At 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?
Next 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.
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.
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.