Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting The Back On Track

Wayne's back is out. 

Two years ago, during his first ever 'bout with sciatica, medical tests showed he has spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease.  No doubt his spine would look a bit like the image to the right if we could see it.

Since the sciatica episode of December 2010, Wayne has had occasional twinges of pain but this is worse -- much worse. The problem started Tuesday, while we were having the supplemental brake installed at Camping World in Junction City, Oregon.  As the day went along, he became almost unable to stand and finally mentioned the possibility of going to an area hospital in the early evening.  Sleep that night was fitful and by 3:30 Wednesday morning, he was awake. By 4:30, I was up too, worrying about his worsening condition. By 7:30 a.m., we were preparing to go to the emergency room. 

In the end, he decided against the ER as we're about certain of the diagnosis and he still has the full Rx of pain medication and muscle relaxers.  I finally convinced him to take a round of his medication; he did and began feeling better within an hour.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday have been progressively better.  He is taking the medications as needed and alternating heat / ice on his lower lumbar. I'm giving him occasional alcohol rubdowns too.  Because the campground here in Harrisburg is having a full-house rally beginning Tuesday, we'll have to be ready to leave here by that time. 

Today is Sunday and Wayne feels well enough to take a ride with me to the grocery store. He will stay in the car. This will be his first steps outside the coach in five days. That's unheard-of for Wayne.

Keeping my fingers cross that he will continue to recover without relapse.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exchanging Invisi Brake for Brake Master

Whiling away the hours on the tank treatment aisle.....

The Invisi Brake really never stood a chance after its bad start. Two days after its installation, Wayne was back at Camping World making the necessary arrangements to have it removed and replaced by a Brake Master system. 

We'd "eat" the $500+ Invisi Brake installation fee but get a refund on the Invisi Brake.

Sometimes it seems we throw money away with both fists.

Finding humor in sewage handling products. 
Here, it's a hearty laugh at "Tissue Dissolver"

One important item of research Wayne didn't do initially was to place a call to Roadmaster. He did make the call though after last week's fiasco.   If he had called earlier, he would  have learned a valuable lesson:  An important part of slowing 30 tons of rolling thunder is to use the best brake available. That is not to use the brake pedal, but instead, to use Endie's exhaust brake. Too late we learned that using Endie's exhaust brake with Invisi Brake would apply pressure to the brake pedal on Big Blackie. That will cause unnecessary wear on Blackie's brakes.  The service advisor at Roadmaster explained that the Brake Master would not cause pressure to be applied to the car brakes when the coach exhaust brakes are applied.

This was the scene. Ugh.
So the folks at Camping World ordered Brake Master last week and installed it yesterday. Another horrible day-long experience capped by disappointment in Andrew, the service technician from hell

It all began with yet another 8:30 a.m. appointment, ending at 4:30, complete with exhaustion and a really bad backache for Wayne.

The new Brake Master device that presses the brake pedal when the coach brake is applied.
It does not apply pressure when the coach exhaust brake is applied.
A bar was attached in front of the driver seat for the cylinder to be attached.

The cylinder is fitted onto the brake pedal.

So it looks like this when it's attached to the brake pedal on one end and the bar mounted under the drivers seat.

There's also a Brake Master apparatus mounted under the hood that requires some kind of maintenance every 2,000-3,000 towed miles.

The imbecile who installed our Brake Master is Andrew. He is customer service challenged, as are very nearly all Camping World employees. It's a employment prerequisite, I believe.

In this photo, Wayne is near collapse with back pain. 
Andrew would not assist in hooking up the car.

Andrew looks on as Wayne hooks up the car.
Wayne is too nice. I could hardly hold my tongue.

I did verbalize my complaint about Andrew, the tech from hell.  The Junction City Camping World General Manager did not reply when I suggested that Andrew needed some customer service training. The General Manager never asked for detail, nor did he make any apology. Why am I not surprised?

All brake lights illuminate when the coach brake pedal is pressed.
We're ready to go. Finally.  
One final installation and we'll be ready to leave the Willamette Valley of Oregon. We're waiting for the small 2-1/2' shade to be mounted over the kitchen window. It's being shipped from Carefree Colorado and should be here sometime this week.  It will not be installed by Camping World.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sweet Home and Willamette National Forest

The campground hosted a large wedding Saturday night and a baseball playoff group has been here all weekend. Frankly, the crowds of tough-guy, silly girl teens and the twenty-somethings are getting on my last nerve. It's time to take a day ride.

A cloudy day makes for good photography and today's weather is a bit overcast. It's cooler (60's) than we've had here in the Willamette Valley for the past two weeks (80's). 

From the campground at Harrisburg, we drove about 40 miles east to Sweet Home, Oregon and then onto US 20 into the Cascade Mountains.  We're looking forward to seeing a few of the many covered bridges in this area.

A bit of Oregon's covered bridge history:  Pioneers began building them, by hand, in the mid-1850's using the abundant Douglas Fir found here.  Bridge owners financed construction of covered bridges by charging tolls.

Wooden bridges were covered to keep them dry. A covered bridge could easily last 80 years while an uncovered one would likely last less than ten.. 

Funding to preserve Oregon's covered bridges was established by the legislature in the 1980's.
Crawfordsville Bridge in Linn County was built over the Calapooia River in 1932.

I snapped the picture of the Crawfordsville Bridge (above) with almost no notice but it did turn out rather nice.  Below is a photo of the other side taken after we turned around and came back.

We drove through the tiny town of Sweet Home and came upon Weddle Covered Bridge in Sweet Home's Sanky Town Park.
Weddle Covered Bridge over Ames Creek.
Restored in 1950
Sweet Home is a small but pleasant place and seems to be a destination for many RV'ers.   Some are here, it seems, to enjoy nearby Fosters Lake / Reservoir, it's dam and nearby Green Peter Dam. Lots of state and county parks, many boats, fishermen and family campers.
Foster Reservoir

Below Foster Dam.
Here we saw a Bald Eagle sitting on a nest atop one of the power poles.
Leaving Sweet Home we took US 20, following Santiam River into Willamette National Forest and into higher elevations. This route is called Oregon's "Over the River and Through the Woods" Scenic Byway.  It got cool and at one point, the car's thermometer reported 55 degrees outside. 

All along the road I could see thick moss covering almost everything.  At one stop, I took a few pictures of the mossy trees...
No retouch.  It's really that color.

That's low-hanging clouds in the upper left.
It's very cool and still overcast. 

We reached Tombstone Pass and then, at the intersection of Oregon Highway 126, turned south, going down the mountain range toward Blue River, where we found the river water really is blue.  For some reason, I don't have a picture of the blue water..... Blame it on the co-pilot / navigator / photographer / writer / dog momma.

Goodpasture Covered Bridge would be the last one we'd see today. It covers McKenzie River and appears to be the longest of the three covered bridges we saw.
Goodpasture Covered Bridge

Returning to the campground, we could see that most of the baseball and wedding crowds had left.   The late afternoon and early evening air was much cooler than it's been lately.  Our plan is to leave this area by Wednesday -- more about that later.

Endie's Relapse! Back to Coburg.

Endie's water heater leak repair ended the problem but not the consequential damage.  One of the bathroom floor tiles has buckled and the grout is crumbling. We noticed it last Tuesday evening and called Monaco on Wednesday.  We were instructed to bring her in on Thursday morning at 7:30 to have the service tech take a look.  Service and repairs are being scheduled into mid-August and we're told that if our repair is extensive, we'll need to get on schedule.  If it's not too big a repair job, they'll do it immediately. Monaco has been really good to "work us in" as new owners with warranty work.  We're pleased but disappointed that the tile work wasn't checked before they finished tearing out the rear when they had to find the water leak last month.

The road from the campground in Harrisburg to Monaco in Coburg.

I'm following Wayne into Coburg. The clouds are hanging low but the sun is shining.
It's another great day in Oregon.

Valerie greeted us with her warm happy smile again and it wasn't long until Endie was taken into one of the service bays. 
Valerie. Every employers dream employee.

Waiting for Endie to be examined.  

Dog walks must go on!

Wayne's preparing Endie for a trip to the RV hospital.

I took my morning walk around the huge complex that had been the expansive home of Monaco Coach Corporation and snapped a few photos
The former Coburg headquarters of Monaco RV

Former Monaco facility.  Now part of Coburg North Industrial Park. Tenant name not yet determined.

Monaco had it's own MonaCare Health Clinic.

More vacant buildings.  This one is #17.  I saw #25 too.
I think this is 600 acres altogether.

Endie is in her hospital bay.

At the end of the day, the techs determined just two tiles would need to be removed, wood replaced and more Kilz applied to the area. Endie was pulled into Site #1 where we spent the night and will have the tile replaced the next day.
Only this much tile had to  be removed for water damage.

This is where we'll spend the night.
The spaces are located in front of Monaco Service Center.
Lots of Monaco, Holiday Rambler and Beaver owners are here.

The service order Val posted on our windshield.

So by the end of the day on Friday, we were finished and ready to go. All that is required is that we stay off the re-laid tile for 24 hours.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Walkin' On The Road

I'm overweight, out of shape and approaching 60.  Occasionally, I suffer a few joint pains but nothing serious. Thankfully, my overall health is good and I'm not on any medication.  However, with a family history of diabetes and heart disease, I can't take good health for granted.

So... early in the morning on July 3rd, I laced up my walking shoes, grabbed my hat, sunglasses and a walking stick and rolled out of the coach. The walking stick is used for protection and as an exercise tool for my upper body, hoisting it over my head and from side to side, giving my arms a much needed workout too. I began at a fast clip and within three days, my shins were in terrible pain. I reduced the pace and kept up the time, 30 minutes. The ankle and shin bone pain went away within two days.

There's no reason I haven't been walking the whole time we've been traveling. We're nearly always in pleasant weather -- never in extreme temperatures either way.  Walking while RV traveling provides ever changing scenery too so walk monotony rarely occurs.  There's always something new to see and if I'm ever in the mood for company, there's almost always someone willing to walk along with me. 

So, I'm plugging away every morning and enjoying it.  I expect to be joined by Wayne any day. 

He's getting himself "psyched" for it. Isn't that just like him?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Knowing When To Stop

We have a new Roadmaster InvisiBrake. Until its installation we towed our vehicle without supplemental braking. That practice was not safe and in most states, was illegal. We didn't realize we were traveling illegally for a long time.

We felt somewhat safe when we towed Little Blackie because the Escape weighed a mere 3,400 pounds.  But with the greater weight of  Endie and the added weight of Big Blackie, we dared not press our luck.

Supplemental brakes are a legal requirement in most states with good reason.  The brakes are designed to stop the towed vehicle-motorhome combination in about the same distance as the motorhome by itself.

This poster is taken from the 2010 Digest of Motor Laws - American Automobile Association

Wayne's braking research took him to Roadmaster's New InvisiBrake because the brain of the system would be mounted under the passenger seat and would not require removal and re-installation with every stop.  Supposedly, InvisiBrake is a fully automatic, progressive system that uses electrical harness of the car to brake any time the brake is applied in the coach. That is the same electrical signal that activates the car's brake lights... ho hum.  Some of the features Wayne liked about  InvisiBrake were: (1) it's out of sight, (2) it has progressive braking, (3) it has a visual monitor and audible alert to warn if the brakes are on too long, and (4) it has an emergency break away system like the ones used on fifth-wheels.

This thing was no cheap trick though.  The best base price 'round here was $900 plus installation at $450 at Camping World (who might be the exclusive seller of this model, I'm not sure) so that's where we took Endie and Big Blackie on Friday at 8:30 a.m.  Installation on both vehicles was expected to take about 5 hours.  The car would be first in the service bay. The weather was perfect, sunny and cool -- that was in our favor.  Five hours turned into 8 and then 9 hours and finally, at 5:30 the car was finished and the shop was closing for the day.  We would have to return Saturday morning for completion.  My mood was pretty nasty about now but I bit my tongue -- 

Didn't see this until the next morning. 
The breakaway box is mounted onto a thin piece of metal and sticks out from the grill area.
One light tap and "off with it's head!"  "Placement location is not optional," we're told.

Here you can see that the breakaway box protrudes from the grill at least an inch.
I could pull it off with one hand.  I'm sure this thing is really gonna last.

The InvisiBrake box that was suppose to be mounted under the passenger seat is... in reality, mounted behind the passenger's seat. It's in the floor and must have air so the floor mat cannot be laid over it. 
This means the full width mat must be removed completely, leaving both sides exposed. 
Also, the 8" x 8" metal box is rather fragile and will be damaged if kicked.  Oh this is easy! 

"Wiring the coach won't take long," we were told and so we return to Camping World again at 8:30  Saturday morning.  The store manager invited us to have a nice breakfast and bring the receipt to him for reimbursement.  Off we went and indeed we were called at 11:00 to come by for the final few items -- one of which would require Wayne to decide where he would want the monitor light installed on the dashboard.

Because we so hate, abhor and despise having a dead battery, Wayne had an electrical charge line added.  One problem leads to another and the afternoon creeps along, hour after hour.  At 5:30, a test drive and we pay the hefty bill and return to the campground -- exhausted. 

Dogs and people fed, Wayne went to the car around 6:30 that evening to find the battery is dead and the brake lights on. Tired and angry, he crawled around under the steering wheel until he found the line that applies the car's brake. He released it a bit and made an adjustment on the horrid "toe breaker" box behind my seat.  I sensed he was about ready to blow a gasket so I remained quiet except to say "off" and then "on" for the brake light condition. In the end he put a charger on the battery and in short order, the car started again.  Today is Monday and we're still holding our breath. 

I think the verdict is still out on the Roadmaster InvisiBrake.  Did this have to be so difficult?  Will I ever like this braking system?  Was being illegal so wrong?  I just don't think that breakfast reimbursement made me feel one bit better.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Duopolies: Celebrating The Second Year

Two Years Down!  Many More to Go!

Lunch on July 4 for Wayne and me was barbecue pork ribs, baked beans, sweet corn on the cob, cole slaw and baked sweet potatoes -- all home cooked here at our coach.  Today we celebrated two events:  Independence Day and the completion of our second year as full-time, full-throttle, life-lovin'  RVers.

Taken our first day on the road.
We were non-dog owners but younger and lighter on our feet.

The two furkids, Ozzie and Lexie
Both puppymill rescues.

We're into duopolies: concentration of power in twos.

Yup, we've got two full years under our retirement travel belt now. That's two old folks traveling two years with two socially dysfunctional dogs. During these two years, we owned two motorhomes and two different cars. 

Retirement RV travel has taken us twice into Canada, twice to the Northwest Coast and to the Deep South two times too.

We're still loving our RV travel life and looking forward to many more adventures and anniversaries.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Corvallis and Oregon State University

Today we took a ride north to Corvallis. I don't know why. Nothing's there except Oregon State University. Wayne likes visiting college campuses so I just guess that's why we went. We might have gotten a little bored around the campsite too...

Our route today took us from the campground at Harrisburg along Peoria Road where we enjoyed seeing still more Oregon agriculture. Along the road we passed four large motorized farm equipment pieces.

First, (picture to the right) this brand new big ole harvesting thing.  I loved it and don't even know what it is.

Then a brand new giant tractor that honestly was taller than Endie, I'm sure.  The last two tractors were more normal sized.

Someone at the campground told me about an Oxbow Orchard along this road. As we approached the drive into the orchard, we were thrilled to see blueberry bushes heavy laden with fruit. 

I had only seen blueberries growing on the ground until today so my urge to get out for a close look was tough to overcome.  Despite the "Danger - Pesticides" sign, I hung myself out the window for a close-up.

We pulled in to buy berries (though we have plenty already at home) but didn't see anyone around the orchard or the farmhouse.

All the doors were closed and one car sat empty in the driveway.

About that time we heard a great boom and then another and another and another.  Turns out Oxbow Orchard has some kind of machine to help keep the birds off the fruit.

It sounded like a small cannon.  Whoa... that was scary.

We also heard from someone at the campground  about an Amish farm where baked goods, vegetables and cook books could be purchased. But it is only open on Friday and Saturday, so we had to pass it by too.

A few miles beyond the closed Amish Bakery, we came upon Peoria Road Farm Market where we found a cornucopia of freshly picked fruit, nuts, ripe vegetable goodies and a strawberry Crush drink. 

I like this kind of outdoor vegetable market although for just two people, I have to use restraint to avoid buying too much and letting it go to waste. 

U-pick 'em strawberries were available through the market but of course, I'm not a candidate for stomping around in a strawberry field, bending and swatting flies. We did not get strawberries.

Peoria Road Farm Market

       I learned today that garlic is a big crop in this area.  Hazelnuts are grown here too -- a large box of them, from Junction City, sits in the floor of Peoria Road Farm Market. They're sold by the pound -- but alas we don't care for hazelnuts.

We stocked up on giant red tomatoes, honey dew and blueberries, sucked on the strawberry Crush soda and remembered it's real close to lunchtime.

Now... on to Corvallis.

Just as I had knew he would, Wayne drove immediately to Oregon State campus when we reached Corvallis. OSU looked a bit tired, run down, a bit trashy and lacked enthusiasm.

I suppose I'm "miffed" at Oregon State because of the response received when I inquired about having Ozzie's teeth cleaned at their small animal vet school. I was told OSU doesn't have vet dentistry.  With regard to the lump on Ozzie's neck, we could expect OSU's fee to be much more than if we took him to a private practice vet. In other words, they weren't interested in seeing Ozzie.

We found the OSU Beaver football stadium in short order. It's named for a food company based near here -- Reser.

Lunch was disappointing this day too.  In downtown Corvallis we spotted Alley Gyros and made the block several times looking for a shady parking place so we could leave Lexie and Ozzie in the car.  The temperature was almost 70 and we were having a rare sunny day.  When no shady parking space could be found we decided to put the pups in the stroller, get our gyros "to go" and take a short 1-1/2 block stroll to the riverfront park to eat.  Alley Gyros failed miserably for us. The food was poorly wrapped, not bagged at all and was void of taste -- completely unauthentic and without seasonings.  It turned out to be a messy fiasco but we managed.  Drat.

The final disappointment for the day was our ride to the local Corvallis covered bridge.  Lady GaGa (the GPS) took us four miles to a turn that did not allow motorized vehicular traffic.  The covered bridge couldn't even be seen from our vantage point. Adding insult to injury, there was nowhere to park the car to take the 2 mile hike required to see the bridge.

We gave up and made our way back to Harrisburg for a relaxing afternoon in the shade of the coach.