Saturday, October 31, 2009


Parking on the Slab at Cal Expo RV ParkOnce again, we’re settled in Cal Expo RV Park (click here to read our prior review) in Sacramento, staying through Thanksgiving.   Sacramento was our “hometown” before hitting the road on April Fool’s Day, 2003, so we know our way around.  As usual during stays in Sacramento, blogging will be sporadic… we don’t do much touring around here. 

This month, our calendar is unusually jammed.  Since we didn’t return last November (unlike all other years of travel), I have EIGHT medical appointments scheduled!  It sounds as though I am barely dragging along, doesn’t it?  But no, they all are “preventative maintenance”, along with a follow up on last spring’s cataract surgery.  Of course, the fun part of the stay is visiting family and friends!

An afternoon walk along the American River levee adjacent to the RV park.Our new neighbors were horrified yesterday afternoon when we showed up, backing into the space immediately adjacent to their “door” side.  They apologetically informed us that they would be hosting a big, loud, wild party tonight, now unfortunately jammed into the small space between their rig and ours.  If we hadn’t been staying for a month, we would have moved over a few spaces – but this particular site works well for us and we had reserved it weeks ago.

Tonight, party they did!  These people are at least our age, as were all the guests - and they knew how to have fun, whooping over stories from their many years of friendship.  The hosts set up the well-stocked bar between our rig and theirs, but moved the dinner table around to the other side of their rig – a smart and thoughtful arrangement.  We were invited over for drinks, but were content to simply stick our heads out our windows, joking with the guests partying below us, acting generally tolerant and sociable.  When they moved around to the other side of the rig, the noise level lessened considerably.

Nothin' fancy at this RV park - just a few acres of gravel and good electricity!A short time later, in a backwards twist on “Trick or Treat”, a knock on our door turned out to be the tipsy guest of honor, a husband celebrating 45 years of marriage, with a huge, loopy smile on his face and two glasses of champagne in his hands – for us!  Thirty minutes later, another knock: our neighbor, with a HUGE piece of homemade pound cake in her hands – for us!  Now, that’s the kind of trick or treating I like – stay home in stretchy pants with shoes off and have the goodies come to us. 

Happy Halloween, all!  I’m off to change the clocks and regain that lost hour of sleep.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Blazing Sunset at the Placerville Elks We’ve been at the Placerville Elks Lodge (click here to read our earlier review and see photos) in Shingle Springs, California, for five days, a whirlwind of New Computer Craziness interspersed with relaxing visits with my (Laurie’s) parents, welcome oases of calm in the chaos of technological upheaval.

Sounds pretty dramatic, doesn’t it?  That’s exactly how it felt to me!  Doing the endless research, making the buying decision, and handing over the credit card was just the beginning.  Switching from our old computer to a new computer, with a new operating system (Windows 7 64 bit vs. Windows XP 32 bit – and no Vista in between) seemed like a daunting task to me – and I was prepared for the worst.

I’m so, so happy to report that everything is coming along excellently, so far.  Maybe my obsessive preparations paid off, or maybe Windows 7 is as spectacular as early reviews promised – whatever the reason, the transition (still happening) is going well.

We’ve received several emails asking for specifics:

New Toshiba on my little computer desk. We bought our computer (on Monday) at Best Buy, so we can take it back to any Best Buy, anywhere, if we have problems.  This is important to us, since shipping a computer back to the manufacturer can be problematic if we are moving frequently and camping at state parks, COE campgrounds, or in the boondocks of the southwest.

Because our prior Toshiba gave us four years of trouble-free, heavy-duty daily usage, we stuck with Toshiba.  Besides, I feel their pricing is super-competitive in the category of computer we purchase.

The new computer is a Toshiba Satellite A505-S6980.  Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium.  Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor.  4 GB DDR2 RAM.  500 GB hard drive (our old computer has 2 GB memory and 80 GB hard drive and was sufficient for us!).  16 inch widescreen display.  4 USB ports.  And, unusual but important for us: a 12 cell battery, giving us in excess of 5 hours of battery operation.  Wow!

We paid $599.99 for the computer, on “special” at Best Buy this week.  We added a 3 year service plan for $179, a first for us.  The service plan covers one new battery in the 3 year period (any time after the first year).  Since replacing a 12 cell battery is expensive, we decided it was worth the extra money to cover the battery and any other problems that arise. 

We added $70 to have the Geek Squad “optimize” the computer before we took it home: make sure everything worked (including all USB ports and the built-in WiFi connection), removed all the trial software we didn’t want, activated the 30 day free antivirus/antispyware program (Norton), download and install all the Microsoft updates, and make the Restore disks (there are 5 of ‘em).  Yes, yes – I could have done all that myself, but my plate seemed overflowing already.  Those $70 bought me several hours and great peace of mind.

New computer storage, 2 feet long and a foot deep. The problem I DIDN’T expect, or plan for: where would we keep an extra computer?  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it?  But it was.  We actually need a new, bigger motorhome now, with at least 3 slides.  :)  In lieu of that, I spent all day yesterday (after dropping Odel at the golf course) looking for the new piece of furniture we needed to provide some extra shelf space. 

I started at Ikea (with lunch, to fortify myself) and spent 2 hours examining and measuring every piece of furniture that seemed like a possibility. Everything was TOO BIG.  How disappointing!

Okay – implement plan B.  Off to Target, where I found exactly what we needed within 10 minutes.  As I was loading my cart, Odel called from the 18th hole – 30 minutes until he was ready to go.  Zip, zip – another charge on the credit card (just $60, less than anything at Ikea) and I was off.

Odel is an astute reader of his wife’s moods.  As soon as we got home, we set up the new shelves – then he took himself off to the bar in the lodge for a beer while I bustled around with vacuum and dust cloth, cleaning and rearranging my nook.  I am so pleased with the result!

Computer Nook, set up and ready to use. There is still a lot to be done, but I’ve completed all the priority moves and installations that had me worried:

Microsoft Money 2003 (where I have more than 10 years of financial information stored) works – a total miracle.  Microsoft doesn’t even sell a “Money” product any longer, so I was really worried about this since upgrading to a newer version is not an option. 

My Canon Camera connected with no problems, and I’ve transferred all our photos from the old computer.  I’ve download both Picasa 3.5 and Windows Live Writer, so blogging can resume. 

Our old (at least 8 years) HP printer/copier/scanner works, with drivers included in Windows 7. 

Our Verizon USB aircard works, with new software I downloaded from Verizon with help from the friendly Verizon phone rep.

I need to keep plugging along, but YES, we are over the hump!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Note: Today’s photos are of the craziest place we’ve ever taken Scoopy – a hayfield behind a tobacco barn in the backwoods of Kentucky – inspired by a visit to our new friends, Ellen and Alex.  Hover your cursor for a caption on each.

Looking back through the trees, trimmed to fit Scoopy... almost!Just before we came to Napa, we received an email from a reader with a very specific and unusual question: “One thing I haven't been able to track down on the internet is the interior height of the 2001-2003 Travel Supremes. Do you happen to know the height of yours?

I DIDN’T know, but of course it was easy to measure it, so I sent off the answer.  That resulted in a flurry of emails between us and Ellen and Alex, two Napa-area residents who are in the throes of finding the right RV for their upcoming full-timing life.  When we arrived in Napa, we invited them over to see Scoopy, and spent a fun afternoon talking RV talk last Tuesday.

That led to an invitation to visit them at their home in the hills between the Napa and Sonoma Valleys for lunch and a hike.  Today was the day – and it was really something special.  

Alex sent very specific directions that included phrases like “one lane bridge” and “go slow here” or “bumpy, keep to the right”.  He included an occasional aside: “Would a motorhome fit through here?” or “Could we get a motorhome past this?”  Hmmmm.  With his written directions and our new GPS, we set off.

We made a quick stop at the Napa Farmer’s Market for smoked olive oil, something I haven’t seen elsewhere and really like to have around (ever since we were introduced to it during our last stay in Napa a few months ago).  After that, we followed the orders of our GPS, heading north to the Oakville Grade and up into the hills, passing vineyards left and right. 

Scoopy in place near the tobacco barn, miles from a paved road, on freshly cut hay. Soon the road became more winding, and more narrow.  We crossed a one lane bridge, climbed, descended, climbed again.  Where part of the outside lane had slide into the streambed, the road became single-lane as we passed the missing pavement.  Climbing, winding, descending, with big trees arching over the road – Alex’s question of “could a motorhome do this” was often in our conversation.

“Turn right” said the GPS… then, “navigate off-road”.   We missed the driveway on our first pass, because Odel didn’t believe it was really a road.  Finally, though, we pulled up in front of Ellen’s and Alex’s house, high above Dry Creek Valley, shaded by giant oaks.  Their friendly greeting was followed by a look around their house… then they said they had a hike for us, and they weren’t kidding!  Up, up, up we went to the top of the ridge. 

On one side, we had a view into the Napa Valley and the endless ridges beyond.  On the other, the Sonoma Valley and a long, long view all the way to the tiny towers of the Golden Gate Bridge poking out of a puddle of gray fog.  We, on the other hand, were in warm sunshine, on top of the world… blue sky, a fantastic view, and excellent company and conversation.

The tobacco barn in the hayfield.  We came through the almost invisible road on the left.Our hike was followed by lunch al fresco, in the shade of an oak, listening to the acorns plop onto the ground… and of course more talk of rigs, full-timing, and everyone’s favorite towns and campgrounds.  So relaxed was I on this delightful afternoon that I didn’t even take pictures! 

Our discussion of whether or not it would be wise to bring a big rig to their property (answer: not wise) got me thinking about some of the places we’ve taken Scoopy – the craziest being into the back, back, backwoods of Kentucky during our first year.  A girlfriend of mine had moved “back to the land”, and we went to visit.  As I wrote of today’s adventure, I dug back through my photos to relive that experience – it was far and away Scoopy’s greatest off-road adventure, and definitely NOT WISE.

Ellen and Alex, thanks for a wonderful afternoon.  We’ll see you on the road one day!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Lake Marie, end of a 2.5 mile hike We’ve been at Skyline Wilderness Park for a week, mostly doing “regular” stuff: hiking the beautiful trails through the oak-covered hillsides, a round of golf for Odel, a little browsing and shopping for me, a trip to the Farmer’s Market, reading a couple of the books Margaret and Jeff passed along to me when we were at Collier Memorial State Park a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve been focused on technology, though.  First, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of the Garmin 255WT GPS that Odel gave to me for an early birthday present.  We had borrowed a similar GPS to guide us though a day of errands in unfamiliar territory while in Washington, and I’d researched them since then, ultimately deciding it would be too frivolous a purchase – so it made a great birthday present.  What I’ve learned so far: don’t throw away the maps!

Where is the i?  Where is the e?The big project, though, is replacing our still-working but VERY worn, 4 year old Toshiba laptop.  I am a touch typist, but Odel is a hunter-pecker, and he can’t find the vowels any longer - they wore off.

I wanted to do this in Oregon – no sales tax there – but the planned release of Windows 7 meant that retailers had let their stock run down to the bitter end.  Only the least popular units were still in stock and available for sale, so we’ve babied our current computer along, day by day.

A low tech solution to a high tech problem. It’s scariest problem:  with increasing frequency, our cursor freezes in place while the screen fades slowly, relentlessly to gray.  Sometimes a sharp whack on the side of the screen awakens it (for awhile); sometimes a readjustment to the angle of the screen solves the problem.  Gripping the screen edge one day to adjust the angle (with rising panic – was this to be the day it died??), I realized that pinching the frame in specific places seems to be the solution.  This is my low-tech fix – which has worked for several weeks, thankfully. 

So, time to retire the old technology and move on.   We’re not only moving from one computer to another – always a challege for me - but migrating from Windows XP (which I understand) to Windows 7 (all new to me) – a big, and time consuming, leap.  I spent many, many hours online this week, picking the brains of our “virtual” community.   With help from Rick (Rick and Paulette’s RV Travels), the Geeks on Tour, and the online forums of the Escapees RV Club, I finally feel confident about our upcoming purchase, with a very thorough checklist for setting up the new computer and migrating from here to there .  This is the ARRRGH side of technology. Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We ended the day in Site 32 at Skyline Wilderness Park, Napa, CANothing exciting about our travels yesterday – and that often is a GOOD thing.  A perfect travel day is one that has NO unpleasant surprises (mechanical or otherwise), but has dynamite scenery… not the case when driving the freeways from Redding, California, down the Sacramento River valley, taking the I-505 cut-off to I-80 and joining the heavy, reckless traffic to be found heading west.  We know this drive well – too well - and I was not filled with anticipation of good things to come!

The hills were brown, baked and dried at the end of the long, hot summer.  We pulled into the Flying J truck plaza in Corning, filled the diesel tank ($190), and rolled on down the road, into the smog of the Sacramento/Bay area urban sprawl.   

Wild turkeys foraging at Skyline Wilderness ParkWe were relieved to exit the freeway on CA Hwy 12, winding through the vineyard-covered rolling hills towards Napa.  The ocean’s breeze, tentative though it was, thinned the smog.  We were headed to the Napa Elks Lodge, so I gave them my usual “do you have sites available?” phone call.

Bad news – they were full!  On to Plan B: I called Skyline Wilderness Park (click here to read our review).  Yes, they had two sites left, one with full hookups, the other water and 30 amp electric.  We were five miles away, but the two sites were still available when we arrived and, after trying first one, then the other, we finally settled into the FHU site and paid for four days.  Thus ended our uninspiring travels for the day.

The man in the wall - face on a rock wall on our hike in Skyline Wilderness Park The Napa Elks Lodge (click here to read our review) is Odel’s favorite place to stay in Napa.  It has great amenities, lovely sites, and a good price - $20 for FHU, including cable TV.  Skyline Wilderness Park is my favorite campground.  Though it is more rustic (by far) and costs more ($25 – senior rate - for a FHU site, and no cable TV) , the campground is located in a HUGE regional park with miles of hiking trails, deer, wild turkeys, giant oak trees, a huge native plant garden… amenities I appreciate.  Either campground works for us.

This morning we awoke in the quiet, foggy park, had a big breakfast, and took off on a hike.  What an excellent antidote to yesterday’s boring drive!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Lassen viewed over (and in) Manzanita Lake. While it poured rain in Redding on Tuesday and Wednesday, snow fell in the high country.  Foolish us – since the temperatures in Redding were so mild, we never gave a thought to winter’s arrival.

Today, when the skies in Redding finally cleared and the temperatures were forecast to be in the low 80’s, it seemed the perfect day for a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  We put soup in the Crockpot, packed up our picnic lunch, and took off.

It’s not a long drive to the north entrance of the park from Redding – 35 miles or so?  We rounded a corner heading for the entrance kiosk and were SHOCKED to see a bright orange sign that proclaimed “ROAD CLOSED 10 miles ahead”.  We groaned in unison.  Bummer.

Lake Helen, near the summit of the road through Lassen. Well, we were there, and the weather was perfect – blue skies and seventy degrees – so we decided to head on into the park and see what we could see along the ten miles of open road.  As we flashed Odel’s Golden Age “get in free” card at the ranger in the kiosk, we asked where we could hike this side of the closure… and she mentioned she had just heard that the road through the park (high point is 8512 ft.) MIGHT be opening in two or three hours.  YIPPEE!

We found a sunny picnic table for our p-b-and-j’s, then took a leisurely hike around Manzanita Lake, still snow-free (top photo).  Considering the snow on Mt. Lassen, you might think it would have occurred to us to check road conditions before driving up, no?

Well, I’m glad we didn’t, because the road DID open at 2 pm.  By then we had completed a couple more short hikes and were ready to ride, so away we went, heading for the summit.

Odel in the snow. Trail Closed! All Alone in the parking lot

Lassen's reflection in Lake Helen Look at all that snow!  It was the perfect day for a visit: shockingly blue sky, shirtsleeve temperatures, and very few other visitors dawdling along the road gazing and gawking this way and that.  We wandered around where there was bare ground, then drove the short distance down from the summit to Lake Helen to eat our apples and absorb the beauty of the pristine snow, the deep green trees, and the unbelievable blue sky.  Look at the reflection of Lassen in the lake (double click to enlarge the photo)!

We suffered only one disappointment: the trail to Bumpass Hell, an area of hot geology (bubbling mud pots, fumaroles, steam vents and hot streams) was unusable, covered in snow.  Too bad – it is a favorite hike of ours.  Oh, well – next time!  On our way south, near the big Visitor Center, we stopped at Sulpher Works, a roadside hot spot, and enjoyed the bubbling mud, the steam vents, and the rotten egg smell.  :)

Boiling Mud at the Sulphur Works Steam vent at the Sulphur Works

Then we were out of the park, heading downhill and back to the 80+ degree temperatures of Redding.  For our entertainment on the ride home, we had along my early birthday present, a talking GPS that we ASSUME will make our travels – in the Jeep – in unfamiliar cities a little easier.  I’m still getting the hang of it, and she does get mighty annoyed when we take a path not recommended by her calculations.  On this trip, we struck off onto a series of back roads that looked (on the map, which I still carry along and probably always will) shorter and more interesting than her interstate freeway route – something we probably would not have done without the GPS along.  She handled it with grace and I learned a bit more.  Quite entertaining!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


On the Beach near Heceta Head, Oregon A couple of weeks ago, after I wrote about our hike to the Heceta Head Lighthouse and beyond, I received an email from Melissa Deats. She was interested in republishing the blog post and photos on her own website, Of course, I was flattered and said “yes”.

Now that post has been added to the RoadTripJournal’s “Readers Choice Award” for October, along with posts from four other blogs. Here is what Melissa’s web page says:

Read our favorite articles submitted by bloggers and vote for your favorite! Choose the article that makes you want to visit the destination the most. The blogger with the most votes will win a $100 gas card to help keep them traveling.

“What's in it for you? You could win a $100 gas card too!! Read each of our favorites below, then click on the survey link to choose your favorite! Make sure you enter your email address to be entered to win the prizes!”

Now, I wouldn’t mind winning a $100 gas card – and you might like one, too. If so, click here to read the 5 entries and cast your vote. Here’s hoping we both win – and thanks for your support. :)

A few of us travel bloggers (especially Al of Travels With the Bayfield Bunch) and readers have recently discussed blog background colors and how the choice of a deeper background color can enhance photographs, making them “pop” off the screen. When Melissa reprints blog posts, she uses a white background, losing the original post’s colors, fonts and format. Curious? Compare her reprint with the original post – it’s a great illustration of the impact of a blogger’s customization choices.

One last comment: As I sit snuggled inside here in stormy northern California writing this post, I am acutely aware of how much I enjoy connecting with all of you – across the country and in a few others, besides. I write about our travels because I enjoy writing… but interacting with readers through comments and emails certainly deepens the enjoyment! Reader Mac of Couple of Nuts Travel Notes emailed me last week to say that my mini-series on Buying an RV had helped the “Nuts” make their decision on which RV to purchase – and it put a big smile on my face to know that something I had written had been helpful in that way. So, THANKS, readers – your friendship and engagement is much appreciated by Odel and me.

Now, back to our regular programming… :)

Monday, October 12, 2009


Crater Lake and Wizard Island Take one 12,000 foot volcano, blow out the interior and drop the top 5,000 feet, fill the resulting crater with rainwater and snow melt.  The result? 

The deepest lake in the United States, intensely blue, surrounded by rock walls so sheer that lake access is limited to one steep trail.  With no inlet or tributaries (and no outflow other than seepage and evaporation), the water is some of the purest in the world… and since the great depth of the lake absorbs all but the blue wavelengths of light, it’s intensity is startling.

Several of the national parks we have visited have this characteristic in common: they remain hidden until you arrive.   The Grand Canyon doesn’t reveal itself until you are about to go over the edge.  Yosemite Valley is virtually invisible until you round that last corner. 

Steep slopes, interesting formations, blue water. Crater Lake, hidden in the ancient caldera high above the surrounding landscape, remained hidden from non-native eyes from the time of it’s creation 7,700 years ago (give or take a few) until 1853.  Visitors today can drive the rim road to view the lake from all directions… but you see no sign of what awaits until you crest the caldera’s rim.  That first view is a spectacular shock.

Our last visit to Crater Lake was five years ago.  Last week, after our repairs were completed in Eugene, a check of the weather showed a three day window of good weather for a quick return trip.  We pinpointed an Oregon State Park with a campground just 25 miles from the national park, and took off.  The fact that our friends Jeff and Margaret, full timers we met at Catalina State Park in Arizona last March, were already settled in Collier Memorial State Park (read our review here) increased our anticipation of a great weekend.  

Williamson River We didn’t expect a campground in the high desert of Oregon to be full in October, and were glad we arrived by 1 pm, as sites were already mostly full.  We snagged the site next door to Jeff and Margaret, set up our home, and took off for an exploratory walk.

Collier Memorial campground is located at the junction of two rivers, Spring Creek and Williamson River.  A trail from the campground went directly to the bank of incredibly clear Spring Creek, and continued upstream to a bridge crossing to the Collier Memorial Logging Museum.  We did a brief exploration, then continued on our hike along the riverside, through a stand of golden quaking Aspen, admiring the falls colors against a backdrop of blue sky and blue water.

When we returned, Jeff and Margaret were back at their rig, and we made plans to meet at the campfire after dinner – the start of a “tradition” that we enjoyed each of the three nights we camped there.   Since we all had plans to visit Crater Lake the next day, we decided to meet at the Crater Lake Lodge for lunch.

Dressed for fall at 7,000 feet. Though the lodge’s Great Room and dining room are impressive, lunch – unfortunately – was not.  The lodge and restaurant close on October 11, we dined on October 10 – and our waitress was soooo ready for that last day!   The food was… well, “OK” sums it up for me.  The limp leaf of lettuce that adorned my burger must have been the last one left in the refrigerator.  Fortunately, the company was sparkling, as was the view.

Odel and I took off on a hike after lunch, but the slight breeze made the 49 degree high temperature too chilly for us.  Instead, we hopped back into the Jeep and followed the rim road around the perimeter of the lake, stopping at all the recommended viewpoints to marvel at the lake and various interesting geological features. 

The Pinnacles near Crater Lake Near the end of the drive, we followed a spur road seven miles south to the Pinnacles, formed when columns of hot gasses forced their way up through volcanic dust when the area was still geologically active.  Now, as the softer volcanic soil erodes, the hardened spires reveal their interesting shapes and colors.

A short trail leads along the canyon edge, and before long, we found ourselves leaving the national park via the east entrance… not a road, just a trail.   Odel posed on our return to the car.

Crater Lake East Entrance - hiking in near the Pinnacles.Over the weekend, we checked the weather forecast regularly, hoping the rain/snow set to arrive on Monday night would be delayed or – better yet – a false alarm so we could spend a few more days in Oregon.  No such luck; the amount of rain and the wind speeds seemed to increase each time we checked.  The possibility of snow, and of high winds blowing through thick stands of tall pines, moved us into high gear and we hit the road by 10 am this morning.  Destination: somewhere south, somewhere warmer.

Three hours later we were settled into a site at the Redding Elks lodge, a frequent stop for us on the I-5 corridor.  Rain is forecast for tonight, increasing to very heavy tomorrow, along with a wind advisory for gusts up to 40 mph.  Not a day to be on the road, so we’re planning to stick around for a few days until the autumn sunshine returns.   Goodbye, Oregon!

Friday, October 9, 2009


The crystal clear waters of Spring Creek We are settled in a cozy spot at Collier Memorial State Park, prepared for our first sub-freezing temperatures since last winter.  When we arrived this afternoon, it was sunshine and t-shirt weather - we set off on a riverside loop hike right away.  The color of the water in Spring Creek is just a warm up for what we will see at Crater Lake tomorrow.

This morning, I received a comment on a post on my other blog, We Called It Home, where I review campground/campsite.  This is part of what it said:

“By chance, can you recommend a web site or where I can obtain info on which roads are RV (37footer) friendly in Oregon? After driving around No. California's mountains and coastal area, I'm chicken to blindly head out off the interstate. Thank you again for your time.”

Our most-consulted route planning resource is the Mountain Directory West (there is also a Mountain Directory East, but most of our travel is in the west).  The online RV Bookstore (one source for these books; I’ve also seen them at Camping World) has a great description of these valuable books. 

Unless we are traveling a route known to us, we ALWAYS check the book for information on any passes we will encounter, and have occasionally changed our plans based on the description of the road and/or grade.  We learned this lesson the hard way, heading west out of Death Valley to Lone Pine during our first year of travel on a 95 degrees day, climbing and descending two steep, narrow, winding passes for which we were completely unprepared.

I consider these books a crucial part of an RV’ers library.  To get started, look up some of the roads and passes you have traveled and read the descriptions.  Find a couple you considered easy, and one or two you considered difficult or scary – that will give you a reference point for your planning.  Eight percent downhill grade for 4 miles with two lanes and 25 mile per hour turns?  We’ll try to avoid it.  Six percent uphill grade for 8 miles, with passing lanes?  No problem, unless it is going to be a hot day – so be ready for an early start. 

Mountain Directory West (or East): get it, and use it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


With shorter daylight hours and cold night temperatures, Eugene is wearing the fall color palette.

We spent most of the day at Carrier & Sons RV Service Center on the north side of Eugene.  As I write, we are at Valley River Center (click here to read our review), dry camping in the back corner of the lot (with three other motor homes), testing our new AGM battery bank.  Yippee! 

With winter’s cold temperatures on the way, we had Carrier do the “annual” (ha – we’ve never had it done in seven years!) servicing of the furnace, and had the generator serviced.  Besides our four AGM “house” batteries, we replaced both of our 8 year old “chassis” batteries (the ones that start the engine). 

My very favorite repair: they adjusted the big living room slide so it doesn’t slide out QUITE as far.  Over the years, the slide has slid a fraction of an inch farther every year – I was beginning to think it would knock out the side wall one day.  It turned out to be a very minor adjustment that made me VERY happy!  We were impressed with the quality of the service we received at Carrier, and the attitude of everyone we dealt with there.  Based on our experience, we recommend them.

Crater Lake We’ll be here for two nights, making sure the batteries and generator are back to tip-top condition and making a run to Trader Joes to restock for our next stop: Crater Lake.  It looks like we will have a four day window of clear (though cool) weather. 

Our last visit there was 5 years ago, when we took a day trip in our Jeep from the SKP park at Sutherlin, Oregon, on I-5.  This time, we’re taking the motorhome to a state park not far from the lake – where overnight lows have been dropping below freezing and they’ve seen a dusting of snow.  Good reasons to have the pre-winter servicing done, I think.  :)

Friday, October 2, 2009


We arrived in Eugene yesterday for our 11 am appointment at Carrier & Sons to find and solve the problems we were experiencing with our 12 v. system.  While awaiting the news and still blissfully ignorant, we drove Jules over to take a look at a new campground on the north side of Eugene, Armitage County Park, run by Lane County (click here to read our review).  Green, spacious, quiet and conveniently located - we loved it! 

By noon, we got the word: our four 5-year old AGM “house” batteries were kaput.  Bad news!  We went into shock when we found out what AGM batteries cost these days - $100 more than when we purchased batteries 5 years ago, and we thought it was a lot back then!

Site 30, Armitage County ParkSetting aside a decision on the purchase of new batteries, we drove Scoopy from the repair shop to the campground and checked in to a beautiful site for the next several days.  We set up our camp, boo-hoo’ed over the diagnosis of the battery problems, and went for a therapeutic walk.

Recovered from the big shock, we decided to go ahead with the purchase, along with two new “chassis” batteries (they start the engine and generator) to replace the 7 year old original equipment.  The onset of much cooler weather reminded us that we’ve never had our furnace serviced (since 2003), so decided to get that done, too!  Might as well take advantage of Oregon’s lack of sales taxes.

What we HAD intended to purchase in Eugene was a new laptop computer to replace our four year old machine that is experiencing screen problems.  Guess what?  None available.  The computer retailers have let their stocks run down to zilch while they await shipments of computers with the new Windows 7 operating system in 3 weeks.  We found exactly what we wanted at Best Buy, only to be told that there were ZERO in stock and no more on the way.  So why don’t they take them off the display?? Sheesh.

With the credit card warming up for the batteries, we got inspired to replace some of our tired old house wares: 7 year old bathmats, faded wash clothes and dish towels… we even bought Luna a vinyl placement to go under her food plate instead of the ugly old towel we’ve used until now (she doesn’t appear to appreciate the difference). 

Calla Lillies at Eugene Farmers Market Pile of Carrots at Eugene Farmers Market Fab Flowers at Eugene Farmers Market

We’ve decided to kick back here in Eugene for a least a week, hoping the weather at Crater Lake will improve (dry out and warm up) so we can head that direction.  We’ll get the new batteries installed on Wednesday, then move to our favorite Eugene dry camping site for a couple of days to give them a workout.  Tomorrow is one of my favorite Eugene events, the wonderful weekly Farmer’s Market.  Think sunshine!