2016 Maritime Walkabout – Planning

puffinIt’s about 37 days until we take the ferry from Port Townsend, headed for Newfoundland and Labrador and we’re busy planning the trip. This will be our fourth long trip in our motor home and each journey impresses upon us the need for planning. Not that we aren’t spontaneous on the road, but this time we want to be more careful about each day.

We began planning this trip with the goal of seeing more of the Maritime Provinces of Canada than we did in 2012. Our first consideration was to not repeat the mistake we made last year by showing up before any campgrounds were open for the season!

This trip we’re going to try a daily planning form so that we can pay attention to the day and have a record for reviewing campgrounds and future trips.

Daily PlannerOften we’ll start the day’s drive with only a hazy idea of where lunch will be or where we’ll fill up the tank. Hopefully this will help us organize our thoughts more clearly. The form is in Word and we’ll print it two to a page on both sides of the paper and place them in a binder.

Next: Organizing outside storage.

Organizing

One of the major insights gained during our most recent trip is that we have stored gear, from sewer hoses to coffee makers, like we did in our 2006 View J. For those familiar with these Winnebago floor plans, our 1015 Navion V is laid out completely different.

Our first task was to develop a set of criteria to help us arrange things in a more efficient way. Our previous storage criteria was to 1) match the storage space with the shape of the gear and ignore convenience and 2) keep the weight down. We now have a lot more cargo carrying capacity (CCC) and more space. Now we have more gear and less patience with getting on our knees to retrieve that gear.

We first measured various openings and then set out to The Container Store at Southcenter. The staff was incredibly helpful and their Clear Weathertight Totes are exactly what we needed. They come in different sizes, we bought eight that will fit through the openings of all the exterior doors.

The Navion has an exterior compartment on the rear right side that has a seal and is apparently for wet items. I had stored the sewer hose and connections in here in a treated canvas bag, but the zipper broke and things were just not “tidy” enough.

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The new arrangement has all the sewer items in one box, along with the hose support, knee pad, and two 25′ water hoses water hoses. The water hoses are connected end to end, so no contamination. Everything gets rinsed when used and the seal on the container keeps any smell inside. I broke the hose support into two sections so it would fit. This also helps with the issue of the sewer outlet not being very high off the ground.

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The exterior compartment under the slide requires extreme yoga to access when the slide is out, so here is where we store little-used gear.

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These boxes contain an extra sewer kit (we’ve been camping where twenty feet was not long enough), emergency triangle and cone, and a heavy gauge 110V extension cord.

A coffee aficionados, we needed a taller and convenient place for the coffee makers. Under the kitchen sink is ideal for us. The Black & Decker machine is used in the mornings when we leave as we can make a pot of half-caf in the thermal carafe that lasts until lunch. On the left is our drip coffee maker for boondocking (using the stove) and the pod machine is used when we stay more than one night as we have slightly different tastes in the boldness of the roast. Mark us down as addicts.

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More on the interior next time. Comments and pictures about what you’ve done are most welcome!

Snow & Ice

2016 Southwest TourPosting, while we were traveling, just didn’t work, so I’ll throw some thoughts up post-trip, categorizing my posts by learning experiences rather than by location or chronologically. Our plan was to head toward Arizona to visit with friends who live in El Mirage AZ near Christmastime. Unfortunately getting a factory safety recall done in time for the holidays was not in the Grand Scheme of Things, so we left straight from the dealer on January 2nd.

Starting an RV trip from where we live involves limited, and somewhat boring, choices. North into Canada, East on I-90 or I-84, and South on I-5. Winter adds snow and ice in mountain passes in the Cascades, The Columbia Gorge and the Blue Mountains just to start.

It turns out the most stressful weather part of the trip was on flat I-5 between south of Olympia and Woodburn OR – and the passes in the Sisykous were just fine! I carry chains because of the quirky chain laws in Oregon, but would never use them. Portland on Ice was white knuckle on my part, but the rig managed just fine.

One of our new goals was to stay in the Coachella Valley for more than one or two nights and get a small taste of sun birding and try out my recumbent tricycle. More on this in my next post.

Winnebago Quality

Yesterday we finally got our 2015 Navion V delivered back to us by the Winnebago dealer after three weeks in the shop, ending what has been a discouraging series of quality issues we didn’t expect from Winnebago. The experience has left us hesitant to recommend either the brand or the service department at Roy Robinson RV in Marysville even though the Navion is a dream to drive and we look forward to many more years of RV travel.

Here is the list and how each item was resolved (in no particular order of importance):

1. Gray water system would not drain totally, leaving a couple of cups of water to drain on the ground the next time the drain cover was removed. Winnebago P1000103said this was by design (!) and Roy Robinson said they’d not heard of this happening before. As a temporary fix I replace the cover with one that had a
hose connection, emptying the gray water into the sewer hose when hooking up. When we got back from our trip, Roy Robinson added an additional gate valve. The tech said he’d had to do this many times.

2. Slide out support for the king bed was too small for the side support tracks, causing the slide to collapse when weight was on it. I added thick felt dots on both support sides and consider this done.
3. The power roof vent repeatedly blew the fuse for it’s circuit. The two roof fans and the HVAC thermostat are on this circuit, so I put a piece of black tape over the switch. KIMBROUGH RO 36007105 001We ordered the power vent as Sherry couldn’t reach the manual vent in our 06 View J. It took three trips to the dealer, each time to discover the problem hadn’t been fixed. The last time it took from Sep 19 to Oct 10 to troubleshoot the problem. Three times we were told it was a pinched wire. Twice the repair was deemed as completed only it wasn’t. Here is the result.
4. The door that opens to the LP tank was missing the rear striker plate. Took two tries at this. Now that the door latches on both ends, the fit with the body trim and forward door isn’t right. I’m just going to not latch the rear end and ponder a trip to a local RV shop.
5. The AC outlet near the coach door was noticeably crooked. I fixed this.
6. The AC outlet under the thermostat was not secured to the wall. It was not installed properly. I fixed this.
7. The remote door lock remote (and the dash button) stopped working the passenger and coach doors after about a week into our first trip. I’m kind of tired of relating the story line here, but it went from initially being a “blame game” to “the owner needs to solve the problem”. Armed with that status, the Tacoma Mercedes provided me with a tech sheet on the Signal Actuation Module (SAM) and Winnebago factory provided me with the instructions on how the dealer was supposed to replace the coach door lock wiring. Lynnwood Mercedes finally replaced the SAM module after two visits and Roy Robinson RV replaced the wiring harness during one of our many visits. The result is that the passenger door works remotely and coach door works remotely – but only with the engine running. I do not have any confidence that further dealer troubleshooting will solve the problem.

My primary gripe with item number 7 was the lack of coordination, the “not me” description of the problem by Winnebago and placing leg work of the solution on the owner.

8. Dust got in the cockpit connection box for the steer by wire circuit. This caused an unholy number of warning lights and much consternation west of Douglas WY. Mercedes dealer in Salem OR gets five stars for suggesting a can of compressed air and blowing it out. Have not had a problem since.
9. The storage doors were not adjusted properly when we picked it up, causing marks above the doors. Dealer adjusted the doors, I’ll try to rub out the marks.

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10. The electrical switches by the door and driver side bed were unmarked. I labeled them using white on black tape from my Brother label maker.
11. The lighting bar above the galley came loose and dropped down. Roy Robinson glued it back in place.
12. Many of the cabinet doors, the kitchen and closet doors were not aligned properly. Roy Robinson fixed these, though some of the overhead doors still need my adjustment. One of the overhead doors was warped on delivery and was replaced.

We were also very disappointed while on the road to the East Coast at the repair time responses by both Winnebago and Mercedes. With the exception of Mercedes Salem, response involved a week or more just to be diagnosed. My dentist, doctor and barber can do better than this.

OK, I’m done now and we’re now trying to get on the road. Now we’re not just a little hesitant to turn our rig over the the dealer again. Hopefully some hot springs time in British Columbia and then south to Valley of the Sun in November will smooth things over again. On the road again!

 

First Two Weeks

Trip time 13.03.34.54 – Near Page AZ

I don’t know how anyone else rolls, but we no longer use the terms driver/passenger or pilot/copilot. As rail fans we’ve assumed the job titles of engineer (drives the train) and conductor (they ensure safety and comfort and make announcements to keep passengers informed). Using the GPS, AAA paper map, smartphone and asking a local, we manage to avoid being temporarily unsure of our position. When Sherry is the engineer, she is also the conductor!

The trip so far has included a wonderful stay with friends near South Bend WA, runs on the beach and river swimming for Allie and Kinnon in Oregon and a couple of great meet-ups with my brother Harry in Salt Lake City. The segments from the coast to Bend and from Bend to Winnemucca were over the limit of what we like to drive, which is about 275 miles.

Our Navion gives us sleeping options of two twin beds or a king size. We left home with sleeping bags and an assortment of quilts but along the way found fitting sets of sheets. The old bedding should find new homes in Draper UT.

Utah 14 in Dixie National Forest

Utah 14 in Dixie National Forest

Having been to Zion NP before, we decided to try Utah 14 and US 89 between Cedar City and Kanab. Not only is Dixie National Forest awesome to look at, but Midway Summit is just shy 10,000 feet. The Navion was more than capable and we often had to slow down behind passenger cars on the 8% grades. A great improvement over our previous 5 cylinder View!

Switchback on Utah 14

Switchback on Utah 14

A note of appreciation to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We didn’t stop as we’ve visited before, but we did note that will all the great work they do with the animals in their care they still have time to keep a section of US 89 free of litter!

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The view from my bed this morning. The Wahweap National Recreational Area near Page AZ is incredible and I grilled burgers last tonight. The conductor and I ran the numbers on the itinerary later this morning so we have plenty of East Coast time before crossing into New Brunswick on April 30th.

Off to Apache Junction AZ in the morning!

Willipa Bay

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Our first day was about three and half hours, driving down Hood Canal on US 101 to visit friends who live on Willipa Bay in Pacific County. They have  perfectly level drive with power and water. As one can see, the view is magnificent. My maternal grandfather and great grandfather moved up from Astoria and were fishermen out of South Bend and Tokeland. We have been invited back.

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First small town burger was in Elma. We don’t usually frequent chain burger places when we travel, except McD often serves good coffee.

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The dogs weathered the first day well Kinnon (above) sleeps and Allie sits and pants. Dramamine doesn’t phase her.

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Dennis and Kathy have an adopted peacock named Henry. Kinnon is a bit birdy, so Henry is now in the woods. Smart fellow!

Walkabout 2015 Preparation

route

Proposed Route

With three days and some amount of hours left until we push-back I thought I’d better offer a preview of the preparation and trip, if nothing else than to review them myself.

Above left is the most current itinerary, a counter-clockwise trip around the US and Canada. Parameters for the dates are mid-June graduation of Grandson Mitchell and the mid May opening of the Canadian Rockies.

Each walkabout we’ve taken (this will be number three) we’ve made fewer reservations and been more open to “one day at a time.” We also try to drive less each day, with 300 miles as a guideline maximum. More state, provincial and national parks.

Outfitting the new Navion has been fun, and we’ll do more rearranging on the road. The four cylinder, twin turbo diesel and 7 speed transmission make the rig a dream to drive, with 18.5 mpg so far. The floor plan (we chose the L-shaped sectional) is much more livable than our 2006 View.

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If you’d like to follow our trip, please subscribe to my blog.

Christmas

It occurred to me that the holiday season could be happy and joyous for everyone if it was celebrated in July or it didn’t occur with so many other people’s expectations. Beginning as early as August, there is a tsunami of Christmas which rolls over the land with a mandatory participation. No high ground here, celebrate we will, ready or not.

Those who can’t swim in December and have no social lifevest struggle to stay afloat. Life events which might seem ordinary in Summer are magnified by the seasonal darkness and expected liturgy of Ho! Ho! Ho!

We are immersed in the Winter Festival, the earliest seasonal celebration, attempts to throw some light into the longest nights of the year with merriment. Solstice, mistletoe, Santa Claus and family. Good cheer and peace to men of goodwill! I have to admit that your entire house and lawn covered with lights is a bit over the top, but we all deck our halls differently.

Some of us celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. For me, the celebration is a reminder of the incarnation of God in humanity, as Jesus taught, rather than the mythical birth narratives. So, maybe he wasn’t born in December or in Bethlehem. Doesn’t matter. The authors of Mathew and Luke thought the birth was a big deal, and so it was. Perhaps the stories are more of a vehicle for theology than an historical chronology, but the Message has to begin somewhere.

The most recent celebration is that of Consumerism. I admit my thirteen years of working in the mall has become a bias. Or PTSD, take your pick. As Stan Freeberg said it, a red and green bandwagon to jump on. I can recycle LL Bean and Lands End catalogs and flyers with the best of them, though I wish they’d send just one, like Sears used to. It is fun to shop locally for the little ones and buy gift cards for stores that don’t sell video games for the older grand kids.

This year we stayed home for the holidays and it turned out there was a reason. Opportunities for gratitude, service and growth appear all year long but they stand out in December. Today we’ll head out to visit family and friends with our three wonderful canine companions in their new home on wheels.

Today is the last day of Advent. “What came into being though the Word was life, and the life was a light for all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” John 1:3-5. I used to think I’d had done Christmas enough and could take break, but there are still more surprises in the light of the season, however it’s celebrated. Can’t wait for next year!

Merry Christmas!