I'm SO glad I looked underneath!

As I was getting ready to leave Les Schwab with the trailer wheel bearings freshly greased and repacked, I happened to notice something black hanging below the bumper.

It was the trailer battery! The bottom of the battery box had broken out and the battery was in the process of working its way towards the pavement.

I pulled the battery out and safely toddled back home.

I think this happened because I've been running a group 24 battery in the group 27 box - since the battery is a little smaller, it's entire weight is on the plastic bottom of the box - not reaching all the way to the metal 'shelves' that support the battery box. Guess I could get a welder to add a metal strip under the battery box to help support the battery.

So, one chore done and one more added to the list - not much progress today - but at least I didn't lose the battery (which is brand new).

Pause for the winter

Temps have dropped, the rain clouds have moved in . . . time for major trailer cleanup.

Every few years, I totally empty out the Escape and do a major cleanup.  Since I had the 'chipmunk episode' that sent dog kibble into every nook-and-cranny, and a major 'water all over the inside' episode, I figured this was a good year to do a deep clean.

Amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in such a small trailer!

I was amazed at how long it took to empty the trailer and huge piles of gear are everywhere.  I will be accessing the value of stuff with the intent of serious decluttering when I repack the trailer in a couple of weeks!  Meanwhile, the Escape has been mostly scrubbed clean (still need to clean the mini-blinds).

Next comes some maintenance

I have over 12,000 miles on the trailer now - time to get the wheel bearings repacked and a professional check of the frame, hitch, etc.  I've winterized and refilled the propane tanks.

The cats have taken up permanent residence on my lap

I'm spending more time at the house, organizing files for taxes, and gettting ready for the holidays.  The cats are thrilled, follow me everywhere and head for my lap anytime I'm still for more than a few seconds.

Camping Expenses over time

One rainy day recently I went back over my calendar and my Quicken Financial reports to see what I could see about my camping over the last few years.  Mostly what I discovered was that I don't keep very detailed records!  But, now that I will hopefully be doing longer trips and more dispersed camping, I will keep more detailed records.  Comparing the first 5 years to the last 2 years (post retirement), here's what I discovered:
  • I've doubled the number of trips per year (from 5 to 10)  and doubled the number of nights camping.
  • While money spent on campground fees went up, they didn't go up as much as expected because of a sharp increase in dry camping in Forest Service Parks rather than more expensive full-service State Parks.  Hopefully, next year the cost will go down even more as I practice dispersed camping.
  • I've invested fairly heavily in upgrades to accomodate long trips and boondocking: dual propane tanks, solar panels, catalytic heater, etc.  I have a few more things on my wish list but will probably wait until I've got a couple years of boondocking under my belt and have a better idea of what my real needs are (thinking back to all the gear I just unpacked from the Escape realizing how rarely I used some of it!).
  • The other really noticable trend was how often I've gone back to familiar campgrounds - I think I'm in a rut!!  Hopefully, when I can take longer trips, I can get a little further out of my own backyard!

Survived the severe weather warning!

The wind wasn't as bad as predicted

Sunday afternoon through Monday am, the coast was under a severe weather warning.  Camping this weekend at Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco WA, we were expecting the wind to be bad; after all the campground is on the headland of Long Beach Peninsula.  But, I only felt a couple of gusts rocking the trailer - or was that just Molly shifting around on her bed - anyway, it wasn't bad at all.

It did rain quite a bit on Sunday, but that was offset by the temp being warmer (50F/10C) than the  previous couple days .

Wild, wet, and windy - another great weekend in the Pacific NW!
I know Molly doesn't look happy in this picture - but, it's really less the weather than her fear-and-loathing of flash cameras.  This picture was taken at about 5:30 in the afternoon - already dark enough to trigger the flash!

Camping on Long Beach Peninsula, WA during a severe weather warning!


How bad could it be?  Camping season isn't over in the Pac NW!:

Hooked up Friday morning for the drive to Long Beach Peninsula, WA.  As long as Molly is in the back of the Pilot, she knows she’s included in the adventure and will wait patiently.  I’m traveling with a couple of friends who have 24’ Motorhomes – so even if it’s really wet, I’ll have company and bigger spaces.
She wouldn't think of jumping over the net - would she?

Feeling quite impressed with myself . . .

As I drive across the 4.2 mile Astoria bridge, I can’t quite believe that I walked the bridge just a few weeks ago (great-columbia-crossing-10k) – it is one freaking long bridge! 

4.2 miles - and I felt every step!

I arrived at Cape Disappointment State Park in early afternoon, which paradoxically, didn’t disappoint.

The park is extensive with lots of beach access, lighthouses, wetlands, and over 200 campsites – even this late in the year, the open loops were full(Some loops are closed because the stormy winter high tides can flood them).  This campground is arranged very differently than Oregon State campgrounds – yurts are mixed in with the regular sites in a series of cul-de-sacs rather than separate yurt villages and the big loops that one finds in Oregon.  However, cell phone coverage is non-existent (I get 1 bar by the campground entrance but that’s it) – so this blog will probably have to wait until Monday to get posted!
The beach is bounded by headlands to the North with a pretty 1880’s lighthouse and to the South by the jetty.  Approaches to the beach all require navigation of lots of driftwood logs and riprap (near the jetty). This makes the beach a perfect place for Molly to run a bit off-leash – she can go up and down the beach and I don’t have to worry about her trying to cross the driftwood barrier (greyhounds never do anything difficult).  She had a good little run and everyone was duly impressed by the length of her stride in the sand (Bear, the Keeshound, took about 8 steps to her one running stride).

Doesn't she look happy? Greyhounds love to sprint!
Dinner was a big pot of chili, followed by a cutthroat game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  A very fine afternoon at the beach!

Sunset came early - but sure was pretty!


A beautiful day with no rain – my friends and I took full advantage of this break in the weather. 

A trip to the North Headlands Lighthouse was followed by a drive to the jetty and a long walk on the beach. 

1880's North Head Lighthouse - used 130gallons of oil every month for the light!!

Forget about drugs, TRASH kills!

On our beach walk, Paula pulled out a bag and started to beachcomb – which pretty much translated to picking up trash – soon, Sue and I followed.   Just about the time we had filled our dog poo bags, Paula found an intact 30 gallon garbage bag – so we used that to empty our little bags and continued down the beach.  Plastic bottles and caps, plastic shotgun shells, plastic bags, Styrofoam, bits of rope, etc.  We were hoping for some Japanese Tsunami debris but didn’t find anything but good old American trash.  Plastic bags and rope are especially dangerous for wildlife.  Not on our watch my fine feathered and finned friends, not on our watch!

Longest beach in the world

After lunch, we drove into Long Beach(advertised as the world’s longest beach – 25 miles!) to walk the .5 mile long boardwalk along the beach.  Long Beach is home to an annual week long kite festival – a huge event with thousands of kites in the air at any given time.

For me, no visit to Long Beach can be complete without visiting the Kite Museum – I’m kind of a kite geek (my friends were very patient).  In addition to quite an extensive collection of bird kites and world kites (Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian), there are exhibits showing the use of kites in the military, for naval rescues, powering ships (like big ocean-going vessels! Use of big, high-flying kites can reduce power usage up to 35%!!), other novel alternative-energy-generating applications, flying (kite-driven light aircraft pre-date the earliest airplanes with engines), and sports (kite boarding is big in the Columbia Gorge).
On the way back along the beach, we watched a large flock of sanderlings feeding at water’s edge.  As the surf came in, they would dash away from the water – all peeping wildly, only to turn and follow the waves as they receded back.  It was hilarious to watch!

peep. . . peep . . . peep . . .peep. . . peep . . . peep . . .peep. . . peep . . . peep . . .peep. . . peep . . . peep . . .
Dinner was a crock-pot roast with vegetables (yum! Especially tasty after being out in the 45 degree weather all day), followed by more dominoes.

Sunday:  Severe Weather Advisory upgraded to a ‘Warning’

We woke up this morning to a steady rain.  The severe weather advisory we heard about yesterday has been upgraded to a ‘warning’ for this afternoon through early Monday morning – expecting 40mph winds with gusts to 60mph or more.  Strong enough that high-profile vehicles (like trailers and RV’s) are warned not to cross the Astoria bridge.  This may affect plans for the journey homeward – I had wanted to drive back across the bridge and then take the picturesque Hwy 30 back to Portland.  But, if the wind hasn’t dissipated by the time we leave, we may follow Hwy 4 along the Washington coast back to I-5 – the winds won’t be so bad that far inland – although there could be trees down along that road.
In any case, I’ll probably lose my dry ‘porch’ and have to roll up my awning this afternoon.  The awning is so nice in the rain for providing dry space to put on/take off wet coats and boots without dragging a whole lot of wet stuff into the trailer. 
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the tap of rain on my roof, the drip of rain off the awning, the gurgle of a little rivulet running along the back of my campsite, and the distant foghorn from the lighthouse – all while I’m toasty and dry inside listening to Pink Martini on my iPod.  The rain makes everything very green (and, in the case of all the moss, fuzzy).
Right before I rolled up the awning; no more vestibule for wet dog jackets.  She still has her x-pen though.

Still getting the hang of this blogging business

I drove into Long Beach to top off the gas tank on the Pilot and check on the weather forecast.  But, I neglected to bring my laptop or my cell phone extender - so I haven’t been able to test either the new cell phone antenna and range amplifier or try out the phone as a mobile hotspot from which to post blog entries – oh well.

Testing new cell phone signal extender!

No/little coverage here on the Long Beach Peninsula - so I'm testing my new Wilson Sleek signal booster. it successfully boosted 1 3G bar to 4 bars!! YAY!!
Its boosting 1G bar up too - but of course, you can't get data out of nothing  :-(
So, tales of this trip will have to wait until I get home.

More rain with fabulous fall leaves

I drove home today - paying a lot more attention to the tsunami evacuation route signs after last nights tsunami advisory.

The bigger danger today was just the continuous blinding rain - but the fall leaf color made the drive through the coast range really glorious.  I have more pictures but I'm not the multi-tasker that I used to be - so between steering through the rain, trying to miss the wiper blades and still catch the great color, there weren't too many shots in focus.

Rain, more rain, and a tsunami advisory!

Camping at Nehalem Bay for a few days, but its so wet even the trees seem to be trying to uproot and decamp to drier climes.




Tsunami Advisory for the coast . . .

A friend called last night to give us the news about the quake off the coast of BC. Only an advisory for the Oregon coast, but since the state park is on a spit at sea level, even an especially high tide would be a bit worrying!

It made me think of how unconnected I am when I go camping - no TV, rarely even radio, and I tend not to check the news even if I do have internet.  I guess the camp hosts or highway patrol would take a pass through a state park to warn folks if there was a real emergency (fingers crossed).

Bonus Day!!

We haven't totally gone over to the the dark side yet (the 8 months of gloomy, grey, rainy weather that begins every year right about now).

Water, water, water everywhere!

It didn't merely rain - it poured, it deluged, I saw chipmunks and squirrels pairing up for the ark . . .

OK, so the rain had to start sometime - it is, afterall, the Pacific NW. But then the dog overturned her water bowl.  Barely did I have that cleaned up when I discovered a leak at the base of the toilet - intermittent clean (thankfully) water seeping out from somewhere.  Oh joy, another winter project.

Wet campsite

Molly is sad that it's pouring outside

The next day was glorious and the Harvest Festival in Sweet Home was really sweet!

 This historic covered bridge in Sweet Home, OR hosted the Harvest Fair - it was chock full of craft tables, baked goods, and community information tables.

I left the bridge entertained, informed, tummy full of homemade cookies, and with a few new clever homemade accessories for the trailer.
Covered Bridge in Sweet Home

 This strolling group of singers had a long list of songs that folks could request - Sweet 4-part harmony!!

 You've heard of 'Soap-on-a-Rope'?  This was 'Kids-on-Ropes' - climbing up probably 100 feet and rapelling down again.

I declined an offer to play on the ropes, primarily so that my hysterical screaming wouldn't disrupt the band playing across the field.

Great Columbia Crossing 10K - 2012

Where the 4.2 mile long Astoria, OR bridge is closed for the morning so runners and walkers can enjoy the spectacular sites around the mouth of the great Columbia River.

This was the 31st year for the event.  One lane of traffic on the bridge is closed for the 10K run/walk. 3,000 people gather on the Oregon side in Astoria to be shuttled across the river to the starting point.  The starting point is Dismal Nitch, Washington, so named by the Lewis and Clark Expedition during a not-so-pleasant winter stay on their arrival on the west coast - hard to imagine    on this summer-warm, sunny morning in late September!  Today, the name sounds more like a location in a Harry Potter novel.
Looking back at the end - yes, the high part is at the end after about 4 miles of walking! 

Folks gather between 7am and 7:30 to be shuttled across the river in an endless stream of yellow schoolbusses.

Lots of volunteers and porta-potties (they repeatedly remind us that there are no facilities on the bridge).  Everything is very well organized, my only complaint is that there is no Starbucks and I haven't had my morning caffeine!


 3,000 people is quite a crowd as we wind our way from Dismal Nitch to the bridge (about a mile)


Here we are partway across the bridge at the 'Entering Oregon' sign! 



 Pelicans and Pilings!

Amid all those seagulls is a flock of pelicans.  The birds overflew the bridge many times, apparently wondering what the heck all those people were doing on the bridge.  4.2 miles is a long, long bridge and there were moments when I was wondering the same thing.
At low tide, the bridge spans a huge mudflat.  You can still see the pilings of what were horse barns.  The horses were used to pull nets when seining for fish was a major industry in the area. 

Where's the Beer!


Solar Phase II

Figured out a way to mount the solar panel on my Yakima Roof Rack

I cobbled together some extra Yakima Bar Clamps and miscellaneous hardware to make a secure attachment to my roof rack.  This will provide an easy out-of-the-way place for the panel to travel and, if the car is parked in a sunny spot at the campsite, I can charge the batteries without even taking it off the roof.  I found some steel bars with lots of holes - these will bolt onto the outside of the panel frame and provide a tilting mechanism if I want to angle the panel more directly towards the sun.

The Yakima quick releases give me the flexibility of taking the panel off to place it in the sunniest spot though - always an advantage when camping in the heavily treed Pac NW.

The process of getting quick connects on all the wire is not finished but progressing . . . 

As I read more about various solar installs that folks have done, I'm not sure my current wiring and connect solution is the best way to go - but I understand it and it works, so it will do for now. 
I have short little 'pigtails' attached to the battery so that I don't have to always be fiddling with getting into the battery box and attaching wires.  I have also installed similar little pigtails to the charge controller so that I can hook up either long or short runs of wire, depending on how far I have to go from the trailer to find a sunny spot for the panel. 

Battery pigtails at the top - attach to the pigtails on the charge controller

My first attempt at a weatherproof box to contain the charge controller was a failure!

The box is a little too small; the wood block that I mounted the charge controller on wouldn't glue to the bottom of the plastic box; the inner tubing that I glued to the front where the wiring would poke out wouldn't stay glued.  So, I'm still thinking through what might work.  Ideally, I'll have a box that will protect the charge controller and allow the wiring to easily come out of the box for use or curl back into the box for storage.  I'm also thinking that out of the 'load' side of the controller, I'll install a DC plug so that I can charge some accessories directly during the day.  I currently only have one DC plug inside the trailer so I'm a little limited for charging all my toys. 


So, I concentrated on a couple of simpler tasks while I cogitate . . .

A 15 foot security cable so that I can lock the panel to the trailer frame.

And, a mount and collapsible pole (dowels hooked together with pvc pipe connectors) for my TV antenna - for those rare occassions when there is reception from my campsite!

Drowning in Green Beans!

Anyone know how to make green beans taste like pizza?

Apparently compensating for the late start to summer, my garden has decided to produce gargantuan amounts of produce right now.  For the last couple of weeks, I've been pulling massive amounts of green beans and tomatoes out of my miniscule little garden spot.  The tomatoes have outstripped the ability of my 3 basil plants to keep up (basil, tomato, feta salad . . .  yummm!). 

I've made all my green bean recipes several times over and still have too many beans to deal with - and forget sharing with the neighbors - we're all trying to give away the same stuff.  I have been accepting giant cucumbers (not bad if you seed them and slice them thinly - into the basil/tomato salads!) and canoe-sized zuchinni (shredded zuchinni in casseroles, frittatas, zuchinni bread and the ever popular stuffed zuchinni boats).  I may have to resort to pickling the beans - I was hoping I was done with the pickling after putting up 22 quarts of dill pickles!

All in all, this horticultural exhuberance has been benefitting my diet - almost 20 pounds now.  Which should help postpone the inevitable second knee replacement surgery (left knee next) that I know is waiting down the road a ways - hopefully, well down the road if I can continue to shed the pounds and build up stabilizing muscle around the knee with more bicycling.

Now, if only I could find a green bean pizza recipe somewhere . . .

About this much every other day!!!  The beans are actually green and the dark tomato is a 'Black Crimm' - extremely yummy!

Not all wildlife is in the wilds

I saw this deer and her fawn

. . . as well as some Great Blue Herons on a very sweet little paddle almost within sight of the downtown skyscrapers of Portland OR.  Just south of town one can paddle around Ross Island and, I'm told, even see the occassional beaver.
Her fawn had just disappeared into the brush

Current Designs Vision 140 - sweet, very light day-paddle kayak

Fires, past and present, but recovery is everywhere

Suttle Lake showing old fire and spruce beetle damage


Mt Washington through the smoke haze of the current Pole Creek Fire.  Not bad when this picture was taken, the wind changed the next day and forced me to cut my trip short.


No pictures of the bald eagle I saw fishing the lake every day, but I caught some of the slower inhabitants

Solar Power - Beta Test

Too bad the site was so shady

The first real test of my new solar panel setup was a partial success - I was able to get an almost full charge every day with the limited sunlight available through all the trees.  However, I did have to be pretty judicious in my use of power to keep the balance between charging and usage.  It was pretty annoying having to chase the little bits of sunshine around all day and I rarely had a spot that didn't cast some shade on the panel, but overall I was pleased with the panel.  The controller doesn't give a lot of info - just lights to indicate whether the panel is providing power, whether the battery is accepting charge and it should show when the battery is full (but, I never got to that point). 

Next steps for the Solar Setup

I've been hard wiring all the connections - so my next step is to find some weather-proof quick connects so the system is easy to set up and dismantle.  Also, I want to find a waterproof box in which to mount the controller.
A brief moment of pure sunshine - lasted about 20 minutes.

The bare minimum!  Soon, the charge controller and wiring will be ensconsed in a more sophisticated setup.

Why I oughta . . . . . !

Despite their incredible cuteness, Chipmunks are rascally little rodents!

Hey! Take the dog for a walk so I can get some more of your food!

My campsite at Blue Bay was in the middle of a chipmunk village and they treated the arrival of my trailer like I used to greet the summer ice cream truck!  I thought they were quite cute until I came back from walking the dog and found 2 chipmunks had managed to get into the camper through the screen door.  After chasing them out, I spent the rest of the trip recovering from the damage! 

I'm told that cultivating an attitude of gratitude increases personal happiness, so in that spirit . . .

  • I'm grateful that the interlopers chewed holes in a peach and a tomato, not my toothpaste.
  • I'm grateful that they only chewed holes in the bag of dog kibble and not my upholstery.
  • I'm grateful that they pooped but didn't pee on my upholstery (much easier to clean up).
  • I'm grateful that the cupboards were closed so that the kibble they swiped was stored in my shoes and bed - easily shaken out.

The cute factor continued to work in their favor though . .

One morning, I found a couple chipmunks at the bottom of the dumpster when I went to dump some trash.  Clearly, they had jumped in but couldn't make it back out.  Did I leave them there?  Of course not!  I found a branch and angled it into the dumpster so that they could climb out.  Took them awhile but they caught on and raced out.

Throughout the entire week, Molly (my 'scared of her own shadow' greyhound) studiously ignored the chipmunks - a lot of help she was.  Maybe traveling with my cats won't be such a bad idea.  I don't think the 'munks would have dared break into the trailer with my two little feline hunters in residence.

Mirror Lake Hike

Ack! It's September already; the days are getting shorter, the trees are starting to turn, the Fireweed blossoms are almost to the top!

And that can mean only one thing - summer is nearly over.  Thus begins my annual rush to cram as much 'summer' into the next month or so as I possibly can.  I'm eating heirloom tomatoes, garden cucumbers and zuchinni at practically every meal.  And, I'm biking, walking, camping, home project-ing in every spare minute.

I had to try hiking - even though my knee (the temporarily non-titanium one) has been acting up.  For once, the knee went along with the program and didn't hurt (much) on the moderate 3 mile loop up to and around Mirror Lake - so called because of the fantastic view of Mt Hood and it's reflection in the lake.  I didn't get a picture of the great reflection however, too many tired and hot hiking dogs were playing in the water.

Sorry, I didn't get any pictures of the hike up to the lake.  I was too busy huffing and puffing through the many switchbacks.  There were lovely views of Zig-Zag Canyon.

North Waldo Lake - minus the mosquitos

One benefit of the drought - fewer mosquitos!

I was worried about the number of mosquitos - my last trip to Waldo was sharply curtailed by the swarms of mosquitos at dawn and dusk.  Despite the beautiful setting, the great paddling on this crystal clear lake, I couldn't hack the 'skeeters'.  The mosquitos were quite light on this trip - so this campground gets a note to reserve after mid-August!

However, this is the first year for online reservations for North Waldo - and their campground descriptions do have bugs.  I reserved a '29 foot' campsite, but when I got there found that it would have been a tight fit for a VW bug!  Fortunately, there was an open site right next to it that would, just barely, fit my rig.  A quick trip to the camp host (Bill), and the trade was made.

Campsite with xpen set up for Molly

Continuing the 'dry-camping' experiments

The learning curve is steep!  First, I forgot to top off the fresh water tank, so we ran out of water.  This required numerous trips to a campground spigot and a somewhat sloppy transfer to the onboard tanks.  Having water inside again was short-lived as the battery gave out - no water pump, no lights, not even enough power to keep the fridge going on propane!  So, we really felt like tent campers again.  Fortunately, I had brought the big cooler filled with ice (I knew I'd need ice for my creaky knees) - so all the food stayed safely cold.  I still don't know why the batter discharged so quickly.  I'll have to get it checked - this is just making me want to invest in some solar panels sooner. 

Good sized picnic area, unfortunately on the wrong side of the trailer.  Many of the lakeside campsites have HUGE picnic areas between the camp and the lake.
Molly - looking a little worried.  This trip she had to share the trailer, sleep in the car, and spend a lot of time outside on her sleeping bag.  The prima donna prefers a little less roughing it and a few more creature comforts.

Beautiful sunsets and the Perseid Meteor Showers - what a great weekend!


Great Cakes - Better Friends!

Turning 60 caused a moment of introspection and retrospection

Just celebrated my 60th and, as I looked around at my circle of friends, I was struck by the incredible history I have with them.  As a kid, my family moved frequently, not just to a new school or town, but often to a new country on a different continent.  Friends were replaced with the same frequency as outgrown school shoes. 

At this  birthday celebration, I saw friends who have been attending my birthday parties for over 30 years.

Sure, I've lost touch with lots of folks, and there are new people who have come into my life, but I'm so touched and grateful for the core of friends who appear again and again in my photo albums, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and, more importantly off-camera, those peak (good and bad) moments of my life.
2012 - Chocolate cake with a layer of fudge and peppermint icing - yumm!!

2012 - Anne B, Carla, Meg, Anita

2012 - Patt

1982 - Patt, "the robot", Jaye
2012 - Claudia

2002 - German Chocolate - made by Claudia!
2002 - Anne B, Carla, Claudia

1997 - combined party for all Leo's

1997 - Me, Anne B, ?, Betsi

1992 - Watermelon Cake (Pink angel food with chocolate chips and two-tone green frosting) - compliments of Claudia!

1992 - Claudia and Chris
1982 - Cake in the shape of a computer terminal - celebrating my 30th birthday and career change - compliments of Jaye Akey.

1992 - Claudia, Betsi, Anita, Donna, Jaye