch sea lions and seals sunning on a couple abandon docks. Linda thought they were cute, I thought they were noisy, smelly and very overweight. We took a bunch of pictures as they climbed on the dock, belched and barked at each other. I guess if you’re going to have a port that draws tourists, you probably should have a couple sea lions hanging around to keep folks entertained.

It was a quick fifteen mile drive back to camp and as soon as we got things stowed in the camper we cooked dinner. The menu tonight called for us to make pasta with a red sauce that included turkey sausage. We cooked everything outside on our new outdoor stove. This stove was a project brought about by the Bennetts camping with the Upchurches and drooling over their outside stove. With the stove outdoors you can heat water and cook smelly meals without ill effects in your trailer or camper. I found one by posting on the NATCOA (Old Mans Camper Society) web site. Turns out the fellow I bought it from had owned a Coleman pop-up trailer and forgot to give the stove to the person who bought his trailer. I bought it for a little less then I would have paid for a new propane stove. Dinner came off better than usual for some reason; we ate and did the dishes, happy that our camper did not smell like sausage.

Once all was done in the camper, we took Kobi and had a long quiet walk on the beach. We talked about our day as Kobi chased a stick. Linda said that someone told her it was going to rain tomorrow, we have to look at today as one of those special moments in our lives that you sometimes luck on to; our Karma must have been strong.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something New For The Truck

It was camper loading day and also the day that my new Rickson 19.5 Wheels and Bridgestone R250F 245/70R 19.5 commercial grade tires arrived. The Rickson steel wheels have a weight rating of 5000 lbs, the tires are a commercial G rated tire with a weight capacity of 4805 lbs. Our camper loaded and ready to go comes in under this rating. With our old tires we were right on the maximum of the safe load rating. With the old tires when we went around corners you could feel the sidewalls flex and when that happened the truck load would sways a bit. It is not as safe as the new equipment will be.

The day started about 8:30 am, I was standing outside when the UPS truck came chugging up in front of the house. The driver got out and she smiled, “You’re my first stop, I have four packages weighing a ton each.” We unloaded the packages and rolled them up next to my truck. She looked at me and then looked at the truck and said “You’re not loading them in your truck by your self are you?” I smiled and shrugged, she shook her head and got back into her rig, waved and was off.

Man those things are huge! I went to the back and brought out one of my loading ramps from my trailer. This made the job much easier, but it still was a booger rolling them up the ramp and into the bed of the truck. If I had lost control of any of them I would have been squished like a bug. I took them to my local Alton’s Tire and they changed them out for me, Alton’s will do that for free so I have them do all my tire work.

Within the hour I had the new wheels and tires on and was headed home to load the camper. Loading and hooking up everything on the camper takes me about three hours total. This includes the loading, attaching all the needed hardware and getting all the towing hitch equipment in place.

While I worked on the camper project I took some time to fix some of the lights on the cab of the truck. I figured with the good weather and the fact that I will have the camper on the rest of the season; this was the best time to get this project out of the way.

I know we’re going to enjoy the new set up on our truck and camper. We give it the test run starting Friday when we head to the Oregon coast.