Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Old Barn in Eastern OregonAt the end of a short and scenic drive from Crane to John Day, Oregon, on Sunday, we pulled into the RV park at the Grant County Fairgrounds (click here to read our review and see more photos) and followed our usual routine: drive Scoopy to our site, unhook Jules, move Jules out of the roadway, and back Scoopy into our site.  All went well until I turned the key in Jules to move out of the roadway… dead!  No grinding sound of a weak battery, just a click from under the hood.  How surprising!  How inconvenient!

Fortunately, we had pulled over to one side of the one way road through the campground before we unhooked, so we put a couple of triangle reflectors around Jules, backed Scoopy into site 16, set up camp, then set out to decide on our next move.

At the other end of the small RV park, we came across Darrell, an Escapee – and he had a battery charger.  With his generous help (and good humor), we were able to jump start Jules.  We drove her the 20 yards or so to our site, then borrowed his charger to trickle charge the battery.  Once that was done, Jules started on her own and we were all set.  The question was: what caused the battery to drain?

Site 16 Grant County FGNext morning – and this was not much of a surprise – Jules was dead again.  I called the nearby Les Schwab store; their truck arrived 10 minutes later and jumped our battery for us.  Odel followed the truck back to the store and returned home within 30 minutes with a new, top of the line battery (our old one was approaching 4 years old).  Though we spent most of the day walking, we started Jules up several times to reassure ourselves that all was well.

Other than the excitement of the electrical problem, our stay in John Day was GREAT! The Kam Wah Chung & Company historic site is a fascinating remnant of the history of the Chinese community in John Day, and we were able to join a tour group to view the inside of this well- preserved Chinese doctor’s office/shop (today’s photos).  Although our tour guide seemed rather uninformed – or perhaps confused – about the history of the building and its two inhabitants/partners, Dr. Ing Hay and store owner Lung On, we enjoyed inspecting the interior of the building and its goods while we listened to a recorded description of the history and contents.  Click here to read the interesting story of their success in John Day.

We had lunch in a restaurant on Main Street, then took a short sightseeing tour around town (no problem starting Jules!). I spent the rest of the sunny, mild afternoon sitting in the shade of a tree reading Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, on my Kindle. This is exactly the weather we were hoping to find when we set out for eastern Oregon.

Grocery section Kam Wah Chung

The general store section of Kam Wah Chung.

The Kam Wah Chung Building, built circa 1866.

This morning, ready to leave John Day, Jules sprang to life as soon as we turned the key.  Odel pulled her into position behind Scoopy, we hitched up, and I got behind the wheel to complete the hitching process.  Click.  Click.  Click.  No juice!

Boy were we puzzled!  What could be the problem??  What was different?  The red cord!  When we hitch Jules to the back of Scoopy, we plug one end of the red cord into Jules, the other into Scoopy.  This is what makes Jules tail lights, brake lights, and turn signal work while towing.  Odel unplugged the red cord, and Jules started up again! 

John Day is a small town without an RV shop.  Since we are driving in broad daylight, since our Brake Buddy turns on the Jeep brake lights if we stop or slow down with much force, and since our motorhome brake lights and turn signals are always highly visible, we decided to continue on to our next stop, La Grande, to arrange for diagnosis and repairs. 

Still Life Bear Paw

As it was left when the Ing Hay died…

Medicines in the apothecary, with bear paw!

Off we went, following the directions of our (sometimes) trusty GPS.  Exit 268, turn right, then another right… oh, oh, that’s a gravel road… hmmm… we went a few hundred yards to our next turn, a left, where a big sign said “No Access.  Local Traffic Only.”  To turn around, we would have to unhook Jules, only the 3rd time in 8 years that has happened!  I made a quick call to the RV park for advice: we could either turn around and take a longer route on paved roads, or continue over 3 miles of very rough gravel/dirt road.  The longer route was recommended.

Unhook and turn, no question in our minds.  But then we wondered – what if Jules won’t start??  So we fired her up BEFORE we unhooked.  Varoom, varoom!  No problems. 

We unhooked, turned around, I drove in front in Jules with Scoopy following.  By 1:30 we were settled and set up in our new site – and now we are off to the La Grande Farmer’s Market, the reason I wanted to be in La Grande on Tuesday afternoon.

Such drama.


  1. Omigoodness. I know that sick feeling when the Toad does the click click click thing. Ugh. Glad it all worked out ok for the time being! Whew! Loved your photos of inside the apothecary. Lovely!

  2. You should have stayed in the Hot Springs!

    I just hate it when things like this happen. Out connecting cable between the MH and the Dolly fell out and without me noticing, had ground and shorted two wires. I reconnected it and continued on until we had to stop for gas. When i tries to start up, the MH battery was dead. I started with the emergency start procedure which uses the coach battery and carried on to where I could buy a new battery.

    Yes, no trip is complete without a little drama!

  3. Hmm! Must be in the air...I got a dead battery on our new bug, LOL! You're getting closer to my neck of the woods. Cheers! ~M

  4. When I toured that site a few years ago, the ignorant tour guide even got indignant when I questioned the accuracy of her speech since it differed from the history published by the park. It was not a good experience.

  5. Definitely something in the air - we had to replace the battery in the motorhome today and tonight we figured out that the truck needs a new battery. Never dull.

  6. Laurie,
    You might want to see about getting a charge wire set up between your rig and your toad. It keeps your toad battery charged from your rig battery. It's real easy to set up.

    Greg White

  7. Nothing is more annoying than a vehicle that will not start on command...and the feeling of "oh oh" when they don't...Sounds like Jules is now up and running ...enjoy Oregon..I'm very jealous:-)

  8. We have had a couple of electrical oddities in our travels. Wish I could provide some useful advice, but many of ours are still a mystery!
    By the way love your shots of Kam Wah Chung...didn't know that existed!! I'm adding that to our "must visit" list!

  9. 2:30? Time to see Dr. Ing Hay!

    Old, old joke.

  10. Boy what a saga! Hope it all turns out easily and that it's not catching as some of the other comments seem to imply. We haven't been immunized.

    Wish I were as good at knowing where the local farmer's markets are as you are. Seems like we are in a lot of national parks and the surrounding towns only have markets on Saturdays when I'm not there. Guess I need to come to Oregon as the solution.

  11. We have an 08 Fleetwood Bounder
    and tow an 08 Saturn Vue SUV. We have a Brake Buddy and on a recent
    trip back from NY state to FL the
    SUV battery went dead twice. This
    was after towing 6 to 7 hrs on 2
    separate days. This SUV was owned
    previous and towed by this owner
    with this brake buddy. No problem
    with the motorhome battery. We always follow the set up procedure
    outlined. Any ideas here?
    Thank you

  12. OK, Laurie, how did you like Keith Richards autobiography, "Life?" Recommend it or skip it? There's a hard copy in the laundry room of the RV Park here in Twisp, WA... and I was wondering if I should bother.... Watcha think?

    ps: we're heading east instead of into Vancouver... aiming for Livingston MT again!