September 8 – 10, 2019 Escape From Little Rock

Plenty of corn in Indiana
Plenty of corn in Indiana

Day One Little Rock to Columbus, Ohio

Day one of my first trip in the RV in five months and the initial journey with a new 4 wheels down toad, turned out much better than expected! I pulled the motorhome out of it’s spot and positioned it away from other campers at the Downtown Riverside RV Park, my home for the past two months. Then I pulled my new 2019 Chevy Equinox out and positioned it behind the motorhome and started my first attempt to hook it up … in the dark at 1:30 in the morning.

Of course I was nervous trying to be sure to get everything hitched up just as the manuals stated and then set up the car for being towed. If anyone was watching, I’m sure they would have gotten a kick out of watching some old fool fumbling around in the dark trying to read manuals while hooking up the the towbar. I wasn’t terribly confident as I exited the campground and headed up onto the interstate, but everything seemed to be as it should be, and 666 miles later when I finally stopped for the night, I was very happy with my decision to trade the old reliable Prius and be finished with my days with a tow dolly. The new car towed easily being about the same weight as the tow dolly and Prius combined and after a few hundred miles of towing, when I first stopped for gas and went back and started up the Equinox for a few minutes, as called for in the manual, and everything seemed fine, I was relieved for sure and on my way to preferring this new to me, way of moving the toad.

Did I mention that my motorhome cab’s AC does not work, despite being “fixed” by three separate Workhorse approved mechanics, in thee different states over the past two years? All three claimed to have it working after recharging the system and, with combined repair charges of over $1,000, yet in every case the AC would be blowing hot air after 24 hours. While in Little Rock, I tried unsuccessfully to get it into Whitey’s Truck Repair , he came highly recommended, but he could never get me in, always had more business than he could handle. Thus, the reason for me leaving Little Rock at 1:30 in the morning, when it was already a very muggy 81 degrees. The forecast called for temps in the 90’s, as it has been every day for about three months, and I wanted to get started and north of there ASAP.

Turned out I never had to suffer from the heat after all as I made it 400 miles and 10 degrees cooler, before the sun rose on Sunday. By then I was under cloud cover and then rain and more clouds and the temps never rose above 80 as I proceeded north and east. Instead of taking what would have been my normal route, which would be east on I-40 to I-81, then north, I opted to head directly north out of Little Rock in an attempt to quickly get out from under the heat that has been broiling the southeast for weeks.I took I-40 just a couple of miles then headed north on Route 67 to I-55 in Saint Louis, Missouri, where I picked up I-70 East to Indianapolis, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio, where I finally stopped for  the night around 6 PM, when I just happened to be at the entrance to a rest area, stuck in the first traffic jam of the trip. After advancing just a quarter mile in 45 minutes and seeing no sign of moving any faster for the next TWO miles of construction delays, lane closures, I pulled into the rest area and set up to watch the Patriots first game of the season, hoping I could get a little sleep, and escape the traffic backup if I left in the middle of the night. At 3 AM Monday there was no traffic delay through the next 30 miles of work (DESPERATELY needed on I-40), but easy to see what was causing the horrendous backup of traffic. 

Day Two Columbus to Elmira, New York

Enjoyed watching the Patriots game last night, then got a good nights sleep at the rest area. As I suspected, when I set out at 4 AM, the traffic backup on the Interstate was gone and it was clear sailing to the Ohio border. Not hard to see why the backup yesterday was so bad. Three separate lane closure stretches, each going on for 6 miles or more with a couple side highways coming in during the same stretch .. I would bet, during the day, it probably would take 3 or 4 hours to get through here, if not longer. Avoid at all costs unless traveling after midnight.

Just a gorgeous 70 degree day with blue skies, what a change from Little Rock! A summer down south makes me appreciate the weather up north a bit more (not including winter). Continued on I-70 into PA. where I took I-79 North towards Erie, PA, then got on I-86, the Southern Tier Expressway, and made it to Elmira, NY before giving up for the day. Not quite as many miles today, had to stop and nap a few times to recover from yesterday’s long haul.

No more Tow Dolly or Prius

Day Three Elmira to Charlemont, MA

Up at 3:30 so I could be on the road by 4 AM in order to miss the morning rush hour traffic around Albany and Troy, New York. From I-86, I took the slow way on Route 7 through Albany and on through Troy.  From Route 7 I took Route 278 to Route 2 east to MA. That last stretch, especially on what passes as a road in New York, I don’t think I will ever try again. The roads from Arkansas to Massachusetts are an embarrassment to all who have to attempt to survive them, but this short stretch of Route 2 in NY took the cake as far as conditions go, paved ( sort of) and all but impassable. The road surfacing on Route 2 in MA was in much better condition but this stretch has some serious curves and long, steep grades. I won’t do this route again in the motorhome!

Pulled into the Country Aire CG in Charlemont, MA around 2 PM and signed up for a week. Nice little campground, all but deserted today but I was told they fill up on weekends, so I will have a few peaceful nights here while I explore how much this area has changed, an area where I grew up, so very long ago.

I can’t believe I actually covered 1592 miles in just three days, but my fear of getting caught in the heat down south without AC, kept me moving on, moving on more rapidly than I realized. The new toad behaved as it should, actually easier to pull than the tow dolly and Prius, barely knew it was there, until the final few miles through that rough stretch of Route 2. Took the Equinox out immediately after setting up camp to go get some farm fresh sweet corn (Boy, was it GOOD) just up the road, and it seems to be none the worse for wear after being towed almost 1600 miles on it’s first road trip.

Sorry about the lack of photos but in the coming month up here, I hope to get some nice foliage shots and perhaps find some interesting subjects down along the seacoast. Stay tuned!

December 8, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA Winterhaven, CA

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Patio Awning Fabric Replacement

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

As these two images clearly show, after 14 years of use and abuse, I believe I got my money’s worth out of this original awning fabric.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

For the last two years the awning has been held together with a hope and a prayer, plus a bit of wire and a lot of Gorilla Tape. Since I had a good experience with ShadePro last winter when I added two new window awnings, I figured I would wait until I returned here to the LTVA and have them do the patio awning fabric replacement. I called them Tuesday to set up an appointment and they scheduled me in for Friday of the same week. Remember that the largest influx of RV’ers here isn’t until after Christmas, so I imagine the wait time would be a little more after the holidays.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

The ShadePro tech showed up on time, actually a little earlier than expected ( he did call me to let me know he was coming a little early, and to confirm directions ). He was very professional and personable and immediately set to work, extending the awning and began removing the aluminum rollup tube from the arms.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

After removing the aluminum tube that the fabric rolls up on, he began cutting away my wire reinforcement attach points on the old torn fabric.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Next, he attached a rope and pulley that would allow him to slide the new fabric along the length of the track while standing at the front end feeding the fabric into the track ( thus turning a two man job into a one man job ).

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

All this while being diligently supervised by the motorhome’s resident expert.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Pulling the old fabric out of the track.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Attaching the rope and pulley system to the new fabric.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Sliding the new fabric down the track.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

He then prepares the aluminum rollup tube to be inserted into the new fabric.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Inserts the aluminum tube …

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

… again under Sam’s supervision. Actually this is my gratuitous  wildlife shot for the day. The hummingbirds were a little disturbed with the interference this project caused.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

He reattaches the front arm to the awning.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Then the rear arm.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Rolls the awning up to test.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

Rolls it back down. Finished! Done in less than an hour, old fabric boxed up and taken away, all the ground policed for job litter, tools loaded into the truck, paperwork completed ( I paid by credit card ), and he was on his way.

ShadePro Awning Replacement
ShadePro Awning Replacement

This was my second experience with ShadePro and I would not hesitate to recommend them. fast, courteous, professional, and very reasonably priced. I had a different tech for each job and both were obviously well trained and very professional, as well as being personable fellows.

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July 28, 2016 Delta, Colorado

Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument

Refrigerator Replacement while Battling the Heat

Last week, on the drive from the Ridgeway State Park to my new location at the Black Canyon RV Park east of Montrose, I smelled a strong ammonia odor coming from somewhere, and I guess the only possibilities were my refrigerator or the motorhome AC. Turns out it came from the refrigerator, as it is now officially dead, somewhere in the cooling unit, something has failed or rusted through, bringing an end to my 13 year old RV refrigerator. I suppose that 13 years is actually a pretty good run, as far as RV frigs are concerned, but now I had to turn my attention to getting it replaced, since living full time in a motorhome with no refrigeration is really not a lot of fun.

So, I started with an internet search for a nearby Camping World, finding one just outside Colorado Springs, not too far from my next stop in Lake George. Well, for $2600, they can replace my frig with the same model Dometic refrigerator as I now have. A little pricey, but at least I know it will be a good unit. Oops, a little problem with their scheduling the work however. They say they can squeeze me into the shop on SEPTEMBER 10th. And they can’t budge on that date, regardless of my difficult situation of having to full time without refrigeration. So much for Camping World.

Next I tried Humphrey’s RV in Montrose, where they could do the work as soon as August 10th, better than Camping World for sure, but still just not going to work for me. Oh, and they came in a few dollars less than Camping World also. But I need a new refrigerator today, or tomorrow, not weeks down the road.

A Pleasant Surprise, Jim’s Outback RV in Delta, Colorado

The owner of the Black Canyon RV Park suggested I try Jim’s Outback RV in Delta, which is about 50 miles west of where I am staying, and in the complete opposite direction of where I am headed next, but, I was getting desperate, so off I went to Delta, back west and downhill in elevation and up in temperature, Delta being about 15 degrees warmer than where I am staying at an elevation of 7500’, and this in the middle of an extended heat wave all across the west ( and east also I have read ) .

Driving into Jim’s lot on Route 50, a few miles west of Delta, I felt a little apprehension, a small worn out looking store and a one bay repair facility with a lot of battered looking used RV’s parked all around the dusty, gravel lot. Being desperate, I proceeded on in and explained my situation to the owner. He asked if I had considered just replacing the cooling unit, not the entire refrigerator, and I replied that I was unaware that was an option. He explained that his brother-in-law, who worked out of a trailer body right behind the store, did this all the time and most likely had the replacement unit in stock, AND could do the work TOMORROW! Plus, it would be at least $1000 less than a new refrigerator. Uncertain this was the right thing to do, but very certain that getting a working refrigerator in just a day or two was something I desperately needed, I gave them the go-ahead and was told to show up the next day to have the work done.

So, next day, I loaded up the Prius and left the Black Canyon RV Park and drove west to Jim’s Outback RV to have the work done. I also had arranged for Jim’s to clean out my water heater where I have been having issues with the gas end of the unit misfiring upon ignition, and also to replace my 13 year old water pump with a new 55 PSI water pump. When I arrived at 9 AM, the temperature had already reached the mid 80’s and was predicted to exceed 100 degrees by afternoon, not exactly my kind of temperatures. I was told the refrigerator repair would take most of the day and they would like to be sure it was working properly before I left so I was told I could plug in behind their shop for the night to be sure the frig reached the appropriate temps before I pulled out in the morning. I told them that would be great and so I unloaded the Prius and headed west to Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument, not a place I had originally intended to visit this summer, but now would have the opportunity to do so.

Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument

Not that a 100 degree day with white hazy skies is the ideal time to visit this unique red rock spectacle, but I had eight hours to kill and touring in the air conditioned car was without a doubt the best way to do just that. So forgive the lack of quantity or quality of these images, but today was simply not the type of day to visit this impressive place. On a nice cool blue sky fall day, I hope to revisit this National Monument.

Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument

After leaving the Monument, I drove south and west on Route 141 ( Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway ) to check out the Red Rock country along that highway. Quite impressive in many places, just way too hot to have any real desire to stop and take images along the way. Another trip best done in the fall or early spring.

I returned to Jim’s just after 5 PM with the temperature reaching an all day high of 104 degrees. They were just about to put the refrigerator back in the RV when I arrived, and after they got it back inside, I closed the windows, plugged in and fired up the AC, knowing it was going to take hours to get the inside temperature back to bearable. After a fitful night’s sleep, I awoke to find the water in the ice cube trays in the freezer solidified and the frig temps approaching a safe level after just 10 hours of working the new cooling unit, so I figured everything was working as it should, so I hooked up the Prius while morning temps were still reasonably cool, and headed back east towards my next stop in Lake George.

My final bill for the cooling unit replacement was $958 and I was charged another $145 to fix my gas water heater and install the new water pump. So, I would have to say that Jim’s Outback RV did quite well by me, and I should learn to never judge a book by it’s cover.

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October 19 – 28, 2015 Amarillo, Texas

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

Ten Days in Amarillo – Prius Repair

( I am now ( Nov. 1st ) safely camped at my winter destination at the birding site in Salineno, Texas, where I am cohosting for the next five months. Unfortunately there is essentially no internet signal here so posts may well become infrequent until I can figure out how to gain internet access. Bear with me please. )

After arriving in Amarillo and getting setup at the Oasis RV Resort, I took a trip into the city to the visit Select Toyota dealership and see if they could fit me in to get the body work done on the Prius. But, same as at the last two Toyota dealerships I inquired at, they do not do body work on their own line of automobiles, seems strange to me, but what do I know. They did give me the name of a local body shop where they send their customers, Soncy Road Auto Body, so off I went.

The folks at Soncy Road said they could get the work done by next Wednesday if that would work for me, so I had them give me an estimate and when I saw it was for just a little under $3000, I gave them the go ahead to order the parts and finally, maybe, my Prius will be made whole.

During my Alaska adventure the Prius windshield took a few rocks and the cracks have since spread into the driverside line of vision, so I went online and found a local Safelite shop and scheduled an appointment for them to come to the RV Park and replace the windshield. I must say that the experience dealing with these people was absolutely top notch, from the operator would scheduled the appointment and dealt with my insurance company to the installer who did a quick and excellent job and left the car cleaner than it was when he began. What a pleasure to deal with an outfit that actually provides great service!

I am to drop off the Prius at the body shop Monday at 8 AM so on Saturday I decided to check out a couple of nearby spots for photo ops. First I took a trip out to Buffalo Lake NWR. The place was absolutely deserted and I saw all but nothing to shoot, one mulie ran in front of the car and there were some meadowlarks here and there ( but I think I got enough of them at Las Vegas NWR ), and at the very end of the park road there was a water impoundment with quite a few geese, ducks, and of course, coots swimming around in the distance, but nothing close enough to shoot.

Campsite at Buffalo Lake NWR
Campsite at Buffalo Lake NWR

There is a very nice primitive campground in the refuge that might be a good place to vegetate for a bit if one was so inclined.

Palo Duro State Park

Sunday morning I headed out to Palo Verde State Park and that proved a little more interesting.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

The park features some very interesting and picturesque geology, explained quite well in a nice Visitor’s Center.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

There are four separate campgrounds in the park and they were mostly full, it being a weekend morning, and for the locals, this place must be a very nice change of pace to the boring flat terrain surrounding Amarillo. The campgrounds would not be my cup of tea, as usual, much too crowded and certainly looking like they see a lot of traffic and not enough upkeep. The whole park looks like it is a bit tired, but still has a lot of unique natural beauty, with lots of hiking trails.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall

After viewing the amazing geology from a distance, I took a couple short hikes to check out some interesting formations up close.

Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall

The shot above could have been taken of a distant cliff wall or, as is the actual case, from just a few feet away. The small “caves” and their supporting pillars are actually only two or three inches tall.

Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro canyon wall
Palo Duro State Park
Palo Duro State Park

Very glad I went to visit, and got some nice landscape shots, but feel little desire to return, just too many people in not that large a space.

I did rent a small car from Enterprise while mine was in the shop, but that experience was nothing like the one with Safelite. The office looked like a dump, they charged me twice the daily rate shown on the internet search, and the white car they gave me was entirely covered in bird &#@!*, and I had to convince them that perhaps they should wash some of it off. Being unfamiliar with a different vehicles controls and dash, I was a couple miles down the road before I realized the tire inflation warning light was on. So, I turned around and drove back to Enterprise and one of their salespeople brought out an air compressor and filled one of the rear tires, blaming it on the cool weather and assuring me that the warning light would go out in a few miles. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t was because the tire had an obvious leak. Fortunately, I have an air compressor now ( after my Alaska adventure ) and I was able to fill the tire the next morning, and the morning I was to return it, but of course didn’t dare drive it anywhere.

When I turned it in, I politely requested a very substantial adjustment, since I couldn’t drive it anywhere other back and forth to their facility and had to use my equipment to even be able to return it. Fortunately, they didn’t argue much about it and since I hadn’t really planned on driving anywhere anyhow, I didn’t mind paying a few dollars for the 10 total miles I was able to go in it.

Soncy Road Auto Body had the Prius ready by close of business Wednesday as promised, and I barely recognized it when I first saw it. Fully detailed and looking like a new car again, they did a great job and were decent folks to deal with. New windshield and new body!

The Oasis RV Resort is not the kind of place I would typically stay at, but I did enjoy my time there. Fairly new, the large concrete pads were fairly well spaced, probably close to 30 feet between sites and the 30 degree angles of the 70 foot long sites made you feel even farther from your neighbors. Full hookups, a $180/week camping fee, good Verizon signal and open skies for satellite reception and star viewing, conveniently close to the interstate and town, along with nice helpful office staff, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again in the future. Only one negative, there is a huge feed lot/dairy operation seven miles west of the park and a few times, when the wind was blowing just right ( wrong? ) it did get a little ripe. When that happened, fortunately, it only lasted an hour or two, but if I had to endure several days of it, I doubt I could have stomached it.

Thursday morning I was up and on the road by 6 AM, hoping it will only take me a couple days to complete the last 700 or so miles of my long journey from Alaska to my winter volunteering stint in Salineno, Texas.

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