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Posts from the ‘Mishaps’ Category

Avoiding Groundhog Day

A year ago Kelly and I completed our longest tow day ever – 11 hours on the road only to go nowhere.  I’ve detailed events of that fiasco previously, but suffice it to say, I do not advise towing a fully provisioned trailer along a very crowded HW1 on the 4th of July, especially without a campground reservation securely in hand.

Determined not to make that same mistake this year, Kelly and I finalized holiday weekend reservations at Pinnacles National Park well in advance.  This would be our second visit to America’s newest national park and our plan was to spend a few relaxing days hiking the trails we didn’t complete during our visit last fall.

Knowing the weather would likely be hot, our plan was to be on the trail by 7am each morning in order to be back at the trailer a few hours later, before temperatures rose to triple digits.  Just as planned, the following morning we arrived to the trailhead around 8:30am.

Bathroom at the trailhead

Bathroom at the trailhead

I’d categorize the first trail as ‘ok’.  The trail took us through rolling sections of tree cover and skirted some cool ravine areas before arriving to sketchy  stairs carved into a rock face leading to a giant reservoir … which as far as I could tell, was inhabited mostly by snakes, frogs, and turtles.  But mostly, the trail lacked in ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps I’m starting to become spoiled with the abundance of ‘wow’ scenery in California, but for me, this hike – while certainly pleasant, wasn’t the best I’ve seen, nor the best the park has to offer.

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Headed over there somewhere

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Kelly pauses for a look

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climbing up towards the reservoir

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Reservoir low on water – another victim of the severe drought conditions

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Lots of snakes relaxing under the warm sun

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Pinnacle rock formations

Day 2 started off a bit better – that is to say we arrived to the trailhead by 8am, but still sufficiently late for our 7am target (hey, it’s vacation, cut us some slack please).  Anyway, our plan was to complete one of the larger loops which would take us to what one park ranger referred to as the “money shot” section of the park.  Having seen the western side of the park during our last visit, I concur with the spirit of his comment – the area is stunningly beautiful, but I would prefer that ranges refrain from describing anything as being a money shot when conversing with me.

The weather seemed to be warmer than the day prior, and with no cloud-cover in sight, we knew to expect high temperatures for much of this unshaded hike.  However, before we would face any of the high heat, we first had to navigate through one of the park’s three caves.  Technically, these are not caves per se, rather  hundreds … perhaps thousands of boulders which have toppled onto themselves, creating a cave-like effect.  The result is a section of trail that is completely dark, damp, and very cool (temperature-wise).  Oh, and a lot of fun.

The park literature and signage approaching all of the park’s caves strongly advise the usage of a headlight(s).  Myself, I cannot imagine attempting to navigate the caves without lighting, but I’m sure some dumb-ass has tried.

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Approaching the cave

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

The picture below was taken using a flash, but trust me, it’s absolutely dark in these caves.  Note the guide arrow (pointing to the right) above Kelly’s left hand.  Also, check out the size of the boulders – they are  huge!

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Once through the cave section, the trail winds through a series of giant boulders and other rock faces before opening onto an expansive meadow.  We then connected to a trail that winds atop some of the higher points (2500-ish feet) of the park, affording fantastic views.  Total hike was about 8.5 miles.  July isn’t the best time to visit – it’s crazy hot, dry, and much of the plant life is burnt to a crisp.  With better planning on our part, I would expect springtime to be glorious … wild flowers blooming everywhere.

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BIG rocks wedged everywhere

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Transitioning from caves to meadows

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More pinnacles as we hike towards the highpoint of the trail

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Not long after we returned to the trailer, the air conditioning failed.  Quickly, the inside temperatures of the Airstream soared to a sweltering state, but we managed to make the best of the situation … including Kelly’s usage of an ice pack to cool her aching head.

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Turns out that the failed AC was caused by a tripped GFCI bathroom breaker … probably due to heavy load.  Foolishly, I failed to consider this simple fact as part of my troubleshooting, so we had no choice but to sweat it out with many others for hours until the temps broke.  Fortunately, I did notice GFCI after work today (Monday), which was easily reset with the push a button.

So it turns out the misery you see in the photo above could have easily been avoided had I noticed tripped outlet.  Sorry Kelly.

 

Saved By Solar

On Wednesday, I came home from work and noticed the trailer didn’t have full electric power.  Anything that required electricity by way of a wall outlet wasn’t working, however other things – such as lights, both ceiling exhaust fans, and the radio were working.  My initial suspicion that the trailer was not receiving any shore power (i.e. – the equivalent of tradition house power) was confirmed by the battery monitor reading, which read below 100% … an indicator that only the batteries were powering the trailer.

I immediately began checking potentially easily resolved issues outside the trailer in an attempt to troubleshoot a cause.  Was the shore power reading accurately at 120 volts?  Check.  Was the trailer solidly connected to shore power?  Check.  Was the primary external power cord fully functioning?  Check.

By this time it was getting late into evening and sadly, with a mountain of (day job) work needing my attention, I concluded that realistically, I would not have any more time to carefully investigate until later … like meaning the weekend.

Fortunately for me, the investment we made into a solar solution last year would save our bacon for a few days until I could more thoughtfully investigate the problem.  Kelly and I could not use any “power-hungry” appliances such as a toaster or hair dryer (actually, this impacts Kelly – not me), but using a couple of outlets throughout the trailer connected directly to the batteries through an inverter (which converts battery power to household power), the solar panels would easily recharge our batteries to 100% each day, minimizing the hassle of a few days without full electric power.

Today (Saturday) my neighbor Greg offered to help me troubleshoot the situation and together, he and I began looking inside the trailer in search of the culprit.

In most RV’s there are two electrical systems – direct current (DC) which is supplied by batteries and alternating current (AC) which is supplied by the power company or portable electric generator.  DC runs on 12 volts and is used principally for low voltage items (fans, lights, etc.), while the AC system (similar to a home) runs on 120 volts and provides power to the wall outlets.  After confirming the DC was fine, we focused on the AC … ultimately isolating the likely issue to the power converter/batter charger.

Pictured below is the main power center in our RV, responsible for receiving electrical power from either shore power or the batteries, and then distributing that AC or DC power throughout the trailer as required.

The heart of our electrical system

The heart of our electrical system

Usually nondescript, Greg and I were confident this piece of equipment would prove to be the cause of my electric troubles.  So of course he and I did what guys do … took out the unit and began looking for problems.

Using a multimeter, Greg and I confirmed the breakers and all fuses were fully functioning.  However, the four wires below (red, black, & white at the top of the picture) were not showing signs of power.  Given this, we began to question whether the unit itself was receiving power … which caused us to further roll up our sleeves and dig even deeper into the situation.

Circuit breakers for the AC and fuses for the DC

Circuit breakers for the AC and fuses for the DC

Power station removed for full inspection

Power station removed for full inspection

In our trailer, we have two external  power input “outlets” which feed power into the trailer.  Electricity from either shore power or a generator enters the power station via one of two (pink) Romex wires pictured above (left).  In this same picture, I’ve already removed the heavy gauge metal cover to expose the wiring, buss bar, and circuit board.

Immediately upon removing the cover, I spotted signs of a problem – note the burning on the bottom left of the picture below.

signs of excessive overheating

Singe marks indicate something bad

Upon closer examination, the evidence is clear – something happened which caused the cable to overheat and fail.

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Damaged wires

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Another view of the wiring

Fortunately, the unit performed as it was designed and isolated the failure from the rest of the unit.  I wasn’t home to hear, but I’m guessing that the moment of failure was accompanied by a loud noise of some sort.

Kelly and I are headed to Oregon in about 10-days and coincidently, our route will literally take us within two miles of an Airstream dealer.  While the damaged wiring is easily replaced, I’m nervous about long-term viability of the circuit board and unit overall.  This being the case, on Monday I’ll call that dealer and ask for a full warrantee replacement.  I’m hoping that if I email them the pictures above, they will agree to order a new unit and complete the service repair while we wait.

Definitely not how I prefer to start a long-awaited vacation …

 

Never Again

Yesterday our plan was to drive south along the coast and nestle ourselves into a quiet dispersed site located in the foothills about 40 miles of Big Sur.  We left HMB early in the morning with hopes of avoiding holiday traffic, but also in order to arrive to our campsite with ample time to celebrate America’s birthday.

What should have been a simple 3 hours or so of driving proved to be just the opposite.  Who knew that on arguably the largest outdoor holiday of the year, hundreds of people flock the beautiful HW1 in rented convertible Mustangs and other ‘touring’ coupes appropriate to perfect sunny conditions.  Add to mix, minivans filled to maximum capacity with camera-totting families and other tourists keen to stop at every scenic vista, and just for fun toss in lots of touring bicyclists* … our plans quickly went to hell.

But that was the good part of our day.

A few hours later than anticipated, we finally arrived to the Los Padres National Forest, and begin ascending towards the campsite.  Unfortunately, the campsite was a bit too remote.  In addition to a series of steep switchbacks, the road quickly narrowed, often single-land in size.  More, I was increasingly concerned about our ability to actually clear the roads.  Don’t forget, we were pulling our home  – there is no room for error.  Finally, I was increasingly concerned with the quickly rising transmission temperatures accompanying the very steep road.

At one point I actually pulled onto a turnout, unhitched the trailer and continued driving towards the campsite.  While a major pain in the ass, this decision proved to be a good one as we would not have made it much further with the trailer as the roads were simply too windy to accommodate a truck/trailer combo of our length.  Further, we would not have had any place to safely attempt a turn-around.

What a cluster-fuck.

After a bit of arguing about what to do next, Kelly and I devised a game-plan.   We decided to visit s few of the state parks which litter the coastline in hopes that maybe – just maybe – one of them had a cancellation we could use.  If so, perhaps we could salvage the weekend.

We are so naive  – no way that was happening.  This is the 4th of July – every yahoo and their dog is visiting a state park this weekend, no less the highly coveted parks literally a stones throw from the ocean.  We would have had better odds finding an atheist attending church.

Inconveniently, about this same time we were running low on gas and fortunately for us we happened to be about 7 miles from the only gas station for nearly the next 60 miles.  At $6.79 per gallon (for regular) they were happily selling to anyone buying.  What’s not to love about capitalism and the laws of supply and demand?

Never again will we allow ourselves to be without a secured location on a major summer holiday.  Recognizing failure, we accepted defeat with our heads low and decided to return home.  Unfortunately, as captured within the pictures below, the traffic was horrific.

But at least the views were nice.

Northbound

Northbound – slow going.

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The long snaking of cars to the south.

So to recap the day – we didn’t find any super awesome serene campsite, paid exorbitant prices for gas, and drove 320 miles to nowhere, only to return to our RV park full which is packed with knuckleheads burning campfires spewing more smoke than fire.

*  While I am absolutely a huge advocate of cycling and one day hope to complete a major bike tour of myself, I felt many of these cyclists simply didn’t mix well with the added traffic to the already overcrowded HW1.

Back To Normal

My trip to Germany concluded yesterday and I’m once again comfortably back in HMB.  Other than the usual issues accompanying a long international flight, the journey home was “without incident” – which is to say my mostly uneventful.

Awaiting my connecting flight in Fankfurt

Awaiting my connecting flight in Fankfurt

Once I arrived back to HMB, my first order of business was to make a visit to the auto collision repair shop and grab my truck.  A few weeks ago I had a little incident which necessitated some repairs and I had been putting off that work to coincide with my travels since I would be away.  The repairs were completed wonderfully, and the guys at the shop even washed my truck sparkly clean … which was nice of the given the $2,200 bill.

Repaired and once again looking good

Repaired and once again looking good

Following a 12-hour night of sleep, this morning I took Lilly for a walk and noticed that someone did a bit of vandalism to the RV park signage.  An online search will quickly reveal that the managers of our RV park are a surly crew – certainly not perceived to be a friendly bunch.  The feedback is fair for sure, but the employees here (a family run place) have begun to warm-up to Kelly and me and we’ve not had any real issues to complain about.

Apparently however, others feel differently.

Park signage tagged with paint

Park signage tagged with paint

True to form, I later saw the park manager who was definitely pissed-off about the vandalism.

Personally, I got pretty good laugh out of the incident.

Wandering Without Airstream

Last Saturday Kelly and I concluded our two week holiday trip through the southwestern desert, but not before stopping for some maintenance at Toscano RV.  In the interest of brevity, I’ll summarize to the following — we arrived in time for repairs on Friday and decided to spend the night at the RV dealer as our preference is not arrive to our home base RV park after dark.

Gray & Fresh water tank sensors replaced

Grey & Fresh water tank sensors replaced – this one dangling is the Grey

Sleeping at the RV dealer.  No charge for full hook-ups.

Our overnight spot at the RV dealer. No charge for full hook-ups (that’s us in the middle)

Saturday we arrived back to HMB, allowing Kelly one final weekend of complete freedom before starting her new job on Monday.  Alas, once again we are full-fledged DINKS.

This week has been a bit crazed for us, hence the lack of blog postings.  Before I knew it, the week had passed and I found myself jetting (pun intended) off to Europe on a business trip.

My ride --- Boeing 747-400

My ride — Boeing 747-400

Currently I am in northern Germany, specifically the town of Hamburg attending to some work matters this week.  Unfortunately, the ways of winter apply here in Hamburg — it’s quite chilly and the days are short.  Thank goodness I had enough sense to bring a stocking cap and gloves.

This is my second visit to the Hamburg office.  Unlike my previous visit, this trip affords me enough time that I hope to more thoroughly venture out after work hours and explore the town.

Per usual, I was not able to get any sleep on the long-haul portion (10 hours) of the flight (San Francisco to Frankfurt).  This being the case, I’ve been forcing myself to stay awake today until I know that I can get a solid night of sleep in an attempt to ‘flip’ myself onto local time (GMT +1.00).  Tomorrow evening I’ll know whether or not my plan worked.

Trying to stay awake has been a challenge this evening.  My hotel TV has a full array of satellite channels to view, but since I don’t speak German (or any other language for that matter), I opted to take a walk.  I wandered throughout the downtown and waterfront areas until (and I mean this literally) my feet were too cold to continue.  Long gone are the days when I thought 34 degrees was crisp.  Whatever, now I consider that to be cold.

It’s about 9pm local time and I’m pushing almost 30 hours without sleep.  I’m dead tired.

Time for bed.

$%*! Happens (again)

Irony is an odd thing.  Just one day ago, I was practically giddy as I wrote about my truck.  Having met all my expectations, it has performed flawlessly over the course of its initial 10,000 miles, doing anything I have asked.  Not once has the truck complained, whined, or otherwise bemoaned that which I have requested of it.

I love that truck.

And so, in what can only be considered cruel irony, this morning I failed to uphold my end of this truck/owner bond.  My behavior today, akin to an amateur, leading to an accident of sorts – I backed into a parking beam as I arrived to work this morning.

I have disrespected my truck.

S%*!

My poor truck

I’ve seen teenage girls drive better.  I am so ashamed, so disappointed in myself.

Fortunately, the damage looks worse than it actually is; a good thing because Friday night we hit the road once again with Airstream in tow.  Sadly though, during this trip my truck will not look quite as proud as it deserves.  It will not prance as it should.

I have only myself to blame.

Upon return, I promise to make repairs and restore glory as it should be – as the phoenix rises from the ashes, so too shall my black beauty once again claim its proper status as being badass.

I know, dramatic…

 

$%*! Happens

Awaking to another crisp November morning, our plan today was pretty simple – make a quick visit to Noble Coffee for espresso before taking Lilly on her final walk through Ashland.  Afterwards, as the plan called for, we’d hook-up the Airstream and depart in time to rendezvous for a lunchtime meet-up with my cousins about an hour away, before finally making our way to Eugene – our destination today.

Per usual, the Noble barista pulled a succulent shot and Lilly was happy to be outside, happily depositing her marks for other dogs to inspect.  All was going well – that is to say, without incident.

The same cannot be said for the remainder of my leave preparations.

Typically before engaging in departure or arrival activities, I like to conduct a quick visual inspection, walking around the trailer as I look for anything unusual.  During such review this morning, I noticed one of the curbside tires was running low.

Actually it was worse than that – the tire was completely flat.

$%*!

Ugh, a flat tire

I updated Kelly on the situation and she called for roadside assistance while I began readying both the flat and spare tires.

Roadside assistance to the rescue

Ready to exchange the flat tire for the spare

No doubt this carriage bolt caused the flat tire

I was impressed with how quickly the service guy arrived.  He was really nice and we engaged in a bit of chit-chat.  He was mostly curious about our trailer and before too long and without too much hassle, the repair was complete and the service guy left.  I figured all was well and we’d quickly be on our way.

Then the following dialogue occurred:

Kelly:  (sensing that I was looking for something and with annoyance in her voice)  “what are you looking for?”

Me:  “Did you move my keys?”

Kelly: (with significant annoyance in her voice) “REALLY?!?!”

Me:  (with passive aggressive annoyance in my voice) “Yes, really.”

To summarize the next half hour … we tore everything apart in search of the keys.  Eventually, we did find them.  Of course they were safely in the truck, almost in plain view the entire time.

$%*!

We were only about thirty minutes late for lunch and had good conversation with my cousins.  The remainder of the drive was uneventful once we managed to get ourselves on the road.

We’re now in Eugene, resting and content at Armitage County Park.  We’re here tonight while we await some service work at the Airstream dealer in town.  Like most Oregon parks (and certainly by comparison to the “campground” we stayed at the past two nights) this place is awesome.  Tucked away in the Northeast side of town, the park is quiet, each site affords loads of room, and Lilly-dog adores the fully enclosed two-acre dog run located just steps from our site.

Lots of room and plenty of open space in the RV park

Dog park

We’re here just for one night.  We need to flush our holding tanks and fill with fresh water in advance of dry camping most of the coming week while we’re in Washington.  Bummer our stay will be so brief, we will need to plan another visit for sure.